Friday, April 30, 2010

Baptism and the Great Commission

The topic of Baptism and especially Infant Baptism is not an easy one to tackle, and thus I have not previously really mentioned much of it. Certainly, it is not one that can be addressed after reading one or two books on the topic, and I have always been extremely wary of those who after a few weeks have dogmatically made up their minds on the issue and attack the other side as being at best heterodox and at worst heretical (an action which shows the extreme naivete and profound ignorance of the person involved on this topic). The background for discussion of this topic requires a rather in-depth knowledge of Covenant Theology, and especially the relation between Salvation and entrance into the Covenant. This is especially so since Baptism is at least a sign of the Covenant, a position held to by both [Covenantal] Credobaptists and Paedobaptists.

That said, I think I have read and heard enough to make some informed critique regarding the topic, instead of merely previously saying that the points raised by others do not actually prove their position. I am aware though that it will be some time before I am able to formulate my viewpoint in a way that is satisfactory to me and which will sufficiently address the topic.

In this post therefore , I would address two passages which are used to prop up Credobaptism: Mt. 28:18-20 and Acts 2:39-39.

In Fred Malone's book The Baptism of Disciples Alone (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2nd. Ed. 2007), Malone in Appendix E on pages 242-243 refers to the Great Commission text (which he has done so previously in the main body of his book i.e. p. 41). In his view as articulated previously in page 41, the Great Commission states that we are first to make disciples, and then to baptize these disciples, and therefore the Great Commission teaches Believers' Baptism.

In pages 242-243, Malone returns to this passage in this review of the book The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism compiled and edited by Gregg Strawbridge. In chapter 3 of that book, Joe Beeke and Ray Lanning were stated to have said that ""repent and be baptized" are coordinate commands, not indicating temporal order (p. 60)" (cited in p. 242). Malone countered that "the coordinate conjunction does not negate the temporal argument that repentance should precede baptism". (p. 243) To prove his case, Malone cites passages such as Jn. 4:1-2 where repentance is stated to have clearly preceded baptism.

The problem however with Malone's attempted rebuttal is that he has unwittingly committed eisegesis at this point. Beeke and Lanning's contention that the twin commands of repentance and baptism are coordinate commands not indicating temporal order fits the immediate context very well. Malone in appealing to passages such as Jn. 4:1-2 cites passages outside the immediate context of Mt. 28:18-20. The immediate context says nothing about temporal order within the twin commands of repentance and baptism. It just states that we are to call all men to both (1) repent, and (2) to be baptized. Mt. 28:18-20 therefore has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of Infant Baptism, and Malone in this instance is reading into the text here.

The other passage is the famous text in Peter's sermon in Acts 2:38-39, which is as follows:

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Malone interprets the passage as saying that the phrase "everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself" is the condition circumscribing the entire promise; the "ultimate condition of the reception of the promise; the effectual calling of God, not parental connection" (p. 129). Therefore, while the promise is "for you and to your children and for all who are far off", all these groups are limited by the condition of election in the later part of verse 39. Therefore, the promise is not an "indiscriminate assurance" of promise, but rather this ""promise" is given only to those "of faith" "(p. 128), citing Gal. 3:22 to this effect.

This argument seems to be a staple in Covenantal Credobaptist argumentation, seeing as it is used by Dr. James White in his baptism debate with Dr. Bob Shishko (a debate which can be bought from the Aomin website) and also by Alan Conner in his book Covenant Children Today: Physical or Spiritual? (Owensboro, KY: RBAP), p. 75. It sounds rather reasonable, until you examine it in detail.

The first problem with this interpretation is the use of Gal. 3:22 to interpret Acts 2:38-39. The book of Galatians was written for a particular reason for the proclamation of the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone apart from any form of works and sacraments. The Law/Gospel antithesis is at the forefront of Pauline thought in the entire epistle to the Galatians, and it is this that the book is focused on. To use any part of this book therefore to interpret other parts like Acts 2 where the context is different is to commit eisegesis. The fallacy that Malone makes is to assume that the concept of "promise" in Gal. 3:22 is the same as the concept of "promise" in Acts 2:39. In order to do that, he must depend on a certain Baptistic view of relation between salvation and covenant, a view which he does not so much defend as assume. (Which is why as I have said the topic requires one to really understand Covenant Theology!)

The second problem with the Credobaptist position can be illustrated by the diagram as follows:

The Credobaptist position it seems seek to make the phrase "Everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself" a condition circumscribing who the promise is made to, even bringing the concept of election into the picture. The first problem however for such an interpretation is that the very concept of election is not found in the text. The Apostle Peter was giving a Gospel message and a Gospel call; an offer of the Gospel, and no mention of election was even mentioned at all apart from this contested verse, so why would we think that Peter was talking about election in the middle of this Gospel call?

If we were to read the verse in context however, we can see that Peter's Gospel message was portrayed as a fulfilment of the prophecies to Israel. Citing Joel 2 and stating that these prophecies were being fulfilled in these last days, the idea of fulfilment of the promises made to Israel is prevalent throughout the message. Such fulfilment of Messianic prophecies would bring to mind passages such as Is. 54 especially verses 1-3, Mal. 1:11, Is. 19:16-24 among others, where the promise that all peoples would come to know God is made.

It is in such a context that the promise of Acts 2:38-39 is given. The promise seems to be moving outwards, from (1) you, to (2) your children, and to (3) all who are far off. The logical flow therefore is to see that the phrase "all whom the Lord our God calls to Himself" is the fourth sphere of promise, covering all and everyone on this earth as an expression of the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies. Instead of being a [limiting] phrase about election, the phrase is an expansion phrase, bringing about the promise of the Gospel message as a universal offer of salvation to all men without distinction.

The question that may arise from this interpretation then concerns the struggle Peter, the Apostolic and the early church had with the problem of Gentile converts. Why did Peter struggle with the conversion of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity? Why was the Jerusalem council needed, and the Epistle to the Galatians also, not to mention the epistle to the Hebrews? The problems and struggles as one sees through the lens of Messianic prophecies came about not because Gentiles were not included in the Messianic prophecies, but rather because the Gospel message moves beyond the sphere of Judaism in demolishing ethno-religo boundaries. Peter and the Apostolic Church probably have the concept in mind that Gentiles in order to become Christians (who were after all the true Jews in their minds and in fact) must become Jews first through proselyte baptism. The shock Peter had in the case of Cornelius was that God accepted Cornelius and his household as Gentile converts and not that they were to become [Messianic] Jews. In moving beyond the ethno-religious boundaries of Judaism, the Holy Spirit led them to see that the Gospel message was not about making Jews of all nations [albeit "Messianic Jews"], but of making Christians of all nations. The New Covenant rightly speaking is new with respects to the time-bound Mosaic Covenant, and thus not limited to the people of physical Israel. Rather, it is a fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant with its blessing to all peoples (Gen. 12:1-3), a fact mentioned in Gal. 3:16-18.

In conclusion, we have looked and see that these two passages, Mt. 28:18-20 and Acts 2:38-39, do not in fact promote the Credobaptist position. Rather, when properly interpreted, they are either neutral to it (the former), or decidedly against it (the latter). Acts 2:38-39 continues to be a strong proof-text for the paedobaptist position, and also in fact a good text for the universal offer of the Gospel.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TE Brian Carpenter on Theology, Ecclesiology and Sociology

TE Brian Carpenter from the PCA has written an insightful but sad commentary on what is happening in his presbytery. Being somewhat removed from it, the controversy does not at the moment, and hopefully will not in the future, affect me. The commentary however is very revealing, through its exposure of the hornet's nest in the PCA, that the errors of doctrinal latitudinarianism has taken hold in it, such that friendships trump the Lordship of Jesus Christ and Sociology trumps Theology and Ecclesiology.

The sad fruits of this mess can be seen in the apostasy of entire denominations like the PCUSA, ECUSA, UMC etc in history. As Carpenter wrote:

The PCUSA became the PCUSA because of just this dynamic. In the 1860’s it was “Yeah, he doesn’t believe in the doctrine of predestination, but he’s such a nice guy. How could we discipline him and remove him from office? It wouldn’t be nice.”

In the 1920’s it was “Yeah, he doesn’t believe in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, but he’s such a nice guy. How could we discipline him and remove him from office? It wouldn’t be nice.”

By the 1990’s it was “Yeah, he doesn’t believe that homosexuality is a sin, but he’s such a nice guy. How could we discipline him and remove him from office? It wouldn’t be nice.”

May God save us from the poison of doctrinal latitudinarianism. Perhaps one way to combat this heinous sin is to place as one criteria for ordination as pastors/elders is that they are willing to name and shame heretics in public and have indeed done so?

[HT: Johannes Weslianus]

Friday, April 23, 2010

WJD? Or rather WWHJD? - What would the human Jesus do?

Quite a while back in the 1990s when I was younger, a movement swept across the church — the WWJD movement, asking us to imitate Christ and to act in a way similar to how Jesus would act. As I was then around my rebellious teen years, I wasn't interested in that phenomenon though I remembered the interesting paraphernalia, i.e. bracelets and bands, that were been sold and given. The only thing that stuck was the saying and how we are to grow in Christ-likeness, with Jesus being our example of how we were to behave and act in our daily lives.

Now, I am not going to analyze that particular phrase and the history etc behind it, of which anyone who is interested can read up on it (although I do have and did read Sheldon's book). I think anyone who has read my blog for some time should have noticed that I am no friend of socialism either, although I do think the Faith is a much more important issue than socio-political ones. In this post therefore, I would rather want to concentrate on the fact that most Christians would agree that we should be growing into Christ-likeness (i.e. 1 Peter 1:15-16, 1 Cor. 11:1), and thus move on from there.

In light of New Evangelicalism which is being complemented by the "New Calvinism", one blind spot which I have come to see with these modern Christians is with regards to the Christian idea of growing in Christ-likeness. Assuming an orthodox interpretation of the phrase WWJD?, we should be emulating Jesus in his love, compassion and ... anger?

Clearly, the usage of the slogan WWJD? to promote biblical responses to heresy and false teachings do not quite fit into the zeitgeist. New Evangelicals have then invented this interesting caveat: "Well, Jesus is God and we are not [so Jesus can be angry and judge others because He knew their hearts etc]". So in other words, we are to imitate Christ in all his non-divine actions, and those undesirable actions as defined by the zeitgeist are of course *conveniently* regarded as those only the divine can do.

Let us grant them their extremely myopic view of Scripture which takes no account of the actions of the Prophets and Apostles in this respect. The question then is: upon what basis are we to differentiate between the "human" actions of Jesus which we are to emulate and the "divine" actions of Jesus which we cannot emulate? Shouldn't we then say WWHJD — What Would the Human Jesus Do? Ignoring the Nestorian implications of this question for the moment, isn't that really what the New Evangelical application of WWJD actually amounts to?

The fact of the matter is that all of Jesus' actions are done in his person who is indeed very man. No doubt some of them could only be done because of his divine knowledge of things we cannot know, i.e. saying that those Jews back there did not believe because they are not His sheep - the Elect (Jn. 10:26). But these are "divine" only in the sense that such actions are done based upon knowledge that humans can never hope to have. There is nothing inherently divine in teaching and proclaiming judgment, as humans do that all the time on all topics.

The sorry excuse given by the New Evangelicals, with their objection that Jesus was also God, to the argument from Christ-likeness is thereby rendered moot. If one truly wants to grow in Christ-likeness therefore, ALL of Christ's life is an example for us, not just the "nice" parts. Jesus is not only meek and mild, but is also righteous, bold, and never afraid of calling a spade a spade and offending people's sensibilities. And when he comes again on the last day, He would come with a sword to smite His enemies beneath His feet.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev. 19:11-16)

Amen. May God save us from the zeitgeist of "niceness" (especially to heretics) that has no legitimate place in the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

CT on Warrengate, Horton's response and mine

Over at the Christianity Today (CT) Liveblog, editor Colin Hansen, author of the book Young, Restless, Reformed has written a post on the Warrengate fiasco. Consistent with CT's founding philosophy, Hansen has taken the New Evangelical stand on this topic, which we shall see and examine later.

Back when I first started reading up on the New Calvinist phenomenon after Hansen published his book detailing the movement, I came to notice that there are no essential differences between the ministry philosophy of the original New Evangelicals and the mainstream of the "New Calvinists". With this, I have coined the term "New Evangelical Calvinism" to refer to this movement. Since then, and especially with the Warrengate incident, further observations have confirmed my at-then fledgling suspicion of the New Evangelical philosophy and mood behind the "New Calvinism", with the "New Calvinism" thus manifesting itself as nothing more than New Evangelicalism version 2.0 . Why anyone wants to re-try a failed philosophy after seeing the failure of the original vision 50+ years later is anyone's guess.

In Hansen's article, the prevailing zeitgeist of being "nice" was amply represented there, as Hansen in the beginning described Michael Horton's perceptive yet extremely mild critique of Piper's invitation to Warren as "biting". Yes, you read it right. Pointing out where Warren does not conform to biblical principles in his conduct in an irenic tone is considered "biting". How far are we indeed from what is clearly taught in the text of Scripture?

Pastor John MacArthur in his book The Jesus you can't Ignore shows from the Gospel narratives how Jesus reacted to the false teaches of his day — the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees. As MacArthur states:

The Great Shepherd Himself was never far from open controversy with the most conspicuously religious inhabitants in all of Israel. Almost every chapter of the Gospels makes some reference to His running battle with the chief hypocrites of His day, and He made no effort whatsoever to be winsome in His encounters with them. He did not invite them to dialogue or engage in a friendly exchange of ideas.

As we are going to see, Jesus’ public ministry was barely underway when He invaded what they thought was their turf—the temple grounds in Jerusalem—and went on a righteous rampage against their mercenary control of Israel’s worship. He did the same things again during the final week before His crucifixion, immediately after His triumphal entry into the city. One of His last major public discourses was the solemn pronunciation of seven woes against the scribes and Pharisees. These were formal curses against them. That sermon was the farthest thing from a friendly dialogue. ...

That is a perfect summary of Jesus’ dealings with the Pharisees. It is blistering denunciation—a candid diatribe about the seriousness of their error. There is no conversation, no collegiality, no dialogue, and no cooperation. Only confrontation, condemnation, and (as Matthew records) curses against them.

Jesus’ compassion is certainly evident in two facts that bracket this declamation. First, Luke says that as He drew near the city and observed its full panorama for this final time, He paused and wept over it (Luke 19:41-44). And second, Matthew records a similar lament at the end of the seven woes (23:37). So we can be absolutely certain that as Jesus delivered this diatribe, His heart was full of compassion.

Yet that compassion is directed at the victims of the false teaching, not the false teachers themselves. There is no hint of sympathy, no proposal of clemency, no trace of kindness, no effort on Jesus’ part to be “nice” toward the Pharisees. Indeed, with these words Jesus formally and resoundingly pronounced their doom and then held them up publicly as a warning to others.

This is the polar opposite of any invitation to dialogue. He doesn’t say, “They’re basically good guys. They have pious intentions. They have some valid spiritual insights. Let’s have a conversation with them.” Instead, He says, “Keep your distance. Be on guard against their lifestyle and their influence. Follow them, and you are headed for the same condemnation they are.”

This approach would surely have earned Jesus a resounding outpouring of loud disapproval from today’s guardians of evangelical protocol. In fact, His approach to the Pharisees utterly debunks the cardinal points of conventional wisdom among modern and post-modern evangelicals—the neoevangelical fondness for eternal collegiality, and the Emerging infatuation with engaging all points of view in endless conversation. By today’s standards, Jesus’ words about the Pharisees and His treatment of them are breathtakingly severe. (pp. 19-21)

The infatuation with positivity that I have previously noticed is also criticized by MacArthur as follows:

Contemporary evangelicalism in general seems to have no taste whatsoever for any kind of doctrinal friction — much less open conflict with spiritual wolves. The Evangelical Manifesto ... expressing many more works of concern about evangelical pubic relations than it ever does for evangelical doctrinal soundness. The document confidently asserts that "the Evangelical message, 'good news' by definition, is overwhelmingly positive, and always position before it is negative." That's a considerable overstatement — especially given the fact that Paul's systematic outline of the gospel in Romans begins with the words, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven" (Romans 1:18) and then goes on for almost three full chapters expounding on the depth and universality of human "ungodliness" and unrighteousness," which is what unleashed God's wrath in the first place. Only after he has made the bad news inescapable does Paul introduce the gospel's good news. ...

As we are going to see, Jesus Himself was not always positive before being negative. Some of His longest discourses, including all of Matthew 23, were entirely negative. (p. 15)

In times of greater doctrinal purity during the Reformation, the Reformers used strong language in denunciation of error. Luther for example called the Pope the Antichrist, and Lucas Cranach (the Elder) painted in a book a picture of Christ going to heaven on one page, with the opposing page showing the Pope descending to hell, an interesting work which I have the privilege of seeing (under a glass case) in 2005 when I visited Luther's home turned museum in Lutherstadt Wittenberg.

The Liberal/Modernist and now Post-Modernist zeitgeist has infiltrated the Church, and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the New Evangelical and New Evangelical Calvinist movement. It is extremely revealing that Hansen called Horton's article "biting". One would have thought that the person of Jesus as biblically described was a raving Fundamentalist in Hansen's eyes as He does not conform to the "meek and mild" Jesus figurine with long brown hair and fuzzy eyes more likely to be seen in a dog begging its master for a favor.

Professor R. Scott Clark has chipped in on this issue on his Heidelbog with his perceptive thoughts here. He concludes with a question:

What becomes of Christian truth telling in an age when even the most gentle criticisms are regarded by evangelical leaders as “biting”?

What then indeed? Which is why I ignore the prevailing zeitgeist. Pandering to it and attempting to win the friendship of God and the world if consistently two-headed would do neither. The world always will be offended by the truth, and it seems Evangelicalism being soaked in the world's mentality thinks likewise. Since I am going to offend them anyway or risk offending God, why not just call a spade a spade, and follow the injunctions of Scripture on this matter instead of toning down biblically mandated polemics?

Hansen further states in his blog post, following Piper, what he thinks the issue is about:

... At the same time, reaction to Warren's invitation reveals something that demands reflection. Negative campaigning may be the shortest path to successful movement building. But it eventually leads to a fork in the road, offering the choice of constructive responsibility or destructive cynicism. By inviting Warren, Piper has challenged his followers to choose which path they will take.

While certainly pure negativity is destructive, Hansen misconstrues the issue as if criticism and obeying the doctrine of separation are forms of "destructive cynicism", rather than obedience to God's Word. It is sad that New Evangelicals are so saturated with the zeitgeist that they cannot lift themselves out of it, instead following the world in viewing any form of contending for the faith (cf Jude 1:3) as the unChristian thing to do. Instead, in their view, all forms of "Christianity" whether true or false must be allowed to the dialogue table it seems, whereby no criticism is ever allowed (only disagreement) much less the hurling of anathemas against unrepentant heretics as made by the Apostle Paul in Gal. 1:8-10. Well, I think that the New Evangelicals have found their first "destructive cynic" - the Apostle Paul himself in the book of Galatians! Fancy condemning a group of "Christians" to hell merely because they teach others that circumcision was a good thing to do. How unloving!

The last gaffe made by Hansen is his insistence that

... [New Evangelicalism was the] middle course between isolationist fundamentalism and ecumenical Protestantism

If not for the fact that the New Evangelicals truly believe that, it would have been laughable, but now it is just sad. Where were the Reformed churches during that time? Were they "isolationist fundamentalists" or "ecumenical Protestants"? There IS a third way even back then without the need for the New Evangelical compromise. Speaking of which, the New Evangelicalism IS from its inception ecumenical and now even more so with the signing of the ECT (Evangelical and Catholics Together) accords and the recent Manhatten Declaration. So did this third wave between "isolationist fundamentalism" and "ecumenical Protestantism" actually materialize? Or is it rather just the fusion of Liberal ministry philosophy with Evangelical theology, with that theology disappearing over the years as the Church becomes ever more and more pragmatic?

Prof. Mike Horton has responded tangentially to Hansen's blog article with a post on the White Horse Inn blog here. While he does raise certain excellent points, an issue of concern with his article is the Christians' responsibility to the others in the "hallway". Granted that there are issues which Christians can legitimately disagree on and still fellowship with each other, but shouldn't we treat the "hallway" conversations as more than mere conversations especially when seeing brethren who are straying or compromising on the Gospel (as in the case of Waren)? While certainly it is in the context of the Church and not a movement whereby discipline can be properly done, it is IMO not loving at all not to point out errors in another Christian even if they are seen in the "hallway" and not living within the same "room".

As it is now becoming sadly evident, the New Evangelical Calvinism is showing itself to be just New Evangelicalism version 2.0.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Westminster Confession of Faith against the error of Eternal Justification

As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only

(Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III, Para VI. Bold added)

The previous Sunday, a group of us Reformed Christians (The Reformed Resurgence) come together for fellowship over dinner. I have decided that we should go through the Westminster Confession of Faith together as we have adopted it as our default Statement of Faith for our group. We went through the first 3 chapters of the Westminster Confession and have some spirited discussion over its contents. It really helps that we are all theologically informed and thus are able to follow the passage as it is, instead of making every point an entire discussion in itself which will happen when one tries to talk about such issues with uninformed Christians — topics like impassibility (WCF Ch. 2 para 1), or the Chalcedonian Trinity (WCF Ch. 2, para 3), not to mention the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture (WCF Ch. 1, para 6, 7, 10). This is of course not to look down on rank and file Christians whom we do love, but it is a fact that such would really take a class meeting weekly for around a year at least to catechize them.

Anyway, while moving through the Westminster Confession, Chapter 3 paragraph 6 really got my attention. In light of the issue of Hyper-Calvinism and Eternal Justification (a serious error which I am convinced leads to hyper-Calvinism), this passage in the Westminster Confession expressively refutes the doctrine of Eternal Justification. While it is unknown to me if the Confession was written with an eye to refute Eternal Justification, the phrasing of this passage rules out any such belief in Eternal Justification.

Let's look at the paragraph again.

As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only

(WCF, Chapter III, Para VI. Bold added)

Justification in the Westminster Confession in its relation to Election is stated to be a working of the Holy Spirit "in due season". The Confession thus expressively denies that Justification is eternal in any sense, since what occurs in time cannot be eternal.

In the further section on justification, it is also stated:

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them

(WCF, Ch. XI, Para IV. Bold added)

God's decree to justify the elect is from eternity, BUT the act of justification itself occurs in time, as the Confession makes plain.

The Westminster Confession and Scripture itself has no inkling of the unbiblical creation of two categories of Justification as postulated by the Baptist theologian John Gill in his A Body of Doctrinal Divinity. Also, as seen in the earlier paragraph in chapter 3, the Westminster Confession does not consider Justification as an eternal act even in light of the doctrine of election, thus removing a central plank in the crpyo-Hyperist system which creates a false hermeneutical framework in which everything is read through the lenses of the nefarious concept of "absolute predestination".

For now, it would help us to see that the Westminster Confession of Faith is decidedly against the erroneous doctrine of Eternal Justification. No amount of spin by the Hyper-Calvnists could undo that fact.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Huaizhi's Easter sermon

Yes, I know Easter is sometime back, but anyway Easter is merely a remembrance of the event of Christ's resurrection; there is nothing really special about that date. Anyway, here is my friend Huaizhi's sermon on Easter Sunday on the significance of the Resurrection. It was remarked in teasing that he sounded a bit like Paul Washer at a certain part of his sermon — you be the judge.

My only quibble is that he should have just name the heretical archbishop, who said that it matters little whether the resurrection was disproven because Jesus had risen in his heart, and mentioned it was the Anglican Archbishop of Perth. The Apostle Paul and even the "Apostle of love" John name names (cf 2 Tim. 4:10, 2 Tim. 2:17, 3 Jn. 9) so naming heretics is a biblical given.

Article: Was Adam an historical person?

What are the implications for denying the historicity of Adam and the first eleven chapters of Genesis? In this article, Bob Strimple tells us what they are and thus why it is important to hold to the historicity of Adam and the first eleven chapters of Genesis.

Does the Bible present Adam as an historical person, a man who actually lived at a certain point in history, the very first man and the father of all the members of the human race who followed after him? And if so, what is the theological significance of that fact? Or, to put it another way, what would be the theological consequences of denying the historicity of Adam?

And Strimple concludes:

Despite the great difference between Adam and Christ, Paul points to the all-important redemptive-historical analogy between them. Paul sums up all of God's dealings with men under two great Representative Heads: Adam and Christ. As he says in I Corinthians 15, there is none before Adam, for Adam is the first man. And in terms of covenantal Headship there is none between Adam and Christ, for Christ is the second man. And there is none after Christ, for Christ is the last man. Adam and Christ sustain unique relationships to men. In each case the covenant response of the Representative Head, whether of disobedience or of obedience, is not merely illustrative of the condition of those in union with him but determinative of the condition of those in union with him.

If Adam is merely a symbol that stands for the truth about us, then perhaps Christ is merely another symbol that stands for another truth about us.

...

... If the historicity of the first Adam is considered irrelevant to us, why then should the historicity of the second Adam not also be irrelevant to us?

To conclude: Our understanding of the reality of Adam affects our understanding of sin, of redemption, and of the Redeemer. The one who rejects the Biblical teaching regarding the historical Adam and the historical Fall will find no firm basis for accepting the Biblical teaching regarding the historical, Incarnate Redeemer.

[HT: Heidelblog]

Saturday, April 10, 2010

James Galyon: What is hyper-Calvinism?

As we know, hyper-Calvinism is a heinous error, one which by God's providence I have had occasion to deal with about a month ago in the controversy with P-Net. In this light, Dr. James Galyon has given us a succinct definition as to what hyper-Calvinism is, which is defined as holding to any one of these beliefs:

  • God is the author of sin and evil
  • Human beings have absolutely no will whatsoever
  • Individuals are not responsible for their own decisions and actions
  • Justification occurs in eternity, not in time
  • God does not command all people to repent of sin
  • Not everyone is required to believe upon Christ Jesus for salvation
  • God creates unbelief in the hearts of the non-elect
  • Assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith
  • Election is evident simply by a profession of faith, regardless of sanctification(antinomianism)
  • Saving faith is equivalent to believing predestination (only “Calvinists” are Christians)
  • Limited atonement must be believed in order to hear the gospel and be saved
  • Evangelism is unnecessary, or even wrong
  • God has no love whatsoever for humanity in His providence (common grace)

From my interaction with the hyper-Calvinists at P-Net, I would like to offer this additional point:

  • There is no real fundamental difference between God's decrees and their executions

For more info, see also:

All House and No Doors by C. Matthew McMahon

The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism by Peter Toon

[HT: Turretinfan]

More articles on "Warrengate"

Over at the Pyromaniacs blog, Phil R. Johnson has finally posted his excellent and balanced take on the issue that has came to be known as "Warrengate" here.

Of course I think it's a bad turn of events, and I didn't find Dr. Piper's rationale for handing his platform over to Warren satisfying at all. I was surprised when I heard about it, but on second thought, I have to admit that it is consistent with Dr. Piper's modus operandi. Last year some people were appalled, others delighted, when Doug Wilson spoke at the conference. The year before that, the blogosphere was all abuzz with strong passions for months because Mark Driscoll would be the featured speaker. In 2007, it was John MacArthur, who (let's face it) is hardly a John Piper clone.

So Piper likes to feature speakers from outside the boundaries of his own circle of close fellowship, and that's a good thing, within limits. But Piper's choice of Warren as a keynote speaker proves his idea of where those limits lie is vastly—perhaps fundamentally—different from mine.

Furthermore, as much as I differ from Piper on the question of who deserves his imprimatur, there's at least an equal measure of difference between what I think is the proper way to respond to Piper and the way some of his most vocal critics have responded. I'm appalled and ashamed at how some on my side of this debate have expressed their disagreement with Dr. Piper.

It seems to me the whole controversy reflects in microcosm why the evangelical and fundamentalist movements of the 20th century have both failed so egregiously.

[more]

Dr. James R. White in his Dividing Line, for the first 15 minutes, similarly analyzed the Piper-Warren episode. Chris Roseborough in his Fighting for the Faith radio podcast on April 2nd also addressed the situation here. Lastly, Lane Chaplin lay out all his cards regarding the issue on his blog here, and give us practical steps we should take in how we can apply the doctrine of separation to Pastor Piper in not recommending him. As Lane says:

While I do believe Piper has many great things to say and I greatly respect him as someone who has a record of standing up for Biblical truth, nowhere do I believe we need John Piper. In other words, if I don’t send someone to John Piper that does not equate to I don’t send them to God. R.C. Sproul has said something to the effect that when you build a bridge, you can count on traffic coming from both sides. There are plenty of other preachers and teachers out there who do not see the need to receive traffic from the seeker-sensitive/Purpose Driven movement, and, if you agree that John Piper does not have the monopoly on Biblical truth, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t direct brothers and sisters to someone who refuses to receive that traffic and put it on your brother’s plate.

Finally,

So there are some of my main concerns regarding this issue. I can’t help but be reminded of a superstar basketball player who does something that would cause any normal person to be discredited from the eyes of the public, but, because he has a track record of making some good plays, producing some good stats, and making a few notable appearances, he’s given the go ahead because public opinion as a whole accepts him. I’m afraid that many are dealing with this Piper situation in the same way. I am the first to admit that Piper has written some wonderful stuff, I enjoy many of his sermons, and I think he’s made some key appearances on the social realm for things like anti-abortion and the like, but I also come from the camp that believes that the player shouldn’t be dictating the coach. In other words, if the player (even if he’s a superstar) messes up big time (and I do mean big time), you discipline him for the time being with hopes that he’ll come back from his mistake better than before instead of carrying on like nothing has happened because there's a chance your fan base will decrease and, hey, you've had some good times watching the guy. Folks, Christianity is not about superstars. It’s about Jesus Christ who is interceding for the sin of everyone who believes on Him at this very moment. If you need a certain pastor and his notoriety to substantiate your relationship with God, I’m afraid you have two options: 1) Go to Rome where you’ll fit right in. or 2) Get right with the Lord, confess your sins, and trust on Him for your spiritual edification. He’ll send you the teachers you need, but it may not always be the teachers you want.

Christianity indeed is not about superstars. It is disconcerting to read some of the responses from the "young, naive and impressionable" (to use Lane's words) and see how they defend Pastor Piper's actions without so much as examine them according to Scripture. It is as if Piper is somehow infallible, and even if he were to invite the Pope or the Antichrist to his conference, he is still correct.

Lastly, with regards to Phil's contention of those who are way over the top in their reactions, there may indeed be a few here and there. What those of us who disagree with Piper on this issue strongly should do is to think first and pray before uttering words we may regret later. It is natural to be angry and hurt over compromise within the camp, but such should not translate into personal insults or even curses on Piper. Do we not believe that God Himself cares about what is going on? Isn't Piper's sin first and foremost a slap on God's face not ours? Shouldn't we therefore come before the throne of grace and plead before God what is also on His, before we lash out irrationally in anger and thus harm our cause? Do we need to give the New Evangelicals more excuses than they already have in rejecting the clear teachings of Scripture by making our conducts an unnecessary offence?

So once again, let us obey Scripture in the need for separation, yet do so with sadness for Piper's sin and a desire that he repents and changes his mind on this issue. Piper is our brother who is in sin, let us not treat him as our enemy. Leave our hatred of sin at where it belongs: the Devil and the Flesh.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wes White on a brief history of the development of the Covenant of Works

Over at his blog, Pastor Wes White has written a brief history of the Covenant of Works in Continental thought here. An excerpt:

The way that some people tell the story of law and Gospel and the covenant of works in the history of the Reformed Church, you might think that the Reformed Church was just a mass of confusion and debate on these points. According to their story, the only people who had a clearly defined doctrine of law and Gospel were the Lutherans. The story ends with modern theologians who are seeking to impose this Lutheran law/Gospel distinction into the Reformed Churches.

That story would better be classified as a form of ecclesiastical fiction. The true story is this. The Reformed Church has always believed that there were two distinct types of revelation in Scripture called law and Gospel, and the Reformed Churches have codified this view in their Confessions. They have always believed that it was a crucial heremeneutical [sic] tool for understanding the doctrines of Scripture, as I have demonstrated here. The innovators are those who want to deny the law/Gospel distinction and introduce confusion into what we have always clearly understood.

Eventually, Reformed theologians made use of the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace in order to clarify and explain the difference between law and Gospel. This is codified in our Confession, but it was accepted by nearly everyone in the Reformed Churches. Here's a brief account of how this took place.

[more]

Radio shows on the Piper-Warren controversy

Over at Crosstalk Radio, Ingrid Schlueter interviewed Pastor Bob DeWaay on her radio talk show done on April 6th here on the issue of Piper's invitation of Warren to DG2010 conference. As described:

Ingrid reported that Pastor John Piper encountered “Purpose-Driven” Pastor Rick Warren at a funeral and their meeting resulted in a phone call. The result is that last week Pastor Piper sent shock waves through the Christian community after announcing that he was inviting Rick Warren to be one of the speakers at the 2010 Desiring God Conference.

As Pastor DeWaay explains, "Orthodoxy" has to do with what you believe and what you’re willing to say you believe, at least in private. "Orthopraxy", on the other hand, has to do with what you actually practice. As this program proves, Rick Warren, while he may have affirmed orthodox principles to John Piper, has a public record of proclaiming something very different. Ingrid and Pastor DeWaay expose this tension through various sources such as Warren’s own peace plan, an audio clip by John MacArthur on Warren’s omission of repentance, and much more.

In another talk show Iron Sharpens Iron here, Phil R. Johnson, president of Grace to You and the Pyromaniac, did an interview on the Piper-Warren controversy, seeking to give a balanced response.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Rick Warren, church discipline and the idea of membership covenants

Practically, and here I just think he could put me to shame with his aggressively, in-your-life, transformative discipling of his church. Uh, they have a membership covenant that you have to sign, and it is really rigorous and there are no inactive members and he said, “We discipline people in this church. They don’t fulfill their covenant? They’re gonna be disciplined.” And on and on.

— John Piper, 09:44-10:19

In the video placed by the DG team on their website of Pastor John Piper attempting to defend his invitation of Rick Warren, the following reasons were offered by Pastor John Piper:

  1. Rick Warren is orthodox and believes in sound doctrine (addressed here)
  2. Rick Warren is reading through Jonathan Edwards (utterly irrelevant; I am reading Richard Dawkins now which according to this reasoning means... )
  3. Rick Warren is a Baptist (Baptists are not exempted from heresy — think of the infamous Anabaptist Munsterites)
  4. Rick Warren has a high view of ecclesiology and practices church discipline

The last supposed reason offered by Piper is very troubling indeed to those of us who have seen and even experience the fruit of Warren's philosophy of ministry. There is a difference between biblical church discipline, and the supposed "church discipline" exercised in the Purpose Driven paradigm. "Church discipline"and "membership covenants" in the Purpose Driven paradigms function as tools for the leaders of PD churches to control their flocks and remove resistors who oppose their visions. Like the Charismatic Shepherding Movement, such "church discipline" and "membership covenants" are tools for the control of members.

In the book Transitioning (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000) by Purpose-Driven hireling Dan Southerland of Church Transitions Inc., Southerland states

[In the process of transitioning a church] Nothing shoots vision in the foot quicker than it being leaked before it is fully formed or before the time is right for it to be shared with the entire church (p. 77)

Let me put it plainer than that. Sanballat is a leader from hell. I have not looked it up, but I am convinced that the Hebrew word for Sanballat means leader from hell.

We [PD leaders] all have some Sanballats in our churches. This is the guy who opposes whatever your propose. The guy who hates whatever you like. The guy who wants to back up every time you want to move forward. You cannot call this guy a leader from hell to his face — but you could call him Sanballat. (p. 115)

Southerland in his book, based upon a terrible eisegesis of the book of Nehemiah, teaches the process of transitioning a church to become a "Purpose-Driven church". The PD pastor of the church is to start by forming a vision team to slowly "cast" the vision without informing the members, wooing the "power brokers" in the church to the PD pastor's side (pp. 68-69), and then slowly implement the changes such that the members would not notice the transitionings the Church has undergone until it is too late. Those who remain steadfast in their opposition of the takeover of their church are to be demonized as "Sanballat" and ultimately kicked out of the church.

This then is the "church discipline" that Warren alludes to. As for "church covenants", such are made to ensure that all members follow the PD vision for the church, which is not at all biblical.

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. (Jer. 23:1-2)

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.

“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. (Eze. 34:1-10)

The terrible abuse of the flock for their own personal gain in building their own empires is judged by the Word of God severely. The PD pastors do not feed the flock, but instead feed on them, scattering them everywhere for them to become food for the enemy.

How different is biblical church discipline from the travesty of the PD paradigm! Biblical church discipline is always about the good of the flock and based upon the standards of Scripture. It is not done because the member opposed some so-called "vision" concocted out of the minds of strategists and not from the teachings of Scripture.

It is truly sad that people including Piper do not understand the PD redefinition of "church discipline" and the use of a "membership covenant" to bind the consciences of men to whatever the Church does even when it is not biblical. The ruthless and heartless PD enterprise of kicking out resistors and the biblical doctrine of church discipline are poles apart, and to equate them show the grossest ignorance on this issue.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Rick Warren and Orthodoxy

In the recent controversy involving John Piper inviting heretic Rick Warren for the DG2010 conference, Piper has posted a video whereby he posed doctrinal questions to Rick Warren to answer. Not surprisingly, Warren gave solid and reasonably orthodox answers to the questions posed to him. On the basis of such answers, Piper pronounced Warren as being essentially sound in doctrine.

So what's the problem here? The problem can be glimpsed at perhaps in this quote from the White Horse Inn blog here:

His best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, begins by announcing that it’s not about you, but about God, and then the rest of the book is about you. There seems to be a contradiction between the God-centered theology that is professed and the basically human-centered orientation that dominates much of his message and methods. ...

Pastor Warren tailors his appeals to his audience. To Calvinists, he stresses his support for the “solas” of the Reformation. Yet he tells prosperity evangelist David Yonggi Cho, “I’ve read your books on Vision and Dreams - speak to pastors about how you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?… What advice would you give to a brand new minister?… Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?” (“Breakfast With David Yonggi Cho And Rick Warren,” Pastors.com). In a June 2006 article in JewishJournal.com, editor-in-chief Rob Eshman reported on a speech that Warren gave for Synagogue 3000, after Rabbi Ron Wolfson became involved in the Purpose-Driven pastoral training seminars. “Warren managed to speak for the entire evening without once mentioning Jesus — a testament to his savvy message-tailoring.” When USA Today asked him why Mormon and Jewish leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, “I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?” (USA Today, July 21, 2003). Rick Warren endorses a host of books, from New Age authors to Emergent writers to conservative evangelicals. So why not include Calvinists?

The issue of orthodoxy for Warren is that doctrine for Warren is purely intellectual. This is precisely why in the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren on page 213 can state that

The last things many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles

Doctrine in Warren's mind is purely academic. The problem with Rick Warren is NOT that he does not know what is orthodox truth. After all, Warren has a doctorate, albeit from the liberal Fulller Seminary, thus he can give all the orthodox answers. The problem with Rick Warren is that he does not believe the doctrines that he knows. For if he does, his practices will not be what they now are.

For example, if Warren actually believes that pastors are meant to be shepherds who are entrusted with the Gospel message, then he would not be involved with all the seeker-sensitive nonsense. There would be no need to do surveys of the unreached and no need to tailor the message to them. If Warren actually believes that we are Christ's ambassadors who are supposed to represent Christ, and that salvation is totally of God, then he wouldn't be too bothered with attempting to get into the good books of men by spinning the Gospel in order to do what he thinks is God's Will in the area of social service. (Contrary to what some may believe, I do not think it is necessarily wrong for a church to get involved in social service. But such is not the primary business of the church.) There would probably not be an outcry if Warren was orthodox and practice the theology he professed, quietly laboring in his church without disturbing other churches (think Church Transitions Inc.) and then decide to start programs to help the poor and needy etc.

This disturbing feature in Rick Warren is sad in and of itself. Faith consists of Knowledge, Assent, and Trust (as understood classically). In the classical sense, Warren does not have trust. In the Clarkian sense, Warren's assent is false. In what I think is the Witsian sense, Warren's "faith" does not have substance and no confidence on the reality of the object of that faith. In each sense, Warren does not have true faith in the doctrines he profess to believe in.

So the mere fact that Warren professes orthodoxy means nothing much at all in and of itself. Even the Devil can pass a theological exam with flying colors, but that does not mean that he has suddenly come to believe the truths of God (cf Jas. 2:19). Rather, as the book of James in chapter 2 verses 14-26 remind us, our profession of faith is meaningless apart from our showing that we actually have faith by our actions. In the context of doctrine, being able to give orthodox answers to a list of doctrinal questions is meaningless apart from our showing that we actually do believe in these doctrines by our practice. As it is written:

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? ... You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (Jas. 2:18-20, 24)

Customized for Rick Warren, it will state

But you will say, “You have orthodoxy and I have orthopraxy.” Show me your orthodoxy apart from practicing what you claim to believe, and I will show you my orthodoxy by practicing what I do in fact believe. You know all the correct doctrines; you do well. Even the demons know them — and shudder! Do you want to be shown, Pastor Warren, that professing orthodox doctrines without practicing them is useless? ... You see that a person's standing as one who is truly orthodox is manifested by his putting them into practice and not by mere profession alone.

May we not be fooled by professed orthodoxy and instead insist that the doctrinal practices of preachers such as Rick Warren match up to what they profess to believe.

The nightmare that the New Evangelical Calvinism seems to be moving into

[continued from here and here]

At the CREDO500 conference last year 2009, I have submitted a modified paper of mine (one of two for the conference) on the New Evangelical Calvinism, which can be accessed here. In that paper, I have pointed out a couple of areas of concern in the New [Evangelical] Calvinism. Being one socially but not theologically, I sympathize with them and sincerely wish the best for them, not wishing for the movement to be derailed into compromise and apostasy.

Sadly, the recent incident regarding Piper and Warren shattered my hopes. My paper was written as a warning so that the New Calvinists would not repeat the errors of the last 50-60 years. Instead, it seems as if my paper has become a prophecy of the New [Evangelical] Calvinism. Not only do they seem intent on repeating the mistakes of the past, the doctrinal compromise has happened within the same generation as the "founding generation", in fact by the founding generation themselves. What took 10-20 years in the New Evangelicalism took less than 10 years or even 3 years (if one counts Hansen's book as the beginning) in the New [Evangelical] Calvinism. The trainwreck of compromise in the visible Church looms large. Federal Vision heretic Doug Wilson for DG2009, Semi-Pelagian and fork-tongued heretic Rick Warren for DG2010. What's next, Pastor John? Why not Ratzlinger (Pope Benedict XVI) for DG2011? After all, even Rome is not as heretical in her denial of the Gospel as supposed "evangelical" Rick Warren. Rome at least denounces (classical) Semi-Pelagianism as heresy! Wouldn't it be an interesting topic to know how thinking theologically informs Ratzlinger in his daily decisions as the Pope of a religion followed by millions around the world?

We can see one other aspect of this New Evangelical compromise which I have warned against in Piper's attempted defense of his invitation to Warren for DG2010. Near the end of the video clip of his, Piper states:

The way I have chosen to live my life for the sake of reformed theology and the supremacy of God, and the inerrancy of the Bible, and the importance of solid Reformation Gospel truths, the five Solas and so on, is to give ALL my energy to putting them in a positive, aggressively, uh, spreadable form, NOT to spend my time shooting at the people who don’t like them. ...

— John Piper (11:15 -11:47). Bold added.

In my paper I have argued that the New Calvinists are liable to repeat the same mistake as the New Evangelicals with their infatuation with the idea of positivity. In this same video, Piper it seems succumbs to this same error. While nobody is asking Piper to go around hunting for heresy and denouncing as many heretics as he can find (In fact, I doubt many people even do that), we are expecting Piper to follow Scripture which is both positive and negative in its proclamation.

Now, it is a well-documented fact that Piper does denounce the Word-faith prosperity "gospel", and for that we are appreciative. This makes his attitude in this video even more puzzling. We are not asking him to "shoot" people but rather to continue as he has already done in contending for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Sadly, it seems as if Piper in representing the New Calvinists is moving along the well-trod path of New Evangelicalism. The move towards an infatuation with positivity is symptomatic of the New Evangelical compromise even up till today, and this attitude is what facilitate the silencing of the defence machinery God has instituted in the Church — that the Shepherds and Leaders of the church ought to function as watchmen and guard the flock against heresy and heretics (cf Acts 20:28-31). When such silencing is done, error creeps into the church unchallenged and unchecked, and it will overwhelm the Church like a tidal force of destruction, consuming all in its wake. The elect will be confused, the witness of the Church rendered uncertain, and many professing believers will turn away from the faith of which God has committed them to our care.

The New Calvinist experiment, if this sets a precedent, will become a nightmare for the Church or our Lord Jesus Christ. May our Lord have mercy and show the New Calvinists and Pastor John the errors of their ways.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Peter Masters on the dangers of not practicing secondary separation

In his booklet Stand for the Truth, Rev. Dr. Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle informs us of the dangers of not practicing secondary separation. In his own words:

... When professing evangelicals (especially leaders) disobey the command of God to maintain a distinctive testimony, unassociated with false teachers, they participate in the evil deeds of the latter in at least four different ways:

(1) Non-separators deal a terrible blow to the exclusive nature of the message of the Gospel. When evangelicals are seen to accommodate the viewpoint of non-evangelicals and to accept their claims to spiritual life, the clear teaching of the Word is undermined. The line between Truth and error becomes blurred, and also the distinction between saved and unsaved. Believers who look on are liable to stop thinking of 'conversion' in precise, evangelical terms.

(2) Non-separators help the devil to achieve one of his main objectives — to cause such confusion that the world no longer sees a distinctive, biblical Christian community standing clearly apart from Catholic and liberal error. Non-separating evangelicals communicate to the world the idea that all so-called Christian churches are the same. Nothing is more crippling to the true testimony of evangelicalism. In the nineteenth century even unsaved people knew the Protestant arguments against Catholic dogma. But today (through compromise) evangelicals have long since surrendered any distinctive place in the general knowledge of the public.

(3) Non-separators lower the guard of the people of God, exposing them to infiltration by false believers and false doctrine. Once the people follow the example of their non-separating ministers, learning to tolerate and accept 'other views', then the way is prepared for a major doctrinal collapse. Non-evangelicals could never penetrate evangelical churches without 'inside help'. They need a 'pass' into the household of God, which only an evangelical 'collaborator' can give them, as he extends to them credibility, recognition and opportunity

(4) Non-separators encourage false teachers in their infidelity and sin, and so strengthen in their work. The rise of theological liberalism in the denominations, and its take-over of them, was funded almost entirely by evangelicals. When these opponents of the Gospel first infiltrated colleges and publishing institutes, non-separating evangelicals continued to pay the bills and support them. Almost all the present-day liberal theological colleges and churches in the historic denominations were originally built by the blood, sweat and toil of evangelicals. Then, a subsequent generation of non-separating evangelicals gave them away! This continues today in denominations where evangelicals give their money to support hoe and overseas missions mainly staffed and run by non-evangelicals. Non only do non-separating evangelicals support false teachers at a practical level, but they also seal them in their spiritual delusion by failing to challenge them about their lost spiritual condition.

There are the tragic consequences of disobedience to God. Satan rejoices, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and the cause of Christ is seriously wounded. If the non-separators are ministers, their flocks see a major area of biblical teaching set aside by their spiritual leaders, and thus the authority of the Bible is further undermined. The words of 2 John 11 condemn compromise. They indicate that the person who places himself on the side of the enemy must be regarded as guilty of a grievous sin against the Lord and His work. The non-separator makes himself a sharer of the damage done by the false teacher. Without doubt there is guilt by association. (pp. 16-18)

It is ridiculous for some to use the example of Charles Simeon in his interaction with John Wesley, in the case of John Piper. Wesley was an evangelical who affirmed and practiced evangelical doctrine. Warren on the other hand professes to be an evangelical but does not practice any of it. His ministry is a mishmash of Pelagianism/Market-drivenness, Pragmatism, Moralism, "Doctrine as mere knowledge" doctrinal minimalism, and the practice of kicking out resistors who oppose his unbiblical vision. The Gospel is mangled beyond recognition, the Church is treated like a corporation, members as slaves of said corporation etc. There is simply no comparison possible.

Piper, Warren and the Doctrine of Separation

I'm not going to draw the circle there. And supposed you disagree with me on that. Now, you're faced with the question: "OK, I'm with John Piper theologically, I'm not with Rick Warren on a bunch of things, John Piper has just chosen to hang out with Rick Warren. What do I do with John Piper?" That's called secondary separation issues. There you are.

I hope, I hope, we can disagree about who we hang out with, ok? Because a lot of traditional fundamentalists have said: "No, if you hang out with somebody that I believe I should separate from, then I'm gonna separate from you." And I want to say: Look. Let's ... Can we disagree about whether he would come to your conference, and you'd still willing to ... eat with me? Talk with me? So I would encourage you to think through that issue of secondary separation.

( - John Piper, 10:20- 11:14 on a clip on the Desiring God blog here)

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. (2 Jn. 1:9-11. Bold added)

Amidst the shock that accompanied Piper's invitation to heretic Rick Warren for the Desiring God conference 2010, Piper's apologetic for such an invitation involved an implicit attack on the doctrine of separation. In light of this, there is a necessity to clarify the doctrine of separation and how it is supposed to work out in this case.

I have previously written an article on the doctrine of separation, which is indeed commanded biblically as per 2 Jn. 9-11. Those who refuse to separate from heretics are reckoned as being partakers of their evil deeds. As I have said on the issue of secondary separation:

Now, since these errant believers are not immoral, nor do they hold on to serious doctrinal error, such separation seemed strange and even sinful. After all, we as the body of Christ ought to be united, since Jesus did prayed for unity among believers, and that this unity is a testimony to the world that they may believe that Jesus is of God (Jn. 17:21). However, unity is not an absolute good, since unity with the world is an anathema before God. We are told in Rom. 12:18 to live peacefully with all, so far as it depends on us; or in other words, as much as we are able to. Unity is good, but unity is not something that we should work for, but something which we are to work towards. Put simply, unity is found in Christ, and we must be united to Christ, THEN united with each other, not the other way around.

The question is to be asked as to the rationale behind second-degree separation from compromisers of the faith. The rationale behind second-degree separation is the same behind that of first degree separation — holiness. Second degree separation is done because of holiness. As much as we should want unity within the body of Christ, unity is not to be purchased by compromising our obedience to God in holiness. When we collaborate with unbelievers in ministry, our witness for God is compromised, and that's why it is wrong to do so. Similarly, when we collaborate with compromisers in ministry instead of reproving them, we are sharing in their sins. Our witness for God is sullied, as we are then associated with the heretics they work with. Furthermore, by not rebuking them for their sins, we actually hate them rather than love these compromisers (Prov. 27:5-6).

Now, there are a few concerns with regards to this doctrine. The first is the example of the present-day group of Fundamentalists, who have embraced the doctrine of separation with an unnatural zeal, to the extant of distortion into separatism What, then is the difference between separation and separatism? Separatism is the promotion of the doctrine of separation to the extant that we are to cut ourselves off and isolate ourselves off from any taint of evil and/or compromise. In other words, for the separatist, the principle stated in Jn. 17: 11-16 should read "Be not of this world nor in this world " instead of "Be not of this world though in the world". Yes, to a certain extent, we should 'isolate' ourselves from the world (Jude 1:20-23), but such isolation is only with regards to holiness, not that we are to 'let the world go to hell'. What is the difference, then? We are to be holy in the sense that we do not compromise our own walk with God nor our witness before God, but we should be actively reaching out to others for God (Mt. 28:18-20; Jude 1:22-23), and the latter makes the difference between the two. Another thing distinctive of separatism is the fact that the doctrine of unity is neglected. Unity is important, and we are told to be united as much as we can (Jn. 17:21 ; Rom. 12:18). The working principle for all Christians is that we should be as united as much as it is possible to be so; not a unity at all costs, but we should desire unity if possible without compromise. Somehow, separatism neglects this and in fact may even promote schism, instead of asking us to preserve the unity of the church where possible.

The second legitimate concern is with regards to its implementation. If second-degree separation is practiced, then wouldn't this cascade into third-degree, fourth-degree, or higher degree separation, and if such, there would be no end and then wouldn't we have to separate ourselves from almost all Christians? This question, however, betrays a misunderstanding of the doctrine of separation in its implementation, which would be addressed here.

Remember earlier that the doctrine of second-degree separation is due to a need for holiness and the need for an unsullied witness before God and the world. Therefore, conversely, if something does not cause one to sully his/her witness for Christ, then there is no need to separate from the other person. How this works out is that we may need not separate from compromising believers in every situation, only in a situation whereby the compromise is made. For example, if a person compromise in the area of working with heretics in i.e. preaching ministry, then we should separate from the person in all forms of public ministry. However, this does not preclude that we could not meet up privately and we should definitely urge the person to repent of his/her behavior. If a person compromise in the area of collaborating with an organization which allows heretics in, then we should separate from the event itself, as joining it would link our witness with it and the compromise that is associated with it. However, that does not mean that we separate from them in other forms of ministry.

In all these things, it must be noted that our primary motive must be the glory of God in our witness for Him. This is what second degree separation is about, not a separation for separation's sake but for the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note also that all these is related to compromising leaders, since they are the ones who are publicly related to the act of compromise. For ordinary followers, since they are not publicly related to the act of compromise, we should not separate from them as there is no need to. If they are in error, following the stand of their errant leaders, we should all the more desire that they also turn away and reject such compromise as a blemish on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thus teach and correct their errant ways, as obedience to Christ our Lord (Mt. 28:20; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), as an act of love for our brethren (Prov. 27:5-6), and all for the glory of God as His bride is edified and build up (Eph. 4:12-16).

Therefore, the question of third of higher degree separation is a red herring which misses the entire focus of the doctrine of separation We should not focus on how many degrees of separation is correct, but whether by being part of the event or by working together with a compromiser in this particular ministry, that our witness for Christ would be sullied. If so, we should separate; otherwise, we should not. When we embrace such a principle, the name of Christ would be exalted through our actions, and our testimony would not be dragged through the mud by deluded ministers who have an unbiblical view of unity and work for it at all costs.

Being a promoter of the doctrine of separation as biblically defined, we are strive to be biblical are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we would need to insist on this biblical doctrine against the attacks of the New Evangelicals and, as it seems to be the case now, John Piper. On the other hand, the error of separatISM worked out by capital 'F' Fundamentalists is an horror to be avoided at all costs.

First, with regards to the extreme of Fundamentalism, as I have mentioned on this doctrine, the issue of "degrees of separation" is the wrong question to ask. While rightly speaking secondary separation is correct, yet its implementation is to be done in a certain way. The error of separatism lies in its confusion of the doctrine of separation as a means in itself, thus they need refer to the idea of "degrees of separation". Separation is to be done unto holiness, not unto separation.

Therefore, the biblical view of Piper's actions in light of 2 Jn. 9-11 is to view Piper's actions as making him partakers of Warren's evil deeds. In this light, Piper is to be rebuked for this decision of his. Separation from Piper in this light would be along the lines of refusing to participate in the DG2010 conference, and a reticence in promoting Piper as a person of godliness and especially discernment.

Yet as contra Fundamentalism, we do not and should not treat Piper as our enemy. Piper after all is our brother in Christ. As 2 Thess. 3:15 states, we are to treat those who do not follow God's commands on such non-salvific issues as erring brothers who we are to take note of him and make him ashamed, but not treat him as our enemy. We are to grieve for his error and petition the throne of God with tears that our Lord will have mercy and grant to Piper repentance for his error. In this light, we are to continue to be willing to eat and talk with Piper. On this, Piper would have his wish.

Secondly, as contrary New Evangelicalism, "secondary separation" IS biblically mandated. There is simply no way to parse Scripture and spin it to avoid the conclusion of the plain teaching of 2 John 9-11. While we do not treat Piper as an enemy, we are to disengage with him on issues of ministry. Knowing as it is that the DG2010 conference is a Christian conference, NOT an academic forum, such an invitation is tantamount to giving Warren space at the pulpit to preach. The other DG2010 speakers should withdraw from speaking at the conference in this light. I would therefore also second Lane Chaplin's stance that "I cannot, in good conscience, endorse John Piper again". While Piper's books can still be recommended from an academic/ knowledge perspective, the person of John Piper cannot be endorsed after this episode unless he repents.

So, let us come before God in tears and ask him to grant Piper repentance for this terrible decision that he has made. Do not treat him as an enemy but as a brother in sin. Amen.

See also: Charles Spurgeon on fratenizing with heretics

Books on the New Evangelicalism

In light of the shocking news regarding Piper's invitation to Warren for DG2010 this week, I have decided to publish a short list of books regarding the New Evangelicalism. As George Santayana said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Books on the New Evangelicalism

Iain H. Murray, Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000)

Ernest D. Pickering, The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin and Impact of the New Evangelicalism (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1994)

David G. Fountain, Contending for the Faith: E. J. Poole-Connor — A 'prophet' amidst the sweeping changes in English evangelicalism (London, UK: Wakeman Trust, 2005)

Peter Masters, Stand for the Truth (London, UK: Sword and Trowel: 1983, revised 1996, reprint 2003)

Charles H. Spurgeon, The "Down Grade" Controversy (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, n.d.)

Francis A. Schaeffer, The New Evangelical Disaster (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984)

David F. Wells, No Place for Truth or Whatever happened on Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993)

David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994)

David F. Wells, Losing our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998)

David F. Wells, Above all earthly powers: Christ in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005)

David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-lovers, marketers, and emergents in the postmodern world (Nottingham, England, UK: IVP, 2008)

George M. Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Piper, Warren and Dr. Mike Horton's response to Piper's moment of madness

It has come to my attention that Dr. John Piper has decided to invite heretic emeritus Rick Warren over to his Desiring God conference 2010. I am currently still in a state of shock over this piece of news, which has been confirmed over at the Desiring God website.

I will respond to this mess in due time. For the moment, here is Dr. Michael Horton's response to Piper's invitation to Warren to speak at the DG2010 conference. An excerpt:

His best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, begins by announcing that it’s not about you, but about God, and then the rest of the book is about you. There seems to be a contradiction between the God-centered theology that is professed and the basically human-centered orientation that dominates much of his message and methods. ...

Pastor Warren tailors his appeals to his audience. To Calvinists, he stresses his support for the “solas” of the Reformation. Yet he tells prosperity evangelist David Yonggi Cho, “I’ve read your books on Vision and Dreams - speak to pastors about how you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?… What advice would you give to a brand new minister?… Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?” (“Breakfast With David Yonggi Cho And Rick Warren,” Pastors.com). In a June 2006 article in JewishJournal.com, editor-in-chief Rob Eshman reported on a speech that Warren gave for Synagogue 3000, after Rabbi Ron Wolfson became involved in the Purpose-Driven pastoral training seminars. “Warren managed to speak for the entire evening without once mentioning Jesus — a testament to his savvy message-tailoring.” When USA Today asked him why Mormon and Jewish leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, “I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?” (USA Today, July 21, 2003). Rick Warren endorses a host of books, from New Age authors to Emergent writers to conservative evangelicals. So why not include Calvinists?

It's a sad day for those of us who have come to appreciate the ministry of Dr. Piper to some extent. A crisis point for the New Evangelical Calvinism has arrived. Choose this day whom you will serve.