Oneness Theology, Church History & Where the Church Is Right Now – Podcast Transcript with Dr. Talmadge French

Below is the podcast transcript (episode 22) of a candid conversation between me and my dad, Dr. Talmadge French, author of the best-selling books Our God Is One, and G.T. Heywood: Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism. This is probably one of the best discussions you will ever hear about church history, the oneness of God in Church History, The Burning of Michael Servetus by John Calvin, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the Existence of Truth during the Dark Ages. If you’d like to listen to the entire podcast conversation I’ve attached it to the end of this article.

Ryan French: [00:01:44] You are my dad and you’re the premier Apostolic Pentecostal oneness historian, probably in the world, and I have a unique and rare opportunity to be able to just drag you in here kicking and screaming to talk about church history. And so I’m really excited about it and I hope we’ll do it fairly regularly. But what I wanted to do today is kind of backtrack from where most people want to start, which is the turn of the last century. And we’ll get to that. But there’s kind of that long gap of church history, certainly for us as Pentecostals that we don’t discuss as often, maybe as other traditions or denominations do. And certainly, the Dark Ages. Which brings me to the very first topic that I wanted to have you weigh in on. And it’s also a question that I receive a lot from people through the website and at www.ryanafrench.com. And it’s basically this question and I’m going to ask it to you the way people ask it to me. Do you believe the Church and by the church, I mean full truth, people filled with the Holy Ghost, baptized in Jesus’ name? Do you believe the Church existed throughout the Dark Ages and somewhere up until the outpourings of the Holy Ghost at the turn of the last century… Basically from the Book of Acts until today? Do you believe that a remnant somewhere, even if it might have been just a small group, do you believe it existed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:03:45] Ok, well, that’s the question that every apostolic is interested in, because and it’s not just apostolics, but every Christian group has to believe or hope that their faith is a Bible faith, whether you can prove a direct line all the way back or not. Right. And of course, Pentecostals are like all restorationists. They believe that Pentecost and speaking in tongues is biblical. Therefore, our experience is biblical. So what happened during those intervening years and so on? And then secondarily, you have the issue of like for me, I was Trinitarian, but came to an understanding of oneness, belief, like millions of people have. And so I wanted to know, how did my faith line up with the apostles? That is what I’m saying, actually, apostolic. And if so, what happened to it? Yeah. So the short answer for me is, yes, the church has always existed. But what’s really important is, I mean, that’s important to be able to say, OK, my faith goes all the way back. But how do I know that and how does it work itself out? And the truth of the matter is that church history itself is extremely complex because of the way we interpret church history, there was a great deal of things going on all the way back to the time of the apostles. So I’ve spent a better part of my faith, especially since I’ve been apostolic looking at the historical record, trying to understand what people were saying and what actually occurred back there. And I would… I’d summarize it like this so we can maybe go to the next step. But that the fact of the matter is, for a very long time, the apostolic faith was definitely being preached in the early church. But there came a time when it began to evolve into something else so that after about the time of Sebelius, around two eighty-five roughly right in there, it started to be less and less where the truth was one hundred percent believed in all the churches. There came to be what I call an attack of intellectualism on the church, especially Greek intellectualism. And there was also a movement which was pretty well connected to Greek intellectualism. It was called Gnosticism; it was a movement that believed they were super-spiritual. And these things have always been what they’ve been throughout church history, but when that began to take effect, then the Greek mind, the intellectual mind began to try to square everything with Greek, with Philo and the Greek intellectualism. And the Church began to become more diverse so that you would have these really super smart guys out there at the periphery of the Church that were saying, well, Jesus is not actually the one God, he’s in the one God. And you begin somewhere in there around two hundred. And later, the beginnings of what we would think of as a trinitarian way of thinking or a binatarian way of thinking. And eventually, by the time you get to the councils in three, twenty-five, and so on, you’ve got full-blown Trinitarianism or debates about Trinitarianism and who Jesus was. And was he God or was he just in the Godhead? Well, these are things that the Bible doesn’t even address because they’re not biblical, but they’ve become pretty powerful by the time you get to the councils, and by the time the Catholic Church is an issue which is around 500, you’ve got I mean, just think about how long America’s been here, in about five hundred years of Christianity. That’s a lot of time. And by the end of it, you have Truth, and you have error all throughout Christianity

Ryan French: [00:08:18] Would you say it’s kind of a merging of the secular and the sacred or maybe a merging of secular philosophy in the same way and even throw government in there?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:08:31] Right. Because when you get to the time of Constantine in three hundred in the Council of Nicaea, there wouldn’t have been a Nicaea had there not been a Constantine who had converted to Christianity. But many, many scholars will tell you that Constantine was not much of a Christian, but yet he had the greatest impact on Christianity. And so, I would…

Ryan French: [00:08:55] Can we pause for the low information. I, I know we have a lot of wonderful listeners out there who may not know who Constantine is. Could you just give a brief description?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:07] He became the emperor of Rome. The Roman emperor.

Ryan French: [00:09:11] So was that roughly around three hundred?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:14] Let’s just say around three…

Ryan French: [00:09:15] Around three hundred. By then, the Church was in full swing…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:20] …and when he became a Christian, then the Roman Empire became Christian whether they were Christian or not. Right. Right. So, it was a whole new era.

Ryan French: [00:09:30] So in a lot of ways. You had kind of the advent of the Christians in name only.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:09:35] Well, it was definitely Christian in name only. But see, a lot of Christians today have a struggle with that because they want to believe that all of this error that’s going on in Christianity and the diversity of Christianity was just part and parcel of it. They don’t want to believe that at the very beginning there was a pristine Church that held to a pristine doctrine. So how do you explain in the Bible them baptizing in Jesus name and three hundred years later, they’re advocating for Trinity baptism? How do you explain that? Well, you go to Matthew chapter 19 and try to prove that’s the real baptism and they can’t do it. So, but of…

Ryan French: [00:10:16] …wouldn’t we as apostolics, point to Jesus himself who warned that there would be wolves that would come in and there would be false doctrines and false Christ of all kinds?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:29] And Paul himself said it was happening right under his nose

Ryan French: [00:10:33] Right in the beginning, Judaizers…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:10:34] But those errors, of course, weren’t Trinitarian, you don’t see anything remotely Trinitarian until close to two hundred, certainly, I’ve had a lot of Trinitarians say to me, well, oh my goodness. Well, if it could happen if Trinitarianism evolved by two hundred, it could have been one hundred years earlier as if the one hundred years doesn’t make a difference. Look at America right now, how quickly it’s gone from one type of country almost into socialism or bordering on it. We’re literally battling right now for the soul of America all within twenty-five years. So, think of that.

Ryan French: [00:11:16] Amazing how in one or two decades the whole world can change.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:19] And if you add a century to it, so in a century you could have a church, for example, a Pentecostal group could start off as holiness and one hundred years later, not even know what holiness is.

Ryan French: [00:11:33] Not even resemble what they began as…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:11:35] I was a part of a Pentecostal group that was strict holiness. And then within twenty-five years, they dropped it and moved on to something else. And today they don’t even know if they’re Pentecostal.

Ryan French: [00:11:46] I was listening to a podcast the other day. I can’t remember his name. The podcast is called Apologia and they’re Trinitarians. I think they consider themselves Southern Baptists of some kind. And he was really attacking… Actually, the podcast, for the most part, they’re pretty interesting. But out of nowhere, he started attacking what he called Modalists. But of course, he’s talking about oneness people and he wasn’t attacking us because I think he was looking at a kind of a charismatic, non-denominational, kind of wishy-washy group. They’re not really oneness, but they’re not really Trinitarian either. They’re just kind of a “whatever” kind of a deal. And it was so interesting because he had spent the beginning of the episode talking about Sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of Scripture, which, of course, I was on board with that. It sounded like something I would say that we’ve got to hold… we’ve got to pull all of our doctrines out and hold everything up to the light of Scripture, which is language that I identify with. But then when he started attacking modalism or the oneness and basically rebuking this group very strongly for basically rejecting what he called the Triune God or the Triune Godhead, he never used the word Trinity, which I thought was interesting. He always used the word triune. Instead of appealing to Scripture, he never once appealed to Scripture to do that, he appealed to church history. And I thought, how interesting, you just spent your forty-five minutes basically saying we’ve got to hold all of our beliefs up to the Word of God. But then when you’re defending your triune belief in the Godhead and a triune baptism and all of this, instead of going back to Sola Scriptura, you’re going to church history and stopping there and you’re not even going all the way back in church history. You’re going…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:00] Well, it’s really enlightening that you’re hearing this podcast and they’re doing this because that’s exactly what goes on with Trinitarian thought. Now, that doesn’t mean that Trinitarian scholars don’t think they can prove the trinity in the Bible. They basically think that they’re proving the trinity in the Bible through a series of hints. Like how can you have a Son if there’s not a Father? And so, everything’s through hints. There’s no direct teaching about it.

Ryan French: [00:14:39] You’ve got the dove and Jesus and the voice…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:14:42] I’ve often said this, and this is the way most oneness people think. If the Bible meant to teach a trinity, it would say there is a trinity. Now, then you would have the problem that Moses did not believe in a trinity, and the God of the Old Testament then and the revealed God of the New Testament would be very different. So they would say, well, the Son came. This is Trinitarian logic. So the Son came, was born, and came to earth and that proved there was a trinity before. So the logic of Trinitarianism theologically is not rooted in the Bible. It’s rooted in what the church accepted over three hundred years. And so, they have several issues with it, of course. But let’s go back to this group then that says, well, we’re going to condemn oneness people because of church history. That’s basically what they’re doing. They’re saying that we have to trust the church. So, whatever the church said in three hundred or five hundred, no matter that it became Catholic…

Ryan French: [00:15:46] I was just going to say, why aren’t we all Catholic then?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:15:48] Well, we would be if we followed that logic. But they’re not following logic. The only thing they’re following logically in that period is the doctrine of the Trinity. They don’t believe much else about it. And of course, the Catholic Church had lots of issues that even to this day are so far from Scripture. And oneness people are simply saying the trinity is not found in Scripture, therefore we don’t embrace it.

Ryan French: [00:16:18] This guy went so far as to say, and I’m not even mentioning his name because it’s not worth it to me, but I’m just wanting to think through the logic of how… I view him, I guess, as maybe a stand-in or a type of that group’s way of thinking. He was basically saying that if you’re not Trinitarian and again, I thought it was fascinating he never used the word Trinitarian or Trinity, but if you don’t believe in the triune Godhead, you’re not a Christian. You’re a cult of Christianity. In fairness to him, I’m actually thankful that he believes what he believes and that he’ll fight for it because I feel much the same way. But in reverse, I feel like, for example, I look at the Catholic Church in some ways as a Christian cult as well, at least theologically. I don’t mean that everyone in the Catholic Church is a cult, but at least the leadership of it. But then there’s also this secondary growing movement. That. Other generations have not seen like my generation is seeing, and that is a middle group that says, well, it doesn’t matter if you’re trinitarian or oneness. Because what people will say and I know you’ve heard this, that it’s all, it’s just semantics. It’s just semantics. So that’s why you have a lot of people, and we’re really rabbit trailing, but this is a great discussion. You have a lot of people who will say, how we’ll all kind of meet in the middle and we will baptize people and we’ll say in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whose name is Jesus, and then they feel like they’re covering all their bases. And they’ll say, well, when you speak of the Trinity, we’re actually oneness. But then you have groups like this guy at Apologia who considers that to be heresy, and then you have groups like us on the complete other end of the spectrum. How do we start to combat? What I think of as the growing trend towards this kind of middle ground wishy-washy it doesn’t matter?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:18:42] That is exactly the most important question because what you’re really describing is the state of the Christian church today. You have Christianity, let’s call it Orthodox thinking. All right. The fellow you’re describing, whoever he is, is typical of people that are trying to hold on to Orthodoxy. Now he would be opposed to Catholicism. I’m just guessing. And so, in most of its varieties. But yet what he means by Orthodox thinking is there has to be something that roots, that roots the church and that’s Trinitarianism. Now, the fact of the matter is, though, that Christianity has moved away from that. They’re no longer looking at trinity. Christian liberalism is no longer worried about the trinity. This has been going on for a very long time. We’re talking seventeen hundreds all the way to now. So, we’re talking a very long time where Christians have begun to quit… For example, the deity of Jesus will this fellow you’re talking about is going to fight for the deity of Jesus. So really what we’re

Ryan French: [00:19:58] Really common ground there, which is interesting…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:19:59] We have common ground.

Ryan French: [00:20:01] It’s weird because we wind up almost having common ground with people who are very opposed to some of our beliefs…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:06] His starting point is the trinity. You either start with the trinity or you’re nothing. That’s what he says. Right. Liberalism has no starting point whatsoever. It’s what we think of it as sort of the squishy middle. All right. Now, Catholics are very Orthodox. They are basically unchanged now. There’s lots of troubles in the Catholic Church, but they’re basically unchanged. They’re still holding to the idea of the pope and the universal nature of Catholicism and the trinity. They’ve altered almost nothing regarding the trinity, even though many Catholic scholars have come along and wondered about the possibility of modal thinking and so on.

Ryan French: [00:20:51] And there’s even been outpourings of the Holy Ghost in the Catholic Church, is that correct? I don’t mean in the church as a whole, but in individual churches and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:20:59] Absolutely, there’s been a major outpouring in all denominations and people have accepted speaking in tongues. It’s somewhat fading at the moment.

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Dr. Talmadge French: [00:22:48] What we’re seeing then is that there’s what liberalism has become, and what the oneness movement has become, and this is what this fellow is reacting to. The oneness movement, if you look at various groups that have diverged from Trinitarian thinking, you could think of the squishy middle and the liberals as diverging from Trinitarian thinking. But it’s not wholesale abandonment of Trinitarianism. But so you look at the groups out there that say, I just don’t think the Trinity is the right answer. Well, the largest group of those are oneness people because we’re talking somewhere between 30 and 50 million living believers right now that stand strong for oneness theology. All right. And so these folks are trying to hold on to a complete one hundred percent trinity is the answer. Well, the Catholic Church does it and they’re doing it. And we might call him the orthodox conservative element, they are doing it.

Ryan French: [00:23:50] Is there anybody else who holds on? And I know there is. But we could just for people who might be thinking with us in this discussion, aside from the Catholic Church, aside from maybe the Southern Baptists, are the Presbyterians still holding on to Trinitarianism?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:07] They’re split on the issue; Lutherans are split over lots of issues. So, you have a lot of liberals who would talk about the trinity, but they don’t believe in the Trinity in the way that we would think of as Orthodox. Right. They’re not quite sure of, for example, the deity of Christ is extremely squishy in the middle…

Ryan French: [00:24:35] Can you explain to people who may not understand what you mean by the deity of Christ…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:24:39] That Jesus is actually God…

Ryan French: [00:24:40] So maybe mention a popular, I’ll use the word heresy or false doctrine, that people are falling into about the deity of Jesus, that he was not God…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:04] Liberal Christians like, you know, it goes all the way back to the seventeen hundreds of people like Schleiermacher who thought that you could never be certain that Jesus was Divine. He wasn’t necessarily Divine. What he did was from God. So, the heresy would be what conservatives today would refer to as the Fatherhood of God, that God was just the Father. The Son was not Divine. So, you would end up with one God, but Jesus wasn’t part of a Godhead.

Ryan French: [00:25:40] What would you call that doctrine?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:42] Well, I call it liberalism or theologically, it was this idea of the Fatherhood of God.

Ryan French: [00:25:48] Now how is that different from Divine Flesh?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:25:53] Oh, totally. Yeah. There’s no relationship. Divine Flesh is that Jesus was not only God but that his flesh was Divine. His flesh was not his actual flesh. It was not an actual flesh. It was Divine something. Yes. Which is which is heresy!

Ryan French: [00:26:08] Which denies the humanity…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:26:10] It sacrifices the real humanity of Christ. So that’s a totally different error which is not just something that we see in Pentecostalism, it’s something that you see all the way back to the time of Luther. This idea that there was for example, that all comes from the idea that the Catholics said you could eat the actual flesh, the Eucharist, that when you take the Eucharist, you put it into your mouth, it becomes flesh. So, in that came all kinds of error, which, of course, is one of the problems with Catholic thinking, just one of the things. But you see, the fellow you’re talking about is attempting to hold on to the absolute trinity of God, whether the Bible ever taught it or not, because what they’re going to do is extrapolate it back. Now, in other words, say, even though the Bible doesn’t explicitly teach it, it’s there and that’s what they believe, though they never said it. Now, that’s, of course, rather crazy to say they believe something they never said they believed and never even used the word trinity.

Ryan French: [00:27:12] Yeah, I was going to say… So, this is kind of how our relationship for those that don’t know, I’m very privileged to serve with Dad, going on nine years now, here on the south side of Atlanta. The way we work in our church is, dad’s the genius and I’m always kind of the everyday weird word guy, but speaking of the word weird to use completely nontheological terminology, don’t you think? I don’t mean this in an ugly, disrespectful way. Just logically, isn’t it weird to go to church history? To pull the doctrine of the Trinity, but then ignore church history to leave the Catholic Church and then try to go back to the Bible? Just logically, isn’t that flawed? It’s flawed in so many ways…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:28:17] So one way to think of it, if we could not get too complex, is that they look back into church history and try to find the trinity. And of course, it did develop in the hundreds and hundreds of years so that you ended up with basically just one church that was Catholic. Now, that doesn’t mean there was just one church because we started up this discussion asking the question, did the oneness movement go all the way back? And I said, well, the answer is yes, it does go all the way back. But the question is, how does it do that?

Ryan French: [00:28:54] Well, and my answer is always that this movement goes all the way back to the Old Testament. Right. But you know that that’s a simplistic answer.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:02] So what oneness people need to be doing is finding out how it went all the way back, because you’re not going to have the enemies of the oneness of God looking for answers for how the oneness was embraced. I’m quite convinced by church history that there were tons of oneness people. And I see…

Ryan French: [00:29:25] Yes. OK, so we’re going to jump into that in just a second. But I keep feeling the need to backtrack for people who aren’t… I know we have people who have these kinds of discussions and read these kinds of things all the time, but I know there are some wonderful people out there and maybe this is the first time they’ve really used some of these terms. So, let me go all the way back to kind of the beginning. And you used the word restorationist. Can you just give a brief definition of what a restorationist is? OK, and you know, we’re restorationist.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:29:57] Many Christians that are not Pentecostal are restorationists and almost all Pentecostals are restorationists. A restorationist is someone who views Christian faith as something that they lost.

Ryan French: [00:30:17] Martin Luther for example?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:18] Well, Lutherans are not, strictly speaking, restorationists, but there were many restorationists…

Ryan French: [00:30:27] But Martin Luther himself was…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:30:28] Martin Luther saw himself as restoring to the church what he viewed as Catholicism’s having lost. So, you end up with Lutheranism now, Lutherans themselves did not view themselves as strict restorationists. And like Pentecostals do, Pentecostals view themselves as restorationists because people were not baptizing correctly. Well, let’s say, for example. The Catholic Church baptizes infants, yes, so do Methodists, so do lots of people, but restorationist-minded people say we have to go back to the Bible to find our answer. Or oneness Pentecostals say that not only for the way you baptize but people speaking in tongues. Well, did speaking in tongues stop? No. But did the church as a whole stop preaching, speaking in tongues? Obviously, they did. Certainly, was not practiced in the era of the Catholic dominance and so on, and so now does that mean nobody was speaking in tongues? No, I suspect a lot of people were speaking in tongues, but it was not something you got away with because Catholicism basically choked it up. There was a whole lot of rooting out people that didn’t believe what they wanted you to believe.

Ryan French: [00:31:51] That tags perfectly with where I wanted to go next, which is kind of a twofold question. I wanted you to maybe introduce Michael Servetus to people who maybe have never heard of him before. You might give some information they don’t know. But also tagging into that, at what point did the Catholic Church become militant in the sense that they forced you to believe with the sword? You’ve got the Crusades and you’ve got the Catholic Church burning people at the stake. I often tell people, well, of course, in history, if you’re oneness and if you were speaking in tongues you were probably going underground because otherwise you might get burned at the stake. Or you might have your tongue cut out. So, when did that start? When did the church become violent, which to me is evil, of course? Can you imagine if the Church was trying to be militant today how we’d be…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:32:59] You know, it’s interesting because the group that you were describing at the beginning that is trying to hold on to strict Trinitarianism and condemning oneness people would probably say that when Calvin burned Servetus at the stake that that was OK because how dare him deny something that Calvin believed was 100% theologically correct.

Ryan French: [00:33:27] So for people who don’t know John Calvin…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:30] Was a reformer of Protestantism who had Servetus because he was oneness had him burned at the stake.

Ryan French: [00:33:39] So what time are we talking about here?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:41] That was in the fifteen hundreds.

Ryan French: [00:33:45] So you’re about a thousand five hundred or so…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:33:49] So we’re talking five hundred years ago. So, think of it. The Church involved in five hundred years at the beginning from an Apostolic Bible group. By 500 years later you have basically them talking about is Mary the mother of God and is there a pope that rules the church? None of that’s in the Bible. And yet that’s where the church is. Trinitarianism is pretty rampant in Christianity by then.

Ryan French: [00:34:15] John Calvin, even today, you have Calvinism and probably, I think, one of the most dangerous, deadly false doctrines that still permeates a lot of. Quote unquote, Christian thinking is what I call once saved, always saved, or the doctrine of eternal security, where no matter what you do, you can’t be plucked from the hand of God. You can be an adulterer. But if you’ve said your prayer and all that, then you’re saved. Or you’ve got some people who are Divinely destined for Hell and some people are Divinely destined for Heaven because God chose… All of this is Calvinism or finds its roots in Calvinism. And so, you have this massive segment of Christianity that puts Calvin on this huge pedestal. And yet he was a murderer. In my mind. I consider him wicked. Are you willing to say? We’ve talked about this, but are you willing to say that Calvin was a wicked maniac. And I know he was a genius in a certain sense, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:35:15] Oh, I don’t think anyone that burns people alive, is anything short of a wicked person. OK, so but to what I was referring to a moment ago, I’ve been very outspoken that Calvin’s behavior was unbelievable. And he was no. It turns out that here he was one of the most outspoken critics of Catholicism in the fifteen hundreds, and yet he used the same tactics. That was to kill the people he opposed, kill the opposition. Now, I had a professor because I’m oneness, but I haven’t always been and had a professor at a Christian university that I attended told me that you have to expect you’re going to be burned alive if you oppose theological thinking. And I said, so you’re saying that killing Christians is OK? And he said, no, no, I’m not saying that. I’m trying to say you have to understand that we have to forgive Calvin. I said, no, I cannot forgive Calvin. Nobody can forgive Calvin. But God. He murdered a man for no reason. So in other words, using that was the Catholic notion. And by the same token, Catholics forgive their past for killing, who knows how many thousands of people. I mean, in horrific ways, just think of the Inquisition. But to simplify this, though, what actually occurred. So you got 500 years of the early church where there was things happening, where the faith and speaking in tongues and baptism in Jesus’ name was becoming a minority and people were pushing it back. I call it the Dark Ages and I don’t get this from oneness people. I get this from conservatives who now are nervous about using the term the Dark Ages, where they begin to move into a period of time where one group began to take control of Christianity and everybody like you couldn’t, for example, at the time of the Reformation, which was fifteen hundreds and the hundred years or two-hundred years before that, you could be executed for owning a Bible. Yes, for printing a Bible, because the Catholic Church said nobody could control the Bible but them.

Ryan French: [00:37:41] Amazing stories of people who got a Tindale Bible and go hide in their closet to be able to read and…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:37:48] So a lot of people were really moving back into what I’m thinking of as a New Dark Age and have been for a very long time. It’s probably the era just before the coming of the Lord. But what actually occurred is that in that era where, for example, you could be executed and were executed by either a Catholic or a Protestant if you immerse people. If you just took a person out and baptized them in a river and buried them and they found out about it and got caught. You could be executed.

Ryan French: [00:38:31] So and then in modern history, I don’t think it’s as bad now as it was. But, you know, theologically speaking, there was a time where you were culturally burned at the stake or intellectually burned at the stake, you were blacklisted, you were boycotted. If you deviated from at least trinitarian orthodoxy, it’s always amazing to me how you have all these denominations, the Baptists, the Catholics, and of course, the Baptists have all kinds of variations of denominations, the Methodists, the Lutherans…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:39:06] And the Church of God…

Ryan French: [00:39:07] You have all of these and they’re all united by trinitarianism. And if you walk in that orthodoxy, it’s like you’re OK, no matter what else you do. I’ve always thought that was strange and very telling… It’s one of the major doctrines that they have that is non-biblical and totally historical in context. And yet that’s what unites them. And then they put everyone else in this camp of being anti orthodoxy when in reality we’re really the orthodox ones… I want to just say something before we go back. You were talking about people being burned at the stake just for owning a Bible in the Dark Ages, where all of this time in church history, where the Catholic Church controlled the narrative of Scripture because only, they had access to the Bible. So, you were having to completely trust a priest and the pope and his emissaries to tell you what the Bible said via their interpretation. And, of course, we know now that the Catholic Church has moved far beyond the Bible and the pope can speak for God as God, and his word becomes in their way of thinking, just as an errant as the word of God. So that creates all kinds of problems. And so, you have all of these years where people were hungry. This is a whole nother discussion. I’d love to have about men like Tyndale, who you mentioned, and Wycliff, who I mean, they gave their lives to be able to translate the word of God into a language that the commoner could read and understand without having to know Latin or Greek or Hebrew. And they did all of this knowing that they were going to be persecuted and probably killed at some point. And then they distributed these precious Bibles to people, often handwritten, and people were secretly getting them. I mean, some of these stories that I’ve read where I mean, it just makes you weep when people get a Bible and they’re having to hide it, they’re trying to read it for themselves. And so, you have this kind of this imposed dark age of spiritual ignorance where people, God bless them, they’re walking in darkness. But it was really the blind leading the blind. And the blind had no access to light because the Scripture was being completely controlled. But today, I think this is the point I wanted to get at. As you said, it’s like we’re going back to that. But this is different today. It’s like we have a self-imposed dark age where people have more access to the Bible than ever in the history of the world. I mean, even as I’m old enough now to remember a time when if you wanted to read the Bible. You were going to have to go to the bookstore and purchase a Bible for yourself. And if you wanted one that was going to last you were going to have to spend a good deal of money. But now people via smartphones, which it just seems like smartphones, have been with us since the beginning of time, but they haven’t. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon. And the Internet and computers, you can go to Bible Gateway right now and you can read the Bible online day or night, completely free, any translation you want, even horrific ones. But you have access to it. And yet statistics tell us that people are reading the Bible less and less and less. So, it’s almost as if we have this overwhelming access to it and now people are indifferent to it. It’s not that there’s a class of people above us keeping us from the Word of God, it’s that people are keeping themselves.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:43:42] Ok. Well, let’s go back to something we were talking about, and that is what does a man like Michael Servetus represent? Because the initial question has been do I believe that the oneness, Apostolic Pentecostal faith of repenting, and baptizing in the name of Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, and living holy, did that go all the way back to the early church? All those centuries, so Servetus represents a person. Who not only died for the very message that I’m preaching right now, but he represents an entire generation of people that believed because even though church history is difficult to trace, because, you know, the victors wipe out a great deal of the writings and..?

Ryan French: [00:44:50] Yeah, they get to write the history.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:44:52] And plus, if you know your children are going to die, if they find out who you are and where you are, you keep that a secret. So, you have these, you know, evidences. So, I’m going to give just a quick answer now that we’re in the context of Michael Servetus, who died brutally, by the way, I mean, of course, you couldn’t be burned at the stake without it being brutal, but the entire episode was brutal. It was a man that at the age of fourteen knew seven languages, I mean, he is one of the most brilliant men of the Reformation.

Ryan French: [00:45:25] …and not just the theologian.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:45:27] And he had gone to Calvin because he wanted so desperately to talk to him about the need to get back to Scripture. And they executed him. So, all of the people that held to oneness views throughout the centuries, we cannot excavate all of their writings even though we know about lots of them, but we don’t know what all of them believe because they’re lost to history.

Ryan French: [00:46:04] They’re not in the iCloud.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:46:05] And yet, if you say that to someone who’s the victor, who says, well, I’m a trinitarian and I am, bless God, it goes all the way back. And you said, well, you have killed all of our people. How are we supposed to be able to then mount a historical defense? We don’t have the ability to dig out their graves and find all their writings. But we know they were there because when we trace the evidence, we can find the group that he came from and why he held the oneness view goes all the way back to his childhood. And it’s difficult to do, but it can be done. We know that in, for example, that in Spain, where he was born, there was a group there baptizing in Jesus’ name all the way back. So, and what that did for me was it didn’t just demonstrate that Servetus believed in the oneness of God, but that he applied it to his understanding of baptism, in other words, he didn’t baptize in a trinity formula because he came from a group that didn’t baptize in the trinity formula and that this is the way you almost have to do history. Throughout the entire period.

Ryan French: [00:47:17] Servetus was a genius. Yes. Don’t you think some of Calvin’s venom towards Servetus was jealousy not just theologically rooted?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:47:30] There’s no doubt it was jealousy. There was a whole lot of jealousy. Yeah, Calvin as a man, not as a scholar, had a lot of faults. And one of them was this. I mean, he’s the great scourge on Calvin was the burning of a Protestant. He was burned. He became the martyr that shocked the world. There’s not a long history of Protestants burning one another. Right. But Servetus who was oneness is the one that they that basically…

Ryan French: [00:48:07] Is Servetus the only individual that we know of that Calvin burned or did… Was that common practice for him to have people executed?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:15] No, it was not common practice for him to execute people.

Ryan French: [00:48:20] You mentioned…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:48:21] So I want to say this, since we’re right there, that it’s difficult to understand why a trinitarian would be so opposed to oneness thinking because modalism espouses 100 percent the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Absolutely. And as one God, totally not in a trinitarian sense, but absolutely one God. Jesus is Divine. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they’re all one, actually one. And yet they’re so opposed to it that the hatred for it would literally lead a man to burn another man at the stake. I find it. I mean, to…

Ryan French: [00:49:07] To me, I’m just going to make a very controversial statement, maybe not to us, but to many Christians, it’s demonic. It’s rooted in a demonic…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:49:19] Well, you mean to kill someone?

Ryan French: [00:49:22] Well, trinitarian itself is, well, demonically inspired. I mean, when you have a group of people perverting the word of God and then turning into a movement that’s murdering people. To me, that is evidence of it being a demonically inspired theology. And for that to be the hill that, quote-unquote, Christians would be willing to kill people on. Throughout history and then today, for people to be willing to intellectually and culturally kill people to use extreme language…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:04] It’s extreme to burn someone at the stake. And then you also have the context that now after the oneness movement has been around here for over 100 years now. So today the trend is what liberalism is doing to say, I don’t believe in all that holiness and baptism in Jesus’ name and moralism, but I accept that they’re genuine Christians. That’s the trend. Yeah. So, your friend, the fellow you were listening to, he’s in the minority because today…

Ryan French: [00:50:41] He’s rejecting that…

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:50:43] He’s rejecting that trend that says, hey, I can accept because the Pentecostal church today, the oneness movement within it is massive. And even Trinitarian Pentecostals are more and more embraced. For example, I’m involved because I have a Ph.D. and I’m involved in lots of things in Pentecostalism. I’m involved with Trinitarians that I totally oppose their theological stance. And yet I’m in academic societies with them trying to get the oneness message in my beliefs and my writings out there. And they’re willing to allow that by not burning me at the stake,

Ryan French: [00:51:26] Not anymore.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:51:27] They’re not anymore that’s the trend. Now, that doesn’t mean there are tons of people that hold to a Trinitarianism. I guess we’d have to wait till the Lord comes to figure out what’s in people’s hearts. But the sad thing is that Calvin didn’t wait, he just went ahead and burned, burned oneness people. That’s what he did.

Ryan French: [00:51:49] Maybe we have someone listening who and I’m sure we do or will maybe they are trinitarians or maybe they’re not sure. And. They’re trying to think through, and I’ve had many sincere people, many sincere, good Christians who when I say this may take it in a condescending way and I don’t mean to be condescending, but what I think of as low information Christians, they don’t really know anything about church history. It’s amazing how many people you meet now. They don’t know anything about church history. They really don’t know their Bible. They might know like for God so loved the world. They might know, John, 3:16 or something like that, but they don’t really know Scripture. And so, they’re trying to very simplistically and sincerely, which, by the way, you know, if you will approach God simplistically and sincerely and you’re truly doing that with a heart to seek after God. You know, I believe the Bible says Jesus himself said seek and you shall find knock on the door, it will open. So that’s a beautiful thing. I’m not criticizing that. But maybe someone’s asking themselves and I even know apostolics who ask themselves this question, what is the difference theologically, and how does it affect our salvation? I always come back to baptism, but if I’m a trinitarian, or if I’m oneness, what does it matter to God? Why would God care how I view it, and I know that’s a big, broad, crazy, strange question loaded with minefields, but what does it matter? That’s really what the middle is asking. What does it matter? Does it ultimately matter if you’re trinitarian or if you’re oneness or…?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:53:35] It must matter. Let’s keep it in the context of our conversation right there. If it mattered enough to a trinitarian to kill a man who didn’t believe it. Then there is an enormous difference in my mind, having been a Trinitarian. And of course, I know a whole lot of oneness people who were trinitarian and there’s lots of them, they get a lot of flak because trinitarians believe that, as you said a moment ago, that if you think that Jesus is God but is not a second person in the Godhead, then you’re not even going to Heaven. That’s how strong they are now, I believe that trinitarianism and oneness doctrine are the same as light and darkness, because trinitarianism is not a biblical message when you say that Jesus is not God himself, but he’s part of God himself. That’s not a biblical message. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He’s the totality. He’s not part of the Godhead. He is the Godhead. So in my mind, trinitarianism was the godhead of a Christianity that had lost its way. The oneness doctrine is the godhead of the apostles, so it makes all the difference now, which is why we call ourselves apostolic.

Ryan French: [00:55:06] And so they change baptism. From Jesus’ name baptism to trinity baptism. But that in itself is heresy beyond… This is where I always go, right? Because it’s the easiest one to go to. The greatest flaw or the greatest evil of trinitarianism. Is that it now becomes a changing of the mode, the salvific mode of baptism, where now you are baptizing people in titles instead of in the name and we know that the name is really where the efficacy of baptism comes into play. It’s not the water. It can’t be the water. The Bible tells us that over and over again we’re supposed to be baptized in water. But it’s the calling of the name that is where the power comes from. So, you have trinitarianism that now affects the way you’re baptized, that directly impacts your salvation. And then also in the way that you prayed, because I talked to people all the time who are trinitarian and they’ll say or I’ve talked to people who used to be trinitarian and now they’re oneness and they say, I don’t know how to pray because should I be praying to the Father? Should I be praying to the Son? Should I be praying to the Holy Ghost? So now you’re not fulfilling Scripture and saying whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus. It affects all of it in a strange way.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:56:48] I agree. So, we’re deep here, we’re tiptoeing into church history, but we’re currently in a very deep theological question when we are thinking about how trinitarian thought and oneness thought are different. But that’s precisely what the church, the church was dealing with, going all the way back. What we’ve done is we’ve pulled ourselves for a moment out of just a theological intellectual conversation into a real practical world. How does this theology practically affect individuals and the tragedy of any false doctrine, just like any error, whether it’s religious or not? Error, always falsehood always has practical, real-world implications that wind up hurting everyday human beings who are seeking after God. This is the great tragedy of error and false doctrine. Of course, Jesus warned us this would happen. I’m always amazed when people act shocked that this could happen because it was so clear he couldn’t have possibly been clearer. You’re going to be persecuted. I think as Americans, though, we’re just so spoiled because we’ve had such a long history of freedom, although I think that’s in jeopardy. We may not get to enjoy that, at least not the way we have for much longer. At the rate, we’re going. What’s on the horizon? Only God knows. Only God’s plan is good. The rest of it is looking darker and darker as we go.

Ryan French: [00:58:57] Quickly. And I know we’ve gone close to an hour here, and I appreciate your time. I really do. We’ve already talked about Michael Servetus. I mean, we could just spend an hour introducing Servetus to people. And I feel bad saying what we’ve said without clarifying more for people. My hope is maybe this will spark people’s interest and some people will go dig deeper.

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:22] Yes.

Ryan French: [00:59:23] Sebelius as well, a different era. But in church history, we do know of some oneness or at least medalists who were speaking of these things. Can you mention just some of the common ones that we know of aside from Sebelius, and give just like the quick bullet point information about who those people, those people might be?

Dr. Talmadge French: [00:59:47] Well, there are dozens of oneness… What scholars sometimes call modalists. And the word modalists means that instead of there being multiple persons of God, there is God acting in different modes. So you call that modalism and the trend in modern theology is to think of God in modes. And so Carlebach, for example, spoke of modalism and favorably, but he, of course, still maintained they believed in the trinity. But so all the way back through church history.

Ryan French: [01:00:28] Is it correct to call ourselves modalists? Are we?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:00:31] Well, I’ve always said there’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes people are uncomfortable, especially current leaders in the modern oneness movement. I think most oneness people are uncomfortable with that because they don’t know where it came from or they think it came from the enemy or something. The fact of the matter is, modalism is a way of describing anyone who holds to a godhead in which the Father, Son, and the Spirit are in some way modal. And Oneness beliefs hold that Jesus and the Father were just modal differences, that the way in which God revealed himself in the Son was not a different person than the God who revealed himself in the Spirit. That’s what oneness is. So, to me, that modalism is fine. It’s just that some oneness people today are worried that there are forms of modalism we disagree with. So, I don’t have a problem with it. But, you know, that’s just the way it is. And so, for trinitarians to say modalists is helpful because they then realize you’re talking about church history, they typically think of them as modes because the term oneness is a fairly recent term. It’s a term that came to be very popular among former trinitarians that had become modalists and their view of who Jesus was. They saw it as a revelation a Divine revelation that Jesus was the Father in his human form, in the mode of humanity and therefore the son was not another person. It was the Father revealing himself. And this is exactly what Servetus taught. It’s exactly what Sebelius thought.

Ryan French: [01:02:24] Is it overly simplistic theologically, because I always go to the overly simplistic, but is it overly simplistic theologically for me and many others who have done it? To use the analogy that I’m a father and a son. Because people say, how can you be the father and son and I often say to people, I’m a father and a son. I could be multiple things at once but that doesn’t make me multiple people. But in the end, I have a legal name that must be used legally.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:02:57] And we can see that we’re moving now again into a very deeply theological way of understanding, which is important. It’s absolutely essential, but it’s difficult for some people, like, for example, trying to understand trinitarianism, you cannot comprehend. It’s not hard because you would have a father and a son who are both internal and they’re both God, they’re both gods within a God. That’s simply illogical. How can you be? And they’re going how can you…

Ryan French: [01:03:24] Right. How in the world can you both be all-powerful? Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:03:28] So but the same is true here when we’re talking about trying to explain modalism. Does it mean that I was a father, and I was a son? And of course, it is true of God. God was both Father and Son. How did that occur? Well, at the same time that he was a Father. He also became the Son. He didn’t quit being the Father when he became the Son. So, any modalism that held to that view I’ve just described. And so, this becomes deeply theological, rather because…

Ryan French: [01:04:03] He overshadows Mary.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:05] That’s right. The Father and the Spirit. So, the Spirit is the Father’s spirit. The Son is the Father’s humanity, you see. So, God becomes the Son. God is working in the Spirit. They’re not separate persons as though…

Ryan French: [01:04:22] Well, and even with Jesus you have this kind of interchangeable language where I come from my Father, but then I’m sending it. So even Jesus was kind of using interchangeable language that to me if I was trinitarian, would be extremely confusing because how could Jesus be sending his Spirit? You know, how is that even possible if they’re not the same thing?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:04:45] So what we’re doing is we’re explaining how the oneness view differs from the trinitarian view. And so when oneness people view, Jesus, they view Jesus as being the revelation of the Father. He is the Father in his human form. He came to earth in Jesus Christ. So, yes. So, when says, for example, we’ll just give one example that this is very important to oneness theology, that Jesus said it’s not my work I’m doing. Yeah, I’m doing the works of the Father. All right. So it’s trinitarianism that can’t account for that. Now they claim they can because they say the Son laid down his deity or something like that.

Ryan French: [01:05:31] Almost every intellectually honest trinitarian that I’ve ever talked to or heard. At some point will get to a place where they say, I believe in the trinity, but it’s inexplicable. I believe in it, but it’s a great mystery that we’ll never fully understand. It’s the great mystery. How does the average trinitarian deal with Jesus saying something like, you know, Philip, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:00] Right now, my contention is they can’t. Now they will appear to be answering it, they’ll give answers. But, you know, you can give answers that aren’t answers. And that’s what trinitarians have to do when you get to the point where you’re talking about the biblical Jesus. He is not saying I’m another person from the Father. He’s not saying that. But they would then argue they said the opposite. How could you be the same person? This is where trinitarian. But when you’re not going back to John 14, where Jesus said, if you’ve seen me, well, you know, that’s not the question you ask. You didn’t ask that one you ask. Yeah, you did. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen that his response was, if you’ve seen me, how can you ask me?

Ryan French: [01:06:45] Right.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:06:50] So a trinitarian would have to go back to John 10, four chapters earlier where Jesus said, I and the Father are one. And then they would have to argue that one there doesn’t mean one.

Ryan French: [01:07:02] I was just going to say, how could you even go to John…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:07:08] They have to attempt to build a multiple-person God. That’s still one God, which of course, that in itself is illogical.

Ryan French: [01:07:17] Yes, it’s illogical. Now, this brings me to something I wanted to mention and define for people. We’ve used the word modalist, but then there’s another word people use for oneness people. Apostolic monotheism or monotheistic. So just simple mono meaning one and theistic meaning God. In the Old Testament, one of the great defining characteristics of the Old Testament and the great separator that God gave for the Israelites was the fact that they were a monotheistic people. Israel, the Lord, our God is one in a world at the time where Egypt, they’re worshipping thousands of gods and they have a god for everything. The sun, the moon, the stars, the grass, the bugs. And then you have all of these other pagan nations that are worshipping multiple gods. And then and then God commands. He says, you know, there’s no other God before me. Thou shalt have no other God before me. Do Trinitarians? Now, I’ll just put my belief out there, no matter how offensive it might be, I believe that trinitarians, if you follow their doctrine logically, are polytheists, meaning that they do believe whether they claim it or not, because most of them don’t, but they do essentially wind up worshipping three gods, which to me is an absolute affront to God himself in the sense that God over and over and over commands us to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:08:56] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:08:57] …understand that there is one God and that we’re to serve him alone. And when you separate him into three persons or beings now, you have done exactly what God essentially in my mind, what Satan did was he came in and he was able to convolute, quote unquote, Christianity to the point that now you have idolatry in the church.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:17] Right.

Ryan French: [01:09:19] But the idol that winds up being worshipped is supposedly the true God. But I know that most trinitarians would not. Am I correct in saying most trinitarians would never claim to be polytheistic? Is that correct? Absolutely. No one would claim not to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:37] They do claim to be. And they and technically they are monotheists now, OK, because they say…

Ryan French: [01:09:43] How?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:09:44] The reason they can claim it is that they make every effort from Nicaea till now to say that the trinity itself is one God, but existing somehow mysteriously beyond any human comprehension is that the three that are let’s call them the three divines that are in their right persons? Because let’s just not say persons for now that they’re still. It’s so mysterious. It’s incomprehensible. And of course, what they’re actually doing is having to be oneness. They have to start out being oneness. Yeah. In order to end up with three separate persons and they have to go back where they think they have to end up with three separate persons because there was a Father, Son, and a Spirit.

Ryan French: [01:10:37] So this takes me back and I keep coming to this because it’s so incomprehensible to me. So, if you’re claiming to be monotheistic.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:10:46] Right.

Ryan French: [01:10:48] Because most times when you pin them down, they want to say, well, there’s one God. I mean, I hear this all the time. You can hear it in music, in Christian music, popular Christian music written by trinitarians, where you can have a song written by a trinitarian called One God. I mean, there is one right now. It’s a great song. And I often ask myself, how can they write a song like that and then reject oneness. So why if they’re doing that why would you go to John Calvin for example, if he’s starting with and saying I’m monotheistic, why in the world would he attack someone and be angry towards someone who is monotheistic in every sense of the word? Does that make sense?

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:11:38] It makes sense to me. It’s complicated to the average person. We’re sitting here trying to explain why a deeply theological basically leader of one of the largest movements in Christianity murdered another Christian. That’s what we’re trying to explain.

Ryan French: [01:11:56] So that’s impossible. Let’s come to now let’s come to the present.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:00] All right.

Ryan French: [01:12:02] The unnamed guy that I can’t think of his name on the podcast, Apologia. How could he spend so much time and people like him? Why would they find it in their hearts so necessary to condemn truly monotheistic people? When yet he himself claims to be monotheistic, how does that jive and are you able to…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:27] This is becoming I mean, very, very few people today take the position. I mean, fewer and fewer. He might could name millions, but very few people today look at oneness people and say you’re damned to hell. It’s not like it was…

Ryan French: [01:12:44] Because of your belief, not like it was at the turn of the last century.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:12:47] Things have changed so drastically. And they would consider that unfortunate because we ought to be condemned. We ought to do just what Calvin did. And this gentleman has to be careful because what he’s wrestling with is and it’s a fear of other monotheists that that upholds. Now, if you are violating Jesus himself and saying he’s not God, then you would have the basis on which to begin to condemn, truly condemn someone. But he believes that his trinitarian understanding of the oneness of God, of the one God blessed, that is so true that my denying it or not believing or accepting it, by the way, there’s tons and tons of trinitarians who do not believe the concepts of the trinity in their minds. They can’t accept that. They somehow just believe that it’s just one God. They cannot make this three person distinction that trinitarians want you to do so among their own people. They do it. More and more, but…

Ryan French: [01:13:55] Which is why I think if you’re not a theologian, someone’s listening who’s not a theologian or philosopher, you’re just, you know, a good person who loves the Lord. We have to try and help these individuals.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:03] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:07] When I say average, I don’t mean that in the sense that, I mean they may be very above average, but I mean average in the sense of their understanding and exposure to the Bible and theology. We have to help them understand there are real life spiritual consequences when you embrace the false doctrine of the trinity.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:14:18] Yes.

Ryan French: [01:14:20] …and we have to try to show why that is in the sense of baptism, in the sense of how you pray, in the sense of how you’re viewing God and does God care how you view him? Well, of course, he does, because the vast majority of the Bible is God very clearly saying to people, it matters what you believe about me and it matters how you worship me. It matters how you serve me. God doesn’t have the kind of the universal philosophical mindset that the world has embraced today where everything’s fine as long as you’re sincere, as long as you’re…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:05] Well, basically the modern cultural mindset is it doesn’t matter at all what anybody believes, even conservative Christians today, among some of them, there is this notion that, well, in the end, it’s just all going to be just fine. But the consequences for believing that, look where we are in a culture, the culture is completely anti-Christian. America today is in dire straits.

Ryan French: [01:15:31] Yeah. And the question is, did the church begin that or did the world have it and it trickled into the church in a kind of ecumenical universalistic way of thinking, but that’s almost…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:43] Like the chicken…

Ryan French: [01:15:44] Yeah. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s really almost impossible to know.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:15:49] Almost impossible.

Ryan French: [01:15:51] It’s tempting. I think for oneness people, you know, the oneness movement and the tongue talking movement and we won’t even throw holiness in. That’s a whole nother deal. But historically, and when I say historically, I don’t mean going back to Servetus. I mean since the turn of the last century we were very persecuted, lots of persecution, physical persecution, but…

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:16:18] Right.

Ryan French: [01:16:20] …even greater was the cultural persecution, the rejection, the being cast out from society, being marginalized. When you talk to the elders and there’s still elders today who are right here in our church, we have to Sister Cole, whose father founded Tupelo Children’s Mansion, and the stories of him being taken out and beaten within an inch of his life and the scars on his back and all of the things that people went through, the horrific things that we can’t even imagine. And as horrible as that was, and none of us would want to experience that, in many ways, it galvanized the movement. The church is always, I mean, even when you go back to the New Testament, the Church has always galvanized and grown in persecution. And the Church seems to always struggle in times of ease. I think it’s one of the reasons why you see, for example, this summer, we’ll talk about it hopefully soon. You know, your research on the oneness movement in China, you were shocked when you were writing and studying for the book Our God is One, which was first your thesis for your master’s at Wheaton College. And you studied how the preachers and the pastors, how they were I mean, unbelievable physical persecution, not just being thrown in jail. I mean, to be thrown in jail would have almost been a mercy. But the things that they went through beyond just being thrown in jail, the horrific physical things that happened to them in China, and even today, there’s persecution there.

Ryan French: [01:17:58] And yet the church, the oneness apostolic Church, the revival that has been mostly underground, that has just exploded in that nation. You see that repeated in different places around the world where there’s this great massive movement and outpouring of the Holy Ghost and in nations where there’s great persecution. And then you come to America, where we’re really fairly stagnant right now. And I think a lot of that is because of the ease. So, there’s a danger. I’ve spent a lot of time drawing you into a conversation about why do the hard-core trinitarians reject the modalists and or the monotheists. But really, in some ways, I would rather deal with them. Because at least we can have a discussion where we all believe things then the squishy middle, because the squishy middle, the danger of that, we’re and we get comfortable with the squishy middle or I don’t. But many apostolics do because they’re nice to us. Does that make sense? They’re nice to us. Of course, we’re nice to them, but they’re nice to us in the sense that they might say, well, you know, you’re saved. You know, you’re fine. And, you know, I am, too, of course. And there’s really not a major difference. You know, what you believe is great, and what they believe is great. And let’s all just be in this together. Well, that’s very dangerous.

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:19:32] Pulled into the idea that everybody’s just fine is the temptation.

Ryan French: [01:19:38] It is very appealing to the church in this, especially for people who want to avoid persecution at all costs. Or preserve their ease or their assets. We might could say preserve their financial gain,

Dr. Talmadge French: [01:20:01] It reminds me, where it just seems to insert itself in your discussion here, that the last days of Revelation were described to be to ease. Where they simply say, I have need of nothing. And whenever you’re in that area of time, there are always tremendous dangers. And you’re describing.

Ryan French: [01:20:26] Yeah. And I think that I do believe that’s exactly what we are seeing.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ… | Podcast Edition

From the original blog article, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ… this episode examines what genuine repentance looks like from a Christmas perspective. Topics covered: Holiness, repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the Holy Ghost’s infilling. Ryan looks at the winter’s perceptual dichotomy in the natural, repentance in the spiritual, and the cross of Christ. Christmas readings included: If Jesus Came to Your House and The Christmas Guest, two classics that are sure to warm your heart. So, from my family to yours… Merry Christmas!

Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them Apostolic Voice with Ryan French

From the original article at http://www.ryanafrench.com called 9 Types of Church Services, Ryan discusses the different ways the Spirit moves in our gatherings. This episode explores the nuances of the Holy Ghost and why we should be sensitive and available to those different operations within the Church (more specifically in our local church). Also, Ryan concludes the program with two poems by Kevin Smith Max (formerly of DC Talk) called At the Foot of Heaven and Of Dogs & Whistles. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
  1. Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them
  2. Ep. 26 | Four Problems Preacher's Kids Face with Talmadge French (My Son)
  3. Ep. 25 | BONUS Recitation – A Poem by Scott Cairns
  4. Ep. 24 | Have Tongues Ceased? Does Everyone Need to Speak In Tongues? What Can Elijah Teach Us About Evangelism Today? Three Common Things That Keep People From Speaking In Tongues
  5. Ep. 23 | Been Hurt By A Pastor? – 8 Reasons You Should Stop Talking About It

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ…

I love the Christmas season, and I love Christmas music too. I’m one of those annoying people who starts listening to Christmas music way too early. One of my favorite slightly frivolous Christmas ditty’s is It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Penned in 1951 by Meredith Wilson, it’s been a holiday staple since its first iconic release. You’ve most likely heard it played many times. Admittedly, at first glance, at least, it isn’t the most Christ-centered Christmas tune. But its catchy melody is fun and family-friendly.

I recently heard It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and it lodged in my brain and would not let go. We had a few snow dribbles that same day so that imagery combined with the song created a memorable Christmassy scene, which is a rarity in Atlanta. The song paints vivid word pictures of how stores, streets, hotels, landscapes, and people begin to show the not-so-subtle signs of transforming in preparation and anticipation of Christmas. Stores glisten, and streets glow, and kids hope. People’s visages visibly change, and winter snow dominates the scenery. The atmosphere described is beautiful, happy, transcendent, expectant, and surrounded by death.

It’s A Wonderful Death

Epiphany blindsided me on that wintery day as It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas jangled around in my brain. While we’re beginning to look a lot like Christ, we are inevitably surrounded by the transformative beauty of death. Winter is the season of the completion of death. Throughout the fall season, leaves struggle to stay alive, and vegetation does its best to hold on, but winter finally wins, and old things pass away in preparation for new life. Philosophically, there’s a strange perceptual dichotomy at play in wintertime.

On the one hand, we can view winter as stark, harsh, and bleak. But, on the other hand, glowing lanes, candy canes, church bells, and carolers out in the snow can change our wintery perspective. All the joy mingled with the austerity of winter might seem enigmatic. However, it isn’t because we know the cold will give way to warmth, and new life will bloom in springtime. The inevitability of death precedes the miracle of life in the natural order of the universe.

The Visible Image of the Invisible Maker

The universe’s ability to produce new life from death isn’t by accident. The Maker of the universe designed it that way (Psalm 104:19), and He mirrored that same spiritual law in the lives of human beings. The invisible Maker visibly manifested Himself in the form of man and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:15-23). Because our sins deserved physical and spiritual death, He willingly died in our place (Romans 6:21-23).

The invisible Maker visibly manifested Himself in the form of man and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (Colossians 1:15-23).

The cross displays a more remarkable perceptual dichotomy than anything else imaginable. Calvary was a gruesome, bloody, agonizing, humiliating scene ending in the unjust execution of a guiltless man. Yet, it was the most beautiful sight the world has ever seen because it symbolizes God’s profound personal love for us (Romans 5:8). In return, all Jesus requires of us is our death, burial, and resurrection (Philippians 3:10, Romans 6:3-8, Acts 3:19). Thankfully, we don’t have to die or be resurrected from a grave physically. Our death, burial, and resurrection are spiritual events made possible by the work of Jesus on our behalf (Acts 2:38).

Calvary was a gruesome, bloody, agonizing, humiliating scene ending in the unjust execution of a guiltless man. Yet, it was the most beautiful sight the world has ever seen because it symbolizes God’s profound personal love for us.

The Very Beginning of Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ

The Bible repeatedly teaches us that before we can have new life in Christ, we must die. Old things – ways, habits, lifestyles, mindsets, ideas – need to pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those old things don’t die naturally, so we crucify them with repentance (Romans 6:6). We brutally nail our sinfully embedded affections and lusts to a cross and allow them to perish (Galatians 5:24). God doesn’t force us to do this either. Furthermore, our carnal flesh hates the idea of dying to self.

Before we can have new life in Christ, we must die. Old things – ways, habits, lifestyles, mindsets, ideas – need to pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). Those old things don’t die naturally, so we crucify them with repentance (Romans 6:6).

Repentance is the only part of salvation that we must do completely alone. At baptism, someone else baptizes us in the saving name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). We consent to be baptized, and we participate in baptism, but we don’t perform it. Dead people don’t bury themselves because they are dead. Likewise, when we are filled with the Holy Ghost, which is our spiritual resurrection, we can’t fill ourselves (Acts 11:15). God pours out His Spirit on us and dwells within us (Acts 2:1-4, Ezekiel 36:27). Once again, we are merely participating and consenting to a Divine process. Repentance is the gateway that leads to baptism and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without repentance, a person just gets wet at baptism, and without repentance, God will not give us His Spirit.

Repentance is the gateway that leads to baptism and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Without repentance, a person just gets wet at baptism, and without repentance, God will not give us His Spirit.

Hidden with Christ (From Life to Death to Life)

When we repent of our sins, we are willingly offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). And that isn’t a one-time thing. Authentic repentance is a commitment to pick up our cross and regularly die to sin (Luke 9:23, Romans 6:1-23, Matthew 10:28, Colossians 2:20). When Jesus commanded us to carry our cross daily (Matthew 16:24-26), it was a reminder to take the burden of repentance with us at all times. Why? Because continual death to sin releases joy, abundant life, power, self-control, and authority in Christ (John 10:10, 2 Timothy 1:7, Acts 1:8, John 14:12). Consider what Paul said to the church in Colossae:

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:3

Just as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, by virtue of our connection with Christ, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition. Or, in other words, we are to be to them as if we were dead, and they had no more influence over us than the things of earth had over Him in the grave.[i]

But what does it mean to be “hidden” with Christ in God? Certainly, Paul was alluding to the idea of secrecy and safety in God. Our life and salvation are secure in God when we are dead to sin. But we are not literally hidden from the view of the world. No. The meaning here goes deeper than merely being out of sight. The term hidden (kekruptai) can also mean “concealed.” The implication here is that our life is unknown or not understood by the watching world. But these unseen realities will be revealed to the world by God in due time (1 John 3:1-2).[ii] The spiritual death of a sinner produces a saint that is continuously misunderstood by sinners.

When we repent, we are willingly offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). That isn’t a one-time thing. Authentic repentance is a commitment to pick up our cross and regularly die to sin (Lk 9:23, Rom 6:1-23, Mat 10:28, Col 2:20).

When Jesus commanded us to carry our cross daily, it was a reminder to take the burden of repentance with us at all times. Because continual death to sin releases joy, abundant life, power, self-control, and authority in Christ.

Just as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, by virtue of our connection with Christ, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition.

The spiritual death of a sinner produces a saint that is continuously misunderstood by sinners.

The Prettiest Sight to See

Therefore, as we begin to look a lot like Christ, which is what we are called to do (1 John 2:6, Galatians 3:27, Philippians 2:5), the dead weights of sin begin to fall off the branches of our lives (Hebrews 12:1, John 15:5, Romans 13:12, Ephesians 4:22-25). When the leaves of sin are falling one by one, we know that a joyous death is about to take place, and winter is coming. Old habits take their last gulps of air, fear and condemnation lie on their death beds, carnal thinking is being transformed, sinful dysfunctional relationships are severing, as the joy of salvation and holiness begin to take root amidst the chill. The death is harsh, tear-soaked, unrelenting, yet it’s one of the prettiest sights to see because Christ’s image is being made manifest in human life.


[i] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 24986.

[ii] Max Anders, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians, ed. Max Anders, vol. 8 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1999), 327.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? – Podcast Edition

Ryan discusses all the secular and Christian objections to celebrating the Christmas season. He defends the position that it is good and proper for Christians to celebrate the miraculous event of the Messiah’s birth. BONUS: Ryan defends the oneness of God from the perspective of Christ’s birth. All this information is based on the original article Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? This episode features two poems: A Christmas Carol by Christina Rossetti and Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow which most recognize in song form I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas! You can support this blog and podcast ministry monthly at www.anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support. Your support is much needed and appreciated.

Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them Apostolic Voice with Ryan French

From the original article at http://www.ryanafrench.com called 9 Types of Church Services, Ryan discusses the different ways the Spirit moves in our gatherings. This episode explores the nuances of the Holy Ghost and why we should be sensitive and available to those different operations within the Church (more specifically in our local church). Also, Ryan concludes the program with two poems by Kevin Smith Max (formerly of DC Talk) called At the Foot of Heaven and Of Dogs & Whistles. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
  1. Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them
  2. Ep. 26 | Four Problems Preacher's Kids Face with Talmadge French (My Son)
  3. Ep. 25 | BONUS Recitation – A Poem by Scott Cairns
  4. Ep. 24 | Have Tongues Ceased? Does Everyone Need to Speak In Tongues? What Can Elijah Teach Us About Evangelism Today? Three Common Things That Keep People From Speaking In Tongues
  5. Ep. 23 | Been Hurt By A Pastor? – 8 Reasons You Should Stop Talking About It

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A Christmas Carol by Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Should Christians Dye Their Hair? (A Biblical Study) | Podcast Edition

The Apostolic Voice Podcast is up and running. Most episodes feature an article that has already been featured here on the blog. And that’s the case with this latest episode. The original article, Should Christians Dye Their Hair?, is worth the read because it gives so many helpful links for those of you who like to dive deeper into study and reflection. But I recognize the importance of turning these blogs into audio format for busy and on-the-go folks who still want access to the information (I’m often in that category myself). Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new podcast format. If you do, please consider giving a five-star review on iTunes to help us grow in the rankings. This helps us show up in search engines so others can find the podcast. Also, you can support us monthly for as little as $0.99 a month by going to www.anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support. As always, your prayer covering is the most important support you can offer and it is truly appreciated.

Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them Apostolic Voice with Ryan French

From the original article at http://www.ryanafrench.com called 9 Types of Church Services, Ryan discusses the different ways the Spirit moves in our gatherings. This episode explores the nuances of the Holy Ghost and why we should be sensitive and available to those different operations within the Church (more specifically in our local church). Also, Ryan concludes the program with two poems by Kevin Smith Max (formerly of DC Talk) called At the Foot of Heaven and Of Dogs & Whistles. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
  1. Ep. 27 | 9 Types of Church Services and Why We Need Them
  2. Ep. 26 | Four Problems Preacher's Kids Face with Talmadge French (My Son)
  3. Ep. 25 | BONUS Recitation – A Poem by Scott Cairns
  4. Ep. 24 | Have Tongues Ceased? Does Everyone Need to Speak In Tongues? What Can Elijah Teach Us About Evangelism Today? Three Common Things That Keep People From Speaking In Tongues
  5. Ep. 23 | Been Hurt By A Pastor? – 8 Reasons You Should Stop Talking About It

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What About Hell? – Everything You Need to Know

Satan’s Hellish Scheme

If I were Satan and wanted to influence people to be less concerned about their eternal soul, I would stir up lots of confusion about Hell. And, that is what he’s done. Hell was a relatively non-controversial doctrine for centuries. It’s one of only a handful of universally agreed-upon doctrines in history. Of course, post-modernism is defined by disagreement and predisposed to disregard Truth. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that Hell became a hotly contested, controversial theology. However, Satan’s misinformation campaign is silently creeping its way into apostolic thinking like a spider stalking prey. This confusion about Hell is deeply concerning, and it’s time to shed some light on Satan’s hellish scheme.

Why Are People Confused About Hell?

Before we dive into specific false doctrines, we need to understand why we’re having this problem in the first place. Somehow, preaching about Hell became taboo. I believe this happened and is happening for several reasons: 1) Preachers are unprepared to defend the paradox of God’s love and judgment. 2) Preachers are afraid modern hearers can’t handle the truth about Hell. 3) Some preachers haven’t “settled” a theology about Hell in their hearts. 4) Preachers are afraid of being labeled wild-eyed lunatics. 5) Many ministers don’t believe in “scaring” people into Heaven. 6) They sense that Hell is a taboo subject and simply give in to peer pressure. 7) Some preachers wanted to distance themselves from genuinely distasteful, hellfire preachers. 8) Preachers are being influenced by mainstream misinformation about Hell that isn’t rooted in solid biblical exegesis. When preachers are silent, saints become vulnerable to every wind of false doctrine.

Sadly, saints ingest lots of false doctrine via “Christian” television, radio, social media, and literature. They read, see, and hear misinformation all the time. Christians who are not comfortable seeking out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) are highly susceptible to believing misinformation about Hell (or anything else for that matter). It’s easy to blame preachers; however, saints are responsible for growing in God’s Word themselves without being spoon-fed every vital thing from a minister. Listen to the frustration in the Apostle Paul’s writings as he reprimands saints in the following passage for their lack of biblical knowledge and understanding:

” …you have become dull in your [spiritual] hearing and sluggish [even slothful in achieving spiritual insight]. For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food. For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]! But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law (Hebrews 5:11-14, Amplified Bible).”

Finally, the Devil knows his time is limited. He’s intensifying and strategically honing his attacks. Although Revelation 12:12 is speaking of a future event prophetically, it gives insight into how the Devil operates: …rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:12). When Satan is running out of time, he hits harder. Time itself is wrapping up, and even if the Church isn’t fully aware of it, the Devil is.

Why Does It Matter What People Believe Concerning Hell?

Technically, it might be possible to have an incorrect understanding of Hell and be saved, but false doctrine damages other essential areas of our walk with God. For example, if Hell isn’t a real, painful, never-ending place, why in the world would we need to evangelize? Without a correct belief in the horrors of Hell, we are unlikely to carry a real burden for the lost or take the Great Commission seriously (Matthew 28:18-20). After all, what do people need to be saved from in the first place?

It is correct that people are not likely to be terrified into a good relationship with God. However, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). That word fear is best-translated reverence. Which means awe mingled with healthy fear. I respectfully submit that our culture (religious and non-religious) has lost its sense of reverence for God. Wisdom begins with fear, which leads to a proper understanding of God (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). We can’t know God without reverence (fear mingled with awe). An improper view of Hell results in a wrong knowledge of God. All false doctrines have ever-expanding unintended consequences. So, while it might be correct that people will not serve God long-term out of fear because ultimately, we must fall in love with the Lord, the beginning of our relationship with God must include some healthy fear. If we bypass reverence on the way to love, our walk with God will be off-balance.

If we bypass reverence on the way to love, our walk with God will be off-balance.

The Terror of the Lord!

Consider this passage of Scripture where the Apostle Paul speaks briefly of death: …to be absent from the body, … [is] to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). He continues by saying that we labor to be present with the Lord in death (2 Corinthians 5:9). Then Paul pens these politically incorrect words:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God… (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).”

Paul is carefully emphasizing that we will all stand before the Lord in judgment for the things we have done in this life. And, because we have this holy fear of God, we are motivated to reach people with the Gospel so they can stand before the Lord blamelessly. Genuine Christians are highly determined to reach lost people because they understand the fearsome judgment of God. If God’s adjudication is not dreadful, there is little reason to feel an urgency about evangelism. Indeed, it makes sense Satan would create an aura of confusion around the subjects of God’s wrath and Hell.

We All Need A Healthy Fear of Hell

Look at this often-overlooked passage where Jesus startles His audience:

Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into Hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear (Luke 12:4-5, New Living Translation).”

I love how Jesus started gently and then… Wham! He pounced like an old-time preacher (actually the old-timers were preaching like Jesus), telling them to fear God and shun Hell. The word throw could also be translated hurl, which gives a little more gravitas to the message: …Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then hurl you in Hell…. Yeah! That’s pretty terrifying. But Jesus didn’t end the sermon with fire and brimstone. He gave us a beautiful example to follow in our preaching and teaching. Watch how Jesus brought that gut-wrenching thought back around to the overwhelming love of God:

What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows (Luke 12:6-7, New Living Translation).”

This snippet of Jesus’ preaching shows us precisely how to strike a balance between fearing and loving God. Indeed, as we realize just how majestically awesome God is, we grow to love Him more. But if one views God as the great-big-cuddly-teddy-bear in the sky, one is more likely to disrespect and disobey God. It can’t be helped; we keep circling back around to Proverbs: …the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). We all need to begin and end with a healthy dose of fear. We just can’t be saved if we don’t fear God and Hell.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Metaphorical View

The metaphorical view of Hell is growing in popularity despite its lack of biblical support. In the metaphorical doctrine, the unsaved will spend eternity in Hell. But the extreme pain and environmental conditions described in the Bible are not interpreted literally. The biblical descriptions of fire, heat, bondage, darkness, thirst, worms, pain, flogging, fire, etc. are considered symbolic. Proponents of this doctrine believe separation from God to be the ultimate pain of eternity. To them, the only agony endured in Hell will be the agony of complete Divine divorce. As Billy Graham once stated: I have often wondered if Hell is a terrible burning within our hearts for God, to fellowship with God, a fire that we can never quench. Billy Graham leaned towards the metaphorical view of Hell.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Purgatorial View

The Roman Catholic Church is unique its purgatorial view of Hell. According to this doctrine, everyone is judged by God immediately after death. Only a small minority of saints will go directly into Heaven. God will send most people to purgatory, a place of punishment (basically a temporary Hell). Most Catholics believe that people are released by God from purgatory into Heaven after a certain length of time. Purgatory is like a cosmic prison sentence ending with a ticket into paradise. There is not one iota of Scripture supporting this false view of Hell.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: There Is No Hell

A small minority of Christians claim there is no Hell at all. In their doctrine, unsaved people cease to exist at death. They incorrectly cite Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. They interpret this Scripture to mean that death is the ultimate and final wage of sin. They are fond of saying death always means literal death in the Bible, and therefore Hell as a place should never be taken literally.

However, they overlook Luke 15:24: For this son of mine was dead and is alive again (New International Version). They ignore the symbolic use of life and death repeatedly used in Romans 7. Also, they fail to contend with Scriptures like Genesis 2:17: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. In this passage, God was speaking directly to Adam and Eve. We know Adam and Eve eventually did the exact thing God told them not to do, but they didn’t instantly fall over dead. Did God lie to them? Of course not, they died spiritually on that fateful day, and literal death entered into the world as an inescapable reality.

All this and more affirms safely interpreting Romans 6:23 to mean the wages of sin is spiritual death and eventual literal physical death. However, even if you are uncomfortable with this interpretation of Romans 6:23, it does nothing to prove Hell is not a real place. Literal death is an attached consequence to original sin from Genesis 2 and on. We know from a vast array of other Scriptures that death is the precursor to judgment, and judgment is the precursor to Heaven or Hell. This doctrine misinterprets one Scripture, and blatantly ignores obvious passages describing Hell’s realities and eternal damnation.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Hell Isn’t That Bad

In his classic book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis envisions Hell as a dreary, bothersome, almost pleasant place, whose inmates can take a day trip to the outskirts of Heaven. This biblically illiterate view of Hell seems to be pop culture’s favorite. Pop music often refers to Hell as a kind of eternal party for the naughty. Nearly everyone casually and exhaustively uses Hell as a curse word. Television and movies like to portray Hell as an obnoxious, almost silly place of torment-ish. For many, Hell might even be considered preferable to Heaven.

Common False Doctrines About Hell: Hell Is Only Temporary

This false doctrine is the evangelical version of purgatory. The lost are sentenced to Hell for a particular length of time, depending on their sinfulness while on earth. When the sentence has ended, the sinner experiences a second death, and their soul is extinguished by God forever. Adherents to this doctrine abandon belief in the immortal soul, and they are forced to become extremely creative with several passages of Scripture. A spin-off of this doctrine believes (much like Catholics) that after a severe sentence is completed, the fire purified soul will be admitted by God into Heaven. I concur with this comment by Stanley Horton: It is hard to see why the Cross would be necessary if the lake of fire could provide another means of salvation.[i]

Is Hell A Divine Overreaction to Sin?

“In no way does man reveal his littleness more effectively than when he exhibits surprise over the fact that there are realities in the universe which he cannot understand. The permission of sin in the universe by a sovereign, holy God who hates sin to an infinite degree, the damage it does to uncounted multitudes of beings—angels and men—whom He loves with a Creator’s love, and the fact that sin must demand of God the greatest sacrifice He could make, all this only tends to enlarge the mystery involved.”[ii]

In no way does man reveal his littleness more effectively than when he exhibits surprise over the fact that there are realities in the universe which he cannot understand.” -Lewis Sperry Chafer

Wrestling with the profound weight of Divine retribution upon sinful humanity is troubling. It requires a great deal of humility to accept our inability to understand how evil sin is and how it conflicts with God’s absolute holiness. We know because Scripture revealed it, that God’s holy answer to unrepentant sin is perdition and retribution. Serving the Lord with real honesty requires growing comfortable with the mysteries of God. Human arrogance assumes that it can always find the answer or solve the puzzle. However, in God’s economy, we aren’t guaranteed every answer to every question, at least not in this life. Deuteronomy 29:29 applies nicely: The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

It requires a great deal of humility to accept our inability to understand how evil sin is and how it conflicts with God’s absolute holiness.

Trying to understand why God will punish sin with eternal suffering isn’t wrong. Job indeed sought understanding in his torment, but he did so without sinning or charging God foolishly (Job 1:22). Consider this: “Sins may be committed by unbelievers or believers, both of whom are injured by it and require grace. Sins may be committed against God, others, self, or some combination. Ultimately, however, all sin is against God (Psalm 51:4, Luke 15:18, Luke 15:21).”[iii] God alone reserves the right to avenge sin (Psalm 94:1, Romans 12:19). But we can take comfort knowing that He takes no pleasure in punishing sinners (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 33:11, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). The reality of Hell, combined with the revelation of God’s overwhelming love, should elucidate just how grave sin is. It’s not merely that God refuses to be compatible with sin. Instead, God’s unchanging nature makes it impossible for Him to coexist with evil (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). Humanity is grossly underreacting to sin; God’s response to sin has been consistent since the beginning of time.

The reality of Hell, combined with the revelation of God’s overwhelming love, should elucidate just how grave sin is.

It’s not merely that God refuses to be compatible with sin. Instead, God’s unchanging nature makes it impossible for Him to coexist with evil

Humanity is grossly underreacting to sin; God’s response to sin has been consistent since the beginning of time.

Will There Be Different Levels of Punishment in Hell?

I believe the Bible affirms there will be varying degrees of punishment in Hell (Matthew 10:15. Matthew 11:22, Matthew 12:36-37, Luke 12:47-48, Romans 2:5, Hebrews 10:26-31). All the lost will suffer for their sin; for some, that suffering will be worse than for others. Hebrews 10:26-31 is one of many compelling passages indicating various degrees of judgment:

“…if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (English Standard Version).

People who do not believe in various punishment levels for individuals in Hell reduce the throne of judgment into a sham where God pretends to be fair. The Bible is clear that God will be so entirely just in His decisions that not one person will claim unfair treatment (1 Peter 1:17, Romans 2:11, Colossians 3:25, Romans 3:19, Revelation 19:1-2). God will judge in absolute righteousness (Acts 17:31). His decisions will not be limited to who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. God will also assign punishments in perfect fairness. Every lost soul will receive a personalized sentence directly from their Creator.

What Criteria Will God Use to Determine Levels of Punishment?  

The Gospel Coalition lists three biblically sound considerations: 1) The extent to which a person has abandoned himself to sin (Matthew 5:21, Romans 2:5, Revelation 18:6-7). 2) The extent to which a person by example and influence led others to sin (Matthew 18:5-7, Mark 9:38-47, Matthew 23:13). 3) The extent to which a person abused their exposure to revelation and opportunity (Luke 12:47-48, Romans 2:12, Matthew 10:15, Matthew 11:22-24).[iv] I believe that age and mental capacity will also be taken into consideration by God (Genesis 18:25). Furthermore, God will evaluate things we have never contemplated in this world (Psalm 19:7-14).

There is No Hope in Hell!

There is no biblical basis for holding onto any hope that grace will extend past this life into eternity. As Chafer eloquently points out:

“Such a case should not be considered as being without precedent. Uncounted legions of angels have sinned, and for them, there is not the slightest intimation to be found in the Bible, which extends to them a ray of hope. By Divine decree, these angels are already consigned to the lake of fire, not under a possible proviso that this doom will be averted if, in the meantime, they repent; but they are arbitrarily, unrevokably consigned to retribution and that without remedy. Since God has said, without condition, that the fallen angels will be cast into the lake of fire, He would be found untrue should the destiny of the fallen angels be otherwise.” [v]

Chafer continues by pointing out the utter lostness of the Gentiles from Adam to Moses. Their pagan plight is chronicled in Romans 1:18-32, as those who willfully rejected God. Three times in one context, Scripture declares that God abandoned them to their sinful ways. Ephesians 2:12 shows just how emphatically God discarded the Gentiles before the New Covenant: …at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. No more decisive terms could be used than men being without Christ, without promise, without God, and without hope.Furthermore, God destroyed the entire earth with water, and at least two cities with fire because of humanity’s iniquity; all this judgment came before God gave mankind a Bible or a Messiah.[vi] Chafer concludes with a mind-altering thought: The result of any unprejudiced investigation into God’s revealed truth respecting fallen angels and God-rejecting Gentiles of past ages will be a conviction that the marvel of it all is not that sinners are lost, but that they are ever saved.[vii]

“…the marvel of it all is not that sinners are lost, but that they are ever saved.” -Lewis Sperry Chafer

Does Hell Just Mean the Grave?

It’s essential to address one final objection often raised against Hell being a place of eternal torment. There’s a convoluted idea floating around, which asserts that the Hebrew word Sheol (the KJV sometimes translated Sheol as Hell, sometimes as the grave, and sometimes as the pit) always means the grave and does not refer to the afterlife at all. Others erroneously contend that Sheol always refers to Hell (if you’ve Googled articles about Hell, you’ve likely read an article fervidly arguing this fallacy). One is used to undermine biblical teachings regarding Hell, and the other is an overzealous attempt to uphold orthodox teachings about the afterlife. Horton handily dismantles the myth that Sheol only means the grave:

“Actually, Sheol is often described as a depth that contrasts with the height of Heaven (Job 11:8, Psalm 139, Amos 9:2). Often, the context refers to God’s anger or wrath (Job 14:13, Psalm 6:1-5, Psalm 88:3-7, Psalm 89:46-48), and sometimes to both wrath and fire (Deuteronomy 32:22). In some cases, the references are brief, and it seems it is treated simply as the place or the state of the dead. In it, the dead are called rephaim, what we might call “ghosts” (Isaiah 14:9, Isaiah 26:14). Other passages refer to some of the dead as elohim, in the sense of “powerful spirit beings” (1 Samuel 28:13). But very often, it is clear that Sheol is the place for the wicked and “all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17, Psalm 39:12–13, Psalm 55:15, Psalm 88:11–12, Proverbs 7:27, Proverbs 9:18, Isaiah 38:18). Where the New Testament quotes Old Testament passages referring to Sheol, it translates the word by Hades, which it sees, not as the vague place pagan Greeks talked about, but as a place of punishment.”[viii]

Interestingly, in Acts 2:27, Peter quotes Psalm 16:10, clearly understanding Sheol as Hades. It’s perfectly proper to link the Old Testament (Sheol) and New Testament (Hades) verbiage together with the word Hell. Also, it’s incorrect to assume ancients did not believe in the afterlife. Enoch and Elijah did not taste death because the Lord took them directly to Heaven (Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11). David believed he would “dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 17:15).” David speaks of being redeemed from Sheol’s power (Psalm 49:15), indicating his desire to be with God rather than in Sheol in death. The psalmists Asaph spoke of being received into “glory” at death (Psalm 73:24). Another phrase seems to indicate Old Testament saints expected an afterlife. God told Moses that after he went up the mountain and looked across to the Promised Land: You too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was (Numbers 27:13). But Aaron was buried at Mount Hor, and no one knows where God buried Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5–6). Therefore, being “gathered to one’s people” does not refer to the grave.[ix]

How Does the Bible Describe Hell?

Jesus intimated that Hell was initially designed for Satan and other fallen angels (Matthew 25:41). Revelation 20:14 reveals that Hell will contain a horrific lake of fire. After the Final Judgment of God (Revelation 20:11-15), the lost will experience continual and unimaginable suffering and torment. In contrast to Heaven, where there will be no more tears (Revelation 21:4), there will be dreadful weeping and gnashing (or grinding) of teeth in Hell (Matthew 8:12). This gnashing suggests, among other things, the pain will perpetually cause people to grind their teeth in agony (Matthew 8:12, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 24:51, Matthew 25:30). Numerous times Jesus mentioned hellfire or the fires of Hell (Matthew 5:22, Matthew 29:30, Matthew 18:19, Mark 9:43-47). Jesus called the fire everlasting, leaving no doubt that Hell’s torments are eternal (Matthew 25:41). Jesus underscored the seriousness of Hell, saying it would be better to cut off your hand or foot or pluck out your eye, rather than use any of those things sinfully and be cast into Hell (Mark 9:43-47).

Some find it troubling that Jesus mentions outer darkness in the context of Hell (Matthew 22:13). 2 Peter 2:4 references chains of darkness, and some also find that hard to reconcile with the fiery images of Hell the Bible typically evokes. But this is hardly proof of biblical errancies, the afterlife will defy our sense of logic, and it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that God created dark hellfire. Beyond that, we know that Hell will be large and is ever-expanding (Isaiah 51:4). Scripture doesn’t specify that every square inch of Hell will be fiery or that every square inch will be dark. Hell may have significantly different regions throughout its length and breadth. We probably know less about Hell than we know.

In Mark 9, Jesus abruptly ends His ominous comments about Hell by mentioning worms that never die and fire that never goes out (Mark 9:48). The word translated Hell in Mark 9:43 is the Greek word Gehenna, which comes from the Hebrew name for a place called the Valley of Hinnom.[x] Jesus used this place to paint a vivid mental picture of Hell. Gehenna was Jerusalem’s giant garbage dump located on the southern outskirts of town. In the past, children were sacrificed to idols by pagan parents in Gehenna (2 Kings 23:10); in Jesus’ day, it was a place burning with constant fires to devour the city’s trash. The things burned there included everything from household trash to animal carcasses to convicted criminals (Jeremiah 7:31–33). Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 66:24, and the worm mentioned in connection with dead bodies means grub or maggot. Maggots bring the awful imagery Jesus intended to conjure sharply into focus.

The Bible gives us enough information about Hell to know; avoiding it should be life’s paramount priority. Nothing is more crucial than diligently ensuring we enter Heaven and escape the anguishes of Hell. Jesus lovingly and compellingly asked His disciples: What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26). Then Jesus asked another rhetorical question: Is anything worth more than your soul? (Matthew 16:26). Satan challenged God on this very subject while seeking to destroy the righteousness of Job. Satan argued that a man would give everything he has for his life (Job 2:4). He was wrong about Job, but countless others have traded their righteousness for temporary things. Again, Jesus cautioned us to prioritize heavenly things above earthly things encouraging us to store up treasures in Heaven, not on the earth (Matthew 6:19-21). All of creation and God’s Word compel us to live with eternity at the forefront of our minds.

The Bible gives us enough information about Hell to know; avoiding it should be life’s paramount priority. Nothing is more crucial than diligently ensuring we enter Heaven and escape the anguishes of Hell.

All of creation and God’s Word compel us to live with eternity at the forefront of our minds.

How Can I Escape the Torment of Hell?

The ultimate question is, how can a person be guaranteed to avoid Hell in the afterlife? This, of all questions, should be searched after with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Yet, many people think very little about the salvation of their souls. Tragically, one of Satan’s magnificently malicious victories is convincing generations of people that salvation is easy, cheap, and convenient. The average person spends more time searching for temporal pleasures than searching for redemption. Yet, salvation is not found with casual commitment or through convenient conversion. The Bible says that even righteous people barely escape Hell; think of the awful fate awaiting those who have not obeyed the Gospel (1 Peter 4:17-18)? That alone should remove any casual or careless approaches towards the discussion of salvation. Especially knowing it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). The God who created the universe and Heaven and Hell is the only One able to tell us how to be saved. And, He chose to reveal the answer to us through the Bible (His Holy Word).

Tragically, one of Satan’s magnificently malicious victories is convincing generations of people that salvation is easy, cheap, and convenient.

The average person spends more time searching for temporal pleasures than searching for redemption. Yet, salvation is not found with casual commitment or through convenient conversion.

The God who created the universe and Heaven and Hell is the only One able to tell us how to be saved. And, He chose to reveal the answer to us through the Bible (His Holy Word).

There is only one place in all Scripture where people specifically ask: What must we do to be saved (Acts 2:37)? The Apostle Peter gives the most transparent, concise response possible in the following verse: …Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). That precise formula is the only way to be birthed (John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:23) into the Kingdom of God. At the heart of the Gospel is the teaching that we must undergo our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection just as Jesus did physically (Romans 6:3-8, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2:12-13).

Essentially, repentance is our spiritual death (Galatians 5:24, Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6), baptism in Jesus’ name is our spiritual burial (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is our spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:5, Colossians 3:1, Romans 8:8-14). Furthermore, the infilling of the Holy Ghost is first evidenced by supernaturally speaking in unknown (previously unlearned) tongues (languages) just as they did in the book of Acts (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) and every time from then on. And, baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

Baptism is only salvific when done in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12, Colossians 3:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3).

After we are obedient to the fullness of the Gospel, all the old sinful things pass away, and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We walk in agreement with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Meaning, God not only saves us from our past sin, but He also empowers us with His own Spirit to live righteously (2 Peter 1:3-4). The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily. Now that’s excellent news, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to be transformed by the power of God.

The extra good news of the Gospel is that God doesn’t just save us and leave us the same: He saves us, changes us, dwells within us, and continues to strengthen us daily.

Hell Motivates Christians Morally

Grudem lists four ways the doctrine of Hell influences our lives morally: 1) It satisfies our inward sense of a need for justice in the world. 2) It enables us to forgive others freely. 3) It provides a motive for righteous living. 4) It gives an excellent motive for evangelism.[xi] Engrained in the complexity of human nature is the desire to see justice served. The doctrine of Hell assures us God is in control and that justice will be done in the end. Because that is true, we can forgive without worrying about final judgments. We must love God to serve Him truly, but there are seasons where the fear of Hell keeps us on a righteous path. Finally, the doctrine of Hell should compel us to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel out of concern for the lost (Matthew 28:16-20).

The doctrine of Hell should compel us to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel out of concern for the lost (Matthew 28:16-20).

I sincerely hope this article has been helpful, informative, and compelling to you. If so, please consider sharing this article with a friend. If you are uncomfortable sharing it publicly on social media, consider printing it out and giving it to a friend or loved one. I realize Hell and the afterlife is an uncomfortable topic for many people to discuss openly. Maybe this article can be a good starting point to open up a dialogue between you and people you know and love. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will respond accordingly. As always, thank you for reading and may God bless you.


[i] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 654.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#4606

[ii] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Kregel/Accordance electronic ed. 8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976), 4:427.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Chafer-Theology#5341

[iii] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 280.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#1295

[iv] Degrees of Punishment in Hell | The Gospel Coalition

[v] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Kregel/Accordance electronic ed. 8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976), 4:429-430.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Chafer-Theology#5342

[vi] I highly recommend Sodom Had No Bible, Leonard Ravenhill.

[vii] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Kregel/Accordance electronic ed. 8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976), 4:430.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Chafer-Theology#5343

[viii] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 608.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#2785

[ix] Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology, Revised; Accordance electronic ed. (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2007), 609.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Horton-Theology#2789

[x] David G. Shackelford and E. Ray Clendenen, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “HELL,” paragraph 7790.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Holman_Dictionary#7790

[xi] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Bits & Bytes/Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 1148.

https://accordance.bible/link/read/Grudem-Theology#12731

Top 10 Articles of 2019

At the end of every year, I enjoy reviewing the most read posts of the past twelve months. I’ve included links to all ten of them below. Just click the pictures and it’ll take you to the articles. Interestingly, the top three haven’t changed in several years. I haven’t written much new content in 2019 (I plan to change that in 2020). Oddly, this has still been an exciting year for Apostolic Voice; we leaped over the million click mark, gained a tremendous number of new readers, and made progress on relaunching the podcast. I deeply appreciate your confidence and support. Thank you for allowing my writings into your life. God bless you all, and may 2020 be your best year yet. If you’re new to the Apostolic Voice family, welcome and I hope you find something helpful, inspiring, or at least mildly interesting.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The irony of the Christmas debate never ceases to amaze me. On the one hand, secular culture tries hard to take Christ out of Christmas. To them, Christmas is just another holiday. On the other hand, a noisy minority of Christians consider Christmas a pagan practice. The rest of us are uncomfortably sandwiched in between these two extremes. Before the rise of social media, these debates seemed a little vaguer and obscure. Everyone pretty much just did their own thing and went on with their lives. But social media gets people from every side of the Christmas issue at one another’s throats. Many people feel the need to state their opinions firmly, and just about everyone else feels the need to be offended by everyone else’s opinion. Yeah, it’s about as crazy as it sounds.

Secular Objections to Christmas

Let me respond to the secular objections to Christmas first. They find offense at the elevation of one religion over others. And, in some cases, the elevation of any religion at all in the public domain. Their solution is to dechristianize the season and replace it with strictly secular terminology and traditions. Santa, elves, and reindeer fit nicely into this agenda because the childish make-believe parts of Christmas have no distinctly Judeo-Christian roots. When you peel back the layers, you’ll find the secular motivation for attacking Christmas is mostly rooted in rabid Christophobia (hatred of Christianity).

When you peel back the layers, you’ll find the secular motivation for attacking Christmas is mostly rooted in rabid Christophobia (hatred of Christianity).

Without getting too far ahead of myself, this alone is a pretty compelling reason to celebrate Christmas louder and louder every year. If “pagans” consider Christmas too Christian for comfort, Christmas is clearly not a pagan holiday. On that note, Jesus said, if you’re ashamed of me, I’ll be ashamed of you (Mark 8:38). Christians should never shy away from any opportunity to talk about Jesus openly. Like it or not, America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. Sadly, I don’t consider us a genuinely Christian nation any longer; however, we Christians have every right biblically and constitutionally to voice our faith loud and long.

If “pagans” consider Christmas too Christian for comfort, Christmas is clearly not a pagan holiday.

I think capitulating to secularism would be a tragic mistake and offensive to the Lord. Of course, we should never be intentionally offensive or ugly, but just celebrating the birth of our risen Savior is well within our reasonable rights. If speaking the name of Jesus or talking about Emmanuel (God with us) publicly is offensive, we must be offensive; if Christians become timid about a story as innocuous as the Messiah’s birth, then we won’t have the courage to talk about His death and resurrection. I have no sympathy for the secular objections to Christmas, and you shouldn’t either.

If talking about Emmanuel (God with us) publicly is offensive, we must be offensive; if Christians become timid about a story as innocuous as the Messiah’s birth, then we won’t have the courage to talk about His death and resurrection.

Christian Objections to Christmas

Ok. Let’s shift gears and address the Christian objections to celebrating Christmas. Their concerns usually center around five different issues. One, we don’t actually know the date of Jesus’ birth. Two, the Bible doesn’t specifically instruct us to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Three, they argue that Christmas itself and the surrounding traditions are rooted in paganism. Four, a Scripture that appears to forbid Christmas trees. And five, the crass commercialism surrounding the Christmas season.

There are good and sincere people who make these objections compellingly. Others make ignorant claims that are more ludicrous and argumentative than necessary. I’ve certainly seen Christians from both sides of the issue display less than Christlike behavior when debating the points mentioned above. It’s mostly ugly, unnecessary, and destroys everyone’s credibility. While I believe that celebrating Christmas is a good thing (probably even a wonderful thing), I am painfully aware of how it feels to have deeply held counter-cultural convictions that others love to belittle. I have genuine sympathy for sincere Christians who simply can’t feel comfortable celebrating Christmas. Regardless, I do believe anti-Christmas beliefs are not founded on concrete facts. Nor do I think anti-Christmas convictions are worthy of imposing on fellow believers.

Indeed, we don’t actually know the exact date of Jesus’ birth. And it’s improbable that Jesus was born on December 25. It’s also true that Christians didn’t start celebrating Christmas until hundreds of years after the resurrection. And my response boils down to a shrug of the shoulders. So, what, I don’t need an exact date to celebrate and reflect on my Savior’s birth. It’s nice to have an agreed-upon date so everyone can celebrate at the same time. It’s also worth remembering that early Christians were understandably busy avoiding martyrdom and being mutilated by lions. Furthermore, arguing that because early Christians didn’t celebrate, Christmas means Christmas is somehow prohibited today is a pretty awkward theological and intellectual leap. Celebrating all things about Jesus seems like something every Christian should be excited about.

It’s true the Bible never specifically commands us to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The word Christmas is not in the Bible. And again, my response is a disinterested shrug of the shoulders. If the Bible prohibited celebrating the birth of Jesus, I would be all ears and entirely on board with anti-Christmas sentiments. However, Scripture gives us important details surrounding the miraculous birth of the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-24Matthew 2:1-23Luke 1:26-66Luke 2:1-40John 1:1-16). In each of these passages, angels and people celebrated the birth of Jesus. Many Old Testament prophecies revolved around Jesus’ birth (Genesis 22:18Numbers 24:17Isaiah 11:1Jeremiah 23:5-62 Samuel 7:12-14Micah 5:2Isaiah 7:14Psalm 72:9-10Jeremiah 31:15Hosea 11:1Isaiah 9:6-7). It’s safe to say many Scriptures affirm the celebration of Christ’s birth, and none forbidding it.

Regarding the concern that Christmas is rooted in paganism, the evidence for such a claim is far from clear. The origins of so many modern traditions are unsubstantiated and often misinformed. Sources claiming Christmas’ pagan roots contradict one another and rarely have any reliable verification methods (please don’t send me weird internet links… I’ve seen them all… sigh). While some minor Christmas traditions like holly were probably used in pagan rituals, this doesn’t make Christmas evil by association. Many things were used in pagan rituals that we use daily. For example, oak trees were revered almost universally by pagans, and yet Christians don’t refrain from using oak trees and oak wood in their homes and yards. Even the Nike logo was originally a pagan symbol. But the association has been changed and no longer has pagan connotations. Either way, a Christian concerned about pagan symbolism could still celebrate Christmas and simply refrain from the particular traditions they find worrisome. This concern doesn’t require throwing Christmas out completely.

The Christmas Tree Debate

The Christmas tree debate is probably the most common concern for Christians. It’s an extension of the pagan roots concern, but this concern should be taken a little more seriously because two Bible passages can be distressing at first glance (Jeremiah 10:1-16Isaiah 44:9-18). The most cited passage comes from Jeremiah chapter ten, verses three and four:

“For the customs of the people are vain; for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

When looking at the passage in context, it’s clear that Jeremiah is referring to craftsmen who cut down trees to create idols. The decorating referred to here is not the decoration of a tree but the decoration of a carved idol. Even more specifically, Jeremiah is expressly forbidding falling down and worshipping handmade idols. This biblical command applies to everything other than God alone. Worshipping a tree or anything else would indeed be idolatry of the worst kind. I’ve known people who worshipped trees, but they were not Christmas trees. Even so, I could understand someone feeling uncomfortable with a Christmas tree. However, simply avoid the tree and celebrate the Savior if your conscious demands it. If you’re uncomfortable with my quick explanation of Jeremiah 10:3-4, check out John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible on verse three HERE and on verse four HERE.

A Christian Objection to Commercialism

The last objection that many Christians raise is reasonable and should be heeded. Christmas has been hijacked by secularism and crass commercialism. There is a sense in which Christmas can become about receiving and not giving. The pressure to buy irresponsibly can be overwhelming at Christmastime. All the reindeer and elves can crowd out the message of Christmas if we aren’t careful. All the decorating, cooking, buying, and wrapping can become a silly substitute for reverencing the miracle birth of Jesus. Christians should guard against this mindset and strive to keep Jesus at the center of the season.

The benefits of Christmas, in my opinion, far outweigh any of the negatives. The world is almost universally exposed to the story of Jesus’ entrance into the world. That revelation alone leads to more and more questions about who Jesus is and what He did while He was here. This opens tremendous opportunities for Christians to share their faith and talk about Jesus openly. Christmas brings families together and connects thoughts of Jesus with happy family memories. Christmas brings out the selflessness in many people. Charitable giving goes up drastically during the Christmas season. Many hard hearts grow tender towards God as they consider the Christmas story. Churches fill up with people who usually would not make church a priority exposing people to godly environments that can implant a seed of God’s Word into their consciousness.

Christmas brings families together and connects thoughts of Jesus with happy family memories.

A Most Wonderful Time to Witness the Oneness

For Oneness Pentecostals, Christmas is a fantastic opportunity to expose others to the great revelation that Jesus was the mighty God in Christ. For example, does it really make sense that a separate deity would send a son (who is also a coequal deity) to die on his behalf? What kind of father would send his son to be tortured and killed on his behalf? No. Jesus was the Word incarnate (Colossians 1:15John 1:1John 1:14Philippians 2:6-71 Timothy 3:16). Christmas is an excellent time to emphasize that Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14Matthew 1:22-23) means “God with us.” Jesus was not one of three distinctly separate deities born of a virgin. He was Emmanuel in the flesh. He is referred to as the Son of God because He had no earthly father (Luke 1:35). I don’t usually like the New American Standard Version, but I think it gives the most precise translation and explanation for why Jesus is referred to as the Son of God in Luke 1:35:

“The angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; AND FOR THAT REASON the holy Child shall be called the Son of God (emphasis is mine).”

For Oneness Pentecostals, Christmas is a fantastic opportunity to expose others to the great revelation that Jesus was the mighty God in Christ

What kind of deity would send a coequal deity to die on his behalf? What kind of father would send his son to be tortured and killed on his behalf? No. Jesus was the Word incarnate (1 Timothy 3:16).

Even the disciples seemed slightly confused about what this terminology meant. In John chapter fourteen, Jesus was comforting them because He was leaving (John 14:1-6). He mentioned the mansions in the Father’s house and how no one could get to the Father but by Him, causing Thomas to ask Jesus where He was going and how would they know the way (John 14:5)? In verse six, Jesus’ most famous response is where He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life… (John 14:6)”. But, people often overlook John 14:7:

“If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also; and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.”

Jesus clarified that because you have known Me, you know the Father, and you have seen Him! Wow! That’s an epic revelation. But Phillip was still struggling to catch Jesus’ implication, so he asked Him to show them the Father (John 14:8). So, Jesus gave one of the clearest of all answers in Scripture about His deity in John 14:9-10:

“…Have I been so long a time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, ‘Show us the Father’? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?…”

Jesus made the messianic claim that He was literally God in human flesh. That is the quintessential message of the Christmas story; God came to dwell with us. I can’t see how that is anything other than wonderful to celebrate.

Jesus made the messianic claim that He was literally God in human flesh. That is the quintessential message of the Christmas story; God came to dwell with us.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us, a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).”


Podcast | Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

This article was recently featured on the Apostolic Voice podcast with a few added bonuses. I hope you enjoy the episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

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