Just found this great video presentation of Steve Camp’s song “The Agony of Deceit” from his album “Consider the Cost.” Camp’s song applies 2 Peter 2 to today’s Word of Faith movement, and draws it’s title from the book, The Agony of Deceit, edited by Dr. Michael Horton of The White Horse Inn radio show and Modern Reformation Magazine. If you don’t know what the Word of Faith movement is, they’re the guys preaching the health and wealth, name-it-and-claim-it gospel that tends to make Christians more interested in what’s on the Master’s table rather than the Master himself (get a basic intro here). I’ve also included the great testimony by the Pentecostal minister who posted this video to his YouTube page. But best of all is the passage of Scripture on which the song is largely based. It’s simply astounding how well prosperity preachers fulfill the Holy Spirit’s revealed and revealing description of false teachers. This post concludes with Peter’s words inspired by the Holy Spirit.
While feeling called to study to be a missionary at Baptist Bible College back in the early 90’s, my mind was still somewhat confused about what to do with the claims of the Word of Faith and charismatic movements. It wasn’t until 1994, when I discovered a voice on my AM radio that was actually speaking critically of Kenneth Copeland and the others, and heard the speaker mention the release of his new book, Christianity in Crisis, that I was able to see clearly how in error this movement is, and to finally break free from the false notion that God may actually be using this movement. The radio show was The Bible Answer Man, and the host/author was Hank Hanegraaff.
“You MUST hear this song! A powerful song and teaching that gives you a serious warning concerning false teachers and their ungodly dangerous doctrines. You should listen to holy men of God who preach the truth from a sincere heart. THIS SONG IS FROM THE CD “CONSIDER THE COST” BY STEVE CAMP.I CONSIDER IT ONE OF HIS BEST. The following book is a very good book to read on the subject it is called “The Agony of Deceit” by Michael Horton. The song is based on this book and 2 Peter 2. You can order this book on Amazon.com or ebay.
If you are a serious Christian and want to know the truth about this Movement consider buying these books.
“You can find these books on amazon.com
1. “A Different Gospel” by D.R. McConnell
2. “The New Charismatics” by Michael Moriarty
3. “Christianity in Crisis” by Hank Hanegraaff
4. “The Seduction of Christianity” by Dave Hunt
5.” The Word-Faith Controversy” by Robert Bowman
6. “The Born Again Jesus of the Word-Faith Teaching” by Judith Matta
7. “The Strange World of Benny Hinn”
8. The Disease of the Wealth and Health Gospel” Gorden Fee (A renown godly Pentecostal Bible scholar).
“If fact there is no church historian or Bible Scholar that would agree with these false teachings. I know this movement well. I graduated from Rhema Bible Training Center in 1979 and spent 12 long years as a part of this movement. I preached in many WOF Churches. I was a devout reader of E.W. Kenyon. I read one of his books over 40 times! I met and heard many of the key figures of this movement in the ’70s and 80s. So I’m not a novice on the subject. God by His grace set me free from these false doctrines in 1988. At the time I was a pastor of a growing church. I recanted before my congregation. The Bible became like a new book to me, so precious, pure and powerful. Since then I’ve been on the narrow road that leads to life. I now preach the Gospel as according to Jesus and the Apostles as inspired by the Holy Spirit. Finally, let it be said that not all pentecostals agree with the Word of Faith Movement. God bless you. . . “
False Prophets and Teachers–2 Peter 2 ESV
2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell  and committed them to chains  of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;  7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,  and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions,  while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves  of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
The progress (or perhaps, regress) of my theological views from independent Baptist fundamentalism to confessional Reformed theology results from my desire to get to the true roots of the Baptist tradition. Sort of a “back to the basics” quest. Essential in the post-Reformation development of Reformed theology, and even the development of the original Baptist movement, is Puritan theology. As Baptist historian, Leon McBeth, writes at the Baptist History and Heritage Society website, “Our best historical evidence says that Baptists came into existence in England in the early seventeenth century. They apparently emerged out of the Puritan-Separatist movement in the Church of England.” Several notable Puritans, like the great John Owen, renounced their paedobaptistic distinctives in favor of the emerging Baptistic alternatives, which I still contend are due to Anabaptistic, rather than Reformed, influence. But I digress (for more on the ongoing debate about an Anabaptist/Baptist connection, read this article from the Baptist Standard).
One of the Reformed podcasts I follow weekly, “Christ the Center,” by the Reformed Forum, features an interview of Rev. James O’Brien, pastor of Reedy River PCA on the Christ-centered, and piety-enriching benefits of reading the Puritans (listen to the episode here). Puritan literature is available, not only from Banner of Truth Trust, and other Reformed publishers who reprint their works, but a world of Puritan literature is also available at Archive.org, and Google Books. But to get an easy start, you or some Christian you know probably has a copy of Matthew Henry’s commentary. Pull it off the shelf and peruse it. I bet you won’t regret it.
To most people, this is almost a pointless distinction to make. “Everyone knows that Saint Patrick was a Roman Catholic priest, right?” Not so. There are some wishful thinkers out there in the realm of Baptist fundamentalism who attempt to annex this 4th to 5th century missionary to Ireland into their pantheon of ancient prototypical “Baptists.” Granted, this is a minority view among Baptists, however, it is the view with which I was raised. This view of Baptist history is called by scholars “Baptist Successionism,” but among its adherents it’s usually known as “Landmarkism.”
As you know St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone two days ago. March 17th is officially recognized by Roman Catholics as the feast day of St. Patrick, commemorating the date of his death. Like most years, about a day before this holiday arrives, I think to myself, I ought to do a little homework to combat this notion that St. Patrick is a Baptist, but I usually run out of time before I can make any headway. So I drop it until about March 16th of the following year. Well, this year, I happened to read a St. Patrick’s Day devotional post by Bob Hayton at Fundamentally Reformed. I commented that I’d intended to post a view contrary to the successionist view of St. Patrick, and missed my “deadline,” but Bob encouraged me to go ahead and do it anyway, so here goes. Looks like this might turn into a series.
I’m by no means a historical scholar, just a Christian who cares to learn the truth about Baptist history, having been burned by so much bad history in the name of promoting the Baptist tradition. A few years ago, I read a book review in the Founders Journal of a book called Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History, by Dr. James Edward McGoldrick, a professor of church history at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I was encouraged by the review, ordered the book, and found that it does a very good job of examining the claims of Baptist Successionism in the light of academic historical scholarship. Chapter 4 of this book, “St. Patrick: A Baptist?” will serve as the basis of this series.
The only concession one can make about the beliefs and practices of Saint Patrick is the undocumented and therefore uncertain nature of them. This is where Baptist successionists find the wiggle room to make the claims that they make. McGoldrick writes on page 24:
All who have undertaken serious research on the life and thought of Saint Patrick have discovered early that the materials available for the reconstruction of his career are few, and some that have been employed are of dubious reliability. Scholars, both within and without the Roman Catholic Church, have recognized this problem, and, consequently, they have had to admit that their findings are tentative. Only two brief, nontheological writings of Patrick are extant, so interpreters are not in a position to make dogmatic judgments about his doctrinal position. Collateral evidence from the period of Patrick’s life is very scant and does not enlarge our knowledge of his beliefs very much. Moreover, legends abound about practically every phase of Patrick’s life, and separating fact from fiction may, at points, be impossible. The saint’s own works, The Confession and the Letter to Coroticus, are the only unimpeachable sources of information about his views. These, and Muirchu’s monograph on Patrick composed in the seventh century, provide little more than a biographical sketch [see St. Patrick: His Writings and Muirchu’s Life, ed. and tr. A. B. E. Hood (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1978)].
So a little biographical material is all we can trust. His theological views, his views on the sacraments (ordinances, for my Baptist readers), his views on church government and ministry, if they are to be known at all, will have to be read carefully between the lines within the context of Patrick’s day and age. By the time this series is finished, I think Dr. McGoldrick will have helped us realize that the Baptist Successionist view is little more than wishful thinking.
Part two will examine Saint Patrick’s probable, or possible, views on revelation, and compare it with the Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and Baptist view historically known as Sola Scriptura.
update: Dr. Russel Moore at his “Moore to the Point” blog directs us to a more constructive way to benefit from the legacy of St. Patrick (read blog here). He recommends Dr. Philip Freeman’s biography, St. Patrick of Ireland. You can also view a short television interview with Dr. Freeman about St. Patrick (view segment here).
Professional Clown Caricaturist, Angel Contreras is from Chicago, and he’s here to help! The beautiful new portrait of Captain Headknowledge you see to the right was a gift from the immensely talented artist whose artwork some of you may have noticed enhancing James White’s Alpha & Omega Ministries website (http://aomin.org). Well, you know, email is indeed one of God’s good gifts in this new electronic media! Need I say more?
For the past couple of weeks my computer has been down, and I’ve been restricted to blogging from work for the time being, but I thought for now, I’d direct your attention to some of the new features in the sidebar. I’ve written a short bio for those readers who don’t know me, which may also shed a little light on me for those who thought they knew me. See “About Me” in the sidebar.
Also, I’ve been adding links to my Recommended Websites and Reformed Broadcasting pages. There are some pretty interesting resources over there, but if I told you what they were here, you wouldn’t over there to see them.
Have a nice week.
“No doctrine stands alone. There is no way to modify belief in hell without modifying the Gospel itself, for hell is an essential part of the framework of the Gospel and of the preaching of Jesus. Hell cannot be remodeled without reconstructing the Gospel message.
“Here is a sobering thought: Hell may disappear from the modern mind, but it will not disappear in reality. God is not impressed by our surveys.”
That’s what Dr. Albert Mohler wrote in his blogpost from Monday, August 18th, entitled, “Remodeling Hell: Americans Redefine the Doctrine.” Yesterday, he followed this up by featuring the topic on The Albert Mohler Program.
As he was introducing the topic, he told a story about a conversation he overheard in a bookstore recently between a customer and a cashier. The customer was purchasing a book by Jonathan Edwards and the cashier registered his recognition of the author by saying, “That’s the guy who preached that sermon on hell.” Then both of them simply, “laughed it off,” to quote Dr. Mohler, who found this a rather striking and telling experience. It is indicative of what recent surveys are telling us about the rate at which Americans in general, and Christians in particular, are losing faith in, or a concept of, the biblical doctrine of hell. Back at his blog, you can link to the Pew Forum’s findings and compare them to another recent Gallup poll.
Here’s an excerpt of Dr. Mohler’s remarks from the program which highlight how hell is “part of the superstructure of Christian truth.” Indeed, hell is part of the bad news of which sinners must be convinced before the good news of redemption by God’s grace through faith in Christ will do them any good.
“We all deserve hell. Adam’s sin–the Fall–explains why we are all sinners, and every sin is an infinite insult against the infinite holiness of God. We are all deserving of hell. Now you see, that is where the modern mentality misleads us. The average person does not believe that he deserves hell. And that’s the problem. If we start from the assumption that we don’t deserve hell, and that our neighbors don’t deserve hell, and that God would be wrong to send us to hell, then we have a fundamental misunderstanding about ourselves, a fundamental misunderstanding about God, and inevitably we will fundamentally misunderstand the gospel. But here is the reality: it is God’s grace to be told you are going to hell. It’s God’s grace; it’s God’s love and mercy that you would be warned of hell and furthermore it is ultimately God’s grace and his mercy demonstrated in the cross of Christ where God made provision for us in his own Son, to provide the just penalty for our sin, so that all who come to Christ by faith, would receive, yes, the gift of everlasting life, will be adoped as sons and daughters of God himself, and, will avoid hell.”
With this in mind, I thought it would be beneficial to review some of the biblical revelation of hell. Let’s start with the biblical vocabulary. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word Sheol (e.g., Psalm 139:8 ) indicates the grave or the place where all of the dead, righteous or wicked, go. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt, the resulting Septuagint translation rendered Sheol with the Greek word Hades, the pagan Greek parallel that made an essentially similar reference to the place where the dead go.
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 7:30-34 that Judah would one day be judged in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which formed the basis for the New Testament concept of Gehenna as a place of judgment. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia informs us that “As the concept of the afterlife developed in the intertestamental period, the Valley of Hinnom came to represent the eschatological place of judgment (1 En. 27:1f; 54:1-6; 90:25-27; etc.) or hell itself (2 Esd. 7:36; 2 Bar 85:13)” (p. 423).
The Lord Jesus himself is the source of New Testament revelation about the place the unrepentant dead will suffer the consequences of their sin. Jesus alludes to the Valley of Hinnom in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 while teaching on anger. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother  will be liable to judgment; whoever insults  his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell  of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22–emphasis mine).
Then again, he refers to it while encouraging his disciples to endure persecution in Matthew 10:28 (cf. Luke 12:5). “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell ” (emphasis mine). Matthew 18 and Mark 9 contain parallel passages in which Christ urges us in very graphic terms to resist temptation. “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell  of fire (Matthew 18:9, emphasis mine). Likewise, James tells us that the tongue is “set on fire by hell” in his epistle as well (James 3:6, emphasis mine). In each of these passages, hell translates the Greek word Gehenna, an allusion to the Valley of HInnom where in New Testament times they were continually burning their trash.
Hades makes a few appearances in the New Testament as well (Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14). Finally, the Greek word Tartarus shows up in Peter’s second letter describing the deep, dark place where God confined the angels who fell. This term is likewise borrowed from a pagan Greek concept of the underworld, demonstrating how God reveals spiritual truth in terms to which we can relate.
Which raises the question: Is hell a literal place?
Well, of course it is, but literal in which sense? Shall we conceive of hell in the wooden literal sense with which I was raised? Is there a geographical place below the surface of the earth where the souls of the wicked departed are suffering as we speak? This sense actually may contribute in some way to the modern embarrassment about the doctrine of hell. Many excessive things are said and done in the name of a wooden literal sense of hell.
One example I can share from my own youth. Years ago on TBN, someone called the studio from overseas and told Paul and Jan Crouch that his local newspaper reported that some scientists had drilled several miles into the earth’s crust to discover that the drill bit began to spin wildly, indicating that the drill had hit a hollow spot. Then it was said that some of them could hear something intriguing, so the team sent down a microphone to see what they could learn. What they claimed to hear were agonizing and terrifying screams. The scientists feared that they had opened up hell! I happened to subscribe to TBN’s newsletter in which they printed the story from the overseas newspaper. One Sunday morning, my associate pastor was planning to preach on hell, and he wished aloud before the service that he had a copy of that sensational story. I told him that I did, so he asked me if I would mind running home to get it so he could share it with the congregation. Naturally, I was thrilled by the opportunity! It was not until a couple of years later that I would learn on the radio that the newspaper from which the story came was actually a tabloid (you can read more about this popular urban legend at Snopes). Now, not all wooden literalists will be this gullible–this is admittedly an extreme example, but where there are extreme examples, there are also less extreme examples. The wooden literal interpretation of hell is a liability, and may have contributed to the modern embarrassment about hell.
Or shall we conceive of it in the literary sense, allowing the allusions to the fires of the Valley of Hinnom and the Greek references to the deep dark abyss of Tartarus and Hades, the place where the dead go, to be symbols of God’s final, eternal conscious judgment of unbelievers? Would the literary sense undermine the truth of a “literal” hell?
Not in the least. R. C. Sproul, in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (pages 215-218), suspects that these New Testament references to Gehenna, Hades and Tartarus are symbols (the literary sense), but assures us that this fact gives us no relief from the torment threatened by the symbols. “The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. that Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols.” Sproul gives a good definition of hell: “Hell, then, is an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief. Understanding this is crucial to our drive to appreciate the work of Christ and to preach His gospel.”
Please don’t forget this.
In part one I established that the orthodox interpretation of Scripture regarding the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ is that “He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted” (from the Definition of Chalcedon). I attempted to make the case that if Christ’s blood is “divine” and not the product of Mary’s reproductive system, then his humanity is not of the same reality as we ourselves. Hebrews 2:14-18 makes this clear, for those not looking to read exceptions into the text:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18 ESV).
The first sentece of this passage specifies that Christ partook of the same flesh as humans and that he partook of the same blood as humans. Adding to this it goes on in verse 17 that his partaking of human flesh and blood was the way in which he could be a merciful and faithful priest who can propitiate God for the sins of the people, specifically, “his brothers” “the offspring of Abraham” (other parts of the New Testament would call these people “the elect,” but that’s a whole ‘nuther post–on Limited Atonement!!!). This means that if his flesh and his blood aren’t entirely human–specifically, not the product of Mary’s reproductive system, then he couldn’t truly empathize with us. The writer of Hebrews even underscores this by saying that Jesus didn’t come to help angels, but humans. If his blood was divine, then it could be said that Christ may not have been made “a little lower than the angels.” At the very least, if it was divine blood and heavenly flesh, he would have been somewhere between angels and humans and not genuinely on the human level and exception could then have been taken against his attempt to propitiate God on behalf of the elect children of Abraham.
I hope you can see now how important it is that Christ be regarded by Christians as one hundred percent human–utterly human right down to the last drop of Abrahamic, Judaic, Davidic, Marian blood. The full divinity and full humanity of Christ joined in one person is a doctrine so important that it has bearing on Christ’s ability to reconcile God to sinners, and this is the reason that in the fifth century, an ecumenical council had to be convened in Chalcedon to search the Scriptures more closely as a worldwide church to settle once and for all just how divine and how human Christ is. But naturally, just because a council rules against a heresy, that doesn’t mean the errant tendency is forever universally squashed. Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history repeat its mistakes in every generation; in the post-apostolic era, the medieval era, the Reformation era, as well as the modern era. Such is the case with the divine blood error, and such is also the case with the heavenly flesh error.
The Reformation era Anabaptistic doctrine of the heavenly flesh of Christ enters the history books due to the influence of arch-Anabaptist, Melchior Hoffman. The Elwell Evangelical Dictionary gives a concise summary of Hoffman’s distinctive doctrines as well as his several historic misadventures. The Anabaptists in general, called the radical reformers, thought Zwingli, Luther and Calvin didn’t go far enough in reforming the catholic faith because they insisted on making sure the doctrine they reformed was consistent with the ecumenical catholic creeds of the first 500 years of church history. The Anabaptists opted to reinvent the wheel from scratch with their Bible and their inner light or divine spark within. That’s why a man like Melchior Hoffman could go blur the line between Christ’s two natures and help preserve such unorthodox interpretation for future generations.
I’m not aware if the Independent Baptists with which I spent the first twenty years of my spiritual life taught the modern fundamentalist concept of the heavenly flesh of Christ or not, but during the nine years I spent at CBC, the doctrine was repeated early and often. One proof text provided the spring board for propagating this doctrine: Hebrews 10:5; specifically, the phrase, “a body thou hast prepared me.” The idea went something like this: God’s “preparing a body” for Christ means that God specially created the body of Jesus in heaven and the Holy Spirit inserted it in Mary’s womb, which body she carried to term, much like a modern surrogate mother. I can’t say with certainty who it was that passed this interpretation on to the leadership of CBC, but my suspicion is that the source is someone like Peter S. Ruckman. However, there is no way for me to know now. But writers of his persuasion revel in the unhistorical assertion that Baptists aren’t Protestants, so when they find a proof text for a teaching that differs from the historic orthodox Protestant view, promoted by someone with whom they presume a link due to their doctrine of Baptist successionism, they are liable to take full advantage of it. Having this doctrine taught out of this text, I could tell they weren’t doing justice to it, but at the time I couldn’t figure out how to compete with the interpretation, so I left all criticism of it on the back burner.
But for starters, let’s think about the immediate context. The first ten verses of Hebrews 10 constitute one section, or pericope. The big idea of this pericope is the temporary nature of Old Covenant animal sacrifices and the once-for-all-time effectiveness of the sacrifice of the body of Christ. When verse five quotes Psalm 40:6, it is quoting the reading that is found in the Septuagint, as you will notice a difference in the wording of your English Old Testament, a translation of the Masoretic Text, In the KJV, the phrase is translated “mine ears hast thou opened,” and in the ESV, it reads, “but you have given me an open ear (the more literal alternate reading in the footnote is, “ears you have dug for me.”). “In the Septuagint . . . , which Hebrews follows, this psalm speaks of the readiness of the whole person (‘the body’), not just a part (the ‘ears’) of the person. Thus, the ‘body prepared for me’ refers to Jesus’ readiness to become human and to suffer death on our behalf. (2:14; 5:8). See WSC 22” (NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible footnote on Hebrews 10:5). The main idea of verse 5 is Christ’s readiness to offer himself, rather than information regarding the constituent nature of Christ’s human body.
After I adopted Reformed theology, and came to the conclusion once and for all that the Baptist Successionist view is incapable of accurately handling the facts of history, and is not the true history of the Baptist tradition, I was searching the web one day for reading on Baptist history and found an interesting essay called “A Primer on Baptist History: The True Baptist Trail,” by Chris Traffanstedt. In this essay, under the heading of “Anabaptist Influence,” Traffanstedt writes, “They [the Anabaptists] also believed that Christ did not take His flesh from Mary but held to a heavenly origin for His flesh.”
This naturally reminded me of my former pastor’s frequent flawed exposition of Hebrews 10:5. This is what lead me to the conclusion that he was following this doctrine because it is not the view of the “Protestant” reformers, but of the “baptistic” ones. For example, if you were to ask an ordinary, non-Reformed Baptist nowadays, whether they thought Christians ought to give any credence to the early ecumenical catholic creeds which deal with Trinitarian or Christological issues, many will likely say no. Others, who are more on the ball, may say that they would affirm its trustworthiness as long as it squared with Scripture, but, of course, being Baptist, they would accept no obligation to recognize it as authoritative in any, not even a secondary, way. Either response exhibits a willingness to completely disregard statements such as the Definition of Chalcedon, much like the Anabaptists did.
Primitive Baptist E. A. Green, has posted a helpful article called, “Heavenly Flesh,” drawing from Harold O. J. Brown’s book, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. The following excerpt from Green’s essay brings into focus the historical and theological issues:
The novel Heavenly Flesh concept, known also as Celestial Flesh, emerged among independent groups. In retrospect it could be argued that their apparent lack of interest in the creeds left them vulnerable to old errors. Harold O. J. Brown observes:
“Abandoning the distinctive two-natures formula of Chalcedon, the radicals were free to deal with the implications either of humanity or of deity without having to worry about the other. A smaller number reverted to an Arian or adoptionistic view of Christ, and the first stirrings of the modern heresy of Unitarianism began. A larger group emphasized the deity of Christ’s being to such an extent that the humanity seemed to disappear; in this they had much in common with the early Monophysites, although they usually lacked their theological sophistication.” [HERESIES; pg. 327]
The Heavenly Flesh concept emerged as a Reformation-era explanation to the theological problem of the sinlessness of Christ. Centuries earlier the Catholics had responded to the same problem with the doctrine of The Immaculate Conception of Mary. The radicals argued, like the Roman Catholics, that if Jesus was born of a mother tainted with sin, he could not himself have been sinless. Their argument went on to explain that while Jesus was begotten and carried “in” Mary’s womb, he was not born “of” her; he did not derive his flesh from her. Hence, the heavenly origin of Jesus’ flesh.
And hence, the source of Christ’s sinlessness. This is the concern of modern fundamentalists and evangelicals who hold to modern forms of the divine blood and heavenly flesh teachings. How unfortunate it is that they would rather go outside the bounds of orthodoxy to protect Christ’s sinlessness, than remain in it and risk being called “catholic.” That’s what I call falling out of the frying pan into the fire.
One of the benefits of broadening one’s theological horizons is that he can learn where the boundaries of orthodoxy lie and can begin to discern when the doctrine he’s being taught remains safely within, or begins to cross, the orthodox boundaries.
Case in point: Heavenly Flesh & Divine Blood.
What am I talking about? Does this have something to do with the Lord’s Supper? No, it does not. It has to do with parallels with ancient Christological heresies as well as the Radical Reformation in some corners of modern fundamentalism. Namely, the corner from which I emerged into Reformed theology.
The independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church to which I used to belong supported a small Bible institute based in my home town. A close family friend from this church is a graduate of this school. He now pastors another church, and I have regular contact with the associate pastor. This associate once told me that his church no longer fellowships with the Bible institute in question since it merged with another more established Bible college for two reasons: one, the school’s getting taken over by so-called “Hyper-Calvinists“; and two, one of the instructors teaches that Christ got his body from Mary. Some of you may be wondering, “And the problem with this is . . .?” But others of you may know where I’m going.
Where I am going is to the teachings in vogue among some independent Baptists, among others, I suppose, regarding the source of the body of Christ, and the nature of the blood of Christ.
The Chemistry of the Blood
One popular teaching was popularized by Dr. M. R. DeHaan, founder of Radio Bible Class (now RBC Ministries), a physician turned pastor and radio preacher, who applied his medical knowledge to his doctrine of the sinlessness of Christ to promote what he called, “The Chemistry of the Blood.” Here’s an excerpt from sermon four in his book of the same title:
“THE VIRGIN BIRTH
“Passing strange, is it not, that with such a clear record anyone can deny that the BIBLE TEACHES THE VIRGIN BIRTH. We can understand how men can reject the Bible record, but how men can say that the Bible does not teach the VIRGIN BIRTH is beyond conception.
“The Bible teaches plainly that Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin Jewish mother by a supernatural insemination of the Holy Ghost, wholly and apart from any generation by a human father. This the Bible teaches so plainly that to the believer there is no doubt. The record cannot be mistaken by the enlightened and honest student of the Word.
“The Bible teaches in addition that Jesus was a SINLESS man. While all men from Adam to this day are born with Adam’s sinful nature, and, therefore, are subject to the curse and eternal death, the Man Jesus was without sin and, therefore, DEATHLESS until He took the sin of others upon Himself and died THEIR death. Now while Jesus was of Adam’s race according to the flesh yet He did not inherit Adam’s nature. This alone will prove that sin is not transmitted through the flesh. It is transmitted through the blood and not the flesh, and even though Jesus was of the “Seed of David according to the flesh” this could not make him a sinner.
“God has made of ONE BLOOD ALL THE NATIONS of the earth. Sinful heredity is transmitted through the blood and not through the flesh. Even though Jesus, therefore, received His flesh, His body from a sinful race, He could still be sinless as long as not a drop blood of this sinful race entered His veins. God must find a way whereby Jesus could be perfectly human according to the flesh and yet not have the blood of sinful humanity. That was the problem solved by the virgin birth.
“ORIGIN OF THE BLOOD
“It is now definitely known that the blood which flows in an unborn babies arteries and veins is not derived from the mother but is produced within the body of the fetus itself only after the introduction of the male sperm. An unfertilized ovum can never develop blood since the female egg does not by itself contain the elements essential for the production of this blood. It is only after the male element has entered the ovum that blood can develop. As a very simple illustration of this, think of the egg of a hen. An unfertilized egg is just an ovum on a much larger scale than the human ovum. You may incubate this unfertilized hens egg but it will never develop. It will decay and become rotten, but no chick will result. Let that egg be fertilized by the introduction of the male sperm and incubation will bring to light the presence of LIFE IN THAT EGG. After a few hours it visibly develops. In a little while red streaks occur in the egg denoting the presence of Blood. This can never occur and does never occur until THE MALE SPERM HAS BEEN UNITED WITH THE FEMALE OVUM. The male element has added life to the egg. Life is in the blood according to scripture, for Moses says: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood. . . For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof” (Leviticus 17:11, 14).
“Since there is no life in the egg until the male sperm unites with it, and the life is in the blood, it follows that the male sperm is the source of the blood, the seed of life. Think it through.”
DeHaan’s logic can be summarized in the following syllogism:
The life of the flesh is in the blood; there is no life or blood in the unfertilized female egg until the introduction of male sperm; Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit without the introduction of human male sperm; Jesus was sinless; therefore, sin is transmitted through the blood which comes from the human father.
Christian Orthodoxy and the Full Humanity of Christ
I submit that modern medical science bolstering a superficial interpretation of Scripture in the name of proclaiming the sinlessness of Christ compromises the historically orthodox doctrine of the full humanity of Christ. The orthodox interpretation of Scripture regarding the full humanity of Christ was encapsulated in 451AD at the Council of Chalcedon. This council was convened to correct two errors in vogue at the time which compromised the full humanity and the full deity of Christ. One was Nestorianism, which saw Christ’s divine and human natures as so separate that they constituted two separate persons; the other, the Monophysite heresy, taught that Christ’s two natures were so united that they were one single divine/human nature, two varieties of which are Eutychianism and Apollonarianism (for links, see below). Nestorianism and Eutychian Monophysitism both led the church in the fifth century to return to the drawing board of Scripture and look more closely at the passages relevant to the two natures of Christ, and they published their conclusion in a document called “the Definition of Chalcedon.” It’s only a two paragraph statement, so I’ll cite it in full from Phil Johnson’s Hall of Church History:
Definition of Chalcedon (451 AD)
“Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul <meaning human soul> and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these “last days,” for us and behalf
of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.
“We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten — in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the “properties” of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one “person” and in one reality <hypostasis>. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word <Logos> of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers <the Nicene Creed> has handed down to us.”
As long as Christians have interpreted Scripture within the bounds of the definition of Chalcedon, it has historically been regarded as orthodox: Christ’s humanity must be regarded as completely human. But if the Lord Jesus’ blood wasn’t the product of Mary, but was “divine blood” as DeHann heads a later subset in his sermon, then the Lord Jesus isn’t fully human, but his full humanity is compromised when his blood is put in a category distinct from that which flows through all of our veins. If his full humanity is brought into question, then so can his ability to represent us before the Father, being “man to God” as well as “God to man.” Someone posted a theological article in the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible which does a good job of presenting the importance of Christ’s full humanity.
Repeating the Mistake of Apollinarianism
The other Monophysite heresy which compromises the full humanity of Christ is called Apollinarianism. Since I’ve already written an excessively long post, I’ll just link you to some helpful reading on this heresy and how modern fundamentalist notions about the blood of Christ which compromise his full humanity parallel the spirit, if not the letter, of Apollinarianism. I recommend “Divine Blood” by E. A. Green; “Apollinaris of Laodicea” by Wikipedia; and finally, “Apollinarianism” from the Catholic Encyclopedia, featured at New Advent. To be clear, modern indpendent Baptists do not go to the extremes to which Apollinarianism and Eutychianism go in confusing Christ’s divine and human natures. But the fact remains that by their general refusal to consult the ancient ecumenical creeds which define the orthodox biblical Christology, they doom themselves to repeating the mistakes of history, having not learned from the correction of these mistakes at Chalcedon.
In part two, I’ll discuss how some Independent Baptists repeat the Anabaptist error known as the Heavenly Flesh of Christ.
April 8, 1978 at Maplewood Baptist Church in North Richland Hills, Texas, I, John Douglas Chitty, was the only kid in Sunday School who couldn’t raise his hand when the teacher asked, “How many have been baptized?” After the worship service, I told my mother I wanted to be baptized, so she took me to the pastor–Dr. Charles McClure. The pastor took me to the altar and we knelt and talked for a few minutes.
Brother McClure asked, “Do you want to be baptized?”
I replied that I did.
Then he informed me, “There’s something that has to happen before you can be baptized.” Then he took me down the Romans Road. I believed that stuff. I’d heard it plenty every Sunday, I guess. Anyway, I understood it, and I believed it. So, Brother McClure led me in the “sinner’s prayer” by which I received Christ by faith.
The following Sunday, April 15th, tax day, of all days, I was baptized and admitted into the membership of the church.
Thirty years ago today.
To God alone be the glory.
I had to look up what the Roman Catholics claim about Augustine’s views on the sovereign grace of God, and I was surprised by what I found. But not entirely. One, “Albert,” posted the first comment to Bob Hayton’s Fundamentally Reformed post, “Legacy of Sovereign Joy: Augustine,” reviewing John Piper’s book, Legacy of Sovereign Joy, focusing on Piper’s reflections of Augustine, and Albert asked Bob if he was aware of what Augustine believed about grace and free will, and asserted that what he did believe was consistent with present, official Roman Catholic teaching. That’s why I wanted to see what the online Roman Catholic encyclopedia, New Advent, had to say about the matter. The entry entitled, “Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo,” section II on “His System of Grace,” got into some interesting reading about some details regarding free will which differs from the traditional Reformed view, but what really astounded me was what the online encyclopedia reports was Augustine’s view of how God determined his decrees regarding election and reprobation:
Here is how the theory of St. Augustine, already explained, forces us to conceive of the Divine decree: Before all decision to create the world, the infinite knowledge of God presents to Him all the graces, and different series of graces, which He can prepare for each soul, along with the consent or refusal which would follow in each circumstance, and that in millions and millions of possible combinations. Thus He sees that if Peter had received such another grace, he would not have been converted; and if on the contrary such another Divine appeal had been heard in the heart of Judas, he would have done penance and been saved. Thus, for each man in particular there are in the thought of God, limitless possible histories, some histories of virtue and salvation, others of crime and damnation; and God will be free in choosing such a world, such a series of graces, and in determining the future history and final destiny of each soul. And this is precisely what He does when, among all possible worlds, by an absolutely free act, He decides to realize the actual world with all the circumstances of its historic evolutions, with all the graces which in fact have been and will be distributed until the end of the world, and consequently with all the elect and all the reprobate who God foresaw would be in it if de facto He created it.
If Augustine taught this imaginitive concept of God’s determinate counsel, then he would have gone beyond what is written in order to come up with it. This reminds me of an anecdote of Augustine which is intended to warn of the danger of attempting to explain that which is not revealed in Scripture about spiritual realities, in which someone asks Augustine, “What was God doing before he created the world?” to which Augustine replied, “Creating Hell for the curious.” I think, if Augustine taught what is contained in the paragraph cited above, then he failed to heed his own anecdotal warning. Another thing I found interesting about the presence of this concept in Augustine’s thought is the fact that the first time I’d ever heard of such a concept, it came from someone near and dear to me, who was taking exception to the Reformed view of God’s decrees of election and reprobation, claiming that this divine consideration of all possible realities and settling on the ones that come to pass, leaving folks free (in the sense Adam was) to choose between good and evil as effectually influenced by the particular circumstances and graces God places in the individual’s path, was the more biblical view.
In my opinion, this extra-biblical view is just a more elaborate form of the prescient view of foreknowledge, about which, long before I’d become a Calvinist, when thinking it through, I concluded that in this semi-pelagian system, God was leaving man free to determine his own election, but having looked forward from before the creation in order to ordain it before man made his free choice, thereby cutting man off at the pass for the glory. You could probably say I persuaded myself in favor of Calvinism when I came to that conclusion, but it would be a couple of more years before God would force me to deal with the issues once and for all.
But the final observation I want to make about Augustine’s view of grace and free will, election and reprobation, is that I don’t think the Reformers needed to adopt exactly what Augustine speculated about the doctrine, because, after all, the Reformers were in the business of double checking writers like Augustine with the Scriptures, practicing that more noble virtue of searching the Scriptures to see whether what he taught was so. The Reformation may not have been a pure Augustinian revival, but the Reformers certianly did stand on the shoulders of this theological giant from Africa, Augustine of Hippo.
Several years ago, back when I worked at “The Reformation Station,” Dr. Tom Browning taught a series on “The History of the Doctrine of Justification” (which I hear will be available in the future from his website!) at Arlington Presbyterian Church, Arlington, Texas. One of the lessons was on the debate between Augustine and Pelagius over the necessity of God’s grace in overcoming original sin. Dr. Browning had requested that my then boss, Randy Buster (founder of “The Reformation Station”), arrange a tune to a song he’d dug up in his studies about Pelagianism. It’s a hilarious song called “The Pelagian Drinking Song.”
I recently thought to email these dear brothers of mine to request the recording of Randy Buster’s arrangement of Hillaire Belloc’s “The Pelagian Drinking Song” and permission to blog about it. You can listen to this recording in the black Box.net widget toward the bottom of my sidebar.
And now, without further ado, I give you, “The Pelagian Drinking Song,” by Hilaire Belloc, through the teaching ministry of Dr. Tom Browning and the musical arrangement and perfomance of Randy Buster:
The Pelagian Drinking Song, by Hillaire Belloc (1870 – 1953)
Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair.
No, he didn’t believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
He laughed at original sin.
Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall –
They rather had been hanged.
Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Their orthodox persuasions.
Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.
And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Especially barley brew!