Paul's Passing Thoughts

How Most Protestants Respond When Orthodoxy Is Challenged

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 2, 2018

Any time one of us here at TANC engages someone in some debate over some tenet of Protestant orthodoxy, something major is always missing in these conversations that we don’t talk about nearly enough. Due to the research myself and others have done for this ministry over the past 10 years, we tend to ply our argument with objective points and expect counter-points in return.

That almost NEVER happens!

I am not even sure how I would frame this issue/observation, but the following may get close: it would seem that our objective arguments are not answered with counter-points, but vague statements of authority. It’s interesting, but we often converse with people who are not anybody important by religious standards, yet they answer us as if their pedigree of authority is to be assumed and we are wrong just because they say so. Responses are really nothing more than the usual talking points that we hear all of the time.  I can only assume that folks think they speak with authority that is not to be refuted because they are repeating what the religious authorities tell them. In other words, no matter what objective argument we pose, it is going to be answered by some talking point that has been certified as “authoritative.”

Also telling in these conversations are answers that are unnecessarily wordy. For example, instead of simply saying “pursue love”, all kinds of stuff about “walking in the Spirit” is added as well as various and sundry Christo-centric verbiage.

Someone may make the observation that, “You have this attitude that someone is wrong because they don’t agree with you.”

Um, Yeah! After all, you can’t have opposing viewpoints and have both be right. And that’s the whole point. If I think you’re wrong, the burden is upon me to provide a rational argument for why my ideas are better. Likewise, the burden is upon you to provide a similar rational argument for why my ideas might be wrong.

But most people don’t argue this way. They don’t know how to provide rational arguments for their ideas. They only know how to rely on appeals to authority. In other words, their ideas are correct only because some authority (whatever that source may be) has deemed it so.

~ Andy

“Godly” Philosophy

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 24, 2018

Originally published March 14, 2015

andy-profile-1I used to be in the camp that views “philosophy” as “worldly”, “man-centered”, “evil”; all of those things as juxtaposed with “Biblical wisdom”, or “scriptural”, or “God’s Wisdom”.  After all, it seemed to be a reasonable conclusion when confronted with verses of scripture like:

“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:20-28

What you choose to believe is a philosophical statement about what you believe about reality. Everyone has a philosophy whether they realize it or not. You cannot escape it. So to say that “philosophy is evil” is really a philosophy itself. It therefore unwittingly becomes its own metaphysical statement about man. If philosophy is evil, then man is evil because man has no relevance apart from his beliefs about reality. It should come as no surprise then that reformed theology holds such a metaphysical view of man with regard to its doctrine of total depravity. But that’s another topic altogether.

It is ironic that I had to get out of the church before I finally began to better understand just what the apostle Paul was addressing here with the Corinthians. Religious despots don’t see themselves as having “worldly wisdom”, but yet they are the very ones that Paul is criticizing. Religious orthodoxy is the epitome of “man’s wisdom”; crafted by the scholars and academics and elites who spend their years in seminary and other institutes of religious training for the so-called “right” that they think they have purchased for themselves in order to rule over the unenlightened.

I have come to realize that the notion of philosophy being evil is nothing more that organized religion’s attempt to keep man beholden to it; to keep him enslaved; to keep him from thinking. Those of us who call ourselves “Christians” must begin to shed this false notion of philosophy. Philosophy deals with things such as reality and the nature of existence. To believe God and what He tells us in His word is our own philosophical statement. It stems from our rational, thinking mind; a mind that is part of a creature made in the very image of God, made for the purpose of thinking and reasoning and coming to rational conclusions. I implore believers everywhere to consider what God Himself has told us: “Come, let us reason together.”

Andy

The “Lamb’s Wife” Revisited- Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 21, 2018

The following is taken from the transcript of Andy Young’s first session at the 2018 TANC Conference for Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny.


 

Both the Old and New Testaments use the metaphor of a marriage. Let me make that statement again.

Both the Old and New Testaments use the metaphor of a marriage.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses a familiar concept or object to represent some other abstract concept so as to make that abstract concept more clear or better understood. In the case of marriage, this was a concept that would have been familiar to the audience to which most of the Bible was written. Since most of the audience were Jews, the context here would be a Jewish wedding and the elements that were unique to a Jewish wedding ceremony.

The following video clip is actually a scene from Fiddler on the Roof. Now keep in mind while the setting is around mid to late 1800’s, the elements depicted here aren’t much different from what you might see in OT times. As you watch this clip I want you to pay close attention to the elements that make up this wedding and notice if anything seems familiar to you somehow.

Traditionally, Jewish weddings were arranged between the fathers of the proposed couple. Keep in mind there are many details here that I am leaving out because I am trying to be brief. After the parents have come to an agreement to the marriage, the couple is considered “espoused”. This is a formal legal contract into which the couple has entered, and for all intents and purposes, the couple is considered “married” even though the marriage has not yet been consummated. This espousal period can last for up to a year. During this time, the man returns home to make preparations for his bride, and the bride-to-be prepares herself for becoming a wife. Her fidelity to her bridegroom is on display during this period as well.

Now concerning the actual wedding day, what are some of the elements we saw in this clip?

  • Bridegroom and a procession of friends.
  • At sunset (i.e. “midnight”)
  • Carrying of torches/candles/lamps
  • Pomp and celebration during the procession
  • Procession ends at the bridegroom’s house
  • Wedding ceremony followed by feast.

On the actual wedding day, the bridegroom leads a procession of his friends through the streets of the village to go and meet the bride. This usually occurs at sunset (traditionally considered midnight). There is much pomp and celebration that occurs along the way, and as the procession continues, people exit their homes, bringing a torch or lamp along with them to help light the way, and so the “wedding party” grows larger and larger as more and more “guests” join in celebration with the bridegroom. The bridegroom then receives his bride, and the two, along with the entire party of friends and guests return to the bridegroom’s house where the wedding ceremony occurs with a grand feast and celebration following.

Elements of the Jewish wedding tradition are clearly visualized when Jesus described the “Kingdom of Heaven” in the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22), and the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25). Let’s begin with the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22. As we look at this passage I want you to once again take note of these wedding elements.

“And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.’” ~ Matthew 22:1-10

The theme of this parable revolves around two particular groups of people. The first group is made of those who already had invitations to participate in the wedding feast. These were the King’s special invited guests. They received their invitations first. One would think that since these people have been given such a special invitation from the King that they would not hesitate to respond. But notice what happens. On the day of the feast, none of them show up. They reject the gracious invitation. They view it with an attitude of indifference and make all kinds of excuses why they cannot attend. Some even killed the servants who were sent to them to tell them that everything was ready for them to attend the feast.

But there is a second group mentioned in this parable. Since the King made all these preparations, it was his desire to have the feast furnished with guests. So he instructed his servants to go out and issue an invitation to anyone, as many as they could find. This second group represents the nations of the world, or the Gentiles, those whom God would redeem by the blood of the Lamb out of “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, 14:6) I think it is important to note that this second group would also include repentant individuals from the first group, or converted Jews.

The point to take from all of this is that neither of the two groups in this parable are the bride. They are guests, and this is important. What we have is a body of individuals that make up the “church”, or using the correct Biblical term, the εκκλησια (“ekklaysia”), the “called out” (invited) assembly that makes up the Body of Christ. In this parable they are not the bride, but they are clearly the guests at the wedding.

Take a look at the second parable in Matthew 25.

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight (i.e. sunset) there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” ~ Matthew 25:1-13

Who are the “virgins” in this parable? It is unfortunate that the word “virgin?” is used here because that give the implication that we are talking about a young girl who has not had sexual relations with a man. It further adds to the argument that somehow these virgins are going to meet the Bridegroom to be married to him. Now that has to do with the question about the origin of this doctrine.  I’m going to address that in another article.

So who are these virgins? They are wedding guests. Remember once again that this concept of a wedding is a metaphor, and in this metaphor they represent those who would go out to join the procession of the wedding party as the bridegroom goes to meet his bride and return with her to his father’s house for the wedding feast.

Notice also the elements that are mentioned in this parable. We have the lamps, and the cry to go join the procession at sunset. These young girls in the parable are not going to the wedding to marry the bridegroom. The bridegroom already has a bride. The young girls are simply guests at the wedding.

This is not the first instance that scripture posits this notion of wedding guests or alludes to the wedding metaphor. Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19, and Luke 5:34 use the term “children of the bridechamber”, referring to Jesus’ disciples- those who were called by Christ to follow Him. That would include not only the Twelve, but all those who would be saved by faith in Christ, the “ekklaysia”. In John 3:29, John the Baptist referred to himself and any others “which standeth and heareth Him” as a “friend of the bridegroom”.

So in terms of the picture of a traditional Jewish wedding, all believers – members of the Body of Christ – are referred to as “guests” and “friends of the bridegroom”, but they are NOT the bride. They go out joyfully with the Bridegroom as He goes to receive His Bride. But clearly from a scriptural standpoint, the wedding guests cannot be the Bride.

So then if the church is not the bride, then what is? Is there even a bride? Most people are surprised to discover that the phrase “Bride of Christ” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Now that in and of itself is not really a strong argument because there are many doctrines to which we hold that are not explicitly stated in the Bible. The doctrine of the Trinity is one example that comes to mind, but there are other scriptures when taken as a whole, when we evaluate them and compare them we can come to some rational conclusion about the Trinity. It’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle.

To some extent theologians and scholars have attempted to do the same with the Bride of Christ doctrine. They can point to various passages and say, “See, right here this means that the church is the bride.” But to this I say that such passages are either taken out of context or they have taken something that was a metaphor and have interpreted it literally for whatever motivation.

But all of those arguments can be quickly and easily dispelled because scripture plainly states who is the bride of Christ.

“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, ‘Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God…” ~ Revelation 21:2, 9-10

Here in plain terms, the Bride is clearly and explicitly shown to be the New Jerusalem.   The angel says, “I will show you the Bride”, and he shows John, not a body of people, but the New Jerusalem. Now we know for certain that the New Jerusalem is a literal city. The remaining verses of chapter 21 go on to give in great detail a description of what this city looks like. Notice that nothing is said about the inhabitants of the city. The focus of the chapter is the actual city itself. Also remember that in the book of Hebrews it says that Abraham looked for a city not made with hands whose builder and maker was God. This was always in view. One day there would be literal city that would come down from heaven, and God would dwell there with mankind. Think of that! Almighty God leaving heaven to make His permanent dwelling on Earth with man for ever and ever!

Now there is still an implication of a figure of speech being used here. At first John writes that the New Jerusalem was prepared “as a bride”. This is called simile. If we say someone is tight as a drum, that doesn’t mean they are a drum. It’s a figure of speech that means they are stingy. If someone is as cool as a cucumber, it doesn’t mean he is a cucumber or even has a low temperature. It means he is calm or not stressed out.

So even though later on in the passage the angel specifically calls New Jerusalem, “the bride”, we must still hold out the possibility that even this is a metaphor and not a literal bride. So it says the city is adorned as a bride. How is a bride traditionally adorned?  White dress, veil, bouquet of flowers, long train; but the distinguishing characteristic is the white dress. White clothing. White is supposed to represent purity, cleanliness, holiness. Now look at this. This is gonna blow your mind here.

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” ~ Revelation 19:7-8

There are four keys I want you take out of this passage.

The bride made herself ready.
Now this goes back to what I said much earlier. Remember that during the espousal period the bride prepares herself. This is not just getting ready for the wedding. This is getting all her affairs in order. Getting ready to go be with her husband. This means the bride is not yet ready.  If the church is the bride are we to assume then that the church is not ready?

The bride was dressed in fine white clothes.
This is as I mentioned, this is the distinguishing characteristic of a bride. It’s the first thing we think of when we think about a bride.   It’s like on Family Feud.  If you were one of the 100 people they surveyed about brides, the first thing people would say is white dress.

The bride is adorned in the righteousness of the saints!
Who are the saints? You and me. Born again believers. And that is important because it goes back to a major point that we have been making here for years at TANC:

The saints have their own righteousness.
The saints aren’t declared righteous. The saints aren’t covered with Jesus’ righteousness. The saints ARE righteous as a state of being. And that righteousness of the saints becomes the clothing; the wedding dress for the bride.

There is one other bride text I want us to look at, and this one is in the Old Testament, and it relates to Revelation 19:7-8.

“Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.” ~ Isaiah 49:18

In this context the audience is the nation of Israel in general and perhaps even Jerusalem specifically. The promise to Abraham was that all the nations would be blessed through Israel. And it looks like in this passage that God is pointing to a day in the future when all nations would gather around Israel. Now isn’t that a picture of the NT body of Christ? This New Man made up of Jews and Gentiles who are made literal children of God because of the blessing of the Promise that came through Abraham and the nation of Israel. The Promise of course is Jesus. And you get the picture here of every born again believer being hung like a trophy or a prize. Jerusalem being adorned with all of those who accepted the blessing of the Promise.

And then notice the end of the verse. What does it say? “as a bride doeth” Another simile. Another figure of speech. Not necessarily a literal bride, but similar to a bride putting on fine white clothes; the righteousness of all those born again believers. Folks this is exciting stuff!

Now some will ask, “Ok what about all those passages in the NT where Paul talks about husbands and wives and Christ and the church and such?”  I am going to address that in the next article.

~ Andy

The “Lamb’s Wife” Revisited – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 21, 2018

The following is taken from the transcript of Andy Young’s second session at the 2018 TANC Conference for Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny.


 

Despite the fact that a simple search of scripture reveals that the expression “Bride of Christ” is nowhere to be found, nevertheless, this doctrine continues to breathe life. Contributing to this is the existence of several New Testament passages that seem to refer to the “church” in “spousal” terms.  Let’s start with one that might prove to be the most difficult.

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” ~ 2 Corinthians 11:2

Before we jump to any conclusions, let us remember some simple rules. First of all, the Bible does not contradict itself. There is no such thing as a paradox. We cannot take a verse like this and reconcile it with Revelation 19 and 21 and all the other passages we looked at in the previous article.  When we have a contradiction we have to evaluate our assumptions. We must either assume the church is the bride or it is not, and we already have plenty of Biblical support to conclude that the church is not the bride. So if we go with that assumption, then we must evaluate 2 Corinthians 11:2 in light of that assumption.

If we are honest with ourselves, and if the so-called scholars were honest, we would admit that we are severely lacking in context to get the full idea of what Paul is really trying to say here. So if we want to be objective, we shouldn’t really use this verse one way or another to support any kind of orthodoxy. Now I’m not saying we ignore it. All I’m saying is that it is not clear enough to use as evidence to support an entire doctrine.

But let’s look at what context we do have, and that would be the immediate context of the surrounding verses.

Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

What you should notice here is that Paul is about to go off on a rabbit trail from his main argument – whatever that is – and he is in so many words saying, “Please bear with me a moment”. If someone came in to the assemblies teaching another gospel you would hear him out. In fact they already have, which is the context and the purpose of the whole epistle. You had people coming in accusing Paul of not being a legitimate apostle.

Not only do you have a rabbit trail, but you have a rabbit trail within a rabbit trail in verse 2. Paul give the reason why he begs for their indulgence: his deep and enduring love for the brethren. In fact it would not be unreasonable to conclude that Paul cared for these believers as a father cares for his own children. Now we could parse out verse two even more and consider the grammatical structure, but I think there is something lost in the translation of this verse. Again, we can’t be sure because we lack sufficient context, but given the context we do have, AND evaluating this verse in light of the assumption that the church is not the bride, we might conclude that this statement of Paul is simply his way of expressing his love for the brethren using a METAPHOR of a father’s disposition towards his virgin daughter; his desire for her to be pure.   Paul didn’t want these Corinthian believers to be tarnished by the error of false teaching.

So let’s be sure not only that we are careful to identify a metaphor when we come across it, but let’s not read more into a metaphor than what the author intended. And this is the problem when allegory becomes our primary interpretive method.   Remember for about 1500 years, allegory was the primary interpretive method for scripture. You could have 100 different scholars read the same scripture and come up with 100 different doctrines.   It wasn’t until the 1800’s when you had critical examination of scripture that took into consideration things like grammar and historical context and audience. So if we do a critical analysis of this verse and consider other scriptures that clearly teach otherwise, we cannot just automatically take this verse as a proof text for some pet doctrine.

The next verse I want to look at is in Romans.

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” ~ Romans 7:4

Here once again the same thing hold true. Everything I said about the previous text can be applied here as well. First consider what we already know. The church is not the bride. Next evaluate the verse in light of that premise and with regard to context. So let’s look at this verse in context.

“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” ~ Romans 7:1-4

This is a powerful passage in Romans because this is where Paul is getting into the heart of his argument for justification. The point Paul is making is that when someone dies the law no longer has jurisdiction over him. This is something we have discussed at length here at TANC, and it is the very reason why believers are righteous as a state of being. The old person is dead, so the law can no longer condemn him. The new creature is not under law, so that old law of sin and death has no power over him.

Now he uses once again the analogy of marriage. This is more of an analogy than a metaphor, but the purpose is the same; to help illustrate a point. If a man and woman are married and one spouse commits adultery, that spouse is under the condemnation of the law. But if the spouse dies, the other is free from the condemnation of the law. He or she is no longer bound by that legal contract. That old marriage contract cannot condemn the living spouse who decides to remarry.

Now, is Paul saying here that believers are married to someone, or is this a figure of speech? When Paul uses the word “married” in verse 4 is he speaking in the matrimonial sense? No, he is simply using the analogy of marriage to illustrate his point about our relationship to the law.

Ephesians 5:22-23 is probably the most familiar and widely used text to support the “bride of Christ” doctrine.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church assembly: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church assembly is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church assembly, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church assembly, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church assembly: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church assembly. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

The first thing I want us to do is for us to read this passage with the correct terms. So, read through that passage again, and in each place where you see the word “church”, replace it with “assembly”. Believe me, this will have a tremendous impact on the way you understand this passage. “Church” connotes building, place, institution, authority. “Assembly” connotes “body”, for that is the meaning of the word. It is a “called out” body of individuals. It is also a secular, political term. A political body of individuals called together to accomplish a specific task. Moreover, this assembly is the “Body of Christ”, and that is especially significant in this passage.

Now remember our rules. Eliminate contradictions by evaluating assumptions and eliminating the ones that are faulty. We then evaluate the text based on a premise that we agree is correct. We can’t have contradictions, therefore our interpretation of a passage must be in light of a correct premise.

Now let’s consider the larger context. In this case the context is the whole letter to the Ephesians. The main theme of Ephesians is the New Man. Just like the book of Romans was a treatise on justification, Ephesians is Paul’s systematic case for the New Man.

The Paul says the idea of the New Man was a mystery in OT times. It was not something that God revealed, so man could not know it. God told us about the Promise and about all the nations being blessed through Israel, but Israel had no notion about the New Man. This is a term that is given to God’s called out assembly. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free. All believers are identified as being part of the Body of Christ or this one New Man.

The book is full of body metaphors. Remember a metaphor is a figure of speech that uses a familiar concept to help illustrate or lend understanding to a more abstract concept. So in Ephesians we see references to body parts functioning together as a whole. This is especially apparent in chapter 4 when Paul talks about spiritual gifts. But the major idea presented is this head-body relationship. If believers are members of the Body, then Christ is the head. And there are all the implications that go with that.

So given that the theme of Ephesians is the New Man or the Body of Christ, when we get to chapters 5 and 6, Paul uses 3 analogies to further help illustrate the metaphor of a Body. There is the parent/child relationship – the parents, specifically the father, is the head of the family and the spouse and children are the body members; there is the employer/employee relationship – Paul uses the analogy of masters and bond servants. And then there is the husband/wife relationship.

All three of these analogies are helpful in the context of the lives of believers because Paul wants us to remember that in all of these head/body relationships we must remember that we are all part of Christ’s Body, therefore we should act accordingly. Verse 23 of chapter 5 says

“Christ is the head of the [assembly, ‘called-out ones’]:”

The very next clause modifies this statement.

“- and he is the saviour of the body”

This is the actual Greek word for “body”, σωμα (“soma”). The structure of the end of this verse is interesting. The word “and” is the Greek word και (“kai”), and it is used as a joining word, just like a conjunction creates a list or connects words or clauses or ideas. It is also used to show equivalence or parallel thought. This kind of writing style is common in Hebrew writing, especially in poetry, this parallelism. And you can see Paul’s Hebraic style of writing in the parallelism in this verse. Paul is stating that Christ is the head of the assembly, and furthermore, not only is He the head, He is the Savior of the whole body of the assembly. In this one verse, Paul has established that the assembly is the body and Christ is the head. Paul is not establishing a husband/wife relationship, he is establishing a head/body relationship. Keep this relationship in your mind because I’ll say more on this in a bit.

Now, when someone wants to make the case that the “church” is the “bride of Christ”, they usually go right to verse 24 and pull this one particular phrase out of context:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church”

Their reasoning goes something like this:

“Husband” is to “wife” as “Christ” is to “church”

Therefore:

Christ = husband

church = wife

Therefore:

The church is the bride (wife) of Christ.

And while that may seem to be a reasonable logical conclusion, it fails because it is beginning with the wrong premise which results from failing to understand the context of the entire passage. While Paul is instructing men on how to love their wives, he is not using a metaphor of a husband/wife relationship. He is using the metaphor of a head/body relationship. The reasoning of the metaphor is better understood like this:

Husbands are to love their wives

  • How do they do that?

Well, no man hates his own body.

Man loves himself (i.e. his body).

Therefore, love your wife in the same way you love your own body.

This is the context of the entire passage. Period. Nothing more. It’s that simple. Now Paul goes on to elaborate on that point by giving examples of how one loves their own body. He says that man shows that he loves his body because he feeds it and nourishes it and cherishes it. Thus, men thus show love to their wives by treating them just as they would their own body, by feeding, nourishing, and cherishing. Obviously he means from an emotional standpoint.

To further emphasis his point about loving one’s own body, Paul draws a comparison to Christ and the assembly. Christ is the head, and the assembly is the body. Just as a man loves his own body, Christ also loves His own body, which is the assembly. Christ also shows his love towards His body/assembly by feeding, nourishing, and cherishing it. And Paul is also quick to point out that Christ gave himself for His body/assembly. More than that, He also sanctified and cleansed it. How? With the washing of water by the word. These are the very same words that Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth!” once again showing that the believer is sanctified by the law.

Let me be quick to point out, this does not mean that we conflate Jesus’ relationship to the New Man to one of a marriage relationship. It is a BODY relationship.

So how do we end up with this doctrine? I hope that what you have seen is that if we are sloppy with our hermeneutics we end up with error. And since the Bride of Christ is a major doctrine in Christian orthodoxy, this doctrine just gets regurgitated over and over again in seminaries and churches.

But the question then is, how did this all happen in the first place? If you and I can sit here and flesh out these passages and come to the conclusion that this doctrine is false, then where did it come from and how did it come to be so widely accepted in Christianity? And that is what I am going to address in my next article.

~ Andy

The Origin and Persistence of the “Bride of Christ Doctrine”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 21, 2018

The following is taken from the transcript of Andy Young’s third session at the 2018 TANC Conference for Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny.


At the TANC Conference in 2013, John Immel led us through a detailed analysis of the evolution of Western thought and how that progression of thought impacted the institutional church. From as early as 600 BC beginning with Thales all the way to Plato and culminating with Plotinus and his rediscovery of Plato and then integrating Plato’s full-philosophical statement into Christianity, what we discovered during those sessions is that every major “Christian” doctrine has its foundation not in scripture but in some pagan philosophy.

Determinism, the fall of man, original sin, asceticism; these were all attempts of pagan thinkers to find a way to explain why the world works the way it does. Dividing reality, dividing man, separating man from reality and man from his mind – these are the characteristic results of this kind of thinking and these kinds of philosophies.  Therefore it should come as no surprise to learn that the doctrine of the “Bride of Christ” as we know it today as a major pillar of Christian orthodoxy also has its roots in pagan philosophy.

At first consideration it might be reasonable to conclude that the “Bride of Christ” is simply a reformation carry-over from the Catholic church. After all, both Protestantism and Catholicism share this doctrine, and Protestantism was born out of Catholicism. Catholic nuns upon beginning their induction into service undertake a ceremony in which they are individually “married to Christ”. But the Bride of Christ doctrine did not originate with Augustine. Neither is Augustine responsible for incorporating it into the body of greater Christian orthodoxy. The origin can actually be traced back about 200 years earlier to a philosopher by the name of Valentinus.

Valentinus was responsible for the body of thought called “Valentinianism”. [i]Wikipedia and others sources describe Valentinianism as a gnostic Christian movement. Did you catch that? Valentinianism was characterized by Gnostic mysticism. This should be clue number one.

[ii]In its sacramental practices, Valentinianism closely resembled Christian practices of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. So were’ talking circa 100 to 200 AD, so this would be 100 to 150 years before Augustine and before Emperor Constantine formally institutionalized Christianity into a religion-state. I’m going to get to these sacramental practices in just a moment.

The Valentinians considered themselves part of the church and actively resisted the church’s attempts to expel them, and there were many attempts. In fact, Valentinus himself was actually a candidate for Bishop of Rome in 143 AD. Another Valentinian gnostic by the name of Florinus actually became a “presbyter” or “elder” in Rome in 200 AD. So you can see that this sect of gnosticism had a good opportunity to influence early Christianity.

Much of what we know about Valentinianism comes from the writing of Irenaeus who was considered to be the leading detractor. Valentinians regarded their worship as purely spiritual with the external forms as symbolic. (where else have we heard about “forms”?) One of the sacred writings of Valentinianism, the Gospel of Philip, describes it this way:

“Truth did not come into the world naked. Rather it came in prototypes and images, for the world will not receive it in any other form.”

[iii]According to Irenaeus, the Valentinians believed that at the beginning there was a Pleroma (literally, a ‘fullness’). At the centre of the Pleroma was the primal Father or Bythos, the beginning of all things who, after ages of silence and contemplation, projected thirty Aeons, heavenly archetypes representing fifteen syzygies or sexually complementary pairs. Among them was Sophia. Sophia’s weakness, curiosity and passion led to her fall from the Pleroma and the creation of the world and man, both of which are flawed.

In every form or system of collectivist thought, what is the primary metaphysical assumption about man? That he is fundamentally flawed. And because he is fundamentally flawed he is therefore epistemologically disqualified from being able to discern truth.

The Valentinians identified the God of the Old Testament as the Demiurge, the imperfect creator of the material world. Man, the highest being in this material world, participates in both the spiritual and the material nature. The work of redemption consists in freeing the former from the latter. One needed to recognize the Father, the depth of all being, as the true source of divine power in order to achieve gnosis (knowledge).[9] The Valentinians believed that the attainment of this knowledge by the human individual had positive consequences within the universal order and contributed to restoring that order,[10] and that gnosis, not faith, was the key to salvation. (So you see, it had nothing to do with a change in the state of being. It was merely “knowing” something. Or said another way, it was an ability to see)

Clement wrote that the Valentinians regarded Catholic Christians as,

“simple people to whom they attributed faith, while they think that gnosis is in themselves. Through the excellent seed that is to be found in them, they are by nature redeemed, and their gnosis is as far removed from faith as the spiritual from the physical”

And if you will recall, the primary dispute of the protestant reformation was this notion of infused grace. Catholics believed that man had within himself some capacity for good works and those good works could maintain salvation. But Luther and Calvin rejected that saying that everything had to remain outside of man. Do you see how this is a gnostic concept?

The other thing you should notice here is this historical notion of diving man and diving reality. This was central to pagan thought. Dividing man into a spiritual part and a physical part. Dividing reality into a spiritual realm and a physical realm. And not just dividing him, but that the physical was existentially evil and only the spiritual was existentially good.

[iv]In Valentinianism the symbols and images of the process of salvation were seen through the sacraments, and there were five of them.

  1. Baptism
  2. Anointing
  3. Redemption
  4. Eucharist (communion or mass)
  5. Bridal Chamber

I want to focus on this last sacrament because this gets to the heart of the subject. Here is where we see the tender beginnings of this doctrine that will eventually grow into the “Bride of Christ”, and this is known as “bridal mysticism”. I’m going to go into more detail about the bridal chamber sacrament, but what I want you to first understand is that even though it is a separate sacrament, the bridal chamber is really an extension of the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist, the taking of the bread and the wine is more than just a remembrance, it is the literal eating of Jesus’ flesh and drinking of His blood. This is still true with Catholicism. When you go to mass and you take that wafer and drink that cup, through some mystical process they call “transubstantiation” the bread and wine turn into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus. This is critical to understand because in doing so, you are literally taking Jesus into your own body, and in this way you become one with Christ.

The Valentinians took this one step further. The Eucharist was the “wedding feast” of the saved. The bread was regarded as the true, life-giving food and is closely identified with Jesus. The wine was believed to be full of Grace and the Holy Spirit. By partaking of it, they believed that they were taking the perfect human being, their angelic counterpart, into themselves. This how one receives the spiritual flesh and blood of the resurrection body.

The Eucharist was followed by the “bridal chamber.” Among other things, the initiate is told,

“Allow the seed of light to take up its abode in your bridal chamber. Receive your bridegroom from me and take him into you, and be taken by him.”

They believed that the person received or became possessed by the light, that is, their heavenly counterpart or bridegroom angel. The spirit manifestations such as prophesy and speaking in tongues which are associated with this practice were therefore regarded as a result of angelic possession.

It should be noted that this mystic marriage takes place not between Christ and the corporate church but between Christ and each individual believer. However it is not hard to see the chain of reasoning that would lead such mystical practices to developing into the eventual “Bride of Christ” doctrine for the church as a whole. And given the fact that such gnostic doctrines were prevalent in the church around the 3rd century, it is no wonder that Augustine would incorporate it into his own system of orthodoxy for the Catholic church.

Having understood the origins of such a doctrine we should then ask, if such a doctrine was considered heresy by most of the early church because of its association with gnosticism which the early church fought so hard against, why has it persisted as a major pillar of Christian orthodoxy to this day? There can be many reasons for this, but some historians attribute it mainly to a feminization of Christianity that began around the latter part of the middle ages.[v]

Catholic scholar Dr. Leon J. Podles believes that men and women were about equally committed to Christianity for the first millennium of its existence. If any disparity existed, it was not remarked upon by early church fathers and observers, who would likely have noted the phenomenon, in the same way was common in Christianity’s second thousand years.

Podles speculates that the feminization of Christianity began about the 13th century, and he points to several factors that emerged kick-started the feminization of Christianity, the most notable of which is the resurgence of “bridal mysticism.”

In the Middle Ages, female mystics, following the lead of Catholic thinkers like Bernard of Clairvaux, began developing an interpretation of the bridegroom/bride relationship as representing that which existed not only between Christ and the collective church, but Christ and the individual soul.

So we have gone from an originally gnostic sacrament of the “bridal chamber” that evolved and was incorporated into Catholic orthodoxy as the corporate church being the “Bride of Christ”. Now around the 13th century we have a rediscovering of Valentinianism, and you have some female mystics trying to return to the original doctrine.

To these women, Jesus became not only a global savior, but a personal lover, whose union with believers was described by Christian mystics with erotic imagery. They drew on the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon, using it as an allegory to describe God’s relationship with an individual. They developed a new way for the Christian to relate to Christ – one marked by intimate longing.

For example, the German nun Margareta Ebna (1291-1351) described Jesus as piercing her “with a swift shot from His spear of love” and exulted in feeling his “wondrous powerful thrusts against my heart,” though she complained that “[s]ometimes I could not endure it when the strong thrusts came against me for they harmed my insides so that I became greatly swollen like a woman great with child.”

The idea of Christian-as-Bride-of-Christ (not just church but individual Christian) would migrate from Catholicism to Protestantism, and be picked up by the Puritans who journeyed to American shores. Susan Dohse devoted an entire series to the Puritans in 2014. Remember Cotton Mather?

“Our SAVIOR does Marry Himself unto the Church in general, But He does also Marry Himself to every Individual Believer.” ~ Cotton Mather

Mather’s fellow Puritan leader, Thomas Hooker, said this:

“Every true believer . . . is so joined unto the Lord, that he becomes one spirit; as the adulterer and the adultresse is one flesh. . . . That which makes the love of a husband increase toward his wife is this, He is satisfied with her breasts at all times, and then he comes to be ravished with her love . . . so the will chooseth Christ, and it is fully satisfied with him. . . . I say this is a total union, the whole nature of the Saviour, and the whole nature of a believer are knit together; the bond of matrimony knits these two together, . . . we feed upon Christ, and grow upon Christ, and are married to Christ.”

And when you are in reformed circles, what group of people do they continuously revere and hold on such a high pedestal? The Puritans, who were nothing more than Calvinists. And Calvin and Luther were nothing more than Catholics. And so this cycle of doctrines goes on and on.

[vi]In a book entitled  Why Men Hate Going to Church, author David Murrow points to examples of how the bridal imagery rediscovered in the Middle Ages continues into the modern age, citing books with titles like Falling in Love With Jesus: Abandoning Yourself to the Greatest Romance of Your Life, and authors who “vigorously encourage women to imagine Jesus as their personal lover”. One author tells her readers,

[vii]“At times Jesus will be more of a husband to you than the man of the flesh that you married. And while your husband may wonderfully meet many of your needs, only the Bridegroom can meet and will meet all of your needs.”

Another author offers this breathless description of God’s love:

[viii]“This Someone entered your world and revealed to you that He is your true Husband. Then He dressed you in a wedding gown whiter than the whitest linen. You felt virginal again. And alive! He kissed you with grace and vowed never to leave you or forsake you. And you longed to go and be with Him.”

Much of what Murrow calls “Jesus-is-my-boyfriend imagery” is directed at women, but Murrow believes it has become suffused throughout the entire faith, and migrated to men as well. “These days,” he writes, “it’s fairly common for pastors to describe a devout male as being ‘totally in love with Jesus.’ I’ve heard more than one men’s minister imploring a crowd of guys to ‘fall deeply in love with the Savior.’”

The imagery and language of a romantic, intimate relationship is also very common in modern “praise and worship” songs that have lyrics that are sometimes almost indistinguishable from those that are heard on “secular” radio.

Murrow contends that the idea of individual-believer-as-bride is simply unbiblical, writing that “The Bible never describes our love for God in such erotic terms. The men of Scripture loved God, but they were never desperate for him or in love with him.” Podles believes that the rise of bridal imagery is part of what led men to start abandoning the faith during the late Middle Ages. Both Podels and Morrow feel that the ethos embodied in the bridal analogy continues to be a factor in why the Christian gospel attracts more women than men.

The goal of the Christian faith to develop a “rapturous love affair with Christ” just doesn’t resonate with most men, and they struggle to relate to Deity as a blushing virginal bride. The idea of Jesus as committed companion and loving protector is more appealing to women, while men are looking for a leader — a mighty, conquering king rather than someone which whom to cuddle.

Under this theory, the rise of bridal imagery not only made the Christian narrative less compelling to men, it also pushed the faith’s overall ethos in a more feminine direction. The values in past centuries associated with brides — love, protection, comfort, passivity, obedience, dependence, receptivity – came to dominate the ethos of the Christian gospel. These values became preferred over the more masculine qualities of suffering, sacrifice, and conflict.

The rise of a narrative that centered on Jesus as a personal lover, also potentially helped transform the Christian gospel from a public pursuit to a private affair. Men are inherently outward-facing in their disposition – in other words, men were achievers and sought recognition for their achievments – but the mysticism of the Middle Ages began to turn the Christian faith in an inward direction.

Podles puts it this way, “The transfer of the role of bride from the community to the soul has helped bring about the pious individualism that has dissolved ecclesiastical community in the West.” When “the only real concern of Christianity is ‘Jesus and me’” you get the seeds of the possibility of being “spiritual” rather than “religious”; church attendance becomes more optional, and faith need not inform or intersect with domains like business or politics — all that matters is one’s personal relationship with Christ. Individual salvation is privileged over communal or global salvation; the kingdom of God can wait for the world to come, and needn’t be advanced on earth. Faith becomes transcendence, a matter of feeling and sentiment, rather than action.

It is interesting to note that such a feminization of Christianity that began in the Middle Ages and persists to this day is a symptom of a false doctrine. Survivor blogs bemoan the state of the contemporary church, but no one offers genuine solutions. As we have often said here at TANC, to paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the theology, stupid!” Assumptions drive behavior. If you want to find the reason for masses of people taking the same destructive action, if you find the assumption you will find the cause.

Assumptions and doctrine are two sides of the same coin, although it could be argued that doctrine is the logical conclusion of assumptions.  Suffice it to say that bad doctrine leads to bad behavior. The false doctrine of “Church as the Bride” results in all kinds of problems in the church. Those problems have been well documented here at TANC.

But while the feminization of Christianity is a documented matter of historical record, there is still one explanation that trumps all others with regard to the persistence of such a false doctrine. The church being the bride has become a well established matter of church orthodoxy, and that in and of itself is reason enough. This speaks to authority. Because this doctrine is accepted as orthodoxy, nobody challenges it. And if you do challenge it, at best they look at you like you have a third eye. At worst, you get branded a heretic and divisive and arrogant and proud and they excommunicate you. This is authority for authority’s sake. Orthodoxy = authority. And because it’s authority, you don’t question it.

The vast majority of Christianity believes its salvation is vested in the church. The loose logic goes like this: if you reject this doctrine you reject the church’s orthodoxy. If you reject orthodoxy you reject the authority. If you reject the authority, you reject the jurisdiction it has over your salvation. If you reject the authority you reject your very means of salvation itself and you have doomed yourself.

Most people won’t acknowledge that logic intellectually, but this is exactly the way they function. And this is the challenge we have before us; trying to get people to acknowledge the intellectual conclusions of their behavior and persuading them to reject the lie that is the institutional church.

Unfortunately I think that is going to be a lot easier to do with unchurched people than churched people. And that makes a perfect segue into my next article. I’m going to talk about some practical strategies for reaching people with the genuine Biblical gospel of justification by New Birth.

~ Andy


End notes:

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentinianism

[ii] http://www.gnosis.org/library/valentinus/Valentinian_Sacramental.htm

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentinianism#Synopsis

[iv] http://www.gnosis.org/library/valentinus/Valentinian_Sacramental.htm

[v] https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/the-feminization-of-christianity/

[vi] Murrow, David (2005, 2011) Why Men Hate Going to Church, Nashville, TN

[vii] Keefauver, Larry (1998) Lord, I Wish My Husband Would Pray with Me, pg 90

[viii] Kennedy, Nancy (2001) When He Doesn’t Believe, Colorado Springs, CO, pg 194

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