Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Galatians Chapter One: Only One Gospel
05/02/2013 - James WhiteI spoke recently on the exclusive nature of the gospel while ministering at Central Baptist Church in Hawaii. Here is the video and audio as well.
A Discussion of Theology and Apologetics From Southern Evangelical Seminary
03/19/2013 - James White
Justification Debate (White v. Wright)
02/09/2013 - Jeff DownsThe audio from Thursday mornings debate between James and N.T. Wright, is now online. Access it by clicking here.
What the Rest of the Bible Says About Genesis
11/09/2012 - Jeff DownsBack on 10/25 I mentioned in this post a lecture titled "What the Rest of the Bible Says About Genesis." The lecture was given by Joseph Pipa at the 2012 October meeting of the Creation Study Group held in Greenville, SC. I have heard very good things about this lecture. GPTS has decided to send a DVD to its donors. I mention this only because I believe the board of the seminary fully supports the material presented in the video and believes it is important enough to get in the hands of the public.
I posted the audio on Sermon Audio, so, if you are interested (and you should be) click here.
I would also recommend Dr. Morton Smith's lecture from 1999 titled Theological Implications of the Doctrine of Creation. One last recommendation would be the Princeton and Evolution/Creation2012 lecture by Fred Zaspel. Dr. Zaspel had a pastoral emergency and could not present the lecture, so Dr. Pipa read his paper.
ETERNAL SECURITY: Based in the Tri-Unity of God - Vintage
11/01/2012 - James WhiteI remember passing notes with a friend of mine in high school. We were debating that age old doctrine of eternal security. He didn’t believe in it, and I did. A few months ago, while cleaning out one of those old drawers that you haven't opened in about ten years, I found one of those notes. I had to chuckle some as I read it. From a hopefully more mature position I could see that my friend was not realty talking about eternal security - he was pushing works-salvation. And I could also see that I was doing little more than quoting a verse here and a verse there - I never got into the basis for the belief. Maybe that’s why we never got anywhere in the discussion? And, probably, that’s why so many Christians today who engage in the same debate feel that they, too, never get anywhere.
During the summer I translated the Gospel of John. While translating the sixth chapter of that wonderful book, I ran across Jesus’ clear presentation of the doctrines of election and eternal security in verses 37 through 46. My Greek professor has many times said that the best commentary on the New- Testament is the New-Testament in Greek - and he is right. One of the reasons is that you see things that you would not otherwise notice when reading an English translation. From this work of translation, I came to set how the eternal security of the believer is based upon the very nature of God. In John chapter six, this is represented by the functions of the Father and the Son in salvation. And in Ephesians 1:13-14, the Holy Spirit’s role is presented. We will look at both of these passages to see how our salvation is based upon the Tri-Une nature of God.
Secure in the Father and the Son
Jesus said, “Everyone whom the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the one coming to Me I will never cast out; because I have come from heaven not in order to do My will but the will of Him who sent Me; and this is the will of the one who sent Me: that of all which He has given Me from Him, I lose nothing but raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:37-39). Jesus presents the complete sovereignty of God in salvation. All that the Father gives to Jesus - everyone - will come to Him. The operative factor in answering the question of why some come and others, presented with the same opportunity, do not, is simply the nature of the Father’s choice. The Father "gives" persons to the Son - a gift of love, to be sure. When the Father gives to the Son a person, that person will come to Christ (as the one avenue to the Father). There is no question that if a person is so given to Christ (or, to use the terminology of verse 44, is so "drawn" by the Father) that he/she will come to Christ. This is the "Godward" side of salvation - absolute certainty and security. Yet, He says that they will "come to Me” which speaks of the human response - not that the human can change the decision of God - but that the response is there all the same. Man is not pictured simply as a “thing” that is bounced around like a ball, but rather a vastly important person who comes to Christ for salvation, all as the result of the gracious working of God in his/her life.
Jesus continues by stating that when one is so given to Him by the Father, and comes to Him, that one is secure in their relationship with Him He will never cast them out, The aorist subjunctive of strong denial makes it clear that rejection of one who seeks refuge in Christ is a complete and total impossibility. What words to a sinners heart! Those who come to Christ will find Him a loving Lord who will never cast out those who trust in Him!
Why will the Lord never cast out those who come to Him? Verse 38 continues the thought with the explanation - the Son has come to do the will of the Father. And what is the will of the Father? That “of all which He has given Me from Him I lose nothing hut raise it up at the last day.” Can we doubt that Christ will do what He promises? Will the Lord Jesus ever fail to do the Father’s will? Here is eternal security beyond dispute. But note that again all is pre-eminently balanced - the security of the person is based on two things - the will of the Father that none he lost, and secondly, the fact that those who are not lost are those who are given to the Son by the Father Himself. So, in reality, there is security in the Father (He gives us to Christ) and security in the Son (He always does the Father’s will).
The realization of the co-operation and interaction of the Father and the Son in the salvation of each individual Christian is an awesome thing! It is self-evident why so many soteriological systems cannot deal with eternal security - it is based on the understanding that salvation is completely the work of God! Man is the object of salvation, the object of God’s sovereign grace. The gospel is the message of grace, and grace is something given totally on the basis of God’s desire to give it. Such is terribly damaging to man’s “self-esteem” and to any concept of our being able to save ourselves or even to “help God along” in our being made righteous. We must realize that we come to God wholly unworthy of His love and grace, totally incapable of effecting even the beginning of His work in our hearts.
Once we rest ourselves in God’s provision of salvation, however, we see that our position in Him is one that is based upon the sovereign act of the Father in giving us to the Son, and in the eternal obedience of the Son to the Father in effecting our salvation! Can we possibly picture a more secure situation than this? I think not! But wait, there is more...
Sealed by the Spirit
Paul wrote, "...by whom also, having believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the down-payment of our inheritance, unto the redemption of His possession, unto the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14). In this signal passage that is found, rather significantly I think, on the heels of some of the loftiest teaching on the eternal predestination of God in verses 3 through 12, we find the fact that the Holy Spirit is described in two important ways relevant to our eternal security. First, we are said to he “sealed” by the Holy Spirit of promise. This term was used in secular documents to refer to the act of placing a seal upon one’s possessions to mark them as one’s own. In this case, the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is God’s way of sealing that person as His own. The believer is shown to he God’s “own property” - His possession.
Paralleled with this is the phrase “who is the down-payment of our inheritance.." Both phrases speak of the same fact. Here the Spirit is described by the Greek term arrabon - a term used in secular documents to refer to guarantee money. The giving of an arrabon contracted the giver to finish the process of payment. In our context, this would refer to the fact that the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is the guarantee on the part of God the Father of completing the work which He has begun in that life (Philippians 1:6). Both phrases are then tied together by the paralleling of “promise" and “inheritance.” These terms are used by Paul of the completion of God’s work of salvation in our lives in the end time.
Hence, we see that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is God’s way of “this person is mine - I have begun of salvation in his/her life, and by placing My Spirit in this life. I am telling all that this person belongs to Me, and I will finish the work I have begun!”
We learn from other discussions of the role of the Spirit in the believer’s life (e.g., Romans 8) that the Spirit empowers and sanctifies the believer as well. So it is clear that each of the Divine Persons is vitally involved in the work of salvation. The Father sovereignly and unilaterally chooses us for salvation. He gives us to the Son, who, in obedience to the Father’s will, saves those who are joined to Him by the Father, and raises us up to eternal life. The Spirit of God is placed in our lives to empower and seal us as God’s own possession. Salvation, then, is of God - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Since salvation is of God, and is God’s work, its eternal character is simply the reflection of the nature of its author - God Himself. Each of the three Persons is intimately involved in bringing about the salvation of the elect, and that salvation is eternal and secure.
A Brief Definition of the Trinity - Vintage
10/31/2012 - James WhiteI know that one of the most oft-repeated questions I have dealt with is, "How does one explain, or even understand, the doctrine of the Trinity?" Indeed, few topics are made such a football by various groups that, normally, claim to be the "only" real religion, and who prey upon Christians as "convert fodder." Be that as it may, when the Christian is faced with a question regarding the Trinity, how might it best be explained?
For me, I know that simplifying the doctrine to its most basic elements has been very important and very useful. When we reduce the discussion to the three clear Biblical teachings that underlie the Trinity, we can move our discussion from the abstract to the concrete Biblical data, and can help those involved in false religions to recognize which of the Biblical teachings it is denying.
We must first remember that very few have a good idea of what the Trinity is in the first place - hence, accuracy in definition will be very important. The doctrine of the Trinity is simply that there is one eternal being of God - indivisible, infinite. This one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
It is necessary here to distinguish between the terms "being" and "person." It would be a contradiction, obviously, to say that there are three beings within one being, or three persons within one person. So what is the difference? We clearly recognize the difference between being and person every day. We recognize what something is, yet we also recognize individuals within a classification. For example, we speak of the "being" of man---human being. A rock has "being"---the being of a rock, as does a cat, a dog, etc. Yet, we also know that there are personal attributes as well. That is, we recognize both "what" and "who" when we talk about a person.
The Bible tells us there are three classifications of personal beings---God, man, and angels. What is personality? The ability to have emotion, will, to express oneself. Rocks cannot speak. Cats cannot think of themselves over against others, and, say, work for the common good of "cat kind." Hence, we are saying that there is one eternal, infinite being of God, shared fully and completely by three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. One what, three who's.
NOTE: We are not saying that the Father is the Son, or the Son the Spirit, or the Spirit the Father. It is very common for people to misunderstand the doctrine as to mean that we are saying Jesus is the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity does not in any way say this!
The three Biblical doctrines that flow directly into the river that is the Trinity are as follows:
1) There is one and only one God, eternal, immutable.
2) There are three eternal Persons described in Scripture - the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another - that is, they are carefully differentiated as Persons.
3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being fully deity---that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit.
One could possibly represent this as follows:
The three sides of the triangle represent the three Biblical doctrines, as labeled. When one denies any of these three teachings, the other two sides point to the result. Hence, if one denies that there are Three Persons, one is left with the two sides of Full Equality and One God, resulting in the "Oneness" teaching of the United Pentecostal Church and others. If one denies Fully Equality, one is left with Three Persons and One God, resulting in "subordinationism" as seen in Jehovah's Witnesses, the Way International, etc. (though to be perfectly accurate the Witnesses deny all three of the sides in some way---they deny Full Equality (i.e., Jesus is Michael the Archangel), Three Persons (the Holy Spirit is an impersonal, active "force" like electricity) and One God (they say Jesus is "a god"---a lesser divinity than Yahweh; hence they are in reality not monotheists but henotheists). And, if one denies One God, one is left with polytheism, the belief in many gods, as seen clearly in the Mormon Church, the most polytheistic religion I have encountered.
Hopefully these brief thoughts will be of help to you as you "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Exodus-Revelation, on Genesis
10/24/2012 - Jeff DownsTomorrow evening (10/25) starting at 7pm at Second Pres., Greenville, SC, Dr. Joseph Pipa will be speaking on the topic "What the rest of the Bible says about Genesis." This lecture will be broadcast live on the internet. I'm assuming the feed will begin shortly before start time. To watch it live click here. I would encourage all of you to tune in.
Dr. Pipa is co-editor and co-author of Did God Create in 6 Days?, which I think is still one of the best books on this issue. The content of the book is edited papers presented at this conference.
The Doctrine of Man (2013 Conference)
10/10/2012 - Jeff DownsSave the dates my friends! You are not going to want to miss the next GPTS Spring Theology Conference, March 12-14, 20013.
"Reformer John Calvin wrote that the two most important things for any person to know are who God is and who man is. In order to know God properly, one must know the truth about himself.
In our day, there is much confusion about who man is. Is the Bible correct that God made man in His image from the dust of the earth and Eve from the side of Adam, or is it possible, as some "Reformed" theologians have suggested, that Adam and Eve were made from primal hominids or that Adam was the head of a large people-group or tribe? Was there human death before the Fall? What role do the creation mandates have in the church today?
Because of the seriousness of these questions and others concerning mankind, the faculty and trustees of Greenville Seminary are devoting our 2013 Spring Theology Conference to the study of what the Bible says about man."
Speakers and topics are as follows:
Dr. Richard Belcher — "The Supernatural Creation of Man" (including examination of modern theories of theistic evolution)
Dr. Guy Waters — "The Covenant of Works"
Dr. Joel Beeke — "Temptation and Fall" (free Tuesday evening service)
Mr. Matthew Holst — "Death Before the Fall?"
Mr. Bill Vandoodewaard — "Thomas Boston and the Four-fold State"
Dr. Nelson Kloosterman — "Imago Dei – Man, the Image of God"
Dr. Joseph Pipa — "Original Sin" (free Wednesday evening service)
Dr. Nelson Kloosterman — "The Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission – An Integrationist Model"
Mr. Gabriel Fluhrur — "Beware Lest Any Man Spoil You: Questioning the Philosophy of Science Used to Question the Bible's Doctrine of Man"
Toward the end of the year, the GPTS Site should have further information.
"I Believe," We Have No Need for Creeds.
09/24/2012 - Jeff DownsMany of us have heard a statement similar to this "we do not need creeds, we have the Bible." But the fact of the matter is, this statement commits intellectual suicide - it is a self-defeating. It similar to writing "I can not type a word in English" or "Don't trust anything I say." The fact of the matter is, I am now typing in English, and if you can't trust anything I say, should you trust the statement "Don't trust anything I say." The statement we do not need creeds, we have the Bible" is itself a creed, it is a statement of belief (credo = I believe")
The fact of the matter is, one can not get away from creeds and confessions. The biblical writers wrote and used them, the early church wrote and used them, creeds and confessions were written and used during the time of the Reformation, and as matter of (historical) fact, we still write and use them today.
We'll Carl Trueman has now provided for us a newly defense of the use of creeds and confessions. He writes in the closing of the first chapter "read the rest of this book and see whether creeds and confessions might not actually provide you with a better way of preserving precisely those aspects of biblical, Christian faith which are most valuable to you and which you passionately wish to communicate to your church." Trueman latest book is titled Creedal Imperative (Crossway, 2012). You can read the Introduction and first chapter here.
Of course, you could also check out Burk Parsons' booklet on this issue, titled Why Do We Have Creeds?" Sinclair Ferguson kindly says of this booklet, that it "deconstructs muddleheadedness and gives us a fresh appreciation of the necessity and usefulness of the church's historic creeds." Or, if you are looking for something ancient (well, at least from today's standards), you can check out Samuel Miller's The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions.
I believe, that is all for now.
Do You Have the Gift of Discernment?
08/19/2012 - James SwanI've been in a number of conversations with Christians convinced that the Holy Spirit has endowed them with the gift described in 1 Corinthians 12 as "the distinguishing of spirits," or, sometimes referred to as the gift of discernment. Sometimes I wonder if the claim to such a gift is simply a ploy for recognition. Or perhaps it's a type of hubris or spiritually immaturity. I'm often tempted to simply dismiss such people as violating Paul's exhortation in Galatians 6 to boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is possible, though, that sincerity is that which motivates such an assertion. Couldn't it simply be zeal for the purity of doctrine or the protection of the church that leads someone to claim this supernatural gift? Perhaps they've heard a sermon or been to a Bible study exhorting the seeking out and nurturing of spiritual gifts. Perhaps friends have noticed and encouraged their seeming ability to rightly discern spiritual issues. Perhaps a church leader has blatantly told them they have the gift of discernment. If any of these positive scenarios are true, if someone indeed has the gift spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:10, the fault would not be admitting to it (whether boastfully or not), rather it would be not using the gift for the benefit of the church.
How should such claims to spiritual discernment be understood in the church today? Can one know if the claim is Biblically valid today? These questions cannot be addressed until related issues are scrutinized. How has the church understood this gift, and is there a consensus view? Is this gift something particular only to the infant church or has it been given throughout the centuries? What role did it play in the early church, and if still extant, what role would it play today? ...
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