Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Misquoted verses: Jn. 17:20-21

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (Jn. 17:20-21)

Jn. 17:21, located in the midst of Jesus' High Priestly prayer, has Jesus praying for the unity of all believers, that they may be one. It has thus been used by the ecumenically minded to promote their ecumenism, supposedly to fulfil Jesus' prayer that believers will be one.

It cannot be denied that Jesus did indeed pray that believers are to be united, and we are exhorted to maintain the unity in the Spirit (Eph. 4:3) and have unity of mind (1 Peter 3:8), living in harmony with each other (Rom. 12:16). Unity therefore is a good thing that Christians are to have.

As we look into the context however, we can see a few points which undermine the ecumenical movement, and show us the biblical way in which such unity is to be achieved.

The first thing to note in the context is that such unity is to be achieved and grounded in the truth (Jn. 17:17). Therefore, taking a stand on God's truths is important and is in fact the basis of the unity Jesus prayed for.

Secondly, Jesus in His High Priestly prayer makes a sharp distinction between those who are His (the elect) and those who are of the world. Jesus explicitly states that He did not pray for the world (v. 9), and therefore the prayer of unity only encompasses believers (those who are His) and not unbelievers (the world). The call for unity therefore presupposes that those involved are truly believers, as the world is NOT to be united with. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are told to separate from the world and all ungodly partnerships (2 Cor. 6:14-18). This leads us to two sub-points with regards to the call to unity.

  1. The ecumenical movement err in attempting to find common ground with the world of unbelievers.
  2. Discerning whether the other party is a Christian is logically prior to seeking unity with that party. For if the other party is not really a Christian, then attempting such unity is not in line with Jesus' prayer in distinguishing believers from the world.

Lastly, true biblical unity is to be maintained, not created. Jesus in His prayer is heard by the Father and since He perfectly knows God and His will (Mt. 11:27), his prayer is in line with God's will and will be answered. And even if it is to be created, the prayer is offered to God not to us, so God the Father is the one who will answer and fulfil the prayer request. Nevertheless, Scripture tells us that this unity is indeed already present in Christ and we are to maintain it (Eph. 4:3), not to create it. The ecumenical movement therefore is in error for seeking to create a semblance of unity instead of preserving the already present unity in the Body of Christ, around the common confession of the Faith (Eph. 4:5-6).

John 17:20-21 therefore does not in any shape reformed support any form of ecumenism. Rather, we are to strive to maintain the unity around the truth with fellow believers, not attempting to create bridges where there are none and are forbidden.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Misquoted verses: Mt. 18:18-20

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven (Mt. 18:19)

The poll which started this series was done quite some time ago. Thus, especially for this verse, I took some time to recollect the exact reason why it was placed in the poll in the first place. This is since the previous verse Mt. 18:18 is just as abused as verse 19, especially in the sacerdotal and charismatic circles.

After some thought, I have decided to exegete both verses plus verse 20 and address the abuse of all three texts in this one post, so here goes.


Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Mt. 18:18-20)

In context:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Mt. 18:15-20)

Exegesis

Mt. 18:18-19 is situated in the context of verses 15 to 20 — a passage primarily focused on the issue of conflicts in the Church due to personal sin against another. The larger Matthean context for this passage is the issue of people and relationships, and thus verses 15-20 focuses on the aspect of conflicts within the Church.

In verse 15, Jesus starts narrating to us the scenario of such an interpersonal conflict. This conflict is not caused by doctrinal errors of any sort, which are treated differently and more severely (cf 1 Tim. 5:19-20, Titus 1:13b; 3:10), but rather of personal practical sin of one Christian against another ("sins against you"). Such sins are non-public in nature since if they are public, then by definition the offender would have sinned against many people in public, whereas the context here talks about personal sin.

In the context of such personal and private offences, the offence should be settled privately and personally. Verse 15b calls one to tell him his fault and settle the issue between the both of you. Obviously, this is to be done with love as all other actions are to be (Mt. 22:39, Jn. 13:34), but the issue must be resolved, not glossed over.

Verse 16 continues our Lord's dictate in the case when such a person refuses to listen and repent of his sin. Such a one is to be confronted by two or more people being there as witnesses. This is to create witnesses of the obstinate brother's unwillingness to repent is such was to happen, and also to ascertain whether it is indeed true that the fault lies in the other brother's unrepentance. Verse 17 continues with the scenario that such a brother is still unwilling to repent. The whole church is then brought in to exhort him to repent. Further unrepentance causes the judgment of the church to be passed on the person, and he is to be regarded as an unbeliever not to be fellowshipped with but to be called to repentance as if he is an unbeliever, yet in so doing with the hope that he finally repents and is saved (1 Cor. 5:5).

It is in this context that verses 18-20 are to be interpreted. Verse 18 follows verse 17 and thus the subject matter is with regards to church discipline. Binding someone is accomplished by church discipline and excommunication from the Church due to his unrepentant sin, while loosing is the converse act of accepting the penitent back after he has repented of his sin (cf. 2 Cor. 2:5-8). The binding and loosing in verse 18 operates therefore with regards to being inside and outside the Church. The Church is to to represent Christ on this earth (1 Tim. 3:15, Eph. 2:20; 3:10 cf Acts 15:6, 1 Tim. 3:1-5), and thus what the Church does is to be like as if Christ Himself has actually pass the same judgment. The judgment of binding and loosing by the Church is to therefore function as if Christ Himself has actually did the same.

Practically, this means that someone who is legitimately excommunicated from the Visible Church is de facto similarly not regarded as being in the Invisible Church of believers, and apart from repentance, such a one is lost. Unrepentant excommunicated professed Christians therefore prove themselves to be not true believers at all, since true believers are saved while unrepentant excommunicated professed Christians are not.

In this modern time with high mobility and low church and denomination affiliation bonds, the text of Mt. 18:18 should sober us Christians. The idea that one is fine merely by changing church at the first sign of trouble, or that even after being excommunicated one can join the next church down the road who will welcome him with open arms, goes against the plain teaching of the Scriptures here. The latter attitude, especially if one scorns the legitimate sentence of excommunication from a true church, may well be a symptom that one is in fact unregenerate and not saved. With regards to the former, if in fact this passage teaches anything at all which we must remember, it is that conflicts of any kind with fellow believers should be attempted to be resolved, and that leaving at the first sign of trouble is not the Christian way.

This correlation between the judgments of Christ and the church occurs only when the judgments are legitimate and true according to the proper application of God's Word, for God does not contradict Himself. The Pharisees who function as the rulers of the OT church wrongly threw out the man born blind (Jn. 9:34-35), which shows that false judgments by the church are not binding and are no more correlated with the judgments of Christ than the Phariseees' judgments were.

Mt. 18:18 thus does not teach sacerdotalism, or the belief that the Church or the leaders of the Church (Bishops, Priests etc.) function in some sense as mediators between God and the normal laity. In fact, Jn. 16:2 teaches us that false judgments by people who claim to act on behalf of God in the church would happen, thus falsifying sacedotalism. Mt. 18:18 teaches the work of the Church when she functions exactly as how she should be functioning as the representative of Christ, and her judgments are to be treated seriously as true and binding on all Christians insofar as they are true and legitimate according to the Scriptures, and are to be ignored if they are not. Scripture's message to the modern "church shoppers" therefore is that judgments of the Church are to be taken seriously, while its message to the sacerdotalists is that such judgments are not true by fiat and thus they do they act ex opere operato.

A most appalling eisegesis of verse 18 can be heard in some charismatic circles which couple verse 18 together with Mk. 3:27, and then appropriate this verse for the purpose of spiritual warfare. Needless to say, the context is not even close to the topic of spiritual warfare, so wrenching this verse out of context and connecting it to Jesus' teaching of the binding of the strong man (which depict Satan) is definitely in error.

Verses 19-20

Verses 19-20 are two verses that have been used as an encouragement for prayer, especially in teaching us how God will be with us in corporate prayer since "two or three are gathered" in His name as per the dictates of Mt. 18:20 so He will hear our prayers.

Now, certainly praying together with other believers is definitely good and is in fact taught in Scripture (cf Acts 2:42. See the numerous examples in the OT of corporate prayer), but that is not what the passage here is teaching in context. Verse 18 is on the subject matter of the judgments of the Church and church discipline. Verses 19-20 therefore are telling us that God will be with His church as they pray for His wisdom and will be with them as they pass out the judgments of the church. It is a promise of God to His Church that He will be with them in their judgments and deliberations as they pray to Him in this regard. Following on with the "representative of Christ" idea as seen in verse 18, this means that the promise is not meant to function ex opere operato ("will be done for them"), as if God will rubber stamp whatever proceedings and judgments that the Church passes, but that the Church when functioning properly will experience God's promise of His aid and presence among us in this regard.

Such being the case, Mt. 18:19-20 cannot exactly be used to promote prayer except in a very loose inferred sense. To use them as proof-texts to promote corporate prayer is therefore not optimum.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Song: Your Grace is Enough

YOUR GRACE IS ENOUGH
by Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin © 2003 spiritandsong.com (BMI)

1:

Great is Your faithfulness oh God
You wrestle with the sinner's heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart

Pre-Chorus:

So remember Your people
Remember your children
Remember Your promise oh God

Chorus:

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

2:

Great is Your love and justice, God
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

Chorus 2:

Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God, I see Your grace is enough
I'm covered in Your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Logical Coherency of the Intellectual Triunity of God

My friend Joel Tay has just posted his interesting seminary essay The Logical Coherency of the Intellectual Triunity of God on his blog here. It is certainly an excellent article [which would be better with better formatting], though I do not think I would agree with [Dr. Gordon H.] Clark's definition of "person" as "a set of thoughts" or "a man is what he thinks". While logic and thinking is indeed necessary, it is not ontologically primary. As Dr. C. Matthew McMahon wrote in his book with regards to the relation of God and logic, The Two Wills of God (New Lenox, IL, USA: Puritan Publications, 2005),

Epistemologically, logic precedes God. Ontologically, God precedes logic (p. 24, footnote 5)

So for man the imago dei, while it is indeed impossible to separate thoughts and reasoning from a person, yet to collapse ontology into epistemology is I think in error. So rather than defining "person" as "a set of thoughts" or "a man is what he thinks", "person" could be better defined as "an entity which thinks" or "a man is an entity formed by what he thinks".

Friday, July 17, 2009

Monica Dennington: Heretic and schismatic

It seems that Monica Dennington (a 'zealous Christian' Youtube apologist) has decided to attack the biblical doctrine of Calvinism in " calling them to repentance".

Lutheran (non-Calvinist) Chris Rosebrough has reviewed the severely divisive and heretical "message" by Arminian Monica Dennington in the video here:

This anti-Calvinist anti-biblical screed would be hilarious if the issues aren't so serious. So if we *follow* the teachings of John Calvin and hence worship John Calvin, doesn't that mean that those who are convinced of Dennington's position worship Monica Dennington and should be called "Denningtonites"?

Kirby Wallace has been working on a response here on his blog, which should be quite interesting to read. As of now, the following Scripture come to mind:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Tim. 2:11-14)

Dennington stands in direct violation of the commands of Scripture in usurping the role of teacher/pastor. Regardless of the content of her message, her mere activity violates the Law of God. Coupled with her heretical system of Arminianism (or maybe it is Semi-Pelagianism), she is doubly in error. Since she takes it upon herself to "call Calvinists to repentance", she is hereby in turn called to repentance for her manifest defiance of Scripture in usurping the role of teacher/pastor and in teaching heresy.

[HT: The Crumbs Which Fall]

Friday, July 10, 2009

Posts of interest (July 11 '09)

Here are some interesting articles:

"Apostle Troy Brooks" condemns Dr. James White to hell

Question: Who ordained Brooks as an "Apostle" and by what authority does he condemn Dr. White?

Calvin on Birthdays: Don't overdo it

By the way, happy belated 500th birthday to John Calvin

A Guide to Godly disputations by John Newton

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rick Frueh and the issue of Phil R. Johnson

The Arminian Rick Frueh has decided to attack Calvinism through my anti-Amyraldian post, on the anti-Christian watchdog CRN.(mis)info in a comment there. While I can understand that he as an Arminian does not like the Doctrines of Grace, the ad-hominem and straw-men that he threw at me was astonishing. As I have suspected for very long, in that anti-Christian environment, Rick feels free to join in and attack other Christians, an action he generally will not do in other settings like my blog and that of my friend Mike Ratliff. Here is Rick's comment in all its glory:

OK, here is a post which is…well…absurd to the point of risible. Besides taking something simple and constructing a theological labrynth [sic], I could not help but notice this swipe at Phil Johnson.

“…the Amyraldian-symphatizing Phil. R. Johnson…”

Of course the post title, “The Pernicious Error of Theological Academic Intellectualism”, becomes ironic when the post itself drills caverns of doctrinal intellectualism that we Arminians find inane and without gospel purpose. How is it that men have taken the glorious simplicity that is the gospel of Jesus Christ and created a doctrinal monstrosity?

Calvinism now has more flavors than Baskin Robbins. It’s like explaining how to place a plug into a wall socket using a one thousand page manual. We Arminians have three basic “clubs”.

The shallow club.
The Biblical club.
The works club.

Calvinism is way too complicated and necessitates far too much intellectual energy than I am willing to give, which reveals its unscriptural essence. These are not unconverted ministers; many are now doctrinal professors that strain at gnats and swallow camels. Five point, four point, 3.5 point, and 6 point Calvinists are consumed with over sifting the nano-parts of doctrinal truth.

However, I think I would have become a Calvinist had it not been for Calvinists.

Firstly for Rick: Attacking me on mis.info while not doing so on my site is called gossip and backbiting. I think you as an ordained Baptist minister should understand the Bible enough to know whether gossip and backbiting are considered sins.

With regards to the issue of complicated theology, please do not be sanctimonious, as if Arminians DO NOT write theological books promoting their position. The issue rather is that it seems complicated to you because you reject Calvinist thought fiat, even though for us who read the Scriptures, it seems so clear to us in the passages of Scripture. So what does this prove with regards to the truth or falsity of Calvinism or Arminianism? Nothing! Feelings do not prove truth at all.

Lastly, with regards to Phil R. Johnson, I find it simply amazing that this one statement would be seen as an attack on Phil. That is a factual statement since Phil sympathizes with the Amyraldian position at the very least. That does not mean that I am "taking a swipe" at him, anymore than calling Pastor John MacArthur a Dispensationalist is "taking a swipe" at him. [I respect both men although I disagree with them on various issues]

I do not normally glance through that tabloid cesspool, and only did so because of traffic directed from there to my site. It is very regrettable that Rick would do such an action. Unlike him, I would be [openly] posting this and notifying him through email to desist from such un-Christlike actions.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rachel Barkey (1972-2009)

Rachel Barkey (nee Sawer) went home to glory on the July 2nd 2009. She was the speaker at a Women's event on the topic Death is not Dying, which has been an inspiration to many.

[HT: Between Two Worlds]

In light of the maddening near incessant coverage of the death of Michael Jackson, why not meditate rather on the death of our dear sister and the testimony she lefts behind? As Christians, we should be holy and separate from the world. I personally find it objectionable when Christians are in mourning over the death of Michael Jackson just like the world. [And don't give me the nonsense that we should mourn because he is lost; I don't see many people mourning for the deaths of the multitudes of the lost that die every day without Christ!] . Being called to be separate from the world, we should have tastes and desires that are not of this world, and should treasure godliness above human *talent* and popularity.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Response to Jenson on Ponter's Bunyan shuffle

Over at Ponter's "theology" site, Jenson Lim has decided to leave a comment there which briefly states:

Friends,

May I say that this whole discussion is getting quite fruitless? Studies in Bunyan is complex, and not for the faint hearted. Amyraldianism is an even bigger subject. I am surprised at the liberal use of Bunyan in these exchanges. (Like Scripture) It is easy to quote Bunyan and say what one wants him to say.

Is this how one “defend the faith”? Are souls going to be won and saints built up with this type of rhetoric? I did not leave a similiar [sic] comment at Daniel’s blog for good reasons, but perhaps leave the chap alone, don’t respond to his posts and get on with Kingdom work.

Yours in Christ, Jenson

While Jenson's comment indeed shows a concern for us to spend more productive time on Kingdom work, I would like to respond with a few points on this topic.

  1. I agree that this discussion will be fruitless IF I am trying to convince Ponter and Byrne. However, that was never my aim. My aim was to silence their foolish prattling on things they know nothing about.
  2. This all started with Byrne's slanderous attack on Dr. James White by calling him a hyper-Calvinist, leading to a slanderous accusation against Dr. White by David Allen in the Arminian John 316 conference late last year 2008.
  3. The Neo-Amyraldians have thus graduated from being a nuisance to a force of destruction against godly ministers and against the act of Gospel proclamation itself.
  4. They have not stopped their endless crusades against orthodox Calvinism but have instead continue their endless tirades and attacks on godly ministers and undermining the truths of Scripture, all under the guise of "Reformed and Puritan scholarship".

As Dr. White, who has given up on those one-note ponies to do REAL ministry, said in his excellent article On Squeamish Calvinists and Hyper Arminians:

"Unless you impute human-like irrationality to God, I will call you names." This seems to be the attitude of many squeamish Calvinists on the net these days. Unless you are willing to drag God down to the level of a flummoxed suitor, who is torn between contradictory desires, you will be called to repent and labeled with terms meant only to damage your ministry, nothing more.

Those who have not been on the frontlines find it amenable to sit in their comfy computer chairs and opine away at the keyboard. They know they will never be called upon to present a consistent defense of the faith, especially in the face of competing world religions. So they have little concern about the use of words like "tension" and "mystery," which are so often used to do little more than cover over contradiction and irrationality. Some actually think they are giving a meaningful apologetic when they openly confess the contradictions in their proclamation.

There is everything right in pointing out that God is God and is under no obligation to explain Himself beyond what He feels is appropriate, right, and self-glorifying. Man has no grounds upon which to demand further explanation than God in His sovereign power and grace deigns to give. But it is quite another to take the revelation He has given and turn it on its head, forcing it into self-contradictory and absurd stances. And to what end?

...

Now, if you dare to question this perspective, the response will be swift, and predictable. The reply will not be based upon providing sound biblical exegesis that overwhelms you with evidence that God is, in fact, deeply conflicted, and has been, eternally. It is hard to come up with that kind of idea from the descriptions of the Triune Yahweh in the Bible. Oh, sure, there are a few anthropomorphisms that can be shared gleefully with the open theists and the inclusivists and the universalists, etc., but you won't be in any danger of getting hit with a ton of sound exegesis on all the passages that plainly state that God is pursuing an eternal purpose that will result in His own singular glory. No,the retort you will receive will have little to do with exegesis, and everything to do with monikers. Nick-names. Associations.

Want a modern example? Consider Robert Reymond, a fine theologian, teacher, and godly man. Hyper-Calvinist! is the cry when he dares to point out the absurdity of attributing to God a self-imposed internal conflict that results, inevitably, in His own eternal unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. If you ask, "But, how do you respond to his actual argument?" you get back, "Hyper-Calvinist!" Evidently the very harshness of the phrase (especially its association with various and sundry nutcases on the Internet) is meant to stun your thought processes and cause you to curl up in the theological fetal position. You are to immediately run for cover, or join the growing throng that is gathering wood and fire to rid the earth of such a vile creature. The idea that the phrase has historical meaning is not in the forefront. The fact that it had a meaning in Spurgeon's England that is different in many respects from modern day America is likewise cast to the wind. No, once the Hyper epithet has been used, you might as well try naming your kid Hitler and get away with it. The argument is over.

What has this mini-Reformed-jihad gotten us? Well, thanks to these folks most are afraid to even admit to owning a single volume of John Gill's works. Here's how the conversation goes.

"Well, I noted that on that particular text relating to the resurrection John Gill said....

"JOHN GILL!!?? You're a hyper-Calvinist!"

"What? I was talking about his comments on the resurrection."

"But he was a hyper-Calvinist, and every person who has ever read a word he wrote is a hyper-Calvinist, and every person with one of his books in their library is a hyper-Calvinist, and every person who has ever owned a John Gill book believes and lives and thinks exactly like John Gill, and is therefore a hyper-Calvinist. And to agree with anything John Gill ever said is to prove, beyond all dispute and argument, that you are a hyper-Calvinist!"

"But...John Gill masterfully defended such things at the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the resurrection....

""I can't believe you are a hyper-Calvinist! I had so much respect for you before!"

About the only positive thing I can see that has come from the SC movement (Squeamish Calvinists) has been the sale of plain book covers---used to hide The Cause of God and Truth so that you don't offend them when they are scanning your library shelves for evidence of unorthodoxy. But the general fear that exists in those writing for the Reformed community at running afoul of one of these self-appointed label-makers is most lamentable. If you dare disagree with the comments of Spurgeon or Murray (never mind being able to fairly, soundly cite others who have done the same) your reasons for doing so will not matter. Labels defy reason, they defy argument, they defy consistency. Allow me to throw myself upon the sacrificial pyre in hopes of edifying the reader.

This is the reason why the Neo-Amyraldians must be silenced! They can of course continue to sprout more and more irrational nonsense, but at least now I have a suitable counter against their pernicious errors, which I have made my own. The next time any of such nonsense comes along in undermining the Gospel message and attacking ministers of God for being "hyper-Calvinists", I will have a proven rebuttal against their slanderous attacks.

And by the way, yes, historic Amyraldism is a heady topic. I have read Brian G. Armstrong's Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy (Euregon, OR, USA: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1969) and it is an academic book, not a popular book. Not to mention it is one of those "scholastic Calvinists have distorted the real teachings of Calvin" humanistic treatment of Moses Amyraut and his teaching. Regardless, the issue here is not historic Amyraldism but their theological offspring the Neo-Amyraldians, who must be opposed in the same way Amyraut was opposed by Huguenot minister Pierre du Moulin. Incidentally, the book itself states the motive of Amyraut and James Cameron his mentor was to go back to Calvin's thought. This should give us some pause when we see the same reason given by these self-proclaimed scholars who desire to bring back "our theological tradition" to what they also think is historic "moderate" Calvinism.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A gentle (and not so gentle) rebuke to John Piper with regards to Douglas Wilson

John Piper has recently defended Federal Visionist Douglas Wilson as not preaching another Gospel. In light of Wilson's Federal Vision stance in confusing Law and Gospel, this is an amazing statement indeed.

In another development, John Piper has decided to invite Wilson to speak at the Desiring God conference 2009: With Calvin in the Theater of God.

In response to this, R. Scott Clark has issued a gentle rebuke to Piper, with excerpts as follows:

The complementary messages of the the NPP [New Perspective on Paul] and FV [Federal Vision] are corrupting. They are corrupting of the peace of the churches. They are corrupting of the assurance of believers. They are corrupting of the gospel itself. In the case of the NPP, the radical re-definition of “justification” from “forensic declaration by God that a sinner is accepted by God on the sole basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and received the faith resting and receiving alone” to a socio-religious boundary marker is nothing if not a corruption. The FV message of temporary, conditional, historical election, union, justification, adoption etc by baptism, their embrace of the Shepherdite definition of faith in the act of justification as consisting of trusting and obeying, their acceptance of Shepherd’s denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Jesus (yes, I know Wilson affirms IAO) and their advocacy of paedocommunion is certainly corrupting of the Reformed faith as confessed by the churches. Some parts of this complex of errors are more dangerous than others. Their doctrine of a temporary, conditional, historical election, union with Christ, and justification etc conferred through baptism and retained by grace and cooperation with grace is certainly a corruption of the gospel as confessed by the Reformation and by the Reformed churches.

...

In Reformed theology, i.e., in the confessions of the Reformed churches, with respect to the ordo salutis (the application of redemption by the Spirit to the elect), there is no such thing as a temporary, historical, conditional election or union or justification etc conferred by baptism. When the FV folk, who teach this false doctrine of a temporary election etc in the ordo salutis, claim to be Reformed when they teach it, they are liars. Yes, there is such a thing as a temporary election relative to national Israel, in the history of redemption, but that’s a different matter altogether and it is quite unhelpful to conflate the history of redemption with the application of redemption.

In Reformed theology there is only one kind of election relative to salvation and justification. Election is eternal. Election is not conditioned by anything in the elect. Union with Christ is unconditional and gracious. Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. In the Canons of Dort we deny that the elect can fall away. The FV teaches that the “elect” can fall away. These two views are contradictory. It is misleading for John to suggest that the FV is just another version or in any way consistent with confessional Presbyterian or Reformed theology.

The Reformed churches confess that there are two ways of existing in the one covenant of grace. We’ve always confessed that the visible church, the Christ-confessing covenant community is always mixed, it always has within it wheat and tares, it is always populated by elect and hypocrites. We accept the credible profession of faith of members but we do so in light of Paul’s clear teaching that there are always those who have only an “outward” membership in the covenant of grace and not also an “inward” membership (Romans 2:28). Herman Witsius described these two ways on being in the visible church as a ”double mode of communion” in the covenant of grace.

Lastly, a Clarkian (RedBeetle) has decided to tear apart Piper's implicit endorsement of the Federal Vision heresy, as well as the FV confusion of Law and Gospel

It is certainly very regrettable that Pastor John Piper has decided to entangle himself with the Federal Vision heresy. It is hoped that he would heed Scott Clark's rebuke and repent of his compromise, and turn to the Gospel of salvation by faith alone apart from obedience to the Law.

The pernicious error of theological academic intellectualism

In my recent interactions with the Neo-Amyraldians David Ponter and Tony Byrne, resulting in the publishing of a rebuttal to their position and one of their historical claims [based upon an article by John Bunyan], one thing which revealed itself in the meta of a blog post on David Ponter's site is the Intellectualism of the Neo-Amyraldians. While my paper and previous blog posts have focused on the unbiblical position and irrationalism in, as well as the faulty empiricism employed by, Ponter and Byrne, I would now like to focus on a much more pernicious error revealed in our interaction so far: the pernicious error of "theological academic" Intellectualism.

Intellecualism can be defined as "excessive emphasis on abstract or intellectual matters, esp. with a lack of proper consideration for emotions" [1]. In the matter of Christian life, intellectualism is therefore to be regarded as the over-emphasis on the intellectual aspect of doctrine over and against the spiritual aspect of doctrine, thus reducing the study of theology into primarily an exercise of knowledge acquisition rather than of spiritual growth. No doubt doctrine definitely includes knowledge, but the question here is not whether knowledge acquisition is necessary, but whether cognitive knowledge acquisition is the means or the ends of the theological enterprise.

The issue of Intellectualism rears its ugly head in the discussion of the status of "hyper-Calvinism"; whether it is heretical or not. Coming from a the position of the spiritual primacy of theology, I was shocked to discover that Ponter and Byrne deny that "hyper-Calvinism", however one gets to define it, is heretical. In my evangelical and charismatic circle of friends, the issue of anti-intellectualism (the opposite extreme) is something I need to deal with constantly. It is therefore assumed that knowledge, if it to be acquired, must be "practical" (however you wish to define the term "practical"). If there is no benefit whatsoever for acquiring knowledge, what is the use of doing so?

Hyper-Calvinism defined historically is the denial of the necessity of Evangelism and the necessity of people to repent and believe the Gospel. The broader re-definition of the term "hyper-Calvinism", as given by the Amyraldian-symphatizing Phil. R. Johnson, defines a hyper-Calvinist as one who:

  1. Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear, OR
  2. Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner, OR
  3. Denies that the gospel makes any "offer" of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal), OR
  4. Denies that there is such a thing as "common grace," OR
  5. Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect

[source]

Whichever definition or re-definition is used, a commonly agreed point between the historic definition and the Amyraldian-esque re-definition is that hyper-Calvinism includes the belief that Evangelism to all men are unnecessary, and that not all men are called to repent and believe in God and the Gospel. Is this serious heresy? Consider the following verses:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:9-17)

In Gal. 1:8-9, the Apostle Paul proclaimed an apostolic curse upon all who distort the Gospel. In Rom. 10:9-17, we see the importance of the Gospel message, because through it men can thus be saved. Rom. 10:14-16 also extol the virtue of evangelism, because it is the only method through which men are saved, and thus the messengers of the Gospel are said to have "beautiful feet". In all this, the sheer importance of the Gospel and its proclamation can be seen over and over again.

So is hyper-Calvinism serious heresy? Hyper-Calvinism alters the Gospel message by removing the necessity of men to repent and have faith in Christ. It obliterates the necessity of evangelism, with the probable exception of sincere seekers, and thus stands in opposition to the teaching of Rom. 10:14-16. Hyper-Calvinism is thus another "gospel", being placed under the apostolic ban (anathema) as being a Gospel which damns instead of saves.

Ponter and Byrne, in an unexpected shocking admission, state that they do not view hyper-Calvinism as heresy. In another admission by a commenter named Josh, the issue of "hyper-Calvinists" versus "moderate calvinists" (aka Neo-Amyraldians) is delegated to the status of a secondary doctrinal conflict on par with the differences between paedo-baptism and credo-baptism or differing view on the Millennium. Let us review this shocking admission by the Neo-Amyraldians: distortion of the Gospel message is not a big deal after all. Such issue are mere academic subjects of which disagreements are to be conducted cordially as like among academic peers.

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! (1 Cor. 16:22 - ESV)

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha! (1 Cor. 16:22)

One very important issue in the Christian life is the issue of loving God. Love for God is such an important fruit of salvation that the Scriptures themselves pronounce the most severe curse (anathema) on those who do not love God. The pronouncement of this apostolic ban is followed immediately by a phrase uttered in desire and anticipation of our Lord's coming (Maranatha). All of Christian living therefore is to be done upon a foundation of love for God, as the Great commandment reveals (Mt. 22:37). To therefore treat theology as a mere academic discipline without any spiritual usage or significance is a violation of the Great commandment, and therefore theological academic Intellectualism is a most pernicious sin.

To the extent that Ponter, Byrne and the other Neo-Amyraldians partake in such intellectualism, they are sinning against God. It is absolutely abhorrent that attacks upon the Gospel are treated so flippantly as merely academic differences. Such sin is detestable in the sight of God, as we are hereby warned:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Rev. 2:1-7. Bold added)

It matters little even if you have all your theological ducks lined up well, if you do not do so out of love for God. Theology taken and studied merely at the intellectual level is sheer wickedness before God. Even if Ponter and Byrne or anyone else for that matter is correct theologically, God is still displeased because our theologizing is not in line with His Word. And God will judge! To those who treat theologizing as a mere academic pursuit, God has promised to remove their lampstand from their place, thus snuffing out their light and witness before men as judgment against them. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Almighty God (Heb. 10:31).

In conclusion, let us repudiate this pernicious error of Intellectualism. Scripture and doctrines are not given for us to have big brains, but to teach, correct, reproof and instruct us in righteousness! (2 Tim. 3:16). While we should reject the utilitarian approach of making only what is practical important, we should also reject the opposite approach of emphasizing the intellectual aspect of theology at the expanse of its spiritual and practical aspect. As I have said before, and will say again:

A theology without spiritual use or significance is absolutely worthless. I have no need for such a "theology" which seeks only to puff up my brain.

May God save us from such "theology". Amen.


References:

[1] intellectualism. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intellectualism (accessed: July 04, 2009).

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ponter and John Preston: Perpetually grasping at straws

Over on Ponter's blog post, which has now turned into a slander-fest of yours truly, David Ponter makes the following statement:

Did you catch his confession that he had only read the one single comment of Preston’s from your blog, and yet he was willing to blast us both. He has no credibility. A man who reads something like 5 or so lines from a given author, who then thinks he can speak for that author’s theology as a whole is just an embarrassment. I bet he still has not read the whole Preston file. If he did, he would see Preston’s universal and particular covenant language, and Preston’s references to Christ dying in vain.

This is an utterly vacuous point which goes to show that these "historical scholars" are only interested in their empiricism and not in the truth. My point was NOT to talk about Preston, but to show that acontextual historical quotes like the "5 or so lines" from Preston cannot prove much either for or against the Neo-Amyraldian position. I "blast" them for their empiricism and irrationalism, not whether they have quoted Preston correctly. They can quote to me Jacobius Arminius for all I care!

It is these "scholars" who have no credibility, having misrepresented their opponents like me, plus the writings of John Calvin and now John Bunyan. And now that they have revealed that hyper-Calvinism to them is just a mere academic label void of any spiritual consequences, I have lost all respect of them as Christians. What next? Arianism is a "merely academic label" also? How different is the attitude of the Apostle Paul who states:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)

and Jude the brother of Jesus

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)

Such people are the bane of the church, making the Truths of Scripture in theology into dead academic discipline without spiritual usage and significance. Let me say upfront here: I have no use for theology which serves to puff up my brain! All theology is eminently useful unto true spirituality. Any "theology" which has no spiritual use has no use for me either!

Refuting David Ponter's Bunyan shuffle

[continued from here]

David Ponter has decided to attempt a response on the interpretation of John Bunyan on his blog here. Besides numerous ad-hominem and non-sequiturs which I will address later, Ponter's response to my interpretation can be summed in as follows: "The key text to interpret Bunyan's entire article is the quote in the middle of the section which we have previously quoted". This gives rise to Ponter's (and presumably Byrne's) hermeneutical matrix as follows:

Ponter's interpretation of Bunyan's middle section => Interpretation of Bunyan's article Reprobation asserted

I think what has been said has been said, so I will let the readers decide: What does it actually mean to "read in context"? Is reading in context equals

1) Coming up with a certain interpretation of the middle section of Bunyan's article, then categorically state that this particular interpretation of the passage in the middle of the article is the key to understanding the entire article by Bunyan?

or

2) Start at the beginning of Bunyan's article, understanding Bunyan's manner and terminologies, and then follow the flow of Bunyan's thoughts from beginning to end?

I think the answer is self-evident.

In order to reveal fully the numerous logical fallacies that Ponter actively engages in, it would be instrumental to look at his entire post just for once and point out specifically the logical errors Ponter makes. Ponter's words will be in dark red, and mine in black.


At first glace Mr Chew makes something which is really quite simple, that a child could follow, into something complex and obscure

Logical fallacy: Petitio Principii and false appeal to experience. I can easily say (and mean) the same thing; in that I find Ponter and Byrne's interpretation "mak[ing] something which is really quite simple, that a child could follow, into something complex and obscure". What does it prove? Nothing.

[Responding to the first part of the interpretation regarding Bunyan's two-fold aspect of Visible and Invisible Reprobation]

Of course, however, from God’s side, he knows who are the reprobate by eternal decree, and still says Bunyan, Christ’s desires their salvation, insofar as they are his creatures (see below). Mr Chew’s quip, therefore, really is off point.

Logical fallacy: Petitio principii! Did Bunyan say that Christ desire the salvation of actual reprobates, or reprobates in Bunyan's "temporal, visible sense" or both? This is a matter of interpretation which must be argued, not simply asserted. Ponter as usual refuses to let Bunyan speak for himself. After conceding that Bunyan does indeed teach a two-fold reprobation, Ponter ignores that and asserts that Bunyan does in fact have the "invisible reprobation in view", without any proof whatsoever.

[Referring to the difference between the collective and the individual]

4) Mr Chew thinks all this this is “probably” what Bunyan had in mind.

Logical fallacy: Red herring. Nevertheless, Mr. Ponter "probably" thinks that this is not what Bunyan has in mind? Given the growing emphasis on Covenant Theology in that era, which assumption has a higher probability of being correct?

[Referring to my discussion of the difference between actions towards the collective and the individual]

Of course there is some truth to this, for example, as some statements to a group can imply a condition, or the condition can be explicit, which means that of any who fail to meet the condition may not be the direct objects of the original predicating statement

Logical fallacy: Ignoratio elenchi! This is NOT what the logical fallacy is discussing. An example of the fallacy of composition is as follows:

Sodium is a dangerous chemical which can explode. Chlorine is a highly toxic chemical. So therefore, Sodium Chloride is a dangerous and toxic chemical which can explode?

Or with regards to humans and society:

No man without tools possess the ability to build the Great Wall of China. Therefore, China with her men could not build the Great Wall of China?

Here is an example of the fallacy of division:

Ancient Greek society with its promotion of pederasty is utterly decadent. Therefore, if you were living at that time, any Greek you meet would be utterly decadent and promoting pederasty.

I find it truly illuminating that these self-proclaimed theologians do not even have an idea what these logical fallacies are.

I) Where now did Mr Chew follow his own strictures in coming to this conclusion? He didn’t. He has totally discarded them.

Logical fallacy: Ipse dixit and Petitio Principii. Of course just what "strictures" Ponter thinks I have come up with is beyond me.

III) What evidence is there from Bunyan’s text that Bunyan operated by this idea? There is nothing. Mr Chew adduces not a single shred of evidence that this is so from Bunyan directly.

This is willful blindness. Having acknowledged that Bunyan taught a two-fold reprobation, Ponter conveniently forgets that fact this very instance. Of course, I am not proving that Bunyan taught my position (that would be anachronistic and commit the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent); what I am saying is that my interpretation makes the most sense of Bunyan's concept of two-fold reprobation and God's dealing with them, unlike Byrne's and Ponter's total neglect of Bunyan's concept.

I will say this as forcefully as I can, only a dishonest man would deny or still try to claim that by the phrase “sinners as sinners” Bunyan means to exclude the reprobate (as normally defined), or, that he meant only to speak of a collective but not to all the individuals within that collective.

Logical fallacy: Non sequitur and ipse dixit. Just because Ponter does not see it does not mean it is not there. Unless Ponter wants to claim ex cathedra authority that is. I certainly have no problem seeing that concept taught in the passage Ponter quotes!

The phrase meant to cover all sinners. His point is easy to comprehend: as any man stands in the capacity of being a sinner, he is to be offered and tendered the gospel. Even those who turn out to be finally reprobate, are tendered the gospel.

Agreed, but....

As any man stands in the capacity of being a sinner, God is willing to save him.

Logical fallacy: Non sequitur. The truths of the previous sentences do not logically imply this lone assertion. This by the way commits the fallacy of inferring intentions from imperatives which I have shown to be both illogical and unbiblical in my PDF repudiation of Byrne's arguments here.

Further, this section from Bunyan is followed almost immediately by the disputed section (see below), showing that it is “in context.”

Yes, this section from Bunyan is followed almost immediately by the disputed section. However, why is the direction of interpretation backwards from the disputed section to the section preceding it, instead of forward exegesis? Furthermore, since that section is disputed, shouldn't it be the case that other sections be used to interpret it instead of the other way around?

Mr Chew quite anachronistically pulls this idea [of federal representation] out of the brain of Herman Hoeksema, who, though borrowing it from Bavinck, distorted it.

I did not learn my theology from Hoeksema and the PRCA, and I am not too enamored of the PRC's doctrinal stances either, so Ponter is grasping at straws here. I learn most of my doctrinal foundations from Dr. James White and Dr. Robert Reymond, both godly ministers who have been slandered by Tony Byrne as "hyper-Calvinists". As for the issue of anachronism, what does Ponter think the Reformed and Presbyterian churches based their view of infant baptism upon? How do they argue their case for baptizing infants who may grow up to be reprobate? I rest my case.

Then the question comes to this, how can Christ be said to be the federal head of the man who finally perishes in hell?

In the same way as those reprobates who are baptized as infants in Reformed and Presbyterian churches are considered saints and members of Christ's church even though they finally perish in hell. Seriously, does Ponter even understand what he is critiquing? Christ is not the federal head of the man in hell; God offers to all Man, based on the federal representation of Man in Adam as sinners, the Gospel; Christ is the federal head only of the elect who respond to the Gospel. Logical fallacy: Ignoratio elenchi and Strawman.

This certainly reads as if Bunyan is rehearsing a scenario of a man over whom Christ weeps but ends his days in hell.

Logical fallacy: Non sequitur and Ipse dixit! Bunyan did not talk to the man who goes to hell, but who is in danger of going to hell. Big difference!

[In discussing my interpretation of Bunyan's two-fold reprobation]

The upshot is, Bunyan is only speaking of our view of Gods desire to save those who seem to us to be reprobate. My, my, how far we left behind the “sinners qua sinners” step.

Logical fallacy: False dichotomy! It is not either/or but both/and. The way Ponter replies, it is as if Bunyan was writing a modern technical treatise on this subject on a few pages instead of the tens of pages in which he develop his ideas and arguments.

Bunyan is not referring to an amorphous collective, or to men who appear to us to be reprobate, but to men who finally perish, to the reprobate who finally perish, to all who finally perish, even to man qua man (as the creature of God).

Logical fallacy: Ipse dixit!

The reprobate who finally perish [sic] is not the ‘temporarily appearing reprobate,’ which is not Bunyan’s meaning here at all, but the reprobate as normally defined.

Logical fallacy: Ipse dixit. It seems in Ponter's view Bunyan should have just skipped the preceding sections and start writing in the middle! One wonders why Bunyan would even bother to write near the beginning of the article his definition two-fold definition of reprobation.

In conclusion, it can be seen that Ponter commits many logical fallacy just in this piece of his. Ponter therefore is in error and his case is lost.