Monthly Archives: February, 2007

Another Easter Season, Another Skeptical Claim

Pulpit Magazine has a good list of links which respond to the most recent in the modern annual tradition of casting doubt on the historicity of traditional Christianity in the middle of one of its most holy seasons.
Time Magazine ran a piece describing James Cameron’s and Simchi Jacobovici’s press conference during which they announced their upcoming documentary and book, The Jesus Family Tomb.

for your edification, from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible . . .

1 Corinthians 15:1-28
The Resurrection of Christ
15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,
most of whom are still alive,
though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,

the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For as by a man came death,
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die,
so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But each in his own order:
Christ the firstfruits,
then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
24 Then comes the end,
when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father
after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
25 For he must reign
until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Christ is risen–He is risen indeed!

Premature Reports of The Planned Catholic-Anglican Reunion

Here is an excerpt from the official response to a Times of London report (to which I linked you yesterday) about the effort to which those engaged in the effort object.

Growing Together in Unity and Mission has not yet been officially published. It is unfortunate that its contents have been prematurely reported in a way which misrepresents its intentions and sensationalises its conclusions.”

“Both the heading of the article (‘Churches back plan to unite under Pope’) and its opening sentence, which speaks of ‘radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope’ need to be put into proper perspective. For 35 years this dialogue has addressed questions of authority, including the papacy. The so-called ‘radical proposals’ found in Growing Together in Unity and Mission are the same proposals which ARCIC has been putting forward over the past 35 years. What this document says about the Petrine Ministry is not new, but a synthesis of what is said in ARCIC’s documents on authority (Authority in the Church I, 1976; Authority in the Church II, 1981; The Gift of Authority, 1999). While it is encouraging that a document of this kind can be produced and that practical day to day cooperation between Catholics and Anglicans can be strengthened, talk of plans to reunite the two communions is, sadly, much exaggerated.”

“The Times article speculates about the Catholic Church’s response to a possible schism within the Anglican Communion. It should be pointed out that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has consistently spoken of the value of the Anglican Communion remaining a communion, rooted in the Apostolic faith, as indicated in this statement from 2004: “It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree.” During the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Pope Benedict in November, 2006, the Holy Father noted: ‘It is our fervent hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic Tradition which form our common patrimony and are the basis of our common aspiration to work for full visible unity.'”
So it’s not like it’s going to happen next week, but they’ve been working on it since about 1966, are currently working on it, and intend to accomplish it one day. In other words, “Rome’s leaving the porch light on for the Anglican Communion.” That being the case, my previous “sensationalised” comments stand.

The Romans Road — Anglican Edition

After 35 years of dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of England, the groundwork is being laid for re-uniting both religious bodies under the pope. Yes, you read that correctly. The original and largest expression of the historic Reformation in England is undoing the work that had been done. Since the theology of the Reformation was largely abandoned by the Anglican Church up to at least a hundred years ago, it only makes sense that Romanism would rush back in to fill the void. After all, what’s the point of remaining separate from the apostate Roman Catholic Church if you’ve already apostatized from the biblical “Apostolic Succession” which is maintained by “continuing stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42)?

Read, “Anglicans, Catholics Discuss Unity,” from CNN.com.

And then read “Update on Relations with the Anglican Communion” for more information from the Roman Catholic side.

And here is what the Anglicans have to say for themselves . . . “Statement from the Co-chairs of the International Anglican – Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, on Anglican – Roman Catholic relations”

Dear Bloggers, You’ve Got a “Llove” Letter!

Check out my pastor’s new website! www.lloveletters.com. Notice that he’s got a book for sale, too!

Blogging under the identity of “Christian West,” my pastor will be regularly attempting to encourage believers who read his blog to “excercise the Disciplines of Llove.” Click here to read his first post on his blog. . .Failure Is Underrated.

From Rasict Ruckmanism to Reformed Theology

 

I just saw a great Day of Discovery program on television. The month of February is Black History Month. This month was selected because it contains the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. I’ve been noticing that Day of Discovery has been observing this by airing several of their programs which feature the contributions of great Christian African-Americans in American history, many of which I’ve seen in the past. This weekend, however, they kicked off a three-part series called Africa & the Bible. I got really excited about the first one, The Myth of a Cursed Race (at this link, you can watch the video online!). Part of the introduction of this video on the Radio Bible Class website reads, “Are all races created equal in God’s eyes? Down through the ages, some people have viewed those with darker skin as somehow less human—using skin color as an excuse to enslave and marginalize people.”
The reason I found this program so exciting was the fact that, in the past, during my sojourn in the worldview of “Ruckmanism,” I was taught this view that is among the historic blemishes that tarnishes the reputation of Christianity, along with such low points as the Crusades, Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials. The view espoused by Europeans and Americans to justify the forced slavery of generations of Africans did not originate in the turmoil which led to the American Civil War, but is centuries old, and is ingrained in the thinking of many in some form or other, to this day.
There are three books by Peter Ruckman in which he perpetuates this harmful interpretation of Genesis 9:20-28, which has been used to subjugate and generally look down on the African race. Their titles are, Segregation or Integration, Discrimination: The Key to Sanity, and Genesis: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Not that I recommend your buying these books, but for your information, these titles may be found at Peter Ruckman’s PDF bookstore catalog.
Segregation or Integration is found on page 15 of the 16 page PDF file; Discrimination: The Key to Sanity is listed on page 9; and Genesis: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series is on page 1. These writings by Peter Ruckman persuade many of his readers to adopt a racist worldview in relation to the African race. I was persuaded to believe it for a while. I was persuaded to believe it, not because I have any animosity toward black people from my own experience, I was persuaded to believe it because I wanted to believe that Peter Ruckman was a great Bible teacher. Many of his readers adopt this racist view out of a similar motivation. They’re not bad people. They are misled people.
I am thankful that before I adopted the extreme views of Ruckman, I had had enough exposure to the greater evangelical world and its way of thinking that as I forced myself to subscribe to Ruckman’s bankrupt views, I was always aware of the evangelical views, or at least attitudes, which highlighted to various degrees, the holes in his teachings. Luther once wrote that “reason is a whore,” being able to serve whatever purpose you want. For a period of a few long years, I prostituted my mind to this tragic worldview called “Ruckmanism.”
But my mind had a prior commitment to learning the truth. In my late teen years, back when I was considering the claims of charismatic theology, I determined that before I run off willy-nilly from the Independent, Fundamental Baptist tradition in which I was raised, I would first learn exactly what it is that the IFB tradition teaches, and only if they are in error, will I ever leave the tradition in which God had me raised. As I read and thought, I came to the conclusion that the strain of teaching I need to follow is whatever is the most conservative Baptist teaching that I can find. So as I began my journey toward the “right,” eventually I found myself dangling by my fingernails from the lunatic fringe clutching the writings of Peter Ruckman under my other arm. Because I considered Ruckman one of the most “conservative” writers I’d ever read, I figured his were the views I needed to adopt. So, I began the process of assimilation.
I sincerely thought I was learning the truth. I sincerely wanted to believe that I was learning the truth. But even though I wanted to believe the views of this “most conservative” of Baptist teachers, the much more reasonable views of the greater evangelical world always haunted me–the kind that respected the King James Version, but had more confidence in the modern, critical, eclectic text of Scripture; the kind who confessed (whether in a creedal, or non-creedal way) “one holy catholic (universal) church,” as opposed to my “local church only” theology; the kind who thought Martin Luther King, Jr., was a genuine American hero, rather than merely an adulterous, communist-sympathizer who wanted to unleash a dangerous “jungle culture” on this Christian nation.
By God’s grace, as time progressed, and I continued to search for the truth, the holes in Ruckman’s teachings grew and grew, until one day I had to admit to myself, “You know, if I were honest, I’d half to admit that I simply don’t believe this stuff anymore.” In fact, I can tell you the exact spot where I stood when I was finally willing to have this thought. I was mixing ink at the Reformation Station (my nickname for the print shop at which I used to work with my friend, Gage Browning, but this was before he was hired), listening to R. C. Sproul on my Walkman teaching about the inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. This was the moment when enough light had pierced the dark views of Ruckmanism that I began the process of genuine Reformation.
This is the reason I found Day of Discovery’s program, Africa & the Bible, part one: The Myth of A Cursed Race such an exciting and enlightening program. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m about to go back to RBC’s website and offer my “gift of any amount” to their ministry, so that they can thank me for my support of their ministry with the gift of this three part series. I’m sure someday in the future I will be able to share it with others in my future teaching ministry at church. And then at or around February 23, I’m going to the theater to view Amazing Grace, the film about William Wilberforce’s successful efforts to abolish slavery in England two hundred years ago.

Observing the Passing of a Scholar at the Top of the Textual Critical Food Chain

I just noticed on another blog that Bruce Metzger recently died. I’ve seen his face on a few of D. James Kennedy’s videos defending the historicity of the Bible, but have yet to read his works for myself. I have posted the Wikipedia article on him which has been updated with the date of his death five days ago. As you read, you will see, not surprisingly perhaps, that Metzger may not have toed the line of the conscientious evangelical on things like inerrancy and perhaps a few other theological matters not mentioned in the article below, but his contribution to the modern text of Scripture demands respect, even from evangelicals. So, in honor of the passing of a true “Captain Headknowledge,” I give you Wikipedia’s summary of Bruce Metzger’s life work. Those of you familiar with his work, please share you observations, impressions and what impact his work may have had on your views of the history or text of the Holy Scripture.

Bruce Metzger
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bruce Metzger pictured on the cover of his autobiography Reminiscences of an Octogenarian

Bruce Manning Metzger (9 February 1914, Middletown, Pennsylvania13 February 2007, Princeton, New Jersey) was a professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society. He was a scholar of Greek, New Testament and Old Testament Bible, and wrote prolifically on these subjects.
Metzger earned his BA at Lebanon Valley College in 1935, and then entered Princeton Theological Seminary to gain his ThB in 1938. He stayed at Princeton as Teaching Fellow in New Testament Greek. The following year, he was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church. In 1940, he earned his MA and changed post to be Instructor in New Testament. Two years later, Metzger produced his PhD. In 1944, Metzger married Isobel Elizabeth Mackay, daughter of the third president of the Seminary, Alexander Mackay. That same year, he was promoted to Assistant Professor. In 1948, he became Associate Professor, and full Professor in 1954. In 1964, Metzger’s chair was named George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature. In 1971, he was elected president of both the Studiorum Novi Testimenti Societas and the International Society of Biblical Literature. The following year, he became the first president of the North American Patristic Society. Metzger was visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in 1974 and Wolfson College, Oxford in 1979. He retired at the age of seventy in 1984 as Professor Emeritus. In 1994, Bruce Metzger was honoured with the Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies by the British Academy. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Lebanon Valley College, Findlay College, University of St Andrews, the University of Münster and Potchefstroom University.

Metzger edited and provided commentary for many Bible translations and wrote dozens of books. He was a contributor to the Apocrypha of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, editor of the Reader’s Digest Bible (a condensed version of the RSV) and general editor of the New Revised Standard Version. He was also one of the editors of the United Bible Societies‘ standard Greek New Testament, the starting point for nearly all translations of the New Testament in recent decades.

Metzger’s commentaries often utilize historical criticism and higher criticism, which attempt to explain the literary and historical origins of the Bible and the biblical canon. For instance, Metzger argues that the early church which assembled the New Testament did not consider divine inspiration to be a sufficient criterion for a book to be canonized. Metzger says that for the early church, it was very important that a work describing Jesus‘ life be written by a follower of or an eyewitness to Jesus, and in fact considered other works such as The Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistles of Clement to be inspired but not canonical. Because of such views, he was criticized by some Christian fundamentalists (but not most evangelicals) who believed Metzger’s views contradict the idea that the Bible is inerrant in its original manuscripts.[1]
Metzger was survived by his wife Isobel and their two sons John Mackay Metzger and James Bruce Metzger.

Books and commentaries
The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration (2005, with Bart D. Ehrman)
New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (2003)
The Oxford Essential Guide to Ideas and Issues of the Bible (2002 with Michael D. Coogan)
The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible (2001 with Michael D. Coogan)
Greek New Testament (2000 with by B. Aland)
Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation : Leader’s Guide (1999)
Revelation 6-16 (Word Biblical Commentary 52b) (1998, with David E. Aune)
Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (1997) ISBN 1-56563-264-8
The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (1997)
Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1994)
The Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993)
The Reader’s Bible (1983)
Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek (1969)
List of Words Occuring Frequently in the Coptic New Testament (Sahidic Dialect) (1961) – note: “occuring” is misspelled in the published title
Introduction to the Apocrypha (1957)
The Oxford Concise Concordance to the Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible (with Isobel M. Metzger)

Translations
The NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha, Compact Edition (2003)
New Revised Standard Version (1989)
Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: Revised Standard Version (1977)
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version, Expanded Edition (1977 with Herbert G. May)
Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: The Apocrypha of the Old Testament (1977)

References
One rather vitriolic example is Editors of the UBS Greek New Testament, by David W. Cloud, Way of Life Literature 2001, in which Metzger is labelled “an unbeliever”, “a false teacher”, “apostate” and “a heretic”.
Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Metzger

When Bad Church Government is Combined with Bad Church Leaders

My friend, Gage Browning, frequently repeats to me what he heard from an experienced man of God, whose name currently slips my mind. If I were to guess, it was probably a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary under whom his father, Dr. Thomas R. Browning, studied. But that’s just a guess. The quote goes something like this: “Bad church government run by good people is better than good church government run by bad people.”

Anyway, I tell you this to introduce to you what happens when bad government is combined with bad people. It can cause some serious damage. Take a look at Dr. Kim Ribblebarger’s weblog, The Riddleblog to find out the gory details, and the prescription for Reform.

Are Calvinists Treating Arminians Fairly? You Be The Judge!

“I have never studied Arminian[-ism], but I sense that he [Jacob Hermann, aka, Jacobus Arminius] has been much maligned by Reform[-ed] theologians because of their intractable insistence on all things Calvinistic. Shame on them.”

–Al Dager
Media Spotlight

These words of Al’s made me think to see what I could find in the words of those who admit they are Arminians, so we can see whether we Calvinists unfairly malign them. A good place to start, I guess, would be the Five Articles of Remonstrance, since this is what the Synod of Dort responded to, framing for all time the original form of the whole ongoing Calvinist/Arminian debate.

Article I - That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.
Article II - That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only. but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Article III — That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: “Without me ye can do nothing.”
Article IV — That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of an good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting; awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts vii, and elsewhere in many places.
Article V — That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict. and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.

And here’s a link to Wikipedia’s general entry on Arminianism.

Hope this helps Al Dager, and all of you other professed not-Calvinist-but-not-Arminian-either believers!

Al Dager Responds!

I communicated with Al Dager, just so I would not be talking about him behind his back. Understandably, he is apparently not motivated to engage in dialogue in the comments thread. I’m sure he’s a busy man, and not disposed to this whole blogging thing. Most of my readers aren’t. But that’s okay. I am posting Al Dager’s email to me so that in this way you get to see what he has to say in his own defense.

Dear John,
Just to let you know, I am not Arminian or Pentecostal. Because one believes that the gifts of the Spirit are still operative does not make one a Pentecostal. Pentecostals focus on the gift of tongues, particularly as evidence of one’s salvation. You should know better. I have never studied Arminian, but I sense that he has been much maligned byReform theologians because of their intractable insistence on all things Calvinistic. Shame on them. I’ve done my in-depth study on the issue of eternal security and have found nothing you or anyone else has said to be viable from a biblical perspective to refute it. Continue believing as you wish. Rots-a-ruck wit dat.

In Jesus’ love,
Al

Dager’s Critique of the TULIP

click illustration at right to read the fine print

Media Spotlight editor, Al Dager, in his report, “Eternal Security: What Hath Calvin Wrought?” attempts to criticize the five points of Calvinism, but generally does a pretty bad job of it.
Dager first attempts to correct the definition of the doctrine of Total Depravity by writing, ” . . . This doctrine posits that man is so depraved that he doesn’t even have the ability to believe truth except that God first regenerate his spirit and then infuse the truth into him. This, Calvin got from Augustine, the most revered theologian of Romanism. But what does Scripture say?In his parable of the sower, Jesus alluded to the possiblility that some men may have good hearts:But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)
This verse does not deny the Spirit’s sovereign work of sanctifying the heart (1 Peter 1:2), enabling it to hear and keep the word, bearing fruit with patience. Notice how clearly the element of perseverance is featured, though, in the reference to “with patience.”
Dager continues:
It is true that all men are born in sin. But that does not mean that man created in the image of God, does not retain a sense of right and wrong. Certainly there are Scriptures that allude to the evilness of man. But there are some that apeal to man’s conscience. And there are none which state categorically that fallen men cannot choose right when convicted by the Holy Spirit.

Firstly, Total Depravity does not deny man’s conscience, or sense of right and wrong; Total Depravity teaches that all that fallen man does is sin before God, regardless of its relative benefit or harm done to others, which condition extends to his unwillingness and inablility (Romans 8:7) to respond favorably to Christ freely offered in the gospel. Secondly, it is convenient to demand a proof text that “states categorically” that which he refuses to acknowledge on the basis of valid inference and the analogy of Scripture. But compare Hebrews 12:17, which, although it refers to the Old Testament narrative in which Esau, having been denied the patriarchal blessing and inheritance, weeps bitterly and fails to persuade his father, Isaac, to change his mind and grant it to him after all, the author of Hebrews, when one considers the context, seems by means of a play on words or some clever turn of phrase, to apply the reference to Esau’s inability to repent of his own previous rejection of the patriarchal inheritance, in accordance with his preordained reprobation (Romans 9:12-13). Such tears of Esau reflect Paul’s reference to the “worldly grief which produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9). So, we see, Esau’s conscience was intact, utilizing his God-given sense of right and wrong, yet he fell short of the ability to actually repent in his totally depraved condition, in which God, in his wisdom, purposed not to graciously intervene.

Turning to Unconditional Election, Dager “categorically” asserts, “This is a term not found in Scripture, but coined as a means to explain Calvinism’s belief that no man can choose God . . . ” Does Dager deny the Trinity? The word “Trinity” isn’t found in Scripture either. But the doctrine is. In the same way, though the term “unconditional election” was not written in the Greek New Testament autographa, nor has it been coined to dynamically translate any parallel words, the concept is clearly revealed in the most detailed passage which teaches us about God’s sovereign, unconditional election. The reference is Romans 9:11. “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad (unconditional)–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works (again, unconditional) but because of his call–” Paul in this verse, sandwiches the word election with two parallel phrases emphasizing the unconditional nature of his election.

Though Calvinists certainly limit the numerical extent of the atoning death of Christ, Arminians like Al Dager unwittingly limit the effect of it. Calvinistic theology affirms that Christ’s death actually saved sinners, going beyond merely making men savable. Al Dager holds up the typical proof text that he thinks denies the doctrine of Limited Atonement.
Limited Atonement This tenet posits that Jesus’ shed blood is efficacious only for those whom God has chosen; it was not shed for the sins of the whole world. This is contrary to 1 John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The Calvinist says this means only the whole world of believers. I will deal with this also later. Suffice it to say that John distinguishes between “us” (including himself) and “the whole world.”

Since Biblically, Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice actually turned God’s wrath away from those for whom Christ died, if the words “whole world” mean every individual ever born, then this text teaches universal salvation. Neither Dager nor myself would affirm this doctrine. But this is the interpretation of this text if “whole world” really refers to every individual in the history of the world. Rather than limit the efficacy of Christ’s propitiation for us, it is more theologically sound to look for a less erroneous sense for the term, “the whole world.” May we allow Paul’s words to shed light on this? In Romans 9:24, the Apostle to “the whole world,” the Gentiles, writes, “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.” This wording demonstrates that it is not erroneous to see Scripture as repeatedly distinguishing between Jews and Gentiles in terms such as are written in 1 John 2:2.

The way Al Dager deals with irresistable grace is kind of funny. It seems to me that it would fit better as a challenge to Perseverance of the Saints. He swiftly passes by the activity actually described by irresistable grace to deal with what comes after one receives God’s irresistable grace. I’ll cite the entire short passage:

Again, Augustine’s influence is seen in this aspect of Calvin’s TULIP. It posits that God’s grace is irresistible to those who are the elect. They cannot refuse to believe (here’s the only description of the doctrine in this paragraph!) and to act with purity of motive and practice. But if this were absolutely true, then it would be impossible for the elect to sin. This, Calvinists will not go so far to say, but they will say that it is impossible for the elect to continue in sin. God’s grace won’t allow it. Yet if God won’t allow His elect to continue in sin, why would He allow us to sin at all? The Calvinist concept of God’s sovereignty negates man’s will, thus making God the author of sin.

You see? After giving a brief, incomplete, yet typically cynical presentation of the definition of irresistible grace, he moves on to talk about the fact that Calvinists believe that God’s sovereignty ensures that those he saves will not “continue in sin.” He then accuses God of being the author of sin because, even though he has the power of keeping the elect from continuing in sin, he stops short of sovereignly preventing sin in the first place. But Scripture teaches at one and the same time that while he that sins is a slave to sin, God does not tempt sinners to sin. Calvinism affirms with Scripture that sinners are enslaved by sin, and also denies with Scripture that God is the author of sin. This is the art and science of biblical hermeneutics. Being able to include two seemingly opposing concepts without philosophizing an explanation for it, or for denying one concept in favor of the other. They are concurrently true, although all the details remain unrevealed to us. This is how Calvinism understands Scripture correctly , and how non-Calvinist systems, get off track.

Al Dager’s Opinion of the TULIP

One of the recent Arminian efforts to counteract the resurgence of Reformed theology among fundamentalists and evangelicals comes on the heels of Dave Hunt’s feeble efforts, by Albert James Dager, of Media Spotlight, a fundamentalist, Pentecostal, Arminian “discernment” ministry newsletter on which I cut my theological teeth. I’ve come a long way, Baby! I was amused to discover yesterday that my beloved Brother Dager has dealt at length with the doctrine nowadays labelled, “Eternal Security.” What amused me about it was that, now that I’m a Calvinist, I get to see how Al Dager deals with the fact that John Calvin once walked the face of the earth. While I was amused, at the same time I was interested by the fact that his reason for dealing with Calvin was because he at least recognizes that eternal security is a modern version of the Calvinist doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. I was fascinated as I was reforming to notice how that the Independent Baptist Articles of Faith to which I had subscribed over the years, all contained an article under the title “Perseverance of the Saints.” I had always experienced Baptists teaching “once saved, always saved,” which seems to stray from their formal doctrinal standard in that what they preached more often resembled the easy-believism of Zane Hodges and the so-called “Free Grace” theologians, which contends that a professing believer can even fall away from the faith and work against Christianity to his grave and yet go to heaven anyway. Realizing that all modern Baptists (probably even the Free Willers) used to be Calvinists, it struck me just how little the Baptists, at least that I associated with, were regulated by their formal doctrinal standards.

I’m in the process of going through Al Dager’s Media Spotlight report, “Eternal Security: What Hath Calvin Wrought?” and I’ll try to post on an issue raised for some of my next several posts. To kick things off, let’s examine how he treats the idea of describing the doctrines of grace by the acronym, TULIP:

Calvinism’s doctrines related to Grace have been conveniently categorized into the English acronym, TULIP. These letters stand for the pillars of
Calvinism’s theology of man’s relation to God. Total Depravity of Man It would be more correct to head the acronym with a “D” since “depravity” is the primary noun, and “total” is an adjective that describes the noun. This applies to almost all the elements of this acronym which would be more accurately stated as DEAGP. But religious men, being what they are, like to make things neat for us so that we unlearned can more easily understand, and thus embrace, their theological systems.

It’s caustic comments like this last sentence that motivated me to call myself, “Captain Headknowledge.” They so despise sound scholarship when it comes to spiritual things, that they have to hold up those of us who respect it as whipping boys and spit at us like we think we’re better than they are. But it’s commitment to sound scholarship that does a better job of preserving orthodoxy than does glamorizing “Spirit-led” ignorance.

But as for his opinion of TULIP, I submit that it is “more accurately” labeled by the adjectives because the adjectives describe the distinctively Pauline, Augustinian, Calvinistic nature of each doctrine.

Everyone knows man is depraved, but Calvinists differ with others on the extent of man’s depravity; Calvinism confesses that the Bible teaches that man is so depraved that he not only will not be subject to God’s law, but cannot be (Romans 8:7).

Everyone agrees that God elects certain people to be saved, but Calvinism confesses that Scripture reveals the unconditional nature of his election of sinners (Romans 9:11).

Everyone agrees that Christ atoned for sin, but Calvinists confess the Scriptural extent (Ephesians 5:25) and effectuality (Hebrews 9:12) of his atonement.

Everyone agrees that the Holy Spirit is at work when a sinner is converted, but Calvinists confess the biblical doctrine that the sovereign Spirit’s calling (Romans 8:30) irresistably, or effectually, converts the sinner.

Since Dager agrues with eternal security, and doesn’t dispute the placement of the letter P, I will leave it untreated. Although, it is a fact that not everyone agrees on the Perseverance of the Saints, for Arminians and Pelagians teach that saints retain their salvation by their perseverance, while Calvinists confess the biblical doctrine that saints work out and give evidence of their salvation by their perseverance, relying on God alone to eternally preserve them in the faith.

Summaries of Sovereign Synergism

Today I experienced a moment of clarity when I was sharing the doctrines of grace with a young Christian at work. Thought I’d share it with you. Hope you find it edifying.

Romans 8:28-9:33

Vs. 8:28-30 The “golden chain” of sovereign works of grace done by God for the “called according to his purpose.” Notice the past tense of even the future “glorification.” If any of it happened to the professing believer, then all of it certainly will.
Vs. 8:31-39 Underscores the security in Christ of God’s elect.
Vs. 9:1-24 The fact of God’s sovereign (9:15-16), unconditional election (9:11) explains how God remains faithful to his covenant with Israel even though so many Jews have rejected Christ (9:6-8). In short, Gentiles who are called “according to his purpose,” if you will, are included among those God chose to redeem in Christ (9:24). Unbelieving Jews are not among God’s elect.
Vs. 9:25-33 The Old Testament basis for including the Gentiles of the world in the number of God’s chosen people.

Theological and Doxological Meditation #35

Sanctification
Q. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace (2 Thes 2:13), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Eph 4:24), and are enbled more and more to die unto sin,
and live unto righteousness (Rom 8:1).

Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Blest are the humble souls that see
their emptiness and poverty;
treasures of grace to them are giv’n,
and crowns of joy laid up in heaven.

Blest are the men of broken heart,
who mourn for sin with inward smart;
the blood of Christ divinely flows,
a healing balm for all their woes.

Blest are the meek, who stand afar
from rage and passion, noise and war;
God will secure their happy state,
and plead their cause against the great.

Blest are the souls that thirst for grace,
hunger and long for righteousness;
they shall be well supplied and fed,
with living streams and living bread.

Blest are the men whose hearts do move
and melt with sympathy and love;
from Christ the Lord shall they obtain
like sympathy and love again.

Blest are the pure, whose hearts are clean
from the defiling pow’rs of sin;
with endless pleasure they shall see
a God of spotless purity.

Blest are the men of peaceful life,
who quench the coals of growing strife;
they schall be called the heirs of bliss,
the sons of God, the God of peace.

Blest are the suff’rers who partake
of pain and shame for Jesus’ sake;
their souls shall triumph in the Lord,
glory and joy are their reward.

The Best Reformed T-Shirts on the Web!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been looking around at all the other T-shirts being sold on the internet which feature Reformers, Reformed themes or logos of Reformed blogs, and I have yet to see any that match the artistic quality of ReformationShirts.com, home of “The Dead Theologians Society.” Visit Reformation Shirts’ website and browse this collection of classy Reformed T-Shirts and then buy a few for yourself, your pastor and your friends.
The more observant among you may notice a striking resemblance between ReformationShirts’ burning bush logo and my own . . . that’s because proprietor David Jacks generously allowed me to borrow his design! Brother Jacks, my next order is coming soon, Lord willing!

 

Wheeling In the Kingdom of God

Fellowship Church goes for the world record . . .

My friend Gage usually covers the Fellowship Church beat, but he’s on vacation until Tuesday. I figured he might have had something to say about this ambitious effort to channel the energy of thousands of young people in a positive direction.

Is this what Scripture has in mind when it talks about fellowship? Perhaps some of these young Christians will redeem the time by witnessing to their unchurched friends who accompanied them to this spectacle. I’m sure that’s what the youth ministers who came up with this opportunity to “fellowship” had in mind, don’t you?As long as there’s life, there’s hope, I guess. But something tells me, it’ll more effectively serve the purpose of making a larger name for a church whose name is already awfully sizable.

Playing Marbles With Diamonds
Steve Camp

Waking up to a very different world
We’ve got mud on our flag before it’s even been unfurled
Our heroes have fallen and a leader is hard to find
The clock is running out, we’re casting our pearls before swine

There’s a whole lot more than preaching to the choir
Kneeling at the altar or paying our tithe
We’ve been treating God like He’s happiness for hire
We’ve been playing marbles with diamonds

Isn’t it a shame how His Name gets thrown around
We pat God on the back like a buddy from out of town
We thank the Man upstairs for the things people praise us for
We give God the glory but we’re happy to take the award

There’s a whole lot more than raising lots of money
Building our churches and spreading our fame
Faith is just the dice that you roll to get lucky
We’ve been playing marbles with diamonds

There are precious things of God and we must guard them with our life
Like an unborn baby’s dreams, like a husband loves a wife
May the hope of His returning, may it purify our faith
As we hold on to His holy Word may the chaff be blown away

Can we ever live up to the things that we say we believe?
Cause the world is watching, looking for some honesty
Have we been riding down a freeway instead of on a narrow road
We’ve turned a passion for the lost into a business of saving souls

There’s a whole lot more than preaching to the choir
Kneeling at the altar or paying our tithe
We’ve been treating God like He’s happiness for hire
We’ve been playing marbles with diamonds

There’s a whole lot more than raising lots of money
Building our churches and spreading our fame
Faith is just the dice that you roll to get lucky
We’ve been playing marbles with diamonds

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