Light in the Dark
Nwose K. Ifeanyi
Independently Published, 2019
With his 2019 publication of Light in the Dark, Nwose K. Ifeanyi has presented an interesting and unusual take on what Christianity really means, hence what it really means for someone to be a Christian. Light in the Dark is essentially an argument for a certain parochial vision of Christianity, in which salvation depends largely upon identifying and uttering the correct name of the Savior. Let me say up front that as a reviewer I am not convinced by the author’s reasoning. That being the case, the review to follow will be largely critical of his book’s operating assumptions and supporting arguments.
That’s not to say, however, that the book has no value or no redeeming qualities. Nwose K. Ifeanyi is a keen observer, with a knack for subtlety and an appreciation for details often lost on others. He writes with passion, with considerable working knowledge of Scripture, and with what seems to be genuine, heartfelt conviction. For those reasons his work deserves a hearing. In calling for a serious re-evaluation of the very basis of Christianity, Light in the Dark openly challenges followers of Jesus to examine and defend their faith. For our part, we his followers should never shrink from such a challenge. Rather, as Peter urged the church at large: “[A]lways be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Peter here does not advise defending our theology with knee-jerk responses or anger, but with reason, and in a spirit of patience and humility.
While generally well written, Light in the Dark could use the services of a technical editor, or perhaps an additional round of edits. Misspellings and errors are not frequent, but do occur often enough to notice. Also there is no Table of Contents; nor are there page numbers. On the other hand, the text otherwise appears well organized and clearly presented, and the argument flows logically from section to section and from chapter to chapter. Now to the substance of the book itself:
In the Preface, the author points out that the concept of Antichrist is well-known in the church, as are various signs of the last days (like global politics, microchip technology and the acceleration of technological development generally) – so that ignorance is really no excuse for false worship. At the same time, he observes that “Antichrist” is not simply the “man of sin” who will soon appear on the world’s stage, but is a spirit that pervades the world. With this lead-in, the author introduces what seems his central concern, the possibility of false worship of God through the use of a false name given by Antichrist: “He gives us his names and makes us accept them as God's names.” Thus his stated purpose for writing: to “review, re-examine, and re-evaluate all the names and titles which we have assigned to our Saviour and God.”
Ifeanyi’s concern arises from a teaching derived from Scripture, namely, “that God, the Father, sent His only begotten Son into this world and gave Him a name that is able to save whosoever that would believe and call upon it.” He then goes on to argue that “Jesus” is not in fact the name of the Savior, but the name given to Christ by the church while influenced by the spirit of Antichrist. The author thus challenges readers: “[D]o not try to chide me for questioning the authenticity of the name of Jesus because there are Bible-based facts that make me do so.” Fair enough, but by the same token we believers in Jesus should not be chided for questioning the author’s arguments against traditional Christology.
In Chapter One the author urges readers to explore the “foundations” of our faith, to “earnestly contend for the faith” originally deposited to the church (Jude 3) – and this is welcome counsel. Though we should not be too hasty to abandon our traditions (they were put in place for a reason), often those traditions have lost their usefulness, and in some cases have been given unquestioned precedence even above the very Word of God. This sort of thing Jesus himself explicitly condemned (see Mark 7:9). Even if we do not accept the author’s conclusion, Christians should be able to appreciate his call to examine our faith (2 Cor 13:5).
Chapter Two cautions readers against the doctrine of inerrancy and urges instead that we must “learn to distinguish the inspired words of God from the Bible.” Indeed, much of the book’s argument has to do with presumed errors of translation. The idea is that modern translations have misidentified the name of the Savior and therefore cannot be trusted. At the same time, however, the author suggests that the original, true name was only lost because of the idolatry in Pergamum and Thyatira, as recounted in Revelation. But if modern translations cannot be trusted, neither can a modern translation of Revelation – in which case we are left with no reason to think that idolatry (hence the loss of the true name of the Savior) occurred in Pergamum and Thyatira. In short, the argument is not entirely coherent.
Similar lines of reasoning seem to have inspired the remaining chapters. For example, Chapter Three suggests that animal sacrifice was prompted by Satan rather than God, for God “takes no delight in burnt offerings” (Psalm 51:16 and Isaiah 1:11). Now it’s one thing to say that God finds no redemptive merit in offering a sacrifice while entertaining sins in the heart and refusing to repent – which is clearly the message of Psalm 51 and Isaiah 1. And it should be noted further that animal sacrifice is no longer effectual, given the ministry of Christ and the introduction of the New Covenant. It’s quite another thing, however, to say that God opposes, and always has opposed, sacrifices altogether. Apart from sacrifices on our behalf, most especially the sacrifice of Christ upon a cross, our salvation would be impossible.
Ifeanyi’s argument evidently works only by presuming one set of Scriptures true in order to prove another set false; yet no objective criterion is provided (assuming an errant text in the first place!) to decide which is actually which. Unfortunately, this same pattern of argumentation permeates his book. All of this defies important principles of biblical interpretation such as progressive revelation. Worse, it seems to promote the “letter” of the law above the “spirit” of the New Covenant. As Paul said, “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). Clearly a doctrine that says that one must spell out the letters of Christ’s name correctly in order to be saved is promoting the letter over the spirit. Chapters Five and Six press this legalistic theme further, to argue that “Jesus” is actually a demonic name, being derived from “Yeshua” (Joshua), who allegedly resisted the Holy Spirit in Zechariah 3. Instead, the author says, we should prefer the name “Iashahi” for our Savior – purportedly derived from “several passages of the Hebrew Scriptures” and from the mention of “salvation” in Luke 1:77 and Luke 2:30-31.
The heart of the book appears to be Chapters 9-12, where the author attempts to demonstrate, among other things: that “Yah” references Baal; that "YHWH" is actually the name of Satan rather than of God; that “Jesus,” an English derivative from the Greek “Ihsous,” derived in turn from the Hebrew “Yeshua,” actually designates a “son of Satan” or “the beast;” and that, based on a literal reading of the Greek, evidence of the “spirit of antichrist” in 1 John 2:22 is not someone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, but rather someone who denies that Jesus is not the Christ. (On this it should be noted that earlier in 1 John 2 the apostle mentions “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” If John’s intention is to affirm that Jesus is not the Christ, he obviously has no business introducing him as “Jesus Christ.”)
In support of these contentions the author strings together various technical assertions about the true meanings and proper pronunciations of various Hebrew words and phrases. Along the way he promotes a fascinating but decidedly unorthodox theory of the Israelites’ purported scholarly mismanagement of the Torah, and the subsequent history of the Christian church. Given the severity of his charges, their implications for Christian faith, and the weight of scholarly consensus standing against them, the author assumes a heavy burden of proof. What is sorely needed at this point in his argument, then, is sound scholarship; yet I could find no footnotes, endnotes or bibliography to help readers investigate further – only some corresponding reference numbers from a Strong’s Concordance.
Despite these serious criticisms, there remains much to commend in Light in the Dark. Calls for the church to repent of her sins and reject idolatry are welcome and timely, as are exhortations to continue in the faith despite persecution and rejection from the world. When the author says that we are to refrain from making premature (and necessarily ill-informed) judgments about men’s eternal destinies, or from boasting about our own materialistic plans for the future, again Christians can agree heartily. Equally valuable is the ongoing reminder that the church is living in the last days and must be on guard against false prophets and counterfeit gospels. At the same time readers should be cautioned to be extremely wary of the book’s thesis. Believers need to take great care before presuming to declare that “Jesus” (Iesous, Yeshua ) is somehow the name of “the beast” rather than the holy Lion of Judah, or the name of a “son of Satan” rather than “the name of only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
-- Don McIntosh