Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Wilson takes a shot at NPism
12/26/2003 - James White
Obviously, Doug Wilson has become tired of being connected with the New Perspective on Paul (aka, NPism), so, a special edition of Credenda Agenda has come out, replete with a fairly lengthy article on the subject. I have had a couple of folks write and complain that I have noted the confluence of Auburnism (aka the loose movement associated with the past few meetings of the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church conference in January, which we just learned recently will feature N.T. Wright, the chief proponent of NPism amongst conservatives, in 2005) with NPism. Obviously, for those who have listened with any amount of care to my comments, I have pointed out the difference in background of both movements, Auburnism flowing from a staunchly conservative viewpoint, NPism flowing from a liberal background. I have likewise noted the differences in emphases as well. However, anyone who has read Wright cannot help but pause and take notice when Steve Schlissel stands before the gathered congregants at the AAPC conference and asserts that justification is nothing more than the truth that Jews and Gentiles are part of one covenant, and that by faith. If Wilson disagrees, he has yet to be plain about it. When I see in print, “Steve Schlissel is wrong in what he said,” the issue will be concluded. But, having read this special edition, I found no such rebuke of Schlissel’s assertion. (continue here)
Lazarus and Category Errors
12/21/2003 - James White
Ever wondered why anyone would object to the Lazarus story as illustrative of God's work of regeneration? I was thinking about it after George Bryson said on BAM that God changes hearts, but, not everyone whose heart is changed believes, because there are different "levels" of change. I had mentioned the biblical phraseology from Ezekiel 36:26, taking out a heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh (I wonder how that does not violate libertarian free will?), and I have to then wonder: is it possible to have a stoney/fleshly heart, so that it is a little less stoney, or a little more fleshly? Is that what we are reduced to? In any case, I was reviewing John 11 and was again wondering why anyone who confesses that Christ has the power to raise them to eternal life in the future would question Christ's power to do so spiritually now. And of course, the reason is easy to find: it is not a textual issue, but a tradition issue. Consider: Jesus obviously is in sovereign control of the situation. Even Lazarus' sickness is a part of God's sovereign plan (just as in John 9). He delays coming just so that His power can be demonstrated (v. 6). He knows what He is going to do, and why. In fact, He does what He does so that His disciples would believe (v. 15). When He begins ministering in the situation, He says,
"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Is Jesus only the physical resurrection, and the physical life? Of course not. In fact, isn't the term "live" in the phrase "everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die" meant spiritually? How can Jesus be speaking of spiritual life in John 11 when it would be such a terrible factual category error to do so? Because the category error is made by those who do not see the interplay in the Johannine literature between the physical and the spiritual. Consider the term "hear" in John. How often, in the exact same context, does the Lord play upon physical and spiritual hearing, drawing out a strong lesson by the fact that men who can hear Him physically cannot hear Him spiritually? Would it be a "category error" to draw the same conclusions from those passages? Hardly!
The Scriptures speak of the unregenerate as spiritually dead; the Scriptures speak of regeneration in terms of resurrection (Ephesians 2). One has to ask the proponent of libertarianism if their real problem with the illustration of Lazarus is that, just like Ephesians 2:5, it robs the creature of the final control and power in salvation? Remember the words of Jesus: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes" (John 5:21). Who will dare to charge the Son with a category error here? Indeed, I rejoice that when God called me to life, He did not have to seek my permission! I rejoice in a sovereign, powerful Savior who never fails!
Sample E-Mails in Response to the BAM "Debate" (Updated 12/24)
12/21/2003 - James White
12/19/2003 - James White
How can a person who defends the Trinity, for example, properly and accurately from Scripture, then turn around and defend the idea that God's sovereignty is a chimera, and that man is actually sovereign over God, so that man's libertarian free will is actually supreme, in the great matter of salvation, over God's? The answer has become clearer for me over the years. Indeed, the best way to detect the insidious activity of human tradition is to note when someone abandons their normative hermeneutic and embraces, without notice, some new means of interpreting the text. It is this unadmitted variation in exegetical methodology that creates so much frustration when differences are discussed between believers.
An illustration has been floating through my mind of late. The vast majority of Trinitarians would read Titus 2:11-14 in such a fashion as to see the text giving us a reference to the deity of Christ, especially in the words of verse 13, "our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (an example of Granville Sharp's Rule). The following verse backs this up with important references from the Old Testament regarding Yahweh's work of forming for Himself a special people, here applied to the work of Christ in redemption. Now, some of those who deny the deity of Christ attempt to read the text in Titus as having reference to two individuals, Christ, and Yahweh, as a separate person, so that there are two appearances in the text. Of course, the only reason for reading the text in such a fashion comes not from the text itself, but from an over-riding tradition, an external controlling belief that demands that the text be read in that fashion (so as to avoid contradiction with the theological system). The vast majority of Evangelicals would detect the unwarranted insertion of a second person into the text, would see the role of the higher authority, and would object to the pretended exegesis on that basis.
And yet, the vast majority of those same evangelicals will engage in the identical activity when the central platform of human religion, man's alleged ability to have the final say in God's self-glorifying work of salvation, is under discussion. Example: John 6:44. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." The text is simple, clear, pure (i.e., no textual variants get in the way), and compelling. And yet, to avoid the weight of the text, what do the vast majority of readers do? They insert the very same kind of eisegetical conclusion that we just examined. In v. 44 the Father draws, and the Son raises, and there is nothing in the text that even suggests that the one raised is someone different than the one drawn. Indeed, "the Father...draws him, and him I will raise up" expresses the textual actions with clarity. Yet, the reading "understood" by the vast majority of non-Reformed Evangelicals is, "the Father...draws him, but someone else the Son raises up [since not all who are drawn will cooperate with God so as to be saved, thus protecting their libertarian free will and their ultimacy in the work of salvation]." When you ask for a basis, from the text, for the insertion of a second "him" that differs in identity or extent from the first "him" that is drawn, you never get a textually based reply, but instead get, "Well, it must, because..." followed by the immediate abandonment
of John 6.
So watch for the sudden shifts in hermeneutical methodology. It is a clear sign that you are about to encounter a human tradition dressed as biblical theology.