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When the Blade Swings Back…

Not too long ago I wrote an article in which I created a composite conversation compiling together bits of different conversations I have had with a cult group known as the Elohim Academy. My intention was not to demonstrate how I refuted their arguments, but rather to show the flow of argument and presentation this group may present if they come to any person’s door. So long as a Christian is prepared for the argument and tactics of this group, I am confident a defense of the Christian faith can be made looking at the context of those passages.

These articles are fed into our Facebook page where moderated comments are allowed, so long as they are on topic and within our defined rules of engagement. A Roman Catholic left a comment that was removed, being deemed off topic and not really in the form of an argument as it mostly consisted of a quote from Karl Keating, and therefore, was no argument at all against the article.

However, I thought the comment was worth a look at since it demonstrated the kind of irony that often occurs in dealing with apologetic issues and keeps it interesting. Keep in mind that my article was dealing with a group that believes that God the Father, until recently, walked among them and taught them directly and that God, the Father’s wife, Mother God, currently walks among them, continually teaching them all things directly.

This comment was, in full:

That is a perfect illustration of the problems with the inherently fissiparous doctrine of Sola Scriptura:

In interpreting the Bible, in determining whether [a particular doctrine] contradicts or confirms what is found in its pages, we come upon a recurring question: “Who is to decide?” It hardly suffices to say, “Let the Bible itself decide,” since it is the interpretation of the Bible that is in question and no book, not even the Bible, can be self-interpreting. Either we interpret it ourselves, using our own resources, or we listen to the word of a divinely-appointed interpreter, if one has been established. Catholics hold that Christ empowered the Church to give infallible interpretations of the Bible. “I have still much to say to you, but it is beyond your reach as yet. It will be for him, the truth-giving Spirit, when he comes, to guide you in all truth’ (John 16:12). This Jesus said to the apostles.” –Karl Keating

Now, setting aside the common misunderstanding here of what Reformed folk mean by the perspicuity of Scripture, what is ironic here is that The Elohim Academy has its own “infallible interpreter” of the Scriptures. The Elohim Academy believes God, himself (and herself) speaks to them directly and interprets the Scriptures for them. Thus, in their view, the criteria that Keating set forth in his either/or scenario above is met fully by the Elohim Academy. They believe that their divine interpreter is not the church, but the very author of the Word, and so appealing to the Roman Catholic Church as the final arbiter to what the Scriptures teach, is, in their view, a step down in authority. The fact that they believe that “Mother God” currently dwells among them in South Korea further gives them a supposed trump card in the infallible authority game.

It is in the context of this ironical observation that the question must be asked: If two sources of perceived clear, absolute, infallible interpretive authority contradict each other, what is the final arbiter between clear, absolute, infallible interpretive authorities? Or, in the words of Keating, “Who is to decide?”

Citing Keating becomes problematic at that point.

But, delving deeper, it seems that the main reason that the commenter left the quote was with the aim of suggesting that if there is disagreement with, rejection of, or rebellion to an infallible, inerrant and authoritative source that the source itself is insufficiently clear enough to be an infallible, inerrant source of authority.

But, this is no argument against Sola Scriptura any more than it is an argument against Sola Ecclesia, for if the Rome is *the* source of Tradition and it is so clear in its authority, then there never should have been that ominous and persistent Schism of 1054 wherein the Eastern and Western Churches split over competing views of ultimate authority and disagreements over who represented *the* Tradition of the Church.

Yet, neither the East nor the West looks upon such a schism with the idea that their Church is lacking in ultimate authority. Rome certainly does not see such an affront to her pronouncements as an indication that it is no longer “a divinely-appointed interpreter”.

And, if its own authority were clear, should we have formerly darling apologists becoming sedevacantists who consider the current pope to be an arch-heretic and antipope?

But, if the argument the commenter was making was that a cultist disagreeing with me when Scripture is presented is an example of a failure on the part of Sola Scriptura, then we posit the same argument, to greater effect, on the self-proclaimed interpreter of Sacred Tradition with its well documented multiple understandings of what constitutes Sacred Tradition.

Dr. White, years ago, documented the distinctions between the so-called Partim/Partim view of Sacred Tradition and the Interpretive Grid view (known as the Material/Formal Sufficiency view of Scripture). There exist two distinct views of what is contained within Oral versus Written Tradition in Roman Catholicism that are in opposition to each other, as both cannot be true.

Based on the commenter’s own argument (or, apparent use of Keating’s argument), Rome’s inability to create theological unity within its own fold as well as the fact that Rome’s view of Tradition is not recognized as *the* authoritative view by the Eastern Orthodox would be sufficient to demonstrate that it is an inadequate and insufficient interpretive source.

Such a realization was not lost on Robert Sungenis who argued that having an infallible source of authority does not, of itself, settle all matters of dispute. In the context of defending lack of theological unity within the Roman Church, he writes in Not By Scripture Alone:

“First, Jesus himself, the infallible, incarnate word of God, did not create unanimous theological “unity” among his hearers. In fact, Jesus was disheartened that so many people argued with him and rejected his message of truth. At many points, his message divided more than it unified. Paul encountered the same opposition, among both Jews and gentile converts.”

In other words, the fact that Jesus himself, not simply the infallible authority of Scripture, but the very Author of it, could be disputed and misunderstood does not at all demonstrate that Christ was insufficient as an authority or interpreter of His Word. The fact that the apostles had to correct misinterpretations of their words and defend their own apostolic authority does not suppose that they were insufficient or unclear.

Rome’s asserted infallible authority does not bring about the theological unity it expects of Protestants. If my commenter wishes to press this argument, then he will have to demonstrate why it is that Rome’s inability to resolve all internal disputes and unify all adherents to an Infallible Oral Tradition (Rome, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc.) under its own view of Oral Tradition upon authority of its word alone does not suffer the indictment he levels against Sola Scriptura.

Not an Atom More Spiritual

Spurgeon had his share of thrill-based churches in his day. He writes as if he attended some modern churches, only more than a century ago:

People go to their place of worship and sit down comfortably, and think they must be Christians, when all that their religion consists in, is listening to an orator, having their ears tickled with music, and perhaps their eyes amused with graceful action and fashionable manners; the whole being no better than what they hear and see at an opera – not so good, perhaps, in point of aesthetic beauty, and not an atom more spiritual. Thousands are congratulating themselves, and even blessing God that they are devout worshippers, when at the same time they are living in an unregenerate Christless state, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.

Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

Farewell, Phil

Faithful ministers frequently have as their reward only the knowledge that they pleased their Lord and served Him diligently. It is not their aim to be lauded by men, but only to serve Christ and bless the church through service. But, there are times when the fruit of faithful diligence is readily seen and long lasting.

For seven years Phil Johnson of TeamPyro has faithfully stood before the amorphous “conversation” of Post-Modern Christianity applying propositional truth directly to its forehead. His writing has always been a pleasant mixture of pastoral insight, apologetic fervor and Pauline bite. Many have been blessed by his insight and wit, but more importantly, by his conviction that the truths of Scripture are both knowable and ought to be known.

Today, Phil is stepping down from blogging to focus on greater responsibilities. We wish him well and pray the Lord will continue the fruit of his labors in whatever form they happen to be. God bless, brother.

Have you heard about Mother God?

File this under “Yet another cult group”.

The apostle Paul made no pretenses to Timothy as to the challenges that would face him in pastoral ministry. Having warned him that “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse” and having established the sufficiency of Scripture to deal with these things, Paul charges Timothy to “preach the word”. And with that charge, Paul tells Timothy the nature of his preaching is both positive (exhort) and negative (rebuke, reprove). It is to be thorough, balanced, and substantive.

Paul encourages him to be diligent in the preaching ministry, being ready when times are good or bad and then warns him that the time will come when they will want their ears tickled and accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires.

It is interesting that the only solution that Paul offers Timothy for when these people seek after false teachers is the very thing that drives them away: They could not stand sound doctrine, so they went to find those who would offer fine words and phrases to appease them and make them feel good.

Sometimes, no matter how clearly you explain a text to someone, there simply is no getting passed the defenses in their mind that are intent on ignoring everything you say and hardening their heart against His truth. It is times like this that one must rely entirely upon the Holy Spirit to be the Great Evangelist and trust that as you faithfully proclaim the truth of the Gospel, He will soften their hearts and break down every stronghold.
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Faith and Regeneration

Charles Spurgeon preaching on 1 John 5:1 makes the point that men believe, not of their own power, but as a result of the work of regeneration in the hearts of men:

We must now pass on to show that WHEREVER IT EXISTS IT IS THE PROOF OF REGENERATION. There never was a grain of such faith as this in the world, except in a regenerate soul, and there never will be while the world standeth. It is so according to the text, and if we had no other testimony this one passage would be quite enough to prove it. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” “Ah!” I hear thee say, poor soul, “the new birth is a great mystery; I do not understand it; I am afraid I am not a partaker in it.” You are born again if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, if you are relying upon a crucified Saviour you are assuredly begotten again unto a lively hope. Mystery or no mystery, the new birth is yours if you are a believer. Have you never noticed that the greatest mysteries in the world reveal themselves by the simplest indications. The simplicity and apparent easiness of faith is no reason why I should not regard its existence as an infallible indication of the new birth within. How know we that the new-born child lives except by its cry? Yet a child’s cry—what a simple sound it is! how readily could it be imitated! a clever workman could with pipes and strings easily deceive us; yet was there never a child’s cry in the world but what it indicated the mysteries of breathing, heart-beating, blood-flowing, and all the other wonders which come with life itself. Do you see yonder person just drawn out of the river? Does she live? Yes, life is there. Why? Because the lungs still heave. But does it not seem an easy thing to make lungs heave? A pair of billows blown into them, might not that produce the motion? Ah, yes, the thing is easily imitated after a sort; but no lungs heave except where life is. Take another illustration. Go into a telegraph office at any time, and you will see certain needles moving right and left with unceasing click. Electricity is a great mystery, and you cannot see or feel it; but the operator tells you that the electric current is moving along the wire. How does he know? “I know it by the needle.” How is that? I could move your needles easily. “Yes; but do not you see the needle has made two motions to the right, one to the left, and two to the right again? I am reading a message.” “But,” say you, “I can see nothing in it; I could imitate the clicking and moving very easily.” Yet he who is taught the art sees before him in those needles, not only electric action, but a deeper mystery still; he perceives that a mind is directing an invisible force, and speaking by means of it. Not to all, but to the initiated is it given to see the mystery hidden within the simplicity. The believer sees in the faith, which is simple as the movements of the needle, an indication that God is operating on the human mind, and the spiritual man discerns that there is an inner secret intimated thereby, which the carnal eye cannot decipher. To believe in Jesus is a better indicator of regeneration than anything else, and in no case did it ever mislead. Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man.

Charles Spurgeon