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We Don’t do halloween. We do Reformation Day (poster)

We do Reformation Day © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

 

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“Kos and the Gospel according to St.Luke” documentary

The historic anomaly of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’.

Geneva Bible © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

Geneva Bible © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

Today, it is not uncommon to hear the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ proclaimed in many sermons and books.

This popular nickname ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has its systematic reformed origins in the Calvinist doctrine of the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’. This doctrine was devoutly affirmed by 2nd generation reformers and is most associated with 1st generation reformer, John Calvin.

Calvin was an excellent Theologian and his reforms centralised around Geneva. His influence on the reformation was considerable but the main core reformed doctrine was Lutheran. Luther attempted to reform the Church by getting back to Scripture. His conviction was the ‘the Gospel cannot be denied for the word of man’.

Unfortunately, by today’s standards, it is very difficult for any Christian to merely believe what the Bible says. I say this because the Church of today has been corrupted by argumentation and interpretation. So it is, in these times that my personal attempts to proclaim truth and find truth of Scripture and believe it, is very difficult. So often those who merely believe what the Bible says are the ones labelled the total opposite.

However, we are not here to please men. Men may interpret the Bible, but they are not above it. So it is that I come to my point. The popular doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has a major historic anomaly attached to it. Thorough research reveals that the doctrine was not taught in mainstream Christianity until the time of John Calvin. Some claim that Augustine of Hippo taught it? others that the doctrine is Gnostic.

Difficult as it may seem to grasp, it appears that the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has its early origins in Gnosticism and not Christianity. We know this because Irenaeus refuted an early form of it in Against Heresies. Book 1. Chapter 6. The connection to Calvin being that Augustine was influenced by Gnosticism because of his prior belief in Manichaeism and Calvin relied upon Augustine as an authority on Scripture and quoted him more than any other theologian.

But outside of these references, the doctrine is not to be found.

This presents a major problem; unconditional eternal security was not taught by the ancient Christian Church, and is, in fact alien to historic Christianity before the 16th century.

This presents a major problem for those who claim their beliefs are absolutely Scriptural: It asks an unanswered question of how could a doctrine of such massive importance, lay untaught by anyone but Augustine and Gnostic’s for almost 1500 years?

Was the reformation exclusive to Calvinism?

John Calvin © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

In only a few days now the actual 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be upon us.

31 October for me is a time that can inspire things to be straightened out. A time that inspires misconceptions to be challenged and for the voices of the people to be heard.

At this time of such a momentous anniversary, there is a common misunderstanding today that I have noticed for sometime, where popular preachers from America often associate the labelling of ‘reformed Theology’ as somewhat exclusive to Calvinism.

There are a lot of brothers in America who claim ‘reformed Theology’ is little more than Calvinism in a nutshell.

Calvinism they say, is nothing more than the pure Gospel.

These claims however are highly speculative and cannot be verified beyond doubt in the face of history and Scripture.

The facts remain that reformed theology can be divided into about four branches or positions.

  1. Lutheran
  2. Calvinist
  3. Anglican
  4. Hussite

The facts remain that when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg in 1517, John Calvin was only eight years old.

Calvin was born 10 July 1509 in Noyon, France, which is nearly 600 miles from Wittenberg. When Luther stood at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and the outbreak of the Reformation spread, Calvin was an 11 year old boy who went on to study Philosophy in Paris. He went on to study and pursue a career in law and would not experience a conversion to Christ until 1533 when he was about 24 years old.

By that time Luther had already been excommunicated, translated the New Testament into German and his complete German translation of the Bible was close to being published. The following year Tyndale’s New Testament was in its final revision and the majority of key reformation books had been published and distributed.

By 1536 Calvin was working hard to reform the Church in Geneva and his publication of ‘the Institutes of the Christian Religion’ was in its 1st edition. And through his preaching and influence in Geneva, Calvin’s branch of the reformation spread throughout Geneva and the reformation reached its peak by 1545 and by influence continued on till about 1620. By 1545, many publications had been published and the majority position of the Reformation was Lutheran. Calvinism mainly taking root in France, Netherlands, and Scotland and remaining until after the counter reformation of 1648.

From the mid 16th century – the mid 17th century, Calvinism had taken root in England, Scotland, Greece, and Wales during the Puritan era, while Lutheranism held a majority throughout Europe, even making its way back to Rome itself. Thus, the simple facts remain that although Calvin’s influence had branches within the Reformation, it was probably not referred to as Calvinism until the 18th or 19th centuries, the majority of Calvinistic thought process at that time being the development and spread of the doctrines proclaimed in 1618 at the Synod of Dort and the Puritans who left England during the 17th century for America.

Geneva arms © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

John Calvin’s steadfast work and devotion to the faith is to be admired and admonished, and I value his contribution to the reformation. I regard Calvin’s commentaries on Scripture among the best available. But, I am less favourable concerning the common claims that reformed theology is nothing more than Calvinism. On the contrary, the claim is little more than a fictitious propagation of this centuries favourite American Calvinist preachers, who because of their position on believers baptism, would probably have been either imprisoned or drowned by the very same people they claim to revere.

Surely it is time now for this fallacious claim to be amended!

William Salesbury Welsh Bible documentary interview

‘Once saved always saved’ and ‘free will’ cannot mix!

Letting the Bible speak ©2017 Simon Peter SutherlandDifferences of opinion within Christianity have for many years been of great interest to me. For me, the interest has rarely been concerning the variances themselves, but how the variances are dealt with.

There are within Christianity what some might call ‘salvation issues’ and others which might not be ‘salvation issues’.

The doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’ is what I would claim is not a ‘salvation issue’. But it is a doctrine of much contention.

People who believe ‘once saved always saved’ have their reasons and Scriptural basis for their beliefs. People who don’t believe ‘once saved always saved’ have their reasons and Scriptural basis for not believing it.

Some people get so irate over the doctrine that they make a heretic or an unbeliever out of anyone who does not believe it. Some think ‘once saved always saved’ is the pure Gospel in a nutshell and anyone who does not believe it is guilty of not believing Scripture and believing a doctrine of works. While those who do not believe it often treat the doctrine with contempt and argue it a licence to sin. Others, like myself who claim to have a somewhat none bias view do not overlook the Scriptures that can affirm the doctrine while at the same time do not ignore the implications behind the warnings given in Scripture to ‘abide’.

In reality the Scriptures work both ways concerning the Scriptural aspect of the doctrine. Some texts affirm ‘once saved always saved’ while others appear speak as though a believer can fall away and become an ‘apostate’.

In a historical reformation context, the two contrasting views are known as ‘Calvinism’ and ‘Arminianism’. Both views have their majority origins in 16th century Geneva in a somewhat bitter debate that arose between Jacob Arminius and Theodore Beza. Today both views are still believed, however, the views have altered somewhat since the days of Arminius and Beza.

In the 16th century their was only one main view of doctrine known today as ‘once saved always saved’ while today, it seems there are multiple views of teaching. Both views were responses to the extreme dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome taught a very uncertain view of salvation which held people captive to the authority and sacramental works of that Religion.

Today however, things have changed. The doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’ is not centralised around refuting Rome, but Arminianism. The doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’ has took on a new commercial and popular form.

Thus, before a person can affirm ‘once saved always saved’ that person must first clarify which version of ‘once saved always saved’ is being talking about.

Lets look at the Scriptures.

Here is a list of some Scriptures used to affirm the doctrine:

John 3: 15-16, John 5: 24, John 10: 28-29, Romans 8: 38-39, Ephesians 1: 13-14, Ephesians 4: 30, 1 Peter 1: 5, Hebrews 10: 14, Jude 24.

Here is a list of some Scriptures used to refute the doctrine:

Matthew 10: 22, 32, Matthew 7: 19, Luke 12: 41-46, John 15: 2, Romans 11: 18-22, Galatians 5: 1-5, 1 Corinthians 9: 27, 1 Corinthians 15: 1-2, Colossians 1: 21-23, 2 Timothy 4: 10, 2 Peter 2: 19-22, Hebrews 6: 4-6, Revelation 2: 8-10, Revelation 3: 1-6, Revelation 21: 6-8, Revelation 22: 19

A problem I find is that both parties appear to overlook the contrasting texts or reinterpret them according to their persuasion. ‘Calvinistic’ thinkers commonly claim that those who have fallen away were never truly saved in the first place. While some ‘Arminian’ thinkers hold on so tightly to their salvation that they appear unsure if they will get to heaven even though they abide.

But where are the proofs?

The Scriptures speak clearly on the matter if we let them speak. They affirm that a believer will abide if he looks to Christ, in other words a believer must abide in order to abide.

The Scriptures affirm that God will keep our salvation and that it is the duty of every believer to keep the faith. In other words, if a believer does not abide, how can he continue to have faith? A person cannot have faith and trust in Jesus if he has ceased to believe He was the Christ.

Ante Nicene Fathers © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland-001The problem is that many preachers would simply attempt to persuade their congregations that those who walk away from the faith were never really saved in the first place? I beg to differ them and claim that such a view is inconsistent with all Scripture. I would further claim that such a view was not taught by the majority Ante-Nicene-fathers. For example, Ante-Nicene-Father Irenaeus once wrote;

We should fear ourselves, least perchance after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but are shut out from His Kingdom. And for that reason, Paul said, ‘For if [God] spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest He also not spare you” (Romans 11:21). (Against Heresies 4.27.2]

Those who do not obey Him, but being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons.” (Against Heresies 4.41.3)

This same position was also affirmed by Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen and also in the Reformation in the Augsburg Confession, Article XII: “Of Repentance”. (feel free to contact me if you desire all the quotes)

The fact remains that the popular wishy washy view of ‘once saved always saved’ as taught in many modern churches, is certainly not the Calvinistic understanding of ‘once saved always saved’ and certainly not the eternal security affirmed in Scripture.

But the major error that I find within the teachings of a majority of proponents of ‘osas’ is that they continue to affirm the doctrine of ‘free will’. But how can this be? How can a person have a salvation that cannot possibly be taken away, while at the same time have ‘free will’? Surely, if a person has ‘free will’ and is saved and always will be saved he or she cannot have the ‘free will’ they claim to have. Because if a person has ‘free will’ he or she must have the freedom to choose whatever they choose and thus, they must have the freedom to choose to abide in Christ or walk away from the faith. If a person has ‘free will’ that person must logically have the freedom to choose either way.

This is why I think the Calvinistic position of ‘once saved always saved’ is far more consistent than the popular wishy washy view taught within many denominations. Yet even in Calvinism, no true Calvinist can logically know for certain whether or not he or she is part of ‘once saved always saved’ because they cannot truly know if they are one of the elect, because the evidence of perseverance has not yet fully come to pass until the day of death.

It seems to me that both sides are playing a game of dodgeball.

Significance of the crown of thorns

Thorns © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Thorns © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

In Matthew 27; 29, Mark 15; 17, John 19; 2, each of the three Gospel writers refer to an event in the life of Jesus Christ, where His head was pierced with a “crown of thorns”.

Gospel writers Matthew and John both use the same Greek to communicate this “crown of thorns” of which the Greek “stephanos” (crown) holds the meaning of a wreathe, or a badge of royalty.

In Israel today it is generally believed that these original thorns, were collected by a Roman soldier just a few yards or feet near the place where Jesus was mocked. These thorns according to a Syriac version are rendered “white thorns”. But sources claim there are more than 120 kinds of thistles and tares that grow in Israel, so it is difficult to determine the exact plant.

It is with the material plant in mind that I ponder upon the notion that it is often easy to focus our whole attention upon the physical side of Christ’s passion and the pain Jesus endured when the crown of thorns was twisted upon His head. Yet it should be noticed that the context of the Gospel passages prove that the Romans were mocking Jesus because of the claim He had to Royalty. This context implies that the original authors intentions were not exclusively intended to display the physical pain Jesus endured by the thorns, but the mockery He endured while permitting the Romans to inflict such wickedness upon Him. Jesus had laid down His power willingly that He might suffer for sin of those who tormented Him and for all mankind.

Research shows that Jesus was tormented by as many as 500 hundred soldiers at one time. The implications written about in Matthew 27: 27 where Jesus is delivered to the whole “garrison” or “band of soldiers” are that the whole number of soldiers to mock Jesus numbered as many as 500 or more men. This is made clear by Matthews use of the Greek “Speira” which is of Latin origin, meaning the root word derived from the language of the Romans. This word shows us that this troop was one tenth part of a Roman Legion.

We do not know how many of these soldiers twisted the crown upon Jesus’ head, but the text is translated in the plural sense. The ESV renders it “and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head”. Note the plural word ‘they‘.

Christ's thorn © 2017 Simon Peter SutherlandThese thorns are the subject of much interest and exploration. Writing in the 19th century, botanist and geologist Rev Prof. G. Henslow ascribed the thorn as “Paliurus aculeatus” which was known as ‘Christ’s thorn’. This was a flexible branch which bread the thorns in pairs and could easily be plaited into a crown shape to fit on our Lord’s head.

Evolutionists, at present, generally offer an unsatisfactory claim that thorns evolved as a defence mechanism, while Creationists generally believe that ‘thorns’ were created by God after the fall. This creation was centralised around God’s punishment of original sin. The claim is derived from Genesis 3: 17-19, more specifically verse 18 “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…”.

Part of that Old Testament judgement is revealed in the New Testament as the thorns being placed upon the head of Christ, penetrating His flesh, bones and blood, in the sacrificial offering of the second Adam as He took the sin of mankind upon Himself.

Most evidence for the location of the garden of Eden was stripped away during Noah’s flood, but it is my belief, though I cannot prove it, that the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ was handed over, is the exact location of the garden of Eden. It is also my belief, though I cannot prove that either, that Golgotha, where Christ was crucified, was the exact location where the tree of life once stood in the garden of Eden. That the thorn which pierced Christ’s brow was taken from the exact location where God made the first thorn of Genesis 3: 18.

It is my belief that Jesus took upon Himself all aspects of the judgement that God had placed upon mankind through the law, and that the Roman soldiers crowned the Creator Himself with the thorns that He created on the very site that He had originally placed them. They may have been as large as one inch long.

Simon Peter Sutherland

Clement of Alexandria on the birth of Christ at Nissan

Gauffered edged Bible © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Gauffered edged Bible © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

“Therefore, from the birth of Christ to the death of Commodus are a total of one hundred ninety-four years, one month, and thirteen days. There are those who have calculated not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day. They say that it took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, on the twenty-fifth day of Pachon [May 20] … Others say that He was born on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day of Pharmuthi [April 19 or 20]

Clement of Alexandria (c. 195)

Following on from my previous post concerning the birth of Jesus and my expressive doubts that the Bible even remotely claims that Jesus was born on December 25th, I continue on with this polemical theme, and in this post, consider a historic claim made by Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century AD.

For those readers who may never have heard or read anything of Clement of Alexandria, his life is worth looking into. With that in mind permit me to spend a few moments relaying some things concerning his life and work.

Clement of Alexandria was born c. 150 AD in Athens, Greece and is believed to have died in Jerusalem c. 215 or 220 AD. He was a Christian Theologian and is venerated as a ‘Church father’ and his writings provide us with important source material concerning the beliefs and claims of the ante-Nicene Church fathers.

Clement of Alexandria book © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Clement of Alexandria book © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

 

He wrote on such varied ethical topics as eating, drinking, laughter, filthy speaking, clothes, true beauty, ear rings, hair, Government, and behaviour in public baths. He also wrote concerning human arts, the necessity of understanding the Scriptures and Greek Philosophy. Clement wrote concerning the Septuagint and the comparison between the ancient Greeks with the Hebrews. Indeed, much of our understanding of early Christianity and the views of early Christians comes directly from the writings of the early ante-Nicene Church fathers.

A number of Clement’s works have fully survived. Here is a list of three of them.

  • The Protrepticus
  • The Paedagogus
  • The Stromata

On embracing Christianity, Clement travelled extensively over Greece, Italy, and Jerusalem seeking instructions and teaching from “the most eminent teachers” of his day. He was recommended by Alexander, the Bishop of Jerusalem and Origen was one of his pupils. Church historian Eusebius also speaks well of him. Clement taught that Jesus Christ was the personal saviour of men and the living Word of God and he affirmed the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

As part of Clement’s research and historic record of his day, the claim he made that “Others say that He (Jesus) was born on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day of Pharmuthi [April 19 or 20]” may well be the earliest known reference to the actual birth date of Jesus?

It is with all this in mind that when a historic Church father of this calibre made such a historic claim that Jesus was not believed in his day to have been born on December 25th or anywhere near that date but in either April or May, I feel I must point out; it really is irrelevant whether a modern person agrees with Clement or not. He wrote what he wrote regardless!

The Gospel of Luke KJV © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

The Gospel of Luke KJV © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

 

With this in mind it is certainly clear we need no emphasis on ‘historic revisionism’ since it may well be more historically consistent to claim Nisan as Jesus’ birth date rather than December and we can be certain that neither Matthew or Luke made any references to the birth of Jesus as taking place in winter. On the contrary, as I stated in my previous article, “it is more probable that He was born at Nisan which took place in the spring”. And it seems by all accounts that Ecclesiastical history may well affirm this too!

Nisan falls in March-April, and Clement claims Jesus’ birth date as either April 19th or 20th which is almost upon us. So, since this really is not a divisive issue, may I humbly suggest that believers and followers of Jesus Christ consider this history as we approach the coming months and the season of Nisan.

Simon Peter Sutherland

Researching Titus 1: 5 and filming on Crete

Kaloi Limenes, Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kaloi Limenes, Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

I have recently returned to England from my visit to the Greek island of Crete.

Travelling thousands of miles across Biblical landscape is always insightful and my primary goal on Crete was to seek out the historic locations written about in Acts 27 and Paul’s letter to Titus.

My desire was to gain a more historic understanding of Titus 3: 5

for this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting”.

2000 years ago Paul gave commission to Titus to appoint elders in every city on Crete. My aim in visiting Crete was to discover those ancient cities and gain an historic understanding of the work Titus did on Crete. Along the way standing face to face with the ancient law code of Gortyna, the mysteries of the Phaistos disc, ancient Minoan culture, and in some cases frustration at the sheer amount of unexcavated sites, leading to a general lack of information.

Kaloi Limenes 'Fair Havens' Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kaloi Limenes ‘Fair Havens’ Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

However, travelling over 100 miles across the island, visiting the ancient cities of Heraklion, Gortyna, Lasea and the through spectacular mountains to port of ‘Kalio Limenes’ (fair havens) proved insightful to the Biblical narrative yet left many unanswered questions.

Part of the reason for this is that much of the history of ancient Crete has little connection to the New Testament era. Ancient cities such as Knossos have connections but they were long gone by the 1st century AD. But Gortyna and Kalio Limenes are key locations.

The Church of St. Titus, Gortyna © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

The Church of St. Titus, Gortyna © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Battling with strong wind, I filmed around 5 hours worth of footage for a documentary on the subject. I hope to complete that task in the distant future but in the meantime, I will continue in researching Paul and Titus’ work on Crete.

Simon Peter Sutherland

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Kos and the Gospel according to St.Luke trailer