Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bryan Crawford Loritts and Black Racism

This has to be seen to be believed:

The racism of black "pastor" Bryan Crawford Loritts is shocking. On the one hand, he denigrates all people of his own ethic group by insinuating that they can only rise spiritually to the level of embracing heretics. On the other hand, he attacks discerning biblical pastors of his own ethnic group as being mindless ass-kissers to their white masters.

The depths of depravity and wickedness to which MacDonald and company are willing to descend to amazes me. But then, I guess this is what happens when you stick around with false shepherds such as Stephen Furtick of "Hey Haters" fame.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Obama promoting pervasion: Why am I not surprised?

I wish the International community success against the New Imperialism of the LGBT agenda. As stated,

The citizens of several countries are pushing back against President Obama’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender foreign policy imperative. Leaders in El Salvador launched a website on “Obama’s Corrupting Foreign Policy” and are asking the U.S. Senate to reject Obama’s nominee for ambassador to their country.

....

More than three-dozen leaders in Latin American countries rebuked the ambassador. In a declaration in a Salvadoran newspaper, they accused the U.S. representative of “disregarding our profound Christian values, rooted in natural law,” by trying to “impose . . . a new vision of foreign and bizarre values, completely alien to our moral fiber, intending to disguise this as ‘human rights’” with “an air of superiority.” The only thing they agreed with, they stated, is that violence should be repudiated “just the same as against skinny, fat, tall or short” people.

Pre-prolegomena: Being/ Doing

Being/ Doing

The last aspect that most people focus on is the aspect of being and doing. In fact, the idea of doing or good works is so prominent among many believers that it is deliberately discussed last of all.

The Scriptures when it exhorts us to do certain things always based the imperatives upon the indicatives. In other words, what we are commanded to do (imperatives) is based upon who we are (indicative). Put it in another way, we do (doing) because we are (being).

A look at all the New Testament epistles will show us that the beginning part is always about doctrine. Many people who want to be practical prefer to skip straight to the "applicational section" in the second half of the epistles, sometimes even citing verses out of context. Yet, have they thought why God would give the first half of the epistles to us? Why does God not begin Roman for example with Romans chapter 12 instead of Romans chapter 1?

We see in Romans 12:1 the word "therefore," which links the beginning of this practical half with what is said in the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans. This pattern can be seen throughout the epistles, with another example being the "therefore" of Eph. 4:1. This shows us that it is who we are and who God is and has revealed for us that is to form the basis of what we do.

Living the Christ life no doubt requires us to obey God's commands. But to go straight to obeying commands as a duty is to miss the whole point of Christianity at all, which is about grace. Rather, what we do must be grounded on who we are in Christ (being) and all the truths that God has revealed to us. In other words, to grow in the area of doing requires growth in the area of knowing and in the area of affection. To truly obey God's commands correctly, not out of moralism (sense of duty or desire to be good), requires a progressive growth in knowing and affection. Since such is the case, one cannot truly obey God's commands if one is not growing in the aspects of knowing and affection.

We obey, because we are already righteous. We love, because we are already loved. We are graceful, because we are given much grace. To reverse the order is to destroy the Christian life, something which many people sadly are doing. Those who continue this deviant path will face the judgment of Christ himself when he said,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Mt. 7:21-23)

Note that these people did many works for God, and even called him "Lord" two times, but this is not enough, because they are not of God. Whatever is not done of faith is sin (Rom. 14: 23b), so regardless of how much external righteousness one has, it is still considered "lawlessness" apart from Christ who calls his people righteous.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

ER2 fallout: Bryan Crawford Loritts and Racism

It seems that Bryan Crawford Loritts has decided to write a hit piece in the Christian Post attacking those who continue to insist that Jakes is a modalist heretic. Very conveniently it seems for him, Loritts plays the race card to attack the critics, as he wrote:

Loritts also advised the "middle aged white Reformed guys" to be extremely careful of the messages they sent, both implicit and explicit.

Though he was not accusing anyone of racism, he found that the "Reformed crowd's" actions (refusing to come to the Elephant Room event or having an honest dialogue) sent an implicit message to the public – "theological bigotry."

This is very disturbing. Dr. White responds as follows:

5) I was unaware when I first read this blog that Loritts is a black man. I was shocked that the race card had been played here. It is absolutely, positively disgusting to me that this canard, so common from the left in political arenas, would be inserted into the discussion of Jakes' long-time standing as a modalist. I DON'T CARE WHAT COLOR THE MAN IS. It is pure distraction and absurdity to make reference to "middle aged white Reformed guys," and if there needs to be a call to repentance for Mr. Loritts, it is right there. And don't think that adding the obligatory "Oh, I'm not accusing anyone of racism" statement changes anything. He introduced race, period. THEOLOGY AND HERESY KNOWS NO RACIAL BOUNDARIES. Jakes' race is irrelevant to his modalism. Modalism was defined long before any white guys had a say in it. Period.

I absolute agree. To add: I as a non-white non-American non-middle aged Chinese stand with my white brethren in this regard. The use of the race card is disgraceful especially in the context of theological discussion. In fact, it is blatantly racist, as if to say that "middle-aged white Reformed guys" are racist in their rejection of Jakes as being orthodox.

As a non-white non-American, I hereby call upon Bryan Crawford Loritts to repent of (1) his racism and (2) his arrogance in taking to himself the authority of a church council/synod/general assembly which he does not possess.

ER2 conclusion: Jakes is a Modalist

The Elephant Room 2 is a farce, with independent reporters for the event having been kicked out. Not surprisingly, but sadly, Jakes came out seemingly as a Trinitarian, as he has no problems using the language of "persons," or so it seems.

The problem however comes when we dig deeper. Did Jakes actually proclaim that he is now a Trinitarian, or was it just theological sleight of hand?

In his Dividing Line radio broadcast here, Dr. James White addressed this issue head-on. Is Jakes actually Trinitarian, or is he just playing MacDonald and Driscoll as pawns? The latter it seems. For those who call themselves pastors trying to discern Jakes' orthodoxy or the lack therefore, MacDonald and Driscoll seem hopelessly naive. Driscoll's attitude here is sadly hypocritical, as Frank Turk helpfully says,

Someone needs to check the date for Mark Driscoll's shelf life as a reliable person. In the past month, he utterly disgraced himself on the "Unbelievable" podcast by interrogating this host, Justin Brierly, and accusing him and the whole British Christian church of being a flop because they also don't have a Mark Driscoll, and they have a few women pastors. But, when the other shoe drops and he has Bishop Jakes sitting before him in a place where there are supposed to be hard conversations, Bishop Jakes gets the velvet gloves - including a complete whiff at the issue of egalitarianism in Jakes' own theology and church

Dr. White in contrast shows the acumen that MacDonald and Driscoll should have possessed and used in the ER2. As Dr. White twitted earlier in a clear question directed as TD Jakes:

@BishopJakes Did the Son, as a divine Person, distinct from the Father, exist as a Person prior to the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem? [Source]

Jakes did not say anything new in the ER2, but continue to use Modalist language, while departing from Oneness Pentecostalism only in his acceptance of the term "persons," though I don't see what the mere use of the term "persons" without the full biblical teachings concerning the divine persons within the Godhead means. What's the use of merely mouthing the word "persons"? One does not become orthodox by merely mouthing orthodox jargon, but by believing in the content of orthodoxy!

Jakes continues to be a modalist, and therefore not a Christian. As is noted by many, we haven't even touched on his embrace of the anti-Christian "prosperity gospel," which is enough to put him outside the pale of Christianity regardless of whether he is a Trinitarian.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

James MacDonald: Loving darkness rather than light

James MacDonald has it seems kicked Chris Rosebrough and Erin Benziger out of Elephant Room 2. So much for "tolerance." This verse aptly describe MacDonald and company:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

It is time to treat MacDonald as a pagan (cf Mt. 18: 17), since TGC (The Gospel Coalition) has apparently abdicated their responsibility to admonish erring brethren.

The most grievous thing about this episode is how irresponsible and unbiblical TGC has acted in this fiasco, especially the leaders Don Carson and Tim Keller. Sure, I am not surprised over their New Evangelical conduct. But it is very very sad to see how church leaders basically abdicated their responsibilities before God. Sometimes I really wonder: Do they really fear God more than Man? By not admonishing MacDonald and being so polite over his resignation, they are letting the wolves have a free hand with the sheep. The blood of those who will follow MacDonald into error and sin is in their hands, for they did not warn the sheep of MacDonald's action.

And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 3:16-21)

As pastors and shepherds over God's flock, they have a responsibility to warn the sheep. It's sheer parochialism and a denial of the universal nature of the Church to wash one's hands over the matter by claiming that MacDonald is not in one's church neither are anyone who will fall into sin because of MacDonald's actions in one's church. One wonders then why they even bother about evangelism in the first place, since the same logic applies. This type of "local-church-centrism" should logically lead to isolationism, and the attitude of Cain toward the Lord — "Am I my brother's keeper?"

I oppose New Evangelicalism not only because it is doctrinally and practically aberrant, but because of its pastoral errors. People are being led astray by false teachers, and these shepherds are more interested in collegiality than the protection of the sheep. Shame on them!

Pre-prolegomena: Affection

Affection

God commands us to love Him (Deut. 6:5; Mt. 22:37; Mk. 12:30; Lk. 10:27). Such is part of our spiritual act of worship. How does this love express itself in our affection? What are we to feel for?

If we are to love God, it means that we love God as He is. Having known from Scripture who God is, we are to treasure all of God's attributes. What God loves, we love. What God hates, we hate.

For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (Is. 48:9-11)

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”(Rev. 4:11)

There are many things which God loves and many things which God hates. Injustice is one such thing which God hates (e.g. Deut. 16:19-20). We are thus to similarly hate injustice and love justice. But here we will focus on a more fundamental issue with regards to God Himself.

What is the fundamental affections of God? It is for the glory and honor of His Name. God hates injustice, but yet He uses them for His own purposes (e.g. Gen. 50:20). When it comes to God's glory and honor however, that IS the goal to which God works towards.

As we see in Is. 48: 9-11, God's glory and His Name is what God treasures. God's glory is identified with His Name. God's name cannot be profaned, and God's glory will not be given to another. In the context of this passage, it is speaking of God's dealing with Israel. God does whatever He does because to not do so would lead to a profanation of His Name and the lessening of His glory.

God therefore treasures His glory/Name greatly. Closely related to this is the idea of honor, as we see in Rev. 4:11. God is to receive "glory, honor and power," not that He does not have those already, but to be acknowledged as such. God is infinitely glorious, but out of Himself, He does receive the praise of His glory from creatures. The expansion of the list in Rev. 5: 12-13 to include power, wealth, wisdom and might similarly rebounds to the praise of God who owns them. Loving His own glory and honor therefore is the primary affection which God has.

Glory has to do with worth, while honor deals with esteem. To love God with our hearts therefore includes treasuring His glory and His honor above all, as that is what God Himself treasures. It means to consider Christ as infinitely worthy, to magnify His worth in every aspect, and to esteem and elevate God as being supreme.

The Scriptures do say that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), and the revelation of His back to Moses results in the revelation of God's graciousness and mercy (Ex. 33:17-23). How does this relate to what we have said? God's love, grace and mercy is the primary way God's glory is expressed. God shows us the main way His glory and honor will be served, which is the showing of love, grace and mercy to all who believe. This is seen especially in the practical manifestation of God's glory, in the person of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14).

Practically, what all this means is that we must change our affections to reflect God's priority in loving what He loves and hating what He hates. God's glory and honor must be first and foremost in our mind and should be something we feel for. From there, we are to grow in loving God in His love, grace and mercy towards us, and not only for us, but all who will believe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

News: James MacDonald resigns from TGC

James MacDonald has just submitted his resignation as a council member of TGC (The Gospel Coalition). This is of course good news to hear given MacDonald's recent compromise of the Gospel message. It is however sad that his resignation has to come from him, instead of him being admonished by the other council members who should have the intestinal fortitude to rebuke MacDonald for his compromise (c.f. Titus 1:9). Yes, TGC is not a denomination, which is why I did not ask for them to discipline him. But rebuking those who contradict sound doctrine (in either word or deed) is not limited to those with same church affiliation or the lack thereof.

Pastor Ken Silva has received an interesting email on this issue. As it states in part,

Last week James was put under a lot of pressure from leaders of The Gospel Coalition, a reformed group of about 50 pastors he has fellowshipped with for the past few years. They were asking that he 'pull the plug' on Bishop Jakes coming to the Elephant Room (ER) conference. Their reasons are rooted in weak evidence of Jakes' current doctrine and infighting among the black members of the Gospel Coalition who have deep seeded resentments. Crawford Loritts is the black pastor who spoke at James' 50th birthday and is also a council member of the Gospel Coalition. Crawford is participating in this ER conference because he believes in what James is doing and has stepped forward to help. All that to say, not even Gospel Coalition members are unanimous in the opposition, but certain influential men have rallied to pressure James to cancel Bishop Jakes. After prayer and counsel with other Christian Leaders and some of our Elders, James believes it is best to simply resign from the Gospel Coalition and continue to pursue his vision of gracious conversation, face to face, as a model for how to handle disagreement in the church.

I wonder, is this how Christians should navigate doctrinal disagreements? I understand the desire to correct a brother behind closed doors, and the desire not to be seen fighting in public. But firstly, MacDonald's error is public. Secondly, MacDonald refuses to repent of his sin. Are we engage in the same type of staff relationships that secular corporations engage in?

The only person who spoke up publicly is Thabiti Anyabwile and for that he has my respect. At least he understands (in this particular instance) how damaging MacDonald's compromise has on the witness of the Church. If only Carson and Keller were of the same caliber! But of course, New Evangelicals will be New Evangelicals, regardless if they are called the National Association of Evangelicals, Fuller Seminary or The Gospel Coalition. I guess I should not have high expectations of them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Peter Masters: Proving that Spiritual Gifts have ceased

Dr. Peter Masters has written an interesting article in the Sword and Trowel on the cessation of the sign gifts, and addresses some of the popular arguments used against Cessationism in the process. While not necessarily agreeing with everything, I do think most of the arguments are valid. An excerpt:

Does the Bible teach definitively that the charismatic gifts have ceased? Can cessationism (the view that they have ended) be proved? Some say that the cessation of the gifts cannot be conclusively proved from Scripture.

We believe, however, that the ceasing of revelatory and sign-gifts in the time of the apostles is very plainly taught in God’s Word, so plainly, in fact, that the opposite view has only seriously appeared in the last 100 years or so.

The term cessationism comes from the great 17th-century confessions of faith, such as the Westminster and Baptist confessions. These both use the same word. Speaking about how God has revealed his will and committed it to the Scriptures, the confessions say, ‘Former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased’. This word does not actually come from the Bible, but the doctrine does.

Not only has revelation been completed and ceased, but so have the signs that revelation is in progress. Here is a brief summary of six biblical proofs that the revelatory gifts have ceased (visions, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and prophecies), and also the sign-gifts (healings and speaking in tongues). God still heals, of course, but in answer to prayer, and not through the hands of a gifted healer.

[more]

A Review of T.D. Jakes' sermon at the "CodeOrangeRevival" event

Daniel Neades has written an interesting review of T.D. Jakes' sermon at the Elevation Church's so-called "Code Orange Revival" event here. Even if we discount Jakes' Sabellianism, the entire message is disturbingly Christ-less, Gospel-less and God-less. As Neades wrote,

Jakes’ teaching is deadly to those who are enticed by it. They trust in God to fix the problems of this life, to keep them from trial and tribulation. And should He not accede to their arrogant expectation, their faith is shipwrecked, because it was founded not upon the sure and certain promises of God’s word in Christ as recorded in the Scriptures, but upon the false words of a self-proclaimed prophet.

This preaching gives people a transient emotional high. It scratches itching ears, speaking into them what they are eager to hear. It manipulates, it deludes, it defrauds. Afterwards, when tribulation or persecution arises, immediately its victims stumble. They are lost, innoculated [sic] to the true Gospel. They have tried Christianity, so they think, and found it full of empty promises – it doesn’t work.

...

For Jakes, salvation is deliverance from the problems and obstacles of this life. This is his beguiling message, for who would not want that? And, having heard his sermon, the fervent crowd has believed the lie that this is what God is offering them.

...

For Jakes, our problem is not that we have grievously offended an infinitely Holy and righteous God with our sin, and that He is therefore justly angry with us. For Jakes, our problem is not that we are deservedly facing an eternity in hell. No, for him, our problem is that we have issues in this life.

With his misdiagnosis of the human condition, Jakes’ gospel is necessarily false. His gospel is not that Christ died to bear the punishment for our sin and rose from the dead, but that Jesus died to show us our worth and to fix our problems.

HT: Apprising Ministries

Sunday, January 15, 2012

DeYoung's follow up, and the topsy-turvy world of New Evangelicalism

Pastor Kevin DeYoung has written a follow up post to the Jeff Bethke video saga. In this post, Bethke has contacted him and the two of them had a cordial conversation via email. Such is being held out as the way Christians should resolve conflicts, but is that really the case?

First of all, we note that the entire issue of Bethke's attack on the Institutional Church, which as we have seen was not mentioned by DeYoung in this earlier response, was not even addressed. Bethke did not see his error in his attack on the Church. Sure, the Church was mentioned, but it was a minimalist idea of the Church. Remember, Bethke was against the forms associated with the institutional church, and sneered at those who followed these forms as mere religiosity without true love for Christ. One of course wonders how he knows the hearts of these church-goers. How does he know that those who follow the forms but do not have his "burning in the bosom" are hypocrites who are like those who act "like a church kid, while addicted to pornography"? Is he given the nefarious gift of "discernment" a la Mark Driscoll to see the secret sins of these "religious but unconverted" people?

Hypocritical judgmentalism stinks, and nowhere does it stink more from those who attack the institutional Church and her forms, while boasting in his "weaknesses." Let's say it bluntly: Bethke is judgmental. He has not repented of his attacks on the institutional church and her forms, and DeYoung did not call him to repent of that. What's the point of being loving if the core sin is not addressed? To those who extol DeYoung's approach of resolving conflict, what's the point of such "conflict resolution" if in the end Bethke has not repented of his sin?

Some may of course find my tone objectionable, and I make no apologies for that. Realize however that this is a blog post, not a counseling session! This is about principles, not people. People are not blog posts neither are they comments. Don't expect me to give a counseling session online, as if that is even possible.

Secondly, while we are on the issue of "tone," note that in the New [Evangelical] Calvinism, the topsy-turvy nature of how they speak can be seen when we contrast two posts by DeYoung. The first example is the post attacking single men in their late 20s for not having a wife. The second one is the follow-up piece DeYoung wrote regarding the saga which we have seen. Note the difference in tone. In the first, DeYoung literally hammered single guys in their late 20s for not having a wife, accusing them of being immature brats who are more interested in playing video games and fooling around. In the second, we see DeYoung pastorally interacting with the errors of the viral video and lovingly called Bethke to be more biblical. The first regards practice and the personal lives of young men. The second regard doctrine. True to the New Evangelical spirit, errors in practice (real or perceived) are regarded as serious offences, whereas errors of doctrine is treated with kids' gloves. It cannot be more topsy-turvy than this. And then one wonders why despite having the Gospel preached, the churches are full of moralism. Why not? It would be a miracle if it wasn't! What one truly believes does translate to practice. If one esteems errors in practice as more serious than errors in doctrine, then of course one will treat errors in practice as more serious than errors in doctrine! The flock will follow the example of their shepherds and do the same, and then one wonders why the preaching of the Gospel translate to the message of "live godly lives and do good works." They are just learning that from their shepherds who do the very same thing.

If a pastor is more grieved by pornography than grieved by the promoting of false doctrine, then they shouldn't be too surprised when their flock think that doctrine is less important than practice. If the church winks at one of the flock embracing for example evolution, while not being willing to fully forgive an ex-homosexual, the church has embraced moralism. Don't bother telling me that you are "Gospel-centered" or whatever slogans you come up with. Your practice reveal what you truly believe.

Pre-prolegomena: Knowing

Knowing

We are to grow in knowledge of God through His Word. With Scripture as our ultimate authority, this means that we are to transform our thinking according to Scripture. Whatever Scripture says is true, whatever that Scripture refutes is false even if we in our human thinking think it is reasonable. This transformation of our mind is the submission of our mind to the lordship of Christ. We are after all to love God with our mind (Mt. 22:37).

How does this look like in practice? Scripture for example teaches creation. Man was created not from animals but from the personal shaping from dust followed by God breathing life into Man (Gen. 2: 7). Since Scripture teaches this truth, it means that evolution and descent from animal ancestry must be rejected as false. It matters little that the scientific community believes in evolution and animal ancestry. A mind submitted to Christ's lordship must obey God rather than Man.

Such submission holds true for every area of thought. Where Scripture speaks, all contrary "facts" are to be rejected. It matters little that the "fact" opposing Scripture has the backing of scientists, PhDs, teachers, even theologians, or any other authority.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor. 1:20)

In its context, 1 Cor. 1:20 is speaking of salvation. Yet the broader principle seen here is that God only is wise. True knowledge resides with God, not the fallible opinions of men who do change their theories.

In submitting to God and Scripture therefore, we are not saying that we do that in spite of the real world truths. Rather, God is the only wise One and the only perfect interpreter of all facts. As postmodernism has alerted us, there are no such things as brute facts. All facts are interpreted.

The issue therefore is not some kind of blind faith which disregards real world facts altogether. Rather, the issue is who do we trust as the perfect interpreter of facts. Do we trust God, or do we trust scientists and other human authorities? If we believe in God who created this world, then all real world facts will when rightly interpreted match with what the Scriptures teach. If they do not seem to at the moment, can we admit our finitude and ignorance and continue to trust God, knowing that in the end every real world fact will match the Scriptures?

On things Scripture does not speak about, one is free to hold any position (that does not contradict Scripture) as long as one attempts to think it through using principles taught in Scripture.

Growth in knowing God and His Word therefore implies that we should transform our minds to embrace all that Scripture teaches, and rejecting all that contradicts Scripture. This is the manner in which we are to grow in the area of knowing.

To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Is. 8: 20)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Conversionalism: Shall we sin so that grace may abound?

You see this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me
Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography
See on Sunday I’d go to church, but Saturday getting faded
Acting if I was simply created just to have sex and get wasted
See I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness
But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness

(Jeff Bethke, in his video poem)

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

(Rom. 5:20-21; 6:1)

Christians ought to live godly lives. We are all sinners saved by grace alone. Yet, what is the nature of our testimony? What are we to make of Jeff Bethke's idea of "boast[ing] in ... weakness"?

First of all, we note that whatever the legitimacy of the substance behind the lyrics, the phrase itself as used in Scripture does not fit what Bethke is doing. Here is what the Apostle Paul wrote,

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses —though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Cor. 11: 21b-27; 12:5-10)

We note here that the weaknesses that the Apostle Paul boasts in are his suffering and trials on behalf of the church. It includes a "thorn in the flesh" (whatever that means) that impairs his ministry effectiveness. What the Apostle Paul boasts in as we can see in verse 10 are "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities."

Notably absent from the list for boasting are any indication of former sins that the Apostle Paul has now overcome. Bethke's usage of the phrase "boasting in weakness" therefore is biblically illegitimate.

The sort of testimony seen in these lyrics is a boast in that the person (probably Bethke) was formerly addicted to pornography while acting like a church kid with everything being all right. In the sense, the person who does this is living a double life — pretending to be a good person while engaging in all types of sins. Now that he has known Jesus however, he boasts in the fact that Jesus has delivered him and he does not need to pretend and be a hypocrite again.

The problem here however is that such is not a true boasting in weakness but rather a boasting in conversion. It is glorifying a type of Damascus Road Experience with all its attendant problems, a type of hagiography.

In Romans, Paul addresses a similar issue in that God's grace is magnified through the forgiveness of sin. While slightly different, there is a disturbing similarity to the type of perverse boasting in conversion experience in the poem. Shall we sin that grace may abound? It seems that Bethke will have to answer YES, as long as the person later changes. So the person who was formerly addicted to pornography is superior to the person who has never even watched pornography, even if both are now Christians by the grace of God. In fact, the person who was formerly addicted to pornography is spiritually superior, since he has a testimony to give.

Shall we sin so that grace may abound? Well, why not? The more I sin, the more God's grace will be magnified in my conversion and transformation! Pity the poor obedient kid raised in a Christian home who was taught the Law and the Gospel since young; he has such a lousy testimony to give. The more sins I commit, God's grace will be magnified when I repent and turn to Christ! Why stick to pornography? Why not actual visiting of prostitutes, partaking of orgies and other such sins? Wouldn't God be glorified when such a sinner turned to Christ? What's more, he can go around "boasting in his weaknesses," with much more "weaknesses" than the sinner in Bethke's lyrics!

As it can be seen, this whole idea of "conversionalism" is ridiculous! Scripture never tell us that we should "boast" in this manner. Certainly, the one who is saved from a life of debauchery may treasure the grace of God more as he sees how God has saved him from his former sins. He is probably more grateful also, and his testimony more touching. But all this is not grounds for greater boasting! In the sight of God, is the sin of lying less deserving of damnation than the sin of pornography, or the sin of murder even? It is not. All sinners come to the cross on a level field, for all sin deserves hell-fire. There is no room for some perverse boasting in one's former sins, as if God's grace abounds more because of our greater sins.

Logically and consistently, if this is the type of teaching that is believed and taught, imagine how one approaches unbelievers and "nominal" church folks? These people ought to be encouraged to sin more, in order that when they feel guilty for sinning and if they repent and turn to Christ they would then have a testimony to give. Does any Christian seriously want to adopt this modus operandi with its encouragement of sin?

Bethke's boasting through the lyrics therefore is un-Christian. If someone is saved from a life of sin, praise God for that. But that is not (perverse) grounds for boasting but of gratefulness and thanks to God to save such a sinner. Amen.

DeYoung, Evangelicalism and its deficient doctrine of the Church

But when you start bashing the idea that Christianity can actually be shared, that it is a public event, that is bigger than just your personal insights, spiritual journey; when you start attacking the corporate reality of Christianity, by knocking that word "religion," you're not doing anyone any favors and you're setting up a path that will very swiftly steal the Gospel that you claim to love. ... that video makes me sick, in spite of the fact that it preaches the Gospel. That's because when you preach the Law, it didn't attack me, it attacked my Mother the Church (11:13 - 11:39)

As I have said in my previous post on the subject, the main flaw in the viral video is its attack upon the forms of Christianity, setting up a false dichotomy between true spirituality and the institutional Church. A video response made by a Lutheran embedded above has pointed out the same flaw plus others like the confusion of Law and Gospel and the perverse boasting in having a weakness that is now overcame (Does that mean that those who do not ever struggle with pornography and thus do not have this victory over it are somehow less spiritual? Not to mention that this is a distortion of Paul's writing in 2 Cor. 12:9 which is boasting in infirmities and suffering not overcame sin. We will speak more of this in the next post.)

As the folks over at the White Horse Inn have said and nailed it,

One of the really encouraging things today is seeing people raised in “moralistic-therapeutic-deism” coming to understand and embrace the gospel. At the same time, the antithesis between “religion” and “grace” (or being “spiritual but not religious”) is still trapped in its own kind of moralism. It fails to recognize that Christ came to fulfill rather than abolish the Law and religion. If religion is a community with certain doctrines and practices, then certainly Christianity is a religion. It’s bad religion that Jesus abolishes, because he gives himself as the Life of the world in the gospel through preaching and sacrament. Take away this religion and you are just left once again with a religion of your own making.

Forward to Kevin DeYoung's response to Bethke. DeYoung summarizes his response to Bethke's video as follows:

The strengths in this poem are the strengths I see in many young Christians—a passionate faith, a focus on Jesus, a love for grace, and a hatred for anything phony or self-righteous. The weaknesses here can be the weaknesses of my generation (and younger)—not enough talk of repentance and sanctification, a tendency to underestimate the importance of obedience in the Christian life, a one-dimensional view of grace, little awareness that our heavenly Father might ever discipline his children or be grieved by their continued transgression, and a penchant for sloganeering instead of careful nuance.

We most definitely agree with DeYoung when he speak of the strengths of this poem. But DeYoung totally missed the key error of this poem in its denigration of the institutional Church. Granted, Bethke did say that he loves the church, but what does he mean by that?

There are two ways of treasuring the Church. The first is the traditional manner of treating the Church as a mother, whereas the second is the method promoted by Joshua Harris of treating the Church as a girlfriend/ wife [See Joshua Harris, Stop Dating the Church (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2004)]. In the first manner, the Church is first and foremost the institution whereby the means of grace are dispensed to believers. The Church as a mother nourishes believers through the forms of piety which God has instituted the Church to perform to nourish, build up and care for the flock of God. Believers love the institutional Church and her forms (and rituals) because that is the natural thing to do. No children really think of why they should love their mother; they just do.

The second manner of treating the church is that of a girlfriend/ wife. Such a manner is promoted heavily by people such a Frank Turk with his constant exhortations to join in and be involved in a local church, making the indicative of church membership into an imperative of spiritual duty. As with Joshua Harris, the legitimate concern that people are not involved in the Church, probably not even members of a local church, sparks a reaction in the same way as Antinomianism real or perceived spark a reaction towards legalism. In this model, Christians are saved as they are and stay as individual believers. They are then consequently following conversion to join the Church because God commands them to do so.

What this translates to can be stated as follows: In the first model, Christians are saved into the Church. Baptism is NOT the mere proclamation of faith but rather it is baptism into the Church as well. There is no such thing as baptism just for profession of faith without joining a local church. The Church is the mediate dispenser of grace through the under-shepherds God has ordained, though such is not done ex opere operato. In the second model, Christians are saved into some form of the "universal church" which has little if any link to the visible churches. This individualistic Christian is then called into community in the local church, and therefore the imperatives are used to call believers to commit to the local church.

To put it simply, in the first model, believers are individually saved into the church. In the second model, believers are individually saved, then they individually join the church.

Yes, the first model sounds similar to Roman Catholicism, but that is only because Evangelicalism as a whole has a distorted view of the Reformation. Evangelicalism which mostly take the second model is more in line with Anabaptism than Reformed theology in its doctrine of the Church. The Magisterial Reformation was a reformation of the Medieval Catholic church, not a revolution as the Anabaptists desired. The Reformed view of the Church is that of the Church as a mother, as one can see in Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (4.1.4), not the second model of Church as girlfriend/wife. These of course have various implications for the relations of believers to the Church, but we will only focus on the relevant implications for the purpose of this video.

Bethke when he posits a false dichotomy between religious forms and true spirituality, while claiming that he loves the church, is more in line with the second model embraced by Evangelicalism as a whole. For the first model, the forms are important, for (if they are biblical) the forms are the means of grace which nourish the souls of believers in their walk with God. Bethke's love for the Church therefore extends to service and ministry to the gathering of God's people only and not to the forms of the institutional Church, if he even regards the Church as having an institutional quality at all.

The folks over at the White Horse Inn are correct. Bethke and the type of religiosity he represents is one that "is still trapped in its own kind of moralism." DeYoung's failure to spot this is symptomatic of the deficient doctrine of the Church embraced by Evangelicalism, one that treats the Church not as mother but as girlfriend/wife.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christianity and Religion

First, a contrast:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27)

and

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Is Christianity a religion? The viral video by Jeff Bethke with its attack against "religion" with its (*surprise surprise* NOT!) endorsement by Driscoll's The Resurgence has been making the rounds, and its answer is no. Pitting "religion" against "Jesus," Bethke denounced the outward forms of religiosity, attacking those who partake of the forms of religiosity while not being actually regenerate.

There is of course a certain truth in Bethke's attack against mere nominalism and hypocrisy. Christians should certainly be against hypocrisy. It is certainly not enough to partake of forms without truly following Jesus. The issue however lies with the false dichotomies made by Bethke. Are Christians supposed to choose between forms and piety? Are forms antithetical to true piety, such that those who are truly spiritual do not practice the forms of piety of the church?

The forms of piety of the Church (i.e. religion) that Bethke is attacking are what makes the Church an institution. These include the offices of the church (pastors, elders, deacons), the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper) and most definitely church membership and church oversight over its members. They include things like weekly observance of the Lord's Day, tithing/ offering and corporate prayer and worship. Thus, Bethke, in positing the dichotomies he did, is denigrating the Church as an institution. As one reviewer puts it,

See the problem is, Bethke doesn’t mean religion either, but he’s rehearsing a popular evangelical trope, that the freedom that Christians find through Jesus is freedom from structure, organization, and authority. ...

Are there possible hypocrites within the church that merely observe the forms? Highly possible. But does that mean that true spirituality means that one throw the forms away altogether? Maybe they should just join an Emergent "church" and express their own "true spirituality"? Or maybe they should dispense with Church altogether and come together to do works of "social justice," as Bethke seems to alludes to in the beginning?

The fact of the matter is that Bethke is just plain wrong. Christianity is indeed a religion. Indeed, it is more than a religion, but not less than one. One wonders how Bethke can so blatantly contradict Jas. 1:27, but we digress. Christianity is about truly following Jesus, but doing so also though the forms. To disregard the forms altogether is basically mysticism (e.g. Joachim of Fiore), and that is not biblical Christianity.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick and Christian maturity (ADD)

It is no secret that people like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick are not exactly nice to their critics. Driscoll likes to attack young men especially in their 20s as cowards and berates them to grow up. He furthermore attacks critics as bloggers living in their mother's basements blogging while wearing pajamas. Steven Furtick attacks his critics as "haters" who need to grow up. Both of these "pastors" while rather different do not hide their manifest disgusts at their online critics and young men.

It is the case that there may be some substance behind some of Driscoll's critiques. What I want to focus here however is to examine these men according to the true biblical criteria of what maturity is. As they attack others for being immature, are they actually mature at all?

What exactly is maturity? Is maturity defined by being married, as Driscoll puts it? Then the Apostle Paul is certainly immature according to Driscoll's standard.

There are different types of maturity: for example physical, intellectual, emotional, relational and spiritual. Since we are speaking of supposed "pastors," we would look at the pastoral epistles which specifically define the maturity required for leaders of the church.

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim. 3: 2-7)

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:5-9)

All pastors are elders of some sort, and thus are expected to be mature with the qualities exhibited. Most certainly we are not perfect, but these qualifications are not meant for only perfect people to qualify. One does not have to be perfect for example to not be a drunkard.

We start first with Mark Driscoll, the recent author of the salacious book on sex. How does Driscoll measure up to these attributes? Well, Driscoll is certainly the husband of one wife, and probably not open to the charge of debauchery and insubordination. He is however not above reproach, not self-controlled, and not a lover of good, and is not dignified. He also does not hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, with his blasphemous pornographic "visions" being a violation of Scripture and basic common sense. Compared to the standards of Scripture, Driscoll does not qualify as being mature.

Steven Furtick is much worse. He is not above reproach, definitely not well thought of by outsiders (and instead attacks his critics as "haters"), not self-controlled, not a lover of good etc. He attacks the sheep who want to go deeper into Scripture, certainly behavior more like a butcher just waiting to have lamb chops for sale than a shepherd.

According to the standards of Scripture therefore, both Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick are not mature. In their attacks against the supposed "immaturity" of young men and/or critics, they therefore have absolutely no authority whatsoever. It's worse than a pot calling the kettle black, because at least the pot does not take to itself the sacred office of the pastor.

Therefore, next time Driscoll or Furtick rants against immaturity, ignore them. They are basically over-age immature playground bullies. None of them are fit for the office which they illegitimately take hold of. Ironically, while deploring the immaturity of others (real or imagined), they are poster boys for the perpetual adolescence of boys who refuse to grow up. In other words, their very behavior manifests the pathology in today's adolescent culture.

This applies also to all who follow them. Shouting and berating others even for a good cause is not a sign of maturity. The kind of pseudo-masculinity paraded by Driscoll and others gives those of us who are complementarians a bad name, as if biblical masculinity is supposed to one that is interested in violence, "fight club," beer and sex (lots of it). Instead of letting the Bible defines what masculinity is, Driscoll defines masculinity as the almost total opposite of the effeminized cultural norms, as if the extreme opposite of an error is always the truth.

Let us therefore reject the examples of people like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick. Their examples only lead to more immaturity and a continuance of the pathological state of the perpetual adolescent culture. Instead, follow the examples of true godly men. Look to the examples of the pastors and elders of your local church (assuming it's a true biblical church), who though little known faithfully care for the flock without much recognition, honor and glamour. Such people despite their flaws are much more mature than Driscoll and Furtick can ever be, unless they repent.

Addendum: Just as to prove me right, Driscoll decided that calling British pastors cowards was an excellent thing to do.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Pre-prolegomena: Knowing, Affection and Being - Introduction

Knowing, Affection and Being - Introduction

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12: 1-2)

Christians submit to Christ as He is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. What does the Bible say about the areas where we are to submit to Christ and grow in our faith?

In Romans 12:1-2, we can see the various areas highlighted that Christians are to grow, in gratitude to God's grace. They are the area of knowing, the area of affection (or emotions), and the area of being, in no particular order of importance.

We are asked to grow in the area of knowing. In the words of our passage, we are commanded, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." We are therefore to renew our minds by accepting what Scripture says as true. We are not to conform to the world, which is to say that we are to reject anything and everything that the world says that contradicts what is written in Scripture. In rejecting what the world says, we accept what Scriptures says.

We are to grow in the area of our affections. We are to do what we are commanded to do as our "spiritual worship." Worship has reference to many things, but one thing that Christian worship has in mind is our affections. We are called to love God (Deut. 6:5, Mt. 22:37) with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength. Worship is to be done "in spirit and truth" (Jn. 4 :24). Our affections or emotions are to be oriented towards God. In this sense, we are to learn to love what God loves, and to hate what God hates.

Lastly, we are to grow in the area of being, and consequently doing. We are called here to be a "living sacrifice." A sacrifice is something placed on the alter devoted for the worship of God. From our affections we are to desire to be what God wants us to be, and devote ourselves fully to God.

[to be continued]

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Response to "An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity"

I have previously briefly responded to the so-called "Evangelical Statement on the Trinity" here. Here, I would like to publish my full response to that Statement, which interacts with the theological section of the Statement. The full response can be found here. As I have written,

Recently, William David Spencer, in consultation with many theologians, has drafted a document which he has called “An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity.” Is this document however what it proclaims to be? Is this statement truly Evangelical, in the historic sense of the term? More importantly, is it biblical?

In this article, I would like to analyze this statement as it is made available online. Is this a statement that Christians and especially Evangelicals should embrace, or should it be rejected?

The theological commentary of the Statement is arranged according to a few themes, and we will therefore in part one first address these themes in the order they are written, then give an apologetic for a more biblical view of the Trinity in part two.

[more]

A Calvinist in the hands of an angry modern Arminian

As stated, I was lead to a blog post here which attempt to refute my article on the heresy of Classical Arminianism. In this post, I would like to briefly respond to Birch's attempted rebuttal of my article.

Heresy, really?

We will start with the idea of heresy. In a footnote, Birch quotes Neo-Orthodox church historian Alister McGrath on the definition of heresy. Of course, Birch is always welcome to use whatever definition of heresy he wants to exclude Arminianism from that charge. The definition McGrath proposes however is vague. What does "the entire church" refer to? If if refers to all who consider themselves churches, even Arianism is not a heresy, for the Arian "churches" certainly did not judge Arianism unacceptable.

It is a fact that the Remonstrants were kicked out of the Reformed churches after Dordt. Such excommunication means that these people were not regarded as being part of the church. If by the "entire church," we are referring to the established churches at that time, then the entire church did judge Arminianism as being "unacceptable by the entire church." Furthermore, by its international character, the judgment at Dordt was endorsed by many Protestant delegates from other countries, who represent their national and/or city churches in endorsing the ecclesiastical judgment against the Remonstrants. So upon what basis can McGrath, and Birch, declare that Arminianism is not a heresy even according to that vague definition proposed by McGrath himself?

McGrath and Birch can always claimed that the Lutherans and Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox were not invited to Dordt. But that of course presupposes that these churches were regarded as true churches by the delegates to Dordt. Does the category of what we mean by the "entire church" changes depending on what the current scholarly consensus of what the "entire church" is supposed to be made up of? Are we to ignore the 17th century context of the Synod of Dordt and anachronistically read the modern scholarly views of what constitutes the "entire church" into the discussion of the Synod of Dordt?

If we however let the Bible and the usage of the ancient church to define the term, we will come up with a better definition. Heresy is any error which if embraced fully destroys the faith of professing Christians. If we adopt such a better definition, then the question of whether Classical Arminianism is heresy can be better addressed.

Partial or Total Depravity

Birch charges me with not providing the full context of the Remonstrant Opinions, and therefore I have distorted the true view of the Remonstrants who embraced Total Depravity. If all he is saying is that the Remonstrants do indeed use the language of Total Depravity, I will of course acknowledge that. If the charge is that I did not inform my readers that they did use such language, perhaps he has a point.

I have of course read the Remonstrant Opinions, which is available in many places, with Birch reproducing them on his website. What I was driving with in the quote is to show a place where the Remonstrants reveal their belief in partial depravity. As I had argued in my article, the issue is that the denial of the doctrine of imputation of Adam's sin undermines any language about Total Depravity. Who cares if the Remonstrants have used the language of Total Depravity if while doing so they do not embrace its substance?

Along the way, Birch charged me with not quoting Arminius on the issue of imputation of Christ's righteousness. First of all, I was dealing with the Remonstrants, who deviated further doctrinally from Arminius himself (a prominent example is the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints). Secondly, using the language of imputation does not necessarily mean the Reformed understanding of imputation itself is believed. Arminius was not forthright in his views, and fought vigorously against the calling of a national synod to deal with them. Merely stating one section where he was trying to refute his critics (and thus he has a vested interest in appearing orthodox there) does not do full justice to what Arminius' actual views are.

Regardless, as I have said the first time, I was dealing primarily with the Remonstrants. If Birch cannot differentiate between Arminius himself and the Remonstrants, there is nothing I can do to help him.

The case of Conrad Vorstius

Birch faults me here in two ways. First, he faults me on the history of what exactly happened. Vorstius according to him resigned, not that he was kicked out. Next, the issue of Vorstius with King James I was theological, not political.

To this, I will say that the charges are disingenuous. Yes, it is theological, but are we to imagine that it is also not political? So if King James strongly suggest to the Dutch princes that Vorstius was doctrinally aberrant, there would be no political ramifications if the Dutch princes ignored it? We are talking about the King of England, a sovereign nation. Is Birch suggesting that a theological controversy involving the King of England has no political overtones as well? In a time when church and state were not separate, that is surely a tall order.

As to whether Vorstius resigned or he was kicked out, that is a mere technicality. King James I was pressuring the University of Leiden to do something about Vorstius. Vorstius could either go willingly or be fired — either way he was forced out. Just as today nicer bosses ask an unwanted employee to voluntarily resign instead of being fired, so then Vorstius' leave of the University of Leiden was forced. It is irrelevant whether he technically resigned or not, because he was not going to be able to remain there anyway, and better to leave voluntarily than to be shamefully ejected.

The second charge that Birch launched at my article is that Vorstius was not truly an Arminian, although his soteriology is Arminian in nature. The problem here is that Vorstius' Socinian leanings were not known early on. As Birch pointed out, he was earlier exonerated of Socinianism by the Heidelberg theologians. He was therefore considered an Arminian until he was found out to be a Socinian before his death. It is indeed interesting that Birch does not even consider this fact at all. Instead, we are told that Vorstius because of his Socinianism was not an Arminian, as if Vorstius was known and considered as a Socinian early on instead of being considered one of the Remonstrants.

Birch's charge therefore misses its mark altogether. To disavow Vorstius, one must show that his contemporaries and especially the Remonstrants knew and rejected him as a Socinian in 1610 when he was elected to the chair formerly occupied by Jacobus Ariminius, but this Birch cannot show because it is historically untrue. It is no point showing that Vorstius will finally be outed as a Socinian, because we are discussing about Vorstius in the time period before his Socinianism was fully known.

Conclusion

In conclusion we see that Birch's criticism misses the mark altogether. Birch is of course welcomed to create his own version of Arminianism based upon his interpretation of the works of Jacobus Arminius. But to do so absent interaction with actual people, writings and positions of the 17th century Remonstrants but merely upon his evangelical interpretation of Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrant Articles and Opinions is bad historiography. Nowhere is his historiography worse than his blithe dismissal of the case of Conrad Vorstius, which is of course understandably embarrassing to his goal of making classical and evangelical Arminianism one when they are in fact not.

On Responding to Arminians

I was recently directed to a blog post attempting to refute one of my articles on Arminianism, which I will interact in another post. I was asked if I would interact with that post and comment on it, especially since I was once a former Arminian.

To this, I have mixed feelings. True, I was a former Arminian, but I was an Arminian in the same way as human beings are born Pelagians. The default position of Christians who are truly converted is Arminianism, for the sinful nature within them means that they will sub-consciously attempt to be as Pelagian as possible even after conversion.

There is thus a difference between mere Arminians who do not know better, and devoted Arminians who knowingly, willfully and explicitly reject the Doctrine of Grace. Most Evangelicals are shallow Arminians and even Semi-Pelagians because they are untaught in the truths of Scripture, just like I once was. To them, instructing them in the truths of Scripture would be helpful. If they are truly teachable, they would slowly come to embrace the Doctrines of Grace, unless of course there are strong emotional barriers due to certain past experiences in their life which will make it hard for them to do so.

The issue that comes before me now is interacting with convinced Arminians. In this case, the Arminian in question is William Birch of the so-called "Society of Evangelical Arminians, whom I have mentioned in passing previously. I greatly hesitate to engage such people, not because I cannot do so, but I do not see the profit in doing so. The way James White engaged such people, which I think is the correct way, is through debates, which are not meant to convince the other party. Debates are meant to portray the different positions and get them to interact with each other, with the purpose of convincing those who are either undecided or on the peripheral of the movement. Seldom can one get to convince the hard core supporters on either side, and therefore I hesitate to interact directly with Birch.

With this caveat, I would respond to Birch on my blog, and we'll see how it goes, since I am busy as well.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Excerpt on Complementarianism

In my full response to the supposed An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity, which is currently delayed as I have sought feedback to it, I have included a section on Complementarianism. I would like to post that section here first.

We shall start with a brief description of complementarianism, the biblical antidote to egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is the view that equality (especially as it pertains to men and women) pertains to every aspect of being, roles and relationships. Therefore, egalitarianism teaches that there is full equality between men and women to the extent that there are no fundamental differences (besides biological which cannot be denied) between men and women. In society, egalitarianism teaches what is called absolute gender blindness. No discrimination between men and women is allowed, and whatever men can do, women can likewise do. Whatever men can be, women can likewise be. You will seldom hear of course of the converse that men should be able to do what women can do, although egalitarianism should promote that same truth.

In marriage, egalitarianism is worked out in the rejection of any form of headship of the husband over the wife. If any headship is allowed at all (soft egalitarianism), it is a functional headship whereby one party especially the dominant party makes the final decision. In Christian circles, this can be worked out as the husband being the head of the family in the sense of functionally leading the family. Yet any other form of headship is implicitly or explicitly denied.

Complementarianism is the view that agrees that men and women are equal before God. Women are not inferior to men, or vice versa. However, we stress that there is a creational difference of roles and relationships between men and women. Men and women are different not just biologically, but also ontologically as created. If it was just biological, then having a sex-change operation would turn one automatically from a male to a female or vice versa. Rather, gender is not a biological or social construct but a created construct.

Socially, this means that men and women are not the same. Certainly, women should not be discriminated against in terms of denying of jobs and promotions and pay, but this is not what we are getting at. The issue here is that men and women think differently, perceive things differently etc. To the extent that such differences are manifested, they should not be denigrated as mere social constructs, as if women must be able to be almost a carbon copy of men with the exception of biology. Differences between the genders are to be celebrated, not denigrated. Along this line, having mandatory gender quotas for any field of study and work denies both the equality of value and worth, and the created differences between the two sexes. Having a minimum number of women in politics (an affirmative action) is one such error of egalitarianism. Fields such as these should be based purely on interest and meritocracy rather than some misplaced egalitarian view of human nature. If no woman for example wants to join politics, one should not force them to, and one should not discriminate against them entering the field either.

In the family, there is an equality in the worth and value of the marriage partners. But the headship of husband is ordained by God not merely as a functional reality but as a creational ontological reality. A woman submits to her husband not because that is the best way to run a household; not because if both sides insist on their way there would be perpetual conflict. A woman submits to her husband because that is the ordained reality of creation. Similarity in worth and value, but differences in roles and relationships.

In complementarianism, the submission called for is not that of a superior over the inferior. Men are not superior to women and women are not inferior to men. Rather, it is a submission of an equal to another equal, based upon creational reality. Only the embrace of radical egalitarian assumptions would make this incoherent, for egalitarianism equates submission to inferiority, whereas that is not true.

Pre-Prolegomena: Our Submission to God's Authority

Our Submission to God's Authority

Having shown that we are to submit to the lordship of Christ, how can we do so in practice? After all, Christ is not present on this earth, and the next time He will come again is in the Second Judgment (Mt. 26:29, Mk. 14:25, Acts 1:11, Rev. 19:11). Whoever claims direct visitation by Jesus Christ today is a liar. The Apostle John was the last to have something like a visitation (Rev. 1:12-17), but this was for the purpose of New Testament revelation which is now complete.

How then can we submit to the lordship of Christ, since Christ is not here? God in his grace has given us a way to do so, through the Holy Scriptures. The Apostle John in his inspired writing tells us that the Word of revelation is shown in the person of Jesus Christ, who came down and was born into the world for us (Jn. 1:1-14). The Word of God's revelation therefore lies in Jesus Christ, and to know Jesus Christ is to know God's Word (Heb. 1:1-2).

Jesus Christ ↔ Word of God = Scripture

Conversely, to truly know God's Word is to know Jesus Christ. Therefore, to submit to Christ means to submit to what is taught in the Scriptures.

In order to further prove the point, 2 Tim. 3:16 shows us that all of the Scriptures are indeed meant to help us to live the Christian life. The Scriptures are said to be breathed out by God, which means that the Holy Spirit is the one who inspires them. The eternal truths of God shown in the person of Jesus Christ are now taken by the Holy Spirit, who uses human language to express these truths.

Therefore for us today, to submit to the lordship of Christ is to submit to all the truths taught in Holy Scripture.

But what about the Holy Spirit, it is asked? Well, 2 Peter 1:19-21 answers the question by telling us that the Scriptures are not of anyone's interpretation, but of the Holy Spirit who supervises its writing. As we have seen in 2 Tim. 3:16, the Scriptures are the breathed out product of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the person who authors the Scripture and interprets it to us.

The Holy Spirit being the author of all of Scripture means that we have an objective revelation of Jesus Christ. By following it, we come to know God and are then able to submit to Christ's lordship. Submission to all of Scripture therefore is what Christians should do.

The Holy Spirit as the interpreter of Scripture means that our subjective understanding of the meaning of Scripture is given by the Holy Spirit. It is not that the Scriptures cannot be understood by itself, but that we as sinful human beings are unable to accept what they teach. Thus, we naturally distort the meaning of Scripture, even without realizing we have done so (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 2:14) The Holy Spirit comes to us and gives us light to understand the true meaning of Scripture.

The Holy Spirit does not speak apart from the Scriptures which He breathes out. Our submission to God's authority therefore is indeed a submission to all of Scripture in all that it teaches, and this is what all Christians are called to do.