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In Memory of Spencer Gear

Spencer, the author of this site, passed away on Tuesday 2023-06-06 due to complications from a fall; he had recently passed his 77th birthday. His family thanks all of the dedicated aged and health care staff who cared for him in his final years, especially those at Bolton Clarke Fernhill and Caboolture Hospital.

Spencer’s funeral will be held on Saturday 2023-06-17 at 13:00 (1 pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time) at City Heart Presbyterian Church, 13 Hasking St, Caboolture QLD 4510. For those unable to attend in person, a live stream will be available at:

Please do not send flowers. If you would like to remember Spencer through a gift, a donation in his memory to one of his favourite charities such as Compassion Australia or Barnabas Aid would be appreciated.

Please let us know if you are planning to attend the funeral, for catering purposes. If you are unable to attend but would like to send greetings for the funeral, feel free to send those as well. For either of these purposes, please use the contact form on this web site.

Moved to a new static site

With the passing of Spencer, this site’s author, this site has been converted to a new static site, which will preserve the text and image content, but will remove any dynamic elements such as the contact form. If you notice any errors in this site which were not previously present, please email webmaster at truthchallenge dot one (substituting “at” and “dot” with their symbolic representations to form a proper email address).

The Proposal: I call it as I see it!

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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John Dominic (Dom) Crossan

Chapter 1 (the Preface): John Dominic (Dom) Crossan of the Jesus Seminar fame deconstructs the Gospel texts with a creative freedom to add to or subtract from the material. He has no qualms about making the text say what he wants it to say. What presuppositions could drive such a person-centered manipulation of the text?

Chapter 2: Reader-response is “a literary criticism that focuses primarily on the reader’s reaction to a text.” Why would I, an evangelical Christian, desire to investigate and publish the teachings of an eminent historical Jesus scholar with prolific writings over the last four decades, but whose teachings are unorthodox?

Chapter 3: You may not have read much of Crossan or Derrida [pronounced der-ee-dah or phonetically, ?d?r i?d?]. However, promotion of this deconstructionist ideology leads to the death of the author, ruin of the pastor’s message, and the trashing of anything you read or listen to. How could that be?

Chapter 4: In 1968, another deconstructionist promoter, Roland Barthes, acknowledged that a work may originate with an author but its destination was the reader. His pointed assessment was that “we know that in order to restore writing to its future, we must reverse the myth: the birth of the reader must be requited, “one good turn deserves another,”[1] by the death of the Author”.

Chapter 5: Barthes, a deconstructionist, stated: “Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin.”

Chapter 6: Crossan received his theological doctorate in Ireland, then taught in Roman Catholic biblical institutes and seminaries in Rome, Chicago and Jerusalem until he resigned from the priesthood in 1968, to marry and to be able to think critically according to his training and not be criticised for such reasoning.

Chapter 7: The rationale for my research was to pursue Crossan’s challenge that Gospel presuppositions dictate methods and models for examining the historical Jesus and early Christianity and that wrong presuppositions weaken or may invalidate a research project. The foci of this study will be some of Crossan’s controversial presuppositions of the resurrection tradition.

He stated that the Gospels are “consummate theological fictions” that are “neither histories nor biographies” and “tell us about power and leadership in the earliest Christian communities.”

Chapter 8: Crossan is one of the leading contemporary advocates of reconstruction of the Scriptures. He admitted: “I believe, as a Christian, in the Word of God, not in the words of specific papyri or the votes of specific committees. But fact and faith, history and theology intertwine together in that process and cannot ever be totally separated.”

Chapter 9: There have been challenges to Crossan’s scholarship including that by noted British historical Jesus’ scholar, N T Wright, whose assessment of the content of Crossan[2] was that it “is almost entirely wrong.”

Chapter 10: Crossan admitted that “my endeavour was to reconstruct the historical Jesus as accurately and honestly as possible. It was not my purpose to find a Jesus whom I liked or disliked, a Jesus with whom I agreed or disagreed.”

Chapter 11: His methodology involves “a triple triadic process” that attempts to synthesise anthropology, history, and literature. Weakness in one area imperils the integrity and validity of the others. His method demands “equal sophistication on all three levels at the same time.”

Chapter 12: In addition to the use of the extracanonical material in the strata, Crossan also is committed to the “multiple independent attestation” of the Jesus’ tradition. He states that his discipline “is to work primarily with plurally attested complexes from the primary stratum of the Jesus tradition.”

However, there is a further factor that influences the Gospel accounts, textual “freeplay, that is to say, a field of infinite substitutions.”

Chapter 13: Concerning Christ’s resurrection, Crossan’s view[3] was that the apostle Paul did not consider Jesus’ resurrection as “a special or unique privilege” because he was Messiah, Lord, and Son of God. Crossan does not see that Jesus’ case would be a parallel to that of Elijah, taken up by God and with “wider communal or cosmic effects.” His perspective is that Jesus’ resurrection is “an apparition with cosmically apocalyptic consequences,” but it is an apparitional vision “of a dead man who begins the general resurrection” (emphasis in original).

Chapter 14: I close with a warning in using this idiom: For evangelicals, there is a legitimate use of allegory as seen in Galatians 4:24-31 with the “figurative” use of Hagar and Sarah. Hagar was the slave woman who had a child to Abraham while Sarah, the free woman, had a child to Abraham. The two women represent two covenants (Gal 4:24).

But evangelicals are ‘skating’ too close for comfort, or are “dangerously or uncomfortably near” deconstructionist hermeneutics? John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was written legitimately as an allegory of the Christian life. Allegorical interpretation has been called, typological or symbolic interpretation. The label doesn’t matter but it is illegitimate if it removes the interpreter from the literal meaning of the text. The problem with allegorical interpretation is that it seeks to interpret every biblical passage allegorically.

Chapter 15: This is what happens when the fixed meaning of a text is allowed to be used in freeplay:

“How to Flee From a Big Fish, it’s obvious the prophet didn’t have a lick of sense. The belly of a fish was his 3-day home when obeying God was the better option. The book of Jonah is more than a “whale of a fish story”. The biblical story shows how God uses people, animals and natural elements to offer repentance to a sinful nation and a rebellious messenger.”[4]

Words, grammar and syntax are stripped of literal meaning, as with Crossan’s writings in allegorical interpretation and textual freeplay. Freeplay with the text strips it of literal meaning and replaces it by a readers’ understanding. Bye, bye literal interpretation and welcome the readers’ freeplay! So, “I call it as I see it,” is following Crossan’s call: “I formulate it here as I see it.”[5]

See “Christ Myth Theory.”

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A 3rd-century fragment of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

Chapter 16: References

Athanasius, Discourse 1, “Against the Arians.” Tr by John Henry Newman and Archibald Robertson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 4. Ed by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) Rev. and ed. for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Accessed 23rd December 2020. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/28161.htm.

Barthes, Roland. Image Music Text. Tr by S Heath. London: Fontana Press. Accessed 22nd December 2020. https://grrrr.org/data/edu/20110509-cascone/Barthes-image_music_text.pdf.

Barthes, Roland. “The death of the author.” Tr by R Howard. In R Barthes, The Rustle of Language, 49-55. New York: Hill and Wang. Accessed 22nd December 2020. http://www.d.umn.edu/~cstroupe/handouts/8500/barthes_death.pdf.

Beaver, David I and Bart Geurts 2011. “Presupposition.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Summer. Accessed 5th January 2021. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/presupposition/.

Bultmann, Rudolf Karl. New Testament & Mythology and Other Basic Writings. Ed. and tr by Schubert M Ogden. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, (1957-62) 1984.

Cambridge Dictionary. s.v. “requite.” Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/requite.

Crossan, John Dominic. Raid on the Articulate: Comic Eschatology in Jesus and Borges. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1976.

Crossan, John Dominic 1982. “Difference and divinity”. In R Detweiler (ed), Derrida and biblical studies, Semeia 23, 1 January, 29-40.

Crossan, John Dominic. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Crossan, John Dominic. “Almost the whole truth: An odyssey.” The Fourth R. September/October, 6(5), 1993. Westar Institute. Accessed 5th January 2021. http://www.westarinstitute.org/resources/the-fourth-r/almost-the-whole-truth/.

Crossan, John Dominic. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (this is a shorter version of Crossan (1991)). San Francisco CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994.

Crossan, John Dominic. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus. San Francisco CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.

Crossan, John Dominic 2006-09. “Biographical summary”. Accessed 5th January 2021, http://www.johndominiccrossan.com/Biographical%20Summary.htm.

Crossan, John Dominic. The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2012.

Crossan, John Dominic and Johathan L Reed. In Search of Paul: How Jesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom. San Francisco CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004.

Crossan, John Dominic with Richard G Watts. Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1996.

Derrida, J 1. “Letter to a Japanese friend”. Tr by D Wood & A Benjamin. In P Kamuf (ed), A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, 270-276. New York: Columbia University Press. Accessed 22nd December 2020. http://hydra.humanities.uci.edu/derrida/letter.html.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg 2004. Truth and Method, 2nd rev ed. Tr by J Weinsheimer & D G Marshall. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Dictionary.com. s.v. “fress”. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fress?s=t.

Gopnik, Adam. “What did Jesus do? Reading and unreading the gospels.” The New Yorker, 24 May 2010. Accessed 5th January 2021. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/05/24/100524crat_atlarge_gopnik#ixzz0oPc1o6ve.

Irenaeus “Against Heresies,” in P Schaff (ed), Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 1, ed by A Roberts, J Donaldson, & A C Coxe. Tr by A Roberts & W Rambaut. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co, 1885, rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight. Accessed 22nd December 2020. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103.htm.

Johnson, Roger A. The Origins of Demythologizing. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. Accessed 22nd December 2020. https://brill.com/view/title/6335.

Lewis, Gordon R and Bruce A Demarest, Integrative Theology, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House), 1987.

Meyer, Ben F 2002. The Aims of Jesus (Princeton Theological Monograph Series). Eugene OR: Pickwick Publications, (1979) 2002; citations are from the 2002 edition.

Montgomery, John W. Where is History Going? A Christian Response to Secular Philosophies of History. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1969.

Montgomery, John W. The Suicide of Christian Theology. Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1970.

Montgomery, Martin, Alan Durant, Tom Furniss and Sara Mills. Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English, 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge. Accessed 21st December 2020. http://skimmelapenglish11.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/90923565/Montgomery_Ways_of_Reading.pdf.

Nguyen, Kevin and Sarah Thomas 2020. ABC News, Brisbane, “Sydney’s northern beaches coronavirus cluster grows to 90 after eight new infections recorded,” 22 December. Accessed 23 December 2020. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-22/sydney-nsw-northern-beaches-coronavirus-cluster-grows-to-90/13006258.

Oxford English Dictionary. s.v. “too close for comfort.” https://www.lexico.com/definition/too_close_for_comfort.

SIL International, s.v. “Glossary of Linguistic Terms: Presuppositional Trigger,” Accessed 4th January 2021. https://glossary.sil.org/term/presupposition-trigger.

Syracuse University 2016. “Librarianship and Democracy: Creating an Informed Citizenry by Rachel Ivy Clarke”, 14 November, Accessed 4th January 2021, https://ischool.syr.edu/librarianship-democracy-creating-informed-citizenry/.

Turner, Catherine. “Jacques Derrida: Deconstruction,” Critical Legal Thinking, 27 May. Accessed 16th December 2020. https://criticallegalthinking.com/2016/05/27/jacques-derrida-deconstruction/.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion and Authorship. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Wright, N T. The New Testament and the People of God, vol 1. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God) Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 1992.

Wright, N T. 1996. Jesus and the Victory of God, vol 2. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 2). London: SPCK.

Zhai, J 2015. “Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction,” Not Even Past, 7 October, Accessed 23rd December 2020.https://notevenpast.org/jacques-derrida-and-deconstruction/.

Notes:


[1] Cambridge Dictionary. (s.v. “requite”), 2023.

[2] The Historical Jesus, 1991.

[3] See Crossan “Historical Jesus as risen Lord,” 1999, p. 29.

[4] Betsy Wise, Quora, “What is the allegory about Jonah and the whale, in the Christian Bible?”

[5] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, p. xxx.

How Do We Know God Exists?

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Planet Saturn

By Spencer D Gear PhD


God has given us two pieces of evidence in His infallible Scriptures. They tell us the truth about how anyone (Christian and non-believer) can know of God’s existence. Whether you believe the Bible or not does not alter the fact that God provides these two pieces of evidence that are certain evidence for God’s existence.

(1) The first piece of evidence is found in natural revelation. We see it in the immensity Psalm 19:1 describes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (NIV). Look into the skies at night-time and day-time and what do you see? To the naked eye, we see a whole array of planets in orbit. We call them the stars and they declare God’s glory. H. C. Leupold, a commentator who understood Hebrew, wrote:

“Heavens” are in an emphatic position (at the beginning of the sentence) in the Hebrew as much as to say: ‘The very heavens declare, or even, The heavens in a distinct sense declare. Since the participle follows and expresses continuous action, we must render the verb “are telling,” for they do it continually by day or night. Downright majesty is the “glory” which these heavens advertise. Since this is a truth which is apparent even to the heathen (cf., Rom. 1:19ff.), one of the most general names for God is used—‘el, “the Strong One”.[1]

Creation reveals the nature of God. He didn’t begin the Psalm with a comparison of God and evolution, or of nature versus science. For the psalmist, the heavens and the skies form the structure of knowing that God exists in the earthly and heavenly realm.[2]

NASA may give us some insight by confirming the enormity of this evidence:

NASA[3] Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

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This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f,[4] one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have discovered that there are seven Earth-size planets in the system.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In only a few centuries, the scale of the solar system and of the universe expanded incredibly as a result of investigation and study. The telescope and the Copernican theory replaced the Earth with the Sun at the center of the solar system. The five wandering lights (called planets by the Greeks) became individual worlds. New discoveries in physics and spectroscopy made it possible to analyze and even weigh the distant stars. Still larger telescopes moved the Sun from the center of things to the fringes of the Milky Way galaxy, a huge system of 100 billion or more stars. Then the Milky Way became only one of billions of galaxies in an expanding universe. New telescopes, sensitive to radio waves, probed the universe, discovering strange objects and powerful sources of energy that our eyes could never see.[5]

Is there anything more that NASA can tell us?

clip_image006An ear for the universe.[6]
An ear for the universe. The dish antenna of a large NASA radio telescope located at Madrid, Spain is outlined against the sunset sky. The antenna is 64 meters (21 Ofeet) in diameter. It is used to track interplanetary spacecraft, to send commands to them, and to receive from them the radio signals that carry scientific information and pictures of other worlds. Other, even larger, radio telescopes analyze radio waves from distant stars and galaxies. Radio telescopes have even detected a whisper of noise from the edge of the universe, an echo of the Big Bang that formed the universe 15 to 20 billion years ago. Radio telescopes like this one could also be used to detect extraterrestrial life – by listening for the communications of other civilizations in space.

clip_image008The big blue marble.[7]
Earth, the home planet of humanity, rises above the scorched and cratered surface of the Moon in this photograph taken from the Apollo 11 spacecraft shortly before the astronauts set foot on the Moon. In addition to making it possible for to see new worlds, the Space Age gave us a new view of our own planet. Astronauts, poets, writers, and average people alike were struck by the image of the Earth as a tiny, blue, hospitable, life-bearing world, floating in a vast uncaring blackness, side-by-side with the battered and lifeless Moon.

(2) The second piece of evidence for God’s existence is found within the human person.

According to the Wise Man (King Solomon) of the Book of Ecclesiastes, he states it clearly: “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[8] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11 NIV). We see one beauty in summer, another in autumn, a third in winter, and finally the beauty of spring and its flowers. Then the writer turns to the internal dimensions of a person:

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                                                 Royalty-free Dreamstime.

What makes human beings higher than animals is this sense of eternity that God has placed in people. My son wrote on one of his social media posts, “I don’t believe in life after death.” God has declared he’s a liar. Every human being has the sense of eternity within him or her. This is an aspect of our being made in God’s image and likeness that was not lost with the fall into sin.

“Man has a deep-seated ‘sense of eternity’ (Delitzsch), of purpose and destinies.”[9] Even though people deny it, all have eternity in their hearts. They want to live beyond what they see and hear.

Conclusion

God has placed the evidence for his existence so clearly that all human beings can see it: (1) We see his existence in the skies he has made and continues to demonstrate His evidence, and (2) Within every human being there is evidence of God’s existence in eternity in human hearts.
Nobody is without excuse when they stand before God.

Notes


[1] H. C. Leupold 1959. The Wartburg Press / Evangelical Press, London, England, p. 178.

[2] Some of these ideas are gleaned from Willem A. VanGemeren 1991, Psalms, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 179.

[3] See NASA explanation of use of images and research in the public domain HERE.

[4] “NASA announced the discovery of the most Earth-sized planets found in the habitable zone of a single star, called TRAPPIST-1,” Largest Batch of Earth-size Habitable Zone Planets Found Orbiting TRAPPIST-1, Exoplanet Exploration, available at: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1/ (Accessed 27 September 2022).

[5] NASA, “The Unfolding Universe,” available at: https://history.nasa.gov/EP-177/ch1-2.html (Accessed 27 September 2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The NIV footnote is, “Or also placed ignorance in the human heart, so that.”

[9] H. C. Leupold 1969. London: Evangelical Press, p. 91.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 September 2022.

Rationalists hack into Australia’s “no religion” in census data

By Spencer Gear PhD (New Testament)

Free census - Vector Art

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, 4 July 2022.

Hugh Harris did it as a Rationalist in his Opinion piece on the census in 2017: ‘MORE Australians ticked “No religion” in the 2016 Census than any other belief category’ (Courier-Mail, June 27 2017).

Further ‘religion bashing’ came in 2017 from another Rationalist, Tosca Lloyd: “The pressure, then, for governments to take seriously the need for our society to secularise is more powerful than ever. But we still have a long way to go. While the requirement of all parliaments in Australia, state and federal, to cite the Lord’s Prayer at the opening of their deliberations is manifestly at odds with the notion of a secular government, there are less symbolic reminders of religious bias” (Sydney Morning Herald, June 27, 2017).

What tune did the anti-God pundits play for the 2021 census? They are on message: ‘The proportion of Australians identifying as Catholic declined from 23 to 20 per cent over the past five years while self-identified Anglicans dropped from 13 to 10 per cent. By contrast, the share of Australians identifying as “non-religious” has surged. Thirty-nine per cent of Australians now identify as non-religious, up from 30 per cent in 2016.

A representative of the anti-God Humanist Society, Heidi Nicholl, could not get away from harping on the “no religion” theme, ‘The 2021 Australian census results have shown a significant rejection of religiosity with the proportion of people choosing “No religion” increasing from 29.6 per cent in 2016 to 38.4 per cent in 2021, in figures released by the ABS.’ The title of the article was, ‘Census results mean religions should stop getting special treatment.’ Why should minority groups refuse to receive special treatment? A public outcry should follow if people claimed the Stroke Foundation should not be supported as it provides for a minority group of victims. The same should happen for the support of a third of the population with disabilities.

This census data indicates a decline in support for religion, which I find to be a good thing, and a decline in support for Christianity. As an evangelical Christian, I ask:

So what?

What is religion and do we need it? Religion is ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman power or powers, especially a God or gods.’ There is nothing especially Christian about religion, particularly when it relates to serving ‘gods.’ Religion is easily contaminated.

The demise of religion could be a step in the right direction if it related to worship of the true God. We need to make it clear what will replace this breakdown of religion.

Is Australia becoming a nation to be evangelised?

The Rationalist, Humanist and Atheist may become excited by this failure of religion, but I look to the future with much hope because of the power of the Gospel to change lives for the better. These figures from the census are God’s call to evangelical (those who believe the Gospel) Christians to proclaim the Gospel.

Sign of the fish vectorI’m old enough to have read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in high school. This John Bunyan classic was looking forward to the celestial city, the City of God. Bunyan was thrown into prison for three months for refusing to follow an Elizabethan Act against religious freedom. In all, Bunyan spent 12 years in prison, giving him time to write 60 books. Since its writing, Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into more than 200 languages.

All societies, whether rationalist, humanist, atheistic or Christian need to understand that their freedom to express their views is based on a worldview obtained from the Christian Bible: ‘And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”’ (Mark 8:34 ESV). The Old Testament also supported this view of freedom: ‘But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

The Rationalist can choose a rationalist’s worldview because God has given all people the freedom of choice. My experience is that few secularists are prepared to admit this freedom to believe whatever they choose came from God. If they want to give up God from the Aussie culture, be prepared to forego freedoms.

If the ‘no religion’ category falls further in future census data, Australia is moving closer to where the early church was with a preponderance of religions in the first century. However, this was a fertile field for this kind of Gospel proclamation.

Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis. But the report also shows that the number of Christians in what many consider the religion’s heartland, the continent of Europe, is in decline.

Australia needs a widespread proclamation of this Gospel for positive numbers to increase and for God to be exalted:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 4 July 2022.

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Preachers as Poor Public Speakers

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By  Spencer Gear PhD

Some of the worst regular public speakers I have heard are Christian preachers. It is sad for me to admit this as I also am a Christian preacher – not as regular now that I’m retired. These preachers don’t speak loud enough for me to hear them in the congregation. This does not apply to all of them.

What are the problems?

Please understand that this is a personal perspective and I wish this article was not necessary. I write it to help preachers improve their communication skills. Unless these are improved, people will turn away from attending the church. My observation is that poor communication does not bother the club mentality.

These are some of the problems I observe and it’s happening in the church I presently attend.

1. Learn to properly project the voice

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides this definition of to project one’s voice: “to speak loudly and clearly. You need to project your voice better if you want to be an actor.” I add: “If you want to be a better preacher, learn to speak loudly and clearly.”

The last Sunday I was in church, the female leader was so poor at projection that I walked out of the service in the last hymn before the preacher. I could not hear or understand the leader. She could have been helped if the person at the sound desk wound up the volume for the leader. There is no excuse in the day of microphones for a leader not to be heard. However, a weak and feeble voice is an impediment for listeners to that speaker. Two men led the Lord’s Supper without microphones and I found them impossible to hear – even with my hearing aides in.

10+ Preacher Clipart - Preview : A Female Preacher | HDClipartAll2. Cool Communicators’ Recommendations on Projection:

Learn How to Project Your Voice

How to Project Your Voice in a Loud Setting

1. Put Yourself in Situations Where Getting Loud is Required

2. Talk to People From a Distance

3. Use an App to Visualize Your Volume

4. However Loud You Think is “Too Loud,” Speak Louder

5. Breathing and Airflow

6. Speak From Your Diaphragm

7. Straight Posture and Open Body Language

8. Wherever Your Audience is, Target a Point 20% Further Away, and Speak to That Place

These links should provide anyone with tips on how to project your voice. However, I recommend you join a public speaking club for critiques of your presentations.

3. People with Quiet Voices Should Not Be Leaders in a Church or Any Other Service.

For the above “Cool Communicators” reasons, quiet voices are made for sharing in a small group but not for leading a church service or sharing around the Lord’s Supper. Even in a small group, some projection of the voice is necessary.

4. Join a Public Speaking Club.

Toastmasters Brisbane  |  Public Speaking & Leadership | Alpha-Endeavour Club – Celebrating 50 Years  Paying jobs for me, after a short stint as a cost clerk, were as radio DJs at two radio stations and then as a TV newsreader. When I was hired at 4BU, Bundaberg, Qld., Australia, the manager recommended that I join a public speaking club, Rostrum (for males) to help my ad-lib ability and projection of my voice. Forum was the club for women, but now includes men.

Since my time in Rostrum, they seem to have gone out of favour and have been replaced by Toastmasters Clubs which allow both women and men to participate. I’m too old and without transport to be able to check out these clubs. However, the online material suggests joining such a club would enhance one’s speaking and leadership potential.

5. Homiletics Plus Public Speaking Club

Homiletics is “the art of preaching or writing sermons” (Oxford English Dictionary). In theological colleges, I recommend that all students who look forward to a public speaking/preaching ministry in the church should attend a public speaking club while in college and especially while learning homiletics.

Well-constructed sermons are useless unless the preachers speak loudly and clearly in projecting their voices. The sermon can be assisted by a person who knows how to moderate the volume at the sound desk.

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How to become a better listener

By Spencer D Gear PhD[1]

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(Source)

This article was provoked by the need to deal with a woman who sits at our dinner table (I’m in aged care). No matter what I or others discuss, her constant comeback is to give examples from her own life. She doesn’t seem to notice how self-centred her conversations become. Her conversations go something like this:

John: I have a bad chip in my thumbnail that looks as though it will tear away. I need help with somebody to clip the nail and not tare the skin underneath as I take a blood thinner.

Betty: That’s easy. Get one of your carers to do it. Look at my thumbnail that was clipped by a carer. That’s your best step. Another person at the table agreed with Betty.

Whenever I raise a topic, Betty most often goes to her own agenda and is very egocentric in how she responds.

Personal tips

These are my observations of what poor listening does to my communication:

I need eye contact to be maintained. If Betty’s eyes wander, it’s an indicator

she’s not listening. She is on track to give me her examples and not deal with my issue.

One of the best ways for me to know she is listening is for her to engage with me by questioning. I’ve raised the topic of the thumbnail. She could ask: “Since you have problems with the thumbnail on your left hand, why can’t you use the nail clippers yourself?” I’ve tried that but the nature of the nail tear caused me to not cut the nail. That led to her mentioning the need for a carer to do it for me. I’m reluctant to ask a carer as that has led to rejection previously.

I generally find the best way to keep the subject focussed is by questioning the other people. This also keeps the other people on task. Open-ended questions are the best, e.g. What would you consider is the best approach with this thumbnail crack?

Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, said, “It’s really hard to walk into a conversation without my agenda being written on my forehead and your agenda written on yours,” he says. “Unfortunately with the hectic, chaotic, complicated pace of work life today, people are even more committed to getting their own agenda accomplished.”[2]

Tips for better listening

Young Caucasian Woman Isolated On Blue Background Listening To Something By Putting Hand On The EarThe keys to better listening are to keep the discussion on the other person’s topic and not on your response. Stephanie Vozza gives “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener.”[3]

If you want to get something done, remember that human beings have an 8-second attention span.[4]

It’s difficult to join a discussion, without taking my agenda with me.

Stephanie’s 6 Tips are:[5]

1. Listen to Learn, Not to be Polite.

2. Quieten Your Own Agenda.

3. Ask More Questions.

Listening with real intent means I’m going to be open to being very wrong, and I’m comfortable with that in this conversation, says Gregersen. “In a world that’s getting more polarized, being able to listen is critical to reducing unnecessary conflict at any level, within a team, organization, or on a broader political country level,” he says.[6]

4. Pay Attention to Your Talk/Listen Ratio.

Strive for a 2:1 ratio of listening to talking, says Eblin. “If you’re a note taker during meetings or conversations, try keeping track of how much you listen versus how much you talk,” he says.

5. Repeat Back What You Heard.

6. Actually Wait Until Someone is Done Talking Before You Respond.

This is the message of the Bible in James 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT). I have broken this command personally, with its severe repercussions in my relationships.

Notes


[1] http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/listening.htm.

[2] Stephanie Vozza, https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022).

[3] Fast Company, “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener,” Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022.)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 May, 2022.

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How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan

Here is my first book published by Wipf & Stock:

How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan by [Spencer D. Gear]How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan

by Spencer D. Gear (Author)


See all formats and editions

What will you do as a parent if your fourteen-year-old comes home from school and says, “You and the teachers have been telling me Columbus discovered the Americas. You’ve lied to me because that isn’t true. There are no such things as facts, and I decide the meaning of what is written in my textbooks. I’m the one who chooses the interpretation of any writing, including history and the stories of Columbus”? How are you going to answer, especially in light of what the Encyclopaedia Britannica states about Columbus?

This book examines how historical Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan has dismantled education, TV viewing (by application), and religious studies with his postmodern deconstruction of the text. His theme is “I formulate it here as I see it.” Texts and interpretations are out of the mind of Crossan.

Using a hypothesis testing technique, the author challenges Crossan’s perspective that Jesus’s resurrection was an apparition and not a bodily resurrection. Even though he calls on others to “First, read the text,” that is not what he does. The philosophical crusher has found him out to be contradictory in his assessment of history in his autobiography and his own writings on the historical Jesus.

Read more


  1. Print length

    380 pages

  2. Language

    English

  3. Publication date

    April 17, 2022

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Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 09 May, 2022.

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What a combination! Easter eggs, scavenging dogs & crucifixion

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Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, Raphael, 1516–1517

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, 14 April 2022.

I visited my local shopping centre recently and saw all the Easter attractions. This is the time for Easter eggs but it has other ingredients that make it an attractive season. Of course, there’s the long weekend, plenty of sport on tele and the opportunity for gorging lots of chocolate. Talk about options!

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On 25 March 2022, Roy Morgan Research estimated “over four million Australians are planning a trip away this Easter with $7.1 billion to be spent on holidays, while around $1.5 billion will be splurged on food and chocolate, in a major boon for tourism operators and retail businesses.”

But why are there special eggs at Easter? Eggs symbolise new life and fertility. This Christian festival comes with little to frighten anyone in an era of religious extremism. Who could ever be offended by a cute chocolate bunny? Time Magazine reported: “The original story of Easter eggs starts in Medieval Europe, but it may or may not have originated with Christians.”

It could be very different if John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar were leading the agenda. For him, the cross spoke.[1] Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as indicated by all four Gospels (Matt 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-56; and John 19:38-40). Instead, Jesus was buried in a shallow grave to be eaten by scavenging dogs.[2]

From where did he gain that provocative information? It originated from the method he used – postmodern deconstruction – by which he engaged in free-play of interpretation. The reader of a narrative determines the meaning of a text. It does not come from the intent of the original author.

The paradox

But there’s a paradox here. Have you thought how strange it is that Easter eggs are identified with one of the most horrific ways of killing a person? This is the time of remembering the most famous death by crucifixion in history – that of Jesus Christ.

To be crucified for crime, the victim was lying on the cross on the ground and held down. They were nailed on that cross with crude, rough nails.

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The 17th-century painting Christ Crucified by Diego Velázquez, held by the Museo del Prado in Madrid

They were lifted up on the cross and it was dropped into a hole in the ground. They experienced unimaginable thirst and found it difficult to breathe.

Medical doctor, C. Truman Davis MD, explained that as fatigue came to the arms and cramps to the muscles, the victim experienced deep throbbing pain.

There were hours of pain, cramps, and partial suffocation as tissue was torn from the person’s lacerated back as it moved up and down on the rough timber. This trauma impacted the chest and began to compress the heart.

Mocking crowds

To make it worse for Jesus, the crowds would mock the victim (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:34, and Luke 18:32).

But how does our culture remember Christ’s crucifixion at Easter? With chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and jewellery! It’s almost impossible to walk down the street without seeing a version of the cross. Generally it’s on a chain around somebody’s neck or as ear rings. This is a far cry from the actual Easter event.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British media personality, soldier-spy and later Christian convert, called this death the most famous one in history. He said that no other death than Christ’s has aroused one-hundredth part of the interest or been remembered with one-hundredth part of the intensity of concern. Muggeridge shocked the world with his conversion to Christianity later in life. St. Mugg”, as he was affectionately known, was clear in his new-found faith: “It is the truth that has died, not God,” and “Jesus was God or he was nothing.”

We are continuously confronted with troubles. Troubles in wars like the Russian-Ukraine conflict, troubles in families, and even disturbed personal souls.

Into the midst of this repulsion in our world, at Easter we remember the Jesus of the cross who died for our sins was resurrected. Why? So that we can have the opportunity to be set free from the guilt of our souls. Hence the association with eggs and new life!

Louis M. Lepeaux, French philosopher, politician and bitter opponent of Christ at the time of the French Revolution, once started a religion that he hoped would be superior to Christianity. He sought the counsel of the great French diplomat and statesman, Charles Maurice Talleyrand.

The originator of a new religion came to the French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perlgord and complained that he could not make any converts. “What would you suggest I do?” he asked. “I should recommend,” said Talleyrand, “that you get yourself crucified, and then die, but be sure to rise again the third day.”

Why should you bother to embrace the Christian message this Easter? The Christ of the cross changed the agnostic, Malcolm Muggeridge, into an active Christian who published Jesus Rediscovered. Millions of people have made the same life-changing commitment and discovered the joy that Muggeridge found.

Any old resurrection will not do.

Today, the religious and other media are dominated by the burial and resurrection of Jesus that diverge from the narratives in the New Testament Gospels. John Dominic Crossan objects to a Jesus who rose bodily. His claim is that Mark created the empty-tomb story and the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.[3] This means Mark created the burial narrative involving Joseph of Arimathea.

When historical Jesus’ scholar, Crossan, stated that Jesus’ resurrection appearance was an apparition and not a physical appearance, was it possible to test this conclusion? To what degree are a scholar’s conclusions affected by the scholar’s presuppositions? That is what I attempted to do in my PhD dissertation, “Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus: Rethinking presuppositions, methods and models.”

For Crossan, Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in the garden but was placed in a shallow grave to be eaten by dogs hunting for food. As for Jesus’ resurrection, it was an apparition (phantom) and not a bodily resurrection.

Refutation of Crossan views are found in the biblical text

Crossan admits his view is non-historical as a postmodern deconstructionist. His presuppositions are fixed, so he’s unable to listen to the text’s content. We know that Jesus’ resurrection was historical because of people’s seeing and touching Jesus after the resurrection, which cannot be accommodated in Crossan’s framework. The New Testament Gospels explained that Luke’s second appearance story of Cleopas and an unnamed companion (Lk 24:36-49), ‘in contrasting juxtaposition to the Emmaus story, emphasizes the “physicality” of the risen Jesus. Jesus invites them to touch him: “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and blood as you see that I have.” He also shows them the wounds in his hands and feet. Then he eats a piece of broiled fish. The point is that this is not another ghost story.

The emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15 is on a future resurrected body that is different from that which is experienced in earthly existence, but there is continuity – it is a s?ma (body), indicting some dimension of physicality.

Earle Ellis noted that I Corinthians 15 lacks a stress on the empty tomb. However, he contends that Paul did not have to say “empty tomb” because it is implicit in his term resurrection, anastasis. ‘The rising on the third day [1 Cor 15:4] can hardly refer (only) to “appearances”. Most probably it presupposes and implies the “empty tomb” traditions. Also, the seed analogy [1 Cor 15:36-38] presupposes a continuity between what is buried and the raised body. “Spiritual
body” refers to the vitalizing principle and has nothing to do with immateriality’ (see 1 Cor 15:4, 37, 44).

This is what we remember at Easter. He is the Jesus who died, was resurrected bodily, and changes people’s lives. He was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and not in some invented creation by Crossan or somebody else. The resurrection body of Jesus could be touched and he ate broiled fish with the disciples (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:24-29).

Jesus’ resurrected body guarantees victory over death and it will be only apprehended when the same physical body that died is risen from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:54-55). That’s why it’s important to understand the risen Jesus was a physical body.

Bibliography

Crossan, J D 1988. The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock.

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D with Watts, R G 1996. Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus. New York: HarperPaperbacks.

Notes


[1] Crossan 1988, The Cross That Spoke.

[2] “Jesus’ burial was not in a tomb hewn out of stone but was in a shallow grave where his
body became prey to scavenging dogs” (Crossan & Watts 1996:152-153).

[3] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 557.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 April 2022.

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What is heresy?

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

I was blogging on Christianity Board on the topic, “Heresy?” where the person asked:

“Every denomination has some teaching or doctrine that we would not agree with.
How would you explain the difference between an incorrect teaching and
a heretical teaching…?
IOW,,,when does an incorrect teaching become heretical? Thanks.”[1]

In the Septuagint (LXX) – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – hairesis is found occasionally as meaning free choice or voluntarily (e.g. Gen 49:5; Lev 22:18).[2]

Like hairesis in Josephus, [the word] denoted in the first instance the trends and parties within Judaism. But soon, when certain minim separated themselves from the orthodox Rabbinic tradition, it came to be used only of trends within Judaism opposed by the Rabbis. . . . The term thus stigmatised certain groups as “heretical.” This sense is found in Rabbinic writings belonging to the end of the 1st and early part of 2nd century A.D. . . . At the end of the 2nd century the term acquired a new meaning, being applied not so much to the members of a sect within Judaism as to the adherents of other faiths and esp. Christians and Gnostics.[3]

New Testament and heresy

For the Christian who takes the Bible seriously, heresy is based on the Greek noun, hairesis. The Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich Lexicon gives the foundational meaning as “sect, party, school” (BAG, 1957, p. 23).

It was used to describe the “party of the Sadducees” in Acts 5:17; the Pharisees in Acts 26:5 were described as “the strictest sect of our religion.” In the secular literature of the first century, it meant “heretical sect.”

In a later sense they were called “a dissension, a faction” (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20). They also were called an “opinion, dogma . . . a way of thinking” (2 Pet 2:1).

clip_image004Schlier considers heresy must be understood ‘against the Hellenistic and Jewish background. The usage in Acts corresponds exactly to that of Josephus and the earlier Rabbis [Ac 5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 28:22]. . . . In these passages the term has the neutral flavour of “school.”’[4]

Schlier concludes:

“Against this background, it is impossible to solve the problem of the derivation of the special Christian sense of heresy. . . . The separation of non-orthodox groups, the heterdox parties, came to be designated heresy. . . . The basis of the Christian concept of hairesis is to be found in the new situation created by the introduction of the Christian ekklesia. Ekklesia and hairesis are material opposites. The latter cannot accept the former; the former excludes the latter. This may be clearly seen in Gal 5:10 where hairesis is reckoned among “he works of the flesh, along with [sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition]. Yet neither here nor else in the NT does hairesis have a technical sense. In 1 Cor. 11:18f we see even more clearly the impossibility of hairesis within Christianity.[5]

Heresy in the early church

In the age which followed NT hairesis, it

was still understood as an eschatologically threatening magnitude essentially opposed to the ekklesia. . . . Within Christianity hairesis always denotes hostile societies and there is always consciousness of an inner relationship between heretics and the secular philosophical schools or Jewish sects . . . which they also describe by the term hairesis. What the Church usually has in view is Gnosticism. As seen by the Church, the Gnostics form schools.[6]

So anything that was taught that was contrary to that for the early church – opposing Scripture – was called heresy.

So, this gives a wide field for relevance and challenge, especially in light of how denominations add to Scripture in topics such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, allegorical interpretation of Scripture, etc.

Applications

To sum up: A heresy in today’s understanding is a sect whose way of thinking is dogma that promotes theology contrary to biblical Christianity – an heretical sect. This includes infant baptism, the Lord’s Supper as Real Presence, Covenant Theology, Once-Saved-Always-Saved, and worship of Mary.

An example would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses today who do not believe Jesus is God and they reject human beings as having an immortal soul. Mormonism fits the same category as heresy.

From a Christian perspective, Islam is heretical as it does not promote the Trinitarian God. Islam rejects Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

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(Burning of heretics during Spanish Inquisition)

Works consulted

Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich, tr. & adapt. of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th and aug edn 1957. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edn licensed to Zondervan Publishing House for sale only in the United States of America).

Schlier, Heinrich 1964. In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1. Ed by Gerhard Kittel, tr & ed Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, “Heresy?” November 21, 2021. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/heresy.44320/ (Accessed 7 February 2022).

[2] Heinrich Schlier 1964. vol. 1, hairesis, p. 181

[3] Schlier, 182.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 182-193.

[6] Ibid., 183,

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 February 2022.

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