back to bible basics - a review of "beyond bible basics" (3)
MISCALLANEOUS CLAIMS CONSIDERED
In the first article of this series, we examined the claims presented by Bro Duncan Heaster in Beyond Bible Basics, that the Bible is not a faultless book, rather containing “contradictions” and “paradoxes”, for “God does not sink down to the level of a man who wanted to write a faultless book, carefully ensuring that every figure exactly tallied …”. Then, in our second article, we considered the claim that God Himself was on the Cross, and laid down His Life: “That was where the Father was, on the cross … I submit that He was there, physically at the cross … Hereby perceive we the love of God because that He (God) laid down His life for us (1Jno 3:16 AV) …”. We saw also how the victory of the Lord Jesus in giving himself to be crucified, is presented in terms of failure: “he assumed that he had sinned” “Because Christ felt such a sinner deep within Him, He even doubted if He really was the Messiah.” “there seems to have been some kind of intellectual failure in the Lord’s reasoning. In the terrible circumstances in which He was, this is hardly surprising. Yet such genuine intellectual failure, a real, unpretended failure to correctly understand something, usually has a psychological basis.”
To minds sensitive to things Divine; the propagation of such notions by a prominent brother is deeply disturbing – indeed shocking. Certainly, the concepts taught in this book deviate considerably from standard Christadelphian teaching – and more significantly they contradict the plain teaching of Scripture. In this final part of our series, we proceed to consider similar such claims, commencing with:
A DECEPTIVE GOD
The song of Moses, given at the end of his life of faithfulness to his God and his people, describes the Almighty thus: “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgement: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut 32:4). Yahweh is a God of Truth, Justice and Righteousness. But by contrast, under the heading, “A Deceptive God”, Bro Heaster asserts that: “He actively does something to those who treat their relationship with Him as a hobby: He actively deceives them … God worked false miracles at the time of AD 70, according to 2 Thess. 2:9-11. This means that the ‘miracles’ claimed by Pentecostals and the like may be actual miracles; God allows them to be done because He wishes to deceive such people. The Bible is likewise written in a way which almost invites us to misinterpret it”.
So, not only is Scripture not a “faultless book” – it almost invites misinterpretation! And no wonder, for it’s Author Himself actively works “false miracles”, through the Pentecostal movement, in order “to deceive” them! Again, in Study 6:6, we find further assertions of like manner:
“The foolish heart of Israel was darkened by somebody, the Greek implies (Rom. 1:21) – and because there is no devil, that person was God. God gave them a mind which wanted to practice homosexuality and lesbianism (v.28)”
“The apostate members of the ecclesia, both in Old and New Testaments, sunk to the most unbelievable levels, but sincerely felt that they were doing God’s will. These things included killing righteous prophets, turning the breaking of bread into a drunken orgy, and turning prostitution within the ecclesia into a spiritual act. For brethren to come to the conclusion that such things were the will of God surely they were not just misinterpreting Scripture. There was an extra-human power of delusion at work. And seeing there is no devil, it must have been God.”
“The idea of brethren being deceived at the time of Christ’s “coming” connects with Mt. 24:5,11,24 describing “the majority'” (Gk.) of the latter day ecclesia being “deceived”. 2 Thess. 2:11 says that this deception is sent by God because they refuse to love the Truth. The conclusion is hard to avoid: in our last days, the majority of us will be deceived because we don’t “love the truth”- it’s no more than a hobby. Whether we have yet reached that situation must remain an open question.”
“It isn’t only the apostate ‘Christians’ of the world’s churches who are deceived by God. Such deception can be frequently seen operating in the weak Christadelphian”
“God, working through their deceitful natures, has deceived them. For this reason the Truth is in one sense the most dangerous thing in the world. It can destroy us, blow us apart; God can terribly, terribly deceive us, until at judgement day we gnash our teeth in white hot rage against Him and ourselves (Is. 45:24). God has written the Bible in such a way, whereby the majority of readers are deceived by His way of writing into thinking that they have the Truth when they don’t.”
“the superficial Bible reader will be deceived by God’s word into believing things which are a false Gospel; a system of understanding which has an appearance of the Gospel, but which is actually an anti-Gospel”
So then, according to Bro Heaster, the God of Salvation is actually a “terrible” deceiver – a worker of “false miracles”, he gives people “a mind which wants to practice homosexuality and lesbianism”, he is an “extra human power of delusion”, who works in the devil’s stead. Moreover, Bro Heaster is privileged to have been endowed with the ability to perceive where God is deceiving his brethren and sisters. He says he can “frequently” see God deluding “the weak Christadelphian”. And that deception is so widespread that “the majority of us” (evidently excluding Bro Heaster himself) will be deceived by God – “terribly, terribly” so. His word itself deceives it’s readers into believing a “false Gospel”. So it is, that in this vivid portrait which Bro Heaster paints of his Most High Creator, we perceive not the God of Moses, “a God of Truth” who is “just” and “right”, but what he styles “A Deceptive God”, who is more akin to the Catholic Devil, seeking to induce the “weak” into destruction, that they might be “blown apart”. And we are indeed truly thankful that such a Demonic Deity, just like the Church Devil, finds existence only in the minds of the deluded.
We would most strongly disagree with Bro Heaster’s assertion, “seeing there is no devil, it must have been God” who induced the first century brethren to transform the memorial meeting into a “drunken orgy”. According to the Bible, there is a devil. And it is that devil, not God, who perverts the hearts of men, to do the things so described. That devil was destroyed by the Lord Jesus upon the tree: “forasmuch then as the children are flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). Here, “the devil”, or diabolos is that which Christ destroyed in death, that “law of sin” which the apostle found dwelling within him, and which God condemned in His Son (Rom 8:3). As Bro Heaster himself recognises elsewhere in BBB, this is the Bible Devil – Sin itself, which reigns supreme over all it’s possessors, save the Lord Jesus Christ who destroyed it in death, and those who are baptised into that death (Rom 6).
And it is this devil, not a diabolic Deity which induces the hearts of men to do evil, even as our Lord testified: “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23). This then is the Truth of the matter – that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). And with such a heart as this, who needs an “extra human power of delusion” from the God of Truth to entice men into iniquity?
It is true that 2Thes 2, which Bro Heaster cites does speak of God sending a “strong delusion” to the wicked – but to those who are already wicked, having turned away from the Truth, not “the majority” of Christadelphians: “and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2Thes 2:11,12). Here is the crucial point – this class of people do not believe the truth in anycase, they have “turned away” from it. They have pleasure in unrighteousness. They are “damned” for their disobedience. They are not simply the “weak Christadelphian” who skips his readings every so often, as Bro Heaster indicates, but those who have already, deliberately set themselves to believe something other than the Truth – to those people who sought a lie, God provided them with it, for them to believe in it. But for those who approach the Word with the simplicity of children (Luke 18:17), they will so develop that they can perceive good and bad (Heb 5:14), and determine what is Truth, as contrasted with error.
ARE WE HINDERING THE RETURN OF CHRIST?
To the unbelieving philosophers upon Mars hill, Paul gave the warning that God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Of that appointed day, even our Lord knew not the precise timing (Mat 24:36), and even though the general epoch was revealed in the apocalyptic scheme shown to John, it is not for us to know the exact moment of our Lord’s return (cp Acts 1:7). But an appointed day there is, a day for which we must prepare, lest it come upon us like a thief (Rev 3:3), and take us unawares, even as our Lord warned (Mat 24:50).
But the teaching of Beyond Bible Basics, is that Christ will not come until we are ready for him, and when we have preached to enough people: “When we as a community finally grow up into Him, “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), the whole process of Christ-manifestation (and thereby God manifestation) will be complete. This means that the speed of spiritual development in the latter day body of Christ will determine the exact date of the Lord’s return.” (Study 7:6)
“Consider how that once the Gospel is preached world-wide, then the end will come (Matt. 24:14). Surely this would associate the exact timing of the Lord’s return- for which He and the Father are ever eager- with the time when we have satisfactorily spread the Gospel far enough. When the harvest is ripe, then it is harvested. The Lord has to delay His coming because of the slowness and immaturity of our development; in these ways we limit Him. And it isn’t enough to think that if we merely preach world-wide, therefore the Lord’s coming will automatically be hastened. It is the bringing forth of fruit to His Name that is important to Him”. (Study 3:12)
So it is, that rather than to watch the prophetic signs developing in the world around us, we need to rather focus on what percentage of the world the Gospel has been preached in. Only when we have covered enough ground can Christ come. Bro Heaster evidently regards his brethren and sisters as being immature, developing slowly – and only when they begin to develop more quickly can they cease from so limiting God, so that he can send His Son. Of course, as usual there are no verses in Scripture which teaches this. Rather, the Lord himself said that the brotherhood would not be prepared for him, as a whole, when he comes: “therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh … The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of” (Mat 24:44,50). “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2Pet 3:4).
Interestingly, the assertions which Bro Heaster presents us with here appear to strongly contradict his earlier remarks that in the last days, “the majority” of Christadelphians “will be deceived”. How can it be that we are to be both “deceived”, yet also spiritually mature, and ready for our Lord at his coming? This is but one of many points which clearly show that BBB is not “a faultless book” by any means, rather containing “contradictions” which are “irreconcilable”.
THE PERCEIVED “BLINDNESS” OF CHRISTADELPHIA
In connection with the claim that Christ cannot come until we have covered enough of the globe with our preaching, it is pertinent to note that the alleged failure of Christadelphians to preach in the past is given as an example of the “blindness” of our community, in the chapter headed “Blind Men”: “The Christadelphian refusal (pre-the 1960s) to face up to their responsibility to go into all the world with the Gospel is one example of this blindness to what we now see as obvious.” But no such thing is obvious at all! As an elder brother has pointed out, over 100 years ago, Christadelphians preached in the Caribbean. In the 1930’s, there were ecclesias in Russia, with Christendom Astray being translated into Russian in the 1920’s. Brethren from Britain and America were preaching in Germany – east Germany as well – in the 1920’s, well before the time of Hitler. And that is not to mention the preaching of Thomas Williams in America during the late 1800’s. If zeal of preaching is a guide to a community’s spiritual sight, Christadelphian eyes must have been wide open in those days! But such is not a criteria given in Scripture – many religious bodies preach most actively indeed – yet a little examination soon reveals a most appalling blindness of the Revealed Word.
The Christadelphian Advancement Trust, established by the Heaster family is the publisher of Beyond Bible Basics, and although the ongoing controversies surrounding it’s financial activities are beyond the scope of this review, it is of concern that BBB exhorts its readers to bestow their money upon it, after same pattern as David bequeathed his wealth to the work of building the Temple. Under the heading, “The Loss of All Things …” we read: “We have been given all that we have from the Lord, it is not our own, and He watches our attitude to it carefully. What we have is not ours because we worked for it- although that, I know, is how it feels. It is ours on loan. Surely this of itself ought to mean that each of us leaves our property, if we own any, to the work of the Truth, or to a brother or sister who we know will use the resulting funds in the Lord’s work (after the pattern of how David left all his personal wealth to the work of the temple, rather than to Solomon personally- 1 Chron.29:3 NIV). The Christadelphian Advancement Trust provides concrete opportunities to arrange this – not only in a UK context, but in any country”.
We suggest, in the light of the doctrinal errors which are apparent in this work produced by CAT, there is no valid comparison between it’s work, and that of faithfully building the Temple. Although it is true to say that Bro Duncan Heaster is no longer a trustee of this Charity, such an appeal for donations in these terms is crude to say the least – and far from the usual manner of appealing for funds adopted by Christadelphians. We would well ask, rather than to give money to a Trust devoted in the main to publishing the writings of one man – why not give to any of the other Christadelphian bodies seeking to minister in other ways?
For our part, we can see no Scriptural basis to give any of the resources provided to us by the Lord to those who preach that His Son experienced “intellectual failure”, upon the Cross. Who preach “A Deceptive God”, who will deceive most of the Christadelphian Body, and who works “false miracles” to deceive the Pentecostals. Who preach that the Creator’s Word is not “a faultless book”, containing “contradictions” which are “irreconcilable”. That the Creator Himself was upon the cross “physically”, laying down His Life for us. Who claim that we are actually hindering the Return of Christ by our lack of Preaching – ignoring the fact that much preaching activity was performed long before the formation of CAT. If any of our readers disagree, we would invite them to show any these notions to be in harmony with the Revealed Oracles of God.