Sunday, December 28, 2008

Are Hats Necessary for Women in Church?

This may seem like an odd subject and out of the ordinary of my usual conversation but I believe it is a necessary discussion nonetheless. There are still "Christian" denominations and sects that practice and in some cases demand a woman wear a hat or bonnet in their religious observations. Anyone familiar with the Amish know this to be true. Some might be surprised to know, however, that this is even true in some reformed fellowships. The Free Presbyterian Church and the so-called reformed fellowships in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals and other "Federal Vision"(see my blog "Federal Vision's Blindness"from April 2007 for more on this) churches are but a few examples of this understanding. These groups base this form of behavior on 1 Corinthians 11:2-15 which does demand a "covering". Why then do so many other reformed denominations not make such a demand? Are men like myself sinning in not demanding our wives to do so? These are honest questions that must be answered and answer I will.

Among the reformed churches that do not mandate hat wearing there are a few different reasons as to why we do not. The first view is what may be called "the cultural view". This view is exemplified by pastor/theologian John MacArthur in his commentary on First Corinthians where he states "It seems, therefore, that Paul is not stating a divine universal requirement but simply acknowledging a local custom". While I can respect John's having a reason for not demanding headwear, I do not agree with his reason. As Charles Ryrie states in the note in his study Bible, advocating women should wear hats,"Paul's reasons were based on theology(headship, v. 3), the order in creation (vv. 7-9), and the presence of angels in the meeting (v. 10)" and not in defence of a social custom. Paul elsewhere (eg. Rom. 14)clearly allows for differences in the church over social customs and yet here he commands head covering for women and none for men. So the answer must be sought in a more appropriate understanding.

This appropriate understanding is the second view which may be called simply "the hair view". In this view the covering Paul was speaking of is "hair" and not a hat, veil, doily or any other man-made material. This view sees it unlikely that Paul would be making a new law for women never before established in scripture. We are not told God created a hat for Eve in the garden so as to worship him appropriately. The Old Testament laws were very thorough in their mandates for worship and again they are silent on this issue. The best evidence comes from the text itself when Paul states in verses 14 and 15 "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering." Notice Paul appeals to common sense here. Although it is now codified in his writing it, Paul was asking what was evident in nature and not written in scripture until then. I make this point in passing to point out that while I hold tenaciously to the reformation principle of sola scriptura(see my blog "Holy Bible" January 2007), we should not neglect what God has taught us in nature through common sense. So Paul has defined his meaning with these verses. Nature does not teach us anything about hats, veils or doilies or which is more appropriate. Paul's point to the church at Corinth is that it is wrong for men to have long hair and women to have short hair. God hates confusion and it is against the natural order for men to have long hair and women short. Even the angels get confused (v. 10)as they look on unlike the angels that fell in Genesis 6:1,2 who clearly knew who the daughters of men were. Reformed churches that teach "head coverings" that I am aware of typically use the doily which does not fully cover the head. If they want to meet this honestly they should be like the muslim women pictured above.

In conclusion, it is important to say that I do not believe it is a sin for a woman to wear a hat to church but it is not mandated by scripture. It is also important to say at this juncture that nowhere in scripture does it define long hair or short hair and so I as Paul appeal to common sense in this matter. Some may not think my wife has long hair, and compared to say Crystal Gayle she does not, but if my hair were her length it would generally be considered long. There must be some christian liberty in our judgment of this.


First Corinthians: A Contemporary Commentary by Gordon H. Clark
Exposition of the Old and New Testaments Vol. 8 John To Galatians by John Gill
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1 Corinthians by John MacArthur
Ryrie Study Bible Expanded Edition (NAS) study notes by Charles Ryrie

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Afterword on Neo-Calvinism

After reviewing my entries on Neo-calvinism, I felt it would be good, for clarity, to deal with a few issues not discussed in them. I wish to make clear at the outset, however, that these issues are not necessary for either the Dutch (Kuyperian, Neo-calvinist) School or for the Scottish(Warfieldian, Princeton) School of which I am and so are not necessary dividers between the two schools.


While I appreciate the logic underpinning Benjamin Warfield's philosophy and consider him to be a better candidate for America's Greatest Philosopher over the much beloved Jonathan Edwards, (I would also give Gordon Clark the America's Greatest Theologian title over Jonathan) I do disdain his Theistic Evolution views and firmly adhere to a 6 Day Creationism. Both a normal (logical) reading of scripture and the clear evidence from creation itself prove the earth to be consistent with the Genesis account.

While I am not a "Scientist" by profession the arguments made by ministries such as The Institute For Creation Research, Creation Ministries International and Answers In Genesis ,which are headed up by professional scientists, are very convincing. Questions like how our sun still burns?, how the earth's magnetic field still functions?, Why the moon is still a satellite when it is slowly moving away from the earth? and many more seem to be best answered from a young earth schemata than a 6 billion year old earth. The best evidence is that God was there to view the creation, as He created it, and to believe Him when he tells us how he did it. There is also no archaelogical or anthropological finds such as a "Missing Link" to contradict the Bible.

While it is disheartening that a lot of the scientists at the ministries listed above, if calvinist at all are neo-calvinist and Hugh Ross's ministry at Reasons To Believe, which supports a Day-age Theory, gives homage to Ben Warfield, this does not mandate a necessary relationship. R. C. Sproul, like myself agrees with Warfield's logical (as opposed to Kuyper's mystical ) approach and is convinced by the evidence of a young earth.


Another issue is the question of Supra- versus Infralapsarianism. This discussion pertains to the order and extent of God's predestinating purpose in creation. This is a complicated discussion and I intend to do an in depth look at it in a future blog but I do want to say here that I believe that supralapsarianism is the most consistent and scriptural understanding of God's sovereignty. The supposed problem is Charles Hodge, Ben Warfield, A.A. Hodge, John Gerstner, R.C. Sproul and the others of the Princeton school are infralapsarian whereas Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Cornelius VanTil and others of the Neo-calvinist school are supralapsarian. I do not see a necessary connection, however, in the place of culture, philosophy and science in our lives and the lapsarian question. Many supralapsarians have not been Neo-calvinists. Theodore Beza, William Perkins, William Ames, Francis Gomarus, Samuel Rutherford, Thomas Goodwin, William Twisse, Gordon Clark, John Gill and I believe even John Calvin himself were all supralapsarians without the oddities of the Neo-calvinists. Supralapsarianism comes from an honest undertaking of passages like Isaiah 45:7, Proverbs 16:4, 2 Chronicles 18:19-22, Romans 9:6-33, 1 Peter 2:6-8 and Jude 4. While infras agree with election, faith as a gift and salvation by grace alone they neglect to realize that God's will is effective and seem to teach either man or the devil is the creator of evil and that God just leaves the non-elect in his sin to damn him instead of hardening his heart to sin for the purposes of damnation as the Bible teaches. These differences do not determine our views on art or cognitive attainment.


For further reading of Neo-calvinism consult the works of Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Cornelius VanTil and Herman Dooyeweerd. Also Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism by Peter S. Heslam, Science and Grace: God's Reign in the Natural Sciences by Morris and Petcher, Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach by Vern Poythress. For good books on science see The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications by Whitcomb and Morris, Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris, Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils by Marvin Lubenow which deals convincingly with the anthropological question, Starlight and Time by Russell Humphreys which deals convincingly with the physics questions and Astronomy and the Bible by Donald B. Deyoung. For studies on supralapsarianism see Predestination and God and Evil both by Gordon Clark. For other important studies consult Reformed Theology In America: A History of Its Modern Development by David Wells, The Clark-VanTil Controversy by Herman Hoeksema, Cornelius VanTil: The Man and Myth by John Robbins, The Basis For the Doctrine of the Incomprehensibility of God in Gordon Clark and Cornelius VanTil by Bradley Swygard, The History and Theology of Calvinism by Curt Daniel and Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defence of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics by Sproul, Gerstner and Lindsley. For another example of Neo-calvinism look at the Institute For Christian Studies.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Neo-Calvinism Part 3: Science

The last major flaw of Neo-calvinism is it's view of science. Although etymologically, the word science means "knowledge", it's practical meaning is usually narrowed to be that knowledge attained or attainable through the five senses in observation and/or experimentation. For Kuyper and Neo-calvinism there are two sciences, one for the elect and one for the reprobate. Kuyper said as there are "Two kinds of people" this mandates "two kinds of science" (quoted in Creating A Christian Worldview by Peter Heslam p. 183). Kuyper believed nothing is neutral, not even facts and therefore the science of a christian is different than the science of an unbeliever. According to this view, a proper sense of total depravity demands the understanding that our reason was also affected by the fall and so humanity is unreasonable and in need of God's irresistable grace to bring one to faith. At the outset, to the undiscerning reader, this appears to be something all "Calvinists" would agree with and not just "Neo-calvinists, and so I have my work cut out for me.

While it is true that humans are totally depraved and in need of God's irresistable grace for salvation, this does not mean our senses are any less acute than before the fall or that humans are less able to articulate in speech or aesthetics. It does means that unaided by the Holy Spirit, mankind is blinded to the truth spiritually, exchanges the truth for a lie and worships the creature over the creator. Depravity is exhibited intra nos(inside ourselves) and does not affect the reality of truth itself, which is extra nos(outside ourselves). Due to this, there is only one true science and that is the science that leads to the knowledge of the truth. Christianity alone is a rationally demonstrable and coherent system. All other religions and philosophies are irrational. Kuyper in contrast, according to James Bratt, believed that "the world could contain any number of relatively coherent worldviews, none of which could finally convince another of its own superiority on strictly rational grounds."(Reformed Theology in America edited by David Wells, p.122). The result of Kuyper's thinking is an insipid anti-intellectualism that makes Christianity nonsense and surrenders the intellect to the world.

Concerning neutrality, it depends on the context in which you are using it as to whether it is valid. Ultimately, 2+2=4 proves logic and order in the universe pointing to the creator God, but 2+2=4 is shared by both saved and unsaved individuals of all stripes, and so, is in a sense "neutral". Alot of science shares this affinity. Does it matter to the person dying from a particular disease whether the person who finds a cure is a Christian or not? Have only Christian scientists found cures for diseases? How about the other discoveries making life more comfortable and convenient? Should Christians abstain from the use of inventions of unbelievers? While ultimately everything a reprobate believes is against God and useless, this does not mean it manifests itself in everything he does. Jesus asks in Matthew 7:9, "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" and in verse 11 He says that humans "being evil" still "know how to give good gifts".

The Bible knows of only one kind of science. All else is "science, falsely so-called"(1 Tim. 6:20). The Bible teaches that there is "one body and one Spirit... one hope... one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:4-6), one wisdom (Jam. 3:13-17) and one Gospel (Gal. 1:6-8). Gnostic dualism has no place in the church.

Warfield on Kuyper

Kuyper's odd new movement did not go unnoticed in his own day. Ben Warfield was a professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Princeton University in that day and was a stalwart calvinist. He wrote an introduction to F.R. Beattie's book on apologetics, in which he articulated why he found Kuyper's view "a standing matter of surprise". This intro is so telling and profound I feel it should be read in it's entirety and so include it here in Warfield's own words. For more excellent articles click on the link at the lighthouse at the title of this blog.

By B. B. Warfield

It gives me great pleasure to respond to Dr. Beattie's request that I shall say a few words by way of introduction to his comprehensive work on Apologetics. I am purposely laying stress on the comprehensiveness of the work. It is always a satisfaction to have placed in our hands a treatise on one of the theological disciplines, which develops with serenity and sanity its entire content. In the case of Apologetics, however, such an achievement is particularly to be welcomed. We have had many apologies; perhaps no branch of scientific theology has been more fruitful during the past two centuries. But we have had comparatively few surveys of the whole field of Apologetics. Perhaps Dr. Beattie's is the first to be produced by an American Presbyterian.

The fact is, despite the richness of our apologetical literature, Apologetics has been treated very much like a stepchild in the theological household. The encyclopaedists have seemed scarcely to know what to do with it. They have with difficulty been persuaded to allow it a place among the theological disciplines at all. And, when forced to recognize it, they have been very prone to thrust it away into some odd corner, where it could hide its diminished head behind the skirts of some of its more esteemed sisters.

This widespread misprision of Apologetics has been greatly fostered by the influence of two opposite (if they be indeed opposite) tendencies of thought, which have very deeply affected the thinking even of theologians who are in principle antagonistic to them. I mean Rationalism and Mysticism. To Rationalism, of course, Apologetics is an inanity; to Mysticism, an impertinence. Wherever, therefore, rationalistic presuppositions have intruded, there proportionately the validity of Apologetics has been questioned. Wherever mystical sentiment has seeped in, there the utility of Apologetics has been more or less distrusted. At the present moment, the rationalistic tendency is perhaps most active in the churches in the form given it by Albrecht Ritschl. In this form it strikes at the very roots of Apologetics by the distinction it erects between religious and theoretical knowledge. Where religion is supposed to seek and find expression only in value-judgments -- the subjective product of the human soul in its struggle after personal freedom -- and thus to stand out of all relation with theoretical knowledge, there, obviously there is no place for a vindication of Christian faith to reason and no possibility of Apologetics. In a somewhat odd parallelism to this (though, perhaps, it is not so odd after all) the mystical tendency is showing itself in our day most markedly in a widespread inclination to decline Apologetics in favor of the so-called testimonium Spiritus Sancti. The convictions of the Christian man, we are told, are not the product of reasons addressed to his intellect, but are the immediate creation of the Holy Spirit in his heart. Therefore, it is intimated, we can not only do very well without these reasons, but it is something very like sacrilege to attend to them. Apologetics, accordingly, is not merely useless, but may even become noxious, because tending to substitute a barren intellectualism for a vital faith.

We need not much disturb ourselves over such utterances when they are the expression, as they often are in our modern Church, of the intellectual distress of those whose own apologetic has proved too weak to withstand the rationalistic assault, and who are fain, therefore, to take refuge from the oppressive rationalism of their understandings in an empty irrationalism of the heart. In these cases the extremes have met, and the would-be mystic preserves nothing but his dialect to distinguish him from the Ritschlite rationalist. What he needs for his cure is clearly not less Apologetics, but more Apologetics -- lacking which he must ever remain of a "double mind," clinging with the desperation of a drowning man to a faith on which his own intellect has passed the' sentence of irrationality. The case is very different, however, when we encounter very much the same forms of speech on the lips of heroes of the faith, who deprecate Apologetics because they feel no need of "reasons" to ground a faith which they are sure they have received immediately from God. Apologetics, they say, will never make a Christian. Christians are made by the creative Spirit alone. And when God Almighty has implanted faith in the heart, we shall not require to seek for "reasons" to ground our conviction of the truth of the Christian religion. We have tasted and seen, and we know of ourselves that it is from God. Thus, the sturdiest belief joins hands with unbelief to disparage the defenses of the Christian religion.

Dr. Abraham Kuyper, one of the really great theologians of our time, is a very striking instance of thinkers of this tendency. It is not to be supposed that Dr. Kuyper would abolish Apologetics altogether. He has written an Encyclopaedia of Sacred Theology, and in it he gives a place to Apologetics among the other disciplines. But how subordinate a place! And in what a curtailed form! Hidden away as a subdivision of a subdivision of what Dr. Kuyper calls the "Dogmatological Group" of disciplines (which corresponds roughly to what most encyclopaedists call "Systematic Theology"), one has to search for it before he finds it, and when he finds it, he discovers that its function is confined closely, we might almost say jealously, to the narrow task of defending developed Christianity against philosophy, falsely so called. After the contents of Christianity have been set forth thetically in Dogmatics and Ethics, it finds itself, it seems, in a threefold conflict. This is waged with a pseudo-Christianity, a pseudo-religion, and a pseudo-philosophy. Three antithetic dogmatological disciplines are therefore requisite -- Polemics, Elenchtics, and Apologetics, corresponding, respectively, to heterodoxy, paganism, philosophy. The least of these is Apologetics, which concerns itself only with the distinctively philosophical assault on Christianity. Meanwhile, as for Christianity itself, it has remained up to this point -- let us say it frankly -- the great assumption. The work of the exegete, the historian, the systematist, has all hung, so to speak, in the air; not until all their labor is accomplished do they pause to wipe their streaming brows and ask whether they have been dealing with realities, or perchance with fancies only.

Naturally it is not thus that Dr. Kuyper represents it to himself. He supposes that all these workers have throughout wrought in faith. But he seems not quite able to conceal from himself that they have not justified that faith, and that some may think their procedure itself, therefore, unjustified, if not unjustifiable. He distributes the departments of theological science into four groups, corresponding roughly with the Exegetical, Historical, Systematic, and Practical disciplines which the majority of encyclopaedists erect, although for reasons of his own, very interestingly set forth, he prefers to call them, respectively, the Bibliological, Ecclesiological, Dogmatological, and Diaconological groups of disciplines. Now, when he comes to discuss the contents of these groups in detail, he betrays a feeling that something is lacking at the beginning. "Before dealing separately with the four groups of departments of study into which theology is divided," he says, "we must give a brief resume from the second part of this Encyclopaedia, of how the subject arrives at the first group. Logical order demands that the first group bring you to the point where the second begins, that the second open the way for the third, and that the third introduce you to the fourth. But no other pre- cedes the first group, and it is accordingly in place here to indicate how we arrive at the first group." [1] Just so, surely!

Dr. Kuyper proceeds to point out that the subject of theology is the human consciousness; that in this consciousness there is implanted a sensus divinitatis, a semen religionis, which impels it to seek after the knowledge of God; that in the sinner this action is renewed and quickened by the palingenesis, through which the subject is opened for the reception of the special revelation of God made first by deed, culminating in the Incarnation, and then by word, centering in the Scriptures. Thus, by the testimonium Spiritus Sancti, the subject is put in possession of the revelation of God embodied in the Scriptures, and is able to proceed to explicate its contents through the several disciplines of theological science. Now, what is it that Dr. Kuyper has done here except outline a very considerable -- though certainly not a complete -- Apologetics, which must precede and prepare the way for the "Bibliological Group" of theological departments? We must, it seems, vindicate the existence of a sensus divinitatis in man capable of producing a natural theology independently of special revelation; and then the reality of a special revelation in deed and word; and as well, the reality of a supernatural preparation of the heart of man to receive it; before we can proceed to the study of theology at all, as Dr. Kuyper has outlined it. With these things at least we must, then, confessedly, reckon at the outset; and to reckon with these things is to enter deeply into Apologetics.

As the case really stands, we must say even more. Despite the attractiveness of Dr. Kuyper's distribution of the departments of theological science, we cannot think it an improvement upon the ordinary schema. It appears to us a mistake to derive, as he does, the principium divisionis from the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures, after all, are not the object of theology, but only its source; and the principium divisionis in this science, too, must be taken, as Dr. Kuyper himself argues, [2] from the object. Now, the object of theology, as Dr. Kuyper has often justly insisted, is the ectypal knowledge of God. This knowledge of God is deposited for us in the Scriptures, and must needs be drawn out of them -- hence "Exegetical Theology." It has been derived from the Scriptures by divers portions and in divers manners, for the life of the Church through the ages, and its gradual assimilation must needs be traced in its effects on the life of the Christian world -- hence "Historical Theology." It is capable of statement in a systematized thetical form -- hence "Systematic Theology." And, so drawn out from Scripture, so assimilated in the Church's growth, so organized into a system, it is to be made available for life -- hence "Practical Theology." But certainly, before we draw it from the Scriptures, we must assure ourselves that there is a knowledge of God in the Scriptures. And, before we do that, we must assure ourselves that there is a knowledge of God in the world. And, before we do that, we must assure ourselves that a knowledge of God is possible for man. And, before we do that, we must assure ourselves that there is a God to know. Thus, we inevitably work back to first principles. And in working thus back to first principles, we exhibit the indispensability of an "Apologetical Theology," which of necessity holds the place of the first among the five essential theological disciplines.

It is easy, of course, to say that a Christian man must take his standpoint not above the Scriptures, but in the Scriptures. He very certainly must. But surely he must first have Scriptures, authenticated to him as such, before he can take his standpoint in them. It is equally easy to say that Christianity is attained, not by demonstrations, but by a new birth. Nothing could be more true. But neither could anything be more unjustified than the inferences that are drawn from this truth for the discrediting of Apologetics. It certainly is not in the power of all the demonstrations in the world to make a Christian. Paul may plant and Apollos water; it is God alone who gives the increase. But it does not seem to follow that Paul would as well, therefore, not plant, and Apollos as well not water. Faith is the gift of God; but it does not in the least follow that the faith that God gives is an irrational faith, that is, a faith without grounds in right reason. It is beyond all question only the prepared heart that can fitly respond to the "reasons"; but how can even a prepared heart respond, when there are no "reasons" to draw out its action? One might as well say that photography is independent of light, because no light can make an impression unless the plate is prepared to receive it. The Holy Spirit does not work a blind, an ungrounded faith in the heart. What is supplied by his creative energy in working faith is not a ready-made faith, rooted in nothing and clinging without reason to its object; nor yet new grounds of belief in the object presented; but just a new ability of the heart to respond to the grounds of faith, sufficient in themselves, al- ready present to the understanding. We believe in Christ because it is rational to believe in him, not though it be irrational. Accordingly, our Reformed fathers always posited in the production of faith the presence of the "argumentum propter quod credo," as well as the "principium seu causa effficiens a quo ad credendum adducor." That is to say, for the birth of faith in the soul, it is just as essential that grounds of faith should be present to the mind as that the Giver of faith should act creatively upon the heart.

We are not absurdly arguing that Apologetics has in itself the power to make a man a Christian or to conquer the world to Christ. Only the Spirit of Life can communicate life to a dead soul, or can convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. But we are arguing that faith is, in all its exercises alike, a form of conviction, and is, therefore, necessarily grounded in evidence. And we are arguing that evidence accordingly has its part to play in the conversion of the soul; and that the systematically organized evidence which we call Apologetics similarly has its part to play in the Christianizing of the world. And we are arguing that this part is not a small part; nor is it a merely subsidiary part; nor yet a merely defensive part -- as if the one end of Apologetics were to protect an isolated body of Christians from annoyance from the surrounding world, or to aid the distracted Christian to bring his head into harmony with his heart. The part that Apologetics has to play in the Christianizing of the world is rather a primary part, and it is a conquering part. It is the distinction of Christianity that it has come into the world clothed with the mission to reason its way to its dominion. Other religions may appeal to the sword, or seek some other way to propagate themselves. Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively "the Apologetic religion." It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet. Face to face with the tremendous energy of thought and the incredible fertility in assault which characterizes the world in its anti-Christian manifestation, Christianity finds its task in thinking itself thoroughly through, and in organizing, not its defense only, but also its attack. It stands calmly over against the world with its credentials in its hands, and fears no contention of men.

It is a standing matter of surprise to us that the brilliant school of Christian thinkers, on whose attitude toward Apologetics we have been animadverting, should be tempted to make little of Apologetics. When we read, for instance, the beautiful exposition of sin and regeneration to science which Dr. Kuyper has given us in his Encyclopaedie, we cannot understand why he does not magnify, instead of minifying, the value of Apologetics. Perhaps the explanation is to be found in a tendency to make too absolute the contrast between the "two kinds of science" -- that which is the product of the thought of sinful man in his state of nature, and that which is the product of man under the influence of the regenerating grace of God. There certainly do exist these "two kinds of men" in the world -- men under the unbroken sway of sin, and men who have been brought under the power of the palingenesis. And the product of the intellection of these "two kinds of men" will certainly give us "two kinds of science." But the difference between the two is, after all, not accurately described as a difference in kind -- gradus non mutant speciem. Sin has not destroyed or altered in its essential nature anyone of man's faculties, although-since it corrupts homo totus -- it has affected the operation of them all. The depraved man neither thinks, nor feels, nor wills as he ought; and the products of his action as a scientific thinker cannot possibly escape the influence of this everywhere operative destructive power; although, as Dr. Kuyper lucidly points out, they are affected in different degrees in the several "sciences," in accordance with the nature of their objects and the rank of the human faculties engaged in their structure. Nevertheless, there is question here of perfection of performance, rather than of kind. It is "science" that is produced by the subject held under sin, even though imperfect science-falling away from the ideal here, there, and elsewhere, on account of all sorts of deflecting influences entering in at all points of the process. The science of sinful man is thus a substantive part of the abstract science produced by the ideal subject, the general human consciousness, though a less valuable part than it would be without sin.

It is well that it is so; for otherwise there would be no "science" attainable by man at all. For regeneration is not, in the first instance, the removal of sin: the regenerated man remains a sinner. Only after his sanctification has become complete can the contrast between him and the unregenerate sinner become absolute; not until then, in any case, could there be thought to exist an absolute contrast between his intellection and that of the sinner. In the meantime, the regenerated man remains a sinner; no new faculties have been inserted into him by regeneration; and the old faculties, common to man in all his states, have been only in some measure restored to their proper functioning. He is in no condition, therefore, to produce a "science" differing in kind from that produced by sinful man; the science of palingenesis is only a part of the science of sinful humanity, though no doubt its best part; and only along with it can it enter as a constituent part into that ideal science which the composite human subject is producing in its endless effort to embrace in mental grasp the ideal object, that is to say, all that is. Even if the palingenesis had completed its work, indeed, and those under its sway had become "perfect," it may be doubted whether the contrast between the science produced by the two classes of men could be treated as absolute. Sinful and sinless men are, after all, both men; and being both men, are fundamentally alike and know fundamentally alike. Ideally there is but one "science," the subject of which is the human spirit, and the object all that is. Meanwhile, as things are, the human spirit attains to this science only in part and by slow accretions, won through many partial and erroneous constructions. Men of all sorts and of all grades work side by side at the common task, and the common edifice grows under their hands into ever fuller and truer outlines. As Dr. Kuyper finely says himself, [3] in the conflict of perceptions and opinions, those of the strongest energy and clearest thought finally prevail. Why is not the palingenesis to be conceived simply as preparing the stronger and clearer spirits whose thought always finally prevails? It is not a different kind of science that they are producing. It is not even the same kind of science, but as part of a different edifice of truth. Through them merely the better scientific outlook, the better scientific product, are striving in conflict with the outlook and product of fellow workers, to get built into the one great edifice of truth ascertained, which is rising slowly because of sin, but surely because of palingenesis.

Only in the divine mind, of course, does science lie perfect -- the perfect comprehension of all that is in its organic completeness. In the mind of perfected humanity, the perfected ectypal science shall at length lie. In the mind of sinful humanity, struggling here below, there can lie only a partial and broken reflection of the object, a reflection which is rather a deflection. The task of science is, therefore, not merely quantitative, but qualitative; the edifice must be built up to its completion, and the deflection induced by sin must be corrected. This cannot be accomplished by sinful man. But he makes the effort continuously, and is continuously attaining his measure of success -- a success that varies inversely with the rank of the sciences. The entrance of regeneration prepares men to build better and ever more truly as the effects of' regeneration increase intensively and extensively. The end will come only when the regenerated universe becomes the well-comprehended object of the science of the regenerated race. It would seem, then, a grave mistake to separate the men of the palingenesis from the race, a part of which they are, and which is itself the object of the palingenesis. And no mistake could be greater than to lead them to decline to bring their principles into conflict with those of the unregenerate in the prosecution of the common task of man. It is the better science that ever in the end wins the victory; and palingenetic science is the better science, and to it belongs the victory. How shall it win its victory, however, if it declines the conflict? In the ordinance of God, it is only in and through this conflict that the edifice of truth is to rise steadily onwards to its perfecting.

In the fact thus brought out, the ultimate vindication of the supreme importance of Apologetics lies, and as well the vindication of its supreme utility. In the prosecution of the tasks of Apologetics, we see the palingenesis at work on the science of man at its highest point. And here, too, the "man of stronger and purer thought" -- even though that he has it is of God alone -- "will prevail in the end." The task of the Christian is surely to urge "his stronger and purer thought" continuously, and in all its details, upon the attention of men. It is not true that he cannot soundly prove his position. It is not true that the Christian view of the world is subjective merely, and is incapable of validation in the forum of pure reason. It is not true that the arguments adduced for the support of the foundations of the Christian religion lack objective validity. It is not even true that the minds of sinful men are inaccessible to the "evidences," though, in the sense of the proverb, "convinced against their will," they may "remain of the same opinion still." All minds are of the same essential structure; and the less illuminated will not be able permanently to resist or gain- say the determinations of the more illuminated. The Christian, by virtue of the palingenesis working in him, stands undoubtedly on an indefinitely higher plane of thought than that occupied by sinful man as such. And he must not decline, but use and press the advantage which God has thus given him. He must insist, and insist again, that his determinations, and not those of the unilluminated, must be built into the slowly rising fabric of human science. Thus will he serve, if not obviously his own generation, yet truly all the generations of men. We may assure ourselves from the outset that the palingenesis shall ultimately conquer to itself the whole race and all its products; and we may equally assure ourselves that its gradually increasing power will show itself only as the result of conflict in the free intercourse of men.

Thinking thus of Apologetics and of its task, it is natural that we should feel little sympathy with the representation sometimes heard, to the effect that Apologetics concerns itself only with "the minimum of Christianity." What is "the minimum of Christianity"? And what business has Apologetics with "the minimum of Christianity"? What Apologetics has to do with is certainly not any "minimum," but just Christianity itself, whatever that may prove to be. Its function is not to vindicate for us the least that we can get along with, and yet manage to call ourselves Christians; but to validate the Christian "view of the world," with all that is contained in the Christian "view of the world," for the science of men. It must not be permitted to sink into an "apology" for the Christian religion, in the vulgar sense of that word, which makes it much the synonym of an "excuse"; and much less into an "apology" for what is at best an "apology for the Christian religion" -- possibly nothing more than "a couple of starved and hunger-bitten dogmas," which for the purposes of the moment we may choose to identify with "the essence of Christianity." The function of Apologetics is not performed until it has placed in our hands God, religion, Christianity, and the Bible, and said to us, Now go on and explicate these fundamental facts in all their contents. When men speak of "the Apologetical minimum," we cannot help suspecting that they have for the moment lost sight of Apologetics itself altogether, and are thinking rather of some specific "Apology" which they judge might usefully be launched in behalf of Christianity, in the conditions of thought for the moment obtaining. If such an "Apology" were identifiable with "Apologetics," we might well sympathize with those who consider Apologetics a department of "Practical Theology," and it is doubtless because they do not rise above such a conception of it that many encyclopaedists have so classified it. But the Apologetics with which we are concerned is a much more fundamental, a much more comprehensive, and a much more objective thing. It does not concern itself with how this man or that may best be approached to induce him to make a beginning of Christian living, or how this age or that may most easily be brought to give a hearing to the Christian conception of the world. It concerns itself with the solid objective establishment, after a fashion valid for all normally working minds and for all ages of the world in its developing thought, of those great basal facts which constitute the Christian religion; or, better, which embody in the concrete the entire knowledge of God accessible to men, and which, therefore, need only explication by means of the further theological disciplines in order to lay openly before the eyes of men the entirety of the knowledge of 'God within their reach.

It is because Dr. Beattie's treatise conceives Apologetics after this fundamental, comprehensive, and objective fashion, and develops its contents from that point of view, that we accord it our heartiest welcome.


*Introduction to Francis R. Beattie's Apologetics: or the Rational Vindication of Christianity, Richmond, Va., 1903, pp. 19-32.

1 Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid, Deel III, pp. 4 ff.

2 Encyclopaedia, E. T., p. 629.

3 Encyclopaedia, E. T., p. 151.
For further reading on these topics consult Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach by Vern Poythress, Science & Grace: God's Reign in the Natural Sciences by Tim Morris and Don Petcher, Creating A Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism by Peter Heslam which are written from neo-calvinist persuasion. Also Reformed Theology in America: A History of its Modern Development edited by David Wells which is an excellent overview of Reformed theologies.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Neo-Calvinism Part 2: Philosophy

Another aspect to Neo-calvinism that is detrimental to truth is it's view of philosophy. Kuyper is a leader in the line of thought referred to as presuppositionalism. Through his influence, men like Herman Dooyeweerd, Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen have built a system of confusion that has leavened so much of the lump that today it seems to be the majority report amongst sovereign grace advocates. Even in circles where his other views are questioned or denied, his philosophy is accepted carte blanche. This is evident in that the major Reformed Seminaries staunchly proclaim it and it is not unusual to see Reformed churches holding study groups on the issue. Presuppositionalism says that all truth must be presupposed and cannot be proven, as all evidence used to prove a truth must be interpreted by one's "worldview" and due to the fall we cannot interpret properly. They claim those who hold to the traditional Reformed position are using human "vain philosophy". This view, however, is the one holding to vain philosophy as it seeks to accomplish what no man can do and denies the divinely ordained order or means of grace.


Cornelius VanTil preferred the label of Transcendentalism to Presuppositionalism. This according to him encapsulated the view better. You may also see it referred to as TAG or the Transcendental Argument for God. At the root one must transcend the material world in order to understand it. The more proof you have for God, the more you disprove the God of the Bible. This is a system of confusion and as 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us God is not a God of confusion. It is ultimately a resurrection of gnosticism. Gnosticism is a heresy that has two main emphases. First, it says that the physical realm is evil and to be holy one must deny it for the spiritual realm. Second, because of the first, one cannot learn by physical means but must transcend to the spiritual realm for truth. Knowledge in gnosticism is intuitive and not learned! Thus, although gnosticism by definition means knowledge, it's knowledge is a secret knowledge known only to the initiated few, a mysticism that claims to be on a higher plane of existence than the rest of us. Examples of this include the meditationist whose "ohms" take him to the higher plane, the monk living in the monastery to keep himself from the the stain of the world and the charismatic churches that seek truth in visions and dreams despite the Bible's command to "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God"(Col. 2:18,19). God, in contrast, declares in his Word that "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge"(Psalms19:1,2) and in Romans 1:20 we read "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse". God demands two witnesses(Deut. 19:15) and has provided us with two witnesses to His glory in the general revelation of creation and the special revelation of Scripture(Deut. 4:26).


Neo-calvinism also subjectifies truth. Instead of being an objective goal, truth becomes dependent on your "worldview" which will be different for everyone. You even choose your own axioms according to this view. In contrast to this, however, nature teaches us the test for truth is the law of non-contradiction, the law of causality and the general reliability of the senses. Non-contradiction is a self-evident truth in that we know that God(or anything) cannot exist and not exist at the same time. The law of causality teaches us that every effect must have a cause. The general reliability of senses teaches us that although there are occasionally illusions and mirages, we can generally trust our 5 senses. We should start with these axioms and build the foundation for a proper worldview. We must in fact start with these because we cannot transcend to a higher plane barring divine intervention (2 Cor. 12:1-3, Rev. 1:10).


The most damaging effect of this line of thinking is that it dichotomizes faith and understanding and infers an implicit faith. Implicit faith is the teaching that you can simply state an agreement with something or someone although you do not understand it. An example would be taking your car to the mechanic and telling him to fix whatever is wrong with it. While this may be okay for your car, the Bible teaches an explicit faith or a knowledgable faith as is seen in it's equating faith with the knowledge of the truth (e.g. 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Tim. 3:7, and Heb. 10:26). Neo-calvinism is quick to quote Augustine's famous dictum "I believe in order to understand". Faith becomes void of understanding as one must believe in order to understand. What then do you believe? Is this necessary? Do I have to believe in the Muslim Faith in order to understand what it says or can I reject it because I understand it? The gospel is the good news unto salvation and is not presupposed. God uses the foolishness of preaching (1 Cor. 1:21)to open blind eyes as faith comes by hearing and is not a intuitive leap in the dark.


We do not worship an "unknown God" like the pagan religions (Acts 17:23). God is clear to us through both His creation and revelation. We must start where we are at and grow from there. Even our Lord God and Creator, Jesus as a man had to grow in wisdom(Luke 2:52). Neo-calvinism is fideistic and circular in its reasoning. It's anti-intellectualism left unchecked will cause the downfall of many Sovereign Grace Seminaries and Churches. For further reading on this subject, I heartily recommend Classical Apologetics by R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner and Arthur Lindsley, Reason For Faith by John Gerstner, Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul and from a different perspective, Where In The World Is The Church by Michael Horton.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Neo-Calvinism Part 1: Culture


Neo-Calvinism is a movement founded by the Dutch Reformed minister Abraham Kuyper. Although he called it Neo-calvinism, it was to him simply Calvinism rejuvenated. As an editor-journalist, pastor, University professor, political party leader and Prime Minister Abraham had many channels in which to disseminate his views but the clearest expression of them is in the Stone Lectures he gave for Princeton University in 1898 titled Lectures On Calvinism. To Abraham, Calvinism represents Christianity in its purist and most consistent sense, and so as goes Calvinism so goes Christianity. His purpose in formulating Neo-Calvinism was to make Calvinism an all encompassing worldview that touches every area of a person's life because there is no area that Christ does not declare "Mine". Abraham believed Calvinism needed it's own culture, philosophy and science instead of borrowing from the worldly presuppositions of unbelievers. I will examine this movement in three parts and discuss why this movement is a departure from the Bible and therefore fraught with danger. This first part looks at culture. For another excellent discussion click on the link at the title with the lighthouse.


While it is a truth that a Christian is to recognize Christ as Lord of every area of his life, and walk consistently therein as we are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" and "a people for God's own possession" (1 Peter 2:9) Christ prayed in John 17:15 "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one". We are to be the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:13-16). If we withdraw into our own communities and isolate ourselves from the surrounding culture we become useless to God as "salt that has lost its savor". On a trip to Pennsylvania , my wife and I went to see the Amish communities there. We took a buggy ride and the Amish driver candidly admitted that they do not get any converts from outside their community, but only the children they raise. The Amish are just a tourist attraction with nothing to really offer the world but a nostalgic look at the past.

Another problem with this mentality is that it can kill creativity and individualism among Christians with its focus on uniformity and bring with it a judgmentalism. The Amish believe a Christian can only adorn ones walls with things which have a practical use such as a calender. Abraham similarly believed art was to be for religious or edifying purposes and denied "art for art's sake". We see in Scripture however that God loves beauty and much of the decorations on the Ark of the Covenant and Solomon's Temple, for instance, had no practical use but aesthetics only. We read in Genesis 1:31 that "God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good" and in 2:9 "God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight" as well as "good for food". Ezra 7:27 tells us that God put it in the king's heart to "beautify the house of the Lord". In Exodus 28:2,40 we see garments described for the priesthood which were for the purpose of "glory and beauty" and notice God says in verse 3 that they were to use "gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom" to make the garments. Scripture is replete with examples of artistic talent and beauty. Leland Ryken has well said "(God) did not create a purely functional world. From a utilitarian point of view, God did not have to create a world filled with colors and symmetrical forms. He could have made everything a drab gray color, or he could have created people color-blind. Surely God could have made trees whose leaves do not turn to beautiful colors in the fall of the year, or a world in which all flowers are brown in color or grass that is gray instead of green" and he goes on to say "artistic beauty needs no justification for its existence, any more than a happy marriage does, or a bird, or a flower, or a mountain, or a sunset."(p72-73, Culture in Christian Perspective) Although art is ultimately reflective of God and is therefore ultimately for the sake of God, as is everything we do from eating, to using the bathroom to brushing our teeth, in the regularly understood sense, art is for aesthetic purposes and needs no practical necessity.

Finally this view fails to take into account the different cultures among christians themselves that are all equally following the Lordship of Christ in all areas of their life. Romans 14 clearly articulates this very thing as the church at Rome was struggling over foods and holidays. Paul says it is okay to be a vegetarian or a meat eater, to recognize holidays or have none but "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind"(verse 5). Some may argue that it is the weak brother that is the vegetarian(14:2) and so he needs to grow but this does not prove he is not following the Lord in all areas of his life. Also it is not always easy to determine who the weak christian is in some cultural distinctions. Are only weak christians the ones who celebrate Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving? Are only strong christians allowed to go see movies and listen to rock and roll music? Many other issues come to mind such as alcoholic beverage consumption and education whether it be public, private or home schooling. There is no one christian culture and to try and make one is tyrannical. It was reported to me that at a recent Vision Forum conference for fathers and daughters, a speaker at the conference said that all daughters are to be groomed for marriage. This is blatantly unscriptural as 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 clearly teaches that marriage is an option and Paul says it is ultimately better for her not to marry in verse 38. Like-minded people argue that women, as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7), are not able to go to college or hold a job outside the home. This is an unchristian philosophy often called "chauvinism" and subjugates women to secondary status teaching them to be ignorant and lazy and deny their divine purpose of being a "helpmeet" or "helper comparable"(Gen. 2:18). 1 Peter 3:7 could be saying that a man is to deal with his wife's weaknesses as Paul tells the strong christians at Rome to deal with the weak christians in Romans 14 or could be a referrence to her physical weakness as it is a biological fact that men have more muscle mass than a woman. Either way, it in no way encourages a woman to sin or allows her to stay in sin. Proverbs 31:10-31 and Romans 16:1-16 (many of whom are women)show women leaving their homes to labor. While many of these issues are not issues in and of themselves, it is an issue to make them issues. Galatians 5:1 says to "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." We must take extra care not to force our "culture" on others in a mandate or forbid theirs as "the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth."(1 Tim. 4:1-3)

For further reading on this subject, I recommend Culture In Christian Perspective: A Door to Understanding & Enjoying the Arts, and Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were by Leland Ryken, Where in the World is the Church: A Christian View of Culture and Your Role in It, and Beyond Culture Wars: Is America A Mission Field Or Battlefield? by Michael Horton also by Michael is a debate with Doug Wilson at on these issues.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


ARCHIBALD McLEAN (1733-1812)

I joyfully retract what I wrote about Archibald McLean in my blog bio of him at The Scottish Legacy part 2 on 11-9-06. Due to the inaccessiblity of his out of print works, I had to rely on secondary resources for my information of him and his writings. These resources stated he held to a doctrine of "baptismal regeneration" and I repeated this in my blog. Fortunately, the Lord has recently allowed me access to some of the works of this Scottish Baptist theologian. I have recently read his The Nature and Import of Baptism and found he clearly delineated between the sign and the salvation. If he wrote something else in which he changed his mind and articulated baptism as necessary for salvation I am not aware and would appreciate the knowledge. I have no knowledge of where the resources I used got their information and have no judgment as to their motives. They too may not have had access to McLean's works and relied on false reports or they may have honestly misunderstood something he wrote. There is also the possibility of nefariousness as McLean was considered a maverick theologian even amongst his fellow baptists. I have changed my bio of him and encourage readers to read the new bio and am sorry for the bearing of false witness. I also encourage his works on faith and the doctrines of grace as well as his work on baptism previously cited.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Lord's Supper

Our Lord gave us two ordinances to remind us of Him. The first is baptism, and the second is the focus of our current discussion which goes by the various names of communion, the Eucharist and the Lord's Supper. The institution is recorded in all of the Gospels, Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:14-23 and John 13:18-30 and was followed by the church as we see in Acts 2:42,46, 20:7, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 and 11:23-34. The focus of the ordinance is Christ and His sacrifice for our sins. When I say "our" I want to be explicit that I am referring to the elect. Jesus said in Mark 14:24 that His blood is shed for the "many" and not every human being to walk planet earth and again in Luke 22:20, Christ specifies "shed for you" speaking of His followers, which if you believe you too are a follower. The objects used to sybolize Christ are bread and "the fruit of the vine". The bread represents His body which was given for us. The fruit of the vine represents the blood of Christ which was shed for "many". Again I want to be clear The bread and fruit "represent" Christ and are not literally Christ. Catholics hold to a doctrine called "transubstantiation" which claims that the bread and fruit transform into Christ's body and blood when you eat them. Similarly, Lutherans hold to a doctrine called "consubstantiation" which claims that Christ's body and blood permeate the bread and fruit. Both of these doctrines are in error. First, Jesus instituted these while He was still alive and used bread and the fruit of the vine specifically for the purpose of representing His body and blood. Second, the book of Hebrews tells us repeatedly that Christ was offered once (Heb. 9:12,26,and 28, 10:10) and so this would preclude a repeated sacrifice everytime we observe the Lord's Supper. Third, Colossians 3:1 tells us where the body of Christ is presently, it is at the right hand of God. Lastly, common sense tells us that it is not flesh we are eating and blood we are drinking when we participate in the supper.

What Is The Fruit Of The Vine?

This question is often a divider amongst churches that would hold to other doctrines unanimously. Was Jesus referring to alcoholic wine or grape juice? Jesus specifically used the term "fruit of the vine" so that we could decide for ourselves what to use. Presbyterians, Methodists,Episcopalians, Lutherans and Primitive Baptists typically use alcoholic wine or offer both, whereas most Baptists and Pentecostal groups (Assembly of God and Church of God) use grape juice solely. Surely we are all in agreement that it is wrong to be drunk ( Eph. 5:18) but the small amount in the communion cups would not make anyone drunk. Some ardent Presbyterians argue that it must have been wine as they had no refrigeration in Jesus's day to keep grape juice and 1 Corinthians 11:21 says some were "drunk". This proves nothing ,however, as Jesus may have used fresh grape juice and the Corinthians were abusing the Lord's Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:21 clearly seems to be contrasting lack with indulgence. Paul using the word drunk in this context is not necessarily referring to inebriation but instead whereas some are hungry others are full. This seems to make more sense as Paul says not to fellowship with drunkards earlier in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and he does not say to cut the drunk ones off from fellowship. Primitive Baptists take a different twist and argue it must be wine because the bread used was unleavened and the fermentation process kills the leaven in grape juice and so to be consistent one should use wine. This is an interesting perspective but does not seem to coincide with the fermentation process as I understand it. In making wine from juice, cultured yeast is added to the juice similarly as it is in dough to make bread. While it is true there is an "ambient yeast" present in grape juice that will ferment on its on in time, processed wine usually uses a cultured yeast to both speed the process and control it. Also It does not seem that the process necessarily kills the ambient yeasts hence why wines get "better" with time. Therefore, unfermented juice seems to be more consistent with unleavened bread than fermented wine. Temperance goups argue that unleavened bread and unfermented wine (grape juice) should be used to be consistent and that we should not even have a taste for alcohol barring medicinal purposes (1 Tim. 5:23) and I am personally inclined to this argument but we must not be legalistic about this as it is a conscience matter. One last thing must be said before leaving this section. Some churches are using milk and cookies or even cola and pizza for the service. We must not treat this as any ordinary meal and cheapen it with silliness. Whether you use unleavened or leavened bread or crackers, fermented or unfermented wine(grape juice) or vinegar it is important that this be a proper representative of Christ.

How Often Are We to Partake?

1 Corinthians 11:25 simply states "as often as you drink it" again leaving it to the individual fellowship to make this decision. Some groups argue to follow scripture we must do it every week (Acts 20:7). This assumes Acts 20:7 is indicating the disciples did it only on the first day of every week and every first day of the week. These same groups ,however, probably do not continue there messages until midnight as Paul did. Some groups do it quarterly (3 or 4 times a year) or once a month so that it does not come to be treated as a common thing.

Who Can Partake?

As an ordinance of the Lord Jesus Christ only believers are to partake of the supper. To this I might add baptized believers as this ordinance should follow the first which is baptism. Some churches hold to a "closed communion" and only allow the particular members of that church to partake others allow for any visiting believer who has been baptized to participate or "open communion". Closed churches do so to prevent anyone from eating damnation on themselves ( 1 Cor. 11:27) but the key thing to remember is the man is to "examine himself" (1 Cor. 11:28). As long as the church is coming together in a "worthy manner" they are not to blame for any individuals eating unworthily. The "worthy manner" referred to is they meet for the purpose of unity in the body of Christ remembering His sacrifice for their sin. The Corinthians were treating it as a common meal and were not sharing appropriately so many of them were killed by the Lord or made sick (1 Cor. 11:30). Unfortunately, these passages have been so misconstrued that "for generations many in the Scottish Highlands have refused to receive the communion elements because of the want of personal assurance of their salvation. Although believing that Jesus Christ is the Saviour and the Son of God, self-examination fails to yield sufficient evidence of their election to salvation. Fearing that apart from such assurance they may eat and drink in an unworthy manner, and thereby incur the judgment of God, they abstain from receiving the Lord's Supper."( Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology p.7) Charles goes on to say that he had the same problem growing up in a Presbyterian church in southern California. Michael Horton has rightly said, "Some have carried this threat too far, however, using it as a source of terror for those who come to the Lord's Table as sinners. But eating and drinking 'worthily' does not mean that we are required to have pure hearts and lives in order to take communion. Not only is communion available to sinners; it is available only to sinners. Eating and drinking worthily means, at least in part, that we come dressed only in the righteousness of Christ."(Michael Horton, In The Face Of God p.20) Unfortunately, the other extreme is also happening as many churches are calling the Lord's Supper a "converting ordinance". They mean by this it is for unsaved people to either get saved or to lead them to the Lord to be saved. This is not scriptural! This argument is usually seen in paedobaptist communities that allow for paedocommunion. The scripture is clear that we partake of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him indicating a first belief and the partaker should be able to examine himself. Babies and very young children do not meet this qualification and therefore should not participate.

The Spiritual Presence View

In some circles you may here discussed the Spiritual Presence view. A big debate ensued between the Reformers Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. Luther's view of consubstatiation was covered earlier, but Zwingli's view is usually held to have been the commemoration view. Luther accused Zwingli of holding to a bare memorial rationalism and Zwingli in turn denounced Luther's view as mystical nonsense. Along came Calvin who tried to moderate between the extremes and came up with a Spiritual Presence view, which says Christ is spiritually present in the bread and fruit. Presbyterian theologian R.L. Dabney called Calvin's view "not only incomprehensible, but impossible"(quoted in Ligon Duncan, The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century volume 2 p. 447) and Scottish Free Church theologian William Cunningham said that Calvin's view was "altogether unsuccessful, and resulted only in what was about as unintelligible as Luther's consubstantiation. This is, perhaps, the greatest blot in the history of Calvin's labours as a public instructor" (William Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation p. 240). As can be seen Reformed theologians are not in agreement on this issue with some as R.L. Dabney, William Cunningham, B.B. Warfield, J. Oliver Buswell, Donald MacLeod and Robert Reymond tending toward the Zwingli side of the spectrum and R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton, Douglas Kelly, R. Scott Clark, Keith Mathison and Sinclair Ferguson tending more toward the Calvin side. There are, however, a whole new breed claiming Calvin's side but who in reality have gone far beyond Calvin in making the Lord's Supper efficacious for salvation. These theologians include Ronald Wallace, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Doug Wilson, Rich Lusk, Mark Horne and others associated with the Federal Vision movement.


Regardless of where your favorite theologian stands, at the end of the day all that matters is what sayeth scripture. The Bible, as already shown, clearly says it is in remembrance of Jesus. The greek word translated remembrance is Anamnesis, and means simply that to remember. It is the opposite of a similar word we have in english, amnesia, which means to forget or more properly, not to remember. Theologians in their doubt of God's word often degradate it by adding words like "bare" or "mere". Faith, they say, is not mere belief it has to be something more, although they cannot say what, and still claim to hold to sola fide. This same thing is done to the Lord's Supper. It cannot be a bare memorial but must be something else to them. I believe the bare words of the Bible are the words of mere God and Christ is His bare Son and merely believing in Him is the bare good news to the dying sinner and the Lord's Supper is a mere memorial to Him and this truth.