Monday, February 20, 2017

The Vulgate, the King James Version, and the natural propensity towards venerating a single Bible version

II. True, there are varying opinions among the papists as to the sense of this decree [Council of Trent, Session 4, Decree 1 –DHC]. Some maintain that no comparison is made between that version and the source, but only with other Latin versions then in use; … Others maintain that it is absolutely declared to be authentic (so that there is no better) and is to be preferred to all editions in whatever language and, even by it the original codices (as corrupt) must be emended; as Cano, Valentia, Gordon, Gretser, Suarez and others. But whoever attentively considers the words of the decree will easily perceive that it leads to the latter opinion. … [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elentic Theology, 2.XV.2]

It is interesting to note here that Tridentine Roman Catholicism suggests correcting the original codices (Greek and Hebrew) according to the Latin Vulgate. Such a move is what we see today in Fundamentalist King James Version Only (KJVO) circles. Evidently, it seems to be a human impulse that shifts from treasuring the Bible in the translation one knows or studies, into venerating that particular translation as being THE only Bible, even to the extant of correcting the ancient manuscripts according to the Bible version one is elevating, be it the Vulgate, or the King James Version.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Turretin on Theology and Philosophy

I. On this subject men run into two extremes. Those who confound philosophy with theology err on the side of excess. This the false apostles formerly did who incorporated various unsound philosophical opinions with the Christian doctrine and are on this account rebuked by the apostle (Col. 2:8). … They sin in defect who hold that philosophy is opposed to theology and should therefore be separated from it, not only as useless, but also as positively hurtful. The fanatics and enthusiasts of former ages held this view and the Anabaptists and Weigelians of the present day (who seem professedly to have proclaimed war against philosophy and the liberal arts) retain it.

II. The orthodox occupy a middle ground. They do not confound theology with sound philosophy as the parts of a whole; nor do they set them against each other as contraries, but subordinate and compound them as subordinates which are not at variance with, but mutually assist each other. …

(1.XIII.1-2)

Philosophy is not against theology when it functions as a handmaiden to theology. Those who pit philosophy against theology as being absolutely contrary to the Christian faith are anti-intellectuals and heirs of the Anabaptists.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Turretin on reason and theology

III. The question is not whether reason has any use in theology. For we confess that its use is manifold both for illustration (by making clear divine mysteries from human and earthly things); for comparison (by comparing old things with new, versions with their sources, opinions of doctors and decrees of councils with the rule of the divine word); for inference (by drawing conclusions); and for argumentation (by drawing forth reasons to support orthodoxy [orthodoxian] and overthrow heterodoxy [heterodoxian]). But the question is simply whether it bears the relation of a principle and rule in whose scale the greatest mysteries of religion should be weighed, so that nothing should be held which is not agreeable to it, which is not founded upon and cannot be elicited from reason. This we deny …

IV The question is not whether reason is the instrument by which or the medium through which we can be drawn to faith. For we acknowledge that reason can be both: the former indeed always and everywhere; the latter with regard to presupposed articles. Rather the question is whether it is the first principle from which the doctrines of faith are proved; or the foundation upon which they are built, so that we must hold to be false in things of faith what the natural light or human reason cannot comprehend. This we deny.

What is the Reformed view on reason? Is any emphasis on reason (and logic) "rationalism" which we ought to reject? To hear some of the charges against the whole idea of systematic theology today, one would think that rational thinking along the line of foundations (axioms) and syllogisms is unbiblical. But was that what the Reformed tradition historically taught?

The Reformed Orthodox used syllogisms, plenty of them. After all, Logic was important to them for the process of intellectually rigorous thinking. Even those who reject Aristotle for people like Ramus are merely attempting to substitute one system of thinking for another, not eradicating reasoning altogether. Who were those who reject reason? It was the mystics who rejected reason for the idea of an unmediated direct encounter of the soul with God, through the practice of spiritual disciplines. Such was found in Medieval and Tridentine Roman Catholicism, as well as major segments of Anabaptism, but they were not a hallmark of the best of the Reformed tradition.

The rise of rationalism with the Socinians was a threat to the Reformed Orthodox because they use reason to argue against the doctrines of the faith. But the Reformed Orthodox do not therefore throw out the baby with the bathwater. Turretin distinguishes between the instrumental use of reason and the foundational use of reason (1.VIII.7), ascribing the former to true Christian theology and the latter to the error of the rationalistic Socinians. Reason, which is probably better termed "logic" since "logic" describes the laws and processes of reasoning, is meant to be used as a tool, not to create new propositions from thin air (the foundational view). Rather, the propositions are Scripture, and reason merely infers from them to their consequences.

Does human sin and human depravity therefore means that any focus on reason as an instrument is a compromise of the doctrine of total depravity? Does it mean that one must argue for a "qualitative" difference between the truth known by God (ectypically) and what we can come to know as truth as revealed to us? Turretin would not have agreed with such arguments. Rather, this is what Turretin wrote:

VIII. The darkness of the human intellect does not hinder sound reason from judging of the truth of connections and so contradictions. We allow indeed that it cannot judge of the truth of propositions (as ignorant of it per se and which it must seek from the law and testimony). But it does not follow from this that it cannot judge of the contradiction of the expositions, opinions and interpretations which men give of these mysteries. [1.X.8]

'Sound reason' seems almost to be autonomous and unaffected by the Fall, but that is because it is not the human faculty of reason Turretin speaks of here, but rather the laws of logic, which are laws and not human faculties. The transcendent law of non-contradiction for example does not care whether the human seeking to utilize it is sinless or fallen, as long as it is used properly. The problem with our human minds that are affected by total depravity is not that the laws of reason have been altered, for these laws are outside of us, but rather that we are unable to properly use these laws correctly all the time. Just like Pharisaism distorts the revealed holy law of God, so rationalists distorts the laws of logic. Pharisaism and the Judaizers did not cause the holy law of God to be unholy, for the fault is with them not with the law! Likewsie, the many forms of rationalism are not manifestations that reason is totally corrupted and unfit for spiritual uses, but rather the fault lies with the users (Man) rather than the instrument of reason.

Thus, in the Clark-Van Til controversy, Turretin's position will be much closer to Clark's. Turretin is of course clearer in teaching that we cannot comprehend God, and the archetypal/ectypal distinction is clearly maintained, BUT on the main issue of the place of reason, he stands with Clark on the instrumental use of reason and the possibility of sound reason even in depraved minds (whether depraved Man wants to use sound reason is another question altogether).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Francis Turretin, "Natural Theology," and General Revelation

II. The question is not whether natural theology (which is such by act as soon as a man is born, as the act of life in one living or of sense in one perceiving as soon as he breathes) may be granted. For it is certain that no actual knowledge is born with us and that, in this respect, man is like a smooth tablet (tabulae rasae). Rather the question is whether such can be granted at least with regard to principle and potency; or whether such a natural faculty implanted in man may be granted as well as put forth its strength of its own accord, and spontaneously in all adults endowed with reason, which embraces not only the capability of understanding, but also the natural first principles of knowledge from which conclusions both theoretical and practical are deduced (which we maintain).

III. The question is not whether this knowledge is perfect and saving (for we confess that after the entrance of sin it was so much obscured as to be rendered altogether insufficient for salvation), but only whether any knowledge of God remains in man sufficient to lead him to believe that God exists and must be religiously worshipped [sic].

V. We find in man a natural law written upon each one's conscience excusing and accusing them in good and bad actions, which therefore necessarily implies the knowledge of God, the legislator, by whose authority it binds men to obedience and proposes rewards or punishments. ...

[Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1. III. 2-3, 5]

Francis Turretin was the last of the great Reformed Scholastics, and the last leader of the Reformation in early modern Geneva, Switzerland. His Institutes of Elenctic Theology bears the fruit of much Reformed thought over the many years since the Reformation, and should be required reading for all pastors and theologians who consider themselves Reformed.

In his Institutes, which I am slowly going through, Turretin has an interesting take on "natural theology." It seems that for Turretin, "natural theology" corresponds to what we would today call "General Revelation." The knowledge of God available to everyone informing them of God's existence and the basics of His moral law is ubiquitous to all. All men have this revelation. Even the suppression of the truths of General Revelation does not negate that fact, because they must be actively suppressed, for what can be known about God IS plain to them, for God has made it plain to them (Rom. 1:19).

Such truths however do not make up any form of natural theology, which is the idea that Man can come up with a true coherent theology of God purely from the truths of Nature. There is a gap between knowing there is a God and knowing some of His moral laws, and being able to produce a partial but correct doctrine of God from Nature. This gap is the gap between cognitive coherent and intuitive inchoate knowledge. The former I deny to General Revelation while affirming the latter. I would like to note here that any theology of General Revelation produced by Christians always appeal to axioms that make sense only within a Christian theistic framework. That is why I will gladly affirm General Revelation while denying Natural Theology, because I just do not see how one can derive a coherent albeit partial doctrine of God from Nature alone apart from Scripture and its framework.

Do Turretin and the Reformed scholastics endorse Natural Theology? They certainly use the phrase "natural theology" positively, but, as I have shown, Turretin uses it only in the sense of General Revelation. While I certainly cannot rule out the possibility of any of them endorsing Natural Theology, I do not see Turretin doing so in this particular instance. I am therefore not convinced that Turretin or any of the Reformed Scholastics would have approved of Natural Theology, and any argument to that effect needs to not just appeal to the approval of the phrase "natural theology," since it is rather clear that Turretin means by that phrase something different from how the term is used today.

Eschatology precedes soteriology

My latest sermon, preached at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church in Singapore, was on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, and it can be heard here. In that sermon, one particular emphasis that I made was on the Christian hope, the revealing (ἀποκαλυπσις) of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory, which ought to re-orientate the way we live our lives. It is when we keep our eyes on this hope that the priorities in our lives will be ordered properly, in a way that glorifies God, and also in the way we were made to live.

It is this latter point that I attempt to elucidate when I introduced the phrase "Eschatology precedes soteriology." These three words encompass a very important concept in biblical theology. Eschatology, the doctrine of the last things, precedes soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, not because we ought to focus our attentions on one's view of the millennium or the rapture, but rather because the main points of Reformed eschatology (as oppose to Dispensational eschatology) concerns the breaking-in of God's glory, where God tears open the fabrics of the heavens (metaphorically and phenomenologically of course) and the glory of God, the knowledge of the glory of God, floods the earth as the waters cover the sea (cf. Hab. 2:14). (Reformed eschatology, whether of the pre-, post-, or a-millennial varieties, all have this as their focus, as opposed to the Dispensational predilection for dates, timelines and literal fulfillment of biblical figures of speech). This focus of Reformed eschatology precedes soteriology primarily because of our understanding of Adam and the Covenant of Works, and therefore those who deny the Covenant of Works can never have this full-orbed understanding and comfort in the Christian hope.

The traditional Reformed understanding of the Covenant of Works, which is confessed both in the Presbyterian and the (European) continental Reformed churches, is that Adam was bound by God a short time after his creation. In this covenant, God bound Adam to perfect and perpetual obedience to His commands, as expressed in the one explicit command given to Adam (and Eve) not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By divine fiat, the fruits of this one tree was forbidden to Adam and Eve, our first parents. If Adam and Eve were to obey God's commands as they are focused on this one simple prohibition, God promised eternal life to them. If however they were to disobey God, they would merit death and surely die.

In Hebrews 2: 5-9, the author of Hebrews cites Ps. 8:4-6 and expounds on it in relation to Christ. The context of Psalms 8:4-6 concerns how God has glorified Man in creation and crown him with glory and honor. In Man's original creation, Adam was a great priest and king before Creator God. But of course, we know Adam failed the test and fell from his glorious estate. Hebrews 2:5-9 brings up this motif to show us how Jesus fulfilled what Adam was tasked to do and bring us believers to the state of glory that Adam was meant to have brought about. In other words, the goal of the Eschaton, that of God coming down from heaven in all of His glory, was the intended telos of Adam's probation. The Fall interrupted that goal however, for now where God's glory was to be made manifest upon the earth, now sin pollutes all of God's creation. Eschatology precedes soteriology because the telos existed (in time) before even the Fall. We are saved from sin in order to get us back to the intended telos of creation. Salvation follows upon the interruption of the telos of the world, and serves the restoration of all things when Christ comes again, and therefore eschatology precedes soteriology.

As a short excursus, it is of course true that God's plan has always been for the Fall to happen and for Christ to die for the sins of the elect, from a Systematic Theological point of view, whether ones takes an infralapsarian or supralapsarian perspective. But the truths of God's plan on the vertical transcendent plane does not negate the truths of God's plans acted on along the horizontal plane of redemptive-history. So it is true that God decrees the Fall to happen and that Christ would die for the sins of the elect, but it is also true that the Fall interrupts the intended telos of the in-breaking of the glory of God upon the earth if Adam had obeyed. Those who desire to pit Systematic Theology against Biblical Theology and make one prior to the other have a stunted view of God and His glory, as if God is limited to one plane of operation. Both are true, as such both show us different facets of God's plan and God's glory.

Eschatology precedes soteriology. The in-breaking of the full glory of God upon this earth has been interrupted by the Fall, and it is this that is our hope, when Christ will come again from heaven with glory to cleanse the creation and restore it and bring it to its glorified state. This very public revelation or unveiling of God is the blessed hope for the Christian, the one who puts his hope and trust in Jesus Christ. We are not just saved from hellfire, as if Christianity is merely a hell insurance policy. Rather, we are being saved towards the intended goal of all creation, so that we might revel in the manifest glory of God and in communion with our Lord. So Maranatha, come Lord Jesus! Come!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

On Michael Brown's interview with Joseph Prince

In the mainstream Singapore evangelical and charismatic scene, charismatic author Michael Brown's (of the Brownsville Revival fame) interview with Joseph Prince caused quite a bit of a stir. Prince of course is in my back yard so to speak in Singapore, and he has deceived thousands of Christians, so of course I cannot keep silent. At the same time, I have said many many things already about Prince, exposing his main error. I would prefer not to comment more on Prince if not for the fact that believers will be confused after looking at the interview, as Prince seems to have exonerated himself over his critics. Was Prince merely misunderstood, they may wonder. Maybe Prince is not an Antinomian as charged, and those like me are wrong in criticizing him.

We criticize Prince not based upon personal animosity, but out of love for God and His truth. There is nothing happier for me than to see Prince repent of his heresies. So if I am indeed wrong about Prince, I will admit I was wrong and rejoice that he actually is leading people to God. This must be written only because there are many people who refuse to read any of my criticisms charitably and think I just love to find fault. This is properly basic and I shouldn't have to say this almost like a disclaimer, but it has to be said so that people hopefully do not go around judging me for judging others (which is ironic since if judging is wrong, why are they judging me in the first place?)

So back to the main issue! Let's just put it upfront: Even if Prince was exonerated on the charge of antinomianism, there are still many major errors he holds to that undermine the Gospel, chiefly among them the Word-faith prosperity name-it-claim-it shtick, which is another gospel altogether. Or we can go to how he blasphemes the Lord's body and blood by making the Holy Communion a healing medicine for the sick! So even if he is exonerated from the charge of antinomianism, he is still a heretic because of his Word-faith errors among others.

But let's look at the charge more closely. What exactly is "antinomianism"? "Antinomianism," or "against-law-ism," is the error that Christians are totally free from the law. It says nothing whatsoever about whether Christians should be or shouldn't be sinning. Rather, regardless of what one's view of "sin" is, one is or is not an "Antinomian" based on how one thinks about the law. Antinomianism is not just lawless sinning, which is practical antinomianism, but also in theory denying the law, as seen in the doctrinal antinomianism of someone like Tobias Crisp.

The fact of the matter is that apart from the law, sin cannot be known as sin (Romans 7:7-25). As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states it so beautifully:

Q14. What is sin?

A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

So now that we have a better understanding of what "antinomianism" is, let us look at the interview. We see that Prince says that sinning is wrong, which is good, but what exactly is sin in such a scenario? After all, I have not accused Prince ever of saying sinning is right. Prince is very clear that the one under grace should not be sinning, which is true but hardly answers our main concern. The main concern is what does Prince has to say about the law and its relationship to Christians? And here we see a fudging in the interview, with Prince stating:

The Law, as designed by God, exposes our sin and brings us to the end of ourselves, thereby bringing us to the foot of the cross where grace and mercy flow. Not only so, but "when God's people are under grace, not only do they fulfill the letter of the law, but they also exceed it or go the extra mile"

That is a good understanding of the first use of the law, its pedagogical use, to bring us to Christ, which Prince has always taught. But are Christians under the law as a guide, which is the third use of the law? Orthodox Christianity says yes, but does Prince believe in that? We see nothing in that interview that would indicate to us that he does.

In a linked blog article on Prince's website, Prince states the following:

If someone is leaving his wife for his secretary and tells you he is under “grace,” tell this person that he is not under grace but under deception! Go by the authority of God’s Word, not what this man says. Romans 6:14 states, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” If this person were truly living under grace, he would not be dominated by such a sin. And no one living in sin can legitimately use grace as an excuse to sin, because it is antithetical to God’s holy Scriptures.

This is all well and good, but why? Why is that action of adultery sin, since we are not under the law? Prince does not answer this except to say it is against "God's holy Scriptures," but what does "God's holy Scriptures" teach? Can someone say he is "under grace" and engage in polygamy, because David, beloved of God, had many wives? Or can someone "under grace" marry a woman and her sister, a la Leah and Rachel?

The problem with Prince is that he is a doctrinal antinomian. As I have said, for Prince the problem is not sin as an objective problem, but condemnation due to sin as a psychological problem. Sin is wrong because it leads to condemnation under the law, not because it incurs the wrath of a holy God. To be righteous is to know one is now not under condemnation but under "grace," which through naming-and-claiming one's righteousness, sin will disappear. That of course is a form of perfectionism, which is another problem. But the key thing here to note is that, while Prince is against sin, he has no real basis for claiming something is sin or not sin, and appealing to "God's holy Scriptures" apart from an appeal to the law says nothing about whether polygamy for example can be done "under grace." Prince therefore is still a doctrinal antinomian, and nothing in that interview or his blog article has changed that fact.

So how, you may ask, does this doctrinal antinomianism play out in practice? How this plays out in practice is that, absent a real objective standard, the standard of what constitutes "not sinning" defaults to the culture, or rather, the church's sub-culture as it interacts with the general culture. Therefore, why Prince is against adultery is because adultery is considered sin in the Singapore Christian sub-culture. But Prince is not against greed (perhaps he might be against "excessive" greed) because greed is not considered sin in the broader culture. In other words, by defaulting to the lowest common denominator of sin as determined by culture, Prince will seem to be not "lawless" while he tolerates what the late Jerry Bridges called "respectable sins." Absent a true objective standard, Prince will never be able to hold up the strict holiness of God, which is why he will never call people to repent of their sins of greed, violating the Sabbath, neglecting the poor and other "respectable sins."

In conclusion, we must say that Joseph Prince has not said anything in this interview to disprove our charge that he is an antinomian. That the charismatic Mike Brown wants to play the PR game in the interview says more about him than about Prince, who has not changed. Prince remains an antinomian, a Word-faith proponent, a doctrinal perfectionist, and thus a deceptive heretic. Christians ought to avoid him and his false gospel and turn instead to the true Gospel of justification by faith alone, but NOT by a faith that is alone.

The ESV and Genesis 3:16

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16 ESV 2016)

The ESV committee has recently, last year, proposed an amendment to Genesis 3:16 that caused quite a bit of an uproar among those who see the changes as being not driven by the text but for ideological reasons. The insinuation, being that the change came temporally after the bulk of the EFS (Eternal Functional Submission) controversy, was that it was to prop up some version of EFS. How should we deal with this text and, more broadly, what should we make of the ESV?

Concerning the text itself, the changed text is one possible translation of the original Hebrew, that interprets the preposition ל as "contrary to," which is A possible interpretation. For me, personally, I prefer the more ambiguous translation "to." That said, since the amended text is A possible translation, based upon Susan Foh's interpretation in her WTJ (Westminster Theological Journal) article, that translation is plausible and thus there is no reason at all to kick up a big fuss over the issue.

The only reason why certain segments of the Reformed world kicked up such a big fuss over the issue is because it came upon the heels of the EFS controversy. The hysteria in certain segments the Reformed blogosphere over the changes in the ESV (here's one example) is really a sad thing. For those of us who are interested in the truth, there is no reason to subscribe to such hysteria, especially since those who attack EFS continually misrepresent their opponents. Since that is the case, the question concerning the ESV is this: Does the change in Genesis 3:16 compromise the translation of the original Hebrew? I would say not. At the same time, by making it less ambiguous, the change makes the ESV less literal. For those who want to study the Bible deeply, this change is one strike against the amended ESV. But for pastors and preachers, such changes are less important to us since, after all, we are supposed to be focused on the text in the original languages, and amend the English versions in our preaching as and when the occasion arise. Pastorally, such amendments should not be done too often lest we undermine the congregation's trust that they have the Word of God in English, which is why a more literal translation is preferred. But one amendment in Genesis 3:16 is not going to be a lot. As long as we are not correcting every other word in the Bible translation, which is why we need to use a good faithful English translation in the church's corporate worship, the people's trust in their Bibles will be preserved. The interpretation of one preposition in Genesis 3:16 does not take away from the fact that the ESV is still a good faithful translation of the text, and thus there is no reason why it should not continue to be used by English-speaking Christians.

As for me, I will continue to use and to support the use of the ESV as an excellent bible translation in English. I also hope that the Reformed world will not succumb to hysteria and continue using this translation. For me also, my ESV Bible app on my smartphone continues to give the original translation of "to" while my printed ESV bible is of the older version, so I do not have to deal with this issue for the foreseeable future, and hopefully never will.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Acts 18:17

ἐπιλαβόμενοι δὲ πάντες Σωσθένην τὸν ἀρχισυνάγωγον ἔτυπτον ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ βήματος· καὶ οὐδὲν τούτων τῷ Γαλλίωνι ἔμελεν. (Acts 18:17 BGT)

Ἐπιλαβόμενοι δὲ πάντες οἱ Ἕλληνες Σωσθένην τὸν ἀρχισυνάγωγον ἔτυπτον ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ βήματος. Καὶ οὐδὲν τούτων τῷ Γαλλίωνι ἔμελλεν (Act 18:17 BYZ)

And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this. (Act 18:17 ESV)

Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things. (Act 18:17 KJV)

.

Textual note:

πάντες: p74 א A B itc, dem, p, ph, ro, w vg, copbo.

πάντες οἱ Ἕλληνες: D E Ψ 33 181 614 945 1175 1409 1739 1891 2344 Byz [L P] ...

πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι: 36 307 453 610 1678

I have recently preached a sermon on Acts 18:1-17, which can be accessed here. In this text, one thing that I had to do was to decide how to deal with the textual variants in the text. There is one other textual variant that alters the meaning of the text in verse 5, but I judged it was not worth going into that. For Acts 18:17 however, the variant does seem important enough that I had to make a short note in the sermon at least concerning the variant, although I don't know if anyone in the congregation was interested in it.

The textual variant here concerns who was it that beat up Sosthenes the chief ruler of the synagogue (τὸν ἀρχισυνάγωγον). The Critical Text that is mostly preferred by most modern translators only has the ambiguous word πάντες ("all"). The King James and New King James versions follow the Majority Text and have the words πάντες οἱ Ἕλληνες ("all the Greeks"). Not reflected in any translation (and rightly so) is the variant πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ("all the Jews"), which is stated as being found only in 5 miniscules.

It is a caricature that modern translators are blind devotees to Westcort and Hort, two early British textual scholars. It is however true that modern textual criticism prioritizes earlier manuscripts over later ones, regardless of the number of manuscripts under consideration. After all, it is not the number of copies that matter, for one manuscript copied numerous times in later manuscripts is still considered as one text for the sake of determining the correct reading of the Scriptures. In this case, the critical text reading is supported by many earlier manuscripts, not just Codex Sinaiticus (א) but also at least one papyrus (p74), whereas the Majority text reading has only three majuscules (D, E, Ψ) and a plethora of later miniscules. Thus, the critical reading is to be preferred here because of better and earlier attestation.

When one looks at the variants, it is also easier to understand how the variants can come about if πάντες is the original text. The verse in the Critical Text and in the ESV is ambiguous because we are still left wondering who is the "all" that is beating up Sosthenes. It is not a surprise if later scribes would add in the phrase οἱ Ἕλληνες ("the Greeks") as an explanation first, which was then inserted into the later miniscules. The fact that 5 miniscules have the alternative phrase πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι shows us that at least some Byzantine Greek scholars understood the "all" to be predicated of the Jews, and thus amend the text accordingly. It is therefore easier for us to understand how the variants could come about as Byzantine scholars attempt to understand who are the "all" referred to in Acts 18:17.

It should not be too surprising that this variant is important because it affects how we are to understand Acts 18:17, and what exactly is happening in this narrative. If it were the Greeks assaulting Sosthenes, then one exegetes the passage differently than if it were the Jews that were assaulting Sosthenes. While taking the ambiguous text, it seems to me that the overall sense of the text is to interpret it as referring to the Jews, thus "all" equals "all the Jews." For, first, we see in the return to Gallio's reaction in the later part of verse 17 that the beating up of Sosthenes is related to the charge against Paul and the fact that Gallio threw out the case. Therefore, second, while the action of Greeks beating Sosthenes is plausible, for Greeks to beat up Sosthenes because of charges against Paul is rather implausible. Thirdly, the beating up of Sosthenes was meant to provoke Gallio, and therefore the later part of verse 17 tells us that Gallio decided not to be provoked. How would the Greeks beating up Sosthenes provoke Gallio after Gallio had declared the charges against Paul a purely internal matter? It is only if we read it as the Jews beating up Sosthenes then we see some division among the Jews being stirred up, coupled with assault, in an attempt to provoke Gallio into action on internal Jewish matters, which he had earlier declared he had no wish to be judge in. And thus, fourthly, interpreting the "all" as "all the Greeks" would make Gallio's inaction to the beating of Sosthenes senseless and even cruel, as if Gallio was totally heartless and indifferent to the Jews. This contradicts Gallio's explicit statements that the reason why he refused to adjudicate on the charges against Paul was because he did not want to judge on what he perceived to be internal religious matters. It is only if we see Gallio's inaction as a refusal to be provoked by Jews beating up their fellow Jew Sosthenes that Gallio's actions makes sense.

From both a textual and contextual perspective therefore, Acts 18:17 is speaking of "all", that is all the Jews, beating up Sosthenes. The Majority Text reading is therefore in error here, and therefore sermons that are preached based upon the King James and New King James rendering of Acts 18:17 will be in error. This is most certainly an argument against using the King James version today, but, more importantly, the importance of proper exegesis from the original languages for pastors and preachers of the Word.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dr James White on RAAN again, and Marxism among the "Reformed" camp

Dr. James White has recently in his Dividing Line podcast spoke concerning Jemar Tisby and RAAN (Reformed African-American Network), the network he co-founded, in light of comments Tisby made after the US election victory of Donald J Trump. Now, the victory of the race-baiting Donald Trump is not a good thing, but neither was the potential victory of the radical liberal Hilary Clinton. Still, Trump won legitimately and he will be the next president of the United States. Tisby's comments are disturbing but not out of character from what I had expected from anyone associated with RAAN, much less its co-founder.

To be sure, I can grant that Tisby's comments were made out of pain, with legitimate personal history backing them up. So I am not inclined to pile on Tisby. Yet, what he has said has revealed once again the problems with RAAN I had stated before. RAAN embraces a false anti-Christian racial narrative, and then cobbles it with a spiritual veneer of "Reformed theology." That is not what being Reformed means however. We can't just take the theoretical aspects of Reformed theology and fix it to a practical secularism (or Marxism)! To be Reformed is to be Reformed both in thought and life, and it is sad that RAAN cannot seem to get that. And dangerous when it claims to speak for all "people of color" (what does that mean anyway?!), or even for all "Reformed African-Americans"

Saturday, November 12, 2016

On the Nevius method

According to [John L.] Nevius' method, foreign missionaries should devote themselves to just a few activities, focusing on itinerant evangelism, biblical literacy, and leadership training. Foreig missionaries were to leave most of the other tasks of ministry to local converts and train new believers to take over even these few missionary tasks as quickly practical. [Bruce P. Bagus and Sung -Il Steve Park, "A Brief History of the Korean Presbyterian Mission to China," in Bruce P. Bagus, ed., China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2014]

The spread of the Christian faith demands indigenization. The kind of ingenization Ahava Theology advocates does not resort to ethnic and political markers to set is boundaries or employ slogans such as "self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting," which are used to isolate Chinese churches from European and American churches. (Paul Wang, "The Indigenization and Contextualization of the Reformed Faith in China," in Ibid., 289)

The Nevius' method, coined after the American Presyterian missionary John L. Nevius, seems to be held up as a great method by certain Western and Presbyterian missionaries. John Nevius was a missionary from the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA), back when the PCUSA was actually in some sense biblical, before the Modernist controversy and the disgraceful defrocking of J. Gresham Machen. The method named after him is adopted in a modified form by what became the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state controlled church of China. The method aims to create an indigenous church in a mission context that would be able to grow independent of foreign missionaries by being "self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting." This is in contrast with the real situation in many mission churches in the late 19th/ early 20th century that have congregations perpetually dependent on the foreign mission agencies for ministers and leadership.

The perpetual dependency of the mission churches in the late 19th/ early 20th century is most definitely a problem. But is Nevius' method the solution? Coming from a country that was the beneficiary of foreign missions in the late 19th/ early 20th century, I would suggest not. Even in the book itself, Chinese-American pastor Paul Wang does not sound too happy about that idea. While the goals of being self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting sounds nice in theory, what is seen in practice doesn't look that great. Let us look at the best examples of the Nevius' method in action, in the Prebyterian churches in Korea. How many of them are sound, orthodox and truly Reformed? I have no idea, but with so many Presbyterian denominations, one wonders what kind of Presbyterianism is being taught and passed on there. Also, one wonders why Korean Presbyterianism tolerates and does not denounce heretics like David (Paul) Yonggi Cho, a Word-faith heretic of the "largest church in the world." My suspicions are that Korean Presbyterianism has not been pure Presbyterianism since its inception, and that is partly because of Nevius' methods.

Nevius' method for sure helps churches to be started fast in the mission field. But the goal should not be just to start churches but to start biblical churches. Telling the Gospel to non-Christians, seeing them repent and believe in Jesus Christ, training them in basic Bible doctrine and then sending them out to do church is not the biblical method. In the biblical method, proper training of ministers is necessary. The opposite of keeping foreigners dependent on Western missions is not to give them the minimal training required and then take a hands-off approach to the mission churches! Untrained Christians are sheep wondering around awaiting the arrival of the wolves for their daily lamb chops! The disaster of the perpetual dependency model is that of baby Christians suddenly forced to do ministry and thus inventing theology and practice on the fly. The disaster of the Nevius model is that of baby Christians already doing ministry and already inventing theology and practice on the fly. In my opinion, neither is better than the other. Just look at the fruits of these models in the mission field. Why is it that after so many years, decades, centuries even, of missions, the solid Reformed and Presbyterian churches are still situated in America? Where are the great Reformed ministers from Asia, the great theologians, the great exegetes? They are nowhere to be found!

While Western missionaries might think highly of the Nevius method, I do not. It is in my opinion reactionary to the perpetual dependency model of 19th century Christian missionaries. Paul Wang charged the method of isolating "Chinese churches from European and American churches." I would say that it partakes of the same mentality that treats "the heathen" as a special class different from Westerners, and thus it partakes of latent racism. I am not RAAN calling for white to "check their privilege," and I am not asking for superior rights over whites. But we wish to be treated equally, not as inferiors or as superiors (pace RAAN). Stop patronizing us! Let us join you as equals. We do not want to be treated under the Nevius method, but similar to home missions with the exception of culture.

The goal of true biblical missions is the formation of biblical churches. The modern (19th/ 20th) mission movement has in general failed at that task. Let us reject both the perpetual dependency model and the Nevius model, and strive towards a new model for producing true biblical Reformed churches, that God may be glorified.

Monday, November 07, 2016

19th Century America: "Calvinistic Fatalism," New England Revivalism and Charles Finney

Reacting against a kind of fatalism in his own denomination, [Charles] Finney deplored the notion that sinners should continue under conviction of sin until God should deign to grant them repentance: rather he felt that they should by an act of the will surrender to God. It was this emphasis upon immediate decision and his preaching of "whosever [sic] will" which had made a powerful effect. [J Edwin Orr, The Light of the Nations: Evangelical Renewal and Advance in the Nineteenth Century (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1965), 60]

The Evangelical myth concerning Charles Finney and the 19th century Second Great Awakening, propagated by Evangelical church historians, is that Finney revived true evangelism against a petrified sterile "dead orthodoxy." In much of contemporary Evangelicalism, this myth has permeated the churches such that anyone who speaks out against modern evangelistic practices are believed to be against evangelism. Evangelistic rallies, altar calls, the Gospel message as being that of "God loves you" — all of these and more stemmed directly and indirectly from the middle stages of the Second Great Awakening temporally, from the "New Measures" adopted by Charles Finney in practice, and from Finney's Pelagianism in theory.

The religious environment in which Finney came into the scene was not that dead orthodoxy, contrary to Evangelical hagiographies. But it would be similarly an error to assume the fault lies wholly with Finney, as if the church just decided to lose its mind for no reason whatsoever and adopt Finney's New Measures. Finney was a product of his age, and there are legitimate problems in the religious scene when he began his revivals.

The older view of revivals, stemming from the First Great Awakening, was that revivals are acts of God. The preacher is to present the wrath of God and then call people to turn to Christ, who offers us the way of salvation. In the life of the church in 17th century Puritan New England, Congregationalism had came up with an emphasis on conversion experiences as being part of the experience of salvation. Believers ought to have a genuine feeling of horror over their sins, followed by an experience of joy and gladness over God's grace over them. Only those with such conversion experiences were to be regarded as being saved. [In other words, even if a person professes faith in Jesus Christ, is orthodox in his beliefs and strives to live a godly life, that person is not a Christian as long as he does not possess the required "conversion experience."] The Halfway covenant advocated by some Congregationalist pastors like Solomon Stoddard (Jonathan Edwards' grandfather) became necessary only because many covenant children did not have such conversion experiences and thus were not regarded as church members despite their faith in Christ and adherence to orthodoxy, and thus the question was raised as to whether their own children (2nd generation) should be baptized as infants since the 1st generation children were not members of the churches they were brought up in. The halfway covenant, which allowed for baptism and participation in the life of the church of the 2nd generation children of 1st generation children who did not receive a conversion experience, was a bad solution to a problem created by bad theology, in this case the idea that every believer ought to have a conversion experience.

This theology of the "conversion experience" carried over into American religious life in the 18th century through the New Side Presbyterians and New Light Congregationalists. In fact, it can be said to provide a major impetus for the First Great Awakening in America. But when coupled with Calvinism, the revival teaching calls people to repentance and faith as a conversion experience, and since God is sovereign, no time limits can be placed for the onset of the conversion experience.

It is therefore correct when historians assert that Finney rejects "the notion that sinners should continue under conviction of sin." But one should notice that this notion comes about because of the emphasis on the conversion experience, which as God's sovereign activity cannot be timed. This particular piece of bad theology from New England Puritanism was not rejected by Finney but instead modified. The key error concerning the necessity of the conversion experience is kept. Finney merely replaced Calvinism with Pelagianism, therefore allowing him to shift the focus to Man's ability to decide for God, immediately. Also, since revivals are created by the mere use of the proper means, therefore all manners of appealing to the emotions to create revival are to be used. Thus, revivalism is birthed, a man-centered theory for creating converts which has created all manner of trouble in the churches

Evangelical histories in general are in error concerning Charles Finney. At the same time, we should understand that there was indeed a problem in the churches of that time, that of the necessity of a conversion experience for salvation, the more vivid they are the better. Wrong diagnostics by Evangelical hagiographers should not lead us into blaming Finney for things he is not guilty of. Finney has enough to answer for for his heresies, but we do not need to make him the devil incarnate even as we reject him and his heresies.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Miracles and the Laws of Science

In his famous essay “Of Miracles,” Hume defines a miracle as a “transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.” (C. Stephen Evans and R. Zachary Manis, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith, 126)

What are miracles? Are they transgressions of scientific laws? Many people especially atheists might think so. Statements might be made even by Christians that miracles involve a "suspension" of the laws of science, or that laws of science are inapplicable for the "special" occurrences when miracles happen. I would suggest however that such explanations are very unhelpful and give the wrong impression to others of how God works in this world.

Christianity is true. Thus, God is a personal being who acts on this world. Normally, he acts via providence, but sometimes he acts via miracles, which are distinct special acts different in kind from providence. The world therefore is always the theater of God's actions. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, the idea of a neutral impersonal world where God interrupts via miracles may be the perspective of skeptics, but it is certainly not the Christian perspective. Here already, we see a different starting point, a different interpretation grid as we attempt to understand miracles.

Next, we have to know what is science. Science is the study of how the world works through what is often term "the scientific method." To simplify things, science normally involves experimentation involving cause and effect to understand and formularize how various forces and processes in the world work. In experimentation, two of three things are present: initial conditions, final conditions, equation of process(es). An experiment or experiments are done (with controls) to figure out the unknown, experiments are repeated where possible, and thus scientific knowledge is gained.It must be noticed that the scientific method must assume methodological naturalism, or that only nature is at work in the scientific processes under study. One cannot assume a demon has tinkered with the scientific experimentation, or science would be undoable.

Putting the two together, science is the study of God's providence. But since miracles are not providence, obviously it is out of the domain of science. It is in that sense correct to say that the laws of science are "inapplicable" for miracles, or that the law of science are "suspended," but such statements are not helpful because they make it seem as if God somehow does away with the laws of science when He does miracles, but that is totally untrue.

When God works, He acts. In miracles, God works differently to create the outcome He desires. Thus, the best way to understand miracles is as an external force working through unknown (supernatural, spiritual) processes to accomplish the end of what God desires. A good way for us to understand such an action is through an analogy in science. Suppose that I add one mole of copper powder to two moles of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in solution. I would get one mole of Copper Chloride (CuCl2) solution, which is a blue solution. But suppose that someone added two moles of Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) solution to my nice blue solution, without my knowledge. The resulting mixture would be two moles of sodium chloride (NaCl) or common salt in solution with a nice precipitate of one mole of copper hydroxide (Cu(OH)2) at the bottom. Since I did not know of the tinkering done to my solution, what would I see? I would observe that adding copper powder to hydrochloric acid would give me a clear solution of sodium chloride and an insoluble greenish blue precipitate at the bottom. I would most certainly find it strange and suspect that my experiment has been tampered with, since I obviously know what I should be getting.

Miracles can be seen as analogous to the unknown person adding the NaOH solution to the reagent mixture. In miracles, God as a third party acts on the situation on hand, thus the outcome is not what we might have expected. Of course, God not only acts, he acts using divine processes and forces, and therefore the outcome may seem out of this world, but that does not imply a "suspension" of natural laws but rather processes that we do not know and could not qualify. Some miracles are obviously more "miraculous" than others, yet if we understand God as working, God did not transgress the "laws of science" because scientific laws cannot prevent the action of divine forces and processes from changing the outcome. When Jesus turned water into wine, Jesus could have teleported grapes into the containers, do a time acceleration warp, remove the fermented grapes and thus wine is produced.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, magic has been seen as advanced science. Miracles of course is not advanced science, but in concept there is nothing to suggest that is could not be miraculous forces causing the change as an external agent, not through breaking the laws of science, much like magic in the MCU are unknown forces causing changes as external agents. If we understand miracles in this manner, which I think is the better way to understand miracles, then we can show how miracles are not contrary to science, just contrary to scientism.

Again: On the Ontological Argument

The Ontological Argument for the existence of God is in my opinion a terrible argument. Of course, by smuggling in Christian premises, God is indeed the most perfect being, but for the argument to function as an apologetic, one must not consider Christians truths as premises in an argument meant to convince unbelievers. In light of the mainstream scientific theory of evolution and the history of the universe, the ontological argument sounds even more far-fetched than it was in the time of Anselm and Aquinas.

More sophisticated versions of the ontological argument attempt to ground the ontological argument not in theories about "being" but about existence or possible worlds theory. In the possible worlds theory, the premise is stated that God exists in at least one possible world, and therefore from there it is argued that God exists. But what does it mean to say that "God exists in at least one possible world"? If it is meant that there is such a possible world that can be conceived in the mind, then we run into similar problems as Anselm's original argument. Mental conception implies nothing about whether something is possible in reality. [Of course, conversely, inability to be conceived mentally implies nothing about whether something is possible in reality — the doctrine of divine incomprehensibility and ineffability]. One could say that "God exists in at least one possible mentally conceived world" but that is not the same as saying "God exists in at least one possible real world."

The argument from existence (from Norman Malcom) has the following form:

  1. If God exists, his existence is necessary.
  2. If God does not exist, his existence is impossible.
  3. Either God exists or he does not exists.
  4. Therefore, God's existence is either necessary or impossible.
  5. God's existence is possible (not impossible).
  6. Therefore, God's existence is necessary.
[C. Stephen Evans and R. Zachary Manis, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith (2nd ed.; Contours of Christianity Philosophy; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1982, 2009), 65]

As the authors of this book had pointed out, premise 5 is questionable. And to clarify further, the doubting of premise 5 is only predicated of the descriptor of God as one necessarily existing. In other words, what this version of the ontological argument proves is that a God with necessary existence either exists or is impossible to exist. But as we can see, that is a tautology.

The ontological arguments I have seen thus far either suffer from ideas about "being" or ontological attributes that are disputed as to their possible perfection or existence, or they become tautologies. I do not see any way such arguments can actually function in any context, and thus we should stop using them altogether.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Law-Gospel distinction

The Law-Gospel distinction has sometimes been thought of as "Lutheran" and thus not Reformed. This kind of thinking however obscure the very real similarities between traditional (confessional) Reformed and Lutheran thought. Both Reformed and Lutheranism came out of the same 16th century Reformation, and at the beginning they were not trying to be different for the sake of being different. Rather, whatever Luther and Lutheran theologians said that were biblical, the Reformed appropriated it. The Reformed of that time were about embracing and confessing the truth from Scripture, not about creating boundary markers against foes real and imagined except where necessary (and most definitely not against "Big Eva").

The Reformed view the Law-Gospel distinction typically with a more covenantal slant. Thus, the Law-Gospel distinction is translated into the Covenant of Works- Covenant of Grace distinction. In the Covenant of Works, we are told to "Do this and Live" (Lev. 18:5, Gal. 3:12). Since we cannot do, we stand condemned under the law, under the broken covenant of works. But under the Covenant of Grace, we are told "It is done." The Gospel proclaims to us what we cannot do of our own accord. We failed, we sinned, but where we fail, where Adam fail, Christ succeeded. We are now under grace, not because we do not have to obey the Law, but because we are not under the condemnation of the Law as a covenant of works.

While I will not yet commit to a definitive judgment on the Marrow controversy (in Scotland in the early 18th century), it seems to me that the Marrow men have it right. John Colquhuon (pronounced "ka-hoon") (1748-1827) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who wrote what is probably one of the best books on the topic of Law and Gospel in the Reformed tradition. His book is entitled A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel, and is highly recommended for its balance and pastoral concern. Here are some choice quotes from the book:

In the Sinaitic transaction, the hewing of the latter tables of stone by Moses, before God wrote the Ten Commandments on them, might be intended to teach sinners that they must be convinced of their sin and misery by the law as a covenant of works before it can be written legibly on their hearts as a rule of life (p. 60)

The gospel, in this its strict and proper sense, seeing it is the form of Christ’s testament which consists of absolute and free promises of salvation by Him, contains no precepts. It commands nothing. It does not enjoin us even to believe and repent; but it declares to us what God in Christ as a God of grace has done, and what He promises still to do for us and in us and by us. (p. 105)

In the blessed gospel, Christ, and God in Christ, are freely offered to sinful men, and men are graciously invited as sinners to receive the offer and to entrust the whole affair of their salvation to Christ, and to God in Him (John 6:32; Isaiah 55:1-4) (p. 120).

The law wounds and terrifies the guilty sinner; the gospel heals and comforts the guilty sinner who believes in Jesus. (p. 151)

Whatever is required in the covenant of works as the condition of eternal life is, according to the covenant of grace, provided and given gratuitously to believing sinners. (p. 156)

The law, as a covenant of works and a rule of life, demands nothing of sinners but what is offered and promised in the gospel; and in the gospel everything is freely promised and offered to them which the law, in any of its forms, requires of them. (p. 161).

The law requires true holiness of heart and of life, and the gospel promises and conveys this holiness. (p. 168).

As it was the privilege of the Christians in Rome, so it is the privilege of all true Christians, in every place and in every age, that they are dead to the law as a covenant of works, and that the law in that form is dead to them. (p. 198)

As the relation between the husband and spouse is dissolved by death (Romans 7:2), so the relation between the law as a covenant and believers is, in the moment of their justification, dissolved (Romans 7:4). (p. 203)

When it comes to the Law and the Gospel, the twin dangers are Legalism (Gospel is not good news but more law), and Antinomianism (The Law is to be disregarded). Throughout the history of the Christian church, groups have veered into one or the other. If we embrace a Law-Gospel distinction, how should we understand these twin errors? Here Colquhuon puts it succinctly:

There are two errors respecting the deliverance of believers from the law which are equally contrary to the Oracles of Truth. The one is that of the legalist who maintains that believers are still under the moral law as covenant of works; the other is that of the antinomian who affirms that believers are not under it even as a rule of life. (p. 205)

In other words, the Legalist puts salvation dependent upon our good works. While they may pay lip service to grace, they hang the Law as a threat and motivator to goad believers to be good or to do good works. For legalists, we must preach the Law to make believers do good works, and imply that failure to obey the Law will make them somehow less welcome in God's sight.

The Antinomian does the exact opposite. The Antinomian does not really focus on good works. He is only interested to tell believers about "grace, grace, grace" without calling them to live holy lives for God. At best, an antinomian thinks of sanctification as an automatic process, and all anyone has to do is to think about grace and he will be holy.

Here, again, Colquhuon has excellent counsel for how we are to navigate the Christian Life. How should we live our lives and deal with the vestiges of our our sinful nature while cultivating the proper desire to do good works?

If Christ is the way to God and to glory, and it He is the way of holiness, or the holy way, then you who have believed through grace ought to take heed that you walk consistently in that way. “As you have, therefore, received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6). In union with Him, go forward daily in the exercise of faith and love, and in the practice of holiness. Depending on his grace and strength, advance with holy diligence and with increasing ardor in the daily practice of these good works which are works of faith and labors of love. Make constant progress in your exercise of faith, and by sanctifying and comforting influences from the fullness of Christ, walk on with cheerfulness and resolution in Him as your way to the perfection of holiness and of happiness. (pp. 317-318)

They not only look, therefore, to the law as a rule for authority to oblige them to the practice of good works, as well as for direction in performing them, but the look also to the gospel, and to the Savior offered in it, for strength to perform them, for merit to render them acceptable to God, and for a reward of grace to crown them. (p. 320)

The Law is the standard, the goal. But to the Christian, it the Gospel who gives them strength for sanctification. While desiring to obey the Law can be a motivator for good works, it must be grounded in one's love for God because of his gratefulness for an-already present salvation. Sanctification is about gratefulness, not about earning brownie points before God, for after all, who can give anything to the God who owns anything anyway?

The Law-Gospel distinction is a distinction that preserves the necessity of the Law and the glory of the Gospel. We must get it right in order that we may not put believers back under bondage, yet to encourage them to be holy and do good works. It is because of this that Colquhuon's book seem to be me very important for the task at hand, so that Christians can be edified and assured of their standing before God.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Ninth Commandment

Q 143: Which is the ninth commandment?
A: The ninth commandment is, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Q 144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A: The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocence; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Q 145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vain-glorious boasting; thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

(Westminster Larger Catechism Questions 143-145)