Bill Muehlenberg

Biblical Christianity vs. Religious Syncretism

True conversion is demonstrated by turning from known sin and renouncing known evil. Sure, sometimes this can take a while as the new Christian comes to understand what Scripture teaches, and then makes further moves away from a sinful past. But sometimes God shines his light on the newly converted soul right away.

We live in a culture that no longer believes in truth and absolutes. People are quite happy therefore to mix and match their religious and worldview components in any way they please, no matter how contradictory or mismatched they might be.
So spiritual and religious pursuits for most folks today becomes much like a visit to a smorgasbord: you pick and choose what you want to consume, and simply ignore or reject that which is not to your liking. These folks are not concerned about truth or intellectual consistency. They simply want to run with whatever feels good to them.
This combining of various divergent and often completely contradictory religious beliefs and practices is what is known as religious syncretism. One dictionary definition says this: “Noun: the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought: ‘interfaith dialogue can easily slip into syncretism’.”
As I say, this is how most people in the West operate nowadays. But anyone who actually has read the Bible knows that syncretism is just not on. Plenty of texts can be appealed to here. One passage I came upon just moments ago in my daily reading is quite representative. Leviticus 18:1-5 says this:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.
The other day I wrote a piece about one religious syncretist who thought her love affair with witchcraft was fully compatible with Christianity. She was dead wrong of course. And in that piece I mentioned the biblical response to such matters: billmuehlenberg.com/2022/01/31/look-within-and-be-deceived/
One passage I featured was Acts 19:13-20. I want to look at this text in a bit more detail, so here it is again:
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver. In this way the Lord’s message flourished and prevailed.
A number of things can be said about this. One is the radical nature of Christian discipleship.

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Look Within – and be Deceived

Satan is a liar and goes about seeking to deceive us all. And plenty of folks, including those fully into the New Age Movement and the like are fully ensnared by the enemy. Moreover, when it comes to syncretism (trying to combine and merge different religions and claim they all are equally true and can be happily amalgamated), the Christian should know what to do.

Deception exists. The problem is, those most likely to be deceived are those who don’t think deception exists – or that they are immune from it. And much of the population susceptible to deception are those who are into relativism, subjectivism, and emotivism – in other words, most modern secular folks!
If they deny that objective absolute truth exists, then they will toy with anything and everything that fits their fancy. But the notion of truth of course means that some things are not true – some things are false. When you buy into a worldview that says that truth is relative and happens to be whatever you think it is, then it is hard to say that some things are false, or wrong. So anything goes.
Nonetheless, those most into such relativism can still get quite upset if you dare to suggest they might be wrong. They can go on all day about how open they are and how tolerant they are, but as soon as you seek to share truth with them, they can get very ornery – and very intolerant.
Many of those into New Age mumbo jumbo and Eastern thought especially fit the bill here. And I recently had another very good example of this taking place. It had to do with something I had shared on the social media from the American Christian “activist mommy” Elizabeth Johnson.
She had posted a video interview she did with a former witch. I tagged a friend of mine who was also once involved in witchcraft since she would likely be interested in seeing it. The interview in question is found here: www.facebook.com/watch/?v=396653095561900
But a friend of hers – but not of mine – came along and started carrying on about how witchcraft and Christianity get along just swimmingly. She actually said this:
Why can’t witchcraft and Christianity go hand in hand? Why is it evil to be a witch? I am proud to call myself a witch. I love Jesus Christ and God/dess, and I also love to garden, I see magic everywhere, I acknowledge the spells I speak with every word, I love tarot, and honour natures rhythms, I adore astrology and I love practicing rituals for growth and love and harmony for all beings… I don’t understand why these two beautiful philosophies are so often opposing each other when it’s so clear to me they are really one at heart. If anyone can explain I am all ears.
Needless to say my friend and I both challenged her on this. We assured her that the two are NOT compatible. My friend spoke of her testimony: www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4pqnUfgZJQ
And I urged the gal to look at this article for more detail on these matters: billmuehlenberg.com/2022/01/09/a-closer-look-at-witchcraft/
But it seems she was not interested in what either of us had to say, and she did not even seem to bother looking at the links we shared with her. She kept posting loony stuff instead. For example she posted one meme saying “All religions are based on astrotheology” I said: “Um no, not even close.”
Her reply to me and other was often the following: “Haha. Blessings!” As if she was so loving and accepting and nice and we were somehow the bad guys here. Others challenged her as well, and then her true colours started coming to the fore. She made a few replies then took her ball and ran away.
She said to one Christian: “wow so rude! Everyone is allowed to have their own perspective – in the end that’s all that’s going on – nothing is objective. Despite your rudeness! I wish you nothing but blessings and peace.” And to another she said: “I’ve sourced information from all over the place, but ultimately I make decisions about my beliefs from within. I will be withdrawing from any contact with you and all your friends.”
As I say, with those words she pulled out. 
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The Bible and Witchcraft

Today witchcraft, wicca, the occult, spiritism, neopaganism, and various New Age beliefs and practices seem to be everywhere. While Christianity is in decline in the West, these other counterfeit spiritualities are on the increase. What should Christians make of all this? Here I will offer what Scripture says, and in future articles I will further explore this in various ways.

A recent headline caught my attention: “Scotland may pardon thousands of ‘witches’ it executed hundreds of years ago.” The article went on to say this: “Attorney Claire Mitchell leads activist group Witches of Scotland, which wants to have the names of the convicted legally cleared, a written apology letter from the government and a monument established in their memory.” nypost.com/2022/01/07/scotland-may-pardon-thousands-of-witches-it-executed-hundreds-of-years-ago/
This made me think of the famous line by C. S. Lewis in his preface to The Screwtape Letters: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
If in times past some folks were overly concerned by such things, today most folks are too little concerned – or worse yet, they actually celebrate and promote such things. The Scottish situation (which the church is expected to go along with) is a case in point.
As to the issue of witchcraft trials (both in Europe and America), I have already penned a piece trying to provide some context and background to the situation. You can find that article here: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/01/19/on-the-witchcraft-trials/
Today witchcraft, wicca, the occult, spiritism, neopaganism, and various New Age beliefs and practices seem to be everywhere. While Christianity is in decline in the West, these other counterfeit spiritualities are on the increase. What should Christians make of all this? Here I will offer what Scripture says, and in future articles I will further explore this in various ways.
The Bible of course clearly condemns all of these activities, be it witchcraft, divination, necromancy, astrology, fortune-telling, spiritism, communicating with the dead, and so on. Here are just some of the passages that can be appealed to:
Exodus 22:18 You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
Leviticus 19:26, 31 You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying…. Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 20:6, 27 And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people…. A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.
Deuteronomy 18:9-12 When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.
1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. NKJV
2 Kings 21:5-7 And he [Manasseh] built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
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Revelation and the End of All Things

Christians have a glorious promise and a wonderful hope that they can cling to and take comfort in. Whether we are near the end of all things – at least the end of all old things – is not crystal clear. But whether the Lord returns in 2022 or some other time, we have a huge wedding to look forward to. With that in mind, we can repeat the prayer of John: “Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). I sure am ready – are you?

I had several things in mind to write about this last day of 2021. But as I was reading the closing chapters of the Bible, I decided that a quick look at Revelation 21:1-5 would be the way to close out the year, as it discusses how God will close out life on earth, and start a new heaven and new earth.
Let me say at the outset that this is a book full of mystery and wonder, and those who claim to have it all fully understood are far more confident – some might say arrogant – than I am. The extensive use of symbolism and imagery alone makes this a very difficult book to properly and conclusively interpret.
As such the advice Peter gave in regard to the writings of Paul seems even more appropriate to John, the author of the Apocalypse: “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).
But one thing that is clear is that a primary message of the book is that in the end God wins and his enemies lose. God is victorious. Regardless of how bad things have been for so long, God is the Victor and no one and nothing stands in his way. That is good news indeed.
And it is God the Son who is especially highlighted in this book. As the sacrificial lamb, prefigured so often in the Old Testament, Jesus is the all-conquering hero of the book. And we should not let the figure of a lamb (something Christ is called around 30 times in this book) mislead us. He may have come to earth the first time as a gentle sheep, but he returns as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, wreaking judgment on all his foes.
So he is both lamb and lion. With all this in mind, let me look a bit more closely at some of the closing words found in this book. The first five verses of the penultimate chapter of Revelation say this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Those words alone should be of such tremendous comfort to all who have suffered so greatly during the past year – indeed, during the past 21 months. This global virus and various state responses to it have made that past year or two some of the most difficult that many of us – at least in the West – have ever experienced.
In the light of such tough times and dark days, the words of John in this book are a sweet comfort indeed. And Revelation is written not just for our benefit today, but for all God’s saints who have suffered so much over the centuries.
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C. S. Lewis on Politics

With history repeating itself today with the rise of the collectivist state over against the individual (all in the name of keeping us safe), the wisdom and insights of Lewis—and others—are needed now more than ever. To repeat, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

When one thinks about the incomparable C. S. Lewis one normally thinks about the great Christian apologist that he was, or the author of famous children’s books, or the celebrated professor of English literature. One does not usually think of him as one who spoke or wrote much about political matters.
But he did. Scattered throughout his writings are various discussions about political matters, democracy, freedom, equality, law and justice, tyranny and the like. From talks he had given, or essays he had written, political matters quite often appear in the Lewis corpus.
And they are fully relevant for the times we now live in, especially as we see Statism on the rise, and the suppression of individual liberties. Here then are just a few of his writings on politics to whet your appetite for more. I urge you to try to read the whole context of each quote.
In a 1943 piece for the Spectator titled “Equality” (republished in Present Concerns: Essays by C. S. Lewis), he says this:

I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. Nor do most people—all the people who believe advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumours. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
This introduces a view of equality rather different from that in which we have been trained. I do not think that equality is one of those things (like wisdom or happiness) which are good simply in themselves and for their own sakes. I think it is in the same class as medicine, which is good because we are ill, or clothes which are good because we are no longer innocent. I don’t think the old authority in kings, priests, husbands, or fathers, and the old obedience in subjects, laymen, wives, and sons, was in itself a degrading or evil thing at all. I think it was intrinsically as good and beautiful as the nakedness of Adam and Eve. It was rightly taken away because men became bad and abused it. To attempt to restore it now would be the same error as that of the Nudists. Legal and economic equality are absolutely necessary remedies for the Fall, and protection against cruelty.
But medicine is not good. There is no spiritual sustenance in flat equality. It is a dim recognition of this fact which makes much of our political propaganda sound so thin. We are trying to be enraptured by something which is merely the negative condition of the good life. And that is why the imagination of people is so easily captured by appeals to the craving for inequality, whether in a romantic form of films about loyal courtiers or in the brutal form of Nazi ideology. The tempter always works on some real weakness in our own system of values: offers food to some need which we have starved.
In his 1945 essay “Membership” (found for example in Transposition and Other Addresses) he made similar points, including:

I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows.

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Lessons From the Life of Josiah

True biblical renewal and reformation is always based on the word of God. When young Josiah rediscovers the book of the law, it brings about immediate changes: he repents of his sins and leads the people in repenting of their sin, thus beginning his work of renewal and reform. 

We can use a few Josiahs today:
Many of you know about the bright light that was King Josiah of Judah who reigned in a very dark period. His story is worth recounting, since our own days are so very dark, and we can use a bit of encouragement along the way. And given the amazing renewal that occurred through him, we can also pray, ‘Do it again Lord.’
The historical background to his reform work is this. The northern kingdom Israel had already been judged by God for its sins, idolatry and disobedience. The Assyrians captured its capital Samaria in 722 B. C. The rule of Josiah was late in the southern kingdom Judah. It would fall fairly soon in 587/6 B. C. Josiah died around 25 years before that time.
Things had been going downhill real fast in Judah and divine judgement was already promised. The 50 or so year reign of Manasseh and his son Amon was the worst of a bad bunch. So when renewal and reformation occurred under Josiah, it was a case of too little too late for ungodly Judah.
But still, it was an incredible renewal indeed. His story is told in 2 Kings 22-23:30. We read this about him in 2 Kings 22:2: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.”
He had begun his reign as king when he was eight years old. But the main activity found in these chapters happened in the eighteenth year of his reign. You recall the story: he was having the temple repaired when “the Book of the Law” was found (v. 8). This probably refers to the book of Deuteronomy. We read about what happened next in verses 10-13:

Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

In chapter 23 we read about how Josiah renewed the covenant. In verse 3 it says this: “And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.”
We then read about how he got rid of idolatrous priests, pulled down idols and statues, smashed pagan altars, and celebrated the Passover. Verse 25 says this about Josiah: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”
Yes, this was an amazing king during some amazing times. But as mentioned, it was not enough, because Judah was too far gone, and God’s judgment still would be coming, as verses 26-27 declare. Yet this period of renewal was remarkable indeed.
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How Can They get Everything so Wrong?

When someone comes along claiming to be some sort of authority on Scripture, but it is obvious that he knows nothing about it, or worse yet, is quite happy to ignore or reject most of it, then you know you got a real problem on your hands. Sadly there are far too many folks claiming to be believers who think and talk the same way. The biblical advice is to have nothing to do with them, or to rebuke them sharply! 

There’s never a dull moment when you have an interactive blogsite. Every day you get all sorts of folks sending in comments. Often they are terrific comments sent in by terrific people. But nearly as often you will get nutters, trolls, secular lefties, atheists, militants and haters coming along as well. That always make things interesting.
I would have posted thousands of comments from the latter group and tried to interact with them. But many of these comments can only go straight into the bin, given that they fail my commenting rules. But all this keeps me off the streets I guess.
Here I want to speak about those who come seeking to argue about Scripture and theology. Some are well-meaning and care about sound doctrine. I will leave them out of the discussion here. But there are those who come here saying the most ludicrous, brainless and unbiblical stuff.
I am always amazed at how they can manage to get things so very wrong. And over the years I have discovered that there are at least three groups of these folks. Some are just angry atheists who will attack any Christian for any reason. Some are clearly not Christians but they come here pretending to be. But as soon as you see what they have written it is obvious where they are coming from.
And then there is a third group who do indeed appear to be Christians, but they nonetheless are so woefully biblically ignorant and so theologically mixed-up that you do not know if you should laugh or cry when you see their stuff. Sometimes it is not quite clear which of the three groups a person is a part of.
But I sure get lots of these sorts of comments coming in. Let me deal with just one of them that was sent in a while ago. It had to do with a piece I wrote called “Still You Have Not Returned To Me.” That was about how God will often use various means to try to get our attention, to get us to return to him, and so on. That piece is found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/09/19/still-you-have-not-returned-to-me/
Some of these divine means include things like plagues or other calamities. I mentioned some biblical examples of this, and asked whether the current covid outbreak might in part be how God is trying to waken a sleeping world and get us to get our priorities right.
Some good comments came in, and helpful discussion ensued. However, one guy sent in a real doozy of a comment. It was so bad that I figured it was worth writing an article about one day. And so here it is. And I still do not know if this is one of the more biblically illiterate Christians around, or just some troll pretending to be a believer. Anyway, this is what he sent in:

It’s a very dangerous belief system that some Christians have, of giving God credit for deaths and disaster. What you’re saying is that some people deserve to be punished and God is causing them pain and death. This not only is in contrast of a God that is defined by love, but it also takes away the power of the Cross. Jesus has paid in full for our sins and has taken on our punishment himself. If we start giving God credit for disasters, what we are saying is that “What Jesus did is not enough, and that God needs to hand out extra punishment”

Oh dear – how can a guy get so much wrong in such a short space? Where does one even begin in trying to reply? Well, let me make that attempt. First, to defend what Scripture clearly and repeatedly teaches is a “dangerous belief system”? Really?
And “some Christians”? I would have thought that all genuine Christians who accept the Bible as the authoritative word of God would of course hold to what it so patently teaches.
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The Persecution of Christians in China

In 2020, under the regime of Chairman Xi Jinping, the policy to sinicize the Christian population has included: the removal of over 900 crosses from churches; the confiscation of Bibles across China as the police raided and closed down many house churches, including state-run churches; churches were also bulldozed and destroyed; and for the first time in 40 years, as attested by Bob (Xiqiu) Fu, a Chinese Christian who fled to the United States, the demand for Christian children to renounce their faith, simultaneously prohibiting them from reading or hearing the Bible read to them by their parents.

Out of sight, out of mind is a big problem for many people, including Christians. We in the comfortable West tend to ignore our brothers and sisters who are suffering greatly elsewhere. Yet we should be fully aware of them and praying for them at the very least.
As we read in Hebrews 13:3: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Not only must we keep persecuted believers in remembrance, but we must also understand that what is happening to them may soon enough be happening to us.
Consider the nation of China, where horrific persecution of Christians is taking place. The West is not there yet in terms of such anti-Christian bigotry and hatred, but it is slowly getting there. The social credit system in China for example seems now to be a model for many Western governments. So we better be aware of what is happening elsewhere.
Here I will draw upon three recent articles on the situation in China to help give you some idea of what is happening there. Let me begin with a report from Open Doors, which is a ministry to the persecuted church:

China’s growing Christian community currently stands at around 96.7 million – just under seven per cent of the country’s total population. The church in China continues to enjoy strong growth; however, life for Christians is anything but straightforward. The policy of “Sinicizing” the church is implemented across the country, as the Communist Party relies strongly on Chinese cultural identity to stay in power and limits whatever it perceives as a threat to its control on society.
New restrictions on the internet, social media and non-governmental organizations, and 2018 regulations on religion are strictly applied and seriously limit freedom. Churches are being monitored and closed down, whether they are independent or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.
And it’s not just the introduction of new laws that impinge on Christian activity, it’s also the stricter implementation of already existing laws, such as the ban on the online sale of Bibles. On a more local level, if a convert from Islam or Buddhism is discovered by their community and family, they are likely to face threats and physical harm – all in an effort to win them back. Spouses may be forced to divorce. Neighbours and the community may even report the practice of Christian activities to the authorities, who could take action to stop them….
Thousands of churches have been damaged or destroyed, some confiscated, in a campaign that has spread to almost every region of the country. Crosses have also been removed from churches. Meanwhile, laws on regulating religion, which were introduced in February 2018 and enhanced in February 2020, continue being rolled out in an increasing number of provinces.
There are reports that citizens are being financially rewarded for disclosing information on Christians and other minorities to the authorities. This reflects the determination of the Communist Party to exert its control over all areas of life. www.opendoors.org/en-US/persecution/countries/china/
Another article discusses some of these matters in more detail:

Recently, a local authority in northeastern China announced financial rewards to people who report “illegal religious activities”. The Meilisi Daur District United Front Work Department of Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, released “The Reward System For Reporting Illegal Religious Activities Offences” on Monday, saying that informants could be paid up to 1,000 yuan (US$150) for tips about illicit foreign infiltration.

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Difficult Bible Passages: Malachi 2:10

The truth is, universalists, unitarians and other theological liberals will have to try to dig up other biblical texts than Malachi 2:10 to try to make this patently unbiblical case that all people simply by virtue of their physical birth are somehow children of God, united with Father God. Being created by God does not automatically make everyone his spiritual children.

No, we are not all children of God:
On a surface reading this verse does not appear to be all that problematic. But as with many passages in this series, it is the way it is so readily misused and abused by many others that causes the problem. The verse in question says this: “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?”
The misuse of this text comes about when cultists and heretics try to make the case that we are all not only God’s children by physical creation, but we are all also his children in a spiritual sense as well. Universalism is one of the names of this particular heresy – the idea that we are all saved, that there is no hell and final judgment, and that we are all doing just fine with God. See more on this theological error here: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/03/12/against-universalism/
There are several challenges that we can bring to bear in dealing with such a faulty understanding of this verse in particular and the whole of Scripture in general. The first thing to say is this understanding is only partly right. And that is how cults and heresies usually flourish: by using part of the truth, and twisting it as well.
We ARE all God’s children in the obvious sense that God created every single one of us. We all exist because God made us. So in that sense, sure, everyone is a child of God. But Scripture also uses this notion of being a child of God in a different sense – a different spiritual and theological sense.
That is, only those who are in a right relationship with God are seen to be children of God. This is clear from all of Scripture. Ancient Israel as a whole was seen as being part of God’s family, but not the surrounding pagan nations. And in the New Testament only those who come to Christ in faith and repentance are regarded as being a child of God.
Jesus made this crystal clear when he rebuked the religious leaders of the day who were clearly NOT in right relationship with God. He called them children of the devil (see the whole exchange in Matthew 25:31-46). That is the condition of everyone unless they make a deliberate turn away from sin and turn to God. But all this I discuss in much more detail elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/01/13/no-we-are-not-all-gods-children/
The second obvious thing to say about this erroneous interpretation of this text is this: as always, context is king. Simply reading this verse in light of its immediate context makes it clear that there is no universalistic mush being promoted here.
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What Has Been Lost – And Can Be Regained

“As we think about glorification, it must be in this way; that man is not only delivered from all the effects of the Fall, and the sin and the transgression of Adam, but granted a far superior blessing, and given something of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.”

Most folks would have at least heard of – although perhaps not read – the English poet John Milton’s great work Paradise Lost of 1667. And there is also his Paradise Regained published in 1671. The great Puritan writer and intellectual spoke about the Fall in the former, and the work of Christ in the latter.
Two recent incidents have reminded me of this notion of what we have lost because of sin, and what we as believers are to regain as we are united with Christ in faith and repentance. The first is a film which was again aired on television recently: Lucy, a 2014 French science fiction action film starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.
I have seen bits and pieces of it over the years, and it has appealed to me for two reasons. One, I always like any book or film where justice finally happens: where evil is dealt with and good eventually triumphs. And two, the idea that we can become so much more than we currently are – in terms of the use of our mind and so on – has often led me to reflect on the biblical worldview.
The plot involves a gal (Johannsson) who is forced to be a drug courier, with a packet of synthetic drugs sown into her stomach. But the bag of this very volatile drug bursts and causes her to gain incredible powers. At the same time a scientist (Freeman) is lecturing on how we only use 10 per cent of our brain, and if we could use more, there would be no limit to what we can do.
Lucy goes through this transformation, defeating a bunch of really bad drug runners in the process. But the film always made me think of some biblical and theological themes: what we had lost at the Fall because of sin, and what we might regain one day when we are reunited with our Lord.
Of course the biblical view of the restoration of fallen man (those who come to Christ in faith and repentance in this life, and are glorified with Christ in the next) entails much more than a reestablished and renewed brain. Instead, every aspect of our being and all facets of who we are (our character, our desires, our emotions, our choices, our imagination, our abilities, our thoughts, etc) will be marvellously and radically transformed.
What we lost at the Fall – and much more – will be what we enjoy in the next life. As but one consideration of this, I wrote an article some years ago about my failing eyesight. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would have ever-worsening vision – perhaps leading to blindness – until the next life: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/08/10/eye-has-not-seen/
In that piece I also discussed savants, those with incredibly enhanced abilities, such as memory and artistic and musical abilities (again, the connection with Lucy). But later I found out that I had cataracts as well, and that could be fixed with laser surgery: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/02/22/the-need-for-improved-spiritual-vision/
The results were terrific for a while, but my eyes are now again starting to go downhill somewhat – as they do in old age. So I again look forward to the next life and the new and improved me – including perfect eyesight and perfect everything else.
The second incident that inspired this article was a terrific comment from my friend Kerry on a social media site. She spoke of digging into the 8th (of 14) volumes on Romans by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The opening chapters speak of glorification, and she quoted parts of what he had to say. 
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