Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: Preexistence

-...inwardly they are ravenous wolves.- (1)

Gentle Reader,

Before we get into this, my friend, I want to state adamantly that your salvation is determined only by how you respond to God now, not on anything you did before you were born or anything you do after you die. The Lord sets up each of us repeatedly to come to Him in repentance. He is ever-active and takes no delight in people being separate from Him. But we get one chance. On shot. It is this life and this life only.

Shepherd’s Chapel has a significant doctrinal link with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

It’s the preexistence of humanity.

Mormon doctrine posits that, somewhere, out there (thank you, Fievel) the Mormon gods are having lots of sex with their harems and this results in many “spirit babies.” These “spirit babies” must come to earth and get a body so that they can “progress” through the various stages of exaltation and become gods/goddesses themselves. And the process is repeated ad infinitum.

Though Shepherd’s Chapel doesn’t teach that their god has sex and makes babies, they do follow the same essential line of thinking regarding preexistence. Where all the spirits/souls come from is unclear from my reading; either their god made them or they have always been around. (Problematic either way. If their god made these spirits, then did he mess up? Is that why he had to make physical humanity? If the spirits have always been around, then their god is not the only eternal being). Anyway:

Murray and his followers believe that humans existed prior to living on earth. Murray teaches, in regard to Genesis 1:26, that God “spoke to the Elohim, meaning God and his children, let us make that man in our image, which is to say make it look in likeness that we are. Do you appear as your soul appeared in the world that was…I told you, that God said, ‘In our image, our likeness,’ the Elohim were standing there, they were from before.” He clarifies, “We were always with [God] until you were born into this earth.” – Shepherd’s Chapel Profile

There is nothing in Scripture to back this up. Nothing. The only preexisting Person to grace the pages of the Bible is Jesus. If we somehow conclude that, because Christ is eternal, we are eternal, then we have a massive problem. We have reduced the Son. We have removed His utter and complete uniqueness. We create a savior that is not anything like the True Lord.

In doing so, we elevate ourselves. Notice that Murray implies that we, in our preexistent state, actually had a hand in creation. He misunderstands the word “Elohim.” This word is, indeed, plural, but in the creation account of Genesis it does not mean a plurality of gods, a group consisting of gods and spirit people or a group consisting of one god and spirit people. Despite being a plural masculine noun, when the word is used for the True God (“elohim” can be used for false gods in the Old Testament) the verbs, adjectives and pronouns are always singular. This defies the rules of Hebrew grammar. It would be like us saying, “Jane, Joan and Jenny went to the store. She walked.” There is something entirely unique about Elohim.

Further, it is ridiculous to think that the ancient Hebrews, who were told over and over again that their focus of worship was to be on one God, would write or believe that a plurality of anything was involved in creation. Such a thing flies directly in the face of everything they were taught. Over and over and over again, the Hebrews were told to have nothing to do with a pantheon of any size. The only explanation within an orthodox Christian framework is that God chose to reveal Himself as Elohim as an indication of Trinity.

This concept requires further examination. Much like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Murray and his followers believe that humans participated, prior to their mortal existence on this earth, in the rebellion in heaven described in Revelation 12:7–8. Those good individuals who fought on the side of Michael are those who, according to Ephesians 1:4 says, were “chosen…before the foundations of this world;” these individuals were predestined to salvation, and thus were not cursed with a free will. Those who fought on the side of Satan, however, received a free will with which to choose or reject God in this life. – Shepherd’s Chapel Profile

It’s hard to make sense of that. There’s a weird attempt to mix Calvin and Arminius. If you fought for God, you have no free will. You’ll automatically be saved. If you didn’t fight for God, you get to choose. Except neither Calvin or Arminus had anything to say about salvation having to do with whose side you were on in a battle in Heaven.

There just isn’t anything in the Bible that tells us we existed as incorporeal spirits before being born. There is nothing that says what we did as those incorporeal spirits has a bearing on whether or not we will be saved.

It’s interesting that both groups teach that there is a curse associated with those who didn’t fight for god (Shepherd’s Chapel) or didn’t fight valiantly enough (LDS). This leads to a second link between the two.

Shepherd’s Chapel teaches that free will is the curse. The LDS teach that dark skin is the curse. Spirit children who didn’t fight valiantly enough for the Mormon gods when Jesus and Lucifer (who are brothers) went to war over the plan of salvation came to earth with dark skin, which was a sign of the Mormon gods’ displeasure. So they couldn’t hold the priesthood. So they couldn’t ever achieve the highest level of exaltation. (But thanks to continuing revelation all that was done away with in 1978).

As discussed in the previous entry, Shepherd’s Chapel teaches that the descendants of Cain, the Kenites, are the literal offspring of Satan. Prior to 1978 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints taught that:

Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was place upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures. Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain. Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning…we will also hope that blessings may eventually be given to our Negro brethren, for they are our brethren – children of God – notwithstanding their black covering emblematical of eternal darkness.  – Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 101-102

They’re our brothers…except that they are eternally dark.

Okay.

Both groups have to “do something” with Cain. Odd, isn’t it? Doesn’t make any sense that Cain is such a big deal. He’s a completely minor character in the narrative of Scripture, despite having committed the first murder.

Simply, it is the elitism endemic in all false teaching. Sometimes this takes the form of class warfare (as found in the Hindu caste hierarchy). Sometimes this takes the form of racism, as in both Shepherd’s Chapel and the LDS. There are always the “better thans” in cult systems. Always those “in the know.” Always those who are “more blessed” than others, and their blessed state is evident.

According to a student of Murray, 95 percent of those who fought for Satan [which, because they are not followers of Arnold Murray, includes such individuals as this author and most readers of this Profile] will continue to worship Satan in this life. – Shepherd’s Chapel Profile

Have nothing to do with Shepherd’s Chapel. Have nothing to do with them.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing series, go here.

Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: Serpent Seed

-...inwardly they are ravenous wolves.- (1)

Gentle Reader,

The topic of this post is disgusting. It’s abhorrent. We’ll spend as little time on it as possible.

Shepherd’s Chapel teaches “Serpent seed.” The sin in Eden that led to the Fall and Curse was not just cut-and-dried disobedience. It was not just eating the fruit. Eve had sex with Satan and the result was Cain. (Adam may also have had sex with Satan; some statements seem to affirm this).

Thus the descendants of Cain are literally the offspring of Satan.

Bizarrely, it is taught that Abel was Cain’s twin, but Abel’s father was Adam. This means that they were somehow maternal non-identical twins. Try as I might, I can find no evidence of such a pregnancy happening anywhere ever. I can’t find a single thing that states a woman got pregnant by one man and then got pregnant by another man and had two babies at the same time. Even if such a case does exist, however, this DID NOT happen in Eden. There is nothing in the text that could lead to such a conclusion.

Consider this: Genesis 3:6 makes it clear that Adam was with Eve when the poop hit the fan. Sooooo….Adam watched his wife have sex with Satan? Then he (might have) had sex with Satan? Then Adam and Eve had sex? All within minutes? Further, if “eating the fruit” actually means having sex, and Adam and Eve were allowed to eat the fruit of all the other trees in Eden, then who else were they having sex with? (Probably the other people that God made on day 6 since Adam and Eve were made on day 8, according to Shepherd’s Chapel. But we’ll get to that later). What about the Tree of Life in Revelation 22, from which Jesus grants His people permission to eat (Revelation 2:7)? Is Jesus really saying that we’re all going to have sex with Him?

How utterly vile.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to exegete “Serpent seed” from Scripture. It’s not there. One has to already believe the teaching and then twist passages to make it work. Not only that, but the logical conclusions of the teaching are just flat evil.

Indeed, Shepherd’s Chapel does some intense and convoluted manipulation of the Bible. The Kenites (descendants of Cain) somehow survived the Flood, magically became the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and were the ones who crucified Jesus. I’m not even going to attempt to explain that because it’s so patently false.

Here’s the big, fat, waving, red, neon racism card: These “obvious” offspring of Satan, these descendants of Cain down to today, are Jewish people. Or, according to Shepherd’s Chapel, those who claim to be Jewish, because real Jewish people are British and American. (I’m not making this up). Those who live in Israel today are actually Kenites. They must be “exposed.”

But you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Kenite! The beautiful thing about the “Serpent seed” doctrine for Shepherd’s Chapel is that it’s flexible. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is, obviously, a child of Satan.

Read Genesis 3. Just read it. Adam and Eve ate fruit they were told not eat. That is their sin. That is why their relationship with God was changed, why they were cast out of Eden, why Jesus came.

Read Genesis 4. Just read it. Adam and Eve had sex, with each other, within the legitimate bounds of the marital relationship, and had a baby. Cain. They repeated the process and had another baby. Abel.

End of story.

Again I wonder if I should close this series out right here. How anyone could believe that Shepherd’s Chapel has the corner on the truth-market is baffling. This cult does not teach the Gospel. You are not going to find salvation among them.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing series, go here.

Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: Modalism

-...inwardly they are ravenous wolves.- (1)

Gentle Reader,

Today we begin to turn our attention to the aberrant teachings of Shepherd’s Chapel.

The early Church spent several centuries hammering out just what one had to believe in order to be a Christian. (Occasionally they hammered each other, often in scathing and bitingly sarcastic writing. These are my people). The basics of initial salvation were (and are) simple enough: Acknowledgement of sin, understanding the inability of self to save self, repentance of sin, confessing Christ as Lord, belief that He died and rose again. From that simplicity, however, arose complexity, often centering around the person of Jesus. How was He to be defined?

Several theories arose:

Docetism: Jesus only had the “appearance” of humanity. He is a purely spiritual being.

Ebionitism: in contrast with the above, Jesus is a purely human figure.

Arianism: in between the two, Jesus is the first and greatest of God’s creatures. He is semi-divine.

Adoptionism: Jesus is purely human but was “adopted” by God in a mysterious, divine way either at His baptism or resurrection. – Trinitarian Heresies

Ignatius, writing 112-114 A.D., stood against all of these ideas in declaring both the fully divinity and the full humanity of Jesus:

…our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For ‘the Word was made flesh.’ – Ignatius to the Ephesians

Irenaeus, writing 175 A.D., expanded the thought:

The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father. – Against Heresies; Book 1, Chapter 10

The focus in the second century was largely on reconciling the two natures of Christ as revealed in Scripture. Though the term “hypostatic union” (two full and complete natures, one person) would not be formally coined until the fifth century, it is clear from the New Testament itself and the writings of the early Church that this union, though perhaps not always precisely articulated, was the only way of understanding Christ without sacrificing either His deity or humanity.

Yet this was not an easily settled controversy, nor a “once and forever” settled controversy, for some claiming to the Christians today hold to any of the four views listed above. This is directly related to the understanding and definition of the Trinity, the great discussion of the late third and into the fourth century.

Until the first part of the third century and Origen of Alexandria, there really had not been any significant theological writing on this issue [the Trinity]. Until Origen there was a simple acknowledgment of NT references, mainly John 1:1. …”simple” [meaning] a simple belief of what was written without trying to figure it out and explain it. What takes place, from this point forward, is that church councils and various writers try to define a theological point that almost all adherents admited was a “mystery.” – The Issue of the Trinity

(Note: Origen was a divisive figure in his own day. Highly educated, trained in philosophy, he tried to take all of the Christian and so-called Christian teaching floating around and reconcile it. He tried to arrive at one, final and distinct interpretation of Scripture and the nature of God. His voluminous commentaries on the Bible arose directly out of his disgust for Gnostic heresy. Yet his major work, On First Principles, sent shock waves throughout the Church. I bring this up for two reasons: 1. Not all of Origen’s teaching was accepted as true in his own time and 2. Nevertheless, historians and theologians recognize his writings on the Trinity are very orthodox; he was a major force behind the articulation of the doctrine).

Constantine convened the 325 A.D. Council of Nicea to “bring peace to the Church” and resolve some of these issues. Arius was called on to defined his teaching on the nature of Jesus (“Arianism” above); he was eventually kicked out of the council meeting and condemned. (But this wasn’t necessarily a sign of harmony. The bishops may have been united in their rejection of Arianism, but there is ample evidence to suggest that they disagreed plenty, though their disagreements usually centered on minor matters. They certainly resented the fact that the state now had input in Church matters. Does that sound familiar? I suppose we should take comfort that the family of God has always been a little dysfunctional. It didn’t start with us).

The most important thing to come out of Nicea was, of course, the Creed:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;

He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost.

[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

At the end of the original creed was added the text above – obviously aimed at Arius. The Nicean Creed

It would take another century and three more councils for a clear demarcation between a Christian view of Christ and a non-Christian view of Christ to be dogmatically adopted. This should not be seen as a changing doctrine of the Church; rather, the Church continued to respond to heresy and to better-articulate what it had believed all along.

Entwined in the debate about the nature of Christ is debate about the nature of the Holy Spirit. (This post is already at 1180 words, so I don’t have time or space to get into the filioque issue, but it is fascinating. Some starter reading here). Essentially everyone agreed that the Spirit is just that, spirit. Whether or not He is a distinct Personage was the problem.

Hence:

Modalism: the three persons of the Trinity are different “modes” or expressions of the Godhead. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not distinct personalities, but different modes of God’s self-revelation. – Trinitarian Heresies

The witness of the early Church about Modalism? A resounding no. (Go here for more information). All the writing, all the discussion, all the councils  affirm the mystery that Scripture teaches: God is Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God, but the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and so on.

What does Shepherd’s Chapel teach?

Murray and his followers deny the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, that one God exists eternally in three Persons. They instead teach modalism, the concept that the monotheistic God is a single person who acts through three different offices. Murray voices his adherence to this teaching when he says that God “gots (sic) three offices he serves.” He elaborates:

‘You have these yo-yo’s that will say, ‘Well, I want you to think like (sic) of water and ice’ and so on, various gases or so forth, or then they’ll say, ‘I want you to think of a 200 watt bulb, and a 150 watt bulb, and a 50 watt bulb.’ Well, they’re all the same wattage, friend. So why not just simplify it instead of playing stupid games, and understand that there are three offices of the Godhead. Like this little lady said. She said, ‘To my husband I am a wife, to my children I am a mother, that’s my office. To hundreds of third graders I am their teacher and have been down through the years. That’s a different office; none of them the same, but I’m still the same person.’ I like that. It’s simple and to the point.’

Notice the implication of the example quoted by Murray. Just as the ‘little lady’ is one woman who performs different functions in her roles as wife, mother, and teacher, so God is a single person who performs different functions and is perceived in different ways in his roles as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Murray clarifies his conflation of deity when he states, ‘[Christ’s] spirit is holy and he is the Holy Spirit.’ Since Murray does not believe that Jesus Christ is a Person distinct from the other members of the Trinity, he cannot justifiably claim to believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. – Shepherd’s Chapel Profile

Part of me thinks I should end this series right here. Shepherd’s Chapel clearly stands against what orthodox Christianity has understood to be correct since the writing of the New Testament. This group is not part of the Church. The people in this group are massively deceived.

Next week: Serpent Seed. Ugh.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing series, go here.