Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Reformation Day Studies/Sermons
10/31/2010 - James WhiteSunday School Lesson on the Backgrounds of the Reformation
Morning Sermon from Galatians 2 on the Gospel of the Reformation
A Needed Balance and a Call to Passionate Faith
And with that...I'm headed for Lima, Peru. Lord willing I will have Internet access and will try to give a report on the progress of the pastoral training.
Celebrate the Gospel: Evangelize Those Trapped in Rome
10/31/2010 - James WhiteToday is October 31, Reformation Sunday, a far more important date to note than the one being celebrated by the world, to be sure. Though no one who awoke on November 1, 1517 had any idea at all that anything of moment had taken place the day before, hindsight is powerful. I will not in this article address the issue of the content of Luther's theses (I touched on these topics on Thursday's Dividing Line broadcast). Instead, I wish to speak to the heart of the Reformation.
A few years ago a book appeared titled, "Is the Reformation Over?" For many, it is, there is no question about it. A large swath of those who call themselves "Protestants" today are far more comfortable with Rome's view of grace, Rome's view of man, Rome's view of law and revelation, and entire sections of Rome's soteriology. They may, for reasons of taste, reject the Papacy or various of the Marian dogmas, but in essence, they are Roman Catholics in absentia, nothing more. Rome's salving man-centeredness, summed up in the treadmill of sacramental penances, absolutions, and ceremonies, all designed to channel and control the grace of God (as if such divine power could be controlled by puny man!), appeals to the natural man, and Protestantism is home to a great deal of false profession, especially when it divorces itself from the passionate commitment to the gospel that gave it birth. I have described these not-quite-Catholics as paddling about in the Tiber river, sometimes coming close to the eastern shore, sometimes stopping long enough to listen to those of us who preach from there, proclaiming good news of a perfect Savior, a gospel that brings true peace, to the throngs on the far side, only to shake their head at our "extremism" and paddle back toward Rome. Sadly, this describes many who teach in seminary classrooms and hold denominational positions. They lack a passion for the gospel, exhibited most clearly in their inability to see that Rome's "gospel" is anything but.
Today Roman Catholics, and their confused sympathizers, will lament the great "divorce" of Christendom that was the Protestant Reformation. The great benefit of unity, they will mourn, was lost in a fit of misunderstanding and self-centeredness. The fact that the Apostles of Jesus Christ had provided the example long before, in such books as Galatians, and 1 John, showing that a unity based upon the suppression, perversion, and denial of the gospel is a unity in self-destruction, not a godly unity of truth, will be lost to them. For those who are not-quite-Catholics, something as minor as "differences of interpretation in the gospel" cannot be allowed to stand in the way of "Mere Christianity," that nebulous scarecrow of theology erected in our day that affirms just enough truth to look good while by-passing the only message that can ever change a heart of stone into a heart of flesh: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One such not-quite-Catholic who decided to dock his boat on the far side of the Tiber and at least be consistent with his own beliefs about the gospel, grace, man's nature, etc., is Frank Beckwith. He posted an article this past week on the subject of Reformation Day and Schism. It once again validates the thesis I presented in August of this year on this blog, that being that Frank Beckwith never professed a saving gospel of grace that was consciously and purposefully different than that of Rome.
Though Beckwith claims he once "stood on the other side of the Tiber" in this article, we have argued, and documented, that he most assuredly did not. He may have stood on the Island of Confusion out in the middle somewhere, but he never docked his boat on the other side, dismantled it ("I shall never return!") and turned it into a pulpit from which to thunder forth the truths of God's perfect salvation and true peace in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The second paragraph of his essay bears this out:
Since returning to the Catholic Church in late April 2007, I find Reformation Day has taken on a different meaning than when I stood on the other side of the Tiber. Nevertheless, even as a Protestant, my enthusiasm for October 31 never rose higher than modest appreciation for what I thought were Luther’s, and later Calvin’s, significant contributions in helping Western Christians to retrieve what had been lost. I say “modest appreciation,” since it always seemed to me rather unseemly to get too excited about schism and mutual charges of apostasy and heresy. It would be like celebrating the tenth anniversary of your divorce. You may think that the divorce was a good idea, but not because you think divorce itself is the proper end of a marriage.
Notice the clear confession: even as a not-quite-Catholic, Beckwith found nothing in Reformation Sunday that spoke of freedom, redemption, the gospel, etc. Instead, his "enthusiasm…never rose higher than modest appreciation for what I thought were Luther's, and later Calvin's, significant contributions in helping Western Christians to retrieve what had been lost." And what had been lost? Well, nothing overly significant, I guess, just this "gospel" thing. As long as Beckwith saw the Reformation as merely something relevant to "contributions" relating to "Western Christians," we do not have to wonder long at whether he ever passionately embraced the freedom of the gospel of grace, or even saw its necessity. Repetitious sacrifices that never perfect? Sacramental priests doling out penance and forgiveness? Infallible popes binding man-made doctrines on men's souls? Eh, no worries!
But I wish to focus upon the charge of "unseemliness." Beckwith is quite right if all the Reformation amounted to was "schism and mutual charges of apostasy and heresy." What a silly thing to celebrate! But, of course, this only proves our point: when God in His sovereign mercy and grace brought together all the mighty streams of history at a particular point, in a particular place, to ignite a fire that brought the light of God's grace, the power of God's Word, back into the hearts and homes of His hungry people, freeing so many from slavery to a dead corpse of religious tradition, He was not creating mere "schism," He was providing freedom to the people of God! Only by assuming both sides were, in fact, heirs of the one faith can one think this was "schism." But once one realizes that a gospel that shackles you to a grinding wheel of constant human works, penances, and indulgences, denying you access to the finished work of Christ, is no gospel at all, the Reformation becomes something to be celebrated indeed! There is everything good in thanking God for the gracious outpouring of His Spirit that led men and women to bow in humble adoration not before statues or Popes, but at the feet of the resurrected Christ, shouting out, "To God alone be the glory! By Christ alone I am saved! To scripture alone I look for God's truth! By God's grace alone I am saved! By faith alone I embrace the perfect Savior!" This is why we celebrate Reformation Sunday.
There is much more in Beckwith's article that calls for comment, but my duties for this coming Lord's Day (two sermons, one Bible study) and the next day (flying to Peru to do pastoral training for the week) preclude further comment. For now, let me express my hope that for those who know their need of a perfect Savior, a finished work of atonement, a sovereign God who saves His elect people, and a Spirit who can raise to spiritual life without the aid and assistance of the dead(!), this day of remembrance of what God did through the ministries of imperfect men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, etc. will confirm you, and encourage you, in your own ministry to Christ and His people.
Excellent Work from My Brothers
10/30/2010 - James WhiteTwo of my blog team have posted articles on their personal blogs that you really need to read, especially if you have interest in Roman Catholic polemics. James Swan, the master of all odd Luther quotes, has just blown a hole in the boat of many of Rome's pop apologists who constantly hammer away at the "Luther and Calvin believed what we believe about Mary!" line (which is bogus on its face, given the IC and BA were defined after their time) by patiently tracking down the sources, once again, on a Luther "quote" often used by RC apologists. Another great example of "Don't believe much of what you see on an RC website." Here is the article.
Meanwhile TurretinFan's blog is always a gold-mine of material (the contrast between what you read there, and at Beggars All, with what you read on the standard RC blogs is striking), and currently he is teaming up with Pastor David King in posting material on the sufficiency of Scripture. Here are two important articles (here and here). Important and edifying material for those seeking to bring the good news of a gospel that actually saves to those trapped in the darkness of Romanism.
Once again, I am deeply thankful for the many co-laborers the Lord has sent into the fields of harvest!
A Touchstone for God-Centered Salvation Vs. Man-Centered Salvation
10/29/2010 - Alan KurschnerThe "Calvinist vs. Arminian" debate is substantially a debate between what is called "synergism" and "monergism." There is no third option (unless one is willing to affirm Pelagianism). For those who are new to the Calvinist-Arminian debate, the following is a primer on the two perennial branches of theological systems in Christianity. Or to put it another way, there are two very different ways for believers to view their salvation.
In general, the first type (the Arminian-Synergist) affirms what is called "synergism." Synergists believe that two forces in the universe are necessary to bring about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, the two forces at work (cooperation) that are necessary to bring about regeneration, or spiritual life, is the will of man and the Holy Spirit (grace).
To put it another way, the work of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the creature’s will, hence, “synergism” (working together). These individuals will sincerely say, “I believe in grace alone.” But in reality, they believe that grace is not alone (sufficient), but that man’s will is necessary for regeneration to be effective.
It could be said that these individuals are “functional” Arminians because even though some will deny the label, their theology functions synergistically (thus, how they identify themselves is inconsistent with what they teach and believe).
The second group of believers (the Calvinist-Monergist) affirm what is called “monergism.” Monergists believe that there is only one force in the universe (grace alone) that brings about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, because of the deadness of man’s spiritual state, his moral inability, the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of spiritual resurrection (regeneration) in that person, hence, “monergism” (one work). Grace is sufficient to be effective, and does not depend on some action of man.
In other words, the Holy Spirit does not merely whisper in the hardened sinner’s ear, hoping that the rebel sinner will “cooperate”; rather, while the sinner is in a state of hardness and rebellion, the Holy Spirit penetrates in the will of man and performs the miracle of spiritual life (regeneration). That is grace alone. Faith does not precede regeneration, regeneration precedes faith.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47Arminians cannot affirm monergism (grace alone); they must always have the creature’s will as the final determiner of their destiny, not God. Inconsistently, Arminians pray (without knowingly) Calvinisticly, “God, change my unbelieving relative’s heart.” I have never heard them pray, “God, only whisper in my relative’s ear, but don’t change their heart unless you’ve been given permission.” But the Calvinist prays and affirms biblical truth consistently.
Reformation History on the Dividing Line
10/28/2010 - James WhiteSunday is October 31, Reformation Sunday, remembering God's great work of bringing the light of the gospel to Europe through the Reformation. So to help prepare you for that day I was joined by TurretinFan, and we talked about Francis Turretin, one of those used by God to help systematize and defend the truths of the Reformation. Then I spent about 25 minutes (after taking a call on John 17:12/John 6:44) discussing the backgrounds of the Reformation. I hope this helps you have a more meaningful Reformation Sunday! Here's the program.
Now, right at the beginning of the program I played a song that was sent to me this morning by Jovan Mackenzy. Jovan has a new album coming out at the end of November, and he sent me one of the songs, where he took portions of a sermon I preached on Hebrews 2, and added his own lyrics. I think I made history today playing it on the Dividing Line! Be watching for Jovan's album, Strangers and Pilgrims around Thanksgiving.
On Reformation Zeal for the Original Languages
10/28/2010 - Alan Kurschner
[Zwingli] announced that henceforth he would no longer restrict himself to the prescribed biblical passages selected to be read for each Sunday of the year, but instead would preach on the entire gospel of Matthew from cover to cover with the Greek text in front of him upon the pulpit. The modern generation can scarcely reconstruct the excitement which such an announcement produced. A young humanist was in Zwingli's audience, Thomas Platter by name, who has left us a most charming autobiography. So great was his ardor for the ancient tongues that he supported himself through manual labor by day and at night studied with sand in his mouth, that the gritting against his teeth might keep him awake. This lad, so passionately eager to master the wisdom of the ages, when he heard from the pulpit the complete, unadulterated Word of God, for so many centuries withheld from the people, declared that he felt as if he were being pulled up by the hair of his head. (The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, Roland H. Bainton, 82-3)
Radio Free Geneva...Accomplished!
10/26/2010 - James WhiteHad a great time on the program today, covering three items: first, reminding folks that we now have the great "Read My Book" debate from 2003 available in mp3 format now, here. Then we reviewed, very briefly, some of Bob Sungenis' anti-Calvinism arguments from up in Newberg, and then launched into the real reason for the Radio Free Geneva, the recently posted podcast wherein William Lane Craig not only defends Molinism but attacks the Reformed faith. Another vital discussion of why, and how, theology determines apologetics. Here's the program!
Radio Free Geneva Today on the Dividing Line!
10/26/2010 - James WhiteDid you know Calvinism's emphasis upon God's divine decree is unbiblical? That it impugns God's character? Well, you've heard all that before, right? I mean, it is like Psalm 33 or Daniel 4 or Ephesians 1 just doesn't exist in the Bibles carried by folks like Dave Hunt or George Bryson. But William Lane Craig, Philosopher to the Exegetically Challenged, has posted a podcast in which he repeats these accusations, and so it is time for....RADIO FREE GENEVA! Get out your wireless devices, hide in the stair well, cover yourself up with a blanket lest the Arminian Police hear, but make sure to tune in today at 11am MST for Radio Free Geneva!
Some Pictures from Newberg
10/25/2010 - James WhiteJust a few pictures from my recently completed trek to Oregon. If the setup looks familiar in this picture from the debate with Robert Sungenis on purgatory, it should; this is the same conference at which I debated Dan Barker last year, the famous "Don't Quote Me, Bro!" debate. I wish I had had the opportunity to hear the debate between Chris Rosebrough and Doug Paggit, but my flight plans took me home at the same time. I'm sure it would have been a hair-pulling experience, however, given Paggit's wild post-modernism. I look forward to listening to it.
Here is a shot of me sitting next to Chris Rosebrough at dinner at Olive Garden (love their whole wheat pasta!); Ken Cook, who, along with his wife Courtney, do most of the work setting up these conferences and debates, is across the table (he's the guy who is now 2x my size---or, I'm half the man he is!). We had a very enjoyable and interesting time at dinner that evening on our way to Newberg from the airport in Portland.
Finally, I got to meet Squirrel, aka, Gene Clyatt, from way out in Montana, Grizzly country, as he would say. You may have read Gene's comments on the Caner situation a few months ago. He has become a regular in our chat channel (in fact, I am in sincere danger of losing the #2 stats spot to him for 2010---what a talker he is!), and he made the road trip over to Oregon for the weekend. It was great to finally meet him!
The Famous "Read My Book" Debate on Calvinism: Now on MP3!
10/24/2010 - James WhiteFor seven years the only format you could purchase the 3-day radio discussion with George Bryson aired on The Bible Answer Man Broadcast was on CD, by contract. But, as of now, we can make the entire debate available in downloadable mp3 format! This is one of the most popular encounters on the important subject of God's sovereignty in salvation, one that, quite honestly, set many people on the road to Geneva. Rich Pierce went through and broke down the discussion by topic this weekend, as you can see here. We intend to put together an entire package of materials in time for the holidays, but we wanted to let you know this was available as soon as possible! Enjoy!
A Quick Report from Newberg
10/23/2010 - James WhiteI hope those who wished to listen live to the purgatory debate last night we able to do so. I had to go with straight "house sound," so it wasn't as clear as, for example, the Silverman debate was, but hopefully it was still useful.
Another clear delineation between the God-centered gospel of a powerful Savior and the man-centered gospel of man's accomplishments and cooperation was surely provided over the very lengthy period of debate last evening. Dr. Sungenis did not even make an attempt to respond to the historical portion of my presentation. Almost the entirety of the debate centered on 1 Corinthians 3. I was disappointed in that Bob assumed the audience was already fully aware of what purgatory is, as defined by Rome. He really made no attempt to explain it to any meaningful depth. I think those in attendance learned much more about purgatory from me than they did from him. At one point I asked him to define indulgences for the audience, and he wandered off into a story about David. So, I then defined it as a question, defining the treasury of merit, the excess merit of Christ, Mary, and the saints, etc., and asking him, "Is that accurate?" "Yes" was his response. That's how it went.
Unlike the calm interaction in Santa Fe, last night was anything but calm during "cross examination." I use quotes because Bob decided to abandon any and all semblance of meaningful format for something called "cross examination." He had told the moderator that we would be doing a "free form" type of cross-ex. What I never imagined he meant was what he did: argue, make points, ask a question, let you say ten words, interrupt you and tell you to be quiet, make another point, erect a straw man, and then cut you off if you object. It was a total mess for a total of 35 minutes (one 20 minute portion, one 15 minute portion). As much as I like Bob personally (he really is a nice guy on that level---then again, so is John Dominic Crossan, who remains my favorite heretic), I was really offended by the stunts he pulled last night. The audience was, too. It got silly, and when he went back to the same non-questions, all on how many judgments there are, I finally gave up and responded solely with, "Asked and answered." I refused to lower myself to that level in my portions of the cross-examination.
It is very, very difficult to do cross-examination properly. It is hard to ask contextual and meaningful questions, to really probe someone else's position. But it is worth it, and I believe I need to write up a document on how cross-examination MUST be done and INSIST upon it in the future. The "don't bother with real questions, argue your points and misrepresent your opponent" style used last night by Dr. Sungenis shows no respect for your opponent, but less for the audience. In the second portion I could hear the groans of the audience as he beat the dead horse into oblivion for the twentieth time.
But the gospel was clearly presented, the contrast between Rome's man-centeredness and the Bible's God-centeredness plainly seen, and for that I am very thankful. My sincerest thanks to all those who listened, and prayed, for the debate. I was likewise encouraged greatly, once again, by meeting those who came up before, during, and after the debate, who commented on how they have been helped and edified by Alpha and Omega Ministries. That's the whole reason we are here!
Some Exegetical Thoughts on a Debate Day
10/22/2010 - James WhiteOn debate days I try to remain focused upon the topic of the debate (I even dropped a previous opportunity to speak today when it became clear it would be a massive distraction from my primary reason for being here in Oregon today). Central to the debate with Rome over her dogma of purgatory is the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Of course, I realize that in the final analysis, any Roman Catholic (who is consistent) believes what they believe on the basis of the authority of the Roman Church itself, and all the discussion that will take place over biblical texts is, in the final analysis, window-dressing for the one who believes in sola ecclesia. Robert Sungenis demonstrated this with great clarity last month in Santa Fe when he defended the Bodily Assumption of Mary based upon the idea that Peter could define dogma for the church without reference to either Scripture or tradition. This means that when one bows the knee to Romanism, one is not only accepting a body of doctrinal teaching now (as nebulous as it might turn out to be in our modern day); what is more, you are accepting any dogmas that Rome may choose to define in the future as well! You are functionally accepting a new source of divine revelation, one that can morph and change at will. The more I interact with Rome over the years, the more clearly this becomes apparent.
In any case, I was looking again at the text in 1 Corinthians 3, and I noted a very important point. I have long emphasized that the testing by fire is meant to give a revelation of something that, at this time in our lives, we cannot know: specifically, who, in building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, is building with gold, silver, and precious stones, and who is building with wood, hay, and stubble. You can paint wood to make it look like gold, can you not? We cannot tell from a distance since we cannot see into the hearts of men. But God knows, and he will make a revelation of the truth in that final day. That is why Paul uses the term ἀποκαλύπτεται in verse 13. The testing of the judgment will make a revelation, an apocalupsis, of the true nature of the works of those who have built upon the foundation.
But what I noted in my preparation today is how the text strengthens this understanding in the lexical meaning of another word that is used by Paul: δηλώσει. Paul tells us the day (the day of judgment) will "show" or "make known" what kind of works have been built on the foundation. In fact, three terms in a row are used, and when we look at each one, we see the truth without question. Three terms are used in a series: φανερὸν γενήσεται, δηλώσει, ἀποκαλύπτεται. The first phrase, "will become manifest or evident," the second, "will be made known," and the third, "will be revealed." Each term/phrase contains the same important concept, explicitly found in δηλώσει. Note the definition of the term, first provided in BDAG: "to make some matter known that was unknown or not communicated previously, reveal, make clear"; then note Louw-Nida: "to make something known by making evident what was either unknown before or what may have been difficult to understand." You see, we do not possess, in this life, the ability to differentiate between gold and wood in the works built upon the foundation because we are talking about the intentions of men's hearts. We need an apocalupsis, an apocalypse, a revelation, a manifestation, via divine judgment, of these things. And that is what Paul is talking about: the manifestation of the truth at the final day.
Obviously, then, to twist this text into a proof text for an on-going process of purification of the souls of all the redeemed before entry into the presence of God is to twist it horribly from its original intent, and to engage in the most fanciful eisegesis.
So be listening this evening at 7pm PDT for the debate with Robert Sungenis, livestreamed at our regular Dividing Line link. Pray God's truth will be clearly vindicated!
Today on the Dividing Line: Purgatory and Modern Roman Apologists, Plus Calls
10/19/2010 - James WhiteWent over some material on purgatory at the top of the show, then took calls relevant to the same topic on subjects such as "the eucharist." A Roman Catholic intensive Dividing Line prior to my trip to Oregon to debate Robert Sungenis. Here's the program.
Yes, Mabel, There's a Dividing Line on Tuesday!
10/18/2010 - James WhiteGoing to be the only one this week, though, as I will be headed to the airport (aka, my Second Home) on Thursday for my flight up to Oregon (please pray for the debate on Friday with Robert Sungenis on purgatory).
Also, I wanted to thank Ryan Habbena and the folks at Conquering King Fellowship for a great job in putting together the Chosen conference this weekend in Minneapolis. It was great to get "home" (I'm a native Minnesotan), and everything was handled real well. They have posted my Sunday morning sermon on the atonement here.
I should note that I also met with my friends at Bethany House Publishers on Friday, and yes, thanks be to the Lord, I will be back on the book writing path here soon. As always, you can help me with that. Some of our faithful supporters keep an eye on the Ministry Resource List, and as resources to allow me to write more effectively (and quickly!) come up, I place them there. Even today some books arrived that will be directly relevant to the (hopefully) two book projects I will be launching into soon.
Today on the Dividing Line: Biblical Questions, Justification, and God's Holiness and Wrath
10/14/2010 - James WhiteAnother potpourri of topics today, with calls on "repentance" in the Old Testament, dealing with anti-Trinitarian "Messianic Judaism," and a call on explaining the wrath of God to our modern culture. Snuck a few minutes of the second Slick/Sungenis conversation as well. Here's the program.
Scripture has its Own Authority - and Christ Alone is Our Mediator - A Response to Michael Liccione
10/13/2010 - Tur8infanRoman Catholic Michael Liccione recently provided a comment in the comment box of a Roman Catholic blog that I think highlights two of the problems with Roman Catholic theology: (1) the disparaging of the authority of Scriptures themselves; and (2) the deification of "the Church."
What’s needed is a concrete, communal, continuous locus of “the sources” that is the divinely authorized subjectum of those sources. In other words, what’s needed is not “a” church but “the” Church that Jesus founded. Apart from such an body, the sources have no authoritative meaning; they are just “data” that we interpret in ways that may seem plausible to us, but which have no divine authority. Thus they leave us no way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinions about the sources.(source)
So if we’re going to see the relevant “evidence” as such, we have to see it in the way such a body sees it over time. Just as we have no access to the Father without the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, so we have no access to Christ, cognitive or sacramental, without “the” Church that is his Mystical Body.
The authority in God's Word is inherent authority, because of their authorship. Their meaning is an objective reality that is authoritative, whether or not it is recognized. Ignorance of that meaning does not diminish the authority of the meaning.
I like the way Augustine (A.D. 354-430) put it:
Our volumes are put up for sale in public; the light never needs to blush. Let them buy them, read them, believe them; or else buy them, read them, make fun of them. Those Scriptures know how to hold people guilty who read them and don’t believe.- Augustine, Sermon 198.20, translation found in John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Newly Discovered Sermons, Part 3, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1997), pp. 195-196.
And Scripture itself teaches:
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Moreover, just as Roman Catholicism's view of Mary as co-mediatrix deifies Mary by placing her in position as mediator between God and man, so also Liccione's attempt to insert "the Church" (meaning the Roman Catholic Church) between men and Christ similarly deifies the church: "Just as we have no access to the Father without the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, so we have no access to Christ, cognitive or sacramental, without “the” Church that is his Mystical Body."
But Scripture says:
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.And again, we read:
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
May I call our Roman Catholic friends to this communion with God that is described by Paul in Romans, communion with God through faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone, all to the glory of God alone.
Today on the Dividing Line
10/12/2010 - James WhiteCovered some important topics today. Started with this article on the human genome and the fact that life...really is life! Great stuff. Then discussed the amazing response an evil-saturated society produces to anyone who says something moral (related to this story), then we discussed a story about Muhammad and his wives, then took quite a while to respond to Roger Olsen's "fatal flaw" in Calvinism, then took a call from Greece on the Greek Septuagint. Here's the program.
In answer to all the tweets and e-mails, yes, I saw the warmed-over summary of Dave Hunt and George Bryson posted by Mark Cahill. I'm sorry, but I had never heard of Mark Cahill before he decided to demonstrate his ignorance of Reformed theology and Christian history, let alone Scripture, so I am uncertain as to why there is such a kerfuffle about his position. I see nothing new in the same tired, warn out, eisgetical human traditions of Arminianism that are regularly pawned on folks by the Dave Hunts and George Brysons of the world. It is sad to see someone who narrow in his view, and so unteachable, that he would take the stand he has, but he surely is not alone. There are hyper-Arminians and there are hyper-Calvinists. Best to trust the Lord, speak the truth, and press on!
James White Speaking in the Twin Cities this Saturday
10/11/2010 - Alan Kurschner
Click Here for Information.
Join us for a day of Biblical exposition and exhortation with Dr. James White and Ryan Habbena at Signet Ring’s 2010 Annual Conference. We will focus on the declaration and defense of the doctrines of grace as well as the immense implications of these Scriptural truths. This conference is free of charge and will be held at Conquering King Fellowship in Eagan, MN from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, October 16, 2010. A free-will offering will be taken.
Session One: John 6:44
The Doctrines of Grace in One Verse — Ryan Habbena
In the midst of the glorious gospel of John, there is a verse that succinctly and definitely speaks of God¹s sovereign grace in salvation — John 6:44. In this session, Ryan will explore the teaching of this verse in its context. He will also highlight the resounding significance this verse contributes to our understanding of the powerful, effectual grace of God.
Session Two: God Purpose in Election
A Survey of the Significance of Romans 9 — Dr. James White
Few passages are as crucial to the understanding of God¹s sovereign grace as Romans chapter 9. In this session, James will survey the significance of Paul¹s teaching in this robust passage of holy Scripture. Dr. White will focus on the decisive teaching granted to us from the pen of the apostle regarding God’s freedom and purpose in election.
Session Three: Understanding “The Big Three”
Matthew 23:37, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 — Dr. James White
In the debate over the sovereign grace of God, three verses are consistently brought up to oppose the doctrines of grace: Matthew 23:37, 1st Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. In this session, James will unpack these passages in their contexts and demonstrate how their teaching in no way conflicts with the doctrines of God¹s sovereign grace, but rather informs and enhances our understanding of the nature and purposes of God.
Session Four: For God is at Work in You
The Mystery and Necessity of Compatibilism — Ryan Habbena
When confronted with the truths of God’s sovereign grace, many people have pressing questions: “Why evangelize?” “Why pray?” “Why pursue sanctification?” In this session, Ryan will present the Biblical dynamics of “compatibilism.” In exploring several key texts, Ryan will demonstrate that God’s sovereign grace fuels and motivates all areas of the Christian life.
Session Five: Questions and Answers
Dr. James White & Ryan Habbena
Chuckle, Chuckle, Chortle
10/10/2010 - James WhiteVideo evidence is so... inconvenient at times! Good job, David!
10/08/2010 - James WhiteThis post over at Beggars All is short and needs to be read. I love the observations at the end.
I encountered yet again someone pushing the silly idea that Codex Vaticanus identifies Islam in its rendering of "666" in Revelation 13:18. This ridiculous idea is being circulated by less helpful members of the evangelical community. I provided a link to Dan Wallace's comments on this idea, and a few thoughts of my own, here, late last year. If you run into anyone promoting this idea, please take them aside and gently inform them that it is baseless and groundless, and is, in fact, embarrassing to the cause of proclaiming the truth to the Muslim people.
Calls, Calls, and More Calls on the Dividing Line!
10/07/2010 - James WhiteFast moving hour today! Started off with a call on eschatology and Bible study resources, then took a call on the discussion that has been spawned by the Trinity/Unitarian debate on the Jewish Voice Broadcast, then took a call on dealing with Roman Catholic apologists and the Eucharist, then a call on the origin of cultic movements, then a call from Dublin on the KJV Only movement (or maybe more specifically, the TR Only movement), and finished up with a call on presuppositionalism and other religions. Whew! What an audience we have that can come up with that range of questions! Get a deep seat in the saddle! Here's the program.
Brown/White vs. Buzzard/Good Debate to Air November 1-14, 2010
10/07/2010 - James WhiteFor those desiring to watch the four-man debate on Trinity vs. Unitarianism, I was just informed those programs will air on the Jewish Voice Broadcast November 1-14. You can watch the episode on their website here, and here is their station listing along with times, etc.
No Compromise Radio Appearance
10/07/2010 - James WhiteI was forced at gunpoint to join Mike Abendroth (one of the nefarious and widely feared Abendroth Brothers Gang) on his No Compromise Radio Program today. What was worse, he forced me to listen to Rick Warren's presentation at the DG Conference. Very painful. 350 pithy platitudes strung together on citations of the Message and the Living Bible interspersed with psychology and repeated references to how uber cool Saddleback is. But, I listened, because I was forced to! And then Mike made me go on the air and give a report! It was a traumatic experience, but I got through it. Someday I will return the favor and force Mike to race me up South Mountain. Here's the program.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
10/06/2010 - James WhiteStarted off getting back to the Slick/Sungenis dialogue (first half hour), then after the break took calls on Bart Ehrman, Dave Hunt, and an attempted call from Magnus in Sweden, but our Skype set up failed! Well, we tried! Here's the program.
DL at the Regular Time Today!
10/05/2010 - James WhiteMy planned activities got rained out today, so I am headed back to Phoenix, and should be there in time for the regularly scheduled DL. So, despite my saying the DL would be moved to Wednesday...it won't! Join me live at 11am for the DL today!
The Order of Decrees - Which Came First?
10/05/2010 - Tur8infanA reader asked:
Please clarify for me, which came first, the decree of God to reprobate and damn this or that particular individual or that individual's sin against God and then the decree to reprobate and damn him for his sin?The issue of the order of decrees is a topic that seems to be of the greatest interest to us Calvinists and a few of our more learned critics. The issue is not one that directly addressed in Scripture. In other words, the Bible nowhere explicitly sets forth a logical order of decrees.
I say "logical order," because we Calvinists believe that the decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. They are an eternal purpose, not something that God developed over time by taking thought like a man. They consequently have no temporal order to them. God did not literally first decree "x" and then "y," but rather God has decreed all things from all eternity.
Nevertheless, there may be a logical priority to things. For example, one might say that logically God cannot ordain to make Fred Astaire a famous personality until he first decrees to create Fred Astaire. Thus, God's decree of creation of Fred Astaire would come logically prior to God's decree to make Fred Astaire famous.
But what about the decrees of reprobation/damnation and permission of sin? Which of those comes first? That, after all is the reader's question. On this question, Calvinists are themselves divided. The view held by the real Francis Turretin and many of the Continental reformers was what is called the Infralapsarian view. On the other hand, men like Twisse (who served essentially as moderator of the Westminster Assembly) held to what is called the supralapsarian view. There are also views held by classic Amyraldians and Arminians with respect to these decrees (some modern "Arminians" and some "four point Calvinists" wouldn't necessarily fall into the same classification. Furthermore, recently Robert Reymond has proposed what he calls the "Modified Supralapsarian" position as another alternative.
The term "-lapsarian" refers to the "lapse" or "fall" of man. Supralapsarians place the decree of election (and consequently also reprobation) prior to the decree of the fall. Infralapsarians (as well as classical Amyraldians and Arminians) place the decree of election logically subsequent to the decree of the fall. Robert Reymond's modified Supralapsarian position actually places the specific decree of the fall after the decree of election, but nevertheless makes the election an election from among sinful men.
Here is a summary of the views (based on Phil Johnson's helpful page).
|Supralapsarianism||Infralapsarianism||Amyraldism||Arminianism||Reymond's Modified Supralapsarianism|
I'm hesitant to be overly dogmatic about the matter. Twisse championed the cause of the Supralapsarian position by suggesting that what is last in time must be first in mind, since God does nothing without a purpose. In other words, the goal must be what God logically considers first, and then how to obtain that goal. On the contrary, men like the real Francis Turretin argued that the discussion of God's electing some men of the same lump to be vessels of "mercy" and others of "wrath" (Romans 9:22-23). This lump, it is argued, must be the lump of fallen humanity, otherwise it would not be "mercy" or "wrath." One possible response is that the descriptions "mercy" and "wrath" are descriptions of them vessels as they stand, not as God considered them and that God's election was either to glory or destruction.
Reymond's modified position seems to attempt to get the best of both the Supra- and infralapsarian views, in that it places things in reverse chronological order, while also considering the men who are elected as sinners. My understanding is that Dr. White favors this approach, though I do not claim to speak for him on this subject. I would encourage people to follow the example of the Westminster assembly and not make the order of decrees itself a point over which to divide fellowship or exclude ministers. While only one logical order of decrees can be true, we should be careful in what amount of knowledge of the truth we demand from our fellow Christians regarding things that are less explicitly and clearly stated in Scripture.
P.S. Infralapsarianism is also sometimes referred to as "Sublapsarianism." "Sub-" and "Infra-" are supposed to mean the same thing. Personally, I find that "Infra-" contrasts better in sound to "Supra-," providing a modicum of clarity in what is often a very confusing discussion.
As You Worship Today...
10/03/2010 - James WhiteRemember the persecuted church. Give thanks for your freedoms as you enter comfortable, safe places of worship and instruction this Lord's Day, and remember what a tremendous blessing it is you have been given.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, September 30 (CDN) — Islamic extremists killed a Christian lawyer, his wife and their five children in northwestern Pakistan this week for mounting a legal challenge against a Muslim who was charging a Christian exorbitant interest, local sources said.(source)
Police found the bodies of attorney and evangelist Edwin Paul and his family on Tuesday morning (Sept. 28) at their home in Haripur, a small town near Abbotabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (previously known as the North-West Frontier Province, or NWFP), according to Haripur Station House Officer (SHO) Maqbool Khan.
The victim and his wife Ruby Paul, along with their five children ages 6 to 17, had been shot to death.
Apostasy: A Necessary Study
10/02/2010 - James White