Seminary graduates tend to be arrogant, theological thugs? Formal learning has no place in the church? The Reformation was evil? Augustine was a twisted pervert and a heretic? Paedobaptists are spiritually unintelligent? Luther and Hitler shared a passionate hatred for Jews? It is ridiculous to bow down to the historical consensus of the church in matters of theology? Calvin murdered Servetus? Greek thinking is responsible for the ills of church history? The Reformers are comparable to Idi Amin?
The above accusations were made by Beresford Job in a video series posted on his web site. Years ago, NTRF played a key role in introducing Mr. Job to America via the Southern House Church Conference. Since then we have had opportunity to hear him teach further and have grown genuinely concerned. With regret we now find it necessary to offer this response to his harsh verbal treatment of others. All quotations are from Job’s video series, “Embracing Biblical Truth Biblically: A Challenge to the Error of Mere Doctrinalism” and have been carefully cited.
Mr. Job’s public teaching is not our only concern. We feel his private attitudes and actions too often bring division and strife rather than unity to the churches he visits. Brothers in other churches have had similar negative experiences with him. Since people we speak with individually are doubtful of these things, together some of us have penned a joint statement of our experiences. You may read it by clicking here.
Is Beresford Job a Theological Thug?
Pragmatism is pervasive among house churches. The house church pragmatist claims that there is no biblical warrant for doing organic, plurally-led, mutually participatory church at home. The pragmatist, rather, does home church simply because it works (sometimes!), and because it avoids things about the institutional church he does not like. The pragmatist’s house church is just another style of church, all of which styles are a matter of individual freedom rather than Scriptural example and precept. The pragmatist says, “If the megachurch works for you, that’s fine. If the traditional church-in-a-box works for you, that’s great. But the house church works for me, so I’m going to do it.”
Fortunately, there is a hardy minority of house churching people who reject the above mentioned anti-biblical attitudes, and who do house church because of what they read in the pages of Scripture. Unfortunately, however, this group of house churchers is too often represented by those who advocate what they term the “biblical church.” It is commendable that these “biblical churchers” reject pragmatism in their church thinking, and it is laudable that they are otherwise doctrinally sound. However, it is also quite unfortunate that they nonetheless have managed to create an ugly mess, as they attempt to propagate church as it was meant to be done by her founder, Jesus Christ. It is with this latter evil that this article is concerned.
Beresford Job is the chief proponent of the so-called “biblical church.” I shall call his philosophy “Jobism” and lay out his philosophy based upon his public teachings. This critique[i] is based mainly on a videotaped lecture series given by Mr. Job at a 2011 house church conference.[ii] The lectures, entitled “Embracing Biblical Truth Biblically: A Challenge to the Error of Mere Doctrinalism!” may be viewed on Mr. Job’s web site.[iii] In critiquing Jobism, I will discuss four very important issues: 1) the role of learning, if any, in the church of Christ; 2) what is the authority of truth in the believer’s life – the Bible checked by the unanimous opinions of those in church history (sola scriptura, the Protestant view), or rather the Bible plus the individual alone (solo scriptura, the Jobist view); 3) how do we judge Christian forerunners who in the past bought into now-discredited world views; and 4) what are the proper rules of engagement for theological combat?
In order to refute Jobism we must state its essence. I will do so by dividing the propositions of Jobism into three sections: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I define “Good” as that with which I agree. I define “Bad” as that with which I merely disagree. I define “Ugly” as that which, when I contemplate it, creates within me serious cause for alarm.
The good elements of Jobism are those propositions of his system which contradict the anti-biblical mystical, charismaniac, legalistic, and pragmatic tendencies of most of the house church movement. Jobism states plainly that scripture gives a normative pattern on how to do church. Raise a cup! Other laudable tenets of Jobism include the following propositions: 1) men, not women, are to lead the church; 2) the Holy Spirit never leads contrary to Scripture; 3) churches should have non-hierarchical and plural, elders; 4) the Lord’s Supper should be eaten festively as a full meal, every Sunday; and 5) church meetings should be mutually participatory; 6) the state should not enforce the doctrines of the church; 7) Protestants are generally correct, and Catholics are generally wrong on the classical issues that divide the two groups; and 8) truth taught without grace debilitates. Hear hear!
Jobism holds that 1) “Greek-thinking” is the cause of just about every evil in the church today, including murder, bad sex, gracelessness, and theological thuggery. In addition, Jobism maintains that 2) educated Christians are second-class Christians whose learning has virtually no place in the church of Christ. Jobism also proposes that 3) the consensus of church history should be ignored when searching for doctrinal truth, and 4) we should call Jobism “biblical church,” while calling everybody else’s church “unbiblical.” Although I disagree with these propositions, I must note that in other contexts good Christians have differed with me on some of these points. But now, I turn from that which (from my point of view) is merely disagreeable, to those aspects of Jobism which I find deeply distressing.
What is ugly about Jobism is the unqualified, venomous rhetoric of Jobism’s chief proponent. I do not deny Mr. Job’s right to use strong language to denounce that which he does not like. But there are limits to that right, and as I present Mr. Job’s claims, I ask the reader to ask himself, has Mr. Job perhaps crossed a line?
Here are some examples. Augustine, the author of the spiritual classic The Confessions of Saint Augustine, a book still read with great profit by Christians over 1500 years after it was written, was condemned by Mr. Job as “twisted and perverted” (4, 40:52) and “an influence for evil.” (4, 35:04) With reference to Augustine, a Nicene Christian who wrote the standard defense of the Trinity that is still used today, and who believed in the divinity and humanity of Jesus and in the resurrection of the dead, Mr. Job says “he was a heretic…absolutely.” (4, 37:15) Furthermore, opines Mr. Job, Augustine was “not in any way, shape, or form what you and I call an orthodox Christian” (4; 35:44).
Mr. Job then uncharitably directs his fulminations towards seminarians: “When you go to a seminary you get turned into a theological thug.” (4, 01:13:10) “They [seminarians] come out arrogant. How could they not? That’s what seminary has trained them to be.” (4, 01:13:43)
Earlier, Mr. Job impugns the intelligence of paedo-baptists when he states concerning them “That does not show great spiritual intelligence when someone believes that.” (4, 46:56) Later, he purges himself of his ire by attacking the Reformation, which he labels a “holocaust.” (4, 46:17) He labels the Reformers “theological thugs.” (4, 49:01) Mr. Job likes that phrase, and uses it a lot. I like it too, that’s why I used it in the title of this paper with reference to Mr. Job. The Reformers were a “doctrinal mafia.” (4, 49:01) “It [the Reformation] is murder, it is evil.” (4, 49:47). Its learned leaders were “murderers”. (3, 1:19:59) (4, 51:41) Mr. Job concludes his tour-de-force by comparing Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli to the mass-murderers Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and Idi Amin in Uganda (4, 49:47), and by finally saying “Hitler and Martin Luther shared a common passion. . .” (3, 1:19:59)
Oddly, all the above condemnations were preached in the same series of talks (3, 57:05) where he criticized certain believers who were “banging on” about their doctrines, by telling them “you are so pushy, you are so rude, you are so dominating, and arrogant.” Nevertheless, there is one particular point of Mr. Job’s teaching with which I heartily concur. He states that, even if we upset people, “our speech has still been gracious, it’s still been loving, it’s still been respectful, and even anything corrective must be for the benefit and the good of the person you’re correcting. . . Guarding our lips and being polite and respectful is grace.” (3, 46:47) He also urged his hearers to teach truth accompanied with grace in order to make our teachings attractive (1:11:33). Yet this comes from a man who in the same series of talks has labeled paedo-baptists spiritually unintelligent, Augustine a twisted pervert, seminarians theological thugs, and Martin Luther a Nazi. This rough treatment of Christians who disagree is apparently a peculiar characteristic of Jobism. I feel Mr. Job’s rhetoric will likely discourage people from wanting to go out and do “biblical church.” It also raises the question, Is Beresford Job himself a theological thug?
Turning Jobism into a Job-wasum
To refute Jobism, five of its basic errors must be exposed. They are listed as follows: 1) most educated Christians are arrogant and learning has no place in the church; 2) “Greek-thinking” has led to almost every evil existing in the church; 3) the Christian consensus of church history should never be used to evaluate truth or error, but only the individual and his Bible should do so (Solo Scriptura versus Sola Scriptura); 4) leaders in church history who unfortunately participated in the currently-rejected errors of their times should be excoriated ruthlessly, rhetorically spit upon and condemned as twisted perverts and murders; and 5) intemperate, unmodulated, venomous, bilious rhetoric toward erring Christians somehow lies within the bounds of legitimate theological combat.
JOBIST ERROR 1 ~ Most Educated Christians Are Arrogant And Learning Has No Place In The Church
Know-nothingism has reared its silly head many times throughout history. It usually sinks beneath the waves leaving scarcely a ripple, because its advocates are not intelligent or resourceful enough to defend it. So, I suspect that Mr. Job’s version of obscurantism will not survive for long. However, his extremist opinions are worth considering, because they are instructive of a certain mindset. Consider Mr. Job on the role of Christian seminaries: “Theological seminary has no part whatsoever to play in biblical church life.” (emphasis mine 4,01:11:01) While allowing that “some” resist their seminary education and come out “nice guys,” Mr. Job asserts confidently that “When you go to a seminary you get turned into a theological thug.” (4,01:13:10) He continues by saying that seminary students “come out arrogant. How could they not? That’s what seminary has trained them to be.” (4,01:13:43)
I do not mind at all if Mr. Job wants to attack the seminary system. I do mind that he uses a vicious ad hominem attack on the people who go to seminaries, not to mention the many godly men who teach there. I have attended a well-known evangelical seminary, and so I can speak from personal experience, in contrast to Mr. Job, who merely bloviates. I can assure you that, beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certitude, 99.99 percent of all seminarians are in no way, shape, or form, “arrogant theological thugs.” Mr. Job’s intemperate personal attacks are misinformed and slanderous. I think of Wayne Grudem’s comment made somewhere that hardly anyone will write theology anymore, because of fear of being attacked in public. Dr. Grudem, prominent in the world of seminarians, should know what he’s talking about. The picture he paints of a seminarian does not create a profile of an arrogant theological thug.
If Mr. Job were consistent, he would deplore the authorship of books written by the theological thugs in seminaries. In addition, he would not use such books. Ah, but as a matter of fact, he does use such books. He quotes The History of Christianity (A Lion Handbook) to prove his points about “biblical” church.[iv] The part of his famous Traditions Series concerning Jewish legalism, is inspired by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Jewish dispensationalist scholar. And how does Mr. Job know a thing about Clement of Alexandria and the terrible Greek-thinking of the early church fathers without reading books based on the patient, painstaking, laborious labors of scholars, many of whom went to seminary where they were trained to be arrogant, theological thugs?
Mr. Job claims that “Jesus was unlearned” and “the apostles were unlearned.” (4, 01:18:59) Unfortunately, this is untrue. Jesus was learned enough to dispute Jewish rabbis at the age of twelve.[v] John, writing the book of Revelation, knew enough Old Testament Scripture that the Apocalypse has been called the most Jewish book in the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles may not have gone to seminary, but they were not ignorant of what today would be called “scholarly.” Jesus knew Pharisaical rabbinism so well he could debate the Pharisees on their own terms, and win every time. Paul himself, the Pharisee of Pharisees, was extraordinarily learned in scriptural studies. He even made one of his scriptural arguments depend on one letter added to a Greek word. (Gal 3:16) Agrippa was so impressed with Paul’s academic expertise that Agrippa exclaimed that Paul’s learning had made him mad. (Acts 26:24) Of course, Paul realized academic learning was useless in itself to find wisdom, as even a casual reading of his first two chapters of the his first Corinthian letter will show. But Mr. Job goes further than this; in a typically unmodulated, extremist manner he says falsely that Jesus and the apostles were unlearned (4, 01:18:59) and those who go to seminary are theological thugs.
It is one thing to point out that pride and arrogance exists among the learned. It is quite another thing to say, as Mr. Job does, that “I have been blessed to have never been to cemetery – ugh, seminary. I don’t have any university degrees of any kind.” (4, 01:15:22) Mr. Job further boasts: “I never have [learned Greek or Hebrew] . . . I think I’m doing OK.” (4, 01:12:10) If boasting of one’s learning is unattractive, what shall we say then concerning one who boasts of his ignorance? Is ignorance somehow a qualification for spiritual ministry?
Mr. Job’s animus towards academic learning is on special display when he vents his spleen on the Southern House Church Conference, the event that introduced Mr. Job to America. Mr. Job relates the story of how he was invited to the conference as a keynote speaker, and then was shown the biographies of the breakout speakers who were invited to speak with him. The speakers were so learned that Mr. Job reported that “I actually went white. I went into shock.” (4, between 1:15:22 and 1:18:02) Mr. Job further complains about the educational attainments printed in the conference literature: “What we are saying is that if somebody has degrees that make him the expert, that’s designed to put you in your place.” (4, 01:19:56) The conference organizers put him in his place, all right. They made him the keynote speaker of the conference more than once, and on several occasions assigned him breakout sessions. Apparently Mr. Job’s disdain for Greek-thinking has impelled him to abandon the ordinary uses of logic, for which Greek-thinking was noted. If the conference organizers (one of whose highest academic degree is a high-school diploma, just like Mr. Job) were so ginned up on academic degrees, then why did they give Mr. Job, who lacked such degrees, such a prominent role in the conferences, thus launching him into his American ministry? As the conference organizer who handled the collection of those biographies, I can assure you that I never realized Mr. Job had a problem with the publication of the speakers’ academic degrees until I just this year (2012) became acquainted with the video talks which form the target of this paper. He never said a word to the conference organizers while he was attending the conferences, thus enjoying the free forum that the labors of the conference organizers provided, even though the conference literature sent him into “shock.” It is good to see now that Mr. Job has decided to come clean, and has found his tongue at the 2011 New England House Church Conference, where he publicly, by name, trashed the Southern House Church Conference that launched him into his ministry in the USA. And speaking of house church conferences that gave Mr. Job a forum, consider that the very lectures I am critiquing, in which Mr. Job disses seminarians as theological thugs, were delivered at a conference founded by a brother who graduated from a seminary![vi]
JOBIST ERROR 2 ~ “Greek Thinking” Has Led To Almost Every Evil Existing In The Church
I do not exaggerate by my choice of title for this section. Like a runaway freight train skidding on polished rails, Mr. Job’s logic races headlong from his first premise that “Greek thinking” is evil, into his conclusions, without any supporting explanation. According to Mr. Job, Greek thinking is responsible for the belief that the ends justify the means (4, 29:35); bad sex (4, 04:30) and bad art (4, 14:39); murder (4, 51:41); the Reformers killing Anabaptists (4, 47:48); the state church (4, 29:35)(3, 1:24:11); theological thuggery (4, 49:01); godlessness (4, 52:30); gracelessness (4, 52:30); shooting the messenger when you can’t get rid of the message (5, 23:52); apathy (4, 33:05); character assassination (5, 23:54); splitting the Anabaptists into one thousand factions. (3, 1:16:00) These are remarkable charges. Yet, in listening to Mr. Job’s taped diatribe, one is hard put to discover any reasons as to why Greek-thinking has led to these untoward results. I guess that would involve reasoning, and since Greek-thinking is noted for logic and reason, Mr. Job does not desire to be associated with such evil concepts.
Mr. Job correctly points out that Greek thinking emphasizes the teaching of concepts, whereas “Hebrew thinking” emphasizes “experimental demonstration” (4, 01:10:11), i.e., the walking out of ethical concepts in one’s life. I do not intend to defend the proposition that merely mentally ascribing to abstract intellectual concepts will advance one spiritually, or even practically. However, to go further than that and to say that merely “teaching concepts” leads to murder, etc. is an example of Mr. Job’s ideological extremism. In addition, it is more than a little ironic that Mr. Job, in the very talk in which he denigrates the teaching of concepts to those who are not walking with the teacher in experimental demonstration of the teaching, is doing exactly what he condemns. He is passing along his Jobist concepts to an audience who is sitting listening to a lecture, very much like a group of theological thugs in a seminary. Mr. Job professes to hate systematic theology (4, 23:19), and yet he has systematized his own teaching in books and tapes in such a way so that it can be presented logically to an audience. Are we to conclude that the only legitimate systematic theology is one compiled by Mr. Job himself?
It is ironic that the apostle Paul, who wrote over thirty percent of the New Testament, himself wrote in Greek, and in fact, used his knowledge of Greek to make hair-splitting, logical theological arguments. For example, he argued that since the famous promise to Abraham was to Abraham and his seed, and not to Abraham and his seeds, then Abraham’s descendant who was contemplated in the promise was Jesus. (Gal 3:16) Mr. Job says that he doesn’t like systematic theology: “If it didn’t occur to God to give us a systematic theology in the Bible – well, then how come we’re making such a big deal of it?” (3, 1:07:55) One wonders if Mr. Job has ever read the Book of Romans. Unlike Mr. Job’s verbal castigations, Paul’s writings in that book are logical, in addition to being sequenced, and systematic.
Mr. Job asserts that Greek thinking led to the union of church and state, which led to various murders, including the murders of the Anabaptists. Here I find the greatest irony of all in Jobist thought. The moral equivalent of the union of church and state has existed ever since history began, long before the Greeks ever appeared on the earth; so how does Mr. Job get off in blaming that on the Greeks? And in fact, it was because of the Greeks that the ancient world began to veer somewhat from that unfortunate concept. One will recall that the totalitarian despotism of the East was countered by the Greeks in the time of Alexander the Great. When Alexander invaded the East, he created a clash between Greek civilization and oriental despotisms. It was the freedom-loving Greeks in Alexander’s government who opposed the tyrannical ways of oriental despotism. The idea of the separation of church and state was never really successfully tried until the Americans accomplished it. And who were the American founding fathers enormously influenced by? Why, the GREEKS, of course, by way of the Enlightenment. What are the Greeks famous for? They are considered the founders of democracy. Yet Mr. Job damns them for being the authors of church-state tyranny.
Mr. Job claims that we should all embrace Hebrew thinking. Well, one may meticulously go over all the Old Testament verse by verse and he will find absolutely nothing about the separation of church and state, but rather, just the opposite. In fact, the Reformers, whom Mr. Job dismisses as sympathetic with Nazism and the perpetrators of a “holocaust” (4:46:17), were very much influenced by Hebrew thought. Their theology led them to believe that the church-state circumstances of the Old Testament were not abolished at the cross, and therefore the state had the same right to do with heretics that the Old Testament authorities had. This unfortunate theology had absolutely nothing to do with the Greek thinking, but rather, with Hebrew thinking!
Mr. Job, determined to condemn the mind of the Greeks, ignores certain benefits the Greeks brought to the world with their thinking, all of which benefits Mr. Job, no doubt unconsciously, partakes of. Reason, the applied use of reason, and technology all came from the Greeks. (I doubt if the flush toilet would have been invented without them!). It is to the Greeks that we owe the concepts of democracy. How about the Parthenon and Venus de Milo? And how about those terrible Greek-thinking church fathers who came up with the doctrines of the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and the humanity of Jesus? Perhaps Mr. Job could have done better, since he did not go to seminary.
Jobist Error 3 ~ The Lone Individual is the Sole Judge of Truth, Irrespective of Christian Consensus
What is the source of authority for the believer, the Bible interpreted by the believer alone, or interpreted by the believer with the help of Christians in church history who have gone on before? Years ago the classic country music singer Tom T. Hall put out a song entitled “Me and Jesus.” The lyrics went like this: “Me and Jesus got a good thing going/ Me and Jesus got it all worked out./ Me and Jesus got a good thing going/ Don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” This classic hyper-pietist, super-individualistic, anti-communitarian song reflects well a strong element present in American Christian culture in general, and in Jobism in particular. Consider this statement by Mr. Job: “I’m not bowing down to the consensus of church history. Of course I’m not. I’m bowing down to the revealed word of God. Why bow down to a consensus of church history? It’s ridiculous… If we’re going to go by the consensus of church history, then let’s baptize babies. Let’s persecute people who disagree with us. Let’s get back into the state churches… They haveequally been a part of the consensus of church history as is all the genuine stuff – Trinity, salvation by faith, the divinity of Jesus.” (emphasis mine) It is rare that a speaker or writer lays out an argument so egregiously pitiful that it can be refuted just by reading it. Baptizing babies has enjoyed equal consensual support in church history the way the Trinity has? Persecuting people who disagree with us is equallysupported in church history as is salvation by faith? State churches areequally supported by a consensus of church history as is the divinity of Jesus? Perhaps if Mr. Job had gone to seminary and become a theological thug, he would have read enough church history to know that his statements are patently false, unsupportable, and in fact, risible. I suppose that Mr. Job, having abandoned the logic and reason which are major components of Greek thinking, expects his listeners to do the same. This is what Mr. Job presents as an enticement to allure folks into doing “biblical” church?
Mr. Job had better bow down to the consensus of church history when it comes to the Trinity. Mr. Job had better bow down to the consensus of church history when it comes to the humanity of Jesus. Mr. Job had better bow down to the consensus of church history when it comes to the divinity of Jesus. Mr. Job had better bow down to the consensus of church history when it comes to the resurrection of the dead. If he does not, we will all be able to label him as a heretic, instead of merely pretentious.
Mr. Job is making an inartful case for Solo Scriptura, a term which Keith Mathison, in his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura, has coined to distinguish the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura. Solo Scriptura is the principal that the individual believer may take his Bible and derive truth from it, without having to use theological propositions developed by others in church history who have passed before. According to this theory, one may take one’s Bible never having heard of the Trinity, the humanity of Jesus, or the divinity of Jesus, and on one’s own come up with what it took the church hundreds of years and several famous theological councils like Nicea and Chalcedon to come up with. This hubris is challenged by the principle of Sola Scriptura, which acknowledges the priority of Scripture, but which does not acknowledge the individual’s ability to interpret that Scripture divorced from the hard experience learned by our Christian forefathers. As that well-known theological thug Charles Hodge has stated, “for an individual Christian to dissent from the faith of the universal Church (i.e. the body of true believers), is tantamount to dissenting from the Scriptures themselves.” Christians disagree on a whole lot of things, things that you and I both consider very important. But there are certain fundamentals that are so basic that every Christian believes them. There is indeed a consensus of church history concerning these topics, a consensus to which I would suggest Mr. Job bow down to more often. It is true, as Mr. Job never tires of telling us, that the church has made errors in the past, terrible errors. But the consensus of church history has never been wrong (think: Trinity, divinity of Jesus, humanity of Jesus). Every heretic itching with the desire to destroy the Christian faith has assiduously attempted to separate the orthodox from the consensus of church history, as exemplified by creeds such as the Apostle’s Creed, and the Nicene Creed. Mr. Job finds himself in the unpleasant company of Jehovah’s Witnesses, heretical hyper-preterists, liberals and Unitarians, all of whom despise the consensus of church history, and appeal to “the Bible alone” as the measure of truth. Mr. Job accuses seminarians of being arrogant, but then himself proudly trumpets that he has no use for the consensus of two thousand years of church history.
JOBIST ERROR 4 ~ Mistaken Christians in Church History Should be Judged by Our Modern Standards
How do we deal with great men who nonetheless failed to escape the errors of their age, most particularly, those who advocated the union of church and state, and the executions which resulted from that union? What would you think about a man who said that white people were superior to black people because black men preferred white women, in contrast to male orangutans, who preferred black women? Consider this quotation:
Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of color in the white race, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black that covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, and their[black’s] own judgment in favor of the whites, declared by the preference of them [blacks for whites], as uniformly as is the preference of the Orangutan for the black women over those of his own species.
Would you damn him to a hell to be spent in the eternal company of Ku Klux Klansmen? Would your opinion change if I told you the author of those quotations was none other than Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, in which Mr. Jefferson famously wrote that “all men are created equal”?[vii]
Consider another quotation from history:
I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
Would you consign the above author to the same hell you to which just sent Thomas Jefferson? Would your opinion change if I told you the author of that quotation was The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln?[viii] If your answer is yes, then you are employing the same method of historical analysis employed by Jobists. You would be falling into one of the errors identified by the great English historian Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), who wrote: “There are two opposite errors into which… [men] are in constant danger of falling: the error of judging the present by the past, and the error of judging the past by the present.”[ix] Mr. Job has been trapped by the latter error. He has unearthed, no doubt by reading books written by theologically thuggish seminarians, evidence which is very damning to leading figures of the Reformation. For the sake of space, I will consider only two such instances. The first is Martin Luther’s writing on the Jews. The second is John Calvin’s role in the execution of Michael Servetus.
Martin Luther and the Jews
The famous church historian Roland Bainton once wrote that it would probably have been better if Luther had died before he wrote what he did about the Jews.[x] Here is an example, taken from Luther’s infamous On the Jews and their Lies:
Let their houses also be shattered and destroyed . . . Let their prayer books and Talmuds be taken from them, and their whole Bible too; let their rabbis be forbidden, on pain of death, to teach henceforth any more. Let the streets and highways be closed against them. Let them be forbidden to practice usury, and let all their money, and all their treasures of silver and gold be taken from them and put away in safety. And if all this be not enough, let them be driven like mad dogs out of the land[xi].
Mr. Job pounces on quotations such as this to damn Luther and the Reformation, stating that “Hitler and Martin Luther shared a common passion . . . That’s the Reformation.” (3, 1:19:59) Oddly, Mr. Job also cheerily acknowledges that Martin Luther is a Christian. (4, 49:35) So henceforth I shall refer to Martin Luther as Mr. Job’s Nazi Christian brother. Mr. Job did not do his Nazi Christian brother justice. He did to Martin Luther exactly what an anti-American might do to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln: take the quotations out of historical context, apply modern standards of righteousness, and ignore all other quotations and accomplishments that might soften one’s harsh judgment.
In the course of his talks, Mr. Job failed to tell his audience that Luther was not opposed to the Jews racially, but rather theologically as enemies of Christ. Consider these quotations from Luther:
Just as I may eat, drink, sleep, walk, ride with, buy from, speak to, and deal with a heathen, Jew, Turk, or heretic, so I may also marry and continue in wedlock with him. Pay no attention to the precepts of those fools who forbid it . . . A heathen is just as much a man or a woman—God’s good creation—as St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Lucy . . .[xii] (emphasis mine)
Male, female, slave, free, Jew, Gentile, king, subject—these are, of course, good creatures of God.[xiii]
. . . let us pray for our Reuchlin.[xiv] (the famous Jewish Hebrew scholar)
It sounds to me Mr. Job’s Nazi Christian brother was more enlightened than Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, who could not seem to imagine a black person marrying a white person. Martin Luther, on the other hand, rose above the prejudices of his time and culture and welcomed social intercourse with Jews, including marriage. Would Adolf Hitler have married a Jew? Would Adolf Hitler have written a treatise called Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew inviting Jews into the Christian faith, as Martin Luther did in 1523? Would Adolf Hitler have acknowledged Jews as “good creatures of God”? Would Adolf Hitler have called for public prayer for a prominent Jew?
Luther’s attitude towards the Jews was based merely upon his theology, not racial hatred. Martin Luther’s whole life was opposed to papal legalism, and so those who pushed for righteousness derived from law, as rabbinic Judaism did, as many of the Anabaptists did, bore the brunt of Martin Luther’s sharp pen. He even blasted lawyers for the same reason.[xv] Luther was also opposed to the Jews because of his historicist eschatology, which viewed the Turks and Jews as part of a great end-time coalition aimed at wiping Christians out under the leadership of the Pope, the Antichrist.[xvi] I think Luther was wrong about that, but many of Mr. Job’s dispensationalist confreres hold to much the same view when they say that the Antichrist will be a Jew. Are these dispensationalists anti-semites? One might add that Luther’s views of the Jews hardened as time passed, because they made no effort to convert to the gospel of Christ. We do not know precisely what rabbinic writings Luther was reacting against, but if they were of the sort found in the Talmud that stated that Jesus was boiling in hell in a vat of excrement,[xvii] one can feel just a little more sympathy for Luther. We do know certainly from Luther’s infamous tract On the Jews and Their Lies that a Jewish rabbi told Luther that Jesus was a “hanged highwayman.”[xviii] We know that Luther was familiar with the Talmudic tradition of the rabbis, which held, among other things, that Adam had sex with all the animals in the field before he had sex with Eve; and pederasty with a child below nine is not considered as bad as with a child above that age.[xix] And the fact that Luther was old and sick and at the end of his life when his attitude towards the Jews hardened might account for some of his feelings. Rumors Luther heard that some Jews were attempting to poison him may have affected his attitude.[xx] Mr. Job only damns, offering his audience no contextual understanding of Luther.
Mr. Job’s hatchet job on his Christian brother Martin Luther evokes a thoughtful quote from an author who defends Luther. I will let Joel McDurnom comment on Mr. Job and other critics of Luther who employ On the Jews and Their Lies: “[They] seize Luther’s harshest words… Some abridged versions of this tract are nothing more than a few paragraphs of the most biting words strung together out of context….The actual tract is about 65,000 words – enough to fill about 200 standard double-spaced pages of print. In them you will find several topics each comprised of consistent and long argumentation and usually in tune with a detailed look at important Scripture passages . . . Luther’s opponents . . . never tell you this. Instead, we get a few choice excerpts of juicy material — very much like a political attack ad today. Needless to say, those abridged versions hardly do justice to Luther’s point, let alone to Luther in general, and could well be accused of outright dishonesty.”[xxi]
Mr. Job blamed Luther’s attitude toward the Jews on his “Greek thinking.”[xxii] He condemns his Nazi Christian brother’s writings against the Jews as “venomous evil.” (3, 1:16:52) After he blames this “venomous evil” on Luther’s “Greek thinking,” he then widens the target of his smears to the entire Reformation: “Hitler and Martin Luther shared a common passion… That’s the Reformation.” (3, 1:19:59) One wonders then, why other products of the Reformation’s Greek thinking, almost all universally opposed Luther’s attacks on the Jews? Luther’s close associate Philipp Melanchthon was unhappy. Luther’s disciple Osiander wrote an apology for what Luther had written about the Jews. Luther’s lifelong colleague Justas Jonas did his best to offset Luther’s disparaging opinions of the Jews. Protestant political authorities who could have enforced Luther’s desire to run the Jews out of the country refused to follow through on Luther’s recommendations.[xxiii] All these Reformation figures were just as influenced by “Greek thinking” as was Luther, and yet they came to opposite conclusions. This illustrates Mr. Job’s unstudied tendency to assume cause-and-effect linkages when none exist. It also illustrates his blissful unconcern about slandering his Christian brothers. If Mr. Job called his Christian brother Martin Luther — a man about whom more books have been written than any human on earth except for Jesus Christ, a man who delivered the world from a crushing, brutal theological system — if Mr. Job can call him a Nazi, imagine then, what he might call you should you disagree with him.
John Calvin and Michael Servetus
Michael Servetus is to John Calvin what the Iran-Contra affair was to Ronald Reagan: an event used by enemies to taint the greatness of a great man. Here is what Mr. Job claims happened, referring to Servetus’ execution in Geneva for anti-Trinitarian heresy: “Calvin deliberately had Servetus murdered and he spent the rest of his life justifying it wherever he could.” (3, 1:19:59) There are two basic categories into which one might place propositions: lies, and damn lies. There needs to be a third category for Mr. Job’s statement concerning John Calvin and Michael Servetus.
Here is what actually happened.[xxiv] First, John Calvin did not “murder” Servetus. After due process, the Council of Geneva judicially executed Servetus for heresy. John Calvin was not on that Council. He was on the Consistory, the governing body of the Reformed Church in Geneva. The consistory only had the power to excommunicate, nothing more. In fact, John Calvin was not even a citizen of Geneva in 1553 when Servetus was executed. Did Calvin’s friends on the Council execute Servetus through Calvin’s influence? No. The Council at that time was under the control of the Libertines, Calvin’s enemies. At the time Servetus fled to Geneva, having escaped a Catholic trial which would have likely had him executed, every city in Europe wanted him executed. When Servetus arrived in Geneva, he tried to have Calvin executed for heresy. He arranged the legalities such that, if he had prevailed, all of Calvin’s property would have ended up in Servetus’ hands. The night before Servetus’ execution, Calvin went to see him, in order to urge Servetus to repent, so that he would not be executed. He also petitioned (unsuccessfully) the Libertines in charge of the Council to commute the sentence from burning, an excruciating death, to beheading, which was quicker and more humane.
Now, having heard some of the background, do you want to give Mr. Job a hearing when he damns John Calvin (his Christian brother, Mr. Job amazingly admits) as a murderer? If you want to condemn John Calvin of something, condemn him for being a human being in the 16th century. Nobody believed in the separation of church and state then, and it was considered the duty of the state to protect its citizens from beliefs which would damn the soul eternally. We all know that this once universally-accepted idea did not work, and that it lead to terrible injustices, but we have the advantage of centuries of hindsight. The Anabaptists were right on that issue, but in 1553, the word Anabaptist was associated with the Munster rebellion and its atrocities, which had only been put down in 1535, and no one could be heard who advocated separation of church and state. The American Founding Fathers, who established the first working government where true separation of church and state worked, were two centuries in the future. I wish Calvin had been superhuman and had risen above his age. I also wish Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln had not said what they said about black people. I wish Plato had not advocated slavery. But I am not ignorant enough to call these great men racists and oppressors. These men, to borrow a phrase from an author, were men of “tainted greatness.” Would that those who freely and easily denigrate great men of the past for their imperfections could rise to the level of those great men. It would be nice if armchair critics, perched safely in the future, insulated from the terrible difficulties of the past, would be possessed of a smidgen of greatness to taint.
JOBIST ERROR 5 ~ Venomous Rhetoric May Be Used Without Restriction to Describe Erring Christians
What are the proper rules of engagement in theological combat? Mr. Job has a dyspeptic rhetorical style. I do not mean to say that Mr. Job does not have the right to verbally unload on his opponents. He has apostolic precedent to back him up. However, I think all would agree that if one is going to use nuclear bombs, one should be skilled in nuclear weaponry. One does not indiscriminately use nuclear weapons without killing innocent people. Therefore, let us take a quick look at a list of “Rules of Engagement for Theological Combat” which I hereby propose, and see how if Mr. Job has played within the rules of the game.[xxv]
- It is OK to be rougher on heretics than on one’s Christian brothers.Note that Jesus was dealing with Pharisees, and Paul was dealing with hymanean heretics, and Peter and Jude were dealing with heretics also.[xxvi] Mr. Job is dealing with people whom he says are Christians.
- Public discourse may be much rougher than private discourse. Note how kind Jesus was to the Pharisee Nicodemus, who came to Jesus in the middle of the night to talk privately to him. Compare that to how nasty Jesus was to the Pharisees who challenged him publicly. There is a reason for this. When the public is listening, if the truth gets trampled, the public gets hurt.
- The greater the issue involved, the rougher may be the rhetoric.Note how important dealing with legalism was to Paul, and how roughly he treated the legalists (and their temporary sympathizers, Peter and Barnabas).
- One who is attacked may respond proportionately. Note that Jesus was constantly provoked and challenged by the Pharisees. The Pharisees, in response, got from Jesus exactly what they deserved.
- It is best, when on defense, not to use more artillery than was used by the offense. A proportionate response is a just response.
- The more people affected by the error, the rougher may be the rhetoric used against them. There are far too many errors floating around in the public domain to warrant blasting them morning, noon, and night, if nobody is listening to the errorist.
- No ad hominem arguments. This should go without saying.[xxvii]
- One’s opponent must be quoted fairly. All moderating context and qualifications used by the opponent should be acknowledged.
- No straw men. One should understand thoroughly the position of one’s opponent, and present it fairly, before attacking it.
- If no one is credibly opposing the errorist whom you are opposing, your rhetoric may be rougher. Exploding rhetorical bombs might wake up the lazy-bones on your side who know the truth, but have got other things on their mind that are more important to them. It makes it easier to ride to the sound of the guns if your fellow soldiers’ guns are firing.
- If one’s opponents are skilled in debate, one may treat them rougher. Opponents like this are more likely to carry off the overwhelming majority of good folks who depend on their instincts rather than their learning and logic to ward off error, and to embrace truth. It should be shown to the sheep that are being protected that the opponents of the truth are blowing smoke, and that they are not nearly as clever as they seem.
- One must be utterly convinced to a moral certitude and beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is correct. That does not make him correct. However, this rule screens out those unpleasant people who like to argue trivialities that they do not really believe in merely for the sake of arguing.
- If one is shown to be wrong, one publicly recants. I recall once inadvertently writing something that compared hyper-preterist heretics to “sleazy lawyers.” I was called on it publicly. As much as it pained me, I publicly retracted the statement with an apology. (Looking back on it, I probably should have apologized to the sleazy lawyers, not the hyper-preterists!) Let us see if Mr. Job will have the good sense and decency to publicly retract his slanders and misinformation.
I believe those thirteen points comprise a pretty stiff standard, but we need a high standard, since we are dealing with the rhetorical equivalent of warfare. I do not really expect any controversialist to completely live up to them, but I think they should try their best to come close. Now, I ask you: how close does Mr. Job come? On points ## 2, 3, 5, 11, and 12, Mr. Job, I think, could acquit himself well. However, in my view he flunks on points ##1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Point 1: Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Augustine are, by his own admission Christian brothers (4, 40:52; 49:35), and yet Mr. Job calls them, either directly or indirectly, Nazis, murderers, theological thugs, a doctrinal mafia, and twisted perverts.Point 4: has Mr. Job ever been attacked by Lutherans, Calvinists, or Augustinians to such a degree as to warrant his hysterical attacks on their heroes? Point 6: Is there any chance that a Lutheran might seduce someone to Nazism, or a Calvinist is more likely to murder someone? What is the point of Mr. Job’s intemperate attacks? Point 7: Were one to examine closely the lives of Augustine, Calvin, and Luther, and the average seminarian, one would discover that they were anything but Nazis, murderers, theological thugs and murders. One might say that not only were Mr. Job’s attacks ad hominem, they were slanderous. Point 8: I demonstrated clearly earlier that Mr. Job failed completely to consider the context of the damaging quotations he used, nor did he consider mitigating circumstances. Point 9: It is very easy for Mr. Job to take down Nazis, murderers, theological thugs, and twisted perverts. I wonder how he would do were Calvin or Luther present to debate him, instead of the strawy, miserable caricatures that Job set up to knock down? Point 10: Anabaptists, Catholics and Arminians have all used the same line of attack on Luther and Calvin as did Mr. Job. These attacks are all over the internet. Did Mr. Job really feel it was necessary to pour his gallon of gas on the flames?
Conclusion: A Sad State of Affairs
Therefore, as Western Christians, where do we stand? We have an organized, declining Western church encrusted with bureaucracy, politics, fundraising, “worship” performances, boring sermons, and deaf-mutes lined up in rows to hear the sermons. We have out-of-the-system Christians fed up with all that, but who, when they leave the system, or contemplate leaving it, are immediately confronted with ultimate reconciliation post-churchers, hell-deniers, emerging churchers, homosexuality apologists, feminist egalitarians who don’t like calling God a “He,” and all sorts of other doctrinal nut-jobs. That hardy believer (and may God bless him!) who rejects both the institutional church because it is alien to Scripture, and who rejects the anti-biblical errors just mentioned because they are alien to Scripture, having endured the alienation and misunderstanding that inevitably come when he leaves the institutional church, is now confronted with the unseemly rantings of Mr. Job, who tells us he wants us to be “biblical.”
If being “biblical” means having to call Augustine a theological pervert, Luther a Nazi, Calvin a murderer, the Reformation a holocaust and seminarians theological thugs, quite frankly I would rather be snoozing in a pew somewhere, having failed to listen successfully to a sermon. In light of the above evidence I ask again, Is it Beresford Job himself who is the real theological thug? Folks, for those who are crushed by/bored with/disgusted with the organized Western armchair church-in-a-box, it is our duty to offer a credible alternative. Do we really believe that someone is going to be attracted to do “biblical” church, if “biblical” church is represented by the likes of Mr. Job?
It should be clear now that Jobism is a quintessential disaster for that small minority of a minority who desire to escape the modern church system, but who do not want to escape the prescriptions and patterns provided to us by the New Testament scriptures. Do we want the much-abused term “house church” to be associated with such bilious twaddle? As one of the three individuals who introduced Mr. Job to America by means of The Southern House Church Conference, I hereby publicly offer my deepest and most sincere apologies.[xxviii]
[i] I wish to very much thank Steve Atkerson for providing extremely valuable research and editing services in the writing of this article.
[ii] I used Lecture 3, 4 and 5. Parentheses at the end of a quote by Mr. Job will indicated the time in the lecture when Mr. Job made his comment.
[iii] Chigwell Christian Fellowship, http://house-church.org/movies_main.htm , last accessed October 19, 2012.
[iv] Not at the house church conference at which Mr. Job gave the lectures which are the subject of this critique, but in writings on other occasions. For example, at Chapter Four, p. 22, FN 46 of Mr. Job’s book Biblical Church: A Challenge to Unscriptural Traditions and Practice (author’s review copy).
[v] Luke 2:41-52
[vi] Ed Caouette, founder of the New England House Church Conference, first introduced Mr. Job to New England via the conference. In light of Mr. Job’s subsequent teachings, Mr. Caouette asked me to express his regret in ever inviting Mr. Job to speak. The conference’s present organizer, Matt Durning, has also expressed that he has no plans to invite Mr. Job back to speak again at the New England House Church Conference.
[vii] Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), from 1975-1981 David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace, The People’s Almanac,http://www.trivia-library.com/b/u-s-president-thomas-jefferson-compares-blacks-and-whites.htm, last referenced September 30, 2012 and Wikipedia, “Notes of the State of Virginia,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notes_on_the_State_of_Virginia, last referenced October 6, 2012.
[viii] Abraham Lincoln, fourth debate with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858.The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 3, p. 14546, http://quotationsbook.com/quote/44759/, last referenced September 30, 2012.
[ix] Thomas Babington Macaulay, History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 2, Chapter 7, 1848. http://ia600302.us.archive.org/10/items/histofengv2ch07_0711_librivox/historyofengland02ch07_08_macaulay_64kb.mp3.
[x] Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: Mentor Books, 1950), 297.
[xi] This quotation is an assembly of quotations scattered over 23 pages ofLuther’s Works. See LW 47:269-270; LW 292. Cited in James Swan, “Martin Luther’s Attitude Toward the Jews,” June 2005. http://tquid.sharpens.org/luther_Jews.htm#_edn3, last referenced on October 1, 2012.
[xii] Quoted in Carter Lindberg, “Tainted Greatness: Luther’s Attitudes Toward Judaism and Their Historical Reception,” in Nancy A. Harrowitz (ed.), Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 20-21.
[xiii] Luther’s Works 26:353.
[xiv] Luther’s Works 48:10.
[xv] Swan, Section II and see FN 19.
[xvi] Swan, Section III.
[xvii] See Peter Schafer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007, p85, cited in Joel McDurnom, Jesus vs. Jerusalem, America Vision Press, Powder Springs, Ga., 2011, p. 207. Please note: I do not quote McDurnom because I am in sympathy with his reconstructionist theology; I am not.
[xviii] Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies, quoted in McDurnom, p209.
[xix] McDurmon, p. 208.
[xx] Swan, FN 95.
[xxi] McDurnom, p. 204.
[xxii] Martin Luther, ironically, had sympathy with Mr. Job’s passionate distaste for Greek thinking. Consider these quotations of Martin Luther: “Whoever wishes to be a Christian, let him pluck out the eyes of his reason,” “We must give reason a vacation and enter a different school. We must refrain from consulting reason. We must bid reason hold its peace; we must order it to be dead. We must gouge out its eyes and pluck its feathers…,” “You must kill the other thoughts and the ways of reason or of the flesh, for God detests them.” Jim Walker, “Martin Luther’s Dirty Little Book: On the Jews and Their Lies: A Precursor to Nazism,”http://www.nobeliefs.com/luther.htm, retrieved October 3, 2012.
[xxiii] Swan, Appendix 1.
[xxiv] I would refer the reader to several sources to gain a quick overview of the facts of the Servetus case. 1) “Calvin and Servetus”, Third Millennium Ministries, http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/category/ch/file/99812.qna, 2) “Calvin vs. Servetus,” J. Steven Wilkins, http://www.reformed-theology.org/html/issue02/c_vs_s.htm, 3) White, .mp3 clip on Calvin and Servetus, http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3452, 4) William Wileman, “Calvin and Servetus,” Banner of Truth, http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?457, 5) Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Chapter XVI, “Servetus: His Life, Opinions, Trial, and Execution,” http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/history/8_ch16.htm. All retrieved October 2, 2012.
[xxv] I owe a debt to an excellent article on this subject: Phantaz Sunlyk, “Offensisensitivity – Is It ‘un-Christian’ to Engage in Satire?” quoted in Dan Trotter, A (Somewhat) Irenic Response to Certain Naughty Heretical Preterists,” http://www.preteristarchive.com/PartialPreterism/trotter_dan_ca_03_01.html.
[xxvi] I use “heretics” here in the strictest sense of the word: those who are outside of saving faith.
[xxvii] It should also be noted that when an objective statement of an opponent gives evidence of a character defect, the possibility of that characteristic existing may be cited, even though it is not provable. This is not an ad hominem argument, which is designed with a purpose to destroy a proposition irrelevant to the proponent’s character, by destroying the proponent’s character. Giving evidence of a character defect is rather an argument aimed at establishing the virtue or vice of a person’s actions; not, as in the case of an ad hominem argument, which is an argument aimed at destroying a proposition unrelated to the proponent’s character.
[xxviii] The other two brothers involved with the decision, Steve Atkerson and Les Buford, have asked me convey their apologies as well.