On 31 October 1517 Martin Luther issued his protest against the church of his day in his famous Ninety-Five Theses. In this way he began the Reformation to which justification by faith was central. Regrettably, judged from a theological point of view, the theses and reformation theology in general did not go far enough. Even John Robinson, pastor to the Pilgrim Fathers, though an admirer of both Luther and Calvin believed that God had more light to break forth from his word. Much has happened since 1517 and this being so, it is vital for us in the 21st century to gain a broader perspective. I hereby append a mere ten more theses to serve as a catalyst for more extensive consideration.
- The worldview inherited from the sin-obsessed Augustine of Hippo which has dominated the church’s thinking for nearly 1700 years is false. In other words, the idea that God created a perfect world including a holy and righteous Adam and Eve is plainly contrary to biblical teaching. In fact, creation is ‘hand-made’, an Old Testament pejorative expression which indicates that all material things are subject to corruption (decay) by divine design irrespective of sin. The whole creation is naturally obsolescent and so is gradually getting older (Heb. 1:11). It will finally be destroyed like the human body of flesh and indeed all animals which are its product (Heb. 8:13).
- Prior to Augustine, Irenaeus of Lyons who is regarded as the father of theology taught a doctrine of recapitulation which teaches that the individual lives out the experience of the race in miniature, Jesus being the supreme example. He believed that Adam, the individual who epitomised the race, began at the beginning. Once created or brought into being, far from being perfect (complete, fully mature) he was like a foetus subject to development or evolution. Unfortunately, however, Irenaeus’ thinking was eclipsed by that of Augustine and others.
- Since Adam and Eve as created were like all animals completely ignorant of good and evil, they were far from being righteous (cf. Jesus who was born in a stable and note Isaiah 7:14-16; 8:4). This being the case they never experienced a catastrophic Fall which brought about a ‘cosmic’ curse. They simply lost their innocence as all children do and suffered the consequences of their new-found knowledge. Like Paul at a later date they were ‘born’ alive but broke the commandment which eventually dawned on their developing minds (Gen. 3:6f.; Rom. 7:9f.). Thus they left the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, physically mature but mentally infantile.
- The notorious ecclesiastical dogma of original sin which posits the transfer of Adam’s sin to all his posterity either by carnal concupiscence or imputation is a malignant myth. Neither the Jews nor the Orthodox believe it. To impute sin to those who like babies have never personally sinned is regarded throughout the Bible as evil. The only exception is Jesus who though not a sinner himself received it by faith on behalf of his fellows. Everyone else sins, that is, breaks the law in some form for him or herself. Since, like Adam and Eve at the beginning, babies do not know the law, they cannot be born sinful (Rom. 4:15). The innocent offspring of the wicked Israelites who died in the wilderness safely reached the Promised Land (Dt. 1:39).
- The curse on creation referred to in the book of Genesis stemmed from the lack of human cultivation. After all, even today an untended garden soon becomes a desolate wilderness (Prov. 24:30-34). Work is indispensable to make the earth fit for human as opposed to animal habitation. Not for nothing did Paul say that those who won’t work shouldn’t eat (2 Thes. 3:10, cf. Gen. 3:17-19).
- It was inevitable that man who was in transition from his animal beginning should like a child be unable to cope on the one hand (Gen. 5:29) and to be dominated by his fleshly or animal nature on the other (e.g. Gen. 6:11).
- Nowadays, infants and even children have adult parents to nurture them and so do not experience the harsh realities of a naturally intractable and inhospitable creation, the so-called curse, which indispensably requires man’s dominion to make it habitable (Gen. 1:26-28).
- On the assumption of recapitulation, infant baptism reflects the early church Marcionite heresy which virtually dispensed with the Old Testament. It is not only unchristian, it is even anti-Christian since it ignores the evolutionary development of both the individual and the race. The truth is that genuine science is the corollary of biblical theology correctly understood and is intrinsic to the perfecting or maturation process fundamental to mankind. It is far from surprising that science has flourished primarily in a Protestant environment where the work ethic has figured so prominently. In Scripture babies, like Adam and Eve before them, are completely uncovenanted. Christian baptism, however, is an exclusively new covenant phenomenon. Furthermore, since babies are not born sinful, baptismal regeneration performed by a priest is both redundant and futile. Augustine’s claim that unbaptised babies go to hell is simply not true (cf. Eccl. 12:7).
- Regeneration (new birth) and bodily transformation are natural necessities since flesh and blood cannot by nature enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 15:50). Even the sinless Jesus as flesh was subject to both: he was baptised when he attained to righteousness under the law, the precondition of regeneration (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5), and was transformed at his ascension.
- The redemption of creation, still widely held today by those who believe in original sin, is a fallacy. There are in fact two ages, and cosmic dualism gives rise to anthropological dualism. Though man’s flesh as emanating from the physical creation is destroyed, his spirit is glorified in heaven (1 Cor. 15:35-55) where he gains an eternal ‘house’ (2 Cor. 5:1-5).
Though much more is involved, like Luther 500 years ago I must say:
Here I stand. I can do no other.