Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Scripturalism and the formation of the Canon of Scripture

There have been many attacks on the authority of Scripture in order to undermine its authority. Neo-Orthodoxy utilize Kantian metaphysics to render the words of Scripture mere forms which are not the real Word of God (Rather, they contain the Word of God). Liberals since the birth of German Higher Criticism have been engaging in "creative" deconstruction of the biblical text, a methodology probably epitomized best in the so-called scholarship of the "Jesus Seminar" — where a bunch of "old white liberals" come together to vote on how "authentic" they think the passages in the Gospel accounts are based upon ridiculous self-serving naturalistic criteria.

One particular area of attack which the Liberals and the Roman Catholics capitalize on is to focus on the formation of the Canon of Scripture, though for different reasons. Liberals focus on the events in order to "demonstrate" how the Bible is not really of God, but rather a compilation of certain "Jesus tradition" texts, out of the many others present like the Gnostic "gospels". This was done by the group (the ancient Catholic Church) which defeated other rival "Christian sects" and thus impose their Canon on others. The Roman Catholics on the other hand focus on the formation of the Canon in order to bring in their view of Sola Ecclesiae — that nobody can know the real Canon of Scripture apart from embracing the Church which form that Canon, which is of course assumed to be the Roman Catholic Church.

For those of us who embrace Scripturalism, that the axiom of thought is that the Bible alone is the Word of God., the formation of the Canon of Scripture presents its own set of questions. One question is how can we take Scripture to be the Word of God if, as it seems, the formation of the Canon of Scripture is a historical process undertaken by humans and thus we cannot be sure of the contents of Scripture? Of course, we Christians believe that God has indeed preserved His Word such that the entire process of canonization is kept free of error by the supervision and inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf 2 Peter 1:19-21), therefore we know that the Canon of Scripture is indeed what God has made it out to be.

Such of course would be met with a charge of circular reasoning of assuming Scripture to prove Scripture (assuming that they have no problem with the exegesis of the verse). While I will not focus too much on epistemology in this post, suffice it is to say that epistemological issues ultimately are circular in reasoning, as both foundationalism and coherentism admits. (Non-foundationalism is just irrational!). We can point to the excellent resources produced by empirical research to validate Scripture, but due to my denial of the validity of empiricism by itself to discover truth or even possible truth, such research would be of secondary importance.

So let us go back to the issue under consideration. Let us grant the validity of the Canon and the entire process due to the work of the Holy Spirit in history. This gives rise however to the second question: Does this not by itself militate against the Scripturalist position that the axiom of thought is that the Bible alone is the Word of God? Since the Bible is itself a product of the Spirit working in time through people, isn't this "axiom" materially and formally dependent on the Holy Spirit, being also time-bound? Such an "axiom" therefore cannot function as the basis for all thought.

In his book Scripture Alone (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 2004), Dr. James R. White addresses the issue of the Canon of Scripture in the context of Roman Catholic apologetics. While primarily concerned to defend the sufficiency of Scripture against the charge of Roman Catholic apologists, Dr. White mentioned a concept which is indeed helpful for us in understanding the formation of the Canon with regards to the issue of Scripturalism — that of the Canon as an artefact of revelation, not an object of revelation. As White wrote:

The term canon originally referred to a stick by which a measurement was made. By extension it came to mean a rule or standard, and finally it was applied to an authoritative list of something, such as all the books written by a certain author or, in this case, the books of Scripture. However, if we think the biblical canon is nothing more than a fancy way of referring to the table of contents, we have missed the heart of the issue and will never arrive at a satisfactory answer to our questions.

...

We need to start off by realizing we are talking about the canon of Scripture. As we have already seen, Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed; to say we are talking about something unique is to master the art of understatement. Scripture does not simply drop down out of heaven like rain to be gathered up and organized by man. The nature of Scripture determines the canon of Scripture; that is the canon must be defined in light of what Scripture is. If Scripture is (1) God-breathed and (2) given fr the purposes revealed within its own revelation, then vitally important conclusions must be drawn from these two truths, conclusions that deeply impact our understanding of the canon and its implications.

The reason I raise these issues is simple: I believe we must determine the divine view and purpose of the canon before we can have any basis upon which to discuss the human side of recognizing and understanding the canon. This may seems like a simplistic thought, but it seems often to have been left out in consideration of the subject: Without the act of inspiration (revelation), there would be no canon. ... the fact that we dealing with a book God intends to exist in a particular form for a particular purpose cannot be ignored.

The thesis I will seek to establish is this: The canon is an artefact of revelation, not an object of revelation itself. It is known infallibly to God by necessity and to man with a certainty directly related to God's purpose in giving the Word to the church. The canon exists because God has inspired some writings, not all writings. It is known to man in fulfilment of God's purpose in engaging in the actions of inspiration so as to give His people a lamp for their feet and a light for their path. The canon, then, has two aspects as we consider it in light of its relationship to God's overall purpose in giving the Scriptures. The first aspect, to which I will refer as canon1, is the divine knowledge and understanding of the canon. The second aspect, which I will identify as canon2, is the human knowledge and understanding of the canon (which has been the primary focus of debate down through the centuries). ...

...

When an author writes a book, a "canon" of his or her writings is automatically created as a result of the simple consideration that he or she has written at least one book, but has not written all books that have ever been written. Hence, a canon of a single book comes into existence at the completion of that first work. If the author continues writing, the canon changes with the completion of each project. It should be noted that even if the author does not write down a listing or his or her works, a canon exists nonetheless, which he or she knows infallibly. No one else can infallibly know this canon outside of the author's effort to communicate it to others, for only the author knows what he or she has truly written. Even those closest to the author may not know with utter certainty whether the author has used anyone else in the writing process or whether he or she has borrowed from someone else. Therefore, the originator of a book (or books) has an infallible knowledge of the canon of these works, while anyone else has a mediated knowledge, dependent upon both the honesty and integrity of the author and the author's desire to make that canon known to others.

When we apply these considerations to Scripture, we are able to see that canon1 is the necessary result of God's freely chosen act of inspiration. Once God's Spirit moved upon the very first author of Scripture, canon1 came into existence. Before anyone else could possibly know what God had done (canon2), God infallibly knew the current state and content of canon1. With each passing phase of His unfolding revelation in Scripture, canon1 remained current and infallible, fully reflective (by necessity) of the ongoing work of enscripturation. This is why we should call the canon an artefact of revelation. It is not itself an object of revelation, but comes into existence as a by-product of the action itself. God inspires, and the canon expresses the limitation of that action.

In other words, the Canon of Scripture is determined by the extent of Scripture, which is determined by God. God's knowledge of His Word is archetypal, while our knowledge is ectypal, being mediated by God to us. The Canon is known to us because God has revealed to us the extent of His special revelation, and the Canon is merely the boundary lines marking out what God has revealed to us as His Word for us.

Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens (Ps. 119:89)

So how does this concept aids us in our understanding of the canonization of Scripture with respects to Scripturalism? God being immutable, unchanging and omniscient knows the content of His Word for us (canon1) from eternity past to eternity future. Canon1 is then actualized before God in time as the Holy Spirit breathes out His Word through the human writers. Canon2 is then known to us as God reveals to us through our reasoning it out through examination of the texts to see if they conform to the nature of Scripture. The contours of the Canon therefore are as immutable as God, and exist in the mind of God in eternity past. As Ps. 119:89 tells us, God's Word is fixed forever, as it were "in the heavens".

Since that is so, there is no problem with the Scripturalist position. Although the Canon was worked out in time (canon2), yet the knowledge of canon1 is always evident to God from eternity. Therefore, the canonization process does not undercut the Scripturalist position at all.

Scripture as God-breathed therefore is in fact authoritative over all of life. When viewed in its own merits, Scripture can account for its own canonization without the need to invoke other sources of authority besides the God who breathes it out. Those who attempt to deconstruct the Canon therefore have no basis besides that of unbelief to do so, since faith accepts the God which is revealed in Scripture who is sovereign over history.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Charles Spurgeon on fraternizing with heretics

Over at Pyromaniacs, Phil Johnson has posted a weekly dose of Spurgeon on the issue of separation from heretics, here.

I have not much patience with a certain class of Christians nowadays who will hear anybody preach so long as they can say, "He is very clever, a fine preacher, a man of genius, a born orator." Is cleverness to make false doctrine palatable? Why, sirs, to me the ability of a man who preaches error is my sorrow rather than my admiration.

I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers.

"That is your bigotry," says one. Call it so if you like, but it is the bigotry of the loving John who wrote—"If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."

I would to God we had all more of such decision, for the lack of it is depriving our religious life of its backbone and substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery.

He who does not hate the false does not love the true; and he to whom it is all the same whether it be God's word or man's, is himself unrenewed at heart. Oh, if some of you were like your fathers you would not have tolerated in this age the wagon loads of trash under which the gospel has been of late buried by ministers of your own choosing. You would have hurled out of your pulpits the men who are enemies to the fundamental doctrines of your churches, and yet are crafty enough to become your pastors and undermine the faith of a fickle and superficial generation.

[more]

Monday, March 22, 2010

Scripture and the epistemic priority of logic

Log-ic (noun):

  • 1) the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference
  • 3) the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study

(Dictionary.com)

In my defence of the doctrine of the Covenant of Works (certainly a controversial topic among people today), a certain minister disagreed with my position. One interesting tidbit of our interaction was his denigration of logic. (I was looking forward to a discussion of the interpretation of Rom. 2:6-10 but was sorely disappointed in this regard.) In this post therefore, we would look at the topic of logic and its relation to Scripture. How exactly does logic relate to Scripture?

As it can be seen, logic is defined as "the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference" or "the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any field of knowledge or study". The first definition looks at logic as an academic discipline of its own, while the second is the description of logic in its outworking in cognitive fields.

To put it as simple as possible, logic is the way we normally think. Everytime we do so much as think, read, write, daydream whatever, some form of reasoning takes place, and most of it logical. Logic as an academic discipline is simply the formalization of our thinking processes into laws which we all generally observe and rules which we all generally follow even if tacitly. Logical deduction is the process by which we reason out a conclusion based upon other propositions which we have accepted already as true, such that the information in the conclusion is found in the premises. Logical inferences are the processes by which we make conclusions based upon normalizing the information of the premises such that the conclusion is possibly true depending on the legitimacy of our normalization.

During my undergraduate days, I was privileged to take a module in Logic in which the lecturer spent about 1/4 of the course on the foundation. Instead of jumping immediately to truth tables and logical notations or even Venn diagrams (Aristotelian logic), the lecturer insisted on starting with nearly 3 lectures and 3 tutorials on the topic of Informal logic, thus forcing us to think for ourselves without mere rote memory of truth tables and mathematical formulae. I did all the homework provided, which helped me tremendously honed my skill in breaking down complex sentences into propositions and seek out implicit premises. In fact, in order to make us evaluate the arguments found in the examples given in our worksheets, we were forced to write down every single implied premises found in the arguments, even those as obvious as "Socrates is a man" or "All women are humans" or "3 is greater than 1" and some even more obvious than that!

Such a focus on informal logic would aid me to see logical reasoning everywhere. In fact, any (non-poetic) sentence can be converted to propositions, and every argument meant to persuade someone can be broken down into its logical form.

For most people, logic is often used without much thought about it. Who for example does not apply logic to their bank accounts, and ensure that their balances tally? (Maths is a special form of logic). Besides those who have difficulty understanding/counting, those who can understand mathematical logic are not illogical with their money. Nobody for example thinks it is right for them to have for example $1000 left in their bank account after they have withdrawn $500 from their balance of $2000.

Similarly, logical reasoning is almost always used without question in normal discourse and interaction. On the road in traffic, nobody in their right mind when seeing a "No speeding" sign thinks that the sign does not apply to him, or that the "No speeding" sign actually means "Please speed". The reasoning process that takes the indefinite imperative of "No speeding" and applies it to himself that "I am told not to speed" is itself a logical argument.

Logical reasoning extends even to Scripture and the application of biblical truth. As an example, we can look at a simple proposition in 1 Jn. 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This verse is a conditional (If... then) statement. Most Christians do not bat an eyelid when they apply it to themselves in the following manner (even though Scripture never once mentioned that it applies to them — whoever wants to disagree please go and find your name in 1 Jn. 1:9):

P1: If we confess our sins, ...

P2: I confess my sin

C: God is faithful and just and has forgiven my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness

Logic therefore is the method or way in which we reason, and the way in which all communication can occur. Without logic, there can be no such thing as verbal or written communication at all. Even now, this paragraph of mine is an argument based upon the rules of logic, and this entire article too.

To be illogical therefore is to be irrational and thus unable to communicate and be communicated with. Since logic is the rules of thinking and discourse, discarding them makes thinking and discourse impossible. Irrationality in philosophy (i.e. Postmodernism) needs to utilize logic in order to argue against logic — a self-defeating notion as it is. Even the Kantian metaphysical category of das Ding an Sich (the thing in itself - the noumenal), while supposedly totally non describable and unknowable, has to be described and known as such (non describable and unknowable) using logic and reasoning. Truly, there are irrationalist philosophies, but no philosopher (that I know) has ever endeavored to write their books illogically and irrationally. Well, I guess it is possible if you put a monkey on your keyboard...

So how does Logic relate to Scripture? They don't with regards to authority, except in the fact that logic is epistemologically prior to anything. That minister in one of his comments states that we should "submit our "method" (logic) to Scripture". The problem with such pious nonsense is that it is precisely that: nonsense. How, may I ask, do you submit logic to Scripture? In order to do so, you need to outline a process by which such can be done and you cannot outline the process without using logic. It must be noted that I have not even yet mentioned the most fundamental law in logic: the Law of non-contradiction. If we have to submit logic to Scripture, then this law cannot even be assumed to be true and must be "submitted to Scripture". But if this law cannot be assumed to be true, then perhaps the phrase "submitted to Scripture" actually means "submitted to the Devil" or "Obama is a socialist". Who knows?

Logic by virtue of its definition thus assumes epistemic priority even over Scripture, for there is simply no way to begin talking about Scripture or anything in Scripture (and anything else) without an a priori acceptance of logic. Without logic, the demand to "submit logic to Scripture" cannot even be understood cognitively, much less acted upon. It is no wonder that the Apostle John used the Greek word logos to describe God

In the beginning was the Logic (logos), and the Logic was with God, and GOD, the Logic was (Jn. 1:1 - alternate translation)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Brandan Kraft and the abomination stewing over at P-Net

Over the last three posts (here, here and here), I have attempted a rebuttal of the error of Eternal Justification as well as its corollary doctrines (a denial that the elect were ever actually under wrath and the idea of timeless eternity). While it is probably the case that not all participants in the Predestinarian Network (hereafter P-Net) and the forums have the same beliefs in these matters, the founder of this website, Brandan Kraft, does indeed embrace such errant doctrines.

Matt Powell (who it seems had prior interactions with P-Net two years back) has came up with three excellent posts (The Heresy of Eternal Justification, More on Eternal Justification, Eternal Justification and Antinomianism) in which he analyzes the issues concerned in its interaction with the Gospel message (as opposed to mine which come from a more epistemic perspective). As I read it, I began to see how deep the doctrinal rot in P-Net and especially in its founder Brandan Kraft had been. In my initial post on this topic, I have worked out the logical implications of embracing the Eternal Justifcation error. In looking at Powell's posts and the links that he provided, I see with my own eyes that they are not on their way there but are already there. Now, generally, I focus on addressing the issues and as such do not check out much on the people involved. Powell's links however show me how deep the rot is.

Kraft's profile page on P-Net shows the following description:

Soteriological Position: Hyper-Calvinism (Hardshellism)

Creeds and Confessions: London Baptist Confession of 1644, Canons of Dort [sic], Goat Yard Confession of Faith (1729), Gospel Standard Articles of Faith

When Adam and Eve sinned, what really happened?: It was revealed to Adam that he was a sinner and needed the righteousness of Christ which demonstrated the eventual regeneration of every elect individual.

[Bold added]

Kraft flaunts his hyper-Calvinism (don't need to call him out on this one), and this can be seen even in the creeds and confessions he holds to - The Gospel Standard Articles of Faith (GSAF). This is what the document states:

XXIV We believe that the invitations of the Gospel, being spirit and life, are intended only for those who have been made by the blessed Spirit to feel their lost state as sinners and their need of Christ as their Saviour, and to repent of and forsake their sins. (Isa. 55:1, John 7:37, Prov. 28:13, Matt. 11:28-30, John 6:37.)

XXVI We deny duty faith and duty repentance - these terms signifying that it is every man's duty spiritually and savingly to repent and believe (Gen. 6:5, Gen 8:21, Matt. 15:19, Jer. 17:9, John 6:44, John 6:65.) We deny also that there is any capability in man by nature to any spiritual good whatever. So that we reject the doctrine that men in a state of nature should be exhorted to believe in or turn to God of themselves. (John 12:39-40, Eph. 2:8, Rom. 8:7-8, 1 Cor. 4:7.)

[Bold added]

The GSAF denies the offer of the Gospel and duty faith and duty repentance, which is a mark of Hyper-Calvinism.

In my initial post, I have made plain that one of the logical consequences of believing in eternal justification is that it leads to a theory that believers are to be considered as "saints who happen not to realize that they are already justified". All of this was initially meant by me to shock the adherents of Eternal Justification to their senses by showing the hopefully undesirable consequences of embracing such an error. However, it seems I have misjudged Kraft and company. They are already there as it were.

Notice Kraft's answer to the question as to what really happened when Adam and Eve fell — he came to know that he was a sinner and shown that he needed Christ's righteousness as a demonstration of the eventual regeneration of the elect. So, firstly, Adam and Eve did not became sinners, but rather they become conscious of the fact that they were sinners all along. We must note that the question does not ask regarding the episode when God confronted Adam and Eve after their sin, but rather what happened WHEN they sin.

Likewise, the doctrine regarding Christ's righteousness has been altered. Since it is more of a demonstration, substitutionary atonement takes a back seat (if it has a seat at all). Rather, Christ's righteousness becomes primarily to do with showing that all the elect will be regenerated in due time - as we "pardoxically" experience it in time of course). As Powell succinctly states:

[In Kraft's scheme] Conversion is simply becoming aware of our status as saints. Adam didn't change when he fell, believers don't change when they are saved... (Eternal Justification and Antinomianism)

This is a full-blow assault on the Gospel in the name of "grace", which it seems is similar to the "grace" teachings promoted from the other side of the spectrum in the teachings of Joseph Prince.

Moving on, we see a post on something very foundational to the faith, which left me initially stunned and at a loss of words.

...

In this article, I will present evidence, that should be sufficient to indict James the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the crime of Judaizing the Pauline doctrine of Justification by faith alone, without the works of law. James the brother of Jesus, is the antithesis of Paul and never fully comprehended the Pauline doctrine of Justification. I do not believe he was even an apostle as some suggest. A false apostle perhaps, but no true apostle of the Gospel of Christ. However that is another subject worth discussion.

...

[Nicholas Laurienzo, James Exposed]

And here is what Kraft wrote on his profile:

Is the book of James authoritative?: I don't believe it is authoritative.

Such is a denial of the authority of Scripture by attacking the canonicity of James' epistle. Who is Kraft that he thinks he has the right to decide what constitutes or does not constitutes the Word of God? So much for any claim to be Evangelical through this attack on Sola Scriptura, nevermind Reformed.

Branda Kraft is a heretic who is in danger of the fires of hell for his wicked deeds and false doctrines. He and those like him are called to repent of their wickedness, and produce fruits in keeping with genuine repentance.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Eternity and Time: A brief look

[continued from here and here]

The third main pillar of the Hyperists, which informs their error of Eternal Justification, is the [Neo-Platonic] theory of Timeless Eternity. In this post, we would briefly look at this theory, and show from Robert Reymond's magnum opus, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith 2nd Ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999) why the idea of eternity being timeless is untenable according to the biblical data and the concept of eternity being "everlasting" rather a better understanding of God and his ways in the world.

The issue of hermeneutics

When addressing the issue of eternity, it must first be acknowledged that Scripture is not explicit regarding this issue. Scripture affirms that God is "eternal", but whether eternity includes the concept of timelessness or everlasting is rather inferred from the text of Scripture. It is therefore simply eisegesis of the worst order to assume that eternity must include the concept of timelessness based upon extra-biblical concepts such as the scientific concept of time being the 4th dimension in the created order. Certainly since the dawn of Einstein's theories of Special and General Relativity, space and time and velocity (most noticeably the speed of light at 3× 108 ms-1 in vacuum), and gravity in the case of General Relativity, are seen as intricately related to each other such that [perceived or situational] time can be altered by increasing velocity near light-speed (Special Relativity) or positions/movements at or through gravitational fields of huge magnitudes (General Relativity). Through Einstein's theories of relativity, the assumption of time as a created order may enter into the discussion of such issues.

The main contention from theologians and philosophers however would not come from science bur rather [obviously] from philosophy. While we would look at some of the contentions later, the issue here we need to beware of is precisely what Scripture itself mentions:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8)

While philosophical enquiry is not evil per se, if Sola Scriptura means anything at all, it is that our theories and doctrines about the faith are to be primarily deduced from Scripture, while philosophical enquires come later. It may be said that the idea of the mind being a tabula rasa such that one can come to the Scripture without a priori ideas derived from the world and philosophy is well neigh impossible, which is indeed true. Yet, it is precisely because of this that Christians are called to be renewed in their minds according to God's Truth (Rom. 12:2), and through meditation on Scripture, remove the ideas they have which are not biblical while embracing those taught in Scripture, as the Scripture interprets itself. Semper Reformanda — Always being reformed!

Now, since the concept of eternity is not explicitly taught in Scripture, it must certainly be the case that all other major doctrines in the Scriptures must be prioritized. In this instance for example, the concept of eternity must be settled only after we have settled according to Scripture the doctrine of justification. Instead of interpreting the doctrine of justification according to one's concept of eternity, shouldn't we not do the reverse and interpret the non-explicit concept of eternity based upon what Scripture has already plainly taught about the doctrine of justification?

The Hyperists in the Predestinarian Network are to be congratulated for attempting to be consistent in their worldview. There is nothing wrong with attempting to be consistent, since God after all is not irrational. The problem with the Hyperists is that they refuse to interpret the concept of eternity according to the other doctrines explicitly taught in Scripture, and thus reverse the order of interpretation of the Scripture; they are simply not critical enough. Granting their argument that "If p, then q", whereby p = 'the concept of timeless eternity is true' and q = 'eternal justification is true', they insist on arguing along the lines of modus ponens (p → q; p, therefore q) instead of modus tollens (p → q; ~q, therefore ~p).

As I have mentioned in the first post refuting the Hyperists, we use the framework of Scripture to interpret all of Scripture. We therefore do not use an "Absolute Predestination" framework or a "Timeless Eternity" framework to interpret Scripture. In their usage of the modus ponens form of argument and thus the "Absolute Predestination" and "Timeless Eternity" hermeneutical frameworks, the Hyperists have shown themselves to be violating the basic principles of biblical exegesis. It is therefore no wonder that they go astray and embrace such abominations as the heresy of Eternal Justification. While other Christians whom they claim are inconsistent [1] may indeed be inconsistent, at least they understand the basics of hermeneutics and are thus blessedly inconsistent, instead of being consistent at the expense of sound doctrine.

Disposing of the argument from science

The first objection (and the one that to scientific minds is more pertinent) is the argument according to Relativity. While one can legitimately argue regarding the validity of science to attain truth, let us assume for the sake of argument that the theory of Relativity or some form of it is indeed correct. Does this therefore mean that time is a created being of which therefore God, being apart from the creation, does not partake of.

If must be stated that God is definitely apart from created time. God in this sense is eternal, for God is present before the world (Gen. 1:1 - In the beginning ...), and will be around after the end (cf Rev. 21-22). In this sense, God is above time. Time as how we chronologically experience it is thus foreign to God. However, what this cannot prove or disprove is that there is a form of "divine time", separate from created time, in which God functions. The argument from science therefore is limited by the subject matter of this cosmos in which the empirical methods apply, and thus has no bearing at all on the topic of God, eternity and time.

Disposing of a few arguments by the Hyperists

In the piece "The Eternal God" [2], the author with the pseudonym "Forester07" has made some interesting points. The quoting of Is. 57:15 is certainly a peculiarity in its own right, for the passage does not makes clear whether when it is predicated of God that he "inhabits eternity" that it is referring to a state of time or a state of place that God inhabits.

More pertinent to our discussion here is this particular objection laid against the idea of God not being timeless. In his own words: "To say God does not exist outside of time makes time god and God not really God". This is astonishing since many things are predicated of God and God cannot function outside of these parameters. God is rational, so can we say that "To say God does not exist apart from rationality is to make rationality god and God not really God"? Can we say that "To say God does not exist outside of morality makes morality god and God not really God'? Or what about the case of any of God's other attributes?

In dealing with the idea of the relationship between God and Logic, C. Matthew McMahon in his book The Two Wills of God (New Lenox, IL: Puritan Rublicatios, 2005), p. 24 footnote 5, states thus: "Epistemology, logic precedes God. Ontologically, God precedes logic". In other words, God is most definitely before all things, and all things thus owe its existence to Him. Yet, God does not exist in a vacuum apart from His attributes (a most ridiculous idea). Logic being the manner of God thinking [3] proceeds ontologically from God, yet it is just as eternal as God and in fact precedes God in our way of knowing Him.

Likewise, in the case of time, it may be the case that "divine" time ontologically proceeds from God. If such is indeed the case, then "forester07" 's objection with its negation of God being in time is baseless.

We have been mentioning the word "time" often. However, what exactly IS time? If God is not apart from time so to speak, does this therefore mean that He is mutable?

Here, we would have theologian and pastor Robert Reymond to engage the issue and show us the way forward.

... it is a non sequitur to conclude from the fact of God's omniscience that God has no idea of succession, that is, that relative to his own existence he has no knowledge of a past, present, and future applicable to his own existence. This is to confuse the notion of the succession of ideas, which is surely not true of God if one means by this notion that God learns new facts, with the notion of the idea of succession which I submit God surely has. Robert Lewis Dabney observes:

If ... the divine consciousness of its existence has no relation to successive duration, I think it unproved, and incapable of proof to us. Is not the whole plausibility of the notion hence; that divines ... infer: Since all God's thoughts are ever equally present with Him, he can have no succession of His consciousnesses; and so, no relation to successive time. But the analysis is false and would not prove the conclusion as to God, if correct. ... In all the acts and changes of creatures, the relation of succession is actual and true. Now, although God's knowledge of these as it is subjective to Him, is unsuccessive [I take him to mean here that God does not first learn about them as the creature thinks and acts these changes — author], yet it [his knowledge] is doubtless correct, i.e. true to the objective facts. But these [the objective facts] have actual succession. So that the idea of successive duration must be in God's thinking. Has He not all the ideas which we have; and infinitely more? But if God in thinking the objective, ever thinks successive duration, can we be sure that His own consciousness of His own subsistence is unrelated to succession in time?

I concur with Dabney's analysis. Not to do so and to insist that God is timeless, that is to say, that the distinctives of time and hence existence with succession have no reference to him, lies behind much theological mischief. For example, Charles Hodge, who stands in the classical tradition, writes that "with [God] there is no distinction between the present, past and future, but all things are equally and always present to Him. With Him duration is an eternal now," that "to Him there is neither past nor future ... the past and the future are always and equally present to Him [as an eternal now (or present)]," and that "to Him there is neither past nor future, neither before nor after."

But such words seem to go too far, first, in that, if taken literally, they reduce to zero significance the temporal reference in every finite Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek verb form God employed in his revelational description to us of his thoughts, words, and actions, and virtually transform them all into timeless participles. [4]

Time has to do with succession. However, as what Reymond has pointed out, the advocates of timeless eternity confuse the "idea of succession" with the "succession of ideas". The idea of "divine time" therefore has to do with the "idea of succession". God never does learn anything new nor change in any way, yet that does not mean that He does not have an [epistemic] idea of succession in which He knows every single event in successive detail. To make it simpler, God knows everything past, present and future, but these past, present and future events do happen successively in chronology before God.

Reymond continues:

.. as well as the significance of the proposition προ, pro, in "foreknew" (προγινωοσκω, proginosko) and "predestine" (προοριζω, proorizo) in Romans 8:29 and in the expresson, "He chose us in him before [προ, pro] the creation of the world" (Eph. 1:3; see also John 17:24). Does not God inform us in these verses that he had a plan (his "eternal purpose") before he created the world? Does this data not mean that before the creation of the world God could have said, indeed, woud have had to say as the God of truth if an angel had asked him about the "when" of the world's creation: "I have not yet created the world. Its creation is still in the future"? And does he not now have to say as the God of truth: "I have created the world; its creation is no longer in the future, it is now in the past"? It would certainly seem that the past is past for God, the present is present for God, and the future is future for God as surely as they are for us! And while he certainly and infallibly knows the future because he ordained it, it is still as the future that he knows it. It is odd, to say the least, to argue as does E.L. Mascall that all of God's acts are dipolar, and that a given act at the creature's end is temporal (either past, present or future), while at the Creator's end the same act is timeless. If God's "time-words" to us respecting his plans and actions do not mean for God the same as they mean to us, then for him the creation of the world may not have actually occurred yet, for him Christ's second coming may be a thing of the past, ... In short, if God is timeless and if all of his acts are for him timeles acts, then we can have no true and certain knowledge of anything except pure mathematics.

Third, there seems to be an inherent contradicton in saying that a timeless person lives in the "eternal present" because the referent of the word "present" has significance only in the ordering category wich includes past and future as well. Nicholas Wolterstorff points out:

In order for something to be timeless, none of these ordering relatonships [past, present, or future[ can be applicable to that being. If a being is truly timeless, it should be impossible for it to exist simultaneously with anything else, or before anything else, or after anything else. Once it is established [or argued, as Hodge does — author] that a being does occupy one of the ordering relations, thn that being is clearly temporal.

For these three reasons it would seem that the ascriptions to God of the attributes of timelessness (understood as the absence of a divine consciousness of successive duration with respect to his own existence) cannot be supprted from Scripture nor is it self-consistent. At best, it is only an inference (and quite likely a fallacious one) from Scripture. These reasons also suggest that the Christian should be willing to affirm that the ordering relationships (before, now, after) that are normally represented as relationships of time are true for God as well as for man. [5]

The idea of a God who is immanent and works out His decrees in time is completely inimical to the concept of timelessness in God. For all these reasons, the Neo-Platonic idea of timeless eternity cannot be predicated of the biblical God. Rather, God in eternity is everlasting — without beginning or end. God knows all things past, pesent and future, and remains the same throughout all time, yet God does have an idea of succession within Himself, and His decrees and the events that are caused by the decrees have a chronological ordering to them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Neo-Platonic idea of timeless eternity is distinctly not supported by Scripture and in fact inimical to its teachings. The Hyperists therefore are in error in their view of eternity and time. Not only is their choice of hermeneutical framework in error, even the basis of their framework is in error, substituting the doctrines of God for the philosophies of Man. May God show them their errors so that they would return back to the truths of God's Word and abandon their cryto-hyper-Calvinism. Amen.


References:

[1] "Forester07" , The Eternal God - "However, it seems that in reality most people who claim that God is eternal do not truly understand the many implications this has on understanding Christian doctrine and practice".

[2] Ibid.

[3] W. Gary Crampton, The Scripturalsm of Gordon H. Clark (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 1999), p. 25]

[4] Robert Reymond, pp. 173-174

[5] Reymond, pp. 175-176

Dawkins preaching to the deluded

Here is an interesting article by The Australian on Richard Dawkins' recent tour at Melbourne. As stated:

LIKE revivalists from an alternative universe, 2500 hardcore believers in the absence of religion packed into the Global Atheists Convention in Melbourne last weekend to give a hero's welcome to the high priest of belief in unbelief, Richard Dawkins.

The bestselling author of The God Delusion was similarly fawned over by the Australian media, which uncritically lapped up everything he said.

This was even after (or perhaps because) he referred to the Pope as a Nazi, which managed to combine defamation of the pontiff with implicit Holocaust denial.

By comparison, Family First senator Steve Fielding may feel he got off lightly when Dawkins described him merely as more stupid than an earthworm.

For someone who has made a career out of telling everyone how much more tolerant the world would be if only religion were obliterated from the human psyche, Dawkins manages to appear remarkably intolerant towards anyone who disagrees with him.

...

Dawkins' intolerance and close-mindedness is similarly described:

...

Indeed, he seems almost to believe that, since everyone who believes in God is stupid or evil and Christians are stupid and evil because they believe in God, those who oppose him must be Christian and can be treated with contempt.

I had first-hand experience of this when, addressing an audience of US atheists, he accused me of "lying for Jesus" by misquoting him. This came as something of a surprise since I am a Jew. Moreover, far from me misquoting him, which was not the case, he had in fact ascribed to me words that had been written by someone else.

This anecdote raises in turn the most intriguing question of all about Dawkins. Just why is he so angry and why does he hate religion so much? After all, as many religious scientists can attest, science and religion are - contrary to his claim - not incompatible at all.

A clue lies in his insistence that a principal reason for believing that there could be no intelligence behind the origin of life is that the alternative - God - is unthinkable. This terror of such an alternative was summed up by a similarly minded geneticist as the fear that pursuing such thinking to its logical ends might allow "the divine foot in the door".

Such concern is telling because it suggests a lack of confidence by the Dawkins camp in its own position and a corresponding fear of rigorous thinking.

To stamp out the terrifying possibility of even a divine toe peeping over the threshold, all opposition has to be shut down. And so the great paradox is that the arch-hater of religious intolerance himself behaves with the zeal of a religious fundamentalist and, despite excoriating religion for stifling debate, does this in spades.

An illuminating example was provided by an atheists summer camp for children last year in Britain that Dawkins backed. The children who took part were to be taught to be critical thinkers, yet all discussion of religion was ruthlessly excluded.

Far from opening young minds, this was shutting them in the ostensible cause of reason.

Such indoctrination is a hallmark of the fundamentalist who knows he is not just right but righteous. So all who oppose him are by definition not just wrong but evil. Which is why alternative views must be howled down or suppressed.

This is, of course, the characteristic of all totalitarian regimes, including religious inquisitions. Which is why Dawkins can lay claim to being not the most enlightened thinker on the planet, as his acolytes regard him, but instead the Savonarola of scientism and an intolerant closer of minds.

Of course, the form of religion most compatible with evolutionary theory is not Christianity but rather some form of process theology, as I have written in my book review of John Haught's book Deeper than Darwin here.

[HT: Benjamin Richard Valentine and Joel Tay via Facebook]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Eph. 2:1-4, the wrath and the grace of God

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2: 1-13)

[In response to my previous post refuting the heresy of Eternal Justification]

Brandan Kraft (on the Facebook Predestinarian Network page): You have quoted Eph. 2:3, but what about verse 4? “Eph 2:4, (KJV), But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,” Here Paul clearly states that while we were by nature children of wrath (that is we were by outward appearance no different from a reprobate) God LOVED US.

The defenders of the heresy of Eternal Justification have sortof responded to the critique of their position in my previous post. It has been rather amusing reading their so-called responses which can be seen here. Basically, their responses have followed these tactics: 1) Advocating for the idea that the "eternity" of God is that of eternal timelessness, 2) Against my usage of Eph. 2:1-3, argue against the idea of the unregenerate being sinners under wrath by referring to Eph. 2:4, and/or 3) Argue that making justification based upon faith leads to work righteousness

It has been extremely revealing that the crypto-hyperists do not even bother thinking logically with respects to their position. They ignore the entire critique of their hermeneutical method. They also ignore the fact that their position logically commits them to actual sinlessness and glorification now, and of course that time and sequence would not be real and just a matter of illusion. (Of course, since there is no real difference between God's decree to do something and the doing of it except from Man's perspective, I guess we are all actually glorified just that we have not realized it yet.) The irrationality of these hyperists is just sad — that they can claim that there is no difference between God's decree of justification and the event of justification itself, yet they refuse to consistently apply this to all of God's other decrees.

Similarly, Rom. 8:29-30, the Golden Chain of Salvation, is not read by them as being a chain in any sense of the term. Even if a temporal order in the Ordo Salutis is denied (which may well be the position of these hyperists), some form of order between the things (predestination, calling, justification, glorification) must exists otherwise the verse does not make sense at all. If one were to hold to eternal justification, one must also hold to eternal calling since calling is prior to justification in Rom. 8:29, regardless of whether you treat it as a temporal or logical order or something else altogether.

Let us however go back to the second objection by hyperist Brandan Kraft, and address the first issue of timeless eternity in the next post. Is such an interpretation an accurate handling of the Word of God, or merely the reading of foreign [Neo-Platonic] ideas into the text of Scripture?

In order to exegete the Scriptures well, I have included the first 13 verses in Eph. 2, certainly sufficient to show the context of the first 4 verses. It must also be stated that Kraft's objection continues to suffer from the 1-Dimensional thinking he is utilizing - viz that love and wrath cannot both coexist at the same time. Of course, one wonders about the counter-example of a parent angry at their child for disobeying rules.

Eph. 2:1-3 states that we, referring to believers, were at one time "children of wrath" and walked in the same ways of disobedience like the rest of mankind. Verse 4 introduces the power of the Gospel by stating what God has done ("But God"). While we were still wretched sinners under His wrath, God who loves us has decided to save us through His grace (v. 5) and give us all the benefits of salvation (v. 6). Verses 8-10 inform us that our salvation is purely of grace through faith not of works, and so salvation is of God from beginning to end.

So while God's love for the elect is truly from "eternity" (I am using this carefully since the hyperists have an unbiblical notion of this term informed by their Neo-Platonism), the idea that the context of Eph. 2 as nothing to do with events in time is totally unfounded. We can already see in verse 7 through the phrase "the coming ages" that the idea of time is prominent in the entire passage. As if the grammer of the verses was not clear enough, verses 11-13 should nail the coffin on the strained eisegesis of the hyperists, for they clearly speak about changes in time ("at that time" cf v. 12). So once we were _____ ("separated from Christ", "having no hope and God in the world" etc), but now we are ____ ("have been brought near by the blood of Christ" etc). The entire passage is just pregnant with the concept of happenings in time, and tells us the state of the elect before and after our conversion.

The hyperists' second objection therefore fails because they 1) did not refute the plain teaching of Scripture that the unregenerate elect are under God's wrath before their conversion, and 2) love and wrath can exist at the same time by one individual towards another (one) individual

We would look briefly and refute the third and last objection raised by the hyperists against the orthodox doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. Instead of this fundamental doctrine, the hyperists put foward their doctrine of "faith by justification alone". According to their flawed thinking, making justification by faith implies that justification depends upon faith, which would make salvation synergistic as both God and Man cooperate in the work of salvation.

One thing that we can see immediately is that the Arminians and the Hyperists share one thing in common — the unbiblical conviction that faith is a work of men. The Arminians believe that faith is Man's work, so therefore unconditional election is false for how can God saves Man without demanding of him his exercise (work) of faith? The Hyperists on the other hand believe that since faith is Man's work, therefore salvation is not dependent on faith, for otherwise faith would be made a condition for salvation which creates an opening for works righteousness.

The biblical teaching however is that faith is a gift of God (cf Eph. 2:9, Phil. 1:29), not a work of men. It is precisely because faith is God's work and gift that the Hyperists' third objection falls flat. Once again, it seems that the Arminians and the Hyperists actually do deserve each other, for they share a lot of false assumptions in common.

In the next post, we would look at the idea of time and eternity (of timeless eternity and everlasting time) and see what the Scriptures teach about the matter.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The wrath of God and the heresy of Eternal Justification

I was formerly introduced to the Facebook group entitled Predestinarian Network and decided to join it, as being a High Calvinist (Teleological Supralapsarian) I am definitely interested in the doctrine of predestination. Once there, I felt a growing uneasiness with the posts done especially by the administrator, Brandan Kraft. In a recent update, I was directed to this particular post done (again) by Brandan Kraft, and I was appalled to see what exactly is taught by people who call themselves supralapsarian "High Calvinists".

Let is be said that I am not one to soft-pedal the doctrines of grace. Although I am charitable to weaker and uninformed Christians (especially Arminian-leaning Evangelicals who know not their theological right hand from their left), I hold unapologetically to the five points of Calvinism as the Scripture teaches them. Furthermore, I am not one to mince words against the "Ponterite" Neo-Amyraldian error which imputes irrationality and nonsense to God. Although I have yet to post anything regarding the logical order of God's decrees here on this blog, my personal conviction is teleological supralapsarianism as expounded by theologian and pastor Robert Reymond in his excellent magnum opusA New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd Ed. (Nashville, TN, USA: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pp. 488-502. It is therefore manifestly not the case that I think all is well even in contemporary Reformed circles, especially with the Federal Vision and New Perspective errors floating around in the churches.

This does not therefore however mean that the opposite error of Hyper-Calvinism will be tolerated. Previously, I do not see many "hypers" around, but it seems with this that times are a-changing. In their reaction to the (neo-)Amyraldism that is floating around, the pendulum at least for some have swung to the other extreme, as we shall see.

In this post by Brandan Kraft, the ancient error of Eternal Justification comes to the forefront. As I was telling my good friend Joel, it was as if you have seen a corpse rise from the grave (and I am not referring to the Resurrection!). Eternal Justification was one of those quaint doctrines which I have read in passing in articles on historical theology, never expecting to see such things see the light of day once more, except probably in small traditional "primitive" Baptist churches which are presumed dying in light of the onslaught of modernity (and post-modernity).

With this, let us examine this article by Brandan Kraft according to Scripture .

There are three main point of this article by Kraft which he teaches: 1) the idea that there is no difference between God's decrees and the execution of these decrees; the idea of time has no relevance at all to God, 2) the elect are justified from eternity and were always viewed with love, and thus 3) the elect were never under the wrath of God,

All three of these ideas are unbiblical and unjustified inferences that do not flow from the text of Scripture but are rather inferences inferred from viewing the world using a hermeneutical framework of "absolute predestination" as the be all and end all of Christian theology, instead of the proper biblical and historically Reformed framework of Tota Scriptura or all of Scripture. Predestination is and always must be a deduction from Scripture, never something that is used to norm the interpretations of Scripture. Systematic Theology of any kind proceeds by the systematizing of doctrine from disparate truths obtained from the texts of Scripture, never from utilizing any one particular set of Christian truth (i.e. predestination) and using that set of truths to norm all other interpretations in the rest of Scripture.

The first error committed by Kraft can be seen in the confusion, conflation and collapse of God's decrees made in eternity past with the execution of God's decrees in time. This is of course a primarily philosophical theological issue which is not overtly discussed in Scripture. Rather, the truths regarding such issues are inferred from other truths taught in Scripture itself. Scripture indeed teaches that God has a plan from eternity which includes election and reprobation (cf Eph. 1:4-11, Rom. 9). God IS in fact immutable (cf Num. 23:19). However, and this is where the problem lies, the Scripture teaches other things of which these crypto-hyper-Calvinists deny.

As it has been said, we must look at the totality of Scripture before we attempt to systematize them. While logical consistency is a virtue and indeed is a must in theology, such must take place only when all the data is in on the subject, otherwise errors would very likely occur.

Looking further at Scripture, we see that unregenerate people, EVEN believers at one time before their conversion, were at one time children of wrath just like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3). It is the plain teaching of Eph. 2:1-3 that believers before conversion were under the wrath of God (which incidentally touches on our third point of contention), and we do well to believe in that truth instead of eisegeting the passage in service to the "absolute predestination" hermeneutical framework. But we would go back to the gist of our first issue for now — the conflation and collapse of God's decrees made in eternity past with the execution of these decrees in time.

According to Rom. 8:29-30, believers are mentioned to be 'foreknown (foreknew)', 'predestined', 'called', 'justified', and 'glorified'. All of these verbs are in the aorist tense, which is normally shorthand for simple past tense for beginners in Greek (an oversimplification of the facts). Regardless, because of this, the verbs when translated into English are translated into the past tense.

Now, if God's decrees made in eternity past are the same as the execution of these decrees, then aren't all the decrees of God already executed so to speak? If so, aren't all believers already glorified now on earth, and therefore believers are not only considered righteous, they being glorified are actually righteous now? If such were the case, aren't all believers sinless? But of course, for Bible-believing Christians, 1 Jn. 1:8-10 exists, which functions as the proposition that accomplishes the refutation through reductio ad absurdum of the nonsense coming out from this conflation of God's decrees and the execution of them.

Philosophically, such an error would also logically create the specter of a denial of sequences in time, ironically having more to do with Zeno's ideas denying motion than Scripture. For if "whatever He [God] declares, it's accomplished the movement He says it", then since God decrees many things, they must all be accomplished the movement He decrees them. So since God decrees that for example a person named John will believe in the Gospel, I guess John must have believed in the Gospel from eternity past since God's decrees are made in eternity past? But this is the kind of theological hubris that a denial of the basic idea that God's decrees are executed in time creates! I guess in this ridiculous system, all of Christian growth is just a realization that we were _____ (fill in the blanks - ie regenerated, have faith, justified, sanctified, even glorified etc) in eternity past, and we are just coming to realize those truths. Of course, we would then ask the next question: Are these realizations similarly decreed by God (who after all is sovereign)? I guess this should hammer the final nail in such philosophical and theological skubalon.

Kraft in defending the conflation and collapse of God's decrees with its execution utilizes a certain variant reading of Rev. 13:8, which states as follows:

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8 - KJV)

and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 13:8 - ESV)

Now, it can be seen that there is a variant reading here. Are we to read the phrase "from the foundation of the world" as descriptive of "the Lamb who was slain" (KJV), or "the writing of names in the book of life" (ESV)? Knowing my limitations, I am not going to pursue this issue further as to which is the correct interpretation. However, seeing this divergence, it is simply astonishing that Kraft utilizes this one disputed text to buttress the entire concept of decree = execution. Furthermore, the whole reasoning at this point is an exercise in circular reasoning — this verse teaches that Christ was slain from the foundation of the world in the sense that God's decrees are treated as executed. Thus Christ is truly represented not as assured to be slain (decreed), but as actually slain (execution of decree). Based upon this, we know that "But God, being the Eternal Almighty has no need to wait for things to be accomplished in time. He created time and sees it all at once", therefore there is no difference between the decrees and its execution. The problem of course is that their conclusion that there is no such difference is assumed already in their interpretation of Rev. 13:8!

Basing his philosophical construct on a disputed verse is bad enough, much worse the inherent contradictions within itself and with the teachings of other parts of Scripture which we have previously seen. The whole philosophical assumption that God's decrees are no different from their executions is thereby philosophically bankrupt and self-defeating, contradicts the plain teachings of other parts of Scripture, and its sole proof text too fragile to support such a huge failed theological system.

The second error made by Kraft follows from the first and in fact may be the rationale for embracing the first error. The doctrine of eternal justification is a most pernicious error in making justification prior to faith, contradicting the vital doctrine so explicitly taught especially in the book of Romans - that justification is by faith. In fact, just reading the book of Romans without any prior presupposition and allowing the text to interpret itself would sound the death knell for any such teaching. Rom. 8:29-30 have already mentioned that Justification comes after calling. If one believe in eternal justification, then are the elect called from eternity past? Are we believers in the pre-existence of souls in some form of "heavenly nursery" in eternity past so that when God decreed (or in their system executed His decrees) the calling, that calling can in fact take place in eternity past, otherwise there would be no souls for God to through His decrees call? The very thought is blasphemous — that human souls are in the same way uncreated just as God is!

This brings us to the third point — that of denying that the elect of God were never at any stage under the wrath of God. We have previously looked at Eph. 2:1-3 so we do not have to repeat the same exegesis of the text. Instead, let us look at one of the narrative accounts in Scripture: the story of the wicked king of Judah, King Manasseh the son of King Hezekiah (2 Ki. 21:1-18; 2 Chron. 33:1-20). We know from Scripture that King Manasseh was under the wrath of God for his gross wickedness (2 Ki. 21:6). Yet at the end of his wicked life, Manasseh repented of his sins (2 Chron. 33:13,19).

The question for those like Kraft therefore is this: Is the Bible lying when they state that Manasseh repented of his sins? If he did in fact repent, he must be saved and one of the elect, or isn't he? If he indeed is one of the elect, then the Scripture do in fact teach that he was at one time under the wrath of God, thus falsifying their ridiculous teaching that the elect of God were never under the wrath of God even before conversion.

With the demolition of their system done, we would look at the hyper-Calvinist implication of the false teaching of eternal justification. All their protestations that hyper-Calvinism denies the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel to all aside, the fact of the matter is that such teachings logically results precisely in the denial of what they claim to affirm — the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel to all.

In light of eternal justification, the elect of God were never under the wrath of God. Therefore, they cannot be any time under the federal headship of Adam. This implies no spiritual commonality of any kind with the reprobates. Now, Christianity teaches that all humans are all united in the fact that we are all sinners, and it is only because of particular grace that I as a sinner am saved out of my sin and out of the hellfire I justly deserve. Advocates of eternal justification however logically should deny this. With no spiritual commonality between the elect and reprobates (constituting a denial of the Imago Dei to some extent), the two are as light and darkness. No longer are Christians to be considered as undeserving sinners saved by God's amazing grace, but as saints who happen not to realize that they are already justified. (This of course will logically lead to various forms of Antinomianism but we will not go there).

In such a scenario, the Hyper-Calvinist system will start to rear its ugly head. Since there is such a clear demarcation between the elect and the reprobates, why bother wasting time preaching to all men? Rather, shouldn't we seek out "sensible sinners" and as such be more efficient in evangelism?

The form of crypto-Hyperism paraded by advocates of Eternal Justification is a terrible abomination which is outrightly heretical when carried to its logical conclusions. We have not even mentioned the fact that since the article of Justification by Faith Alone is the article by which the Church stands or falls, the doctrine of Eternal Justification through its rearrangement of the Ordo Salutis undermines if not destroy this vital evangelical doctrine. Truly, this doctrine of Eternal Justification is a serious error at best, and heretical at worst. May we avoid such philosophical sophistry and rather follow the teachings of Scripture without the imposition of such a rationalistic framework. Amen.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8)

Friday, March 12, 2010

James R. White's critique of Peter Enns' "Incarnational" model of inspiration

In this talk at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS), Dr. James R. White spoke on Peter Enns and the authority of Scripture, and refuted Enns' idea of the Incarnational model of the inspiration of Scripture.

[HT: AOMin]

Chris Gordon road-tripping at a PD/SS church

Chris Gordon, WSC grad and pastor of United Reformed Church at Lynden, WA, has recently done some road-tripping in visiting a modern seeker sensitive/purpose driven church North County Christ the King Church in Lynden itself. As he begins:

It's a challenge today to take a stand for anything. This is no less true in the church of Jesus Christ, especially as we think through the implications of the Biblical warning that in the latter times some will depart from the faith giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). Part of our responsibility as Christians is to defend the truth, and to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

As as pastor, I recognize that one of my responsibilities is to protect those whom I serve from influences and practices that have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). At times, this requires critical reflection of what others are doing and saying in the Christian world, especially when, as Paul said, there are savage wolves among us who do not spare the flock, but draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:29). There is just too much at stake if we remain silent, we are called to pull souls out of the fire (Jude 1:22).

Many well-meaning Christians, however, don't take well to any kind of constructive criticism or warning against what particular churches are doing contrary to the received doctrine. We have come to a point in the Christian world that if we say anything by way of exposing error, we are labeled as unloving or schismatic. But such pressures, as strong as they are, do not remove our responsibility to expose error and false doctrines as we speak the truth in love.

With these things in mind, I have been challenged on more than one occasion that I do not have the right to critique any other local church if I have never attended the one in question. In the past, my answer has always been, "I don't have to slam my hand in a trunk to know it's going to hurt." But, fair enough, although I think such a charge is a diversionary tactic, it is important to "know" exactly what you are critiquing. So, to honor the challenge of others, last Saturday night I decided to attend North County Christ the King Church here in Lynden.

In this light, Gordon has posted his interesting and revealing reports with regards to his road trip on his blog here, here and here. The last report especially was a good critique of the typical modern wishy-washy sermonettes that have a low view of God and a too high view of Man. In Gordon's words:

There are two very serious errors here that were evident throughout the service, especially in the message itself—a wrong view of God and a wrong view of man. The first error, a wrong view of God, was a denial of the Creator/creature distinction. In this denial, God's revelation of himself in his distinctness from his creatures is rejected as he is refashioned into those things that make us feel comfortable about him. Simply stated, if God created us his image, we have returned the favor and created him back into a fallen image that we feel comfortable with.

...

If you take the subtitle of the sermon, Satisfaction Guaranteed, what is the assumption being made here? The basic assumption here is that if you try out God, he will work for you. Now I am used to this “guarantee” language when I buy a product at the grocery store and expect that the money I have invested in the product will earn me some positive result in my life. For instance, the other day I saw this very claim advertised on a teeth whitening product, satisfaction guaranteed. I was interested because prolonged coffee drinking has darkened my teeth. So the first thing I did was check the price. That stuff is expensive. If they really want to sell me the product, the prices have to be slashed; I’m looking for the Safeway card discount. Further, I expect it to work for what I have determined is my need. As a consumer, I reign sovereign over my need and my purchase.

Now since this marketing strategy is so common in the church, we should ask what happens when God himself is marketed this way? What are the consequences of this? And what does this presume is my greatest need? Think about the suggestion: you go off-roading with God, we guarantee satisfaction. How do you guarantee satisfaction? As the marketer, you have to please the customer. And if God and his church are being marketed like a product, you have to sell both. As stated above, you cannot identify them with any of those things that the consumer might find offensive or unattractive; both have to packaged for their use — because, well, that is how products sell.

...

So what happens? If the customer is sovereign over what he is “buying” with regard to God he certainly will not select a view of God that emphasizes His justice, holiness, or righteousness. The attribute(s) that is most pleasing to the customer will drown out all the rest, and in today’s church market, it is the single attribute of love by which God is defined to the demise of all the rest, especially his justice.

...

So where does this lead us? If you have ridded God of those attributes that you dislike, what happens to your view of what you need and who you are? To be certain, we will never be in pursuit of the gospel. Why? Because the only way the Christian gospel has any real meaning is when there is a proper appreciation for God’s holiness and justice. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and, therefore, are under his just wrath (Rom. 3:23). The only way anyone escapes the wrath to come is by faith alone in Christ, whose righteousness is freely imputed to all who heartily trust in him for salvation. But it is only when we are properly confronted with our misery in the face of God’s justice that we are prepared to submit ourselves to what he says is our greatest need.

...

Do you see what has happened? There is no “life-giving” power in this because Christ as a savior from sin is absent. As Michael Horton has stated, “the cure is only as radical as the disease." If our greatest problem is just getting derailed from life's path, all we need is a new moral compass. But this does not reconcile needy sinners to God. I heard nothing of Christ and him crucified in the message, and yet this message is God's expressed chosen power to save. The apostle was clear about this to the Corinthians when he said “that his speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that their faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Couldn’t we paraphrase this by saying, when I came to you I did not use Suzuki 4wds, love videos, espresso bars, dramas, bands, liturgical dances, et al; and I did not use these things purposely so that your faith should not be in the marketing of men, but in the power of God?

It is God who identifies for us in his Word who he is, who we are, and what we need. God is not product to be used, nor is his gospel. No one has ever been manipulated into the kingdom by gimmicks. As David Wells states, “the gospel calls us not to use it but submit to the God of the universe through his son…when we accept Christ he is not there for our use but we are there for his service.” It's tragic to state that we are in desperate need of going back to the basics, understanding and submitting to what God has revealed of himself, and of us. As Hosea lamented in his day, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6)." Whose people? It’s my prayer that all Christians today would appeal to the Lord's mercies and remember what he prayed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

It is heartening to see Reformed folks and especially pastors start to utilize the medium of the Internet for outreach. The world is perishing and there is a shortage of biblical teaching and discernment in the land (Is. 5:13, Hos. 4:6), and we need (forth-telling) prophets to proclaim the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit and apply the living Word in the world (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

[HT: Heidelblog]

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rom. 2:13, the Covenant of Works, and the eisegetical reasoning of the NPP and FV paradigms

When one jettisons the concept of the Covenant of Works, inevitably some form of unorthodoxy will come up. The denial of the plain reading of Rom. 2 probably serves as the best illustration, with peoples and movements as diverse as John Piper, the FV (Federal Vision) and NPP (New Perspective on Paul) coming up with their strange ideas of what they think Rom. 2 actually teaches. For Piper, it is the idea of "Future Grace", a concept which is self-contradictory at best, and borders on serious error at worst. In the case of the FVers, obedience is a work that does indeed saves — that "truly responding to the Law (the Word) in faith does justify" (Schlissel, 260), as the review in the Trinity Review quotes.

In this blog post, WSC grad Joshua Martin briefly addresses the text of Rom. 2:13 in context and show what is the true teaching of this verse over and against the mangled interpretations offered by others. As Martin states:

Some find in this verse the doctrine of justification by works plus faith, while others – rightly insisting that justification is by faith alone (Rom 3:28, et al.) – understand the Apostle to be speaking of works as the fruit of faith (i.e. justification is by faith alone, but that faith is never alone in the person justified.). Both approaches miss the Apostle Paul’s point entirely.

... Paul is not here discussing the relationship of works and saving faith. He approaches this subject in chapters 6 and 7. His topic is the condemnation of the law and verse 13 does not represent a parenthetical comment on another subject, but it is rather the crux of the matter.

...

At last we arrive at verse 13 where Paul argues that it is the “doers of the law who will be justified.” Paul’s point here is not to safeguard the doctrine of justification by faith from the error of antinomianism. Paul has not even mentioned justification by faith! He does not even begin to address the gospel in general, the atonement of Christ, or justification by faith until the pivotal point in chapter three.

...

(Bold added)

It seems that many people need to be taught how to read the Bible in sequence, and to be reminded that chapter 2 is to be read after chapter 1, and verse 20 after verse 19. The Bible is not a cookbook or life manual or a reference book of doctrinal formula or anything else, but it is written to be read in the way it is written - sequentially chapter by chapter, verse by verse. This is incidentally why expository preaching is the best method for revealing to God's people what God has actually said in His Word, as such is more conducive for bringing out the truths in God's Word and allow the Spirit to speak to us without the interference of men. The preacher is to be God's instrument so that the Spirit can speak to us through the Word preached, not to be philosophers offering their "theological" opinions and lessons in moralism and as such obscure the plain teachings in God's holy, authoritative and perspicuous Word.

[HT: Heidelblog]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

James White and the upcoming anti-Calvinist attack by David Allen

It seems that Dr. David L. Allen (dean of the School of Theology, professor of Preaching, and director of the Center of Biblical Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is coming up with a new book entitled Whosoever Wills, to be released next month. Based upon the supposedly biblical "John 3:16 conference of 2008", this book attempts to "offer an alternative to Calvinism in regard to understanding how God works in salvation" (according to the blurb).

Dr. James R. White has chimed in on this issue in his blog here. Given Dr. Allen's abysmal handling of the text of Scripture during the John 3:16 conference, in which the phrase "whosoever wills" is read into the text of Scripture (the Scriptures reads πας ό πιστευων — "all the believing ones", not "whosoever wills"), I am not too optimistic about how the subject would be handled in this book. As it is, Dr. White previewed the book through Google Books, and mentioned that Dr. Allen still disappointingly repeated the same libelous charge of hyper-Calvinism against him, despite and in spite of the fact that even Phil Johnson, who provided the source for the charge in his "A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism" which Allen used as recommended by Neo-Amyraldian Tony Byrne, (inconsistently) denied that White is in fact a hyper-Calvinist.

Of course, this is partly thanks to the Neo-Amyraldians like Tony Byrne who aid the Arminians against the Calvinists. In an even more recent episode around June-July last year 2009, I clashed with Byrne and Ponter again, and it is during this episode that it was revealed that they actually do not regard Hyper-Calvinism as heresy! To which I responded in a blog post here denouncing their intellectualism. After all, what kind of people are they who freely attach labels and charges of heresy at churchmen such as Dr. James White and Dr. Robert Reymond, and yet claim that they are not actually taking such labels and charges seriously as shown by not treating hyper-Calvinism as the heresy it actually is? These Neo-Amyraldians spend vast amounts of time attempting to prove their hobby horse of limited/unlimited atonement theory as being historically reformed, and throw the labels of hyper-Calvinism to those who disagree with them. Yet, they treat the whole thing as a game it seems; not a serious doctrinal issue at all.

The term "hyper-Calvinism" has been thrown around too many times as a one-size-fits-all silencer. After all, who wants to be labeled as extreme? It seems that the definition of the term has devolved into "any system with a higher view of soteriology than me". The Arminians call all Calvinists "hyper", Norm Geisler in his book Chosen But Free called all Dordtian Calvinists (ie historic Calvinists) "hyper", and the Neo-Amyraldians call all high Calvinists "hyper". Oh well...

If these people in the SBC want to revert back to the error of Anabaptism, I sure am not going to stop them. They are welcome to go back to these heterodox systems of thought and embrace the full range of errors the Anabaptists embrace. Just leave the flock alone and stop calling themselves evangelicals would be helpful indeed.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

W. Robert Godfrey on the Christian Club

W. Robert Godfrey, president of Westminster Seminary California, has written an interesting and provocative essay in the Tabletalk magazine, here.

Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?

What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them.

What solution does the Bible teach for this sad situation? The short but profound answer is given by Paul in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We need the Word to dwell in us richly so that we will know the truths that God thinks are most important and so that we will know His purposes and priorities. We need to be concerned less about “felt-needs” and more about the real needs of lost sinners as taught in the Bible.

... more

[HT: Heidelblog]

Friday, March 05, 2010

On the Cult-Like Hostile Takeover Tactics of the Purpose-Driven Church Transitioning Seminar

Over at the Fighting for the Faith radio archive page, fellow CRN contributor Christ Roseborough has done and posted a special edition program with regards to the horrendous scheming, manipulative and absolutely unchristian tactics employed by the Purpose Driven paradigm and implemented by Church Transitions Inc., headed by Purpose-driven CEO-"pastor" Dan Southerland. As Roseborough said:

The list of cult-like tactics employed by Southerland is LONG. They include:

  1. Flat out lies and manipulative double speak
  2. Blatant Scripture Twisting
  3. New & Direct Extra Biblical Revelation and Visions from God
  4. Flat out intolerance for anyone who questions or challenges these "new" Extra Biblical Revelations and Visions that are supposedly from God

All of these despicable tactics have been revealed already to the world in Dan Southerland's book Transitioning, which I have previously reviewed here.