Phillips was also a theological modernist who taught a form of universalism and the Fatherhood of God, denied Hell fire and the existence of Satan and demons, denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture, claimed that Jesus conformed His teaching to the ignorance of His day, was a skeptic in regard to supernatural miracles, and believed that Christ’s ascension was a parable. Consider some excerpts from his writings:
“... perhaps we might spend a moment considering what ‘hell-fire’ really means. ... Jesus surely used it symbolically to mean, not a place of torture, but the place for useless rubbish. THE REAL DANGER IS, NOT THAT WE MIGHT BE TORTURED FOR ENDLESS AGES, but that we might be found to be useless and only fit, so to speak, for the celestial rubbish dump. I am talking in picture language here of course, but there is no doubt that Jesus envisaged a real danger that men might find themselves shut out from the joyful purpose of God. ... WE DON’T WANT TO GET BACK TO EXAGGERATED TERRORS OF HELL-FIRE, but we do need to pay attention to the warnings of the Son of God” (J.B. Phillips, When God Was Man, 1955, p. 50).
“To regard other men as my brothers remains a mere dream, particularly if I do not like them, unless I realize with a kind of salutary humility that WE ALL HAVE THE SAME FATHER” (Phillips, When God Was Man, p. 46).
The Bible says that not all men are children of God; sinners are born separated from God and must be born again into God’s family (Jn. 3:3; Gal. 3:26). Jesus said the Pharisees were children of the devil (Jn. 8:44).
“But I for one do not believe he is ever really healed until he had found for himself WHAT HE REALLY IS, a beloved son of God” (Phillips, When God Was Man, p. 20). [COMMENT: Here Phillips taught that each person is already a child of God and that all that is necessary is for each person to come to this understanding.]
“He also ‘cast out devils.’ ... Now JESUS PLAINLY ACCEPTED THE TERMINOLOGY OF HIS DAY. With unerring instinct he addressed himself to that storm center of the personality, that monstrous, and even violent, second self...” (Phillips, When God Was Man, pp. 18, 19). [COMMENT: This is how Phillips describes demon possession!]
“... my conviction has grown that the New Testament is in a quite special sense inspired. It is not magical, nor is it faultless: human beings wrote it. ... I SHOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT QUITE CLEAR THAT I COULD NOT POSSIBLY HOLD THE EXTREME ‘FUNDAMENTALIST’ POSITION OF SO-CALLED ‘VERBAL INSPIRATION.’ This theory is bound to break down sooner or later in the world of translation. ... Any man who has sense as well as faith is bound to conclude that it is the truths which are inspired and not the words which are merely the vehicles of truth. ... Newspapers ... are likely to be slanted one way or another. ... They reflect accurately the times in which they are written. So it is with the New Testament Epistles. I DOUBT VERY MUCH WHETHER ANY OF THEIR WRITERS HAD ANY IDEA THAT HE WAS WRITING ‘HOLY SCRIPTURE’” (J.B. Phillips, Ring of Truth, Hodder and Stoughton, 1967, pp. 27, 28, 44).
“IF OUR CRITICS MEAN THAT WE BELIEVE IN THE PERMANENT EXISTENCE OF SATAN, THE DEVIL OR THE POWERS OF EVIL, THEY ARE WRONG, FOR WE DO NOT. Once we have passed from this stage of existence into the one Christ has prepared for us ‘Satan’ ceases to exist. ... There is no need at all for us to revert to medieval crudity and to conjure up a whole picture-gallery of devils. ... Jesus used the name Satan for this evil force, presumably because it was current in his day ...” (Phillips, Ring of Truth, pp. 51-54).
“I would also mean that those who did give themselves in love to others did in fact ‘know God’, however loudly they might protest their agnosticism. I HAVE NEVER BEEN HAPPY WITH ANY ECCLESIASTICAL OR THEOLOGICAL SYSTEM IN WHICH CORRECTNESS OF BELIEF WAS OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE. It is only too easy for some men to build up a certain theological structure which includes them and excludes others. ... when a man acts in response to love and compassion he is responding to God whatever he thinks or says” (Phillips, Ring of Truth, pp. 70, 71).
This is contrary to the teaching of Scripture, which exalts doctrinal correctness. Paul instructed Timothy, for example, to allow “no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). As for true Christian love, the Lord Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15), and, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love” (Jn. 15:10). The apostle John added, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn. 5:3).
“Those who were sent to arrest him ‘fell back to the ground’. PREVIOUS PIOUS GENERATIONS ATTRIBUTE THIS TO SOME SUPERNATURAL POWER. I DON’T BELIEVE THIS FOR A MOMENT” (Phillips, Ring of Truth, p. 88).
“A ‘MIRACLE’ is, by definition, something to be wondered at, and in the past, when laws then unknown were being used, it was commonly assumed that divine intervention was the cause of the wonder. People thought that God was somehow ‘interfering’ with the working of Nature. I do not regard such an action as ‘impossible’ (who are we to say what is ‘possible’ and what is ‘impossible’), but I THINK THAT IT IS UNLIKELY” (Phillips, Ring of Truth, p. 93).
“Here I think the picture has been spoiled for us by some literal-minded people who confuse the noisy, wasteful and expensive business of blasting a man into ‘space’ with the quiet simplicity of the real acted PARABLE OF THE ASCENSION” (Phillips, Ring of Truth, p. 107).
“... I FELT BOUND TO ABANDON THE ‘GOD-DICTATED-EVERY-WORD-FROM-COVER-TO-COVER’ ATTITUDE, and won an attitude which commends itself to my intelligence as well as my faith...” (J.B. Phillips, The Price of Success, Hodder and Stoughton, 1984, p. 150).
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