Bible Study : 2 Peter 2 : Vanity & Nonsense

For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage.

2 Peter 2:18‭-‬19 ASV

The empty, extravagant, and pretentious words of apostate teachers is a phenomenon by no means absent from the earth at the present time. These false teachers are alive and working overtime here in 2022!

Barnett’s description of their speech is this, “Using fine phrases that have no meaning, they bait their hook with the wanton appetites of sense.”

Green called it “ostentatious verbosity.” One translator referred to it as “canting nonsense.” But does it still go on?

In 1974, (ironically the year I was born – I know, I’m ancient,) Dr. Donald H. Naftulin, University of Southern California Medical School, John E. Ware, Jr., assistant professor of medical education at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and Frank A. Donnelley, instructor in psychiatry at the University of Southern California designed a study and published the results in the Journal of Medical Education.

They tried it out on a distinguished gathering of 55 educators, school administrators, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.

The speaker was introduced as Dr. Myron L. Fox and identified by a high-sounding ambiguous title, and as an authority on the application of mathematics to human behavior.

Actually, the lecture was nonsense – pure meaningless double-talk; but it fooled the distinguished audience! It so impressed some of them that they expressed interest in learning more about it.

Not one of the distinguished auditors recognized it as a hoax. “Fox” was only an actor, hired by the three medical educators to prove a point. The audience was asked to fill out a questionnaire concerning “Dr. Fox’s” lecture, after it ended.

Exactly 42 of them agreed that “he used enough examples to clarify the material,” and that “the material was well organized,” and that “it stimulated their thinking!”

This report, after being given in the Journal of Medical Education, was widely circulated in newspapers throughout the United States, the information given here, having been published in the Houston Chronicle, Section 3, page 20, Wednesday, May 8, 1974.

It is reproduced here for the purpose of pointing up this writer’s observation that there is also an incredible amount of the same kind of nonsense being disseminated from religious platforms in the present era.

Perhaps not in the same unalloyed manner as in the above experiment, but with just enough popular cliches and high sounding phrases thrown in to give an impression of substance.

Those who are just escaping from them that live in error … This is a departure from the KJV; and again, there would seem to be no very good reason for the change.

Caffin observed that the King James version here follows the Textus Receptus rendering the passage, “those who are clean escaped,” which would appear to be the proper meaning, no matter how the verse is rendered.

There is no such thing as a partial escape, or a bare escape, from sin. One either has “clean escaped,” or he has not escaped at all.

Jesus the Lord himself said, “Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin” (John 8:34); and Paul declared that, “To whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16).

Thus, what Peter said here is exactly an echo of the teachings both of the Saviour and of Paul.

A glimpse of the allurement in the teaching of the apostates appears in this; because they were promising the people the free and easy indulgence of all their sinful passions, “liberty” they called it; but the falsity of their claims was manifest in the fact of those false teachers being themselves veritable slaves of the darkest passions and debaucheries.

Such “liberty” has indeed been heralded in the present age; Paine quoted a professor by the name of Rauschenbusch who declared that,

“The worst thing that could happen to God would be to remain an autocrat, while the world is moving toward democracy.”

Also, he mentioned another, a Professor Hartshorne, who said, “We no longer derive our ethical standards from established authority, whether state, church, family, convention, or philosophical system.” Such people suppose that they are “free”; but they are slaves.

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