Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
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.
Reformed and Reforming: Who is "Truly Reformed"? Part III
11/05/2011 - James WhiteI continue and hopefully conclude my discussion on the meaning of Reformed by providing a response to comments made in the comments box of this website.
Adam Kaloostian says:
November 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm
1- “do you consider Baptists of any type to be your fellow believers and co-laborers in the gospel?”
Anyone who is made alive by the Holy Spirit and has true faith in Jesus Christ is a fellow believer, period.
The requisite extent, depth, and maturity of the knowledge which is a necessary component of true faith, is mysterious, and should not be oversimplified. For this reason, for example, Calvin can say about people in what he calls the decidedly false Roman Catholic churches of his day “In one word, I call [Roman Catholic parishes] churches, inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of his people, though miserably torn and scattered. . .” (Institutes 4.2.12).
While Calvin might have had a point in his day, given that he was a second-generation reformer, and there were many who had yet to be blessed with the message of the gospel unchained from the traditions of Rome through the Reformation, and while I have often said that there are true believers in the Roman communion but that they are true believers in spite of role, not because of it, I do not know that it would be appropriate to make this conclusion today in light of the developments that have taken place since the time of the Reformation. Given that Rome has only become more hardened in its rejection of biblical truth and replacement of the gospel with that which can never save, I would not refer to Rome's congregations as true churches of Christ. Once again, I would argue that it is the gospel that defines the Christian faith and the Christian church. No Gospel, no church.
So in like manner, there are truly elect and saved people, including Baptists, in the world, people miserably torn, scattered, and deceived by false teaching and sectarianism and idolatry.
It is truly amazing to me that you would so purposefully presents a parallel between Romanism and Baptists. I do not know if you are specifically say that Baptists are “deceived by false teaching and sectarianism and idolatry,” but if you are, I would be very interested in knowing how you substantiate such an allegation. In any case, do you not see that your attempted parallel is thoroughly disrupted by the simple issue of the gospel itself? How can you dismiss the reality of churches of Christ that are organized according to biblical standards, observe the Lord's supper and baptism, practice church discipline, preach the whole counsel of God including his sovereign grace and the perfection of the work of Christ, and hold forth the Scriptures as the very Word of God all on the basis of a particular view of a proper subjects of baptism? Are you not majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors?
I am in Christ with any and every saved, elect Baptist, and I am thankful for the Lord’s miraculous grace to me and to them.
There is however a distinction between someone’s objective, saving union with Christ and someone’s outward expression of that faith in doctrine and life. This outward expression, or profession, is what forms the basis of my “consideration” of whether or not I count someone to be my fellow believer, or by extension co-laborer in the gospel. God knows the heart, but I can go only by external profession of doctrine and life.
In this regard, first, I may not make a private judgment, but am called to submit to the public judgment committed to the lawful officers of a local church, who exercise the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and reflect that work by their membership list. One requirement for someone’s profession of faith to be “considered” credible by me, therefore, would be their possession of official standing in a church of Jesus Christ. Church membership is basic to Christian discipleship. I affirm one of Christendom’s most popular slogans– “You cannot have God for your Father unless you take the church to be your mother.” A simple outline of the biblical argument for church membership can be found here:http://www.ontariourc.org/about/membership/.
I have often preached on and defended the importance of church membership as a clear New Testament concept, and as an elder in such a congregation, often comment upon its importance in my preaching and teaching.
Article 28 of the Belgic Confession speaks to this: “We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition. But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.. . . And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.” (One note, when the confession says that there is no salvation apart from the church, I take for granted that this is a logical deduction from the supernatural work which Christ does by His Holy Spirit to save, preserve, and sanctify His people uniquely through the preaching and sacraments of the church, which I describe below. The framers, I think, would have allowed for the idea that in exceptional cases people could be truly elect and saved apart from the church; however, they would not have considered anyone’s profession to be credible until they became part of the church).
Or, one could assume, properly, that the Spirit joins each redeemed person to the church, and they are then commanded to likewise participate in the life of the church in the local assembly (Hebrews 13:17). In any case, there is no disagreement here regarding the necessity of obeying the commandment to be a part of the visible church as an obedient follower of Jesus Christ.
Second, I must discern whether the group to which someone belongs is indeed a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to be confident that the officers of this group are legitimate representatives of Christ, discerning a man’s life and doctrine. Article 29 of the Belgic Confession speaks to this matter: “We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”" In the time of the Reformation, in the West, the pastoral problem of every Jesus group calling itself a church was similar to today’s confusion. There were Roman Catholic parishes, there were Anabaptist parishes of various kinds, and there were Protestant parishes (evolving into Lutheran, continental Reformed, Anglican/Episcopalian, and Presbyterian communions), all claiming to be churches.
May I suggest that once again the issue here is that of what is, and what is not, definitional of the Christian faith as a whole? That is, we must have the same God who is the object of our worship and adoration (which makes Rome's odd statement in section 841 of the CCC so reprehensible, for it affirms common adoration of the one God with Muslims). The Trinity, deity of Christ, deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, all musts. We must have the same historical core to the faith, including the Virgin Birth of Christ, the reality of the Incarnation, His death, burial, and resurrection, all as historical realities. We must have the same revelation from God, the Holy Scriptures. And (and here many disagree with me today), we must have the same gospel, the same message of life. Those who promote the "Mere Christianity" model leave the gospel to the side and focus solely upon Trinitarianism and a bare historical affirmation of the events of Jesus' life as being sufficient. But I see no basis in the text of the New Testament to ever see Christ's church apart from His gospel. None.
This means that today I must reject a number of Lutheran, "Reformed," Presbyterian, and especially Episcopalian, churches as true churches of Christ. Why? When a church no longer proclaims the gospel as its core message, and no longer lives in its light, but instead rejoices in the violation of God's law and promotes sin as if it is good (as in the promotion of homosexuality, the profanation of the divine institution of marriage, etc.), how can this be called a true church of Christ? And what if it continues, out of tradition, to observe the "proper" ecclesiastical forms, now devoid of substance and gospel life? Do they remain "true" despite the promotion of a false gospel, which is not "another" at all? I say "no." The truth of the gospel is that which is promised to remain with us through the presence of the Spirit, and without that, there truly is no church. Hence, when the ELCA, PCUSA, UCC, and Episcopalian churches continue, by tradition, to "do" things that you would call "proper" in the sense of continuing to engage, for example, in infant baptism, do you see this as sufficient to overcome the utter lack of gospel fidelity in their midst? On the other hand, is our disagreement on the subjects of baptism on the same level as the union we have in standing against the profanation of the gospel found in the open teachings of these groups? ...
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Reformed, Reforming: Who is "Truly Reformed"? Part II
11/05/2011 - James WhiteAs we will see, the fundamental argument of our URC pastor brethren is that I am not a part of the true church. Though my church, the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, is an organized, confessional, Bible preaching, ordinance practicing, disciplining church, that evidently is not enough. The irony, as we shall see, is that churches are accepted as true churches primarily upon their confessional statements rather than upon the centrality of the gospel of grace to the church's life and ministry. That is, liberal churches that have abandoned the very heart and soul of the reformed gospel are considered “true” churches solely based upon their confessional practices, even when those practices no longer have a meaningful connection to the gospel itself. But a Reformed Baptist Church cannot, by definition, be a “true church” solely based upon the confessional understanding of the meaning and subjects of baptism. I do not get the idea from reading our brother's statements that they are overly familiar with modern Reformed Baptist writings in defense of covenant theology, let alone the modern Reformed Baptist presentations on the New Covenant and baptism. Sadly, it seems easier to throw out the old canard about Anabaptism than it is to deal with the reality as it exists in our day.
This is not the first time that I've encountered what I can only identify as a fairly narrow, non-catholic expression of Reformed theology. Each time I have communicated with those who have refused to join with me in the proclamation of and defense of the Reformed gospel I have been grieved by the shortsightedness of their position. It seems so obvious to me that we are joined at a deep and foundational level that their focus upon the mode and subjects of baptism causes them to ignore. Truly, is it not obvious that in today's world a staunch Reformed paedobaptist would have significantly more in common with me then with a liberal member of his own denomination? Our common commitment to the highest view of Scripture binds us together. Our common belief in the glorious sovereignty of God binds us together. Our common rejoicing in the gospel of grace binds us together. Our common confession of the centrality of Christ's Church, the proclamation of the gospel, the exhortation to holiness of life, value and role of God's law, the holiness and sanctity of His church, bind us together. I have often commented that in many ways I am much closer to my brothers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church than I am to the Arminian fundamentalist in the Free Will Baptist Church. Why? Because of what defines my life and my faith. We share a common emphasis upon the holiness and sovereignty of God. We together recognize the vital importance of the truth of the depravity of man, his enslavement to sin, and the perfection of the work of Christ upon the cross of Calvary. We will answer many of the difficult questions posed to our faith in the same way. We stand together in defense of justification by faith, substitutionary atonement, and the perseverance of the saints.
So are these things irrelevant to what it means to be reformed? It seems that many who refuse me entrance to their camp and who have no interest in standing with me in the defense the gospel do not see these issues as being definitional of what it means to be reformed. Instead, they stand upon a particular form of sacramentalism and insist that without their particular understanding of these issues there can be no common defense of the gospel. Without diminishing the importance of these topics, issues that I have engaged in public debate over in both oral and written forms, I simply assert that the redeemed heart should recognize what is centrally definitional and what is not. If you turn your back upon a Bible believing, Trinity worshiping, sovereignty preaching, covenant theology believing, high church practicing, justification by faith defending, five point Calvinist and refuse to even confess such a person's standing as your brother in Christ, all on the basis of a particular view of baptism that the honest person has to admit did not exist in the history of the church in that exact formulation until the middle of the sixteenth century, then I suggest you have lost your balance. And should you throw into the mix the old canards about Anabaptists, well, I can only feel sorry for you. ...
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An Important New Item in the A&O Bookstore
11/01/2011 - James WhiteYears ago when I announced, for the first time, my eschatological position on the program (had a lot of fun teasing folks with that one), I mentioned that the key to my coming to my conclusions was a series of lectures by Greg Nichols, then of the Trinity Ministerial Academy. I listened to a series of old cassette tapes (for those under 24 years of age, Google it) wherein Nichols lectured on the eschatology of Jesus. He convinced me that Jesus' eschatology inevitably leads to a particular conclusion, one that I adopted as my own. I truly appreciated his insight and scholarship.
So when Solid Ground contacted me about Greg Nichols' new book, I was truly excited, for I knew this was a topic sorely crying out for treatment. Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God's Covenants has just been released in a fine, high quality hard back edition from Solid Ground. This new book will be a welcome addition to the field. It comes at an excellent time and will help to ground those newly introduced to the Reformed faith in solid doctrinal truth. We just received our first batch, so hurry to get yours today!
Roger Olson's Against Calvinism: Reviewed
10/28/2011 - Alan KurschnerPaul Manata provides an excellent review of Olson's book Against Calvinism:
Reformation Day Studies/Sermons
10/31/2010 - James WhiteSunday School Lesson on the Backgrounds of the Reformation
Morning Sermon from Galatians 2 on the Gospel of the Reformation
A Needed Balance and a Call to Passionate Faith
And with that...I'm headed for Lima, Peru. Lord willing I will have Internet access and will try to give a report on the progress of the pastoral training.
So PRBC is Finally on Sermon Audio
06/14/2010 - James WhiteAfter all the "Ack, Real Audio?!" complaints and a long down-time as far as posting sermons and Bible studies from the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, I have gotten us set up on Sermon Audio. Here is a lesson from John 10 from last week, and my fellow elder's sermon from Romans 1 as well.
Dr. White's Reasons Not to Join a Reformed Baptist Church
05/01/2010 - James SwanWay back when, Dr. White had an AM radio broadcast in New York City. Thirty minutes once a week, Dr. White aired The Voice of Sovereign Grace. I can't recall exactly which New York station carried the broadcast, perhaps Chris Arnzen remembers (I think he put the show together). I don't live in New York, but I do live within the signal range of the station (well, barely). The signal crackled and faded in-and-out. As a devoted listener, I managed record many of the shows.
On this broadcast, James White gives reasons not to join a Reformed Baptist Church. Here is the mp3 broadcast.
While Dr.White is away, I'll try to post some of these shows. Enjoy!
What a Shame
03/09/2010 - James WhiteI do try to think the best of folks, and I had hoped that after the fallout from David Allen's false accusations against me at the failed John 3:16 Conference in November of 2008 that some clarity had been brought to the issue. I had hoped that despite his over-reliance upon Tony Byrne and others of his particular persuasion he would accept the correction that had been offered and stop trying to use the "hyper-Calvinist" label as a bludgeon, as so many in the SBC do. But when word started coming out of a book based upon that less-than-helpful gathering, I wondered what would happen. So much of the material had been so poorly presented, and so poorly thought out, that it seemed better to just leave it alone and hope its memory would gradually fade. But I began hearing that Dr. Allen had succumbed to the temptation to defend his false accusations in an extended footnote, and today I was able to verify this by reference to a Google Books preview of the book that will come out in a few days.
The abuse of the term "hyper-Calvinist" should bother any truth-loving person for a simple reason: hyper-Calvinism is a tremendous error, just as hyper-Arminianism is. Evidently the idea has been promoted by certain sub-Calvinists (mainly Amyraldians) that any high Calvinist is, in fact, a hyper-Calvinist, thereby not only erasing important historical distinctions but likewise introducing confusion into a vitally important area. Instead of recognizing that hyper-Calvinism is a rationalistic position with a number of distinguishing features, these men have decided that any one element of belief will automatically place you in the hyper-Calvinist camp, even if, in fact, one does not hold to that position. It is a convenient way of black-balling people and shutting down meaningful exchange, especially on the part of those who know they could never survive a public examination of their own positions.
Sadly, Dr. Allen's footnote is so false it is libelous. I suppose he could claim ignorance, but those who followed my responses to he and others in November/December of 2008 know that I posted the following videos:
Sadly, Allen simply follows his own student in repeating the false accusation, now of me, that I reject that God desiring the salvation of the non-elect "in any sense" (italics in the original of the newly published book). The above video was posted in early December of 2008. David Allen has no excuses for including this glowingly false accusation in this newly published book despite the clarity I provided therein. This speaks loudly to the intentions of the editors and authors of this new book, a book, ironically titled upon a very commonly misunderstood phraseology that in and of itself speaks of the peculiarity of God's electing grace.
Here are a few others relevant to the facts of the matter, the first being a repudiation of Allen's error long before he insisted upon putting it into print. I will happily allow the listener/viewer to decide if the men behind this new book have provided adequate response. Likewise, you can judge why it is those on the other side seek monologues, not dialogues, on these issues.
The 2010 Scottish Invasion!
03/06/2010 - James WhiteMy dear brother Pastor Jim Handyside of the Reformed Baptist Chuch at Anniesland (Glasgow area, Scotland) will be speaking in churches in the Florida/Georgia area over the next number of weeks. Let me tell you, there are few preachers who draw the line as straight and who cut to the heart of the matter the way brother Handyside does. If you are tired of smarmy "feel good" preaching, and you are anywhere near these locations, do yourself a favor and go hear him. Here is his itinerary:
Jim Handyside's 2010 US Itinerary
March 3-11 Williston, FL 352-528-2216
March 10 Jacksonville, FL 904-272-6483
March 11-19 Sebring, FL 863-385-3787
March 19-24 Sanford, FL 386-492-2218
March 24-27 St. Mary, GA 912-882-5704
Mar 27-Apr3 Macon, GA 770-631-3660
April 3-6 Atlanta, GA 404-484-7690
April 6-13 Woodstock, GA 678-880-1123