Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: Closing

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

Gentle Reader,

Though we have not examined every facet of the teaching of Shepherd’s Chapel, I have decided to bring this series to a close. It is easy to conclude even from our surface-level study that this group is not within the bounds of orthodox Christianity. Not by a long shot. They deny fundamental aspects of Christian faith. They twist Scripture. They ignore huge amounts of history.

Enough said.

Writing this series has reminded me, again, of the vital importance of knowing truth. When we do not spend time in Bible study, when we do not consistently ask the Spirit for wisdom, when we refuse to submit completely to God and instead pursue our own agendas, we wind up deceived. It’s a fast and slick slope. It’s hard to climb out of the mire at the bottom.

We must know Him. We must know His truth. I know I’ve quoted these words elsewhere, but I can think of no better finish. Let this be the testimony of our lives:

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way. – Psalm 119:97-104 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

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

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Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: the Overthrow and the Two Adams

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

Gentle Reader,

This series has been difficult. I have reached a point in my life and in my walk with the Lord where false teaching just drives me absolutely batty. When I am exposed to something twisted and wrong taught in the name of God, my pulse pounds. I want to throw things. I want to shake people.

I’ve been tempted to quit. I’ve slammed my laptop closed.

Nevertheless, we march on.

As we discussed last week, all false belief systems contain some element of elitism. This can be expressed as racism, classism, sexism, etc. Shepherd’s Chapel is no exception. Their twisted teaching on Cain and the Kenites, their ideas of preexistence, the thought that only Arnold Murray ever really got it right puts them firmly in that camp. But it gets weirder.

Let’s descend into the crazy, shall we?

Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are used by Shepherd’s Chapel in two main ways: making much out of the word katabole and wrongly understanding adam and eth ha adam. (Obviously those words look quite different in Hebrew; we’re going with phonetics).

First, katabole. This is a Greek word meaning “a throwing or laying down (the injection or depositing of the virile semen in the womb, of the seed of plants and animals); a founding (laying down a foundation).” Katabole appears in the New Testament 11 times; 10 times it is translated as “foundation,” once it is translated as “conceive.”

What does that have to do with the creation account of Genesis?

Shepherd’s Chapel assumes preexistence and, by extension, ascribes to the Gap Theory of Creation. There is some unidentified length of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. God created the world, He destroyed it because of Satanic rebellion and then He “reformed” it. As Shepherd’s Chapel members already believe this, they must make the text conform to the belief. Using their pal Bullinger’s shoddy Companion Bible, they insist that the word should be translated as “disruption, ruin or destroy.”

Except

…when the word is used in connection with the birth of a child it carries the meaning of conceive. When used in the connection with the world it carries the meaning of founding or creating (conceiving the world). It does NOT carry the meaning of destruction, overthrow, destroyed, or ruin in any circumstance. The use of “laying down” or “throwing down” is only correct in the connotation of laying a foundation or creating not in the sense of destroying or judgment. – Colby Braden

And except…Genesis was not written in Greek. Nope. The Hebrew words used to describe God’s creative activity are bara (to shape or create) and asah (to do or make). Clearly nothing about destruction or ruin or overthrowing.

Shepherd’s Chapel students often argue that the word translated as “was” in the KJV and most English Translations of Genesis 1:2 should actually be translated “became” as in “the Earth became formless and void.” This, to them, proves the supposed katabole.

…it suffers from a number of hermeneutical problems:

Time cannot be inserted between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 because verse 2 does not follow verse 1 in time. Verse 2 uses a Hebrew grammatical device that is called a waw-disjunctive. This is where a sentence begins with the Hebrew word for and (waw) followed by a noun such as the earth (erets). A waw-disjunctive indicates that the sentence is describing the previous one and does not follow in time. In other words, verse 2 is describing the conditions of the earth when it was first created. Hebrew grammar simply will not allow for the insertion of vast periods of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in which a supposed satanic fall took place. – Colby Braden

They think that the text should be translated this way because they already believe it. This is an example of circular reasoning, a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with.

So, God’s out there creating and destroying and reforming. There’s this battle and if you fight well you’ll be saved and if not you get the curse of free will. Bizarre goings-on about different cosmic ages. He then makes all the races on the sixth day. He makes Adam on the eighth.

Again I am compelled to say that I am not making this up.

Shepherd’s Chapel assumes pre-Adamic races. Using Genesis 1:24-31, they conclude that God created other people because the word adam in verse 26 is the generic term for man or mankind. In Genesis 2:7, the definite article and particle appear, eth ha adam, meaning that a specific adam is the focus. So, obviously (to them), God made a bunch of other people on the sixth day, took a nap break and came back on the eighth to make Adam.

Genesis 1 and 2 are so badly mishandled by this group. There is no understanding whatsoever that the first chapter provides a panoramic view of the totality of God’s work in creation and the second chapter zeros in on humanity. They assume that Genesis 2 is an eighth day. Have you noticed how often that word, assume, keeps popping up?

Please, I beg you to think about this for a second. All the text of the first two chapters of Genesis says is that God made man and named him Man.

There’s just nothing more you can get from it.

No different than naming a sock monkey, Monkey.

Naming a cat, Kitty.

I won’t insult your intelligence by going on. You get the point.

It frightens me how cavalierly people use Scripture. How they twist it and shape it without much thought to the consequences.

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.