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New Threats to the Gospel After Suppression and Expansion

Truth was not something of an insight into another reality, supernatural or other. Both the Hebraic word for “truth” (emet) and the Greek term for truth (aletheia) refer to nakedness, and are antonyms to hiddenness. Remember how Adam and Eve hid themselves or thought they were hidden from the sight of God? Neither Spirit or Truth refers to something supernatural or mysterious.

The heart of the matter is that in the spread of the gospel there has to be a clear understanding of the Near Eastern dialectical language in which the Bible was written. It is neither linear, as in Indo-European languages, nor related to any of the languages of central, southern, or far eastern Asia. Indo-European languages often deal in abstractions. The word “meditate” as found in the English Bibles is a sorry substitute for the biblical meaning of “chewing on” or “mulling over,” which reflects the pastoral nature of the biblical world. To mull over the Word of the Lord is a far better reflection of what Joshua counsels in Joshua 1 or what the psalmist is conveying. If there is no instruction on the biblical mind and language, the reader within another culture will superimpose his own indigenous meaning upon the biblical text or the gospel message. This is what happened when the gospel was directed to hearers or readers in a country outside of the gospel’s original homeland. Fortunately, in the spread of the gospel westward, there was enough of a dominant lingua franca understood from the eastern shoreline of the Mediterranean to the Atlantic: namely Greek. Fortunately, for Latin speakers, there were similarities of terms as in pater (Latin) and patros (Greek) to ease the transmission of the gospel. Consider how Simon Peter, Mark, and Andrew, though being Jews, had either Latin or Greek first names.

Once you get out of the homeland of the Mediterranean, as much as you would want to have an indigenous church outside the bounds of the homeland, you have to be careful that the hearer does not introduce his own habits of reference in receiving the biblical message. The spirituality of the Persian and of the Bactrian hinterlands (modern Afghanistan) affected how they received the gospel and Gnosticism hitched a ride on it. The Nag Hammadi letters reflect the impact of Gnosticism, assuring us that Irenaeus of Lyon and the Council of Carthage were right in rejecting those second, third, and fourth century forgeries. However, they linger on even today through writers such as Elaine Pagels, who consider them legitimate gospels.

The same holds true for the spread of the gospel within the Celtic world. However, the spirituality of the countryside was held at bay, thanks to the monasteries and learned monks of Armagh in Ireland and then in England. It has only been in the years between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries that the Celtic and Brythonic pantheism and panentheism has come to the forefront of attention through the Romantic poets of the nineteenth century and in the ideas of the New Age movement of the late Marilyn Ferguson. More recently, at the dawn of the 21st century, came the spiritualities of Deepak Chopra, Tolle, and Oprah Winfrey which bear no resemblance to the Holy Spirit of which the Bible speaks. For the most part they are introspective and self-induced and in no way upward looking or outward looking. They fool the unsuspecting by inducing people into a self-centered lifestyle with no devotion toward the Lord Jesus Christ but on having a self-satisfying life for one’s own self and no one else.

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Category: Church History, Fall 2016

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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