PLAIN THINGS ARTICLE:
ALIEN EXPOSED: AN ANABAPTIST RESPONSE
After personally discussing the issue of whether Jesus corrected Moses or corrected misconceptions about Moses’ law in the Sermon on the Mount with the men at Caneyville, I gave them my books DID JESUS CORRECT MOSES and THE ALIEN EXPOSED. The only person willing to continue the discussion was Joshua Geiser. He sent me a book to read, and told me he was writing an article for PLAIN THINGS. I asked to be sent a copy. The article I feel reveals their great misunderstanding of my position and the Bible position. My responses to their complete article will be in black with their article in blue.
Aaron Stoll in the introduction makes this statement: “In this issue, Joshua Geiser responds to a recent book by Mark Bullen, where Bullen attempts to take us Anabaptists back to the God of the Old Testament. Bullen, like Augustine, is a deep thinker and a good writer. He makes a powerful case; but there are two problems: first, it is not the gospel that Jesus preached and lived. Second, history is not his friend. Two thousand years of church history should be enough to demonstrate that when Christians resort to violence, bad things happen. Always.”
My, My, how terrible that I would attempt to take anyone back to the GOD of the Old Testament. Isn’t Jesus the God of the Old Testament?? “Before Abraham was, I am” is what Jesus said. Jesus said He kept all His Father’s commandments and always did what pleased His Father. In my book I charged them with being affected by Gnostic Dualism, and here they declare it themselves. How can they declare that taking people back to the God of the Old Testament is contrary to the gospel Jesus preached and lived?? The New Testament declares that there is one everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6) which was preached before to Abraham (Gal 3), the Jews (Heb. 4), and even to those who died in the flood (I Peter 4:6). Two thousand years of church history tells of bad things happening to pacifists and those who supported their God ordained “ministers of God” as Romans 13 presents them. “Resorting to violence” is a poor way to describe what we are teaching; but it suits their purpose of making us look like war-monger, sue-happy, vengeful and violent people because we do not agree with their total pacifist view. We believe that JESUS still believes what He inspired in Proverbs 24:11 If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; 12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
The Alien Exposed : An Anabaptist Response
Several years ago, near the small town of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, a mentally deranged man walked into an Amish school and did the unthinkable. He lined innocent young girls up against the wall, pulled a gun, and began firing- shots heard around the world.
What a horrible, heart-rending story. Why? Why did this man do this? Surely many lamented that this man killed himself, denying others the satisfaction of seeing justice served. After all, it's in the Bible: "Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus 24:17).
But something happened in that little Amish community which caused more consternation and surprise than the gun's explosions. Those Amish people forgave that man! That very day, the families of the victims reached out in love to the family of the murderer. That must have been really, really tough. Surely this was possible only by God's grace. I marvel at the wit ness God brought forth in that situation.
The world has not forgotten it. Books have been written about it. Recently I met an Amish-Mennonite man who told of his experience in Australia: “I was leaving the airport, looking for a taxi," he said. "I soon found one, driven by a Muslim man. As we loaded up, I felt the man's eyes on me- he kept glancing back curiously. Finally, he asked, 'What religion do you belong to?' I told him, 'I'm a Christian.' 'Yes, I know that,' he replied, 'but to what sect do you belong?' I told him I was Amish-Mennonite, and he stared at me. 'How can they do that?' he bellow ed. 'What?' I asked. 'Forgive?!' he hollered back."
What an amazing witness. Just like our Christian forefathers who were tortured, imprisoned, and killed for their faith, these people left a testimony we never would have had were it not for one thing: with childlike trust they believed the words of Jesus and obeyed.
Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be Sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:43-45).
But what if we misinterpret Jesus' words? Perhaps those Amish people had serious misunderstand ings about what Jesus actually taught. Maybe, so that all men would know God as a righteous avenger, those Amish should have sued that man's family for every thing they had. Perhaps then the world would know their God as the righteous avenger?
To say this, and then immediately introduce my name and book is a great injustice. What assuming and accusing? Do you even know what I believe on this subject?? The Amish could not forgive the man’s family, because they didn’t do anything! They were victims also. In the Old Testament, the avenger of blood could not go after the man’s relatives while he was fleeing to the city of refuge. You are slandering that which you don’t understand, and you really ought to publicly apologize for such unloving activity.
In The Alien Exposed, Mark Bullen suggests that this sort of behavior is not what Jesus intended. Rather, not only the Nickle Mines Amish, but all of conservative Anabaptism has fallen prey to the snare of the devil. The reason, he says, is something foundational: we drastically misunderstand the Law of God as revealed to us in the Old and New Testament Scriptures.
Again, shame on your accusing and assuming. You never asked me what I thought about Nickle Mines, nor did I ever tell you. Show me where I suggest that returning good for evil according to God’s Word, as the Amish did, is not what Jesus intended. My argument is that Jesus taught consistent with God’s Holy Inspired Word in the Old Testament, because HE IS THE ONE WHO INSPIRED IT.
Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Have you ever considered that Paul is quoting the Old Testament? Is he misapplying it, or is his own beliefs in agreement with it? If he is quoting it, then he is declaring that the Old Testament passage has the exact same sentiment and meaning as what he is teaching - otherwise quoting the passage would be counter-productive. I wonder if I’d get better treatment robbing your house than trying to correct your understanding of God’s Word?
If I had picked up Bullen's book without knowing the man who wrote it, I might have paged through it awhile, sighed, and put it back down. We are quite used to seeing books that undermine basic princi ples of the Anabaptist faith. This author, however, is Mennonite in appearance and even expresses appreciation for the Mennonite faith. Not only that, but The Alien Exposed is addressed directly to Mennonites. The subtitle reads: "An Acid Test for the Authentic Anabaptist Love of Truth." I accept his challenge. Bullen's position calls into question a num ber of the doctrines we consider to be key components of our Anabaptist faith. The Alien Exposed has caused me to ask myself hard ques tions and carefully weigh the evi dence. If Jesus did not intend for us to take His Sermon on the Mount literally, then a foundational Anabaptist principle is in error. If our view is incorrect, our forefathers who gave their lives as martyrs rather than bear the sword died in vain. They should have rallied together to overthrow the ungodly state church, establishing a better, more righteous one in its place. In short, if Bullen is correct, our faith is futile, and we are building straw houses on foundations of sand.
Again, I must reprove your assumptions and accusations. First, I take Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount literal, but interpret them consistent with His own words which emphatically state that He is not teaching contrary to the law of Moses. I take His words literal, but in context and consistent with the whole Word of God. I could as easily be accused of not taking Jesus words literal, because I “take thought for the morrow” or “labor for the meat the perisheth” or don’t always pray inside a closet; but you all agree that these must be taken in context, or we’d all starve, be poor businessmen and not bless our food before meals.
Where in my books do I teach that men should rally and overthrow their rightful government?? Where do I say that everyone who refuses to take the sword in every situation is in error? It would be courteous and Christian to only refute with Scripture what I have actually said. I submit to a government that I don’t always agree with, I pay my taxes faithfully, have turned the other cheek and returned good for evil when being persecuted for my faith more times than I can count. Don’t try to put me in a box that makes me easier to ignore.
The book's title refers to the habits and character traits of cer tain birds. The common cuckoo of Europe is apparently too lazy to hatch its own eggs, so it finds the nest of another bird and replaces one or two resident eggs with one of its own. That victimized bird then hatches the cuckoo's egg and unknowingly fosters the cuckoo chick. Bullen uses this illustra tion to portray what happens when the devil lays an alien egg in our nest and we lovingly raise it as our own, not knowing the difference. The implication here is that the Anabaptist view of the teachings of Jesus Christ is an alien egg of the devil's, which we are raising unawares. Needless to say, that is a strong statement.
It would be more correct to say, “The implication here is that the modern Anabaptist view that Jesus corrected Moses and change God’s law in the Sermon on the Mount is a form of Gnostic Dualism and, yes, therefore an alien egg of the devil mistakenly raised as the truth.”
I say modern, because there were Anabaptists who rejected the alien egg, and others who rejected large portions of it — like Menno Simons.
Bullen begins his book by point ing out and praising the faithful ness of the Mennonites. He recog nizes that Mennonites have main tained godly order in their homes and standards of holiness that most nominal Christian churches today have lost. And for this he admires them. However, there's one big problem:
Satan has carefully slipped a prize serpent egg into the nest of the Anabaptist movement… Those who have discovered the imposter through the years have found themselves in danger of rejection while the imposter is feverishly defended and guarded… Though the Mennonites have discovered many aliens and cast them out, they have with the same zeal protected this particular one as their own baby. We admit that a superficial reading of the New Testament can lead one to believe the imposter egg is the rightful inhabitant of the nest; but if one is willing to study and pay closer attention, they cannot miss the truth that it is alien to the Scriptures ( The Alien Exposed page 34).
In a nutshell, the basis of Bullen's argument is that those who take Jesus' Sermon on the Mount at face value are in error. The con clusions they reach by reading the words of Jesus in that way, he says, show that they have missed the larger picture. To explain this, Bullen asks one simple ques tion: "Did Jesus correct Moses?"
Is “superficial reading” the same as taking Jesus’ words at “face value”? When an unlearned reader reads, “by them of old time” and assumes it means “by Moses”, they can be led into your error; because if Jesus said, “by Moses” He would also be saying, “as Moses understood and taught it”. If something was said by Moses, but taught wrongly by someone else, then it is wrong to attach their interpretation to Moses’ name. Thus Jesus said, “by them of old time” i.e. the teachers and interpreters of Moses. When Jesus said, “It is written” or “Moses said”, He was speaking in the context of “what the scripture or Moses actually meant - their intent”. I am disappointed in your twisting of words and concepts here and in the Scriptures.
If you reply that Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, was indeed correcting the imperfections of Moses' law, his answer is obvious: You need to go back and spend more time reading the Bible. At least some of the laws which Jesus expounded on in His Sermon on the Mount, such as the "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" law of Exodus 21, are clearly straight out of God's own mouth. Does God need to cor rect Himself?
O yes, they are straight out of God’s mouth and misapplied by the Jews, which is why Jesus didn’t attribute what He was correcting to Moses, but to “them of old time” — He was correcting the Jewish misinterpretations. This shouldn’t be so hard to understand.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, says Bullen, therefore the moral standards he gives to us from one age to the next must not in any way contradict each other. AMEN!
This, of course, produces some real problems to the traditional, literal Anabaptist interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. Bullen recognizes this and is ready to supply an answer: Jesus was merely clearing up the misconceptions the Jews had gotten over the centuries concerning Moses' law. He was teaching nothing new. The Jews, by this time, were taking the "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" law and applying it to their personal relationships instead of allowing justice to be served at the hands of the judges as God intended. Jesus, according to Bullen, is simply restoring to us God's origi nal intent for our interpersonal relationships. This does not, he says, take away the responsibility of those in authority to mete out justice according to God's law as given through Moses.
Besides the nonresistance ques tion, there are two other subjects of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount which Bullen seeks to reconcile with the Old Covenant. What did Jesus mean when He said to swear not at all (Matthew 5:34), and what did Jesus really teach concerning divorce and remarriage?
Bullen's conclusions are carefully laid out with Old and New Testament Scriptures, and the help of at least six different Bible commentaries. Resolved to reconcile the Old and New covenants, Bullen concludes that Jesus was simply saying, "You shall not swear at all by man-made oaths." In the Old Testament God told the Jews in several places to "swear by My name." If it was good for them, why is it no longer good for us? Bullen then goes through the New Testament and pulls out several different instances where Paul said things like, "God is my witness," or, "Before God, I lie not." In those instances, Bullen says, Paul is swearing. Even Jesus, he says, when He used the words, "verily" or "assuredly", was adding a mild oath to His statement. Swearing an oath before a magistrate is also perfectly okay in Bullen's opinion. "Jesus never taught against lawful swearing; but against man's innova tions" (page 75).
Bullen deals with the subject of divorce and remarriage much more thoroughly in his earlier book, What the Bible Really Teaches About Divorce and Remarriage. He combats the modern-day Anabaptist view of "No divorce, no remarriage, for any reason. Period." He makes the case that if one is divorced for the right reasons, remarriage is no more adultery than if the divorced person's spouse were dead. Moses taught what kind of divorces were lawful and Jesus reiterated that by saying it was lawful in the case of fornication. Bullen also contends that if an unbeliever is divorced and remarried, when he later comes to Christ we must not ask him to divorce again before accepting him into the church.
You are being pretty fair in representing me here, and all fairness is appreciated; but you could be honest enough to admit that this is what Anabaptist’s once believed.
With Bullen's views on swearing and with his views on divorce and remarriage, I find several diffi culties. For instance, how is swearing before a magistrate not simply a man-made oath? Am I swearing when I point out the simple fact that God is my witness of all that I do and speak? If I say, "Before God, I lie not," am I not simply acknowledging the fact that I stand before God and I recognize the solemnity of my posi tion? If I make "assuredly" an oath, I may find myself swearing quite a lot even if I only use the word on serious occasions. What did James mean when he said, "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes" be "Yes" and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgement" (James 5:12). Was he really only talking about everyday swearing for the wrong reasons?
If the magistrate asks you to swear by God, then he is not asking anything contrary to God’s Law. Jesus and James gave many illustrations of man made oaths — in fact they never mentioned lawful swearing by God’s name. Mt 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Is Jesus saying that God is evil??? God’s law commanded them to swear by God’s name — Jesus said “whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil” -- Are you so bold as to deny the obvious that Jesus is not including lawful swearing here, or will you believe that Jesus is calling God evil???
How can you deny what I proved from the Scriptures, i.e. that calling God to witness was swearing in God’s definition? You reject the Bible definition of swearing to maintain your ism, how shameful. Calling God to witness is “more than these” i.e. more than Yea and Nay, is it not? Was Paul violating Jesus’ words to call God to witness? Why did he not just use Yea or Nay? At least Menno Simons admits that Jesus using “Verily”, and Paul calling God to witness were both forms of swearing.
If, as Bullen says, what happens before conversion stays before con version, what would we do if a man and his wife divorced, remarried, and over the course of time were both converted? But instead of separating from their new partners and getting back together, they stay as they are and join the same church. Suddenly we have a man and woman who were at one time husband and wife, now living with other partners and partaking of the same communion cup together. Would Jesus condone that?
What do you now do when you have the corrupt courtship practices and fornication in many Amish groups and these people later marry someone else and join the same church?? Do they partake of the same communion cup with someone else’s wife who they violated in their youth? Obviously ministers in such a case would encourage people in that situation to move to a different community. Why don’t you ask yourself what God’s Word says and what judgment God gave through Moses for this situation? They had to deal with it.
Paul tells us clearly in 1 Cor inthians chapter 7 that if a woman departs from her husband, she must either remain single or be reconciled. If, as Bullen contends, re marriage is permissable following a covenant broken by fornication what if the sinful spouse repented and desired to return? What if they came back to find their former spouse married to another? Is there really no place for repen tance and reconciliation after one has committed adultery?
You ask these questions as though they have not been answered, implying I didn’t deal with this in my book. You are either ignorant of my position or being deceitful. If you read my book, you’d know what I say about I Cor. 7:10,11. Do I not say anything about repentance and reconciliation after adultery?? Are you implying this? Why?
This subject is a large subject and the answers are not cut and dried. However, I find the tra ditional Anabaptist position much more logical and satisfying than Bullen's proposal. I do not want to dwell on these subjects, how ever, because I want to explain what we believe about the congru ency and harmony of the two cove nants and why we place Christ's teachings on a higher level than those of Moses.
Was Moses inspired of God?? Were they Moses’ words or God’s? Was Jesus the Word incarnate? Were any of the Old Testament Scriptures due to “private interpretation” or personal opinion, or did holy men of God speak as they were moved by the Holy Ghost??
MOSES’ WORDS WERE JESUS’ WORDS — “Before Abraham was, I am”
Let's begin with Bullen's favorite question: "Did Jesus cor rect Moses?" Now bear in mind, terminology is important here. If your first impulse is to say, "Why, of course Jesus corrected Moses," you may want to back up and recon sider. Remember, Jesus was around long before Moses, and it was through Him, as God, that the law came to Moses.
If Jesus was not correcting Moses, what then? How do we explain the seeming inconsistencies between them? Notice I am not saying that Jesus never differed from Moses. We believe God can say one thing to a certain group of people in a certain time, and then say something different to a dif ferent group of people in a differ ent time and still be an unchanging God.
God cannot command one thing to one people and then call it sin to another people and still claim to be an unchanging God — this is the issue that you need to be honest with and stop skirting the issue. God commanded lawful swearing, Jesus (according to you) says anything more than Yea or Nay, including lawful swearing, cometh of evil — thus calling the source of swearing evil — thus calling himself evil. God gave instructions for divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances; but Jesus (according to you) says all divorce and remarriage is adultery. God says we are sinning if we don’t deliver the innocent blood from their attacker; but Jesus (according to you) says this would be sin. You have to face God with this.
The New Covenant was prophesied to be God’s laws written on our hearts, not new and different laws that made the old ones sin and wrong.
Ez 36:25 ¶ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
To begin, let's establish a few foundational principles.
1) God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; therefore, He is consistent from one age to the next. Exodus through Deuteronomy must not be interpreted to make God "change His mind" by the time He speaks to us through Jesus. Right
2) Though God never changes, what we can understand about God does change from one age to the next. His Word to us is a progres sive revelation. While the pro phets in the Old Testament saw only in part, we, at the end of the ages, see much more clearly. We now see the Old Covenant through the lens of the entire Bible: the Messiah has come, the Kingdom has been established, and many of those glorious things the Old Covenant prophets foretold have come to pass. Our vision, however, is still narrow, and we long for the day when we shall see face to face. Right
3) The covenant relationship that we can have today with Jesus Christ is better than the covenant relationship which the Jews had with God. Even those who believe the New Covenant releases us from only the ceremonial laws recognize the New Covenant is better than the Old. Those people simply divide between the moral and cere monial laws of the Old Covenant and say the moral laws are still valid. This seems logical at first, yet it is not always easy to divide between ceremonial and moral laws; and we see the moral teachings of Christ on a higher level than those of Moses. Jesus does not contra dict Moses; God has simply brought us to a higher level in His unfold ing plan, which was from the beginning. To say that God has now given us something better does not mean God's moral standards improved; it simply reveals His glory and wisdom and faithfulness in fulfill ing His promise of something better to come (see Hebrews 7:22 and 8:7-13)
Thou art not far from the kingdom. If Jesus says lawful swearing comes of evil, then He is calling God’s law through Moses evil. If Jesus says lawful divorce and remarriage is adultery, then He is accusing God or Moses of leading people into sin. Moses’ words were Jesus’ words. Jesus must be interpreted as defending and clarifying God’s Holy Scriptures given through Moses — this is the only way and this is what I am contending for. You are absolutely correct that God has not improved his moral standards through Jesus; but has given us the Holy Ghost so we can see more of the beauty of His laws and ways. Jesus defended himself from the charge of blasphemy by the words of the Old Testament, and says, “The Scripture cannot be broken” — cannot be annulled, changed, or destroyed.
Ro 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
I John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (written around AD 95)
God’s Law through Moses was still very relevant. It is impossible that something is adultery in one covenant, but not in another — God’s morality is not arbitrary.
4) All of God's prophets, including Moses, clearly foretold Christ's coming with a new cove nant, which was to be better than the Old. In Deuteronomy, chapter 18, Moses tells the people, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear."
“Like unto me” means that He would have authority and only speaks Gods Words like Moses did. Do you agree? If not read vs. 18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. DID MOSES DO THAT? YES — SO SAYS GOD’S WORD. Moses’ words were Jesus’ words.
In the same discourse we have some more qualifications for any prophet and especially THE prophet that fulfilled Moses’ words:
De 13:1 ¶ If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. 5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
According to your teaching, the Jews were justified in putting Jesus to death.
5) Twice in the New Testament, God directly told those people who were with Jesus to "hear Him" The first time was when Jesus was bap tized, and the second time was at His transfiguration. The disciples with Him on the mount of transfigu ration saw Jesus become "shining, exceedingly white." Moses and Elijah then appeared, talking with Jesus, and a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Suddenly Elijah and Moses disappeared, and the disciples were alone, with Jesus. This is a beautiful picture of the fading age of the Law and the Prophets, and the bright beginning of the reign of Jesus Christ, the Messiah!
Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus about His death to make atonement for sins, which the Law could not do -- THEY WERE IN TOTAL AGREEMENT BECAUSE MOSES WORDS WERE GOD’S WORDS — DON’T EVER FORGET THAT.
What did Peter get out of that experience? LISTEN CLOSE
2 Peter 1:16 ¶ For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
19 ¶ We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Peter believed that the Old Testament was the WORDS OF GOD, and not the words of men (private interpretation) THAT MEANS MOSES SAID NOTHING — ABSOLUTELY NOTHING THAT WAS HIS OWN IDEA; BUT ALL WAS GOD’S LAW AND WORD -- THAT IS WHAT PETER BELIEVED AFTER BEING ON THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION!
Let's make these points a lit tle simpler:
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
God's Word to us is a progres sive revelation. Progressive revelations don’t conflict
The New Covenant is better than the Old. Jesus provided for better access to God and made atonement for sin; but the God of the covenant is the same, and the covenant is founded upon Him writing his laws in our hearts. His laws are the same as the moral principles taught by Moses.
The prophets foretold the coming of Christ and a better age.
God revealed in the New Testa ment the end of the age of the Law and the Prophets, and the beginning of the Messiah's reign.
So why did God command the people, through Moses, to stone and kill the wicked if that's not what He wants for us today? It is what He wants for societies today — to execute those who commit crimes worthy of death — not for individuals to take the law into their own hands. Why did He command that people must pay an eye for eye and a tooth for tooth, if He would later, tell us not to do so? He never told the government not to do so.
The “people” were never to kill apart from the oversight of the law and leaders. It was done according to law and order, and God still expects that of civil authorities.
Remember, God's Word to us is a progressive revelation. This does not mean, as the Mormons seem to believe, that God's latest revelation takes precedence over all others, even if it contradicts them. How can you say this?? You believe the same as the Mormons! It means that God unfolds His marvelous plan to us slowly, "line upon line, precept upon pre cept," drawing us to a deeper understanding of Himself and showing us how to become righteous as He is righteous. “Be ye holy for I am holy” — is quoting the Old Testament (I Peter 1:16) Deeper understanding doesn't change lawful to sinful or righteous to evil -- be honest.
God kept reminding Israel throughout the Old Covenant that He would, one day, replace it with something better. This doesn't mean the Old Covenant was a foolish waste of time. We humans learn slowly, and God had important les sons to teach us.
When God established His cove nant with Israel, it was a glorious thing. The mountain smoked and trembled and lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The people were afraid of God and stood far off, telling Moses to speak for them so they would not have to hear God di rectly.
God's relationship to them was that of a powerful, righteous God, whose wrath was fierce toward those who disobeyed Him. He demanded justice, truth, and sacrifice. He called them a special nation and people, giving them direction on how to govern not only their reli gious but also their temporal affairs. This gave their judges and kings jurisdiction over what we would call today matters of both church and state. Hence, it was up to them to provide punishment for those who broke not only God's religious laws, but also the civil laws of the land. Those laws were just and right. They show us that God has zero tolerance for disobe dience.
There are, as we see it, key differences between the earthly kingdom of Israel and the heavenly Kingdom of God. First, their king dom, as we noted earlier, was a church/state combination. The same leaders who governed in temporal, civil affairs also governed in religious matters. We believe that when Jesus came to earth He put an end forever to that earthly king dom, in which the Jews were His spe cial people, and established a new, heavenly kingdom. There is a King in this kingdom, but He reigns from Heaven...Yes and He is Prophet, Priest, and King — the same one who leads in religious affairs also leads in civil affairs... There are subjects in this kingdom, but they do not all belong to the same ethnic group or geo graphical location. There are laws in this kingdom, From where? but they are engraved on the hearts of men, not tablets of stone What was on those tables of stone? Those laws reveal to us the same God with the same moral standards, yet they take us closer to perfection. Where the law was, "You shall not kill," it is now, "You shall not hate." Did God change His mind? No, He simply re veals to us deeper levels of morali ty. There are many names for God. God is Love. God is Law. Could we say God is Moral? God is the ulti mate morality. Is it wrong to propose that when God sent His Son to earth, He shifted His gaze toward us and revealed new moral truths we could not fully under stand earlier? Perhaps, we could also say that, were it not for that Old Covenant prelude, we never would have been able to reach or understand the depth of the moral teachings of Jesus Christ?
Why not just admit the obvious: You just agreed with me and admitted I am right, because if the same God just opened the door further on His morality, then His commands would only compliment, not correct or call sin what was once revealed as righteous. Be Honest. It is impossible that something is adultery in one covenant, but not in another — God’s morality is not arbitrary.
Back to The Alien Exposed. I would like to look at a couple more passages in the book and com pare them with Christ's teachings and early Christian writings.
In eternity past, God had the same nature, views, opinions, and purposes as He has today, and will have forever. God’s morality is unchanging, and God’s judgments will always be the same when the exact same circumstances exist. Give the same scenario, and God will always give the same judgment call (page 51).
That statement is partially true, but when the same circumstan ces exist, God does not always give the same judgement call. NOT SO Why? It is not because He has a bad memory or that His moral standards fluctu ate, as is often the case with humans. I believe the reason is because, when God left His unspeak able heavenly glory and clothed Himself in human flesh, He broke down the barriers between us and established a new, better relation ship. Consider the story of the woman caught in adultery. Accord ing to the law of Moses, the Pharisees said, she should die. And you know what? They were right. In Leviticus 20:10, the Lord commanded that adulterers should be put to death. But Jesus, judging their hearts, took a more beautiful moral road, forgave her and bade her sin no more. He taught the Pharisees a lesson about love and the God whose moral stan dards they thought they understood. Didn't He care about justice? I say, yes. He was just as concerned in that age that the dignity of the law be preserved as He was in Moses' day. But I believe that what the letter of the law lacked, the Spirit behind the law ful filled, in this: the woman was given power to sin no more!
Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures. Jesus was not in any position to condemn the woman once the witnesses departed. Jesus told them that those who were the true and righteous witnesses should cast the first stones. They knew that is what the law said, and they knew they were not true and righteous witnesses. Once they left, Jesus could not lawfully condemn her — not without at least two witnesses. Jesus said nothing to them about loving and forgiving the woman! He told them to cast stones if they were just and righteous in this situation. THIS IS THE SAME JUDGMENT CALL! Why do you have to twist the Scripture to suit your fancy? At this time the Jews were under the Romans who had removed their ability to give the death sentence. These men were trying to get Jesus to either compromise the law or get in trouble with the Romans — Jesus did not compromise the Law, but put it back in their lap, so they would be the ones in trouble with the Romans. The whole thing was a scam, and Jesus knew it. The woman was probably set up by these men, and so they were as guilty as she. GOD GAVE THE SAME JUDGMENT CALL CONCERNING STONING ADULTERERS.
Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Addressing the subject of nonre sistance, Bullen says:
Jesus had no problem with military and government service as a principle. Was it serving two masters? No! Was it compromising with evil? No! Jesus was telling his disciples that if a Roman soldier commandeered their service for the extent the law allowed, they should render more service than required for a testimony. Jesus would have done what He was teaching others to do (page 100-101).
What! I don't remember Jesus telling us that if they compel us to kill one man, we should kill two. I thought He was talking about carry ing their burdens for them. Is that military service?
So you admit that Jesus was speaking of carrying the soldier’s burdens for them, that is a big step for most of your people — of course there is quite a bit of disagreement over this issue among you. It was indeed military service and military language that Jesus used and you just admitted that. YOU KNOW full well that your non-resistant stance often would not even carry their burden the first mile — I’ve read the books. If Jesus was against military action as a principle, He wouldn’t be telling people to do them service for the first mile. He wouldn’t tell his people to help robbers, adulterers, and murderers carry on their work even for the first mile, would he? We are not speaking of feeding them when they are faint; but we are speaking of helping them in their work — big difference.
The early Christians did not understand Jesus that way. Listen to Justin Martyr, c. 160 A.D.:
"We used to be filled with war, mutual slaughter, and every kind of wickedness. However, now all of us have, throughout the whole earth, changed our warlike weapons. We have changed our swords into plow shares and our spears into farming implements" (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, page 254).
You assume too much! Just because people are no longer filled with war, mutual slaughter and every kind of wickedness, doesn’t mean they don’t still believe in law, order, justice, and righteous government action. Paul believed in that according to Romans 13. You err in assuming Justin agrees with your extreme views of nonresistance.
Justin Martyr, just a few years after the time of Christ and the apostles, said that Christians over the whole earth did not engage in warfare. Were they all misled, perhaps? Justin is not alone: I have not found a single early Christian writer in support of warfare. There are several instan ces that speak of Christians in the military, but it is nearly always in reference to those soldiers who were converted and how they should behave in a godly manner or get out, if possible. The Roman army was difficult to leave, and it seems as if there was more opportu nity to be a part of it and "do violence to no man" than there is in the military of today. Any way you look at it, the testimony of Justin Martyr is amazing. He gives it as a fact that Christians do not serve in the military or fight at all. If Bullen is right, how could they all have been so deceived?
Will you claim to agree with Justin on every issue? Paul and Peter were early Christian writers in support of warfare. They received a Centurion, a jailer, a governor, and numerous public officials into communion after baptism. Paul notified the military about a threat on his life and consented to the mobilization of a great armed host to transport him safely. He also appealed to Caesar for protection against those who sought his life. Paul called the sword bearing state ministers of God. You are dreaming if you think John told the soldiers to be content with their wages, yet not do what they were paid to do. You are in error when you take John’s word, “do violence to no man” and make "violence" refer to "just and righteous government action in using the sword as the ministers of God". John was clearly speaking of the abuse of power. You wrongly assume that you understand the early writers and that they ALL agree with you against me. Romans 13 endorses warfare in its proper place — “3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
I recognize that I am not wres tling against flesh and blood, and Mark Bullen is not the enemy, but I am afraid he is much in the wrong. I believe he has good intentions and if we meet again I hope we can have compassion and patience with each other. But, beware! Which egg here is really the alien? Be ware of the arguments of theolo gians which lead us away from the suffering cross of Jesus Christ, and away from the witness of that stream of Christians down through history who did not retaliate, but gave up their lives to the Avenger, who, being Morality incarnate, is also the incarnation of true Jus tice.
Giving up one’s life to the Just One is what I am teaching and living, and to assume that all I’m saying is that we should “retaliate” is dishonest and unloving on your part. You resist the fact that even Menno Simons and other Anabaptist leaders believed magistrates could serve Christ in that position. Paul believed in the suffering cross of Jesus, yet used his Romans citizenship and called upon civil authorities to use their power in order to avoid unjust beating and unjust death — You assume too much.
The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not complicated. We need to accept with childlike trust, just as the Amish at Nickel Mines, that Jesus means what He says. The witness of the ages is overwhelming; those who took up the sword and perished with it, fighting what they believed to be a battle for Christ, have been lost in oblivion. If those Amish had sued in retaliation for the evils done to them, the world would have been supportive. But the response they chose to give made men of the world drop their jaws in amazement, and it will be remembered by true Christians for years to come. On which side do you want to be?
You have uncharitably placed me on the side of suing the poor family of a deluded man. You have placed me on the side of those who rebel or evangelize with the Sword. You have misrepresented me in this article simply to make yourselves look right, and I cannot respect such false piety. The “witness of the ages” is that most people claiming to be Christians were wrong on at least one or two points, and rarely did any group exemplify the teachings of Jesus consistently. Much confusion and ignorance is seen in the witness of the ages and the Anabaptists don’t fare too much better than others in this regard. Menno was a great leader, but you don’t agree with him on everything — is there any that you agree with on everything?? So stop chanting this deceptive “overwhelming evidence”, etc. If you cannot prove your position against mine from the Word of God, then repent and change. If you can, then stick to that for your response. Would you dare publish my response?
COMMENTS FROM READERS:
Oh my Brother..... all I can say is how sad!! My favorite quote from their response is: "...the Lord commanded...But Jesus...took a more beautiful moral road..." Jesus took a more moral road than Jesus??!?!?!? How absurd. all my love brother.
How Amazing to claim that Jesus took us to a higher and more strict morality on one hand (in not allowing divorce and remarriage for any reason and condemning remarried people as adulterers), yet say Jesus taught us to love and forgive sinners on the other hand (in not condemning the adulteress)? First they say that the law was not loving, and Jesus taught us to love more and not condemn the adulteress; then they say the Law was more compromising with divorce and remarriage, and Jesus raised the bar of morality to a stricter level -- which is it??? God says He would write His laws in our hearts as the foundation of the New Covenant -- obviously somebody is confused. How sad they will not accept the obvious truth of God's Word.
Greetings in Jesus name. Thank you for your recent articles on the "Objections Answered" page regarding the Alien Exposed. I found them refreshingly biblical and consistent. Some of these issues I have struggled with some of the harmonization between the old and new covenants, but your scriptural explanations were a blessing - focusing on scripture, and God's consistency, and not just "what the church has always taught" type arguments.
One additional thought in regards to the passage of Christ dealing with the adulteress in John - it seems that there is a very common attitude among Christians in general - whether conservative or not - that Christ basically gave her a "free pass." This to me demonstrates a fundamental error in interpreting the passage. However, in addition to the good points you made regarding how Christ could not lawfully stone her due to a lack of witnesses (since they left), there is also the issue that the men brought a "woman caught in adultery" - but conveniently "forgot" to bring the man. That in and of itself represents injustice, and further reveals those men were not sincerely interested in following God's law. If indeed they were, and they had caught her "in the act", they would have brought the man as well - for God's law commanded both to be stoned, not just the woman. Perhaps this sheds more light on why they were "convicted by their conscience" and left? I suppose that could be left up to speculation. However, Christ could not and would not play favorites in following the law. Hence his response "he that is without sin, let him cast the first stone." Not meaning, "well you have sin too, so you can't judge anyone" (which is what the church today tries to preach and use this verse to support it) but rather - "whoever among you is without sin in this issue, let him cast the first stone." Who among you are truly being honest here, and not covering for the man? Are one of you the adulterer? Whoever among you is impartially and consistently following the law of God, let him cast the first stone.
Of course, Christ wouldn't need to ask any of these questions, since He was God. But to me, the point still seems to be there. To use this verse to condemn anyone who points out sin in someone else's life, and holds them accountable to the consequences thereof, is ludicrous. Of course God knew he was dealing with sinful mean (albeit his people) in the Old Testament, yet He still required them to mete out judgment on those who broke certain laws. In my understanding of scriptures, the point was never, "you cannot judge someone else because you're a sinner too", but rather, "you can only judge if either 1) you were a personal eye witness to the sin or 2) you were consistently and impartially carrying out the law of God and involving all necessary parties - not picking and choosing and playing favorites with a "kangaroo style" court case." (ie - Christ's trial and crucifixion - Mark 14:55-56, or Jezebel's corruption - 1 Kings 21:9-14).
Thank you again for sharing on these important Scriptural matters, and may God bless you.
"Those who say that Jesus was teaching a higher moral standard than that of Moses would have to say that the Scribes and Pharisees prior to hearing Jesus preach would not have been sinning by the hate, lust, etc in their hearts and their overall religion that appeared righteous externally. After all, IF the Old Covenant only dealt with externals, then such a Scribe or Pharisee WOULD HAVE been a righteous man under the Old Covenant! But we know that was not the case. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not cleansing their inside along with the outside (Matthew 23:25-28), as anyone who seriously meditates on God's law through Moses, then and now, can discern the spiritual nature of it and the basic intent that rebukes things like hatred and lust. I once heard a Mennonite or Mennonite-influenced Bible teacher say not to share the Sermon on the Mount with unbelievers because (according to him) it is only for Christians, and unbelievers can't understand it. On the contrary, I considered how the Sermon on the Mount had convicted me as an unbeliever; and how when I've shared the Sermon on the Mount with unbelievers in evangelism lack of understanding was never a problem. Even men like Job who had neither the Law of Moses nor the Sermon on the Mount understood the morality that Jesus expounded on the Sermon on the Mount (Like, Love your enemy- see esp Job chapter 31), though they lacked Jesus' perfect/complete wisdom and example. It is unreasonable to think that the Law of Moses provided even less light and moral accountability than people naturally have by the law written on their hearts (which is all Job had). And I seriously doubt that anyone who is honest can say that upon hearing Jesus' words for the first time that they didn't know at heart that this is the perfect application of the truth that they always knew deep down at heart that they are obligated to live by. To say that God would have took Israel under the Old Covenant to a lower moral law/standard than worshippers of God before Moses understood and lived by, and which even heathens know naturally, really doesn't glorify Him nor represent Him rightly." - A.C.