Sunday, October 07, 2007

5 Point Intersection?

Every once in a while, Calvinist theologians get a wild hair and decide that 5 points are not enough to be inclusive for fellowship with other denominations or groups and decide to add some point or another which is usually their pet doctrine. Such is the case with Richard Muller, the Historical Theology professor at Calvin Theological Seminary an institute of the Reformed Denomination, in an article How Many Points? from the Calvin Seminary Journal he wrote in 1993. Usually they are just an easy couple of extra points but in Richards case it appears he will have nothing else but full obeisance to the Three Forms of Unity which comprise the confession for the Reformed Denomination. He starts off by saying, "I once met a minister who introduced himself to me as a "five-point Calvinist." I later learned that, in addition to being a self-confessed five-point Calvinist, he was also an anti-paedobaptist who assumed that the church was a voluntary association of adult believers, that the sacraments were not means of grace but were merely "ordinances" of the church, that there was more than one covenant offering salvation in the time between the Fall and the eschaton, and that the church could expect a thousand-year reign on earth after Christ's Second Coming but before the ultimate end of the world. He recognized no creeds or confessions of the church as binding in any way. I also found out that he regularly preached the "five points" in such a way as to indicate the difficulty of finding assurance of salvation: He often taught his congregation that they had to examine their repentance continually in order to determine whether they had exerted themselves enough in renouncing the world and in "accepting" Christ. This view of Christian life was totally in accord with his conception of the church as a visible, voluntary association of "born again" adults who had "a personal relationship with Jesus." Richard never identifies this implied boogeyman but it seems to me he may be referring to John MacArthur, pastor of the Grace Community Church in California and president of the Master's Seminary. Regardless, let us examine what faults this man has.
First of all he believes in baptizing only professing believers. Mark 16:16 says "He who believes and is baptized will be saved...", Acts 2:38 commands to repent and then be baptized and later in verse 41 it tells us that only those "who gladly received his word were baptized." No place in Scripture ever tells us a baby was baptized or commands to baptize any babies but only believers. Any true Reformed theology will stand firmly by the principle of Sola Scriptura or Bible alone and so the boogeyman represents the reformed position more than either Richard or his precious Three Forms of Unity does.
Next we see this man believes the church is an association of "adult believers" voluntarily. Again I bring our attention to Acts 2:41 where it says "those who gladly received his word... were added to them(that is the church) and again we see in 2 Peter 1:1 he in talking to the church refers to them as "those who have obtained a like precious faith. Maybe Richard's problem is that he feels it should not be "voluntary" but forced worship, which is what baptizing babies does. This would be in line with the Catholic Church but again falls far short of the Holy Scriptures and so round two to the boogeyman.
Now this man does not hold to sacraments as a means of grace but ordinances. This is a more convoluted issue as the terms "sacrament" and "ordinance" mean the same thing and so it is a preference of terms. Since Rome uses the term sacrament some Reformed prefer to use ordinance. The second part to this question is are they a means of grace. I again turn to Scripture, as in Romans 10:17 where it states "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". In Eph. 2:8,9 we learn that it is by grace through faith and not of works that we are saved and so scripture clearly articulates the only means of grace as the Holy Bible. Baptism and Communion are for believers and reflect what has happened internally through Jesus Christ our Lord in the Holy Spirit. Again Richard's weak doctrine of Sola Scriptura is evident.
As to the covenants, I would agree with Richard that there is one covenant offering salvation, but think he is weaker on this than he knows as I will show on a later point he makes. We next read that Richard believes in amillenialism and our boogeyman is a premillenialist. Revelation 20 seems to indicate such a teaching and once again the weight of evidence lies with Richard to prove the man wrong. Even paedobaptists like Horatius Bonar, Gordon Clark and James Montgomery Boice have been premillenial and so Richard may want to convince people in their camps that the "Reformed Creeds" teach amillenialism. As for whether or not "the creeds or confessions of the church are binding" one must ask which creeds or confessions and which church. First some churches prefer to use the Bible alone as a statement of faith, but of the ones that use confessions, there are the First London Baptist, the Second London Baptist, the Philadelphia Baptist and the New Hampshire Baptist Confessions and the Lutherans use the Augsburg Confession. Richard I do not believe would be happy with any of these. There is also statements like the Tridentine Decree of the Roman Catholic's Council of Trent which I hope Richard would not want to associate with. Where does the Bible make any of the above listed confessions binding or any Richard claims to like as the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster. Lastly, Richard takes issue with our boogeyman on his abuse of the 5 points to instill doubt and fear in his congregation about their salvation. He goes on to say that our boogeyman's "doctrines would have been repudiated by Calvin. In fact, his doctrines would have gotten him tossed out of Geneva had he arrived there with his brand of "Calvinism" at any time during the late sixteenth or the seventeenth century. Perhaps more to the point, his beliefs stood outside of the theological limits presented by the great confessions426of the Reformed churches—whether the Second Helvetic Confession of the Swiss Reformed church or the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism of the Dutch Reformed churches or the Westminster standards of the Presbyterian churches." Richard continues"It is also the case that the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism are substantially in agreement with the confessional standards of other branches of the Reformed church, whether the Geneva Catechism or the First and Second Helvetic Confession of the Swiss Reformation or the Scot’s Confession and the Westminster standards of the British and American Presbyterian and Reformed churches."
While I agree with Richard that our boogeyman's beliefs would have gotten him kicked out of Geneva as Calvin was not a fan of either credobaptists nor chiliests, Richard errs in his belief that Calvin would have accepted the Westminster Confession with open arms. The Westminster Confession in fact like our boogeyman and contrary to The Three Forms of Unity divests faith from assurance. Our boogeyman is clearly in the spirit of the Puritan and therefore Westminster view of assurance. This would be seen by Calvin as a return to Rome. Calvin also held to a stronger view of predestination than the Westminster as he was supralapsarian. While I would agree with Richard over our boogeyman on this issue, I do not consider Westminster friendly to our view. Richard needs to read the Westminster as he says " They also — all of them — agree on the assumption that our assurance of the salvation, wrought by grace alone through the work of Christ and God's Spirit in us, rests not on our outward deeds or personal claims but on our apprehension of Christ in faith and on our recognition of the inward work of the Spirit in us. " This leads Richard to conclude that "There are, therefore, more than five points" and " there cannot be such a thing as a "five-point Calvinist" or "five-point Reformed Christian" who owns just those five articles taken from the Canons of Dort and who refuses to accept the other "points" made by genuinely Reformed theology." Richard furthers his point now by introducing a critique of the eminent Baptist theologian Dr. John Gill. He states " An example of this problem — I hesitate to say "a case in point" — is the theological system propounded by the English high (some would say "hyper") Calvinistic Baptist, John Gill, and the way that his system has been read out into the life of some of the so-called Particular Baptist denominations. Gill most certainly affirmed the five points. In fact, he held an intensified version of the third point by arguing that Christ's work was limited in its sufficiency as well as in its efficacy: Christ's satisfaction was not merely, according to Gill, efficient for the elect only, it was also sufficient for the sins of the elect only. With this radical sense of election, Gill could view the entire order of salvation as taking place in eternity — justification and adoption were now eternal acts of God. Since nothing took place in time except for the enactment of the decree, there was no need in Gill's system for a temporal order of grace. Sacraments could be considered simply as ordinances, and baptism could be viewed as a sign administered to adults only, after the eternal decree had been executed in an individual. Those who have followed Gill's theology allow no offers of grace but only a preaching about grace. They have tended to offer no instruction in Christianity for children and they have typically opposed Christian missions — because no human agency is needed in God's elective work. They have also followed Gill and numerous others after him into speculation about the coming millennium when, finally, the career of Satan will be ended and he will no longer be able to roam the world "seeking whom he may devour."The logic of such a theology is to view God's electing grace as an unmediated bolt from the blue. No one knows where it may strike and no one can find any assurance either through participation in the life of God's covenanting people or on grounds of belief or conduct that he or she will be or, indeed, is now numbered among the elect. Gill held forth an antinomian gospel that could declare in its preaching of grace that no obedience to divine commands was required for salvation 429and no offers of grace ought to be made in the church. On Gill's own terms, membership in his Particular Baptist community could be no sign of salvation and no assurance of its possibility. Grace and salvation could just as easily occur on a desert island."
While I hold Dr. Gill in high esteem and prefer his commentaries to many "reformed" commentaries I do admit some extremes in him and deviate from him in some areas. His view of the atonement is however not one of them. While I agree the doctrine of "eternal justification" denies a means of grace and is inconsistent with scripture at Eph.2:3 and 2 Peter 3:9, this does not deny Christ's death for His elect alone. If the covenant of grace was made to the elect alone then for what purpose would Christ die for everyone. Richard's view of the covenant is therefore flawed in its inclusiveness. Gill's point in limiting it's sufficiency as well as its efficacy is to show that Christ accomplished His purpose. In what way is Christ's death sufficient for all except hypothetically. Holding to this view, one must take care to distinguish his view from the "hypothetical universalism" of Amyraldism.
While I have been critical of Richard in this article and have used his article as an example of reformed extremism I do appreciate his cogent presentation of the clear line in the sand that still divides those of us that are reformed credobaptists and reformed paedobaptists and have put his whole article as a link from my own. Despite the disagreements, Richard does have some very insightful things to say such as " Salvation does not arise out of human merit but by grace 430alone through the acceptance, by graciously engendered faith, of the sufficient sacrifice of Christ for our sins." and he goes on with an excellent description of reformed of either stripe who use unbiblical jargon in there invitations to faith when he says " I have often commented to evangelical friends that, for me, having a personal relationship or knowing someone personally means that I can sit down at a table with him and have a cup of coffee, that I can speak to him and he can respond in an audible fashion. But I can't sit at a table and have a cup of coffee with Jesus. And if I speak to him, he does not answer audibly As an angel once rightly noted, "He is not here: for he is risen," and, indeed, ascended into heaven." showing how rediculous it is to call unsaved to a "personal relationship" with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ instead of faith in His gospel. It is my hope that Richard is being dogmatic for the purposes of teaching what he believes to be truth only and not trying to divide over every disagreement. I accept the term reformed as it denotes a belief in the doctrines of grace but if I must hold to an imperfect Confession of Faith in order to retain the denomination, I will defer and stand alone with the Bible. I do not think Richard or anybody else owns it, however, and so I will keep it.
For further study on some of the issues dicussed here I recommend Are Baptists Reformed? by Kenneth Good who is a calvinistic Baptist that would agree with Richard's distinctions, By His Grace and for His Glory by Tom Nettles who is a Baptist theologian holding to Gill's view of Definite Atonement, Diversity Within the Reformed Tradition by J.V. Fesko who is a Prebyterian pastor in the OPC and who proves Calvin held to a supralapsarian position, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace by Paul Jewett who is a Baptist theologian, and Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 by R.T. Kendall who has an interesting discussion of Westminster's deviation from Calvin, Luther and the other reformers on assurance being the essence of faith.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society

With movements like the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul(NPP) redefining justification to be by the christian's faithfulness as opposed to faith in Christ, it is important to consider the position of another group damaging the cause of Christ. Zane Clark Hodges is a Pastor of Victor Street Bible Church in Dallas, Texas and a graduate of and former professor at the dispensational Dallas Theological Seminary. In lieu of his former influence at Dallas, Zane is a founder and leader in a movement that has caused much confusion in its perversions of God's word. As a dispensationalist, Zane makes no bones about his disagreements with Reformed theology. In spite of this ,however, he and his comrades at the Grace Evangelical Society(GES), a ministry organized to propagate the theology of Zane, claim to hold to the reformation tenet of sola fide and claim the support of the reformers themselves. Because of this, their teaching must be examined to see if their claims are true. This study will focus on Zane's doctrine of salvation(soteriology) as this is his major error. At the outset I want to say that Zane holds to many scriptural truths such as the Trinity, deity of Christ and the inerrancy of scripture among many others and so to agree with him in some areas does not indicate either a necessary influence or association with him or his ilk. This is important to note as many groups attempt to dissuade people from the truth by using the "fruit of the poisoned tree doctrine" knowing that most people will not be discerning enough to search for the truth.

Zane on Faith as a Gift

Zane claims to hold to a salvation that is absolutely free, and yet he denies faith is a gift from God in his book Absolutely Free! (AF) on page 219 where he states "The Bible never affirms that saving faith per se is a gift". If salvation is absolutely free it must be a gift and if faith is essential to salvation as the scriptures indicate in Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:28 and John 3:16 then faith itself must be a gift or salvation is not absolutely free as I must do something to get it. His claim that the Bible never affirms saving faith as a gift shows his lack of knowledge of scripture as Philippians 1:29 clearly states it is given to us to believe in Christ. In his book The Gospel Under Siege on page167 Zane elaborates this thought by saying "It is often claimed by theologians that man has no capacity to believe and that faith, like salvation, must be given to him as a gift. But this view is contradicted by 2 Corinthians 4:3,4 where Paul writes: 'But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.'" and later states "God's role in bringing men to faith is therefore revelatory" revealing his blindness of scripture which states in Mark 4:11,12 "And He said to them. 'To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.'" What is given to us is the ability to know the truth of revelation, which is faith. We can now see that Zane holds to the Arminian view of "free will" and that believing earns justification and salvation. This is called neonomianism in theology circles. Neonomianism believes the ten commandments saved in the Old Testament but in the New Testament it is, in this case, the law of faith or in other cases the law of love. In contrast, scripture teaches the elect "were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13) and again it says "it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:16). Zane and other Arminians may say yeah but in John 1:12 it is to those that receive Christ that are saved to which I say a hearty amen. But what they fail to understand is that receiving Christ equals believing in him. As the Holy Spirit baptizes the person in Christ, regenerating him, that person has received Christ and believes. I receive phone calls and mail all the time without any action of my own. When I was born in the flesh, my parents did not ask my opinion on the matter, nor does God on the new birth.

Zane on the Atonement

For all his talk of the gospel of grace being under seige, eclipsed and absolutely free, it is surprising that Zane makes only passing reference to the doctrine of the atonement in his books. In his book Absolutely Free! on page 85 Zane says " Frequently (though not always) lordship salvation is combined with a harsh system of thought that denies the reality of God's love for every single human being. According to this kind of theology, God dooms most men to eternal damnation long before they are born and really gives His Son to die only for the elect." He later states "It does not lie within the scope of this book to deal with this tragic error." The atonement is essential to the gospel. Any book trying to prove an "absolutely free" gospel must deal with the death of Christ and who He died for. It is clear,however, from his quote and reference to the book Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 by R.T. Kendall, that Zane holds that Christ died for every human being. For this to be true,however, everyone must therefore go to heaven as Christ's death is the basis for our salvation to be absolutely free. On the cross Christ cried out "It is finished" (John 19:30) completing his task of earning our salvation. If Christ died for all humans and not just for "His people" as the Bible says in Matthew 1:21, and not all go to heaven, then salvation is not "absolutely free" and we must do something to earn it. The reformer, John Calvin , contra Kendall, believed Christ died for the elect and referred to universal redemptionists as "buffoons" in one place. Calvin states, "Besides, we note that St. Paul does not speak here of anyone but the faithful (fidelis). For there are certain buffoons who, to blind the eyes of the ignorant and others like themselves, want to cavil here that the grace of salvation is given to us because God ordained that his Son should be the Redeemer of the human race, but that this is common to all, and indiscriminate." (quoted from The Will of God and the Cross by Jonathan Rainbow p. 123) . The Bible is clear that Christ came only to serve and give His life "a ransom for many (the elect)" (Matt. 20:28).

Zane on Perseverance

Zane states in his book Absolutely Free! on page 80 " The simple fact is that the New Testament never takes for granted that believers will see discipleship through to the end. And it never makes this kind of perseverance either a condition or a proof of final salvation from hell". He later states on page 138 that Christians can reject a good conscience and suffer shipwreck of the faith as Hymenaeus and Alexander did in 1 Tim. 1:19-20. Zane has even been quoted as stating in a sermon that Christians can become atheists but should not be thought to be going to hell, as they once professed belief. Scripture is clear, however, in 1 John 2:19 that " They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us". True faith perseveres. As faith is a gift from God, we can be confident that "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6) . Zane's reference to Hymenaeus as being a Christian reveals again his lack of insight in the Word of God. 2 Timothy 2:17-21 clearly indicates that Hymenaeus is not in the faith. Verse 19 states "the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His" and in verse 20 we learn that " in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor". Finally, Hebrews 10:39 tells us " But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul". Perseverence is clearly a gift included in our salvation.

Zane On Faith

One area I find some agreement between Zane and myself is on his definition of faith in chapter 2 of AF. Zane holds to a literal understanding of faith as opposed to the figurative or metaphorical view of the pietists and revivalists. Theologians of today often trichotomize faith into three psychological categories notitia, assensus and fiducia. This usually leads to an unscriptural distinction between "head faith" and "heart faith". This teaching says that there are real gospel believers going to hell because they believed only intellectually and lacked "holy affections". They often quote from James 2:19 that the demons believe but are going to hell. While it is a truth that the elect love Christ because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), we must first believe in Christ in order to love Him. Hebrews 11:6 says "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him". Belief precedes any and all "holy affections" and is the basis for those affections. 1 John 3:6 teaches that "whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him" and in 4:8 says "he who does not love does not know God, for God is love". Clearly the reprobate do not believe God. As for the demons faith, it clearly makes them tremble and so is real but faith is not what saves, Christ as the object does and we know from Hebrews 2:16 that "He does not give aid to the angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham". It is only through the definite atonement and imputed righteousness of Christ that we are saved through faith. I say only some agreement, however, because for Zane, faith is the one thing our "free will" can do to earn salvation. For Zane, faith is a magic formula akin to an "abracadabra" or an "open sesame" earning our way to heaven. Scripture teaches that it is the definite atonement and imputed righteousness of Christ that saves man. They grant new life to a person, opening blind eyes to see, and deaf ears to hear the truth of the Gospel, which is faith. It is the object of faith that saves and not the faith itself.

Zane On Sanctification

Zane sees a difference between "salvation" and "discipleship". On page 68 of AF he states that "discipleship is obviously hard, while eternal life is free", on page 74 he states that discipleship "has to a willingness to work, and to work hard" and finally on page 88 "Salvation is absolutely free; discipleship most certainly is not". This again is not in line with scripture. While it is true that not every disciple was a believer, every believer is a disciple of Christ. Every Christian answers as Peter did in John 6:68 "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life". The word disciple means follower. Why would a Christian believer follow Buddha? Why would a person who followed Mohammed be called a Christian? In John 10:27 Jesus tells us "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me". Also, discipleship like "salvation" is by faith and not hard. Paul asks us in Galations 3:3, " having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh" and verse 5 asks "He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law , or by the hearing of faith". Jesus contrary to Zane says in Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light". Discipleship is the aspect of salvation called sanctification, where God sets His people apart from the world and sin. It is by faith(John 17:17) and it is not hard but sets us free(John 8:32).

Is Zane A Sandemanian?

Two men who are often slighted as being predecessors of Zane, and accused of holding to his errors are Robert Sandeman and Gordon Clark. J.I. Packer accuses Sandeman of this in the foreword to John MacArthur's book The Gospel According to Jesus. Also Michael Makidon of the GES wrote an article at on Robert and his ministry. In a guilt by association way Gordon Clark is accused by Banner Of Truth as being a Sandemanian at . This is not so for either men. Both Robert Sandeman and Gordon Clark held firmly to Christ's definite atonement and imputed righteousness. To these men salvation is a gift of God from start to finish. I encourage readers to read these men for themselves, as much that is written about them is false witness. Robert Sandeman's theology is clearly presented in his magnum opus Letters On Theron and Aspasio, which is no longer in print but available on Thomson-Gale. I owe a debt of gratitude to Sandeman for my ordering of thoughts in this critique of Zane and the GES. Gordon Clark's works include Predestination, God and Evil and What is Saving Faith? and are available at . Lord willing, I intend to do thorough treatments of these much maligned men in the future as they are two of my heroes in the faith. I have done a short bio of Robert at The Scottish Legacy part 2 at this site.


Zane and the GES are not in the tradition of either the Reformers, Robert Sandeman, Gordon Clark or most importantly of Scripture. I put the link to the GES so the reader can read for himself what they are saying or order his books if you so wish. His main books are Absolutely Free! , The Gospel Under Seige and Grace In Eclipse. Two other major works disseminating his theology are The Reign of The Servant Kings by Joseph Dillow and The Other Side Of Calvinism by Laurence Vance. For another critique of Zane from an Arminian and dispensational group go to the Middletown Bible Church in Connecticutt site at . This site includes many quotes from Zane's sermons I do not have access to and is important in noting the differences in arminianisms. For a critique advocating the "traditional" trichotomizing of faith see The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur and Faith Alone and other works by RC Sproul.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What Does Reformed Mean?

As I use the term Reformed to descibe both my theology and the theology taught in the Bible, I feel it important for readers who may not be familiar with the term to understand what it means and in what context I use it. "Reformed" is dependent upon its context. In its first context it can describe and include the christian movement in the 16th century, headed by such lights as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox and Menno Simons, which broke away from the Catholic church in protest of its apostasy. These men by the grace of God and through the leading of the Holy Spirit came to see the Bible as teaching Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria. Sola Scriptura is latin for the Bible (Scriptures) alone. This means that true christians go by the authority of the Bible alone to the exclusion of church tradition, Papal decrees, uninspired writings or even human laws when these thing contradict the Bible. The Bible claims for itself this authority in 2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20,21 and many other places. The Bible has been completed and is not being written today as there are no apostles alive today( for more on this I direct the reader to my blog on The Holy Bible). Sola Gratia is latin for Grace alone. Reformed theology believes salvation is by grace alone (Eph. 2:8,9). Man can only make it to heaven by God's love, mercy, forgiveness and unmerited favor as "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"(Rom. 3:23). Sola Fide is latin for Faith alone. Faith is the only instrument involved in man's justification and salvation. It follows regeneration and is itself a gift of God (Rom. 3:20,28 and Eph. 2:8-10). Menno Simons differed from the others in his definition of faith but he too claimed faith alone. Menno defined faith as being active and a lifestyle, as opposed to the others, for whom faith is passive, intellectual and focused on Christ, who is the next Sola in Solus Christus. This is latin for Christ alone, whose deity, virgin birth, perfect life, death on the cross, burial and bodily resurrection is the object of our saving faith (1 Cor. 15, Heb. 12:20). Menno, again looked at Christ more as an example in contrast to the others who looked on him as a substitute, earning our righteousness to be imputed to us through faith, paying the debt of our sin. Both, however, looked on Christ as Lord. Soli Deo Gloria is latin for "to God alone the Glory". This means that our salvation and all creation are intended for the glory of God (Prov. 16:4). All creation exists to glorify God.

The second use of the term Reformed is as a denomination. Of the above listed Reformers, the congregations started by Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin combined to form the Reformed denomination. Martin Luther's congregation came to be known as Lutheran, Knox's became Presbyterian and Menno Simons followers are currently called Mennonites and Amish. The Reformed denomination is exclusive and is indicative of the churches of Switzerland, and the Netherlands and in America is sometimes referred to as "Dutch" Reformed for clarification purposes.

The third and final use is the system deduced from the Bible taught in the Reformed denomination. This use is an umbrella that can cover a number of different denominations that are in agreement with the fundamental principles of the Reformed denomination. Some denominations like the Presbyterians are closer in agreement than others such as Baptists or Episcopalians but nonetheless some Baptist and Episcopal churches are considered Reformed. The main parts of the system have come to be known by the acronym T.U.L.I.P. This stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.

We hold these as Scripture tells us in Romans 3:23 "that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and in Isaiah 64:5,6 we learn we need to be saved because all our righteousness is like filthy rags. Mankind has not kept God's law and indeed cannot perfectly and therefore needs to be saved. 1 Peter 1:2 tells us we were elect for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ and not because of them. 2 Timothy 1:9 tells us we were saved and called "not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" and Eph. 2:8,9 says we are saved "not of works, lest anyone should boast". Ephesians 5:25 says Christ loved the church and died for her and this was according to the eternal purpose of God (Eph. 3:11). Also Christ's intercessory prayer in John 17 is not for the world verse 9 but for the present and future elect verse 20. The elect we learn are called by Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:6) and are called to be saints (Rom. 1:7) according to the divine purpose (Rom. 8:28) and that this calling is destined from and for an eternity (Rom. 8:30). Finally, we elect are confident that He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) for we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 10:39) because God is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory (Jude 24).

This third use is the use I refer to when describing myself and is the use I mean most in using the term. As indicated by the different denominations, there are differences amongst reformed scholars. Differences involving church practices(believer baptism or paedobaptism), understanding of future events(a, pre or post millenial) and Bible interpretation(grammatico-historical, redemptive-historical or other) amongst others still persist. The biblical and soteriological emphasis involving the 5 sola's and T.U.L.I.P. listed above however define and unite us.

For more information consult What is Reformed Theology by R.C. Sproul, After Darkness,Light by R.C. Sproul Jr. and By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life by Thomas J. Nettles.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lamentations #4

A.W. Pink was a Reformed author in the early to mid 1900's. His works are of invaluable worth. I was inspired and instructed in the days of my youth by the unabridged version of his book The Sovereignty of God and recommend it to this day. In his book The Attributes of God, which is itself otherwise very good, he states "The Holy Spirit has to shine in our hearts (not intellects) in order to give us 'the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Cor. 4:6)". And earlier in the same chapter he reiterates this thought by saying "Nor is God known by the intellect". Jesus in contrast to this states in Luke 10:27 that we are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind " (italics mine). The Lord warns of those who darken counsel by words without knowledge in Job 38:1,2. In Jeremiah we learn that if Israel will repent God will send them shepherds "who will feed them with knowledge and understanding "(Jer. 3:15) but he later proclaims that they are foolish, as silly children, having no understanding (Jer. 4:22). Paul in Romans 10:2 tells us that Israel has a zeal for God but not according to knowledge and he warns us of end times in which people will be always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth in 2 Timothy 3:7. There are those who say "no creed but Christ " but scripture says no creed, no Christ. Salvation demands we both understand and assent to the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. It is just as illegitimate to dichotomise a head faith and a heart faith as it is Christ's being Savior from Christ being Lord. Lack of knowledge leads to false worship.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Federal Vision's Blindness

There is a movement today in Reformed circles that is shaking it's very foundations and if left alone, will leaven the whole lump. The movement originated at the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana during a Pastors conference in 2002. The speakers at this conference were John Barach, Steve Schlissel, Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins, the pastor of the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church(PCA). The movement has since made inroads to other Reformed churches and denominations. Although it has been called by many different names, the most common names for it are The Auburn Avenue Theology and currently the Federal Vision. Along with the "Monroe Four" listed above, current advocates include Peter Leithart, Rich Lusk, Tom Trouwborst, Ralph Smith, Joel Garver, Mark Horne and James Jordan. The vehicles for the movement are the magazine Credenda/Agenda, the publication company Canon Press, multiple books authored by the above listed individuals and their internet websites. The movement even has it's own denomination in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) although the majority of those spearheading it are still in other denominations such as the Presbyterian Church of America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The goals of the movement are simple, to objectify the covenant of grace and save federal theology from the Baptists and dispensationalists.

What The Federal Vision Teaches
Although the adherents of the Federal Vision (FV) do differ amongst themselves on some doctrines, such as paedocommunion(most hold to this but a few like Steve Schlissel do not), each agree with the general thrust and cardinal doctrines issued forth from each other. The first goal of the FV is to objectify the covenant of grace. In order to prevent the "morbid introspection" rampant in so many Reformed circles, the FV propose christians look to the sacraments and their church membership for confirmation of their salvation. John Barach states that "Every baptized person is in covenant with God and is in union, then with Christ and with the triune God...Every baptized person is truly a member of God's covenant"(quoted in The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology by Guy Waters p15). Rich Lusk echoes this by openly affirming "baptismal regeneration" provided the terms be defined properly. For Lusk, defined properly means a "covenantal form of baptismal regeneration".Steve Wilkins also agrees by saying "To be baptized is to be covenantally joined to Christ. Not that baptism justifies, but it inaugurates covenant union with Christ just as circumcision did."and he later states "Baptized children do not have to' join the church' they are members of the church by their baptism.(quoted in The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology p232-234). So for the FV, the covenant of grace is conditioned upon church membership, church membership is conditioned upon baptism and babies are to be baptized. Therefore, when babies grow up, as they are already baptized and members of the church and can look to this as confirmation of their salvation, there must then be no need to acknowledge the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as stated in the book of Acts chapter 16 and verse 31.

While I am no fan either of the "morbid introspection" prevalent in some reformed circles, primarily the ones aligning themselves with Puritan thought, the answer to this is not to deny the gospel by trusting in works or our association in the church, but to get back to the purity and simplicity that is in Christ Jesus( John 11:25-26). Morbid introspection or "fruit policing" stems from the Puritan dichotomy of faith and assurance, as taught in the Westminster Larger Catachism Q. 81,which is a departure from the Reformers who taught assurance is of the essence of faith , and is catachized in The Three Forms of Unity. Taken to the extreme, this view equates faith with the works of faith and always leaves one doubting as to whether they ever truly believed. What is implicit in some Presbyterian churches, however, is explicit in the FV. The FV clearly deny that faith, in Justification, is merely receptive. Rich Lusk in his exposition of James 2 states unequivocally that "persons will not be justified by faith alone, but also by good works they have done" and later "James is speaking of a justification in which faith and works combine together to justify. Future justification is according to one's life pattern. No one dare claim these works to be meritorious, but they are necessary."(Waters p90). Also the FV does not explain how being baptized as a baby and made a member of the church without any prior proclamation of faith in Christ will bring assurance.

This leads to the next topic of discussion in the doctrine of perseverance.As shown above, the FV clearly hold that all babies baptized are members of the church and can be rightfully called Christians. So what happens if some of these babies grow up and reject Christ and leave the church as is clear some do? The inescapable conclusion is that these persons lose their salvation and thus we have a denial in the FV of perserverance. Scripture, however, tells us they were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).

Roots of the Federal Vision
Although a new movement the FV has roots that go way back, as is true with all heresies. First and most obviously, is the Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy which the FV is on a collision course with. Other protestant high church denominations, however, such as the Lutherans , The Episcopal/Anglicans and the French Huguenots have also been highly ritualistic and held to baptismal regeneration. Christopher Hutchinson, a critic of the FV, states in his chapter of the book The Auburn Avenue Theology Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision, that "First, culturally , I agree with Doug Wilson that this is an odd controversy. He says it is odd because having left the Baptist persuasion for the Reformed realm, he now finds himself among baptists. In my case, it is odd because I was reared a high church Episcopalian, left it for the simplicity of evangelical presbyterianism, and now find an increasing number of presbyterians who look an awful lot like high church Anglicans, crook and all.". Other movements which the FV is fed from are Van Tillian paradoxicalism, Theonomy, Norman Shepherdism and the New Perspective on Paul. This is apparent from Doug Wilson who describes himself as "postmillennial, Calvinistic, presbyterian, Van Tillian, theonomic and reformed" in his book Reformed is Not Enough: Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant. Also Rich Lusk hails The New Perspective on Paul theologians (e.g. N.T. Wright , James D.G. Dunn and E.P. Sanders) as "blowing modern day Galatianism out of the water" in their call back to a "corporate view of salvation"(Auburn Theology p135).

Finally,although there is a big difference between the FV and most Reformed Presbyterians, I do want to say that the Westminster(or any) teaching of paedobaptism, baptism as a "seal" of the covenant of grace(contrary to Eph. 1:13,14) and the ordinances being a means of grace(contrary to Rom. 10:17) do at best add confusion if not teach error and give the FV and others a basis for their teaching. I call on all Reformed to repudiate these teachings.


The FV has many other problems such as the denial of Christ imputed righteousness to the believer, a rejection that the law demands perfection and Christ's death for everyone including the reprobate which cannot be addressed at this time. E. Calvin Beisner states in the foreword to Waters book that the FV is a "hybrid of three components" the first he says is a modified Amyraldianism, the second is a modified Arminianism and third a Roman infusionism. How truly confused this movement is. For further on this issue see my discussion of Jansenism listed below also most of my information comes from The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis by Guy Prentiss Waters and The Auburn Avenue Theology Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision edited by E. Calvin Beisner. Other great books include The Current Justification Controversy by O. Palmer Robertson, A Companion to the Current Justification Controversy by John Robbins and Not Reformed at All by John Robbins and Sean Gerety. Although I have yet to read them Covenant,Justification and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the faculty of Westminster Seminary California edited by R. Scott Clark and Justification by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church also cover this movement. Books by the movement include Reformed is Not Enough by Doug Wilson, Against Christianity (A most telling and true title)by Peter Leithart and The Call of Grace by Norman Shepherd.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Jansenism is a movement within the Roman Catholic Church that was started by Cornelius Otto Jansen (1585-1638) a Dutch theologian who became the Bishop of Ypres which is located in the Flemish region of Belgium. A strict Augustinian in his doctrine, he was dismayed by his church's abandonment of the doctrines of grace as seen in the Molinism of the Jesuits. In hopes of bringing reform, Jansen had many debates with the Jesuits and was so vociferous in his disagreement with them, that he almost incurred the wrath of the Inquisition. What might have saved him is his equal disdain for the Protestants. He also debated the Dutch Presbyterian Gisbert Voetius. Whereas the Jesuits were leaving Augustine's doctrines of grace the Reformers had left Augustine's view of the Church. For Jansen there was one Baptism, one Church and the Pope was the head of that church. Jansen also disagreed with the Reformers views on Justification and Assurance. Jansen agreed with Augustine that Justification is a process beginning in God's gracious act of conversion, whereby the sinner is gradually made righteous contra the Reformers who taught that Justification is an act of God's grace whereby sinners are declared righteous on the ground of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them and received by the gift of faith alone. Jansen believed the Reformers were presumptuous in believing in a doctrine of assurance. Jansen did hold in common with the Reformers that man's nature is totally depraved by original sin, that God's grace is irresistable and that Christ did not die for all but only those predestined to be saved. Because of this Jansen was grieved that many in his beloved Catholic Church were leaving Augustine. In order to rectify this, he spent the last twenty years of his life writing his magnum opus the three volume Augustinus which he completed a half hour before he died of a plague that had hit Ypres.

Augustinus was published posthumously in 1640. In the first volume Jansen covered the heresy of Pelagianism, the second volume was a study of the limitations of human reason and the third volume was a study of the Grace of Christ the Savior and concludes with a study of the semi-pelagians of his own day in the Molinists. The book gained a following especially in the french region of Port Royal, where Antoine Arnauld (1612-1694) and, the scientist, philosopher and most famous Jansenist, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) defended its doctrine. Due to the ensuing controversy, Pope Urban VIII condemned it in 1641 on the grounds that it is forbidden to publish on the doctrine of Grace without the permission of the Pope and that it revived the errors of Michael Baius. The Jansenists, however, were undeterred keeping the debate raging until 1651 when Pope Innocent X appointed a commission to study the issue. The study lasted two years in which the Jansenists set forth their Five Propositions abridged by the author 1. Some of God's commandments are impossible for even just men to keep. 2. In the state of fallen nature no one ever resists interior grace. 3. To merit or demerit, in the state of fallen nature we must be free of all external constraint but not interior necessity. 4. Semi-pelagians erred in believing interior grace can be resisted or accepted by man. 5. To say that Christ died or shed His blood for all men is Semi-pelagianism. In the end, Jansenism was declared heretical.This left Port Royal in the predicament of renouncing Jansenism or rejecting a decree of the pope. Some like Arnauld believed that since the 5 Propositions were not in Jansen's book that they could denounce the Propositions and still advocate the book Augustinus. Others like Pascal, who wrote his Provincial Letters in 1656, openly rejected the decree although still aligning themselves with Catholicism. Either way Jansenism would find it's home in Utrech, Netherlands as France and other Catholic countries were no longer a safe haven for them. In the Netherlands they would elect their own Archbishop and eventually unite with the group called "Old Catholics". Besides their Jansenism, the church has also over the years openly denied the decrees of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility. The current church numbers in the low thousands and is only in the Netherlands.
Jansenism in Reformed Theology ?
Although John Calvin, John Knox and the other Reformers clearly departed from Augustine on his doctrine of the church and his progressive Justification as the debates between Jansen and Voetius prove, some professed Reformed theologians of today seem to be on the road back to Rome and are more akin to Jansen than they are to Calvin.In the late 70's a controversy raged at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a Presbyterian and Calvinist institution. The source of the controversy was a professor named Norman Shepherd. Norman was teaching that good works as well as faith were instruments in our Justification. Norman was removed in 1981 after nearly twenty years of teaching this heresy. The fallout has been very costly as students of his have got into the ministry and are now leading churches in this same direction. A current movement called The Federal Vision is clearly linked to Norman as it is led by many of these former students and he is quoted enthusiastically by most of the others. In at least one case a disciple of Norman's has converted to Catholicism. Scott Hahn, a former Presbyterian pastor and graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, wrote his book Rome Sweet Home in 1993 which tells of his conversion to Catholicism. On page 31 of this book he identifies his inspiration as Norman Shepherd. Hahn also brags of a counselling session he had with the late Calvinist stalwart John Gerstner in which he soundly defeated Gerstner's best defense. This, however, is not surprising considering Gerstner's definition of faith in his book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth in which he states on page 260 that "Nothing is added to the faith, but this (works) is a part of the definition of the faith" and later in case we did not understand him clearly enough on page 299 that " Lordship teaching does not 'add works' as if faith were not sufficient. The 'works' are part of the definition of faith." With such a radical redefinition of faith it appears that John Gerstner was not the Calvinist stalwart many think he was after all.
Another major event happened in 1994 exemplifying at least an implicit influence of Jansenism. The event was called Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millenium (ECT). This document was constructed by both Catholic and Calvinist theologians in which they declared each other brothers in Christ and declared an intent to witness together. How can they do this unless they share the same Gospel? "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3) The so-called Calvinists that authored this document are Charles Colson, Os Guinness, Richard Mouw, Mark Noll and J.I. Packer. A few years later after being confronted with their error these same so-called Calvinists along with Timothy George and John Woodbridge initiated ECT 2 in which noted Reformed Baptist scholar Roger Nicole indicated his agreement with and willingness to sign it.
One Catholic author I read stated it is a contradiction for Jansenists to claim Catholicism and reject the Pope. I agree wholeheartedly with the author, but in the Jansenists defense it is also a contradiction for the Pope and the Catholic church to canonize Augustine, and excommunicate Cornelius Jansen and his followers, who taught the same thing. I have no sympathies for either, however, as Calvinism and Jansenism represent two different movements and Gospels. My purpose in writing this is to reveal this movement, as it is not very well known, and distinguish it from the true Reformed faith for which it is being confused in some circles. I want to say at this point that I don't know if Norman Shepherd has ever read Jansen or any of his followers. I am not aware of him quoting any of them. Shepherd is in my opinion, however, closer in his theology to Jansen than the Calvinism he claims. With one of his disciples already in the Catholic church one can only wonder when his other ones in The Federal Vision will say with Jansen, " The Roman Pontiff is the supreme judge of all religious controversies, when he defines a thing and imposes it on the whole church, under penalty of anathema, his decision is just, true and infallible." ( epilogue, Augustinus)
For further reading on these important issues see What is Saving Faith? by Gordon Clark, Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul, Grace Unknown by R.C. Sproul, Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael Horton, Christ the Lord by Michael Horton, The Current Justification Controversy by O. Palmer Robertson, A Companion to The Current Justification Controversy by John Robbins, The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology by Guy Prentiss Waters and Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper.
Soli Deo Gloria
Sola Fide

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Holy Bible

In the beginning God created man in their image and according to the likeness of the Trinity( Gen. 1:26-28), giving him rational thought and the ability to communicate. At this time, Adam and Eve had direct communication with God even walking in the garden of Eden with Him ( Gen. 3:8,9). Due to the fall of man through disobedience this relationship was divorced. Man because of sin died spiritually that day and began the process of physical death. Man being separated from his creator began to experience turmoil, frustration and distress. God, however, in his grace and mercy promised a savior. God knew as the generations passed Man would forget what God had told him and so God set forth a way to communicate his instructions and reveal His Son the promised Saviour to him. Beginning with Moses, God would start what would become, what we call today, the Holy Bible.

Although the 66 books of the Bible were written by over 40 different people, every writer was inspired by God in their authorship (2 Tim. 3:16). This inspiration was not the inspiration of William Shakespeare to write his stories, however, but a moving of the exhaling of God as we learn in 2 Peter 1:20,21 "...that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." This inspiration is seen in the fact that these multiple authors writing over a span of over 1500 years coming from different stations in life as some were kings and some fishermen and others in-between all had a unanimity of purpose and design with historical and scientific accurateness. The Bible sets the standard for any work claiming to be from God, as it does, in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 18 in verse 22 where it says "when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." In the Bible we read in the book of Isaiah chapter 44 starting in verse 28 that a man named Cyrus would rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. At the time of the writing the temple was still standing and Cyrus had not been born. It wasn't until approximately 100 years later that King Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the temple and then another 60 years that a Persian king named Cyrus would rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Another example of scriptures accuracy in prophecy is 700 years before Jesus was born Isaiah wrote " therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel."(Isa. 7:14) and in Luke 1:35 we learn that an angel tells Mary that she will give birth to the Son of God even though she is a virgin. These are just a small sampling of the many fulfilled prophecies which set the Bible apart from other books, even books claimed to be God's word as the Koran and the Book of Mormon are.The accurateness, detail, purpose, consistency and origin also set the Bible apart from the false prophesies of men like Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce and the false books known as the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha.

The Inerrancy of Scripture

The writers of scripture, having been inspired by God, were inerrant in that writing. The scrolls penned by their hand in writing Scripture were infallible and authoritative to the church. This, however, does not mean the humans themselves were perfect or that everything they wrote was binding. In Galatians 2:11 we learn the apostle Peter had to be corrected by the apostle Paul for discrimination of the gentiles and 1 Corinthians 5:9 tells us of a letter written by Paul that was not Biblical. In writing the Bible, however, they were writing from God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:37 "... that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." and in Colossians 4:16 he commands his letter be sent to the other churches to be read by them as well( the Epistle in Laodicea coming to the Colossians was originally sent to the Ephesian church and was later given the name Ephesians). Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:15,16 " and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." in which he clearly compares Paul's writings and his own to the other Scriptures. In the writing of Scripture, God used the authors personalities and unctions in most cases as in Luke 1:3 we read "it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus" but obviously in some cases God directly dictated to the author as in the case of Moses in writing the creation account in Genesis. Although the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy only applies to the authors that actually penned the Scriptures in the original autographs, God has preserved his word through accurate and reliable copies throughout history . We read in Proverbs 25:1 that the proverbs of Solomon were copied by the men of Hezekiah, in Joshua 8:32 Joshua wrote a copy of the law of Moses, Jesus undoubtedly read from copies in Luke 4:16-21 and the parchments Paul called for in 2 Timothy 4:13 were most likely copies. Even today we have over 4700 copies of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. In some cases, as in 1 Samuel 13:1 the numbers have been lost over the years, but in none of the cases have any doctrines been lost.

The Authority of Scripture

The fact that the Bible is God's Word gives it authority. God as our creator and sustainer has a right to rule over us.The Bible is full of prescriptions of a religious, moral and ethical and professional nature. The Bible teaches us how to be proper husbands and wives (Eph.5:22-31), proper parents and children (Eph. 6:1-4), proper employees and employers (Eph. 6:5-9), proper neighbors (Matt. 22:39), proper citizens and rulers (Rom. 13:1-7) and most importantly, proper worshippers of the one true God (Matt. 22:37). The Bible forbids murder (Ex. 20:13),adultery (Ex. 20:14), stealing (Ex. 20:15), lying (Ex. 20:16), covetousness (Ex. 20:17), pride (Prov. 16:18), greed (1 Tim. 6:10), hate (Matt. 5:43), lust (Rom. 1:24), homosexuality (Rom. 1:26), false worship (Rom.1:25) and a host of other vices. Jesus, being God in the flesh the promised Saviour and Messiah, spoke with authority (Matt. 7:29). The Apostles also were given authority in the writing of scripture (2 Cor. 10:8).They were given the ability to perform miracles to authenticate their message and to reveal who they were (Matt. 10:1-4, Act 2). Apostles were ones who had seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21,22) and were called by him to be an Apostle (Acts 9:1-16). To deny the Bible is to deny God's rule, His Son and to forfeit salvation and heaven.

Sola Scriptura

The Formal principal of the Reformation, this Latin term means Scripture Alone. Martin Luther came to see that the edicts of the Pope and the practices of the Catholic church, with its addition of the Apocrypha, were not in accord with the Scriptures and so he started the reformation. Martin held fast to Jesus rebuke of human tradition over God's word as taught in Mark 7:5-17. The true church of Christ believes that the man of God is "equipped for every good work" by the scriptures alone (2 Tim.3:16,17) and that in walking in them we "lack nothing" (1 Thess. 4:12). The Bible has been completed. We have no apostles alive today as Paul was the last called Apostle (1 Cor. 15:8) and the Apostle John wrote the last book of the Bible in Revelation. We believe in the Bible to the exclusion of any Pope, Guru, Swami or cult leader. Although churches have pastors and elders to keep order and preach the truth (1 Tim. 3), they are to be checked ,as the Apostles were, by the Bible (Acts 17:10,11). We use Statements of Faith, Creeds and Catechisms to explain and summarize what we believe but this again is only secondary to the Holy Bible.Churches with so-called apostles in them today and ones that use books not of divine origin like the apocrypha and the Book of Mormon are false churches and deceiving people. Revelation is the last book of the Bible and we are not to add or take away from that book (Rev. 22:18,19).

3 Extremes to be Refuted

As with almost everything certain extremes have crept into the precious doctrine of Scripture Alone. The first is the idea that Scripture is the only truth we can know. Gary Crampton in his otherwise excellent book By Scripture Alone: the Sufficiency of Scripture states that "The Bible is sufficient for all the truth we need and all the knowledge we can have" (p89, italics mine). Earlier on the same page he stated that neither science,history or philosophy were needed to give knowledge.I would hope that the Doctor preparing to give surgery had read other books as well as the Bible. I am sure that the Geometry professor is using a book other than the Bible as a textbook and this is not wrong. Tying our shoes and a host of other things we can know are not in the Bible. This extreme should be avoided.

The second extreme builds on the first and is advocated by Kenneth Good in his book Are Baptists Reformed ?.This book is, as the other, a good read and has a good section on Baptist ecclesiology with which I agree. Kenneth, however, takes the position that the doctrine of necessary consequence is a violation of Scripture Alone.Necessary consequence says that Scripture has implicit teachings as well as explicit ones. To Kenneth this is Rationalism. What Kenneth fails to see is his own view is actually Irrationalism. The Bible teaches just as surely by implication as by explicit teaching. For instance, nowhere is Genesis does it say God created in a 24 hour day but we know he did because he says throughout the creation process the "morning and evening" were one day (Gen. 1).This extreme should be avoided.

The third extreme changes the doctrine of Scripture Alone to The King James Version Alone. This extreme says in essence that the King James translators were inspired by God as the Apostles were. This is clearly error as we saw earlier from scripture that Paul was the last called Apostle and only the Apostles were inerrant in their writing of scripture. This view also says only those who can speak english can read the Bible.Two good books discussing this aberrant view are The King James Only Controversy by James White and The King James Version Debate by D.A. Carson. This extreme should be avoided.

Nature and Scripture

While it is true that both nature and Scripture reveal truth, we must take into account which truths in distinction from one another they reveal. The Bible is clear in Psalm 19 that "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork".The word declare in Hebrew is Saphar and means to make known. Romans 1:20 also teaches that God is seen by the existence of creation. God uses his control over nature as proof of his authority over man in Job 38-42. Jesus expected some knowledge of nature as he says in Matthew 6:26 to look at the birds and in verse 28 to consider the lilies. He also assumed his disciples knew what salt was and what it was for in Matthew 5:13. Scripture alone ,however, reveals the good news of Jesus Christ as the virgin born Son of God, died in the place of sinners and was buried and three days later rose from the grave (1 Cor. 15:1-11).No mathematical formulation will reveal this. No archaelogical find will tell this truth.No microscope or telescope reveals this.Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So whereas nature is not a 67th book of the Bible as claimed in the book Creation and Time by Hugh Ross neither is nature to be refused its proper place.

Scripture is comprehensive and sufficient but not exhaustive. The glory and grandeur of God exceeds the binding of even the largest Bible.As we read in John 21:25 "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen". Amen

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lamentations #3

Benjamin Warfield is one of the greatest theologians born in America. His defense of the faith was renowned in a day when Neoorthodoxy and liberalism were running rampant. His defense of the inerrancy of scripture, protection of the church from false signs and wonders and rebuke of the perfectionists still need to be heeded this day. His defense of the practice of infant baptism, however, shows us even the most rational of men can fall prey to irrationalism and traditionalism. Benjamin, when defending infant baptism from an attack by the Baptist theologian Augustus Strong as to why paedobaptists have no consistency with one another on the practice, said in his Polemics p. 406 as quoted in the book Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace by Paul Jewett, " Let us confess that we do not all argue alike or aright, but is this not the proof rather of the firm establishment in our hearts of the practice? We all practice alike and it is the propriety of our practice, not the propriety of our defense of it, that is, after all, at stake."

Benjamin should have known that true Christianity bases its practice on scripture and not on tradition or "our hearts". Matthew 28:19 says to make disciples first and then baptise them, Mark 16:16 again qualifies baptism for believers, Acts 2:38 commands to repent and then be baptized and verse 41 goes on to show only "those who had received his word were baptized". 1 Peter 3:15 says to "always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you...". If paedobaptism is a Christian practice it should be scriptural and there should be a consensus on why it is performed.