Controversial Theologies, Cultic Doctrines, and Ethics
Book and eBook by
Gary F. Zeolla,
the Director of Darkness to Light ministry
This is the second of two volumes. This second volume covers controversial theologies, cultic and aberrant doctrines, and ethics and the Christian life. Included are studies on Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Baptism, Spiritual Gifts, Mormonism, Sexual Relationships Issues, and much more. 20 chapters; 258 pages of very helpful Bible study aid.
Paperback: 258 pages. $11.75. Order from the publisher via their Web site: Lulu Publishing. Also available from Amazon.
Hardback: 258 pages. $20.25. Order from the publisher via their Web site: Lulu Publishing.
Acrobat Reader® eBook: 3,924 KB. $2.95. Purchase and download from the publisher via their Web site: Lulu Publishing.
Kindle Reading Device eBook: 387 KB. $2.99. Order and download from Amazon.
See also Scripture
Workbook: Second Edition; Volume I:
Essentials of "The Faith"
Scripture Workbook: Second Edition: 2 Volumes in 1
Download the free Acrobat Reader®
Purchase the Kindle Wireless Reading Device
This book contains twenty individual “Scripture Studies.” Each study focuses on one general area of study. These studies enable individuals or groups to do in-depth, topical studies of the Bible. They are also invaluable to the Bible study teacher in preparing lessons.
For this Second Edition of this Workbook, all of the studies have been reviewed and expanded, with much new material and new studies added. This book is Volume II of a two volume set. The first volume covered the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. This second volume covers controversial theologies, cultic and aberrant doctrines, and ethics and the Christian life.
Controversial theologies are areas of theology in which conservative (a.k.a. evangelical) Christians disagree. Cultic doctrines are teachings of groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons that are outside of the norm for evangelical Christianity. Aberrant doctrines are false teaching that are taught not by one specific group but are widely circulated on places like the Internet. Ethics are moral issues in which there is a specific conservative Christian stance. The Christian life refers to lifestyle issues and decisions that many Christians struggle over.
The author’s viewpoint is best described as evangelical Protestant, with a Reformed-Baptist perspective. The format for most of these studies is to present both the Scriptural evidence for the author’s viewpoint and the evidence cited by those who promote “opposing viewpoints.” Then rebuttals to these opposing viewpoints are given.
Included in each study are hundreds of Scripture references, so there will be no lack of material from which to conduct your studies.
An extensive list of resources consulted in developing these studies is included in an appendix. These resources can then be pursued if the reader wishes to study a subject in even more depth.
Note that the Scripture Study count in this volume continues from Volume I. That volume had 20 Scripture Studies, so the first study in this book is #21. But the page numbering starts with page 1 as normal.
Note to Users of SWB1
If you currently own a copy of the First Edition of the author’s Scripture Workbook (SWB1), you are probably wondering if it would be worthwhile to get this Second Edition (SWB2). The details are as follows: The sections on “Controversial Theologies” and “Ethics” combined in SWB1 consisted of 11 Scripture Studies, covering just 80 pages. All of the studies in this Volume II of SWB2 deal with these topics. There are 20 studies, covering 230 pages (not counting the introductory pages and appendixes).
In addition, SWB1 utilized Arial 11 print and rather wide margins, while SWB2 uses Times New Roman 11 and smaller margins. Times print is smaller than Arial. As such, the amount of material for these topics is more than triple in SWB2 versus SWB1.
Note also that Times 11 is still very easy to read; in fact it is probably easier to read than Arial print, hence why it is used this time. And there is still plenty of room for users to write their own notes, as this is a “workbook” after all, but the amount of empty space is not excessive. A few empty pages are included at the end of the book for additional note taking.
Table of Contents
Preface - 5
Abbreviations - 7
Notes on this Book - 9
Calvinism versus Arminianism … 11
#21 – The Sovereignty of God - 13
#22 – The Five Points of Calvinism - 21
#23 – Opposing Viewpoints on the Five Points - 25
Various Controversial Theologies … 33
#24 – Questions on Baptism - 35
#25 – Catholicism vs. Protestantism - 45
#26 – Mary, the Mother of Jesus - 63
#27 – The Charismata (Spiritual Gifts): Part One - 75
#28 – The Charismata (Spiritual Gifts): Part Two - 95
#29 – The Seventh-day Sabbath - 113
#30 – End-Time Prophecy - 119
#31 – Human Nature - 135
Cultic and Aberrant Doctrines and Practices … 147
#32 – Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses - 149
#33 – Unique Teachings of Mormonism - 157
#34 – Miscellaneous Cultic and Aberrant Teachings - 167
Ethics and the Christian Life … 187
#35 – Sexual Relationships Issues- 189
#36 – Divorce and Remarriage - 201
#37 – Capital Punishment - 205
#38 – Christians and the Government - 211
#39 – Church Issues - 217
#40 – Miscellaneous Questions - 233
Appendixes … 241
#1 – Bibliography - 243
#2 – Additional Books by the Author - 251
#3 – Author’s Web Sites/ Contacting the Author - 255
The Sovereignty of God
Scripture Study #21
The sovereignty of God refers to “God’s rule and authority over all things” (Erickson, Concise, p. 157). On this general point all evangelical Christians are in agreement.
However, there are three professedly Christian viewpoints regarding the exact nature of God’s sovereignty in relationship to the human will (or volition, i.e., our individual, personal choices in life):
Calvinism:God can and does control the human will. As such, God is absolute Lord over human history in general and individual destinies.
Arminianism:God could control the human will but chooses not to do so. God is Lord over human history in general, but the destiny of any particular person is determined by the exercise of that person’s own “free will.”
Pelagianism, Process Theology:God is incapable of controlling the human will. As such, He is not Lord over human history or over personal destinies. Human “free-will” or “chance” are the ultimate determinate factors. But God is doing the best He can to bring about good in the world. The author of this book agrees with the Calvinist position and believes the following passages support this view. These verses also demonstrate God’s absolute sovereignty in other areas. Studying these verses will help the reader to decide if this is the Biblical position. Whatever position is taken, one thing should become clear—the concept of the sovereignty of God pervades the Scriptures.
The Sovereignty of God in the Old Testament
In the Life of Joseph:
Genesis37:5-11 (cp. 42:6-9; 43:26-28); 37:18-28,36; 39:1-5,20-23; 41:25-32; 42:28; 43:14; 45:4-8; 50:18-20; Ps 105:16f.
In the Exodus:
Exodus3:21; 4:21; 6:1-8; 7:3-5,19-21; 8:6-24,31; 9:1-6,12,22-29; 10:12-15,19-23,27; 11:3-9; 12:29f,35f,40f (cp. Gen 15:13f); 13:19 (cp. Gen 50:24f); 14:4-8,15-31; 15:1-21.
Elsewhere in the Torah:
Genesis 20:1-6; 30:27; 31:1-16,42; 35:5 (cp. 34:30); 38:7-10.
Exodus 4:11; 21:12f; 23:27; 31:3-6; 34:23f; 35:30-36:2.
Numbers 5:21; 11:31; 23:19; 26:3-45.
Deuteronomy 2:24-36 (cp. Numb 21:21-24); 3:1-3,18-22; 4:34; 8:18; 9:3; 11:25 (cp. Josh 6:1); 12:10; 20:1-4 (cp. Exod 17:8-11); 28:1-68; 29:2-4; 32:39.
[Hundreds of additional verses from the rest of the Bible on the sovereignty of God are listed in the study.]
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Scripture Study #26The previous study addressed various differences between Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. This study will look at one specific area of difference, the attitudes and teachings about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Note that Catholics generally capitalize tittles for Mary, including capitalizing the word “mother” (i.e., Mary, Mother of Jesus), but Protestants normally only capitalize her actual name (i.e. Mary, mother of Jesus). This Study follows these conventions for each viewpoint.
General Attitude toward Mary
Catholic Viewpoint:Mary is to be venerated and can be invoked to pray for us to God.
Protestant Viewpoint:Mary is to be honored for being faithful to the Lord, but she should not be venerated and cannot be invoked to pray for us.
Matthew 1:18:Of all the women in Israel, Mary was chosen to be the Mother of Jesus. Since God so highly honored Mary, so should we.
BUT:Yes it was a great honor for Mary to be chosen to be the mother of the Lord. But this was due to pure grace on God’s part, not due to anything special about Mary.
Luke 1:28:Mary is declared by the angel to be “full of grace” that “the Lord is with” her and to be “blessed among women.” These accolades show how very special she is. They are also examples of praise being given to Mary.
BUT:The translation “full of grace” is questionable. Most Protestant versions say something like “highly favored.” The ALT renders it as, “having been bestowed grace” with the alternative translation of “having been shown kindness.” Either way, the “grace” or the “kindness” is something that is shown to Mary. The verse is not teaching she is inherently endowed with some kind of special grace. This can be seen in that the only other time the Greek word used here occurs is in Ephesians 1:6, where all believers are said to have grace bestowed upon us.
On the second phrase, the Lord is with all believers (Heb 13:5f), so that is nothing special in regards to Mary.
On the third phrase, Mary is “blessed” that is true, but so are all believers (Eph 1:3). Moreover, in the OT, Jael is said to be blessed above women (Judg 5:24), so there is nothing special about Mary being said to be blessed among women.
Finally, given that none of these statements declare anything special about Mary herself, they are in no sense praise being given to her. If anything, they are praise to God for His grace in choosing Mary.
In this passage, Mary must have been told about the lack of wine. She then relayed this problem to Jesus, and Jesus responded to her request. This sets the pattern for us to invoke Mary with our concerns, and she in turn presents our requests to Jesus, who will respond because it is His Mother pleading for us.
There is a gigantic difference between what happened then and invoking Mary today. Mary was alive at the time, so those who apparently initially spoke to her knew she heard them as they were talking face-to-face. But Mary is now dead, and her spirit is in heaven. There is no way we can know she can hear us. In fact, it makes no sense that she could. Mary is not omniscient, so she cannot possibly hear and understand millions of people invoking her at the same time. And see on Matthew 12:46-50 in the following Protestant verses.
Romans 15:30; Col 4:3; 1Thes 5:25; 2Thes 3:1; Heb 13:8:
There are many examples in Scripture of Paul asking for people to pray for him. This is the same as invoking Mary to pray for us.
It is not the same! When Paul wrote to the Romans asking that they pray for him, he knew the Romans could read his epistle and respond accordingly as they were alive at the time. But again, Mary is now dead, not alive. There is no promise in Scripture that she can hear and understand our requests.
Revelation 5:8; 8:3f:
In these verses, the twenty-four elders and an angel present our prayers to God. This is similar to Mary presenting our prayers to God.
This is highly symbolic language. It cannot be taken as literally how God hears our prayers. Moreover, the verses do not say that the twenty-four elders or angel were invoked by living people to present these prayers. Plus, Mary is not mentioned.
The “woman” in this passage is clearly Mary as she gives birth to “a Son, a Male, who is about to be shepherding [or, ruling] all the nations with an iron staff” (v.4). In the first verse, Mary is presented in all of her glory, as the Queen of Heaven. Since she is so honored with such a glorious description, we should so honor her too.
The “woman” is not Mary but is symbolic of the Jewish nation. This first can be seen in verse one where the “twelve stars” most likely symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. Then in verse six the “woman” is said to have “fled into the wilderness.” This Mary never did, but the Jews fled into the wilderness in the sense of being scattered from their homeland.
Moreover, verse 17 refers to “the rest of her seed [fig., offspring].” Since Catholics believe Mary did not have any more children after Jesus (see “Perpetual Virginity” lager in this Study), then on their own theology, the “woman” cannot be Mary. In Protestant theology, Mary did have additional children, but there is no indication they were persecution in such a manner as described here. However, the Jewish people have been so persecuted.
In this passage, Mary and Jesus’ half-brothers attempt to talk to Him, but Jesus refuses their request. Thus the Catholic claims about John 2:1-5 that Jesus will listen to and respond to Mary because she is His mother is not necessarily true. Moreover, note that Jesus does not in any way praise Mary. Instead, he places her on the same level as “whoever does the will of My Father” (v.50). For this she is to be honored, but no more than anyone else who does so.
A woman praises Mary. If such praise was warranted, this would have been the place for Jesus to encourage it. But instead, Jesus rebukes the woman and declares that anyone “hearing the word of God and keeping it” is “fortunate.” This was true of Mary, but also of many other people throughout history.
This verse is the last mention of Mary by name in the NT. If she were such an important figure, you would think there would be some mention in Scripture as to what happened to her after this point.
Paul writes that Jesus was “born of a woman.” This is the only time Paul ever refers to Mary, and even here he doesn’t even use her name. Again, if Mary were such an important figure you would think she would have figured more prominently in Paul’s epistles.
[The remainder of this study consists of first evaluating Catholic dogmas about Mary, namely her supposed Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, and Bodily Assumption into heaven. Then it looks at various titles that Catholic ascribe to Mary, like Queen of Heaven and Mother of God.]
Scripture Study #27“The charismata” are spiritual gifts given to Christians. The term comes from the Greek word for “gifts.” Some of these gifts are seemingly “natural” such as teaching or leadership, while others are more supernatural or miraculous in their nature. In regards to these latter types of charismata there is a difference of opinion as to whether they were just for the Apostolic Age or if they are still operating today.
Opinions also vary as to the exact nature of each gift. And how one defines each gift will affect one’s opinion on if it is still operating today. As such, this study will look at each gift in turn and first define it before asking if it still operates today.
Those whose believe the miraculous charismata were mainly for the Apostolic Age will be referred to as traditionalists, while those who believe they are still operating today are called “charismatics.” Some general views of charismatics will also be addressed in this study. The charismatic view will be presented first, with rebuttals from traditionalists following as appropriate. This writer’s viewpoint will be given as a conclusion at the end of the discussion for each gift.
Lists of the Charismata
Three lists of the charismata are given in Scripture. Duplicates and related gifts will be addressed together.
Word of wisdom
Word of knowledge
Divine workings of miraculous works
Discernment of spirits
Interpretation [or, translation] of tongues
Leaders [or, administrators]
Shepherds [or, pastors] and teachers
Word of Wisdom/ Word of KnowledgeThese two gifts will be addressed first as they seem to be related. “Wisdom” is defined as: “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.”
“Knowledge” is defined as: “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition….the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension” (Dictionary.com).
Basically, “knowledge” is the knowing of facts, while wisdom is the application of those facts. But such wisdom and knowledge is generally attained by the normal means of study and experience. The “gift” seems to be that God grants people knowledge they would not know otherwise or He grants people the discernment to use the facts they know in an appropriate manner.
Possible Biblical examples of or references to the gifts of knowledge or wisdom would be the following:
Matthew 10:16-20:Here Jesus promises the gift of the word wisdom to those undergoing persecution as to how to respond to them.
BUT:Possibly true, but the miraculously given wisdom is just for that specific situation of dealing with persecution.
John 1:48:Jesus knew that Nathaniel had been sitting under a fig tree before his brother called him to come meet Jesus, an example of the gift of the word of knowledge.
Jesus tells a woman He has just met that she has been married four times and is currently living with a man she is not married to, another example of the gift of the word of knowledge.
BUT:Both of these examples are of Jesus. As such, they are examples of His omniscience as God in the flesh and not of any spiritual gift given to believers.
Acts 5:1-10:Ananias and Sapphira had apparently promised to donate the full proceeds of the sale of their house to the Church. But they lied about how much it was sold for and kept back some of the money. Peter knew about the deception via the gift of the word of knowledge.
Acts 6:3,10:The first deacons chosen to serve in the Church were to be “full of wisdom.” Stephen then demonstrated the use of this gift of wisdom in his sermon (7:1-53). Stephen’s knowledge of the OT was probably natural, from his study of them. But the God-given gift of wisdom enabled him to apply this knowledge to his listeners’ situation as Stephen obviously did not have time to prepare a sermon. His sermon was so effective that his listeners “were cut through to their hearts” (7:54).
BUT:These two passages probably are examples of the gift of knowledge and of wisdom, respectively. But this was an apostle and a direct apostolic delegate. They do not prove such gifts still operate today.
James 1:5; 3:17:James tells us to pray for wisdom. He then gives the characteristics of this “wisdom from above.”
BUT:There is no indication the wisdom here is the specific gift of the “word of wisdom.” But James’ description is a good way to test if someone’s claimed spiritual wisdom is really from God.
2Peter 3:15:Paul exercised the gift of the word of wisdom in his writings.
BUT:Paul was writing under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That is why his writings are “Scripture” (v.16). Everyone who claims to have the gift of the word of wisdom is not writing new Scripture.
Revelation 13:18; 17:9:The God-given gift of wisdom is necessary to correctly understand Biblical symbolism.
BUT:It is true we need the Holy Spirit’s leading in understanding Scripture, but this is not a special gift given to just some Christians.
Conclusion on Word of Wisdom/ Word of Knowledge:There is little direct information on these gifts, thus it is difficult to be dogmatic about the exact nature of them and if anyone possesses such gifts today.
[This evaluation of the charismata is divided into two parts as it took two chapters to fully cover all of the spiritual gifts.]
Sexual Relationships Issues
Scripture Study #35This study will look at what the Bible has to say on sexual types of relationships and related issues. By this is meant: dating, pre-martial sex, marriage, martial sex, extra-martial sex, homosexuality, polygamy, incest, abortion, and birth control. But divorce and remarriage will be addressed separately in the next chapter.
This study will go through the Scriptures systematically, looking at relevant passages of Scripture in order. Detailed exegesis will be provided for passages in the Book of Genesis, as Genesis is foundational to the Bible, especially on this subject. The rest of the Bible verses will simply be listed. Maybe someday this writer will author an entire book on this subject, exegeting the rest of the passages.
Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18-25:God creates both “male and female” as equals (1:27). But we see in Genesis 2 that the Lord actually created Adam first, then Eve as “a helper comparable to him” (2:18).
The important point here is that God created just two people, one male and one female. These two would be so united that “they shall be one flesh” (v. 2:24). Thus from the beginning God’s plan for the human race is for one man and one woman to be untied in a very close relationship.
To this couple, God declares, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (v. 1:28). This of course could only be done by Adam and Eve engaging in sexual intercourse. Thus from the beginning, God not only approves of but commands martial sex.
One question this verse raises concerns birth control. Some believe this verse shows the primary purpose of sex is reproduction, thus to engage in sex without that possibility due to the use of birth control is wrong. However, it could be argued that the primary purpose of sex is the uniting of a husband as wife as “one.” Further, with now almost seven billion people on the planet, the command to “fill the earth” has been fulfilled. As a result, the use of birth control by married couples would not be wrong.
Genesis 4:1f,25; 5:3f:In these verses, we see Adam and Eve fulfilling God’s command to be “fruitful and multiply.” Adam has sex with Eve, and she bears, Cain, Abel, Seth, and other “sons and daughters.” The text does not specifically say so, but it appears that throughout their long lives (Gen 5:5), Adam and Eve remained faithful to each other. Thus God’ original couple gives us the example of one man and one woman together for a lifetime, having sex with only each other.
Genesis 4:17; 4:26:Cain has sex with his wife, and she bears a son, Enoch. Seth also has a son, although the text does not specifically mention a wife. But to this point in history it appears that one man having sex with one woman for their entire lives appears to be the norm.
Genesis 4:19:“Then Lamech took for himself two wives.” This is the first mention of polygamy in the Bible, or more specifically here, bigamy. However, the text does not say if /God approved or disapproved of Lamech’s bigamy. It is just reported as an historical occurrence.
Genesis 6:1-4:An aberrant interpretation of this passage was dealt in SS#19. There it was said that one possible interpretation of this passage was, “… the godly descendants of Seth intermarried with the ungodly descendants of Cain, with the ungodly corrupting the godly.” If this interpretation is correct, then this passage is an example of why believers should only marry other believers.
Genesis 7:7; 9:1:Noah went into the ark, with “his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him.” Thus we see Noah and his family following the pattern on one husband and one wife. After the flood, God gives the same command to Noah and his sons as He gave to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” This of course was at a time when Noah’s family was the only people on the planet. Thus the same comments regarding this statement to Adam and Eve apply here.
[In the rest of this study, 23 additional passages from Genesis are discussed. Then over a hundred verses from the rest of the Bible are referenced.]
Additional Books and eBooks by the Director
Alphabetical List of Pages
to Light Home Page