Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Hammer to the Nail (Ps. 1)
06/29/2012 - Jeff DownsAs a seminary student (5 years and counting), preparing for gospel ministry, I have had the great privilege of exhorting/preaching (whatever you'd like to call it) quite a bit. There are times when I'm able to preach in the same place, and there are other times when I'm simply all over the map. Well, Psalm 1 is a text I have used in just about every congregation I've been in. It is a wonderful Psalm, one which is rich in doctrine and application. I'm interested in what other people say about this text, so I was good to see that James' dealt with this text this past Wednesday.
Sometimes we get the question about life verses, "What's your life verse?" and I'm not so sure I have one of those. But if I were to put my finger on something, Psalm 1 would be at the top of the list. Psalm 1 is a text I always include with, Love Dad, in the notes I write to my family in the mornings. Since this is fresh on my mind, I preached on this text last week, and I just listened to James address this text, I figured I would share some thoughts.
At GPTS we are taught in homiletics, that the sermon should have one main point, and the entire sermon should feed into the main proposition. Normally when I preach on Psalm 1 I split it into two sermons: the 1st addresses the blessed man, the 2nd the wicked man. My main proposition for Psalm 1:1-3 is "The happy man is one despises the ways of the wicked, but loves the ways of the Lord." This is a two point sermon: (1) The Christian Delights in the Word of God, (2) The Christian Displays the Fruits of Righteousness. Now, I'm certainly not going to write out my sermon, and I'm not going to repeat what James has stated but I do hope these few words will encourage you.
If I were to ask you to list the top eight things that would cause you to be happy, what would they be?..................does your list include a greater sorrow over your sins, a willingness to suffer for the kingdom, a hunger after righteousness. I suspect that most of you were not thinking along those lines. This is why we need to constantly be reminded that our definition of what makes a man or woman happy, needs to come from above. If we want to know what truly makes one happy, we need to begin thinking God's thoughts after Him: how He defines happiness (e.g. Ps. 1; Mat. 5:3-12).
James mentioned, in so many words, that it is not sufficient to abstain from the ways of the world. This is something we should be doing, but it is not sufficient, and so the Psalmist does not stop with what the blessed man does not do. On one hand, the blessed man is not taken in by the world, the flesh and the devil; on the other hand, the blessed man's delight is the law of the Lord. He meditates in it - reads it, sings it, hears it, has it transform his thinking, pressing it upon the mind and heart. One puritan writer (Thomas Watson) states it this way "as the hammer drives the nail to the head, so meditation drives a truth to the heart."
So, let me ask you, what is the first thing you think about when you wake in the morning? Are your first thoughts, "I wonder what Email I have today," "I wonder what the latest posts are on FB." Is turning the computer on, the first thing you do in the morning? Do you spend more time listening to the thoughts of the wicked, then you do in meditating upon God's word? The reading, hearing, the meditatation in the word is one of the ways (perhaps the main way) God's uses to sanctify us (Jn. 17:17).
Secondly, the happy man is described as a tree. A tree that is uprooted (born again) and planted by streams of water; it is a stable tree (Eph. 4:14-16), and tree that is receiving its nourishment. But not only is it flourishing itself, the tree is producing its fruit; it is doing what it is designed to do. The Psalmist moves from the illustration, back to the happy man. The happy man is the one who is nourished, but on the other hand, he is producing fruit. He is a blessing to others. He loves the body of Christ, he cares for the body of Christ, he bears the burdens of the body of Christ, he weeps with the body of Christ, and he rejoices with the body of Christ.
In a few words, what we see here in the first three verse of Psalm 1, is that the inner life (delights in the law) and the outer life (bearing fruit) of this man, coincide with one another. Is this a picture of your life? The only other option is found in verses 3-6.
The Father's Testimony to Jesus - and did Jesus say, "I am God"
06/29/2012 - Tur8infanSometimes when talking with Muslims, you may hear the line, "Jesus never said he was God" or "Jesus never said, 'I am God, worship me.'" There are a lot of valid responses to this comment. Among these is the response: "He didn't have to!"
I. The Father's Testimony to the Son
The Father testified to the son, calling him "My beloved son" on at least two occasions (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22; Luke 9:35; and 2 Peter 1:17), namely at his baptism and at his transfiguration.
It is enough for us that the Father called Jesus his Son. That tells us who Jesus is. That's why Mark's gospel begins: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God" (Mark 1:1).
II. Jesus Calls himself "First and Last" and "Almighty"
But did Jesus claim to be God? Jesus called himself the First and the Last, a title that belongs only to God, as it is recorded in Revelation:
"And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." (Revelation 1:17-18).
We can see from Isaiah that this term is a term that refers specifically to YHWH, Jehovah, the Lord:
Isaiah 41:4 "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he."
Isaiah 48:12 "Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last."
Likewise, Jesus calls himself "the Almighty" which is one of God's titles:
Revelation 1:8 "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."
The number of times this title is used of God are too numerous to mention, particularly in the book of Job, but beginning at least as early as the time of Abram:
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Perhaps a good conclusion would be the words of Jesus in John 8:
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.There are reasons that Jesus did not constantly announce his divinity, both because he came in humility and because when he did announce his divinity (by calling God his Father, by calling himself "I am" ("And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." Exodus 3:14), and by saying that he was older than Abraham.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
Moreover, there is an additional testimony to Jesus' divinity here. When the Jews picked up stones to stone him, Jesus hid himself and passed through their midst. Would God allow a blasphemer to escape judgment in this miraculous way? But if Jesus was not a blasphemer as the Jews accused him of being, then he was who he said he was: "I AM" who was before Abraham, the Son of God.
Thus we testify that Jesus is the Son of God. It is plainly stated numerous times in the gospels. The Father's testimony to the Son is enough for us, because the Father is God. Moreover, Jesus himself did claim divinity: he did so in a variety of ways, both during his time on earth and in his Revelation to John.
May the one Lord receive us to himself according to his mercy and his great love,
Three Recent Sermons--And They Aren't That Long, Either!
06/28/2012 - James White
Today on the Dividing Line
06/28/2012 - James WhiteStarted off the first half of a 90 minute program reviewing the incredible behavior of the students who attended the Douglas Wilson presentation at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, commenting on the incredibly hypocritical nature of the "inclusive/diversity" crowd (who are neither inclusive, nor supportive of diversity). Played a few audio clips from the audience questions, and then commented on a Canadian professor's promotion of the "denormatization" of heterosexuality. Then we tried to start a Radio Free Damascus, but, uh, had, shall we say, technical difficulties (remember, we do this live), but eventually got back to reviewing Abdullah Kunde's comments. Here's the program.
Douglas Wilson in Bloomington, Indiana
06/28/2012 - James WhiteLet me warn you ahead of time: Profane people use profanity. They sort of go together, and I am not talking about Doug Wilson, either.
I listened to these videos today on my ride. Despite the profanity, I would recommend them to the person serious about monitoring the spiraling collapse of Western culture's morality and ethics. I will be discussing them on the DL today as well. But let me be right up front here: I know every generation has its troublemakers. I know there are bright, intelligent, deeply thinking young folks today. I know this. But when I observe the infantile behavior of these people, and hear their facile irrationality, and recognize that the most simple forms of argumentation, logic, and thought, escape them, I am truly left wondering about the very, very near future, since these folks seem to have a lot more "pull" than the serious, thoughtful, rational, mature young people I know are out there. Oh, and note especially the liberal "Christian" from a "gay affirming" "church" that brings his daughter (she looks about 13-14 or so) and allows her to voice her utter ignorance of truth to the great delight of the rabble in the crowd. One can only pray for God to have mercy on such a man, for to stand before the thrice holy God to answer for such things...hard to conceive.
I will also be briefly considering this article as well on the DL today.
CTC Asks: Where are the Miracles of the Reformers?
06/28/2012 - James SwanIf the Reformers were really were sent by God, where are their miracles to prove it? This was the very question I came across while listening to a Called to Communion conversion story. In this story, a former Mid-America Reformed Seminary alumni recounted how he and his wife journeyed across the Tiber. This couple mentioned the importance of the book, The Catholic Controversy: St. Francis de Sales' Defense of the Faith.
de Sales argues,
"No one should allege an extraordinary mission unless he prove it by miracles: for, I pray you, where should we be if this pretext of extraordinary mission was to be accepted without proof? Would it not be a cloak for all sorts of reveries? Arius, Marcion, Montanus, Messalius -- could they not be received into this dignity of reformers, by swearing the same oath? Never was any one extraordinarily sent unless he brought this letter of credit from the divine Majesty."
"How then shall those who in our age would allege an extraordinary mission excuse and relieve themselves of this proof of their mission? What privilege have they greater than an Apostolic, a Mosaic? What shall I say more. If our sovereign Master, consubstantial with the Father, having a mission so authentic that it comprises the communication of the same essence, if he himself, I say, who is the living source of all Ecclesiastical mission, has not chosen to dispense himself from this proof of miracles, what reason is there that these new ministers should be believed on their mere word?"
Even though I've been familiar with this argument for many years, this was the first time I had ever heard a Roman Catholic convert use it, and that it was a Reformed seminary-trained convert truly amazed me. In this brief mp3 clip from their interview, the interviewer, referencing de Sales, asks, "Where are their papers?" The wife in agreement states back, "Right, where are their miracles?" Then, a few minutes later, the new convert states, "Where are their papers? If God sent them, where are their miracles?"
1. I'm surprised this particular argument had so much weight for these recent Roman Catholic converts. Based on the criteria of miracle = "sent by God", there are a fair amount of Pentecostal folks that are more than willing to claim they have the credentials required. It becomes even more complicated by the fact that non-Christian religions claim miracles as well.
2. It certainly is true that miracles accompanied many of those people in the Scripture that were given revelation from God. Miracles certainly proved the divine message of the Biblical authors. Keep in mind though, the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.), were not receiving new revelation from God, nor did they claim they were. They weren't adding books to the Bible. They were testifying to what was in the Bible. John Calvin states this very point: "In demanding miracles of us, they act dishonestly. For we are not forging some new gospel, but are retaining that very gospel whose truth all the miracles that Jesus Christ and his disciples ever wrought serve to confirm."
3. If one takes the time to work through de Sales argument, you'll notice he quotes a fair amount of Scripture. However, he assumes that what happened during enscripturation occurs after enscripturation. Calvin, on the other hand, argued that the miracles presented in the New Testament worked as seals of the Gospel. They were the signature of God confirming the revelation of Christ and the apostles. For Calvin, miracles had actually ceased at the end of the apostolic age. Both Calvin and Luther took seriously the Biblical warnings on the legitimate purpose and use of miracles.
The Donatists of old overwhelmed the simplicity of the multitude with this battering-ram: that they were mighty in miracles. We, therefore, now answer our adversaries as Augustine then answered the Donatists: the Lord made us wary of these miracle workers when he predicted that false prophets with lying signs and prodigies would come to draw even the elect (if possible) into error [Matthew 24:24], And Paul warned that the reign of Antichrist would be "with all power, and signs and lying wonders" [2 Thessalonians 2:9]. But these miracles, they say, are done neither by idols, nor by magicians, nor by false prophets, but by the saints. As if we did not understand that to "disguise himself as an angel of light" [2 Corinthians 11:14] is the craft of Satan! The Egyptians of old worshiped Jeremiah, who was buried in their land, rendering to him sacrifices and divine honors. Did they not misuse the holy prophet of God for idolatrous purposes? And yet, they thought that the curing of snake bite was a just reward for such veneration of his tomb. What shall we say except that it has always been, and ever will be, a very just punishment of God to "send to those" who have not received the love of truth "a strong delusion to make them believe a lie" [2 Thessalonians 2:11]?
Luther (commenting on Matthew 7:22-23)
The chief interpretation here is that He is talking about false prophecies and miracles, as He speaks in Matthew 24:24: "False Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10 St. Paul says that the Antichrist will come "with all sorts of pretended powers and signs and wonders and with all wicked deception for unrighteousness, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." So it is certain that false signs will happen in Christendom and that the false Christians will look upon them as true and genuine signs. This has really been happening in the papacy, though in Turkey, too, there are many such priests and special saints. You can read about this in the books and legends, especially in what the monks have written. They are all crawling with miracles, though they were really nothing but lies and rascalities. How they have made fools of the people nowadays with all those pilgrimages to the Grym Valley, to the Oak, or to Trier! I myself have seen some monks who were abominable rascals and reckless men, but who expelled the devil and played with him as if he were a child [LW 21:271].
4. It must be kept in mind that arguing the Reformers needed miracles to confirm their message assumes Roman Catholic presuppositions. Miracles are part of Roman collective piety. One need only recall the many times they claim Mary has visited the earth with messages (it get's a little murky as to exactly where this sort of special revelation fits in the Roman Catholic scheme of things). Here are some sound words from Martin Luther:
You see, this is the way to beat back the papists, who come crowding around with their "customs, fathers, councils, and so many signs and miracles," by which they try to substantiate their cause. Just give them a short answer: "All right, let us contrast the two. Here I have Christ?s Word; of this I am certain, and it has been powerfully substantiated throughout the world. You are showing me, by contrast, your teaching and your signs, which point me to rosaries, pilgrimages, the worship of saints, Masses, monkery, and other special and self-chosen works. There is nothing here about Christ, or about faith, Baptism, and the Sacrament, or about obedience and the good works which Christ teaches me to practice within my station, in my relations with my neighbor. Instead, there is the exact opposite. Hence these cannot be genuine signs, but both the teaching and the signs are the devil?s deception." This way we could easily recognize and judge all false signs and say: "Let the signs come and go, I do not care, even if you raised the dead before my very eyes. All of this can deceive me, but the Word of God does not deceive me" [LW 21:274].
5. Here's an ironic point. Here is the Bull of Canonization of St. Francis de Sales (Rerum Omnium Perturbationem) Encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Promulgated on January 26, 1923. Guess who, according to the Roman Catholic Church, was sent by God? Why, it was none other than Francis de Sales:
The solemn commemoration last year of the third centenary of the canonization of five great saints--Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, Philip Neri, Teresa of Jesus, and Isidore the Farmer-- helped greatly, Venerable Brothers, toward reawakening among the faithful a love for the Christian life. We are now happily called upon to celebrate the Third Centenary of the entrance into heaven of another great saint, one who was remarkable not only for the sublime holiness of life which he achieved but also for the wisdom with which he directed souls in the ways of sanctity. This saint was no less a person than Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and Doctor of the Universal Church. Like those brilliant examples of Christian perfection and wisdom to whom We have just referred, he seemed to have been sent especially by God to contend against the heresies begotten by the Reformation. It is in these heresies that we discover the beginnings of that apostasy of mankind from the Church, the sad and disastrous effects of which are deplored, even to the present hour, by every fair mind. What is more, it appears that Francis de Sales was given to the Church by God for a very special mission.
Now if you're thinking what I'm thinking, you're wondering exactly what miracle accompanied de Sales to prove he was especially sent by God for his special mission. If you skim through the Bull of Canonization, you'll find all sorts of tidbits about his life and ministry, but nothing all that extraordinary like healing a leper or raising the dead. In other words, there weren't any extraordinary miracles that prove he was sent especially by God for a very special mission. He sort of did things like... the early Reformers (he wrote books, ministered, and talked to people, sometimes at great peril). Remember, de Sales says, "no one should allege an extraordinary mission unless he prove it by miracles." Pope Pius XI says, "[De Sales] seemed to have been sent especially by God to contend against the heresies begotten by the Reformation...it appears that Francis de Sales was given to the Church by God for a very special mission." So, where are the miracles that proved the extraordinary mission of de Sales? It's gets even a bit more complicated when certain current Roman apologists claim to be "called by God to do apologetics" or they hold seminars acting like prophets trying to warn Rome of her many sins. I can't help but wonder if any miracles are forthcoming from Rome's new apologists. Never underestimate the double standards of Roman Catholic apologetics.
6. Here's one I can't pass up pointing out, simply because it's humorous. Following a Roman Catholic paradigm, Luther vindicated himself and his work from the grave. For the Roman convert looking for the miracles of the Reformers, there is actually a tradition of Luther's post-life miracles. See this article by Robert Scribner, Incombustible Luther: The Image of the Reformer in Early Modern Germany. Scribner documents the way that many turned Luther into a saint after his death. Stories circulated that paintings of Luther refused to burn. You see, Luther's special saint-like miracle was his incombustibility. He could not be burned as a heretic while alive, nor could he be burned when dead.
1 Timothy (Course with Dr. George Knight, III)
06/28/2012 - Jeff DownsIf you are not familiar with George Knight's commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, you will want to purchase it now. After (or before) purchasing the commentary, tune into the course I finished uploading today on 1 Timothy that Dr. Knight taught at GPTS a number of years ago.
The audio is pulled from the video of the class, so I do apologize for the quality (you'll probably have to turn up the volume). I am planning in the near future to upload three more courses taught by Dr. Knight (the rest of pastoral epistles and Hermeneutics). The course is located on Sermon Audio here.
On another note, this commentary on Romans in the Pillar series is now available. Here are sample pages.
Roger Olson Shows the Logical Implications of Synergism
06/27/2012 - James WhiteHere is the article.
Here are two quotes:
And what I believe about it is that it depends on what is intended. Normal language interpretation would seem to me to indicate that asking God to save someone, without any qualifications, is tantamount (whatever is intended) to asking God to do the impossible (from an Arminian perspective).Unless words no longer have meaning (and sometimes Olson backs off of his strong statements when faced with their meaning, as he did in reference to his last book), I think the only logical meaning of that line is "it is impossible for God to save anyone in and of Himself." Glad to have an Arminian openly admit that. I've been pointing that out for a long time.
If someone means THAT by “Lord, save my friend,” then fine. But I don’t think that’s what happened or could have happened. “Lord, save my friend” (without qualification) normally reflects monergism, not synergism. However, it doesn’t mean God won’t hear the theologically incorrect prayer and act on it. Yet, if it is prayed publicly, some people may misinterpret it and think monergism is intended and right (when the prayer is answered as described).Yep, asking God to save your loved ones is only logical for monergists. Think about it, synergists. :-)
DRARE: Dogged Repetition of Already Refuted Errors
06/27/2012 - James WhiteI like my new word. Do you? Drare. It sounds a little European, but it is still workable. Dogged Repetition of Already Refuted Errors. That is King James Onlyism in a nutshell, and that is ol' Sam Gipp, even with excellent videography and high def cameras:
Today on a Very Important Radio Free Geneva: Ed Young Jr.'s Outrageous Rant Against Straw-Man Calvinism
06/26/2012 - James WhiteIt was the quintessential example of why we do Radio Free Geneva: a very popular speaker, a huge dose of tradition, a truckload of ignorance, and in this case, a barrel full of anger, all producing a twelve minute long rant "warning" the members of Fellowship Church against that horrible different gospel of Calvinism. It took 90 minutes to work through the "presentation," but I know for me, the more I heard of it, the worse it got. Be prepared to be amazed, or not, depending on your background. And obviously, if you know anyone impacted by Young's teaching, you might wish to direct them to this program. Might be the start of something! Here's the program.
And don't forget the WayBack Machine, streaming Dividing Lines from 1998 onward 24/7! You can listen on the Flash Player found here.
Radio Free Geneva Today!
06/26/2012 - James WhiteWell, the Ed Young rant was just too amazing to pass up. So we will do an RFG today to address this recent sermon from Young where he really goes after "Reformed theology." Join us today at 2pm EDT, 11am PDT!
The Council of Jerusalem and Enscripturation
06/26/2012 - James SwanI subscribe to a number of Roman Catholic e-letters. One such e-letter is John Martignoni's Apologetics for the Masses. In a recent issue, Mr. Martignoni presents an argument in regard to the Council of Jerusalem as a proof for Roman Catholcism:
"One last thing to note here when talking about the Council of Jerusalem. I need to highlight the fact that the Council of Jerusalem did not operate on the principle of Sola Scriptura - the Bible alone as the sole authority in matters Christian. If it had operated on that principle, then the only Scripture they had at the time - the Old Testament- would have clearly pointed them to a different decision than the one they made, because the Old Testament is very clear that it was necessary for a man to be circumcised in order for him to be in covenant with God (Genesis 17:9-14). So, if they had gone by the Scripture alone, then the decision would had to have favored the position of the Judaizers. The only conclusion one can draw, then, is that Sola Scriptura was not part of the theological environment that the Council of Jerusalem, and the early Church, operated within."
There are two basic errors in Mr. Martignoni's paragraph, and once exposed render his "the only conclusion one can draw" an argument that has no merit against sola scriptura.
1. Mr. Martignoni asserts that sola scriptura amounts to "the Bible alone as the sole authority in matters Christian." This is an error. The doctrine of sola scriptura holds the Scriptures are the sole infallible authority for the church and the sole infallible rule of faith. Protestants affirm church authority, but deny infallible church authority. Protestants affirm the necessity of a ruling office in the Church, because the Scriptures teach it (1 Tim. 3). Protestants affirm the necessity of a teaching ministry in the Church, because the Scriptures teach it (Eph. 4:11-16).
2. Mr. Martignoni states, "I need to highlight the fact that the Council of Jerusalem did not operate on the principle of Sola Scriptura." The doctrine of sola scriptura though does not put forth the notion that the Council of Jerusalem "operated on the principle of sola scriptura." Sola Scriptura applies to the normal means God has conveyed His truth to the church after Scripture had been completed. Note the following comment from Dr. White from a vintage aomin article:
"One will search high and low for any reference in any standard Protestant confession of faith that says, "There has never been a time when God's Word was proclaimed and transmitted orally." You will never find anyone saying, 'During times of enscripturation- that is, when new revelation was being given- sola scriptura was operational.' Protestants do not assert that sola scriptura is a valid concept during times of revelation. How could it be, since the rule of faith to which it points was at that very time coming into being? One must have an existing rule of faith to say it is 'sufficient.' It is a canard to point to times of revelation and say, "See, sola scriptura doesn't work there!" Of course it doesn't. Who said it did?"
And in another vintage aomin article, Dr. White states:
"Roman Catholics and Protestants historically have agreed on the reality that special revelation itself has ceased. We agree that new Scripture is not being written. Since this is so, logically, that means we agree there was a time, a miraculous and special time, often referred to as that period of 'enscripturation,' when that process was taking place, so that the Scriptures themselves were coming into existence under the providential direction of God Himself, for His purposes. Roman Catholic apologists often make reference to these periods when the Word of God was orally preached, such as in the ministry of Isaiah, as evidence of the falsehood of sola scriptura. And yet, given that they agree we no longer live in that context, is it not obvious and clear that the question of what is in fact an infallible authority today differs from asking the same question during periods of enscripturation? What true use is there to say 'Isaiah said more than what we have in the book of Isaiah' when 1) no one today is speaking on that level of inspiration and 2) Rome, which claims access to, and authority over, "tradition" has never given us a single word Isaiah said that is not itself found in Scripture?"
Mr. Martignoni is aware of this sort of response, as one on his older newsletters demonstrates. There he states about periods of enscripturation:
"First, how did the early Christians know the period of 'enscripturation' was over? Who told them? What authority said to the early Christians, 'The period of enscripturation is now over; therefore, the era of Sola Scriptura has started?' When exactly was the period of enscripturation over, and how do we know? Does the Bible tell us, or would that be something that Sola Scriptura believers know from...tradition?"
Mr. Martignoni asks a question for an authority source he believes has no authority, that is, Protestant sources. So, even if I were to provide Protestant answers, such answers would fall on deaf ears. A better solution, one that I normally wouldn't use, is quoting a source he should at least have a little respect for. While there are some Roman Catholic theologians that believe in continuing special revelation, generally speaking, most agree special revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle. Perhaps Mr. Martignoni would respect the opinion of Roman Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott. In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, he states, "The clear teaching of Holy Writ and Tradition is that after Christ, and the Apostles who proclaimed the message of Christ, no further Revelation will be made" [Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ed. James Canon Bastible (Rockford: Tan, reprinted 1974), p.7].
As to knowing something from "tradition", Protestants don't deny tradition, they deny an extra-biblical source of infallible content Roman Catholics refer to as "Tradition." Knowing that the apostles died is nothing more than engaging in a historical inquiry. In a sense, all ancient history (whether Christian history or not) is an excursion into researching tradition. That is, we know facts of history because those facts were passed down to the present through various means. The church need not be infallible for such to take place. I would assume Mr. Martignoni is not saying that the church today can't know the apostles died without infallible Tradition saying they did. Martignoni appears to believe Roman Catholics own church history and tradition, and so every historical tidbit is the property of Rome. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, I claim (for better or worse) that the past 2000 years of church history is the history of my church. I have no problem getting a fact from history that says how the apostles died.
Martignoni then states: "Furthermore, where in the Bible does it tell us that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura will become 'operational' after the period of enscripturation is over?" This sort of question arises from a false presentation of sola scriptura. The question that should be asked is "where is God's voice?" The Protestant answers: the Scriptures are God's voice. The Bible tells us it's God's voice: II Timothy 3:16-17 states, "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction, for training in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be complete, fully equipped for every good work." The burden of proof lies on Roman Catholics like Mr. Martignoni who claim God's infallible voice is somewhere else besides the Scriptures.
When the Blade Swings Back...
06/25/2012 - Mike PorterNot too long ago I wrote an article in which I created a composite conversation compiling together bits of different conversations I have had with a cult group known as the Elohim Academy. My intention was not to demonstrate how I refuted their arguments, but rather to show the flow of argument and presentation this group may present if they come to any person’s door. So long as a Christian is prepared for the argument and tactics of this group, I am confident a defense of the Christian faith can be made looking at the context of those passages.
These articles are fed into our Facebook page where moderated comments are allowed, so long as they are on topic and within our defined rules of engagement. A Roman Catholic left a comment that was removed, being deemed off topic and not really in the form of an argument as it mostly consisted of a quote from Karl Keating, and therefore, was no argument at all against the article.
However, I thought the comment was worth a look at since it demonstrated the kind of irony that often occurs in dealing with apologetic issues and keeps it interesting. Keep in mind that my article was dealing with a group that believes that God the Father, until recently, walked among them and taught them directly and that God, the Father’s wife, Mother God, currently walks among them, continually teaching them all things directly.
This comment was, in full:
That is a perfect illustration of the problems with the inherently fissiparous doctrine of Sola Scriptura:
In interpreting the Bible, in determining whether [a particular doctrine] contradicts or confirms what is found in its pages, we come upon a recurring question: “Who is to decide?” It hardly suffices to say, “Let the Bible itself decide,” since it is the interpretation of the Bible that is in question and no book, not even the Bible, can be self-interpreting. Either we interpret it ourselves, using our own resources, or we listen to the word of a divinely-appointed interpreter, if one has been established. Catholics hold that Christ empowered the Church to give infallible interpretations of the Bible. “I have still much to say to you, but it is beyond your reach as yet. It will be for him, the truth-giving Spirit, when he comes, to guide you in all truth’ (John 16:12). This Jesus said to the apostles.” –Karl Keating
Now, setting aside the common misunderstanding here of what Reformed folk mean by the perspicuity of Scripture, what is ironic here is that The Elohim Academy has its own "infallible interpreter" of the Scriptures. The Elohim Academy believes God, himself (and herself) speaks to them directly and interprets the Scriptures for them. Thus, in their view, the criteria that Keating set forth in his either/or scenario above is met fully by the Elohim Academy. They believe that their divine interpreter is not the church, but the very author of the Word, and so appealing to the Roman Catholic Church as the final arbiter to what the Scriptures teach, is, in their view, a step down in authority. The fact that they believe that "Mother God" currently dwells among them in South Korea further gives them a supposed trump card in the infallible authority game.
It is in the context of this ironical observation that the question must be asked: If two sources of perceived clear, absolute, infallible interpretive authority contradict each other, what is the final arbiter between clear, absolute, infallible interpretive authorities? Or, in the words of Keating, “Who is to decide?”
Citing Keating becomes problematic at that point.
But, delving deeper, it seems that the main reason that the commenter left the quote was with the aim of suggesting that if there is disagreement with, rejection of, or rebellion to an infallible, inerrant and authoritative source that the source itself is insufficiently clear enough to be an infallible, inerrant source of authority.
But, this is no argument against Sola Scriptura any more than it is an argument against Sola Ecclesia, for if the Rome is *the* source of Tradition and it is so clear in its authority, then there never should have been that ominous and persistent Schism of 1054 wherein the Eastern and Western Churches split over competing views of ultimate authority and disagreements over who represented *the* Tradition of the Church.
Yet, neither the East nor the West looks upon such a schism with the idea that their Church is lacking in ultimate authority. Rome certainly does not see such an affront to her pronouncements as an indication that it is no longer “a divinely-appointed interpreter”.
And, if its own authority were clear, should we have formerly darling apologists becoming sedevacantists who consider the current pope to be an arch-heretic and antipope?
But, if the argument the commenter was making was that a cultist disagreeing with me when Scripture is presented is an example of a failure on the part of Sola Scriptura, then we posit the same argument, to greater effect, on the self-proclaimed interpreter of Sacred Tradition with its well documented multiple understandings of what constitutes Sacred Tradition.
Dr. White, years ago, documented the distinctions between the so-called Partim/Partim view of Sacred Tradition and the Interpretive Grid view (known as the Material/Formal Sufficiency view of Scripture). There exist two distinct views of what is contained within Oral versus Written Tradition in Roman Catholicism that are in opposition to each other, as both cannot be true.
Based on the commenter's own argument (or, apparent use of Keating's argument), Rome's inability to create theological unity within its own fold as well as the fact that Rome's view of Tradition is not recognized as *the* authoritative view by the Eastern Orthodox would be sufficient to demonstrate that it is an inadequate and insufficient interpretive source.
Such a realization was not lost on Robert Sungenis who argued that having an infallible source of authority does not, of itself, settle all matters of dispute. In the context of defending lack of theological unity within the Roman Church, he writes in Not By Scripture Alone:
"First, Jesus himself, the infallible, incarnate word of God, did not create unanimous theological "unity" among his hearers. In fact, Jesus was disheartened that so many people argued with him and rejected his message of truth. At many points, his message divided more than it unified. Paul encountered the same opposition, among both Jews and gentile converts."
In other words, the fact that Jesus himself, not simply the infallible authority of Scripture, but the very Author of it, could be disputed and misunderstood does not at all demonstrate that Christ was insufficient as an authority or interpreter of His Word. The fact that the apostles had to correct misinterpretations of their words and defend their own apostolic authority does not suppose that they were insufficient or unclear.
Rome's asserted infallible authority does not bring about the theological unity it expects of Protestants. If my commenter wishes to press this argument, then he will have to demonstrate why it is that Rome's inability to resolve all internal disputes and unify all adherents to an Infallible Oral Tradition (Rome, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc.) under its own view of Oral Tradition upon authority of its word alone does not suffer the indictment he levels against Sola Scriptura.
Today on a Caller-Driven Dividing Line
06/22/2012 - James WhiteWe got our phone system repaired and installed! Yeah! So, started off with a quick review of a recent debate on annihilationism, then took calls. The first two were on the same subject, so we covered a lot of ground on the topic today. The last call was on dealing with Jehovah's Witnesses, especially in reference to Colossians 1:15.
Here's the program.
And don't forget the WayBack Machine, streaming Dividing Lines from 1998 onward 24/7! You can listen on the Flash Player found here.
Open Phones on a Friday DL Today at 4pm EDT
06/22/2012 - James WhiteOur phone system is back in operation! I will have a few opening comments and then please, por favor, help me make it through the rest of the DL (as I am in a hotel room doing this via Skype!) with your phone calls at 877-753-3341! Join us in just a few moments!
Loveland Pass: A Year Later
06/21/2012 - James WhiteLast year I ventured out while here in Colorado and did something I never expected to be able to do. I overcame a life-long, deep-seated fear of heights in climbing the famed Loveland Pass. When I got there in my car, I was so nervous driving up the north side of the pass that I could not stay in the right lane, since there are sheer drop offs with no guard rails. I drove down to the Keystone ski parking lot, rode up to the top, and then back down. The snow was incredible, as Colorado, and most of the US, had experienced record snowfall that year. I had to overcome some tremendous mental obstacles to make it to the top, let alone survive the ride back down, but I did. Here is the blog entry I provided then.
Note especially all the snow in the pictures in that blog article. Fast forward to today. Eric Ellis, pastor of Flatirons Baptist Church, drove me out this time. I knew that the Triple By Pass will climb Loveland from the north, the side that I had not even tried last year, the side I could barely drive by myself. But, I knew I needed to beat it. So, we started on that side. No warm up, just hit the climb, starting at 10,700 ft. above sea level. I was surprised at how well I handled the climb. Yes, I was watching traffic behind me, because the road is not wide, it has no shoulder, it has no guard rails, and it is the truck route for all hazardous cargo vehicles that are not allowed to go through the tunnel on I-70. But, the trucks gave me enough room, and I got to the top pretty easily.
I descended down to Keystone, thinking I was going to ride back up to the top, and then back down to Keystone, and that would be it. But as I climbed back up the other side (starting around 9450 ft. above sea level---it is a longer climb) I started thinking (which, given the altitude is sometimes dangerous). Why not just complete the loop? No, I had not even thought about descending the "grippy" side, but hey, I hope to someday do the Double Triple, and I will have to descend it then, so, since I just climbed it, why not? So I told Eric I was headed back to where we started, and I headed on down. Sure it was a bit nerve racking, especially given I am on a rental bike (and a rental never "feels" the same as your own), but I made it down fine, holding her steady around 30 mph. Here is the read out of the ride.
Spending a couple of hours working hard at an average altitude of about 11,000 ft. above sea level is quite an experience, but for me, overcoming that very visceral, very real fear of the heights associated with such a ride was the real victory of the day. I have three weeks until the Triple By Pass, and I am really looking forward to the completion of many months of training and effort with that single day, 120 mile, 11,000 ft. effort.
Assurance of Salvation, Roman Catholicism, and Calvinism
06/20/2012 - James SwanA favorite argument of modern-day garden-variety Arminians is that unless the atonement is unlimited, one cannot have assurance of salvation. The argument goes that if Christ has only died for the elect, you, Mr. Calvinist really cannot know if in fact Christ has died for you particularly. That is, how do you know if you're actually one of elect? On the other hand, if the atonement is unlimited, then you can know that Christ has died for you because Christ has died for everyone, therefore you have assurance of your salvation if you accept Christ as your personal Lord and savior.
You may have already figured out the problem with this sort of argument by the words in italics. The issue of certainty of assurance has not been solved with an unlimited atonement. How do you know if you really truly accepted Christ as your personal Lord and savior? This plays out in a number of non-Reformed churches that practice altar calls at the end of their services. Having been raised with this aspect of an Arminian liturgy, I can recall that indeed, one can't help but avoid internally re-asking whether or not Jesus was truly accepted into the heart during the altar call. The better the speaker at giving the altar call, the more probable such internal doubts would surface. It wasn't uncommon to see people go forward "to get saved" more than once.
I recently came across a Roman Catholic arguing that Calvinists can't have assurance of salvation. In fact, one should never be surprised when modern-day Arminians and Roman Catholics make the same sort of argument. Here's the difference though: many of today's non-Reformed folks think that an unlimited atonement secures the assurance of salvation. Roman Catholicism though likewise believes in an unlimited atonement but explicitly rejects the assurance of salvation. The Council of Trent states: "If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema." Rome's theologians have no problem considering such a statement a fundamental of Roman Catholic dogma. Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof points out that such uncertainty is necessary for the Roman system:
"[T]he Roman Catholic church makes the forgiveness of sins dependent, not on an immediate divine act of pardon once for all, but on the sacrament of penance that must be repeated after every mortal sin, and on the absolution of the priest. With every new deadly sin the state of grace is lost. It can only be restored by the sacrament of penance, and is lost again whenever a new mortal sin is committed. But this is not the only thing that makes assurance impossible. The confessional itself is hedged about with all kinds of uncertainties. The orders of the functioning priest may not be genuine, and this would make his absolution ineffectual. His intention may be at fault, and this would introduce another element of uncertainty. Then, too, the confessor may be ambiguous, equivocal, or indeterminate. He may overlook some of his sins and fail to mention them to the priest, in which case they would not be forgiven. It is no wonder therefore that, according to the church at Rome, the assurance of salvation is quite out of the question. But the Roman Catholic church even goes a step farther: it regards personal assurance as undesirable. The real reason for this is, in all probability, that the church greatly profits by keeping the souls of the faithful in constant suspense. It reaps a rich harvest through the sacrament of penance. Of course, it does not assign this as a reason for its teaching on this point. It claims to consider it wholesome and beneficial for the Christian to entertain honest doubts in the high matters of justification and final salvation. Such doubts keep him from an overweening confidence in himself, minister to true humility of character, and serve as a more salutary restraint on the evil passions than joy and peace in believing could ever be. Mohler, one of the greatest Roman Catholic scholars of the previous century said: 'I think that, in the neighborhood of any man, who would declare himself under all circumstances assured of his salvation, I should feel very uncomfortable, and should probably have difficulty to put away the thought, that something like diabolical influence was here at play.'" [Berkhoff, L. The Assurance of Faith (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939), p. 21].
Similarly, Francis Turretin states,
"It is not, however, for nothing that the Romanists so fiercely strive for the retention of their hesitation and doubt. They understand that the whole business of popish traffic rests upon this once being established... the taxes, vows, pilgrimages, fraternities, supererogatory works, purgatory, sale of indulgences, trafficking of the Mass and other base merchandise of the popish kingdom immediately fall. For he who would be certain of his own salvation would betake himself neither to the patronage of the saints, nor to the merits of the martyrs, nor to the absolution of priests (which is the executioner of the Roman tyrant) [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. 2 (New Jersey: P and R Publishing, 1994), p. 617].
Roman Catholic are always bringing up certainty, as if by being a member of the Roman Church, one of the benefits is certainty. That is, by being a Roman Catholic you can (allegedly) know with certainty which books are supposed to be in the Bible, you can know with certainty which is the church Jesus Christ established, you can know what the Bible says and means with certainty. But ironically, on a very basic (and important) fundamental human issue, you can't have certainty of your salvation. Go figure. Here's how a Roman Catholic recently explained the uncertainty of assurance to me:
"Infallible Assurance is a myth, and once you stop and ask yourself how you know you are elect rather than simply thinking you're elect, you'll have no concrete basis to answer the question. So the Catholic position is right to say nobody has infallible Assurance."
If you read this statement carefully, you'll notice, like the Arminian argument above, it ultimately is an inconsistent argument. This Roman Catholic claims to know "nobody has infallible assurance." In other words, this particular Roman Catholic is claiming infallibility himself. He's claiming he can infallibly know that no one can know. How does he know that? Perhaps he'll say the Magisterium tells him, in which case we'll push him back one more step: how does he know the Magisterium knows? Perhaps he'll say because Christ established the Roman Church. But how does he ultimately know this? Perhaps he'll say Matthew 16:18. If he finally arrives at quoting Scripture to prove his point, he's not being a consistent Roman Catholic. Aren't we the ones who say that Scripture assures us of our salvation?
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Today on the Dividing Line: Secularism's Totalitarianism
06/19/2012 - Micah BurkeToday I launched into a discussion of the background of the term "secularism" and the fact that today's aggressive version, which has infected Western culture, is totalitarian in nature. There can be no neutrality from its view, or ours. I then walked through a graphic blog presentation of why we should adopt homosexual marriage. Here is the download.
We will not have a DL on Thursday, but we will do our best to have one on Friday via Skype. If our phone system arrives back to the office in time we may even get to take phone calls again! We will see.
Heading to Boulder, Colorado
06/18/2012 - James WhiteWill be visiting with my good brothers and sisters at Flatirons Baptist Church in Boulder this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, helping the congregation (and anyone in the area) understand Islam and the work facing us all in seeking to bring the gospel to the many millions who follow its teachings. I will be presenting new information that I have not included in previous presentations due to my progressing in finishing the book, What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an. I look forward to seeing our friends from the Denver/Boulder area this week!
On a Personal Note: End of the Riding Year Report
06/16/2012 - James WhiteLast week marked the end of my 2011/2012 riding year. For those not interested in cycling and related topics, please skip to the next entry. For those wondering why a riding year would end June 13th, well, because I got back on the bike, after a 7 year hiatus, on June 14th, 2005. In any case, my riding year ended, and another has begun, one filled with some real challenges, if I press for the goals I have set for myself.
2010/2011 had been a record setting year. 9000 miles and 338,607 ft. of ascent was so far beyond anything I had ever done before it was amazing. Back in 1998, my last year of riding before moving into the "weight lifter" phase, I had ridden 6,300 miles. In 09/10, 5420. So to jump to 9k was massive. Further, I only climbed 148,579 ft. in 09/10, so I more than doubled my climbing in just one year. As I began 11/12, I did not look to exceed the distance I rode last year, but I did look to at least match, if not exceed, the climbing. Every cyclist knows, if you want to improve, you have to climb. It hurts, but it is good for you.
My final distance for 11/12 was 8,619 miles, 381 miles less than last year. Now, that might indicate the old guy is slowing down, right? But a little closer examination would indicate otherwise. Though I rode a few less miles, my climb over those miles was 393,845 ft, i.e., 74.59 miles, more than 55,000 ft. beyond last years total! That's a lot of climbing, meaning the miles I was riding were of a higher "quality" than last year. But, add to that another factor: my average speed over the 8619 was a full half a mile an hour faster than last year. That may sound utterly insignificant to the non-cyclist, but my fellow cyclists well know that a half a mile per hour increase in average speed over 8619 miles means a lot more energy was expended to cover that distance. Add in the extra 55,000 ft. of climbing as well, and that is a significant improvement over last year. ...
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Not an Atom More Spiritual
06/16/2012 - Mike PorterSpurgeon had his share of thrill-based churches in his day. He writes as if he attended some modern churches, only more than a century ago:
People go to their place of worship and sit down comfortably, and think they must be Christians, when all that their religion consists in, is listening to an orator, having their ears tickled with music, and perhaps their eyes amused with graceful action and fashionable manners; the whole being no better than what they hear and see at an opera – not so good, perhaps, in point of aesthetic beauty, and not an atom more spiritual. Thousands are congratulating themselves, and even blessing God that they are devout worshippers, when at the same time they are living in an unregenerate Christless state, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students
Your Liberties and Freedoms: Hanging by a Thread
06/14/2012 - James WhiteToday on the Dividing Line we discussed the ever increasing attacks upon our freedoms---religious freedoms and freedoms of speech---and the growing threat of state-sponsored secularism. We played a clip from this morning's "The Briefing" with Dr. Albert Mohler where he discussed the New Mexico case where once again the homosexual lobby is using the cooperation of the secular left to silence and suppress Christian expression. Then I addressed the graphic (posted earlier today) and worked through the texts it cites from the holiness code in the book of Leviticus. Another hopefully useful program designed to assist you in giving a clear witness in the midst of an ever more aggressively anti-Christian society. Here's the program.
Christian Logic, or Secular Ignorance?
06/14/2012 - James WhiteThis graphic was sent to me this morning, and I think it is a fine example of the kind of ignorance and prejudice we need to be quick to respond to with grace and clarity in our ever darkening culture. I will be looking at this graphic on the Dividing Line today at 7pm EDT. Join us then!
Today on the Dividing Line
06/12/2012 - James WhiteStarted off with an impromptu Radio Free Damascus, debuting our newly made theme song! Spent half an hour continuing our examination of Abdullah Kunde's comments from the 2012 debate. Then we moved on to respond to this particular video clip:
We then concluded with a brief review of Carrie Underwood's endorsement of the redefinition of marriage. Here's the program.
And don't forget the WayBack Machine, streaming Dividing Lines from 1998 onward 24/7! You can listen on the Flash Player found here.
Old Princeton Seminary
06/12/2012 - Jeff DownsFollowing up on this post I have now uploaded all the lectures and Q&A sessions from the 2012 Spring Theology Conference that GPTS held each year.
To listen to the lectures click here.
Titles and speakers are as follows:
"Princeton Beginnings (Archibald Alexander)", Dr. James Garretson
"Samuel Miller's Pastoral Theology", Mr. Andrew Webb
"Princeton and the Old Testament", Dr. Benjamin Shaw
"Scripture, Inerrancy, and the Role of Reason", Dr. Paul K. Helseth
"Princeton and Missions", Dr. Tony Curto
"Ecclesiology: The Hodge / Thornwell Exchange", Dr. C.N. Willborn
"19th Century Crosscurrents: Hodge, Finney & Nevin", Dr. Darryl Hart
"Princeton and Evolution/Creation", Joseph Pipa (reading Dr. Fred Zaspel's paper)
"Biblical Rationale for a Reformed Seminary", Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr
"Theological Assessment of B. B. Warfield", Dr. Carl Trueman
"Machen and the End of Old Princeton", Dr. Darryl Hart
Three volumes that maybe of interest, which arrived (new) the day of the conference are these two works and this volume.
This book by Fred Zaspel was moved a head of schedule to make it to our conference in time.
06/12/2012 - Mike PorterFaithful ministers frequently have as their reward only the knowledge that they pleased their Lord and served Him diligently. It is not their aim to be lauded by men, but only to serve Christ and bless the church through service. But, there are times when the fruit of faithful diligence is readily seen and long lasting.
For seven years Phil Johnson of TeamPyro has faithfully stood before the amorphous "conversation" of Post-Modern Christianity applying propositional truth directly to its forehead. His writing has always been a pleasant mixture of pastoral insight, apologetic fervor and Pauline bite. Many have been blessed by his insight and wit, but more importantly, by his conviction that the truths of Scripture are both knowable and ought to be known.
Today, Phil is stepping down from blogging to focus on greater responsibilities. We wish him well and pray the Lord will continue the fruit of his labors in whatever form they happen to be. God bless, brother.
Have you heard about Mother God?
06/11/2012 - Mike PorterFile this under “Yet another cult group”.
The apostle Paul made no pretenses to Timothy as to the challenges that would face him in pastoral ministry. Having warned him that “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse” and having established the sufficiency of Scripture to deal with these things, Paul charges Timothy to “preach the word”. And with that charge, Paul tells Timothy the nature of his preaching is both positive (exhort) and negative (rebuke, reprove). It is to be thorough, balanced, and substantive.
Paul encourages him to be diligent in the preaching ministry, being ready when times are good or bad and then warns him that the time will come when they will want their ears tickled and accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires.
It is interesting that the only solution that Paul offers Timothy for when these people seek after false teachers is the very thing that drives them away: They could not stand sound doctrine, so they went to find those who would offer fine words and phrases to appease them and make them feel good.
Sometimes, no matter how clearly you explain a text to someone, there simply is no getting passed the defenses in their mind that are intent on ignoring everything you say and hardening their heart against His truth. It is times like this that one must rely entirely upon the Holy Spirit to be the Great Evangelist and trust that as you faithfully proclaim the truth of the Gospel, He will soften their hearts and break down every stronghold. ...
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Steve Ray's Letter Addressed
06/11/2012 - Tur8infanSteve Ray, pilgrimage peddler, has posted an apparently fictional letter from "Lenny" to "Beau":
Hi Beau, you mention “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us.” There is a problem with your statement is this; it is not in the Bible. Nowhere does it say that we should follow Scripture alone “Sola Scriptura” or that it is all sufficient. Isn’t it interesting “Sola Scriptura” (Bible alone), which is believed to be Biblical by many people is not even in the Bible!
Steve Ray thinks that the idea that the Scripture is sufficient to teach us isn't found in the Bible. Remarkable, eh? Can it be that Steve Ray has never read these texts?
2 Timothy 3:15-17
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Are the Scriptures able to make you wise unto salvation? Are they able to illuminate one and make one wise than one's teachers? Was the Bible written for the very purpose that we would read it and believe? Did Jesus himself commend people to search the Scriptures.
The moment someone believes “Bible alone,” they already believe a concept not found in the Bible. And those who believe “Bible Alone” reject the authority of the Church, a concept found in the Bible. “Bible alone” is one of three pillars of the Protestant Reformation. The problem is that it is self-refuting, because the moment you believe it, you already believe something not in the Bible. And so “Sola Scriptura” crumbles under its own weight.
There are churches mentioned in the Bible, and these churches do have authority. Parents are also described in the Bible, and parents have authority. Are parents infallible? No. Are church infallible? Also no. What's misleading on Steve Ray's part is to suggest that just because churches, like parents, have authority - it means that this authority can never be questioned. Steve Ray knows that there is such a thing as subordinate authority, but he pretends that there are only two categories: Roman totalitarianism and anarchy. There is a third way. The third way is that the churches have authority that is subordinate to the Word of God. They are not authorities over Scripture, they are authorities under Scripture.
That's why Jesus commended the searching of Scripture, and why the Bereans were praised as "more noble," because they searched the Scriptures daily to judge the truth of the teachings of the very apostles.
Let me relate to you a story. I was talking to a couple of people from the Milwaukee Church of Christ. He pointed out to me a verse in 2nd Timothy. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2nd Tm 3:16). And so he said the Bible is it and I agreed the Bible is it. So he said, let’s go on. And I said fine, but before we do, I think we should also follow the Church.
And we should follow our parents too! But both our parents and the church are subordinate to Scriptures. The Scriptures are the inspired word of God, parents and churches are men (humans, for those who think "men" refers exclusively to males). When there is a conflict between parents and Scripture or church and Scripture, we have to follow the Scripture. So, for example, when the Scriptures teach us that religious veneration should be reserved for God alone, and Rome demands that Mary be given the religious veneration of hyper-dulia, we have to pick what Scripture says, over what Rome says, even if Rome happens to be our church at the time.
He became a little irritated with me and he said, we just went through this and you agreed the Bible is it. And so I asked him what he thought the pillar and foundation of truth was. He said, the Bible! I informed him, he was incorrect because the Bible says the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth; “You should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, the pillar and foundation of truth.
Steve Ray's "gotcha" moment with the person who didn't know this particular verse is pretty trivial. After all, "the church" in that verse doesn't mean "a hierarchy," it means a local congregation. Look at the context:
1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
In this verse, "the church," refers to the local congregation - the house of God. It's the place where Timothy is going to be behaving himself properly or not. When we expand out the context a little more:
1 Timothy 3:14-16
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Notice two things: first the truth that the local church upholds and protects is the gospel, of which Paul provides a short summary; second, the letter is being written because it contains something Timothy wouldn't otherwise have, while "in the church" (in the absence of Paul's personal presence). In other words, the text doesn't affirm the sufficiency of "the church," but rather the deficiency of the church, even while affirming the purpose of the church.
I wasn’t being disingenuous when I said the Bible is it. I believe this totally so long as we believe it (the Bible) totally. And the Bible tells us to listen to the Church so it must be included in order to follow the whole Bible. This is the 2nd reason “Sola Scriptura” is wrong, it ignores all the passages that give the Church real authority.
It's disingenuous to say that the position of "Sola Scriptura" ignores verses that deal with church authority. None of those verses say or even suggest that the churches wield an infallible authority.
Again your statement “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us” is not Biblical. However, had you included the Church in your statement it would have been correct. The concept of “Sola Scriptura” is a Protestant understanding but it is rejected by many Protestants today because it is not Biblical.
Steve Ray is putting himself in a corner. Scripture never says that the church is sufficient, nor that "the church" has to be added to Scripture in order for Scripture to be sufficient. "Protestants" may reject Scripture's sufficiency, but not for lack of clear Scriptural teaching. Moreover, are "Protestants" really able to read and understand Scripture? If Steve Ray says "yes," then he's conceded the key point of our contention, which is that people can read and understand Scripture and judge whether Rome is teaching the apostolic faith. If he denies that "Protestants" can read and understand Scripture, then why is he appealing to their interpretation of it?
By the way what church do you belong to? Is it 7th day Baptist or Adventist or say Pentecostal? Usually it’s like pulling teeth to get an Evangelical to say the name of their Church and where they are coming from. I get the impression that they are embarrassed. They make less than complimentary statements about the Catholic Church all the while they are reluctant to mention where they are coming from. And I might add, there are Evangelicals who are not into the Catholic bashing business. Some of them are my friends.
Steve Ray does not seem to get that Evangelicals are not, for the most part, ultra-sectarians like he is. They are about bringing people to Christ and the gospel, whereas Steve Ray is about bringing people to Rome.
When by our preaching people come out of Rome to a Reformed church, God is bringing them to the gospel. He's also bringing them to a particular church and a particular congregation - but they are converting to Christianity not to a sect.
So, it's not that we're embarrassed - it's that our focus is on presenting Christ. The gospel transcends our denominational boundaries, so that we can have unity of the gospel, even with those who are not of our particular denomination. There's no Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist "Unam Sanctam."
But is Steve Ray embarrassed to be associated with Rome? Perhaps he should be. Not just because of the scandals of the modern times, but because of the persecution of the gospel and her messengers, back when Rome had more political power. The history of the papacy is something lurid and shameful, not something to be proud of.
More than that, though, the key thing he should be ashamed of is the departure of his church from the apostolic faith found in Scripture. After all, the Scripture tells us what the Apostles taught and believed - and that doesn't match up well with what Rome practices and teaches. Rome's celibate bishops don't match up with the mostly married apostles and elders in the Bible. Rome's prayers to Mary and the saints don't find Biblical precedent. Rome's bowing down to images of men and angels is contradicted by Scripture, and we could go on and on.
More than all the scandals - which could happen to any fallible church - the most shameful thing is that Rome has departed from the gospel and declared herself to be infallible and irreformable in her dogma. That's a hardness of heart worthy of great shame.
Faith and Regeneration
06/10/2012 - Mike PorterCharles Spurgeon preaching on 1 John 5:1 makes the point that men believe, not of their own power, but as a result of the work of regeneration in the hearts of men:
We must now pass on to show that WHEREVER IT EXISTS IT IS THE PROOF OF REGENERATION. There never was a grain of such faith as this in the world, except in a regenerate soul, and there never will be while the world standeth. It is so according to the text, and if we had no other testimony this one passage would be quite enough to prove it. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." "Ah!" I hear thee say, poor soul, "the new birth is a great mystery; I do not understand it; I am afraid I am not a partaker in it." You are born again if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, if you are relying upon a crucified Saviour you are assuredly begotten again unto a lively hope. Mystery or no mystery, the new birth is yours if you are a believer. Have you never noticed that the greatest mysteries in the world reveal themselves by the simplest indications. The simplicity and apparent easiness of faith is no reason why I should not regard its existence as an infallible indication of the new birth within. How know we that the new-born child lives except by its cry? Yet a child's cry—what a simple sound it is! how readily could it be imitated! a clever workman could with pipes and strings easily deceive us; yet was there never a child's cry in the world but what it indicated the mysteries of breathing, heart-beating, blood-flowing, and all the other wonders which come with life itself. Do you see yonder person just drawn out of the river? Does she live? Yes, life is there. Why? Because the lungs still heave. But does it not seem an easy thing to make lungs heave? A pair of billows blown into them, might not that produce the motion? Ah, yes, the thing is easily imitated after a sort; but no lungs heave except where life is. Take another illustration. Go into a telegraph office at any time, and you will see certain needles moving right and left with unceasing click. Electricity is a great mystery, and you cannot see or feel it; but the operator tells you that the electric current is moving along the wire. How does he know? "I know it by the needle." How is that? I could move your needles easily. "Yes; but do not you see the needle has made two motions to the right, one to the left, and two to the right again? I am reading a message." "But," say you, "I can see nothing in it; I could imitate the clicking and moving very easily." Yet he who is taught the art sees before him in those needles, not only electric action, but a deeper mystery still; he perceives that a mind is directing an invisible force, and speaking by means of it. Not to all, but to the initiated is it given to see the mystery hidden within the simplicity. The believer sees in the faith, which is simple as the movements of the needle, an indication that God is operating on the human mind, and the spiritual man discerns that there is an inner secret intimated thereby, which the carnal eye cannot decipher. To believe in Jesus is a better indicator of regeneration than anything else, and in no case did it ever mislead. Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man.
CTC Conversion Stories
06/10/2012 - James SwanThere's always a difficulty in responding to someone's story, because it's just that: a story. That is, Joshua Lim has related his experience and interpretation of a particular series of personal events: his personal understanding of the Christian faith and the way this personal understanding led him to a subjective decision to enter the Roman Catholic Church (his Called to Communion entry is entitled, Joshua Lim's Story: A Westminster Seminary California Student becomes Catholic). That being said, I offer the following critique of the account of Joshua's Lim's experience. I've taken the time with this CTC entry because Mr. Lim was a member of the same denomination I belong to (URCNA).
The Use of the Story
CTC often uses the "story" as the vehicle to entice you to look across the Tiber. The first thing therefore anyone reading a CTC entry must keep in mind is to always be on guard for emotional manipulation through the use of a story. There's not much difference in the methodology used in a late night television infomercial and that being put forth through the repeated testimonials of CTC conversion stories. Like infomercials, conversion stories are all about selling you something. They purport to have something you need that you probably are not even aware that you need. If you're Reformed like I am, the CTC conversion stories are directed toward you: you and I are the intended audience. The blog entries they put forth attempt to cause dissonance and dissatisfaction for where you are now and show you where you ought to be. If the story presented hits the target, they consider you smart enough to realize you currently don't really have what you really need: the "fullness" of the truth owned by Romanism. [Elsewhere I've described Roman Catholic conversion stories as examples of the theology of glory].
The story relates more than facts to be scrutinized for truth. It places you and the facts in the realm of emotion. Perhaps the particular experience described also strikes a cord in your own experience. For Mr. Lim's story, did any of his questions about epistemology resonate within you? For instance, can you, my Reformed friend, recall when you were in your non-Reformed church like Mr. Lim and came across "an anti-intellectual ethos, and the study of too much theology, which was often held in contrast to the Bible, was sometimes frowned upon"? I sure can. Can you, like Mr. Lim, recall coming into contact with deep Reformed systematic theology like Calvin, Berkhof and Bavinck for the first time? I sure can. Then, having such deep theological tomes at your fingertips, have you ever wondered why, as Mr. Lim recounts, "Luther felt that it was necessary to separate from the Catholic Church, Zwingli from Luther, the Anabaptists from the Magisterial Reformed, the Calvinists from Arminians, and on and on- all on the conviction that I have the correct interpretation of Scripture"? If you've scratched your head "yes" then the story is probably manipulating you. These sorts of recollections of experiences are attempting to provoke you to question the validity of your own experience. The more times you can empathize with a CTC story, the more you're being manipulated. If you haven't had the same experience as that being presented, why not? Is it because your experience wasn't as real as the account in front of you? Don't you want something real?
Called to Communion describes one of their goals in this way: "Our aim is to effect reconciliation and reunion between Catholics and Protestants, particularly those of the Reformed tradition." This isn't fully accomplished by allowing Reformed Protestants to remain where they are, but rather exhorting and enticing them to move to the alleged full level of the true faith found in Roman Catholicism. CTC states, "We do not view ourselves as having left our Reformed faith behind, but rather as having found its fullness in the Catholic Church." Lim though describes his experience in his first sentence as "a conversion." He then explicitly states, "I converted to Catholicism." The very first definition of "convert" in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary happens to be "to bring over from one belief, view, or party to another."
CTC plays loose and fast with these terms and ideas. Their obvious goal is for one to accept a different paradigm of authority, Biblical interpretation, and most importantly, a different Gospel. This isn't simply taking the allegedly simple rudiments of Reformed theology and sprinkling them with magic Roman dust so as to watch it flourish into a full faith. It's rather the abandoning of one set of beliefs for another. It is as Mr. Lim describes "a conversion." The goal of Lim's story therefore, communion with Rome, must be scrutinized. If a website is actively attempting to persuade Reformed Christians to abandon their beliefs, their tactics and manipulative methods must be exposed.
Which Church is the True Church?
Advocates of Roman Catholicism subjectively claim theirs is the true church. How ironic that Mr. Lim begins by describing one of his early ventures into Protestantism :
"Despite the relatively small size of the church, or perhaps because of it, there was a sense that, in many ways, we were the only truly biblical church. Every other church erred in some way or another, and even those who were seemingly close in terms of doctrine and practice were never fully embraced - and this unspoken suspicion tended to be mutual."
The irony of course is this is the exact position Mr. Lim now willingly embraces. He is now a member of church that claims to be the exclusive church set up by Jesus Christ. Nothing has really changed between where he once found himself to where he is now. The only difference perhaps, is that Rome is explicit that she is in fact the true church, whereas whichever group he was formerly a member of only hinted at this (according to him, in a "sense"). He says also that "Over time, I began to grow uncomfortable with the arbitrariness of such a small and isolated church structure (the pastor seemed to have as much authority as the pope)." Another irony surfaces. Previously that a minister had interpretive authority was troubling. Now he's willingly embraced an authority that explicitly claims a particular man can speak infallibly.
Who Speaks For Rome?
As far as I can tell from Mr. Lim's account, his conversion was not the result of sifting through the infallible documents produced by the Roman Catholic Church. Rather, he used means by which to interpret Roman Catholicism:
1. "...a few Catholic theologians at a conference on Protestant and Catholic theology."
2. "...a rather intelligent Catholic (though he knew very little about Reformed Protestantism- which, at the time, enabled me to ignore his arguments) at a nearby coffee shop over a span of about two years."
3. "...constant online debates with Catholics on different blogs that I participated in."
4. "...I was able to sit down and talk to Dominican friars..."
5. "... I buried myself in books, Catholic and Protestant."
6. "...I found a source of intellectual solace in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas."
7. "After spending several months meeting privately with a Norbertine Father, I was recently received into the Catholic Church."
If one looks over this list of means, it becomes rather obvious that they do not speak with one perfect voice as to the content and understanding of Roman Catholicism. These are interpreters of Rome. In the final analysis, the result of this mixture is Mr. Lim's interpretations of these interpreters. At one point in his story he decries individualism which is said to be "pervasive in evangelical theology." Here though, the very means by which Mr. Lim arrived in Rome were the individual and subjective opinions of fallible sources, as interpreted by... Joshua Lim.
Roman Catholic Anarchy Isn't Anarchy Because I say It Isn't
The most curious offering from Mr. Lim's story is his admission that "The contemporary Catholic Church in America is far from perfect." He states:
"Liturgically, there are, at least in Southern California, very few parishes that celebrate Mass the way Catholics should; there are numerous liberal Catholics who don't submit to the Magisterium (to the delight of Protestants), the list seems endless."
As I read through Mr. Lim's description of the problems in contemporary Roman Catholicism, I couldn't help but wonder if this last section was provoked by a realization that his reasons for leaving a Protestant church similarly plague the Roman church. I like to boil everything down and see what's left. Here's what I see once the flame is turned off: There's a big group of people that trust Rome as their ultimate infallible authority. On the other hand, there's another group who believe that the Bible is the only infallible authority. What Mr. Lim wants me to believe is that it's quite alright if Roman Catholics misinterpret or spin their magisterium how one wants to, but it's not quite alright if a Protestant misinterprets or spins the Bible how one wants to.
Remember, if the argument you're using works just as well against your own position, it's best not to use that argument. Over on my own blog, I have my own occasional feature called, Blueprint for Anarchy. What I've been doing is simply keeping track of all the times I come across Rome's zealous defenders disagreeing with each other, or pointing out the lack of clarity within Roman Catholicism as well as the confusion produced by the magisterium. That some people misinterpret or twist the Bible is not the fault of the Bible, hence not a proof against sola scriptura. In the same way, that I may possibly configure my computer incorrectly is not the fault of the owner's manual that comes with it. The misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity of that sufficient source.
Note the blatant double standard of Mr. Lim on problems within the Roman church:
"These issues have not moved me from the conviction that the Catholic Church is the true Church; on the contrary, they have only increased my faith that this must be the true Church. If Christ could continue to work to build his Church with such a history of failings on the part of the laity, various priests, bishops, and even popes, surely this Church must be sustained by God himself; despite the passage of over two millennia, the Church continues to hold and to teach in substance what it has always held and taught."
I'm tempted to launch into the story of Athanasius as he stood alone against the church of his day. Rather, it suffices to ask one simple question: Why can I not say the same thing from a Protestant paradigm? Why can I not say that I have a conviction in God's providence over the world and the church, that despite a history of sinful people, beginning with Adam and Eve, God calls and sanctifies His people in every generation, and he does so without the means of an infallible magisterium, but simply by having his infallible word available?
A conversion story is just that: a story. For every Joshua Lim, there's someone "converting" to "something" somewhere out in the world. There's people that find the "fullness" of the truth in Orthodoxy as opposed to Romanism. There are people who become Muslims. There are people who become Mormons. They may even have compelling stories. They may even be former Roman Catholics. One of the ironies about conversion stories are those folks that continue having them. Take the ex-poster child for Catholic Answers, Gerry Matatics. He certainly loved to tell his story. Simply go back and listen to his debates with Dr. White. He'd tell that story every chance he could get. He'd even stay late into the night to tell it again and again. Now, go ask Karl Keating why Mr. Matatics is no longer endorsed by Catholic Answers. Similarly, how do I know that some of the current CTC stars aren't going to keep having a new conversion story? As Reformed people, if you want an infallible conversion account, you won't find such an item on the CTC blog, you'll find it in the pages of sacred Scripture.
Herman Bavinck on Semi-Pelagianism: Fuller citation
06/07/2012 - Mike PorterThrough the wonders of the internet, I found a more extensive citation of Bavinck so I did not have to type it in again. I'll link to it.
Chris Roberts provides a much fuller citation of Herman Bavinck on semi-Pelagianism (with some thoughtful analysis) than what I did yesterday. The fuller quote alone is worth the read.
Jumbo DL Today Pastors Perspective and more
06/07/2012 - Rich Pierce
James started off commenting on a section from Calvary Chapel's Pastor's Perspective program then briefly takes on some comments on the Catholic Answers Forums. The second half of the program continues the review of the Cebalo-Kunde debate. Here's the program.
Jumbo DL Today at 6pm EDT
06/07/2012 - James WhiteMoving the program up an hour and going for 90 minutes, including a review of a recent call on the Pastor's Perspective program from Calvary Chapel. Join us!
Semi-Pelagianism, Christ's Imputed Righteousness, and Article II of that SBC Document - UPDATED
06/06/2012 - Mike PorterArticle II of the statement proposed by some SBC pastors and theologians on Salvation continues to garner some attention, as well it should. There are implications to the statement that need to be considered heavily. I remain hopeful that this article was written in haste and that as the implications of the wording are pointed out that the wording will be worked out better.
As mentioned before, Dr. White and Tom Ascol have weighed in on this issue, and now Dr. Mohler has offered his conciliatory thoughts. Dr. Mohler wants to open dialogue as it seems that this documented was intended to start a conversation. I wish my Southern Baptist brethren well as they work this through.
The chief concern has been that Article II sounds very close to semi-Pelagianism. But, lest anyone think that when Dr. White, Dr. Mohler, and Tom Ascol assert that the Article II sounds like semi-Pelagianism that it is unhelpful alarmist language, it is important to understand what semi-Pelagianism asserts.
Of semi-Pelagianism, Herman Bavinck states in his Reformed Dogmatics:
According to semi-Pelagianism, the consequences of Adam’s fall consisted for him and his descendants, aside from death, primarily in the weakening of moral strength. Though there is actually no real original sin in the sense of guilt, there is a hereditary malady: as a result of Adam’s fall, humanity has become morally sick; the human will has been weakened and is inclined to evil. There has originated in humans a conflict between “flesh” and “spirit” that makes it impossible for a person to live without sin; but humans can will the good, and when they do, grace comes to their assistance in accomplishing it. This is the position adopted by the Greek church; and although in the West Augustine exerted strong influence, the [Western] church increasingly strayed toward semi-Pelagianism.
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 3, pg. 90
Bavinck’s comment about the Greek church is accurate insofar as the official doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox is what is known as “Ancestral Sin” and not “Original Sin”. Ancestral sin explains that death has been inherited as well as an inclination toward sin; humanity received the consequences of Adam’s sin, but not the guilt.
As one Eastern Orthodox defender put it:
The Eastern Church, unlike its Western counterpart, never speaks of guilt being passed from Adam and Eve to their progeny, as did Augustine. Instead, it is posited that each person bears the guilt of his or her own sin…It is not guilt that is passed on, for the Orthodox fathers; it is a condition, a disease.
So, when we compare these statements with Article II we see a striking similarity:
We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.
This denial that Adam’s sin “rendered any person guilty before he personally sinned” and the maintaining of the free-will of man (the will is not incapacitated by sin) makes the issue significant and identical to what an Eastern Orthodox would be willing to believe. The only objection they might take to the article is that each person’s sin brings “the wrath of a holy God”.
Of course, we need to quickly recognize that the EO would part ways with the SBC on many of its conclusions, so my point is not to make guilt by association. Rather, when one looks at the cumulative citations above, it is difficult to see how Article II does not escape the label of semi-Pelagianism.
But, that is not all. Ascribing the name is not the only issue here. It is what comes with the name that is more concerning. There are implications to denying the imputation of Adam’s guilt that I am not sure all non-Calvinistic SBC pastors and theologians are intending or would be willing to abandon. A denial of Adam’s imputed guilt can lead to a denial of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
Turretin’s warning here is worth noting:
The denial of the imputation of Adam's sin would not a little weaken the imputation of Christ's righteousness (which answer to each other and upon which is founded the principal antithesis instituted by Paul between the first and second Adam). For the descent from the negation of the former to the denial of the latter is most easy. Hence, there is no one of the heretics who have denied the imputation of sin who have for the same reason opposed the imputation of Christ's righteousness (as seen in the Pelagians, Socinians, and Arminians). Hence the reasons by which the imputation of Adam's sin is opposed can no less be turned back against the imputation of Christ's righteousness; those upon which the imputation of Christ is built also serve to establish the imputation of Adam's sin.
- Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol 1, p. 623
Article II, then, becomes far more important than ascribing the moniker of “semi-Pelagianism” to the authors. It has implications of fundamental doctrines of Original Sin and Justification, and those are no small issues.
An important distinction in semi-Pelagianism is the timing of when grace is given. Semi-Pelagianism usually asserts that men move first and then grace is given. Article II is vague in the timing of grace, but one could see that the phrase "we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel" is intended to convey such a concept.
Nevertheless, this is why it is important to consider and weigh heavily the arguments and implications regarding wording. It is also important to note that the warning from Turretin remains regardless of whether the Semi-Pelagian moniker is deserved.
Responding to Roger Olson's critique that the statement can still be read in a semi-Pelagian way, Dr. Adam Harwood, one of the SBC document signatories responds:
Second, you explain that for us to defend against the charge of semi-Pelagianism, we must affirm the “cardinal biblical truth” of “the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace.”
Our reply is simple: No, we don’t. What obligates us to borrow a view (prevenient grace) from another group (Arminians) to defend against a philosophical-theological framework which we don’t accept? We reject the precondition that all doctrinal formulations must be placed into a philosophical-theological framework comprised of only these three categories: Calvinism, Arminianism, or Heresy. We consciously reject that framework. And we refuse to place over our eyes the hermeneutical spectacles which demand that we read the Bible in that way.
Dr. Harwood also stated his justification for rejecting the Calvinist/Arminian framework because, "We’re not classical Arminians. We’re 'Traditional' Southern Baptists."
Claiming the historicity of being 'Traditional' Southern Baptists while disclaiming the need of the historicity upon which the Southern Baptists originally framed their distinctions seems to be a bit askew. But, more concerning is that Dr. Harwood seems to reject the need to escape the claim that the view is semi-Pelagian by clarifying the article's position on the grace of God. There are implications to the doctrine beyond the name. The name is not a bogey-man intended to keep the Calvinism/Arminian debate alive. The name represents doctrines that are distinctly unbiblical and has doctrinal implications far down the line, including justification and penal substitutionary atonement. It is not to be taken lightly.
Debate Challenge for "Called to Communion" Team
06/05/2012 - Tur8infanDr. James White has offered a debate challenge to the Roman communion group at the "Called to Communion" blog (mp3, you can start around 6 minutes, if you just want to hear the challenge in context).
I am laying out an open challenge to any of the people at Called to Confusion: 2013 - let's set up a debate. I'll take on ten of you at once, if you'd like. I don't care. If you want to roll through the whole group, I don't care. 1, 2, 3, 10, doesn't matter. You simply defend the following words, ok? You defend these words:
... a truth which is founded on the Sacred Scriptures, has been fixed deeply in the minds of the faithful in Christ, has been approved by ecclesiastical worship even from the earliest times, is quite in harmony with other revealed truths, and has been splendidly explained and declared by the zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the theologians."
(full text at #2332)
To what do we refer? Those are words from the definition of the bodily assumption of Mary, which actually began:
Since, then, the universal Church, in which the Spirit of Truth flourishes, who infallibly directs it to achieve a knowledge of revealed truths, has through the course of the ages repeatedly manifested its own faith; and since the bishops of the whole world with almost unanimous consent request that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven be defined as a dogma of the divine and Catholic faith
and then you have that following description. So will you defend the idea that the bodily assumption of Mary is a truth which is founded on the sacred scriptures? Secondly, that it has been approved by ecclesiastical worship even from the earliest times? So, will you defend the idea that the bodily assumption of Mary is founded on the Sacred Scriptures and was a part of the teaching of the ancient church in the earliest times? Now, I know factually beyond any doubt that that is a lie. It is untrue. There is not any reason on this planet to believe that, other than you have already accepted the authority claims of the bishop of Rome. Period. End of discussion.
I would second Dr. White's challenge and his comments. I did a debate with William Albrecht on the Assumption of Mary, and in the course of the debate, it became readily apparent just how frail the Scriptural and patristic argument for Rome's position is (link to mp3). So, if any of Rome's apologists, either from CtC or elsewhere would prefer to Skype debate me, I'm willing to offer the same challenge.
Today on a Technically Challenged Dividing Line
06/05/2012 - James WhiteOur ISP once again chose the most unusual time to give us issues, so we had a lot of coming and going as far as the stream was concerned, but we managed to get through the program anyway. Covered...a lot of stuff. Talked a bit about the Called to Confusion blog, Carl Trueman's article today, how to record books to mp3 to listen to while riding/driving etc., and then we went back to the Harry Knox presentation from 2008. Very eclectic, to be sure. Here's the program.
In honor of Article Two...
06/05/2012 - Mike PorterIn honor of Article Two of the "traditional" Southern Baptist view of salvation, I would like to provide a citation from the Abstract of Systematic Theology by James P. Boyce, published originally in 1887. Boyce has the distinction of being the founder and first president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and President of the Southern Baptist Convention (1872-79,1888):
The facts as to the descendants of Adam show that they have universally partaken of his corrupted nature, and that, not even in their earliest years, have any had the innocent nature, with its strong proclivities to holiness, which constituted his original condition.
1. They are born with the corrupted nature which he acquired, together with all the other evils set forth as the penalties of his sin. This was true even of his first children, Cain and Abel, as it has been also equally true of all others even to the present time.
2. No one of these descendants has been able to recover the nature possessed by Adam before the fall. In each of them the same inability has existed which fell upon him.
3. No one has been able to escape the complete fulfilment of the penalty of death, in all its meanings, except through the work of Christ.
4. No other reason for this universal condition has been assigned than the one sin by which Adam fell, and it has, consequently, been generally recognized as, in some way, the result of that one transgression.
5. The conscience of mankind has universally taught that this condition of their natures is sinful, and is as fully worthy of punishment as the personal transgressions which proceed from it.
6. The Scriptures plainly assume and declare that God righteously punishes all men, not only for what they do, but for what they are. Men are indeed represented as more guilty and sinful than they know themselves to be, because, through the restraints with which God surrounds them, their natures have not been fully developed into all the sin towards which they tend. This is the argument of the first part of the Epistle to the Romans, the turning point of which is Rom. 2:1. It is also illustrated in the case of Hazael. 2 Kings 8:12, 13.
7. It follows from the facts in these last two statements, that a corrupt nature makes a condition as truly sinful, and guilty, and liable to punishment, as actual transgressions. Consequently, at the very moment of birth, the presence and possession of such a nature shows that even the infant sons of Adam are born under all the penalties which befell their ancestor in the day of his sin. Actual transgression subsequently adds new guilt to guilt already existing, but does not substitute a state of guilt for one of innocence.
8. Not the judgement of God only, but that of man also, regards a sinful nature as deserving punishment equally with a sinful act. The law of man is necessarily confined to the punishment of the acts, because these alone give such testimony to the condition of the heart as man can correctly apprehend; but the character of any act is regarded as alleviated, or aggravated, by the character of the actor; and men are shunned or courted as they are deemed to be good or bad, without any other reference to their acts than as they testify to character.
From the above points it will be seen that men, as descendants of Adam, are invariably born, not with his original, but with his fallen nature, and, more than this, not only receive that corrupted nature which was a part of the penalty of his sin, but with it all the other penalties inflicted because of that sin. It is also plain that a condition of sinfulness is regarded worthy of punishment not only by the Scriptures, and by personal conviction of conscience, but by the universal sense of mankind; and consequently that men may be punished for the corrupt nature thus inherited, although they may not have been personally guilty of a single transgression. This naturally leads to the inquiry into the nature of the connection between Adam and his posterity through which such sad and serious results have occurred.
Contrast this doctrinal statement with Article Two of the "A Statement of the
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.
The italicized portion of the denial is what is generating the greatest concern as Dr. White addresses here and here and Tom Ascol addresses here.
I cite from Boyce to demonstrate not simply the age of the view within the SBC (though, Dr. Nettles has written on this at length), but also to highlight the significant contribution of Calvinistic Southern Baptists to the history of the Southern Baptist Convention in the area of theology.
For those interested in following this issue, Tom Ascol is giving this document a fine response on his blog.
No Compromise: Ever (Trailer)
06/05/2012 - James White
First Corinthians Sermon Series Beginning in North Jersey
06/03/2012 - Alan KurschnerPastor Joseph LoSardo of Bread of Life Fellowship in Wayne, New Jersey has begun a sermon series on First Corinthians. Click here to listen to his first sermon (Sunday, June 03, 2012).
Today on a Radio Free Geneva: The Traditional Southern Baptist View of Salvation?
06/01/2012 - James WhiteAs announced, we did a special "extra" DL this week, a Radio Free Geneva discussing the aforementioned statement defining "the" traditional Southern Baptist view of the gospel. In other words, we reviewed the very poorly written, confusing, straw-man filled document produced by a group of traditional synergists in the SBC. If you think I am being just a bit harsh, please remember something: these men include some whose credibility is more than suspect (Emir Caner), and who have been corrected on their misapprehensions more than once, but refuse to abandon their errors even when incapable of providing a defense (David Allen), as well as others who just simply should know better. We are facing some mighty big challenges in our culture, and yet we have these folks running around lighting up theological straw men, all hoping their audience remains in the dark as to the real issues? Forgive me for being just a little bit less than patient and snuggly. The matter is vitally important---God's truth always is---and this cavalier, shallow, self-contradictory and simply unbiblical document (did you know there is no difference between the effectual call and the universal call of the gospel? Yeah, try to fit that into Romans 8:29-30!) is in no way a positive contribution to the debate. So, we put in about 90 minutes to go through and provide a response. In the process, Rich and I sang a duet (seriously), and I managed to insult all the ladies in the audience by making the factual observation that men are genetically designed to make cool noises (like machine gun fire, jet airplanes, motorcycles, that kind of thing) and ladies are not. You'll have to listen to figure that part out. Here's the program.
YouTube Suppresses Political Speech in Favor of Homosexuality: Relents After Pressure
06/01/2012 - James WhiteThe following video was posted by a 16 year old commenting on the vote on the nature of marriage in North Carolina. You will note it contains no profanity. It is reasoned and clear. And that, of course, is the problem. If this was a young homosexual ranting against Christianity using profanity, or even a middle aged one, like Dan Savage, well, YouTube's "Community Standards" would not have any problem with that at all. But YouTube pulled this over the weekend. Thankfully, news sources caught on, and lo and behold, those Community Standards got, uh, re-adjusted.
The fact is, homosexual activists on line act in a "pack," hitting videos and presentations they do not like with complaints as a group. That is why they exercise a coercive power far beyond their actual numbers. We do not join with others based upon our sexual "preferences," so we do not have the same kind of power, even though we are by far more numerous.