Monday, February 28, 2011

Whitefield's Letter (pt. 1)

Letter to Wesley
Bethesda in Georgia, Dec. 24, 1740
Reverend and very dear Brother,

God only knows what unspeakable sorrow of heart I have felt on your account since I left England last. Whether it be my infirmity or not, I frankly confess, that Jonah could not go with more reluctance against Nineveh, than I now take pen in hand to write against you. Was nature to speak, I had rather die than do it; and yet if I am faithful to God, and to my own and others' souls, I must not stand neutral any longer. I am very apprehensive that our common adversaries will rejoice to see us differing among ourselves. But what can I say? The children of God are in danger of falling into error. Nay, numbers have been misled, whom God has been pleased to work upon by my ministry, and a greater number are still calling aloud upon me to show also my opinion. I must then show that I know no man after the flesh, and that I have no respect to persons, any further than is consistent with my duty to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

This letter, no doubt, will lose me many friends: and for this cause perhaps God has laid this difficult task upon me, even to see whether I am willing to forsake all for him, or not. From such considerations as these, I think it my duty to bear an humble testimony, and earnestly to plead for the truths which, I am convinced, are clearly revealed in the Word of God. In the defence whereof I must use great plainness of speech, and treat my dearest friends upon earth with the greatest simplicity, faithfulness, and freedom, leaving the consequences of all to God.

For some time before, and especially since my last departure from England, both in public and private, by preaching and printing, you have been propagating the doctrine of universal redemption. And when I remember how Paul reproved Peter for his dissimulation, I fear I have been sinfully silent too long. O then be not angry with me, dear and honoured Sir, if now I deliver my soul, by telling you that I think in this you greatly err.

'Tis not my design to enter into a long debate on God's decrees. I refer you to Dr. Edwards his Veritas Redux [1], which, I think is unanswerable—except in a certain point, concerning a middle sort between elect and reprobate, which he himself in effect afterwards condemns. 1. This refers to a work by Dr. John Edwards of Cambridge, not Jonathan Edwards, the famous American pastor-theologian.

I shall only make a few remarks upon your sermon, entitled Free Grace." And before I enter upon the discourse itself, give me leave to take a little notice of what in your Preface you term an indispensable obligation to make it public to all the world. I must own, that I always thought you were quite mistaken upon that head.

The case (you know) stands thus: When you were at Bristol, I think you received a letter from a private hand, charging you with not preaching the gospel, because you did not preach up election. Upon this you drew a lot: the answer was "preach and print." I have often questioned, as I do now, whether in so doing, you did not tempt the Lord. A due exercise of religious prudence, without [the drawing of] a lot, would have directed you in that matter. Besides, I never heard that you enquired of God, whether or not election was a gospel doctrine.

But, I fear, taking it for granted [that election was not a biblical truth], you only enquired whether you should be silent or preach and print against it.

However this be, the lot came out "preach and print"; accordingly you preached and printed against election. At my desire, you suppressed the publishing of the sermon whilst I was in England; but you soon sent it into the world after my departure. O that you had kept it in! However, if that sermon was printed in answer to a lot, I am apt to think, one reason why God should so suffer you to be deceived, was, that hereby a special obligation might be laid upon me, faithfully to declare the Scripture doctrine of election, that thus the Lord might give me a fresh opportunity of seeing what was in my heart, and whether I would be true to his cause or not; as you could not but grant, he did once before, by giving you such another lot at Deal.

The morning I sailed from Deal for Gibraltar [2 February 1738], you arrived from Georgia. Instead of giving me an opportunity to converse with you, though the ship was not far off the shore, you drew a lot, and immediately set forward to London. You left a letter behind you, in which were words to this effect: "When I saw [that] God, by the wind which was carrying you out, brought me in, I asked counsel of God. His answer you have enclosed." This was a piece of paper, in which were written these words, "Let him return to London."

When I received this, I was somewhat surprised. Here was a good man telling me he had cast a lot, and that God would have me return to London. On the other hand, I knew my call was to Georgia, and that I had taken leave of London, and could not justly go from the soldiers, who were committed to my charge. I betook myself with a friend to prayer. That passage in 1 Kings 13 was powerfully impressed upon my soul, where we are told that the Prophet was slain by a lion when he was tempted to go back (contrary to God's express order) upon another Prophet's telling him God would have him do so. I wrote you word that I could not return to London. We sailed immediately.

Some months after, I received a letter from you at Georgia, wherein you wrote words to this effect: "Though God never before gave me a wrong lot, yet, perhaps, he suffered me to have such a lot at that time, to try what was in your heart." I should never have published this private transaction to the world, did not the glory of God call me to it. It is plain you had a wrong lot given you here, and justly, because you tempted God in drawing one. And thus I believe it is in the present case. And if so, let not the children of God who are mine and your intimate friends, and also advocates for universal redemption, think that doctrine true—because you preached it up in compliance with a lot given out from God.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Whitefield's Letter to Wesley

Beginning Monday, I will post a famous letter by George Whitefield to John Wesley. Since the letter is rather lengthy, I will be breaking it into 5 posts. When reading the letter, note the irenic tone of Whitefield as he reproves rank error. This is an attitude the Church needs to recover.

Noteworthy also in the letter are the numerous references to Wesley’s habit of “casting lots” to determine God’s will. Whitefield accurately pegs this as tempting God.

The main subject of the letter is Wesley’s faulty and heretical view of the doctrine of election. Whitefield does a masterly job of picking apart Wesley’s sermon “Free Grace” and showing how he had utterly misunderstood Scripture.

The letter was sent from Bethesda, Georgia on December 24, 1740.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Below is a sermon outline on Ecclesiastes 9:11. It is inspired by a sermon on the same text by Thomas Manton.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the strong, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.

1. The accurate observation: I again saw under the sun
2. The result of this observation

A. Negatively, in five particulars:
1. The race is not to the swift
2. Nor the battle to the strong
3. Nor the bread to the wise
4. Nor wealth to the discerning
5. Nor favor to men of ability

B. Positively: But time and chance overtake them all
1. Time, God has allotted a certain time to every purpose and action.
2. Chance, i.e., Occurrence. (1 Kings 5:4) Hebrew: pega

The success is such as the counsel of God has foreordained, yet to us it seems to be a mere chance. Things casual to us are counsels to Him.

Two false interpretations of these words:

1. Solomon is not being Epicurean or atheistic. His preface is prefixed to his observations about the vanity of worldly things.
2. Solomon is not teaching Blind Fortune. The word rendered “chance” is better rendered “occurrence. It may be chance to men, but it is providence to God who “works all things after the counsel of His will.”

From the whole we find that those most fitted, prepared and diligent are frustrated of that which they so earnestly intended and hoped for.

1. Ignorance or inadvertency.
2. God can easily place some impediment on the inside or outside to hinder us.
     A. Inside: He can damage our powers or obstruct their use. He did not destroy the power of the fire in the furnace, but He suspended the burning.
     B. Outside: He can cast in some casual event which we could not have foreseen.
3. The best of God’s servants often provoke Him to disappoint them because they place too much confidence in themselves.

To say and do, or to make a thing to be, is the act and name of Jehovah and He will not share His glory with another. Lam. 3:37 - Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?

The uses:

This teaches us:

1. The nothingness of the creature and the all-sufficiency of God.
     A. This is a great spiritual lesson
          1. By way of comparison with God – Only God’s name is I AM. There is none besides Him. All creatures are reckoned as nothing
          2. By way of exclusion of God – As all creatures are reckoned as nothing in comparison with God, by exclusion of God, they really are nothing. He not only made them all but holds them in existence. This is true both physically and spiritually.
          3. By way of opposition to God – “All they that were incensed against thee shall be shall be as nothing” Isaiah 49:11
     B. It establishes our dependence on God. Rom 4:17, 18.
     C. It is intended to show us that without God, all is futility. We should not rely on our skills and talents.

2. In the lottery of human affairs we should look after surer comforts.
3. God should be sought in all our plans regarding our future.
     A. What good are our efforts without God? Proverbs 16:13
     B. When we have done our duty, we can quietly refer the success to God.
4. The wisest and best men must not expect to always be happy, but should prepare themselves for adverse circumstances.
5. We must beware of self-confidence. “The battle is the Lord’s.” He sometimes delights to thwart us to maintain His right when we rely too much upon our own strength.
6. The most able and skillful are hereby kept humble.
     A. Before the event
     B. After the event
7. To prevent discouragement of those who are lesser talented. “LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power.” 2 Chron. 14:11. God often passes over the wise and powerful and gets Himself the most glory by protecting the weak.


The sum of this all is – Let us bear all things that befall us as from the wise hand of the Lord’s providence and encourage ourselves in His all-sufficiency in all obstacles and difficulties.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dickson on Regeneration

The following excerpt is from David Dickson's "Therapeutica Sacra" published in 1664. I have left the spelling and punctuation intact.

Regeneration (being one in effect with effectual calling) is the Work of God’s invincible Power and meer Grace, wherein, by His Spirit, accompanying His Word, He quickeneth a Redeemed Person lying Dead in his Sins, and reneweth him in his Mind, Will, and all the Powers of His Soul; convincing him savingly of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment, and making him heartily to embrace Christ and Salvation, and to consecrat himself to the Service of God in Christ, all the days of his Life.

The main thing we must take heed to in this work, is to give to God intirely the Glory of His Grace and Power and Wisdom, so that the Glory of Mans Regeneration be neither given to Man, nor Man made sharer of the glory with God, but God may have the whole glory of His free Grace, because out of His own good-will, not for any thing at all foreseen in Man, He lets forth His special Love on the Redeemed in a time acceptable; and the glory of His Almighty Power, because by His omnipotent and invincible working, He makes the Man dead in sins to live, opens his Eyes to take up savingly the Things of God, takes away the Heart of Stone, and makes him a new Creature, to will and to do His holy Will; and the Glory of His Wisdom, who dealeth so with His Creature as He doth not destroy, but perfect the natural Power of Man’s will, making the Man regenerat, most freely deliberately and heartily to embrace Christ, and to consecrate himself to God’s service. The reason why we urge this, is, because Satan, by corrupting the Doctrine of Regeneration, and perswading Men that they are able of themselves by the common and the natural strength of their own free-will, without the special and effectual Grace of God, both to convert themselves and others also, doth foster the native pride of Men, hindereth them from emptying and humbling themselves before God, keepeth them from Self-denyal, doth mar the Regeneration of them that are deluded with this Error, and obscureth what he can, the shining of the Glory of God’s Grace, Power, and Wisdom in the conversion of Men: for whatsoever Praise, proud Men let go toward God for making Mens Conversion possible, yet they give the whole Glory of actual Conversion to the Man himself, which Christ ascribeth to God only, and leaveth no more for Man to glory in his spiritual Regeneration, then he hath to glory in his own natural Generation. Joh. 3.5, 6, 7, 8.

And the same doth the Apostle teach, Ephes. 2. 8, 9, 10. and Philip. 2. 13. It is God (saith he) which worketh in you both to will and to do of His own good pleasure. And therefore it is the duty of all Christ’s Disciples, but chiefly their duty who are consecrat to God, to preach up the Glory of God’s free Grace, omnipotent Power and unsearchable Wisdom, to live in the sense of their own Emptiness, and to depend upon the furnitour of Grace for Grace, out of Christ’s Fulness; and zealously to oppose the proud Error of Man’s natural ability for converting himself, as they love to see, and to find the effectual blessing of the Ministry of the Gospel, and themselves accepted for true Disciples at the day of their meeting with Christ the Judge at His second coming.

David Dickson, Therapeutica Sacra, Bk 1 , Ch. 3

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chrysostom on Romans 1:26-27

Talk about politically incorrect! I have been re-reading some of the notes I jotted down several years ago as I read through Romans. I noticed several quotes I copied from Chrysostom's homilies on Romans. In looking at this passage he notes that God's in judgment upon idolators, he gives them over to (1) impurity, (2) degrading passions, and (3) an undiscerning debased mind. He notes the severity of the judgment on many levels. Primarily, that in homosexuality the soul is more the sufferer and more dishonored by this sin than the body is by any disease. It is not that people were hindered from natural and legitimate intercourse, rather they dishonored what was natural and ran after what was contrary to nature. This is one of the proofs of the evil of such an act: All humanity would go extinct in one generation if this became the norm.

The next wrung down, Chrysostom notes, is the self-degredation of women. Women have always been the guardians of public morality. The most foul-mouthed man of a generation ago, watched his language in front of women, and certain subjects were simply taboo in "mixed company." Paul does not say that these men and women were enamored with each other. No! He says they "burned in their lust toward one another." Chrysostom suggests that this is Satan's attempt to destroy the human race because the sexual desire is what, on a biological level, draws the sexes together. So Satan severs this bond and draws people into unnatural acts. Chysostom writes, "He shows that the punishment was in the pleasure itself...While doing themsleves such injury, they smile and revel over what has happened." This insight was seen by Plato (Theaet 176,7) and Sophocles (Ajax 265-277), nevertheless Greek society was riddled with homosexuality. Solon evidently thought it was a privilege too great for slaves and allowed it from free men only. Chrysostom notes that it is worse than prostitution, because at least there, though vilely sinful, at least it is an act according to nature. He calls it worse than murder; for the murderer severs the body from the soul, but this man "ruins the soul with the body." The man does not become a woman, he loses his manhood and becomes a traitor to both sexes, "deserving both of men and women to be driven out and stoned, as having wronged either sex." If someone assured you that he could actually turn you into a dog, you would run for the hills. This is worse. At least a dog is good for something - this man is good for nothing. "Consider how great this sin is, to have forced Hell to appear even before its time!" 

With all the fascination many churches seem to have with sermons and serieses of sermons about sex, somehow I don't anticipate anyone preaching like Chysostom any time soon.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Superiority of Expository Preaching

The unfolding of Your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130 (NASB)

“The end of all preaching is to bring men under the influence of God’s Word; and nothing seems so likely to make men understand the Word as lectures in which the Word is explained. It was so in Chrysostom’s days; it ought to be so again. The idea, no doubt, like every good theory, may be easily ridden to death; and I believe that with ignorant, semi-heathen congregations, a short pithy text often does more good than a long passage expounded. But I have no doubt of the immense value of expository preaching, when people will bring their Bibles to the service, and accompany the preacher as he travels on, or go home to their Bibles after the service, and compare what they have heard with the written Word.” Excerpt from J.C. Ryle’s “Estimate of Manton” in volume 1 of the works of Thomas Manton

Expository preaching is superior to all other homiletic methods. We take as our theme this passage from Psalm 119:130 because expository preaching is nothing other that “unfolding” God’s Word, and we are told here that it is this which gives light and understanding.

The Hebrew word rendered “unfolding” in the NASB is the word pethach, which means “opening” in a figurative sense. This is why other versions render the word as “entrance.” This is an acceptable rendering so long as we keep in mind that it is meant in a figurative sense that implies disclosure rather than a door. Other forms of the word’s root, pathach, mean to open wide (literal or figurative); specifically to loosen, begin, plough, carve: - appear, break forth, draw (out), let go free, (en-) grave (-n), loose (self), (be, be set) open (-ing), put off, ungird, unstop, have vent. And so we can clearly see the point being made by the Psalmist. It is only by opening, unfolding and drawing out the meaning of God’s Word that there can be light and understanding.

There are other passages of Scripture that confirm this view. In Luke 24:27, 31, it was Jesus’ expounding of the Scriptures that opened the eyes of the disciples’ understanding. Acts 17:3 has Paul opening the Scriptures and it was this which the Spirit of God used to bring many of his listeners to saving faith. Nehemiah 8:8 says, “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.”

Expository preaching takes the actual words of Scripture and sets about to explain them from their context and how all of Scripture teaches the same things. The Puritans were truly models for great preaching. If you have ever read a Puritan sermon, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, you should!

The Puritan model is best seen in the sermons of Thomas Manton. First the text is read. Next, some details of the context and background are given. The text then is broken up into its various clauses and phrases, with all the ramifications explained. This leads to the statement of the passage’s “Doctrine,” i.e., the theological truth which the passage teaches. The body of the sermon is spent expounding this doctrine through references to many other parts of Scripture. The Puritans, like the Reformers before them, believed in the principle that Scripture interprets itself (Scriptura Intrapratatum). This is why they always interpreted a given passage in the Bible in the light of the rest of the Bible. They never came upon a verse and thought, “Wow! This is a new doctrine taught nowhere else in the Bible." If you think that a passage is teaching a doctrine taught nowhere else in the Bible, you've misinterpreted it.

This is also why neither the Reformers nor the Puritans like Manton, ever used illustrations drawn from current events. The didn't cross reference the daily newspaper to show how Scripture was being fulfilled, nor did they make references to the latest theater play or local public interest story to demonstrate this or that Christian virtue. If Scripture interprets Scripture, and the passage under consideration really says what I understand it to be saying, then it should be easy to find this verified in many other portions of Scripture.

Finally, the sermon ended with practical applications of the doctrinal truths learned. Puritan sermons were almost always split right down the middle: about half being doctrinal and the other half being practical application.

This is truly the biblical model. Paul’s epistles have this same quality. About midway through you will find a “therefore” that begins a section of applying the doctrinal truths expounded on in the first part of the letter. There is no superior method of preaching.

Appended are three principles that are a great guide in biblical interpretation. I found these in my notes. I didn’t formulate them. If anyone recognizes them and knows the source, let me know. I want to give credit where it s due.

3 Principles of Interpretation

We must aim to allow the Scriptures, in whole and in each of their parts, to function as God intends.

The function or meaning of any individual passage of Scripture should first be sought by attempting to determine what its human author intended in writing it.

Ultimately, our interpretation of any particular biblical passage must acknowledge and take into account the fundamental unity and consistency of God’s whole written word.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Covenant (pt.3)

3. God cannot be properly understood unless He is viewed within a covenantal frame.

God, as Creator, purposes to have a covenant people. When we ask why this is so, the best we can answer is that such a desire for covenantal fellowship corresponds to the relationship of mutual love and honor between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit within the one undivided essense of the Godhead.

I have already spent a great deal of time in previous posts treating the Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son, which is presupposed by the Covenant of Grace btween God and the Elect. In an article on Covenant Theology (which is the inspiration for many of the ideas in these posts), J. I. Packer demostrates how the Covenant of Redemption clarifies three important truths. He writes:

"1. The love of the Father and the Son, with the Holy Spirit, to lost sinners is shared unanimous love. The tritheistic fantasy of a loving Son placating an unloving Father and commandeering an apathetic Holy Spirit in order to save us is a distressing nonsense.

"2. As our salvation derives from God's free and gracious initiative and is carried through, from first to last, according to God's eternal plan by God's own sovereign power, so its ultimate purpose is to exalt and glorify the Father and Son together. The man-centered distortion that pictures God as saving us more for our sake that for His is also a distressing nonsense.

"3. Jesus Christ is the focal figure, the proper center of our faithful attention, throughout the redemptive economy. He, as mediator of the covenant of grace and of the grace of that covenant, is truly an object of divine predestination as are we whom He saves."

The Westminster Larger Catechism asks: With whom was the covevant of grace made? The prescribed answer is: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed (Q.31).

Standard Reformed statements about salvation almost always go like this: The Father elects, the Son atones for the elect, and the Spirit applies the Son's work to the elect. Unless we view God in this covevantal framework, best illustrated to us in Scripture in the Covenant of Redemption (being a covenant between Persons of the Godhead), we will never understand the reality of God properly. Those who act as if the doctrine of the Trinity is merely a piece of speculation, albeit helpful, know not whereof they speak. One either worships God as One divine essense subsisting in Three Persons, or he is an idolater. Covenant theology best explains and demonstrates the truth of God's nature.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Covenant (pt.2)

2. The Bible cannot be properly understood unless it is viewed within a covenantal frame.

My challenge to those who do not see covenant as the internal framework of Scripture is: Do you not interpret the Bible atomistically? The Bible is never truly understod until it is seen as a unity. In any good story there is a main plot that tells the protagonist's adventures and/experiences. Mnay other subplots may intrude along the way, but they are not the main story and any one of them could be included or excluded without damage to the storyline itself. Likewise, the Bible is the story of God's covenant of grace with His people and how Christ brings this to fruition. All of the historical narratives are there to illustrate God's faithfulness to His promise. Getting sidetracked by subplots is faulty exegesis.

Edgar Allen Poe, in his The Purloined Letter, has his Dupin desribe a game in which the players name places on a map and the others try to locate these places. Dupin relates how, very often, the most obvious places are the ones most easily overlooked. If I name some small island in the South Pacific, you will likely scour the map with such minute scrutiny that you will not notice the words PACIFIC OCEAN plastered across the map in 4 inch letters. We can, in similar fashion, study things like faith, repentance, the death of Christ, the plan of salvation, the person of the God-man, the relationship of the Old and New Testaments, the work of the Spirit, etc and not even notice that all these things are covevantal in nature.

The whole storyline of the Bible is how man's covenant relationship with God was ruined and restored. Understanding Scripture covenantally inform us how all the pieces fit together. The Bible is a unity, not a scrapbook of interesting bits and pieces. We will never understand, and therefore never exegete Scripture properly until we see its covenantal framework.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Covenant (pt.1)

1. The Gospel cannot be properly understood unless it is viewed within a covenantal frame.

Hebrews declares Christ to be the mediator and guarantor of the covenant between God and His elect (Heb. 7:22; 8:6). The Gospel itself is an invitation enjoy a covenant relationship with God. The Church is the covenant community. God's gifts to the Church, such as the preaching of the Word, pastoral care and discipline, the administration of the sacraments, these are all sign, seals, and instruments of the covenant through which the covenant blessings flow to those who believe.

The Bible is the book of the covenant. The preaching of the Word reaffirms to us God's gracious promise that He will be our God and we will be His people. Christ himself, when He instituted the Lord's Table, described His expiatory sacrifice as the fulfillment of the protoevangelion: This is the New Testament (i.e., covenant) in my blood. When Adam sinned and thus violated the covenant of works, God established the covenant of grace by promising a Savior, of the seed of the woman and then demonstrated what this meant by killing animals (showing a substitutionary sacrifice for their sin) and by clothing them in the skins of these sacrificed animals (showing the imputed righteousness of God's elect).

In order to be truly mobile, our bodies require a skeleton. In much the same way, Scripture has an internal framework upon which everything is connected. This internal structure is Covenant. That is why we will never understand the Gospel until we view it covenantally.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Transmission of Original Sin

Philosophers and thinkers throughout the ages have pondered and speculated on the origin of the soul. Scripture clears all the dust raised by centuries of dispute with one simple sentence: “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” This informs us plainly that the soul originates from God’s creative power. It was not formed from any preexistent matter, but directly ex halitu divino, from the inspiration of God.

Some have held to the theory of traduction from the parents as the best explanation of the origin of the soul. This means that the soul is 'created,' as an almost corporeal substance, at the time and by the mechanism of conception. Some have opted for a simple approach, citing that the life of all other creatures flows from natural generation; hence it is likely that human souls flow in the same way. However, there is a specific difference between rational souls and the “soul-ish” life of any other creature. Since the human soul is an immaterial substance, it cannot possibly derive from a material source. The human soul is a spiritual being, thereby requiring a spiritual origin, which Scripture proclaims God to be.

A second objection that has been raised is this: Though the first soul was made by a direct, immediate creation and inspiration of God, it does not necessarily follow that all subsequent souls must be made the same way. God may have created man with such a power of begetting souls after his own image. The first tree was created with its seed in itself to propagate its kind, and so might the first man. We would respond to this by noting that trees and animals were created out of preexistent material; the soul was not. It was created by a direct, immediate act of God. If we consult Job 33:4, we find Elihu giving an account of his soul with almost the same words Moses gave for the origin of Adam’s soul. He says, "The Spirit of God has formed me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life." Besides, the soul is immaterial and thus the “seed” of it must be immaterial too, meaning that its origin cannot reside in the body of man. Moreover, whatever is generated by natural means is corruptible; but the soul is not corruptible. So all souls, like Adam’s spring from God by creation.

The best arguments however for this position have usually hinged on the question of the transmission of Original Sin. Yet even these admit of solutions. The first of such objections is that when God creates something, it either comes from His hands pure or impure. If the soul is created pure, how does it come to be tainted with sin? If it comes from his hand impure, how is God not the author of sin?

In order to answer this, it must be first clarified what is meant by the question. If the question is whether souls are pure or impure as soon as they are united with their bodies, the answer is that they are impure. The union of soul and body is what constitutes a child of Adam, and therefore a tainted, impure, sinful creature. If the question be regarding the condition of the soul in the state in which God created them, this is another issue altogether. Baronius writes, “They are created neither morally pure, nor impure; they receive neither purity nor impurity from him, but only their naked essence, and the natural powers and properties flowing there from.” In other words, God does not create the souls of Adam’s posterity in an impure state, because that would make Him the author of sin, which He cannot be since He is the Avenger of it. But neither does God create souls in the state of original purity, for Adam’s sin lost that, and God justly withholds it from all of his posterity. Adam abused to the dishonor of God his original purity and rectitude, thus God may justly withhold it from his offspring. Adam, acting as our race’s Federal Head, voluntarily deprived himself of this rectitude and therefore deprived all his posterity of that original righteousness and purity in which he was created.

A further objection may be raised, namely: How do souls then come to be tainted with Original Sin? If God did not make them impure, how do they become so? The body is material; the soul is spiritual; so, it is held that the body cannot act upon the soul. The body without the soul is a lifeless lump of clay; hence it cannot defile the soul, since without the soul it is dead and cannot act at all.

Admittedly, this is a much harder knot to unravel. There are some things which will forever remain a mystery; this does not prove them false. I do not understand the Hypostatic Union; I do not therefore deny that Christ is Qeanqpwpwv. Besides we should perhaps be more concerned with getting the sin out of our souls than with how it got into them. Nevertheless, I will offer a few observations rather than hide behind the obvious mystery.

I think it is proper to affirm that Original Sin does not adhere to either part individually: it does not come by the soul alone, nor by the body alone. It comes by the union of both body and soul as one person. It is as a union of soul and body that one is a child of Adam, and only as such are we capable of being infected with his sin.

I would question however, the validity of the assumption that the body, being material, cannot act upon the soul. This is a whole lot easier to say than to prove. Indeed, it seems to me that the body can and does act upon and influence the soul. The body affects the soul’s moods as surely as the soul gives the body life. Not only that, but we could instance many cases where the powers of the soul are diminished or hindered by the weakness of the body. The soul of an elderly person with Alzheimer’s disease is the same soul that had full use of its faculties when the body was younger. Deterioration of the body hinders or obstructs the powers of the soul. Nothing is more obvious than that there is a reciprocal relationship between the soul and the body. So while the mystery remains, perhaps we can at least make some sense of this tangled issue.

If one asks how it is that an infant comes to be guilty of Adam’s sin, the answer is that he is guilty because he is Adam’s offspring by natural generation. Why is that infant deprived of the Original rectitude wherein Adam was created? Adam lost it by his sin and could not transmit to his posterity that which he had lost. Why is he naturally inclined to what is evil? This is because he no longer possesses that original purity. One not in possession of that original purity naturally inclines to what is evil. So the propensity toward evil is a necessary concomitant of the defect or loss of original righteousness. All of God's dealings with man are covenantal by nature, thus Adam, standing as the covenant representative of the human race, acted for us all in his rebellion against God in violating the covenant of works. This is the answer to the 'why' of inherited guilt. Natural generation answers the 'how.'

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

Friday, February 11, 2011

Let Go Of My Ego

To listen to many pastors and preachers these days, you’d think that every page of the Bible resounded with affirmations of Free-will. The way that term is bandied around from the pulpit, you’d expect to find the Scripture saying things like:
“It is not of God that shows mercy, but of him that wills, and of him that runs.” (cf. Rom 9:16);
“Which were born, not of the will of God, but of the will of man.” (cf. Jn. 1:13);
“For you make yourself to differ from another, and you willed to receive what you have. (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7)

But when I read my Bible, whether in the venerable old King James Version, the ESV, or the NIV, NASB, TEV, (you get the picture), I read assertions to the opposite effect. Just look up the actual wording of the Scriptures cited above.

Before I rush off into my diatribe against Arminian free-willers, let me first clarify that I am referring to free-will in the unregenerate. This is clearly the issue. Many people unquestioningly assume that fallen man has an intact power of free-will by which he can choose to accept Christ and that only once he had done so, will God grant His grace. “God helps those who help themselves.” This is what I flatly deny.

I would never stoop to the stupid argument that the Bible nowhere uses the term “Free-will” (it doesn’t), because the Scripture doesn’t use the terms Trinity, Hypostatic Union, or Eschatology, though it clearly teaches these concepts. So just because a term isn’t used in Scripture, this doesn’t mean that the idea isn’t there. I’m simply saying that the idea of a bound will is to be found in all throughout Scripture, written in black and red (or should say ‘black and blue’?).

The Scripture record is so stacked against the notion of free-will that it is a wonder any thinking Christian could ever broach it with a straight face. The Bible, in fact, says we are in bondage (Rom. 8:15), we are slaves (Rom. 6:16-22). The Bible goes even farther and claims that outside of Christ, a man is dead. (Eph. 2:1). Think about that. Can a dead man will anything? Can he decide that he’d like to be resurrected? Yet this is the very supposition that Arminians make with respect to the unregenerate. The man who Scripture declares to be dead they declare has the ability to will to be resurrected. He can be made alive in Christ if he will only make the decision (read: will and run). Imagine standing in front of the casket of a dead man and saying, “If you’d like to be resurrected, raise your hand.” Yet few have any qualms about saying to sinners who equally dead, “If you want to go to heaven, make a decision for Jesus now.”

I am frequently met by puzzled looks when I say things like this, as if I were making up something that the Church has always known better than to believe. Jaws drop when I introduce them to these very concepts in the writings of the great teachers of the Church’s yesteryear. It is easy to pay lip service to an Augustine, a Luther, an Edwards or an Owen, while being completely ignorant of what they taught. Though their books may dutifully take up space on our shelves, few are ever opened, let alone read.

I said all that to set up a couple of astounding quotes. The first is from Augustine’s Enchiridion, On Faith, Hope and Love. He writes:
“For it was in the evil use of his free will that man destroyed himself and his will at the same time. For as a man who kills himself is still alive when he kills himself, but having killed himself is then no longer alive and cannot resuscitate himself after he has destroyed his own life--so also sin which arises from the action of the free will turns out to be victor over the will and the free will is destroyed. ‘By whom a man is overcome, to this one he then is bound as slave’ (2 Pet. 2:19)… What kind of liberty can one have who is bound as a slave except the liberty that loves to sin? He serves freely who freely does the will of his master. Accordingly he who is slave to sin is free to sin.” Enchiridion Ch.9.30

What Augustine is saying is fairly plain, it seems. Adam destroyed his free-will when he fell. Now all his descendants are slaves of sin. They can do nothing freely, but sin – which can hardly be called freedom.

The second quote is from Martin Luther. It comes from his book entitled The Bondage of the Will. In it, he attempts to further assert these Pauline doctrines that we have just read from Augustine. Luther goes to great lengths to show that Scripture everywhere asserts that man’s will is not free, but is in bondage to sin. In driving this point home, Luther shows that the term “free-will” itself is problematic. He writes, “Free-will is plainly a divine term, and can be applicable to none but the divine Majesty only: for He alone ‘does, (as the Psalm sings) what He will in Heaven and earth’ (Ps. 135:6). Whereas, if it be ascribed unto men, it is not more properly ascribed, than the divinity of God Himself would be ascribed unto them: which would be the greatest of all sacrilege.” (Section XXVI).

Luther thinks it would be better If theologians dropped the term all together because it so easily lends itself to wrong ideas about man’s innate abilities. Theologians sometimes use the term in an extremely technical sense, which grants men little more that the power to choose between a bowl of cereal or a waffle for breakfast. But when the term is used without caution, people begin to import into the term the false idea that the human will is not subject to anything or anyone.

Now what I have been trying to demonstrate by these quotes, among other things, is that a denial of free-will in the commonly used sense has always been the Church’s teaching. The logic of men like Finney, who argued that it was cruel of God to command things of sinners that they were unable to do, and then to threaten them with Hell for failing to obey – this logic is the same reasoning used by Pelagius, the heretic antagonist of Augustine. In fact, it is the logic of Paul’s opponents (Rom. 9:16-24).

So pastors and preachers, I implore you to stop telling sinners, “God gave you a free-will.” Salvation is not an act of human will. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Sinners are dead in sin and so is their will.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Arminianism's Cosmic Plagiarist

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 NASB
Any one familiar with the Calvinist/Arminian debate knows that the Arminian position regarding predestination is that "God foreknows who will freely believe on Him. These He in turn elects to salvation."

The Calvinist position, (which we hold to be the correct view) states that God elected some to eternal life, through no merit of their own. He has ordained these from eternity past to believe savingly on Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. That statement could, of course, undergo a thousand modifications. In this article we wish however, to merely point out that election precedes faith.

The grand problem with the Arminian position is that it puts the cart before the horse. It makes God's knowledge contingent upon man's actions. It limits the Sovereign of the universe and makes Him dependent upon finite man in order to attain what He wills. More than that, it frustrates the Almighty. He can in no way guarantee that what He wills will indeed come to pass. His will is trumped by man's will.

But there's an even greater problem. The Arminian idea of foreknowledge make election meaningless. If God elects based upon what He knows is going to happen, what is there to elect? Predestination has no content. What could it possibly mean? James M. Harrison puts it like this, "What this view does, in essence, is to make God a cosmic plagiarist - He has read the book, decided He likes it, and then has simply declared Himself to be the author." 1 (Harrison's emphasis)
That is a powerful statement. I think if an Arminian could get his mind around its truth, he'd be forced to reconsider his position. The cart-before-the-horse soteriology of Arminianism makes God out to be a liar. His Word asserts that He "declares the end from the beginning" (Isaiah 46:10), that He has "wrought all our works in us" (Isaiah 26:12), and that no one can thwart His plans (Daniel 4:35, Psalm 115:3).

The Arminian take on foreknowledge is itself suspect. Certainly we may affirm that God knows all things that will happen. However, this is NEVER the sense in which the Bible uses the term foreknow. Scripture consistently uses the word to indicate fore-loving. See Gen. 18:19; Ex. 2:25; Psalm 1:6; 144:3; Amos 3:2, cf. Deuteronomy 7:7,8; 10:15; Jeremiah 1:5; Hosea 13:5; Matt. 7:22,23; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:19; and 1 John 3:1. The Bible never says that God foreknows events. The word is restricted to persons. Which means that He elects certain people out as objects of His love. These will be saved.

In the article on Divine Foreknowledge in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, J.M. Gundry-Volf writes :

"The Pauline notion of divine foreknowledge is understood by many interpreters as a knowing in the Semitic sense of acknowledging, inclining toward someone, knowledge which expresses a movement of the will reaching out to personal relationship with someone. This kind of knowing is illustrated by the meaning of the Hebrew word 'yada', 'to know' in texts such as Amos 3:2; Hosea 13:5; and Jeremiah 1:5. The Hebrew verb can come close in meaning to 'elect'. The Greek verb 'ginosko' can also have the sense of acknowledging someone as in Gal. 4:9 and 1 Cor. 8:3 in which the term is used to refer to God's 'knowledge' of human beings which is the basis for their coming to know or love God .... In Rom. 8:29, foreknowledge denotes the exercise of God's will to establish a special relationship with those whom God graciously elects before all time ... Foreknowledge as divine choice is thus the basis of predestination to glorification with Christ." 2

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:3: "if anyone loves God, he is known by Him" (NASB). Taken at face value, this means that God's knowing, i.e., foreknowing, is causative. It is the cause of our love to Him. John says as much when he says, We love Him because He first loved us" 1 John 4:19 (emphasis mine).

The Biblical view then is that God foreknows those who will be saved precisely because He has elected them to salvation.

1. James M. Harrison, Foreknowledge: There's More Than Meets God's Eye
2. J.M. Gundry-Volf, "Foreknowledge, Divine," in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 310-11.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Holy Heresy! Pt 3

Today we conclude our look at the heretical nature of the Charismatic movement. You may have noticed that we have dealt only with the marks, as I have termed them, of a heresy. My objective was to demonstrate that the characteristics which have always distinguished heresies, are indeed extremely characteristic of the Charismatic movement.

We now move on to the last two marks (5) Unverifiable claims, and (6) Intimidation of those with opposing views.

• Unverifiable claims.

I have already mentioned some of the claims made by some of the leaders of the modern Charismatic Movement. The burning question in regard to their claims is: “How can I verify them?” I mean, how can any of us really know that these people are telling the truth? It is not as if I could place a video camera on Mrs. Walters and tape her angelic visitors. We all know that this is impossible. These experiences are either lies, self-induced delusions or undisciplined imaginations run amuck, but whatever they are, they cannot be allowed to be sources of doctrine. The Bible explicitly forbids it. 1 The Holy Spirit plainly forbids us to give heed even to angels if what they say runs counter to Scripture. We don’t stone false prophets anymore, but their sin is no less serious. These men (and women) have the gall to label doctrine “opinion” yet they pass off their unverifiable extra-biblical revelations as beyond questioning. The second you question the biblicality of barking like a dog or laughing insanely they label you a “Pharisee” who cares more for tradition than for God.

Charismatics are notorious for saying things that are intended to sound fresh or insightful, while being completely ignorant of the downright heretical ramifications of what they say. After the recording of their big hit worship album, Hillsong music directress, Darlene Zschech, did an interview with Josh Bonnett in which she said, “God has been moving on the hearts of His people, right around the world, and He’s causing just incredible things to happen, in the Spirit and in people’s lives.” 2 The phrase, “in the Spirit,” is blatantly heretical. It reveals a belief that the Spirit is an influence rather than a Person. The preposition “in” is used in regard to places; the Holy Spirit is not a place or a realm of experience.

The late John Wimber used to say, “God is bigger than His Word.” This seems to be saying something true at first blush. But a moment’s reflection is enough to show its true colors. This statement was used by Wimber as a defense against those who questioned the heterodox teaching within the Vineyard. The Vineyard teachers supposedly got fresh revelations from God, who is bigger than His word. In other words, Scripture cannot be used as a standard by which to test any teaching. Yet the Psalmist tells us that God has exalted His Word above His name. 3

• Intimidation of those with opposing views

This is perhaps the greatest weapon of the Charismatic heresy. They revel in mocking any and every opposing view. And they do it with such panache - such vehemence and acerbity. Benny Hinn has repeatedly claimed that God has shown him, by divine revelation that He is going to kill those who oppose Hinn’s ministry. What are we supposed to say to such asininities? Hinn is not the only one to resort to such ludicrous tactics. Countless of these self-proclaimed “prophets” torture 1 Chronicles 16:22 (Touch not my anointed…) into an umbrella to shield themselves from all scrutiny. Despite the fact that 1 Chronicles 16:22 has no possible application to their cause, they do not extend the same leeway to their opponents. They speak in the most brutal terms against any who do not subscribe to their “manifestations.” Perhaps not many have gone as far as Hinn in claiming that God is going to kill his critics, but every single one of his ilk is guilty by association.

Another tactic is to discount the right of those outside their circles to judge their orthodoxy. One of the arch-heretics of the Third Wave, Roberts Liardon says, “Spectators do not have the qualifications to comment on participators.” 4 This line of reasoning is patently false. It is begging the question to say that I cannot judge the orthodoxy of their doctrine or practice because I haven’t experienced these things. Do I have to commit murder or adultery in order to know that they are wrong? Should I have to experience Buddha worship to analyze its falsity? If I asked Benny Hinn if he believed that homosexuality is sin, I would like to believe that he would answer in the affirmative. What we he think if I asserted that he had no right to judge the validity of the gay lifestyle because he had never tried it? This is pure question begging, but he would use the same line of reasoning against me if I called into question his bizarre practices.

I would affirm that meaningful dialogue with heretics is impossible and that all dialogue in hopes of recovering them to the truth is almost pointless. Matthew Henry wrote, “Real heretics have seldom been recovered to the true faith: not so much defect of judgment, as perverseness of the will, being in the case, through pride, or ambition, or self-willedness, or covetousness, or such like corruption, which therefore must be taken heed of: ‘Be humble, love the truth and practise it, and damning heresy will be escaped.’" 5 The marginal notes to the famous Puritan Geneva Bible of 1557 remark, “The ministers of the word must at once cast off heretics, that is, those who stubbornly and seditiously disquiet the Church, and will pay no attention to ecclesiastical admonitions.” 6

Surely this must be the reason for the harshness of the Church’s polemic against heresies. Irenaeus calls the heretical teaching such things as “imposture,” and “buffoonery.” The followers of the false teaching he calls, “cracked-brained,” and “senseless.” 7 Tertullian says the heretic, Marcion, has a melon for a heart! 8 Terms such as, “abominable blindness and heresy,” 9 are commonplace in Luther’s works. John the Baptist spoke with vehement fury against the hypocritical Pharisees who came to see him preach. 10 And no one can hold a candle to Jesus’ diatribe in Matthew 23! It is not that we do not care for men’s souls, but rather, “contending for the faith,” 11 outweighs all other considerations, including the hurt feelings of those who cross the line theologically.

In conclusion, we ask, “What should we do?” This is an incredibly difficult question. If all the denominations and/or congregations that are not reeling in Rodney Howard-Browne’s drunken stupor and all those who have not been “slain” through Benny Hinn’s mesmerism called an assembly similar to the ancient Councils and excommunicated the entire Charismatic Movement, this would probably be of no effect. Charismatics recognize no authority outside their own circles because they see themselves as superior to the Body of Christ. Such a move would probably serve to strengthen them. They would see themselves as martyrs being persecuted by the spiritually blind. Perhaps persistent expository preaching and persistent polemic are the only tools we have. We can preach the word in truth and expose error when the opportunity presents itself. May God help us!

1. Galatians 1:8, 9
2. Hillsong Magazine, cited in Praise Music’s Power Pack
3. Psalm 138:2
4. Cited in Walters’ Spirit of False Judgment
5. Matthew Henry on Titus 3:10
6. Geneva Bible Notes on Titus 3:10
7. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.13.1
8. Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.40
9. Martin Luther, Table Talk CLXXVIII
10. Matthew 3:7
11. Jude 3

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Holy Heresy Pt 2

We now come to our third installment in this series. We will be looking at the next two marks of heresies - ones that are clearly displayed by the Charismatic movement, i.e., (3), Mystical Interpretations of Scripture, and (4) Disregard for the Bible

• Mystical Interpretations of Scripture

Charismatics are infamous for bizarre and far-fetched interpretations of Scripture. They love to downplay theological education in favor of their being “led by the Spirit.” We’ve all heard the “cemetery, I mean seminary” joke. Despite the fact that Christ commands us to love God with our mind (Mt 22:37), Charismatics insist that we check our brains at the door. Many of their preachers glory, indeed revel, in the fact that they have no formal theological training. They will nonetheless make weird displays of knowledge for the purpose of making their audiences feel that they are not completely ignorant.

Several years ago, I heard a message by Rich Wilkerson, brother of the famous (and equally weird) David Wilkerson. His sermon on was on Acts 9:31-34 and was entitled, “What To Do When You Lose Your Nerve.” In his message he explained that after the church was in a time of peace, Peter went to Lydda, which Wilkerson said in the Greek meant “place of conflict.” Wilkerson asserted from this that when the Church experienced peace, Peter went looking for a fight. He then went on to explain that Aeneas in Greek means noble and Aeneas’ disease, palsy, in the Greek meant “loss of nerves.” The only reason why he was able to get away with such stupidity is that Charismatics are na├»ve.

First of all, Lydda does not mean place of conflict. Strong’s Concordance tells us that the word is of Hebrew origin and its exact meaning is uncertain. In other words Lydda does not mean anything in the Greek, because it is Hebrew. But not only does it not mean anything in Greek; it doesn’t mean anything, period!

Secondly, saying that Peter went to the Lydda looking for a fight because the name means place of conflict is like saying that to find angels we need to go to Los Angeles! This is not interpretation; it is an undisciplined imagination run amuck! No doubt, there are people in the world named Philip who do not like horses, despite the fact that Philip in the Greek means lover of horses. Likewise, just because Aeneas means noble, this does not imply anything about his character.

And on top of it all, whether or not palsy means loss of nerves in the Greek this is not a reliable medical explanation. I doubt very seriously that Mr. Wilkerson would be satisfied if his doctor still practiced medicine at the level of Hippocrates or Galen. And never mind ancient medicine. Neither would he like it if his doctor used leeches or practiced blood-letting like medieval physicians. Besides, “losing one’s nerve” is an English idiom and everyone knows that idioms do not mean what the individual words mean literally.

I have a very hard time finding anything nice or charitable about a man who will stand in the Lord's name in the pulpit and spew forth that sort of idiocy! My suspicion is that Jesus would have driven him from the temple with a whip had he tried to preach like this during Jesus' ministry.

• Disregard for the Bible (or at least, belittling Scripture)

With all their lip service to Scripture, Charismatics are no different that the Hegelian relativists outside the Church who deny the existence of objective truth. A little over 100 years ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, ‘Life is not worth living.’ We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.” 1 How are we supposed to reason with these people meaningfully regarding the truth of Scripture, when “the truth” is interpreted on the basis of their latest vision or angelic visitation?

On TBN, that worldwide source for “Charismatic chaos,” I heard a young preacher interpret Habakkuk 2:2 2 as saying that when God gives us a “vision,” (which word was left completely unexplained) we have to write it down so we can go back to it and read it and study it. What is this but creating one’s own Scriptures? Yet as he spoke, he was greeted with a continual stream of “Amens.” This shows the level of ignorance that is prevalent through the entire Charismatic movement: A man can get on TV and blaspheme the Holy Scriptures and have the complete assent of the audience.

There was a medieval heretic named Joachim of Fiore, who lived and wrote in the 12th Century. He was an esoterist and mystic. He had a teaching – which earned him his excommunication, by the way – that there were three eras of the world: The era of the Father (for which we have the Old Testament), the era of the Son (for which we have the New Testament) and the era of the Spirit, which was yet to come in 1202 when Joachim died. His logic implies that when the era of the Spirit dawns, we will have revelatory additions to God’s Word. The Father has His Testament and the Son has His, so the Spirit will get His too. The heresy of such a position is explicitly apparent. Yet anyone familiar with Charismatic literature will tell you that this sounds like something right out of the Vineyard.

At the invitation of a friend, I visited a church which, it turns out, actually practiced what this man advocated. During his sermon, the minister kept quoting lines from a “prophetic word” given by Brother “Jones” a few years back. The minister did not quote the Bible, mind you, but acted as confident when he quoted Brother Jones, as if he were quoting the Bible! Then to make matters worse, right in the middle of his message, the minister pulled out a mini-cassette player from his coat pocket and played an actual recording of the “prophecy!” In the foyer were printed copies of the prophecies given on the previous few Sundays. So say what they want about the superiority of Scripture, when people believe in continuous revelation, the Bible gets the heave-ho!

The famous Charismatic preacher, T.L. Osborne, came to the Philippines with his wife in the early 1990’s to conduct a seminar. What he really did was promote his and his wife’s literature by the outrageous claim that using their material would “win the world.” One got the impression that what he really wanted to say was that it was better if everyone used his material rather than their own – or even the Bible. In the course of his lecture he commented on St. Paul’s prohibition against women preachers 3 by calling Paul a “male chauvinist.” His exact words were, to the best of my memory, “How dare Paul tell me what my wife can or cannot do!” John MacArthur was correct when he said that although the Liberal theologians and the neo-orthodox were unable to sell their theology to the Pentecostals, they succeeded in selling them their exegesis.

Tomorrow, God permitting, we will wrap up this series of posts wherein we will look at the last two heretical marks of the Charismatic movement.

1. G.K. Chesterton, Heretics, Introduction
2. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
3. 1 Timothy 2:12

Monday, February 7, 2011

Holy Heresy - Part 1

Why heresy is needed in the true Church

At first blush, it seems like a strange statement to say that heresy is “necessary” to the condition of the true Church. But history demonstrates the truth of this assertion. The great ante-Nicene African theologian, Tertullian, wrote, “We ought not to be astonished at the heresies (which abound) neither ought their existence to surprise us, for it was foretold that they should come to pass; nor the fact that they subvert the faith of some, for their final cause is, by affording a trial to faith, to give it also the opportunity of being ‘approved’.” 1 Even St. Paul warned that heresies must occur. He said, “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” 2

Perhaps at this point we should define heresy. In the earliest uses it meant primarily the work of schismatic or divisive teachers within in the Church. But by the writing of Peter’s second epistle, heresy had come to mean the false teachings of these schismatic or divisive teachers. This is the meaning which has persisted to the present day. Peter calls their teaching,”damnable heresies.” 3

But even in the Old Testament, God warned Israel that false teachers would arise and that the whole point was to test Israel’s faithfulness to God’s Law. Moses wrote, “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” 4 This means that just because a leader is attractive this is no guarantee that he is led by God. New ideas from inspiring people may sound good, but we must judge them by whether or not they are consistent with God’s Word.

Throughout the history of the Church, heresies have forced us to formulate more clearly what we mean to say by the terminology we employ. In the first four centuries of the Church, the heresies of Marcion, Arius, Paul of Samosata, Nestorius, Eutyches, Sabellius and Pelagius drew forth from the early Fathers the great Creeds of Nicaea, Constantinople and the definition of Chalcedon. During the Reformation era, the Remostrants prompted the synod of Dort. This is perhaps one of the greatest services of heresy for the true Church: it forces us to think clearly. We are required by the exigencies of the situations to declare the whole counsel of God not in an “uncertain sound.” 5 One thinks of the great Councils of Nicaea, Orange and Dordt as examples of this process. When error encroaches upon the Church, the Lord raises up an Athanasius, a Prosper, a Luther, a Calvin or a Voetius to help the Church more clearly define what she means by the terms she uses.

This method has always been an effective remedy for dealing false teaching. But since the Enlightenment, men in general have become increasingly relativistic in their view of truth. Unfortunately, this has trickled down into the church as well. Therefore, since the onslaught of Liberalism in the late 1890’s the Church has lost her ability to effectively put down heresy.

No plainer example of this fact exists than the Pentecostal movement and the Charismatic Movement in particular. The Pentecostal movement began a little over 100 years ago in a small church on Asuza Street in downtown Los Angeles. Many of the key leaders of the “revival,” including its primary leader, William Seymour, were adherents of the “apostolic faith” 6 theology, which is pure Sabellianism. Apostolics are known by such names as “Oneness,” and “Jesus Only,” because of their denial of the Trinity in three Persons. They adhere to the Sabellian doctrine that the three are really One Person manifesting Himself in three distinct modes.

The Pentecostal movement lived under the disapproval of mainstream Christianity until the late 1960’s when Dennis Bennett (1917-1991), an Episcopal priest in Van Nuys, California was “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” and began to speak in “tongues.” From there, the Charismatic Movement has spread like wildfire throughout the globe. But surely water cannot rise higher than its source. And surely God cannot condone error. But this is what the Pentecostals and Charismatics would have us believe. If this movement is genuine, then God is in fact endorsing Sabellianism, post-biblical revelations, Buddhistic mind-over-matter “faith,” and even image-worship (the Charismatic movement has spread to the Roman Catholic Church and its equally idolatrous sister, the Greek Orthodox Church). 7

All accounts of heresy and its counterpart polemic since the days of Irenaeus to the present, have given us six main characteristics of heresy, all of which can be seen in the dark from a thousand miles away in the Charismatic Movement. They are:
1. Novelty,
2. Mystical experiences as a source of post-biblical revelation,
3. Mystical interpretations of Scripture,
4. Disregard for and/or belittling of Scripture,
5. Unverifiable claims, and
6. Intimidation of those with opposing views.

God willing,tomorrow we will begin dealing with these marks of heresy in the presented order.

1. Tertullian - The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 1. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3
2. 1Corinthians 11:19
3. 2 Peter 2:1
4. Deuteronomy 13:1 – 4
5. 1 Corinthians 14:8
6. Seymour went to Charles F. Parham’s Bible school. Parham was the founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement
7. Another feature of Pentecostalism, and its daughter the Charismatic Movement, is the prominence of women in positions of authority. Both camps speak strongly of interpreting Scripture literally, but they resort to exegetical gymnastics when they interpret Paul’s prohibition against women preaching. Many of the leaders of the Azusa Street revival were women. Seymour was actually replaced by a woman, Jennie Evans Moore, as senior pastor of his church when he died. Moore held this position until 1936. If we hold to the position that women should not preach, we must assume that theological error is endemic in their teaching, because they are disobedient to Scripture in this case, in the first place. A short survey of Church History confirms this. In most of the heretical movements from those of Paul of Samosata, to Arius, to Montanus, women have been prominent figures. Surely this is not without significance.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Limited Atonement 5

Today we close out this 5 part series of posts on the doctrine of Limited Atonement. That doesn't mean, of course, that I have said everything there is to say on this subject, nor that I will not take it up again many more times in the future. But in closing out this series of posts, we have two more related questions to answer. The questions are as follows:

10. Does regeneration precede faith or is it God's response to our faith?
11. If faith isn't a gift of God, but is a self-generated act, do we not therefore have reason to boast in our salvation against our fellow man who was not smart enough to use his will to generate faith unto salvation?

10. Does regeneration precede faith or is it God's response to our faith?
It is extremely important that we answer this question properly. Despite what we might think at first glance, the answer to this question weighs heavily on the doctrine of the Atonement and its extent. The Arminian position it this: When, by the autonomous use of our free-will, we exercise faith in Christ, God responds to this faith by granting regeneration. Lest we go too far afield without clearly understanding our terms, Regeneration is synonymous with the new birth, being born again (John 3:3). The Reformed position is that God regenerates an elect sinner, whom He has chosen in Christ before the world began, and because of this regeneration, the elect sinner exercises faith in Christ unto salvation. His new birth as well as his saving faith are gracious gifts of God, hence he can say with the Apostle that salvation is by grace through faith.

John1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

In all these passages we note something very important: The new birth does not depend upon human will. A person is either a sheep or not. God has marked out some people in the midst of fallen humanity. He has brought them to new birth; that is, He has regenerated them and given them to the Son. Jesus states in unmistakable terms that He lays down His life - not for goats - but for His sheep. Jesus, in His High Priestly prayer actually says, "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9). Jesus work of redemption has exclusive reference to the elect, that is, to those whom the Father has given to Christ.

Scripture teaches that God has chosen a specific number, the elect, whom He has given to the Son. Christ's death is for them and them alone. Christ died for a particular people and His death secured their salvation.

John 10:15-18 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father
John10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
Romans 5:8-10 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
1 John 4:9-10 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Revelation1:4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and was and is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

In this relatively small sample of the Biblical evidence, Arminians make a massive grammatical mistake: They ignore the words like "me" and "us." They are limiting pronouns. When Paul or John says that Christ died for "us," they are tying Christ's redemptive and mediatorial work to their audience. Arminians ignore, and indeed, violate some of the most basic rules of grammar. Whenever we use word "us," we limit whatever is being spoken of to the person speaking and his audience. When I tell my wife, "I bought us a new microwave," I do not expect the neighbors to come over and use it. None of us do. That's how the word "us" works. The New Testament authors repeatedly tell us that Christ died for us, that He gave himself for us, that God sent His Son for us, that Christ is a propitiation for us. Where do they find warrant for such language? From Christ Himself, who says that He lays down His life for His sheep, which the Father gave Him, and He mediates in prayer exclusively for them, based on the Father's acceptance of His perfect sacrifice of Himself for them. I don’t know how it could be any plainer.

Having shown, therefore, that the Bible clearly teaches that God has a chosen people out of the mass of fallen humanity whom He has given to the Son, and for whom alone the Son has died and mediates, we are now in a position to answer our last question, nailing the coffin lid shut on the Arminian objections to Limited Atonement.

11. If faith isn't a gift of God, but is a self-generated act, do we not therefore have reason to boast in our salvation against our fellow man who was not smart enough to use his will to generate faith unto salvation?

The Bible makes it clear that God chose His elect and that Christ atoned for them not "because of works done by us in righteousness" (Titus 3:5). Neither was it for foreseen faith that God chose His elect. For Paul says, "When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls - she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom. 9:10b-13). Jesus told His disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16a). These statements seem to echo God's declarations to Israel, such as: "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he that he swore to your fathers" (Deut. 7:7-8a). "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2a).

So let's clear the decks. There was no foreseen merit in anyone for which God elected him to salvation. Christ is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Election is not about who is better or worse than anyone else. It is all about God's mercy, which He was not obligated to show to anyone, let alone the multitude which no man could number (Rev. 7:9). If the doctrine of Election does not make you humble, then you haven't understood it aright. Limited Atonement is not an uncharitable doctrine, as Arminians like to think. Ephesians 5:25-27 tells us that Christ died for His Church. He did not die for the world. On the Arminian premise of a universal atonement, we would be forced to teach that men should love all women the same way they love their wives. That is sheer nonsense. Christ's love is not an indiscriminate love that is just cast out into the world to be caught by whomever is clever enough to use his own free-will.

We have already established, a couple of days ago, the blatant Biblical teaching that faith is a gift from God. Arminianism teaches that all men without exception have the free-will to use their will to believe in Christ unto salvation. That is why much of their evangelism is what Calvinist's call "moral suasion." So the question we have to answer is this: If a man believes savingly on Christ, what makes him different from the man who doesn't? If it is because of some inherent quality in the man himself, then we have a bigger problem than Arminianism, because Scripture plainly teaches that all men are sinners and that no one is righteous; no one is inherently good. So why does one man believe and another does not believe? The Arminian, when backed into the corner of his own making, has no alternative but to say that one used his will rightly and the other didn't. But, this is precisely what Scripture says cannot be.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness." For to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

By denying Limited Atonement, the Arminian has to assert that he does have something of which to boast. He has made himself to differ. If faith is a work, and salvation is by faith, then salvation is of works in direct contradiction to the Holy Spirit's declaration through the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2. There is simply no way around that fact. Arminians frequently claim that Calvinists are arrogant. That proves nothing; all sinners are arrogant. But an arrogant Calvinist is a contradiction in terms. It's like a round square or a five-sided triangle. A "Calvinist" who is arrogant, is no real Calvinist at all. Because Calvinism places the entire transaction of salvation in God's hands, where Scripture says it belongs. Man contributes nothing, for he has nothing to contribute. Arminianism, on the other hand, places the entire outcome of man's final destiny into his own free-will. Arminianism makes free-will so crucial for man, that not even the Sovereign God of the universe can cross it. By insisting on a universal atonement, the Arminian arms man with the power to save or damn himself, with no respect to God's power or will. That seems to this writer like the epitome of arrogance.

One final observation should be made. Arminian complain about Limited Atonement, but their system places a greater limitation, indeed a destructive limitation, on the Atonement. Reformed theology says, with complete Scriptural warrant, that the Atonement is limited, by God's very design, to the elect for whom it is savingly efficacious. Arminianism, however, limits the very power of the Atonement. because in their view, it actually saves no one. Theoretically therefore, it is possible that no one would ever use his free-will and accept Christ, thus every single human being, without exception, would be damned in eternal hellfire. If the Atonement does not guarantee the salvation of anyone, then it guarantees nothing. This limitation destroys the Atonement. It makes Christ merely a martyr who dies for what He believed. How is the death of Christ a display of God's love (as per John 3:16), if it doesn't accomplish anything beyond showing that good people often suffer for what they believe?

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