In Part 2 of this series (ADDING A BIT OF PERSPECTIVE: ARE ROMAN CATHOLICS JESUS’ SKEPTICS?), we considered the advisability of giving Roman Catholics a bunch of grief. That’s because many Catholic teachings seem to rely more upon tradition than they do the Bible. Because Catholic teachings defer to the Bible on core issues, I tend to take the view that with respect to Catholics it is better to focus on teaching what the Bible says. For example, although the Bible teaches us that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was extraordinarily obedient to God, nowhere does Bible say Mary was free of original sin (Here is an explanation of the position of the Roman Catholic Church.). Therefore, as far as we know Mary was an ordinary young woman.
What is important about this subject? Is it what Philippians 2:5-11 attests? Did Christ Jesus, the Son of God, empty himself by taking the form of a servant, a mere man? Why would God, the Creator of the Universe, the maker of stars and galaxies, become one of us? Does He love us that much? The Bible says He does.
Yet because they directly deny the truth of the Gospel, there are some people Christians must confront with the Word of God. These we call apostates.
WHAT IS AN APOSTATE?
What Is An Apostate?
Some people, even though they have had ample opportunity to study the Bible and learn about Jesus, vociferously reject Christianity. These we call apostates.
John MacArthur offers this definition of an apostate.
The word “apostasy” comes from the Greek apostasia, which is translated “falling away” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The word is closely related to the Greek word for “divorce.”
Apostates are those who fall away from the true faith, abandoning what they formerly professed to believe. The term describes those whose beliefs are so deficient as to place them outside the pale of true Christianity. For example, a liberal denomination that denies the authority of Scripture or the deity of Christ is an apostate denomination.
Here are some key passages.
- 1 John 4:2-3: This passage explains how we are to test those who would teach us. “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.“
- Hebrews 10:26-31: The author of Hebrews says that those who continue to worship idols, “sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth,” will be punished.
- Jude 1: In his short little epistle, Jude focused on God’s judgement on false teachers. He observed that false teachers have crept in unnoticed and pervert the grace of our God into sensuality. They deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33: Here the Apostle Paul uses the example of food sacrificed to idols to illustrate a principle. When the Bible is not altogether clear, we don’t cause another to do something they think might be wrong. In a spirit of love and concern, we respect the beliefs of others.
An Example Of An Apostate
When people misrepresent the Bible, the Bible is quite capable of defending itself, but we must challenge apostates. We must explain that the Bible does not say what the apostates say it says. We must encourage people to see for themselves. In Part 1 of this series we considered God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question by Bart D. Ehrman. Ehrman is a former pastor. As a theologian, Ehrman has made a name for himself by criticizing the Bible. As Ravi Zacharias observes in Why Jesus?, criticizing the Bible is relatively easy.
This is what I believe it boils down to: If you are determined to find flaws in the Bible, you will find them, especially in a book that has been around for so many centuries, was written by such diverse authors over a great period of time, and has been translated into so many versions and languages. So it is with the texts on almost any subject. It can be done. Ideas are easy to quibble over, debate, dissect, and reject. One has to start by looking at the big picture, at the overall truth that is being asserted. Then one puts the main ideas of the argument to the tests that I mentioned earlier, and sees how they have been borne out in life, in history, and in personal application. (chapter 14, pg 261)
What tests? Here are what Zacharias calls three all-important questions. (from chapter 14, pg 252)
All worldviews and religions need to take a hard look at themselves and at how they answer three inescapable questions.
- How do they answer the question of exclusivity as it relates to their own belief?
- What is the source of their authority?
- How relevant is what they believe to the common experience, what difference does it really make?
How Is An Apostate Such As Bart Ehrman Countered?
- A Critique of Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Interrupted by Ben Witherington
- Ben Witherington responds to Bart Ehrman’s book “Forged
- ‘Dialogue between Bart Ehrman and N.T. Wright: Is Our Pain, God’s Problem?’