Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Kindle, and Many Calls, on the DL
12/22/2009 - James WhiteI started off with a brief discussion of how I've found the Amazon Kindle to be a great asset in my studies (and how you might as well), and then went to the phones, which filled up pretty quickly. Then, once I cleared them all, I responded to this article from WorldNet Daily on the Manhattan Declaration. Here's the program.
A Record Week
11/27/2009 - James White
Past seven days: 187.32 miles ridden.
6,431 feet of ascent.
11.25 hours in the saddle
53,325 pedal strokes
103,000 beats of the heart during exercise
4+ pounds magically transferred to...some poor guy somewhere
Multiple editions of The Deen Show, Albert Mohler Show, Faith Defenders and Unbelievable listened to on subjects ranging from Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Molinism, the Manhattan Declaration.
The Manhattan Declaration: Review of an Interview with J. Ligon Duncan
12/18/2009 - James WhiteWe started half an hour early yesterday on the DL so that I could play the majority of the comments made by J. Ligon Duncan in defense of his signing of the MD. We also read through some material by Dr. Nielsen who likewise signed. Hopefully we found a solid ground upon which to speak to the issue without losing our balance and throwing such brothers as Dr. Duncan or Dr. Mohler under the bus. Took a few calls toward the end of the program as well. Here's the program.
A Reader Misses My Point on the Manhattan Declaration
12/26/2009 - James White
I take it you are distancing yourself from the Nicene creed since you know the "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" of the creed has a different meaning to Catholic and Orthodox, than to Protestant denominations?
Will you distance yourself from the bible also, since Catholic and Orthodox sign off on it? If I can get a Catholic to sign off on the 1689 confession, can I get you to withdraw from it too?
Hello John, thanks for writing.
There is a fundamental flaw in your thinking on this topic, both in your basic logic as well as your understanding of my own stated position. Hopefully by correcting your logical errors others will be able to see more clearly, along with yourself, the real issue in the Manhattan Declaration.
There are real and historic differences in understanding the nature of the "one holy Catholic church," and there is no question whatsoever that the church of Nicea did not hold to the distinctives of most of the modern groups. But trying to parallel the Nicene statement with a modern statement is obviously fallacious: the Manhattan Declaration is written in the context of full knowledge of the issues that divide us. The Nicene Creed does not come from the same context, and hence is not relevant. Further, the issue at hand, that being the gospel itself, is not defined by the Nicene Creed (hence the emptiness of attempting to base any kind of meaningful unity merely upon the Nicene symbol: it is insufficient for the task from a biblical perspective).
But much more glaring is the obvious error of referring to the Bible. What does it mean that Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy "sign off" on it? Both vociferously deny the doctrine of sola scriptura, do they not? So the reality is that neither submit to it as the final authority from God, but both, in differing ways, detract from its authority through subjecting it to external authorities.
You seem to have confused my concern over the gutting of the gospel with some kind of "I don't want anything to do with those folks" simplistic attitude of a back-woods fundamentalist. This is seen in your comment about getting a Catholic to "sign off" on the London Baptist Confession of 1689, another highly illogical offering. A Catholic who "signs off" on the 1689 is, obviously, no longer a Roman Catholic. It is impossible for a Roman Catholic to agree to the teachings of the LBCF and remain in communion with Rome. Its teachings are directly and inalterably contradictory to Roman Catholicism.
So none of your examples were, in fact, relevant to the situation we face today, where men, fully knowing the fundamental differences in the proclamation of the gospel message between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and at least the Reformed churches (many "Protestants" are merely popeless Catholics theologically speaking), are seeking to present a "Mere Christianity" that seeks to create a unity based upon a gospel-less Trinitarianism. Christianity is fully and richly Trinitarian. But so is the gospel, and the Christian faith ceases to exist without the gospel at its core. The "Mere Christianity" of Frank Beckwith and Dinesh D'Souza and Timothy George and Chuck Colson is sub-Christian, for it lacks the very animating element of the faith, that being the gospel, the very thing the Trinity does in self-glorification, that which ties together the whole reason for creation! By pushing the gospel outside the definition of the faith (which clearly men like Timothy George do, for he embraces non-compromising Roman Catholics as fellow believers in Christ) these "Mere Christianity" proponents give to the world a new religion that has only the most external connections to the biblical faith found in the Scriptures. As Jesus told us long ago, the one who loses his life for Christ's sake and the gospel's is His true disciple. Today men want to separate out that troubling, controversial "gospel" for the sake of a philosophically driven unity. No believer who takes the Scriptures as his or her final authority can join in such a movement.
So, John, my concern is about those who are trying to replace the centrality of the gospel with a salvationless Trinitarianism that is not just sub-biblical, it is blatantly anti-biblical. I cannot get past the fact that a plain reading of the text of the Manhattan Declaration (a reading drawn from the worldview of the three main authors) indicates that it promotes the idea that all three groups possess the gospel, which they are to preach in its fulness (despite the fact that this means they are to preach contradictory messages). I know some fine men signed the document, and they insist it has nothing to do with the gospel, but words have meanings, and the authors of the document have made it painfully clear that it is, in fact, a theological statement, a veritable catechism of the Christian faith, according to Chuck Colson. I hope this helps to clarify things for you.
The Manhattan Declaration Examined: PRBC 11/29/2009
11/30/2009 - James White
My Response to Pastor Walsh on the Manhattan Declaration
12/25/2009 - James White
Upgraded Version of Sermon on Manhattan Declaration Posted
12/24/2009 - James WhiteRich took the time to take the video of my sermon on the MD and to sync up the higher quality audio. The result is much easier to listen to, to be sure. Since the topic is not going away anytime soon, I am posting the better version here.
Robert George and Natural Theology
12/21/2009 - James WhitePhil Johnson wrote a great blog article that goes hand-in-hand with my preceding discussion of the consistency and (as a result) supremacy of biblical revelation and truth. It focuses upon the primary writer of the Manhattan Declaration, Robert George, a Roman Catholic philosopher and leading conservative political thinker. Read Phil's article, and follow his links. I wanted to provide one particular quotation here, as it is quite relevant to the very criticisms I and others have leveled against the document.
I asked George several times if he was really hoping to ground a mass movement in abstract principles of reason so at odds with the prevailing culture. It was a bet, he said, on his conviction about the innate human gift for reason. Still, he said, if there was one critique of his work that worried him, it was the charge that he puts too much faith in the power of reason, overlooking what Christians describe as original sin and what secular pessimists call history.
It is a debate at least as old as the Reformation, when Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church and insisted that reason was so corrupted that faith in the divine was humanity’s only hope of salvation. (Until relatively recently, contemporary evangelicals routinely leveled the same charge at modern Catholics.) “This is a serious issue, and if I am wrong, this is where I am wrong,” George acknowledges.
Over lunch last month at the Princeton faculty club, George noted that many evangelicals had signed the Manhattan Declaration despite the traditional Protestant skepticism about the corruption of human reason. “I sold my view about reason!” he declared. He was especially pleased that, by signing onto the text, so many Catholic bishops had endorsed his new natural-law argument about marriage. “It really is the top leadership of the American church,” he said.
“Obviously, I am gratified that view appears to have attracted a very strong following among the bishops,” he went on. “I just hope I am right. If they are going to buy my arguments, I don’t want to mislead the whole church.”
I wonder what my brothers who signed the document think of George's claim that they bought into his views about reason, especially since this is a direct refutation of the biblical view of the supremacy of divine revelation and the corruption of human reason through sin? This surely explains the absence of biblical teaching, the wrath of God, etc. I'm sure "Robby" George (as those who know him refer to him) is a really bright guy, and probably as nice as the day is long. I hear Arius had a killer smile and could carry a great tune, too. None of that changes the fact that Robert George promotes a gospel that does not give peace, and a philosophy that, unlike the biblical gospel, cannot ever change a God-hater into a God-lover.
A 90 Minute DL Today!
12/17/2009 - James WhiteWe will be starting the DL half an hour early today (pre-feed at 3pm MST, 5pm EST, program at 3:30) so I can cover the entirety of the interview just recently posted with Dr. J. Ligon Duncan on why he signed the Manhattan Declaration. I want to play as much of the interview as I can, and interact with it, hopefully to the edification of a wide variety of fellow believers. I seek to plead for a proper balance in the examination of this vital topic. While I do not believe the document, as written, should be signed by anyone who holds firmly to the centrality of the Gospel as the sole means by which we can change the hearts and minds of men and women, I likewise do not believe it is at all proper to accuse men like J. Ligon Duncan or Albert Mohler of being "ashamed of the Gospel" or otherwise seeking to subvert the gospel message. I think Dr. Duncan gave a clear explanation of why he signed it, and I will continue to disagree, but hopefully by allowing him full expression of his position (which also came about because the interviewer, Pastor Kevin Boling, did such a good job) we will be able to further delineate the issues, suppress some of the less useful criticisms coming from both sides, and really identify the central issues that should be of concern. I hope you will listen in!
Sproul, Colson, and You, on the Manhattan Declaration
12/10/2009 - James White
Many had been wondering when RC Sproul would comment on the MD, and as most of you know, he has finally broken his silence. He strongly asserts a direct connection between the MD and the ECT, citing from comments made by Colson which I had not read. Colson, one of the leading voices bringing confusion to the nature of the gospel in America today (along with Timothy George, both crafters of the MD and signers of ECT), wrote regarding the MD:
Just imagine what could happen if we could say to the world that a million Christians have made this pledge—that we will not compromise the faith, no matter what. I think that would have an extraordinary impact on American culture.
And just as important, I believe the Manhattan Declaration can help revitalize the church in America. One great weakness of the Church today is its biblical and doctrinal ignorance. This document is, in fact, a form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith.
Once again we see that for Charles Colson, the gospel is no longer a part of "the faith" that he refuses to compromise. That is, "the faith" has been boiled down to a skeleton of basic beliefs (Trinity, resurrection) that can unite varied and disparate religious traditions into one big (and politically powerful) group. This Least Common Denominator (LCD) form of "Christianity" is what is needed, evidently, to "revitalize the church in America." I cannot help but shake my head in disbelief as someone promotes a gospel-less Christianity and says this is what the church needs to be "revitalized" today. But it is truly a matter for deep concern that Mr. Colson believes this document is a "form of catechism for the foundational truths of the faith." How can this gospel-less document be a catechism for anything other than cultural Christianity? Without the gospel, you cannot change hearts and minds. So while the document mentions the gospel and says we must preach it in its fulness, evidently, that fulness does not include the very doctrinal precision demanded by the inspired Scriptures themselves. Paul, and all who would follow his example today, have gone overboard, evidently, and missed the great unifying impact of allowing anything and everything to fit under the banner of "the gospel." Somehow, we are asked to believe that this document, with its noble words regarding life and marriage and freedom, but which lacks any warning of the wrath of God, the holiness of God, punishment of sin and sinners, the cross, redemption, repentance, and the once-for-allness of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, is an antidote to "biblical and doctrinal ignorance." If abandoning these vital revelations of God is what is needed for me to get in line with the new enlightened and unified "Church of today," may I ever remain in dismal ignorance.
I, too, refuse to compromise on life, marriage, and freedom. I hereby let the world know that my allegiance is first and foremost to God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, and with all those who this day suffer around the world under the hatred and persecution of those who hate the gospel (whether they be atheistic communists, Muslims, or Hindus), I will refuse to bend the knee to any government's demands in these areas. But apart from, in clear distinction from, those who crafted this document, I add that I even more clearly and firmly refuse to compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I refuse to boil it down to an inoffensive minimalism that allows all the falsehoods of Rome to pass for the pristine, soul-saving gospel once for all delivered to the saints. I refuse to blaspheme that gospel by identifying such things as the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice, purgatory, indulgences, the Marian dogmas, and the identification of the Roman priest as an alter Christus, as mere "differences of opinion" that do not fundamentally deny the gracious nature of the gospel. I hereby promise to remain steadfast in seeking to clarify, not confuse, the gospel message, and to hold forth even those elements of the gospel that the world finds most repelling and distasteful, including the wrath and holiness of God, and the coming judgment upon all who refuse God's gracious offer of salvation solely in and through Jesus Christ. I call upon all who likewise love and honor the gospel to refuse to join in any man-made movement that would remove the gospel from the definition of the Christian faith, but instead to demonstrate their steadfastness in their profession of the faith, in their lives, and in their cultivation of a vital, active Christian worldview.
Finally, I call upon those who have been caught up in the euphoria of "joining together" at the cost of the gospel to withdraw their signatures from the Manhattan Declaration, but to do so only in conjunction with a clear affirmation not only of the noble elements of defense of life, marriage, and freedom, but to do so in the context of an open and public profession of the centrality of the gospel as the sole means by which the hearts of men and women can be changed to God's glory. I call upon pastors and elders to give serious consideration to this matter, and to address it openly, in light of the concerted effort of Colson, George, and others, to promote this document and its ever clearer compromise of the gospel itself.
Greetings from Anchorage!
04/26/2007 - James WhiteJust a quick hello from sunny, but rather cool (32 this morning--I saw folks in short sleeves), Anchorage, Alaska. I've been pretty busy since I got here, so I have not had a chance to do much on line. I have had a wonderful time with the brethren here, and will be speaking again this evening on developing a proper Christian apologetic. Last evening I spoke on Islam, and was surprised how many people approached me after the service to comment on how The King James Only Controversy had meant so much to them. That book continues to have a wide and useful impact in counter-acting a movement that has brought much confusion and has disrupted many fellowships as well. I am thankful that it has now been in distribution for twelve years!
At one point I had the chance to stop by briefly at the Anchorage LDS temple. I did not go inside. It is hard to see in this picture, but honestly, I have seen larger Stake Centers. This is the smallest LDS Temple I have ever seen. But then again, the Manhattan Temple is likewise rather small. At times I wonder if Brigham Young would have approved of the "mini-temple" movement launched a while back.
I will be visiting with the brothers and sisters of the Mariner's Reformed Baptist Church on Saturday, and then will be home.
John MacArthur on the Manhattan Declaration.
11/24/2009 - James White
Well, it's nice to have company on this. :-)
The Manhattan Declaration
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2009
(By John MacArthur)
Here are the main reasons I am not signing the Manhattan Declaration, even though a few men whom I love and respect have already affixed their names to it:
• Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel. The gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration. At one point the statement rightly acknowledges, “It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season”—and then adds an encouraging wish: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.” Yet the gospel itself is nowhere presented (much less explained) in the document or any of the accompanying literature. Indeed, that would be a practical impossibility because of the contradictory views held by the broad range of signatories regarding what the gospel teaches and what it means to be a Christian.
• This is precisely where the document fails most egregiously. It assumes from the start that all signatories are fellow Christians whose only differences have to do with the fact that they represent distinct “communities.” Points of disagreement are tacitly acknowledged but are described as “historic lines of ecclesial differences” rather than fundamental conflicts of doctrine and conviction with regard to the gospel and the question of which teachings are essential to authentic Christianity.
• Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.
• The Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message.
• This is neither a novel approach nor a strategic stand for evangelicals to take. It ought to be clear to all that the agenda behind the recent flurry of proclamations and moral pronouncements we’ve seen promoting ecumenical co-belligerence is the viewpoint Charles Colson has been championing for more than two decades. (It is not without significance that his name is nearly always at the head of the list of drafters when these statements are issued.) He explained his agenda in his 1994 book The Body, in which he argued that the only truly essential doctrines of authentic Christian truth are those spelled out in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. I responded to that argument at length in Reckless Faith. I stand by what I wrote then.
In short, support for The Manhattan Declaration would not only contradict the stance I have taken since long before the original “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document was issued; it would also tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way—perhaps the very worst way—for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time. Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.
Mark Shea on Making the Gospel Irrelevant
12/15/2009 - James White
In the midst of the needed and meaningful discussions prompted by the Manhattan Declaration, and especially due to the light it has cast upon the degradation of a commitment to the gospel as the means of changing hearts and minds in our world today, it is educational to listen to Roman Catholic apologist and writer Mark Shea demonstrate true ecumenism in response to RC Sproul's concern over the gospel:
Of course, not everybody signs off on this. RC Sproul, for instance, goes on living in the 16th Century's passion for diagrammatic Calvinism by declaring that he will not engage in practical acts of love if this do not comport with his favorite theological schematic:
The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of using studied ambiguity in order to win over opponents. Let me be unambiguous: Without a clear understanding of sola fide and the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, you do not have the gospel or gospel unity (1 Cor. 1:17; 2 Cor. 5:21).
Cuz, as Jesus clearly says, "Enter into the kingdom which my Father has prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was threatened with abortion and you held firm to a clear understanding of sola fide and the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and did nothing to stop it."
Yes, you read that correctly. Unless you rely upon numbers and politics and Rome, you are "doing nothing" to stop abortion. What utter hubris, but then again, this is Mark Shea, so that is to be expected.
The Troubling Aspects of the Manhattan Declaration
11/23/2009 - James White
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryodestructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other antilife act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
These words conclude the Manhattan Declaration, promulgated November 20, 2009. There is much in this document that any serious-minded Christian not only can agree with, but simply must agree with. There is no question that the forces of secularism are moving quickly, under the guise of "social advancement" and "equal rights," to attack, denigrate, and, in their highest hopes and aspirations, relegate the Christian worldview to the trash heap of history. Evil men, and women, hold positions of power in Western societies, and since it is inevitably true that the Christian witness enrages those who love the darkness (John 7:7), they are doing all they can to subvert and silence that witness which so exposes their consciences. The general statements of the document relating to life, abortion, marriage, sexuality, and religious liberty, are well stated and timely. There is something reassuring in realizing that the concerns we have had are shared across a broad spectrum.
But there are a number of troubling things that I cannot get past in examining this document and considering its implications. When I see some of the leading ecumenists in the forefront of the documents' production, I am made uneasy, and for good reason. Great damage has been done to the cause of Christ by those who have sought to promote the Kingdom by compromising the gospel, the only power given to the church that can change hearts, and hence change societies. By relegating the gospel to a matter of opinion and difference, but not something that defines the Christian faith, these ecumenists have left their followers with a cause without power, a quest without a solution. And though their open-mindedness fits better with our current post-modern culture, from a biblical perspective, they have truly betrayed the apostolic example.
This document presents a Christianity ostensibly based upon bare Trinitarianism. I listened to Chuck Colson speak on the Hugh Hewitt program this afternoon. He made it very clear that this is, in fact, a theological document, despite the assertions of others that it is not. He was asked why Jews, Mormons, and others, were not invited to sign the document. He said they were not asked because this is a specifically Christian statement, quoting from the Christian scriptures. Once again we are led to the inevitable conclusion that "Christian" then is "Trinitarianism plus agreed upon historical truths such as the crucifixion and resurrection, but, most importantly, without any gospel content." It does no good to muddle this discussion with "Well, what about the medieval church" questions, since we are talking about a day and age when the issues are well known. We are not talking about a dark period of biblical ignorance. There is more light available today than ever before. And for many, the gospel is simply no longer part of the "non-negotiables."
But I am left confused by the inconsistency of the document. Mormons are not invited. Understandable, given that the LDS faith is the most polytheistic faith I've ever encountered. Trinitarians only need apply. I can fully understand that. So...why are we told toward the end of this Declaration that Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote from an explicitly Christian perspective? A brief visit to Martin Luther King's writings will reveal he was hardly orthodox even using the limited definition utilized by this Declaration. For example, writing in a paper while in seminary, Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadaquate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: "Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possible have." In other words, one could easily use this as a means to hide behind behind his failures. So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied.
So why put forth King as explicitly Christian, but not invite the Jehovah's Witnesses, who would "quite readily deny" the deity of Christ as well? Perhaps a document that identifies Papal actions as explicitly Christian actions can be excused for its inherent self-contradiction.
There is no question that all believers need to think seriously about the issues raised by this declaration. But what is the only solution to these issues? Is the solution to be found in presenting a unified front that implicitly says "the gospel does not unite us, but that is not important enough to divide us"? I do not think so. What is the only power given to the church to change hearts and minds? United political power? Or the gospel that is trampled under foot by every Roman Catholic priest when he "re-presents" the sacrifice of Christ upon the Roman altar, pretending to be a priest, an "alter Christus"? Am I glad when a Roman clergyman calls abortion murder? Of course. But it exhibits a real confusion, and not a small amount of cowardice, it seems, to stop identifying the man's false gospel and false teaching simply because you are glad to have a few more on the "right" side of a vitally important social issue.
This takes me back to my original response to the ECT document. I have seen so many re-organize their priorities in light of having made "common cause" with those who have a false gospel all in the name of doing social good. I am glad Rome retains elements of God's truth and morality. But when did being good or moral bring one salvation, as if anyone is ever truly good, or truly moral?
These are the matters that truly concern me about the Manhattan Declaration. Why does God have the right to determine human sexuality, marriage, and to define life itself? It all goes back to the gospel, does it not? If we are going to give a consistent, clear answer to our culture, we dare not find our power in a false unity that overshadows the gospel and cripples our witness.
Two Follow Ups on Thursday's DL Discussion on the Authority of Scripture
01/07/2010 - James White
First, TurretinFan posted a fascinating quote from Erasmus that I had not seen before:
What weight the authority of the church may have with others, I know not; but with me it weighs so much, that I could be of the opinion of the Arians and Pelagians, if the church had approved their doctrines.
TurretinFan asks if Cross, Beckwith, and Liccione could endorse Erasmus' statement. That is a question that would definitely interest me as well. It surely illustrates sola ecclesia in its most dangerous form. I know one church father who would have rolled his eyes at that statement, one Athanasius of Alexandria.
Then, I encountered Steve Hay's downright Erasmian lampoon of the Roman position expressed by Cross, Beckwith, and Liccione. It is well worth reading in its entirety, but I only include the final portion here. It borrows from the Manhattan Declaration but this time brings together Trinitarians and Arians (specifically, Jehovah's Witnesses, the best known representatives of the Arians today).
II. We Affirm Together
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Unless he's the Archangel Michael.
Either affirmation is rationally defensible.
That is the first and final affirmation and counter-affirmation that Christians make about all of reality.
It's plausible to believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
It's plausible to believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
It's also plausible to believe in Jesus Christ, the first creature.
A fully informed person of good will, with knowledge of the languages, could affirm either reading of Scripture.
III. SignatoriesBryan Cross
What makes this so bitingly humorous is its truth content. It rips the mask of scholarly respectability off of the Roman position and shows it for what it is. I hope people will remember what Frank Beckwith said in defense of Bryan Cross' errant views on Nicea and the sufficiency of Scripture to demonstrate the deity of Christ. Keep this in mind, all of you ecumenically minded Protestants who are thinking of having Dr. Beckwith speak at your next conference or retreat:
What Bryan is saying is really uncontroversial: the Arian reading of Scripture is not obviously irrational. It is, of course, heretical. But that does not mean that a fully informed person of good will, with knowledge of the languages, could not have come up with the Arian reading of Scripture.
01/21/2005 - James WhitePaul Owen, well known to our readers, has been reviewing Guy Prentiss Waters' new work, Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul (P&R, 2004). J. Ligon Duncan had spoken with me about this work while I was speaking at the 400th anniversary celebration of the beginning of the translation of the King James Version in Manhattan last year. He then kindly sent me Waters' lectures on the topic. I will be writing a review of the work myself for the Reformed Baptist Theological Review. In any case, I've been following Owen's rambling response to Waters in the form of an "open letter" on reformedcatholicism.com. Today I suffered through some truly amazing stuff to find this at the end:
Before wrapping this up, let me just say that I appreciated your concise handling of 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Romans 5:18-19; and Romans 5:9-10, 12 on pp. 172-174. I thought that your handling of these passages, though brief, revealed great exegetical instincts, and was right on the money. We have every right, on the basis of such passages (as well as Romans 4:5-6 and 10:4) to reject the path of scholars like Wright and Gundry (and to some degree Seifrid), and instead to hold on to the doctrine of Christ's imputed righteousness.If you are a long-time reader of my blog, and are familiar with events back over the summer, you probably just fainted. Yes, this is the same Paul Owen who wrote one of the most mean-spirited, nasty, personal hit-pieces against me I have ever seen all in defense of Dr. Seifrid, and for what? I dared to disagree with Seifrid's views on justification and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. And here Owen casually associates Seifrid, "to some degree," with Wright and Gundry on the very same issue! At least I was kind enough to fully document my statements from Seifrid's own writings. The irony is only heightened in that Waters' book is endorsed by Dr. Mohler! Waters identifies Seifrid as holding a non-standard view in this area in the book, just as I did. If Owen was justified to attack me so vociferously and personally six months ago for noting Seifrid's position and disagreeing with it, what has changed so that he can say these things now?
Secondly, I have to wonder: since I have been presenting 2 Corinthians 5:21 as one of the key passages relevant to NPism for quite some time now, and since I have presented on the Dividing Line, on our website, and in recorded lectures on this topic, a very full, and documented discussion of Wright's exegesis of that text, and have offered a counter exegesis that, while significantly fuller than the brief comments in Waters' work, coincides with his views completely, why does Waters' have "great exegetical instincts" and I remain, according to Owen, an utter dolt? Could we have here a glowing example of a double standard on Owen's part, where what one writes, teaches, or preaches, does not matter, but only where one went to school? One is forced to wonder.
Further Thoughts on the Manhattan Declaration and a Response to Frank Beckwith
11/25/2009 - James White
I returned from a very enjoyable jaunt up and down South Mountain with my wife (on bicycles, of course) to discover that Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler had tweeted a link to my comments on the Manhattan Declaration. I am very thankful Dr. Mohler felt them worthy of notice. I said recently Dr. Mohler is the smartest Southern Baptist alive, and I gain much from listening to his podcasts (again while slowly cranking along on my quest to finish my second trip around the earth at the equator---only 2800 miles away now!).
Of course, one of the main questions I have received since posting my thoughts (and referring to those of John MacArthur) has to do with Dr. Mohler's defense of his signing the document. It has never been my intention to excite that spectrum of folks who exist on the fringes of meaningful apologetics who are constantly looking for a new conflict, a new battle. Yes, I had read Dr. Mohler's comments on why he signed the document prior to writing my article. I appreciate his position, but I beg to differ. I am thankful Dr. Mohler does not view the document as a theological manifesto requiring him to abandon a biblical view of the gospel. But as I and others have pointed out, it is difficult, if not impossible, to speak of what Christians should do, and in fact, must do, in the face of an ever increasingly hostile secularism, without doing so in the context of the gospel itself. In other words, a Christian who believes in the God-centeredness of the gospel of grace will respond differently to secularism than one who embraces a much more man-centered, works-oriented "gospel." And given the long history of Rome's violation of biblical teachings regarding the gospel (not just on the matter of sola fide, but the entire complex of doctrines that forms Rome's sacramental system, including its rejection of sola scriptura, its sacerdotal priesthood, and its perfection-denying doctrine of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice), I, and others, find it impossible to speak in unison with a Church that claims to define "Church," embody "Church," all the while perverting the gospel of Christ. Our social duties are not separate from the gospel. They are defined by it. Now I accept that Dr. Mohler honestly believes the following words are true, and as a result, signed the document:
My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent — and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground.
I agree that the document does not, explicitly, seek "to establish common ground on these doctrines." But that is part of the problem. Since it seeks to speak for the "Christian tradition," by isolating the gospel and the distinctives that separate biblical believers from the "traditions" of "Christianity," the document asserts that we as "Christians" can "stand" together apart from the very divine truths that create the only kind of lasting unity and power the Church has ever known. That was my primary concern, one shared by Dr. MacArthur. Yes, I am glad when a Roman Catholic says "Abortion is wrong," but why does the Roman Catholic say that? What is the theological grounding of his objection to abortion? And what is the believer to do when faced with the next question, "Now what?" Will the Roman Catholic offer the same positive solution to abortion that the biblical believer will? Isn't the issue of how one views life fundamentally an issue of the heart? And what power changes the heart? Rome's gospel? Priests and sacraments, never-ending Masses and confessionals and purgatory and indulgences? Surely not.
I understand Dr. Mohler's statement, "At the end of the day, I did not want my name missing from that list when folks look to see just who was willing to be listed." Dr. Mohler, believe me, sir, no one with a scintilla of common sense will be questioning where you were in the battle for righteousness. I fully understand the desire to stand against the hypocritical forces of secularism that are seeking to undermine everything that is good and godly in our society to the life-destroying detriment of all. For the moment I will leave aside the question of how much of this is simply God's wrath coming upon a very deserving nation. But I just have to wonder if there will not be a time, if the Lord tarries, when, as in the days of Athanasius, or the days of Wyclif, Luther, Spurgeon, Machen, etc., our children's children will look back and ask, "Who stood clearly for the gospel once for all delivered to the saints in those dark days of compromise when so many were willing to remove it from being definitional of the faith?" I want my name to be on the list of those who despite all the pressures and incentives stood firmly and clearly apart, not ignoring the cultural issues by so doing, but seeking instead to stand firm for the truth in those areas because of the gospel, not in spite of it....
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Who Moved My Cheese?
06/21/2010 - James WhiteI'm a "Who Moved My Cheese?" type of guy. Don't let me plan and plan and prepare and then, at the very last second, change everything around. As it was this evening I was having to adjust to the movement of my cheese in adjusting to Sheikh Awal's sudden and dishonorable withdrawal from our debate. But I at least had a few hours to adjust, plan on what to do, etc. So I drive to the location, set up to do my presentation, play some clips, take some questions, try to make something positive happen. I am ready to start---it is just before 7pm---when I walk back to the TV cameraman to explain what I want to do at the beginning. My plan was to explain the empty desk and chair, explain why I found Sheikh Awal's explanations wanting, etc. Then I would give my presentation, play the clips of Awal, respond to them, and take questions.
Right as I get to the cameraman I am informed that "We have a Muslim." Eh? Well, evidently, someone, who is a dear brother in the Lord, but someone who does things without even bothering to ask me about it first, had called a Muslim to see if they would "fill in" at the last minute. Now, that is not how I do things. I spent quite some time, weeks, in fact, preparing to debate Sheikh Awal. That way my opening can be directly relevant and the resultant exchange meaningful. So I am told that he will just do some "cross-fire" with me. I see. Then I am told he will do a five minute presentation on Jesus in Islam. Then there will be audience questions. In other words, a debate, without him having to do an opening presentation (i.e., give me enough material to even get a bead on where he's coming from).
At this point I should have said, "No way, it is too late, we go with the plan agreed to after Awal bailed out." But I didn't. My mistake. I began my presentation, and a few minutes after I started I see a young man come in and come down to the other debate table. He is not really listening to me, but he is surely distracting the audience. The gentleman's name is Ehteshaam Gulam. When he got up to speak it was, "Throw all the atheistic, materialistic stuff you can into a blender, sprinkle in Bart Ehrman and a few others, and throw it on the wall to see what sticks." No critical thought, no concern about consistency, just a royal mess, all the way through half an hour of cross-examination. The audience eventually started chuckling at the constant self-contradiction and failure to engage the subject. It was very disappointing, and I believe a solo presentation with questions from the audience, especially with Sam Shamoun in attendance to join me, would have been significantly more useful. But, in the providence of God, this is what happened.
So tomorrow I travel home, Lord willing, and get back into my routine. I am preaching a good bit in July at PRBC, have Hitchens coming up, the conference in Manhattan at the beginning of August, and a busy fall ahead as well.
Another Note from Italy
05/18/2005 - James WhiteThis is honestly the first time I have had an opportunity to sit down and record some thoughts regarding my current time in Italy. My wife Kelli was with me till yesterday morning, and now I am back in Mantova, having taken the EuroStar train from Rome to Modena yesterday afternoon. Here's proof I really survived Rome. We visited the ruins of the Coliseum. First, some cultural comments.
What on earth is wrong with protein? :-)
Italians think our bread lacks substance. I.e., warm, soft, buttery bread is bad, hard, crusty, butterless bread is good. OK, tell that to the folks at Olive Garden. I vote for the warm buttery kind.
Driving is driving anywhere in the world; we Americans just have much bigger cars. Most folks I know would not do well here at first, but, over time, you get the idea. Manhattan, London, Rome---all the same, to be honest, except I must admit round-abouts work a lot better than traffic lights, so give the Brits and the Europeans the point on that one (notice I differentiated between them: they do themselves, believe me). Also, the last thing I would ever want to be in Europe is a side-view mirror. If you've been here, you know what I mean.
I am now the Marlboro Man. I have smoked two packs since I got here, and I don't smoke. I have breathed in more cigarette smoke since arriving in Italy than I did in the preceding twenty years in the US. I am not exaggerating there, either. While waiting in the main train terminal in Rome for a few hours yesterday it was so bad, so utterly ubiquitous, that I could feel my lungs burning, just like (I am told) the first time you smoke. I am sure I will smell of it when I get home. You just can't escape it in public places. And at each stop on the train yesterday, at least half the people in the car got out to smoke. Pure addiction.
Now, I will post some pictures in the next installment, but let me note now the fact that when we all heard about the "1.1 billion Roman Catholics" in the world during the recent explosion of news regarding the Papacy, the number is pure bunk IF you count those who actually follow the religion with sufficient fervor for it to impact their daily life in even the most minimum fashion. This is a secular nation. Prostitution is open (first thing I saw upon entering Rome). If Romanism is the one true religion, well then, the one true religion can have zero impact upon the culture in which it is allegedly predominant. As much as my Roman Catholic friends will dislike this, Rome is a dead religion in this nation. When I visited the Vatican, I was visiting a very ornate, vastly expensive tomb. Little more. It did not speak of life. It spoke of death, and the vanity of those buried in its marble crypts. But more on that later.
It has been a privilege to seek to encourage the small, but dedicated Reformed evangelical community in Italy. I will invest some time in discussing them on the DL when I get home, Lord willing. But for now, I must run, as it is lunch time and time for...pizza! How rare! Oh for an Arby's....
The Amazing Hubris of the Ruling Class Judiciary
08/05/2010 - James WhiteIf you expected full disclosure and fairness from any of the media relating to yesterday's outrageous "let's call this judicial, but it is anything but" torrent of revolutionary cultural drivel from US District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, you need to wake up. How many of the reports you saw, read, or heard, noted this one little fact:
The announcement did not mention DuMont's sexual orientation, and the White House did not provide comment for this story. DuMont would only be the third known LGBT judge serving in the federal judiciary, which consists of more than 850 judgeships. The others are U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts, who was nominated for her judgeship in 1994 and sits in Manhattan, and U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who sits in San Francisco and was not publicly known to be gay when nominated in 1989. [source]
Yes, folks, this "legal" decision was rendered by none other than a homosexual. That will help explain the wild-eyed demagoguery that flowed from his pen, now enshrined in the law of the land. Check out some of these amazing statements:
"Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."
Exactly! That's because marriage has meaning, and what we are watching is the revolutionary re-definition of a term, an institution, and hence the culture that has always found its basis in that institution. Same-sex "couples" do not constitute a marriage anymore than one man and five women constitute a marriage or one woman and two dogs constitute a marriage. Marriage is one man, one woman, producing life and family. It's just that simple, and every person reading this knows that to be true.
Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.
Remember, this is a homosexual making this "finding." Of course, religious beliefs that relationships between 50 year old men and 8 year old boys are sinful "harm" those poor 50 year old pedophiles, too, so let's be consistent, shall we? We expect this kind of rhetoric from practicing homosexuals, but to see it being said as if it has something to do with meaningful law only tells us how degraded the judiciary has become.
Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.
That's why, of course, no one is really concerned about orphans or widows, right? Because, hey, your dad dies? No worries! Mom runs off? Won't change a thing! This kind of demagoguery under the guise of legal opinion should be resulting in a massive chorus of condemnation, but is that what you are seeing in the media? No, you are seeing rejoicing, not condemnation. One wonders if the men of Sodom ever sunk to this level---but remember, even after God struck them with physical blindness, they continued to look for the door in the depth of their depravity. Blindness is no hindrance to the continued practice of perversion and depravity.
The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in the child’s adjustment. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent.
Remember, this is being presented as legal reasoning, when in reality, it is nothing but pro-homosexual rhetoric being repeated by a practitioner of that lifestyle. But nothing Walker said can eclipse this absurd, revolutionary statement:
Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.
Can you believe you are reading these words, not merely as the private opinion of a moral reprobate, a cultural revolutionary, but as the conclusions of a "judge" in the United States of America? How can someone not blush with shame at the utterance of such absurdities? He cannot even say these words without exposing his own fraudulent reasoning: "no longer" shines a bright light upon the man's revolutionary desire to fundamentally alter the culture of the United States. This kind of homosexual propaganda has no place in the legal system of a moral culture, but there it is.
Why do homosexuals feel the over-riding need to force the rest of us to accept their perversity as good and moral and acceptable? Why do they insist upon fundamentally altering the very structure of the family, abusing children by exposing them to such depravity and denying them proper parental role-models? The Scriptures tell us, plainly. Those who live in constant and willful rebellion against God are idolaters. They worship their own sin, and they want others to join them. But, they are made in the image of God, so they cannot avoid the constant effort it takes to suppress the knowledge of God, and silence the scream of conscience. This is why we see them standing on street corners displaying the most incredible levels of depravity all the while screaming at families, moms, dads, "normal" people, "Shame! Shame!" if they dare show disapproval toward their behavior. Just as their entire personhood has been twisted and turned from its created purpose, so their thinking, and behavior, is twisted and irrational.
If you were not praying that God would bring whole-hearted repentance (the only hope for a culture soaked in evil), you had better start now. Your kids, your grandkids, and every generation thereafter, will be facing the results of this kind of degradation of our nation. God bless America…with heart-felt, behavior changing, Spirit-borne repentance.
Chicken Coop Theology
12/21/2009 - James White
I have had a growing awareness over the past number of years of the beauty and harmony of Christian truth as it is revealed in divine Scripture. God's truth is not expressed to us in modern, Western, text-book fashion, with an index in the back so you can skip past the stuff you don't care about, read a few paragraphs, and be good to go. Divine truth is a tapestry, woven in the mind of God, expressed over time through His dealings with His people, the Incarnation, the Cross, the building of Christ's Body. The echoes and reverberations of the great themes of Scripture are to be heard in even the most obscure corners of the Scriptural revelation, at least, for those with ears to hear.
Sometimes my own work in apologetics gets in the way of my hearing those divine echoes. Constant is the temptation to find "the" answer to every objection, "the" reply that will shut the mouth of the skeptic. But the fact is, there are elements of divine truth that are shut off from the haughty rebel. God does not grant entrance into the inner sanctum of His truth and fellowship to those who hate Him. And it is truly an example of casting pearls before swine to attempt to express the Spirit-borne confidence one has of divine truth to the railing atheist or the self-righteous religionist. While the task of giving a reason for the inward hope does lead one to see this beauty, it is more often in the quietness of contemplation of the truths you have learned in that defense that you are taken aback by the generation-spanning harmony and consistency of the Word.
Nowhere is it more important to see the harmony of the woven fabric of God's revelation than when speaking of the gospel. Modern Western minds, prone to analysis and separation of facts into disconnected categories, far too often misses the forest due to over-attention to the individual trees, or limbs, or even leaves. Seeing one's belief in God, the Trinity, the Church, the gospel, all in one panoramic view, is a rare experience for many in the West. Some find it very uncomfortable to have the various elements of their belief system brought into close proximity with one another, for the obvious reason that issues of inconsistency and contradiction are often seen as a result.
The gospel, while identifiable and definable, is likewise complex, in the sense that there are a number of divine acts that together comprise the gospel. The gospel, for example, is Triune, in that it finds its origin and source in the divine decree, love, and mercy of the Father, is accomplished in the perfect work of the Incarnate Son, and brought to fruition in the life of the elect believer by the Spirit. Likewise, the gospel brings into focus the moral law of God, His wrath against sin, the necessity of punishment. This leads to the categories of atonement, substitution, and forgiveness. Add to this regeneration, adoption, sanctification, glorification, and you can see how the gospel, while simple in its call for repentance and faith, is complex as well.
I am reflecting on this topic due to the recent Manhattan Declaration discussions. I am very concerned about the "Mere Christianity"/Least Common Denominator style of "Christianity" that has become so very prevalent amongst Evangelicals in our nation. The abandonment of the gospel as a definitional aspect of the faith is not just troubling, it is disastrous. But part of the reason for this move seems to be the chicken coop theology that plagues so many today. Let me explain....
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