Saturday, December 08, 2012

James White's latest response to Stellman's apostasy

I have been busy lately, but I will surely resume my series through the New City Catechism when I have more free time.

In the meantime, Dr. James White with Turretinfan has recently reviewed Jason Stellman's apostasy from the Faith here, here and here. It is surely illuminative and sad to see someone fall away from the Faith, and may God bring Stellman back to the true church and salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 2

Heidelberg Catechism (HC):

Q26: What believest thou when thou sayest, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"?

A: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.

Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC):

Q4: What is God?
A: God is a Spirit,infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Q5: Are there more Gods than one?
A: There is but one only, the living and true God.

Q6: How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A: There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC):

Q7: What is God?
A: God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.

Q8: Are there more Gods than one?
A: There is but one only, the living and true God.

Q9: How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A: There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.

Q10: What are the personal properties of the three persons in the Godhead?
A: It is proper to the Father to beget the Son, and to the Son to be begotten of the Father, and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity.

Q11: How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?
A: The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names, attributes, works, and worship, as are proper to God only.

New City Catechism:

Q2: What is God?
A: God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal,infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory,wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

Q3: How many persons are there in God?
A: There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son,and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

We will next look at the New City Catechism in its exposition of the doctrine of God. Who is God? What is He like?

Before I start, a minor quibble I have is that the catechisms should ask "who is God" instead of "what is God." Now certainly as a subject we can ask "what," but asking "who" is certainly a better way of expressing that we come to God as He is as a person.

In comparison with the Westminster catechisms, we can see that the New City Catechism has much less in content, but since it doesn't claim to be exhaustive, that is fine. Generally, the answers are similar to the answers found in the Westminster standards. The third question of the New City Catechism is almost a verbatim quote from the answer in the Westminster catechisms, so no comparison can be raised on that.

Concerns are to be raised however at various points. First, when the New City catechism omits describing God as a Spirit, why is that so? Second, when it uses the phrase "creator and sustainer of everyone and everything" and "nothing happens except through him and by his will," does this not confuse who God is in se with God's work outside of Himself? Now, of course God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. However, the orthodox notion of God is that God is a se, which is to say he is complete in and of Himself apart from the creation. In other words, God's aseity implies that who God is He is independent of creation and not dependent on His works.

The Westminster catechisms therefore describe God by His attributes, not His work. On the other hand, the Heidelberg Catechism is not asking who God is, but rather who God is for us, and thus it describes God in His work for us. The New City Catechism however aims to answer who God is, and therefore is it very strange that description of God's Work is placed into the answer for who God is, since God should not be described by His work since He is not defined by His work.

With such concerns, we must say that in this section, the New City Catechism is inferior to the older catechisms.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Turretin contra Murray on the Well-Meant Offer

XXIX The promises of the covenant of grace are not absolutely and simply universal because in the Old Testament they were not promulgated to all (Dt. 7:7; Ps. 147:19, 20; Acts 14:16; 17:30). Nor are they promulgated in the New Testament, since it is plain that the gospel was preached successively and there are still many nations to whom that preaching neither formerly, nor at this day, has reached. Rather the promises are only relatively and limitedly universal from the twofold manner of the divine dispensation; the one external as to obligation (which is extended indisciminately without distinction to classes of individuals, although not to individuals of classes); the other internal (as to application and fruit) with respect to all and each believer, without distinction of nation, sex or age and condition. Hence frequently that universality is restricted to believers from the Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 3:22, 23; 10:12; Acts 10:43; 13:43; Jn. 3:16). And the nature of the promises (which can only be received by faith) demands this (Gal. 3:13; Rom. 4:13). Now all men have not faith (2 Thess. 3:2), but only the elect (Tit. 1:1,2). And these are the true and proper object of them, who on that account are called "the children of promise" (Rom. 9:6, 7).

XXX. Nor can it be said that the promises are universal of themselves and from the intention of God, inasmuch as God seriously wishes all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth; but that all do not obtain it, is accidental on account of the wickedness and unbelief of men, who obstinately resist the Holy Spirit and hinder his operation. For it is falsely supposed that God seriously intends the salvation of all; this cannot be said of those whom he reprobated from eternity and to whom he wishes to give neither the gospel nor faith, without which the promise can either be known nor received. (2) Although it is true that men resist the Holy Spirit and hinder his work, it is no less true that God does not furnish to all that grace by which the resistance of the hear may be taken away; that this is the special gift of God (Mt. 13:11; Rom. 11:7), which destroys the universality of the promise.

— Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elentic theology, 12.6. 29-30

Contrast this with John Murray:

(3) Our Lord himself in the exercise of his messianic prerogative provides us with an example of the foregoing as it applies to the matter of salvation. He says expressly that he willed the bestowal of his saving and protecting grace upon those whom neither the Father nor he decreed thus to save and protect.

— John Murray, The Free Offer of the Gospel. Accessed here.

Notice the careful distinction that Turretin makes. Turretin speaks about the free offer of the Gospel strictly in terms of obligation to all classes of people without distinction. Murray however collapses the decretal and preceptive will in the majority report he authored. While claiming the free offer is grounded only in the decretal will, by the end of the report the two wills are confused. While claiming it is to all men without distinction in the beginning, towards the end he speaks of God desiring particular people to be saved. All of such confusion coalesces into statement 3 in the conclusion of the majority report. Does God will the salvation of people whom he does not will to save, as statement 3 asserts?

Far better is the minority report, which preserves the clear precision that Turretin is known for. The free offer of the Gospel is not denied, provided it is clearly explicated in terms of God's preceptive will towards men in general without distinction, sinners qua sinners. Thus, God sincerely calls all men to repent, but God does not call anyone in particular sincerely. Rather, the offer goes out to all, and Man have to personally appropriate Law and Gospel in order to receive this universal Gospel offer

With Murray's confusion, is it any wonder when many people do not accept this doctrine? Irrationalism is a sin just as much as Rationalism. To accept an irrational doctrine is to mock God, and Christ who is the eternal Logos. Christian truth may be trans-rational, but never irrational.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 1

Heidelberg Catechism (HC):

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?

Answer: Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC):

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC):

Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?

A. Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God,and fully to enjoy him forever.

Q. 2. How doth it appear that there is a God?

A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.

Q. 3. What is the Word of God?

A. The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.

Q. 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are of the Word of God?

A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.

Q. 5. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

And now, from the New City Catechism:

Q 1: What is our only hope in life and death?

That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

I have placed the beginning section of the major Reformed catechisms together with that of the New City Catechism for comparison above. In the WSC, WLC, and the New City Catechism, the section on God follows after this, while after the HC, the explication on Law and Gospel follows the first two questions. The HC focuses more on the pastoral element of Man in his misery, while the WSC and WLC focuses on what is to be believed.

So how does the New City Catechism fare in comparison with the older catechisms? We can see the New City Catechism is much shorter, and question one is merely a almost verbatim copying from the HC. That by itself is fine. However, it is what is missing that I find troublesome.

The HC goes on from there into an explication of the Gospel. The WSC and WLC focuses on the basis for the Christian's confidence; his authority. For example, the WSC Q2 ask of us what rule does God give that we may glorify and enjoy Him forever. As the early modern period progresses, the whole idea of authority became important for the life of the Church. Whereas the HC could assume to some extent the authority of the Word, the rise of Socinianism and Rationalism in general slowly makes the issue of authority an important one to address. The Westminster standards therefore put in the beginning questions (or in the WCF a chapter) on the Word of God, addressing the issue of authority at the beginning. For how is it possible to talk about God when people cannot even settle on the question of the authority by which to discuss about God?

It is at this point that I think is a glaring fault of the New City Catechism. First of all, in light of the post-modern climate, the issue of authority is even more pertinent than when the Westminster standards were first written in the 17th century. If one does not address the ground of faith, does this catechism merely allows a person to have some form of the Gospel without the full-orbed Christian faith? In other words, does it continue the New Evangelical Calvinist focus on embracing the material principle of the Gospel while ignoring the formal principle of the Scriptures? Or is this ignoring the authority of Scriptures meant to allow those who believe in the insufficiency of Scripture Charismatics to jump on board while continuing to have their modern day revelations from "the Spirit" (not that all Charismatics are necessarily leeky canoneers)?

The form of a catechism is important. If one wants to go about it from a more pastoral point of view, go with the route the HC takes. If however one wants a structure like the Westminster catechisms, which focuses on instruction in sound doctrine, then one should do so accordingly. One cannot follow the style of the Westminster standards and then not address the important issues of Christian doctrines! The questions and answers do not have to be technical, but difficult truths can be expressed in simple terms as the Westminster catechisms have shown. At this section therefore, the New City Catechism is inferior to the older catechisms.

In the next installment, we will look at the next section of questions from the New City Catechism.

The New City Catechism

Study has been busy, so unfortunately I have not been updating this blog as often.

It has come to my attention that TGC and Redeemer Presbyterian has recently collaborated to come up with the "New City Catechism."

Dr. R.S. Clark has came up with an interesting review of this catechism (Part 1, 2).

In light of this trans-confessional catechism, I think it would be interesting to compare this catechism with traditional ones, which I will doing in the next few posts.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Cincinnati Reformed Church Planting

Here is a shout out for my friend who is thinking of starting a new confessional Reformed church in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. His website can be found here.

If anyone is in the Cincinnati area and is looking for a confessional Reformed church, please contact him about the matter.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Horton's review of Kingdom through Covenant

Dr. Michael Horton has done an interesting book review of the book Kingdom through Covenant here. An excerpt:

For the seriousness with which it handles the issues, its depth of research and analysis, its approach on many issues, and the respectful description of alternative positions, Kingdom through Covenant strikes me as a model for the deeper and richer conversations that we need in our circles. However, since I'm offering a review from a traditional "covenant theology" perspective, I will skip over a host of edifying discoveries and get right to the point.

If I understand it correctly, the main argument of the authors is that dispensationalism and covenant theology both fail to read the Bible in a sufficiently typological way (pointing to Christ), though at different points: an unconditional and inviolable promise of either an ethnic people and geo-political land or of a "genealogical principle" that underwrites the baptism of covenant children and a "mixed body" ecclesiology. Consequently, covenant theology results in a one-to-one correspondence between circumcision and baptism, Israel and the church.

[more]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Paper: Gender Roles: Ordained Order of Mankind towards the Creator

I have finally received back the last of my papers to be returned from last semester. The paper is entitled Gender Role: Ordained Order of Mankind to the Creator, being an exegesis of 1 Tim. 2:8-15. The paper can be found here. An excerpt:

The issue of women ordination in particular and women ministry in general is a hotly debated issue since the 1950s. With the rise of Feminism in the general culture, the Feminist movement has also impacted even professing Evangelical and Reformed churches. Numerous articles and books have been written on this issue, and it has generated controversy in churches and denominations. With the splitting of Evangelicalism into approximately two camps on the issue of women in the church, namely Egalitarians (“Biblical Feminists”) and Complementarians, accusations and counter-accusations have been made regarding the compromises and distortions of biblical teachings done by the other camp. Recently, egalitarian theologian William David Spencer has formulated a document entitled “An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity,” in which he accuses Complementarians of embracing Subordinationism in order to prop up their belief in the submission of wives to their husbands. Such a charge has been made before, and it is easily refuted.

[more]

Monday, September 03, 2012

Hymn: I Greet You, My Sure Redeemer Are

This is my modernization of the hymn I Greet Thee, My Sure Redeemer Art, as found in the OPC Trinity Hymnal here. It would be very helpful to remove as much as possible all the Thees and Thous from hymns, as I believe we do not live in the 16th - 18th centuries anymore. Also, does anyone know why the choice of a slow tempo for hymns?


I Greet You, my Sure Redeemer Are

1:

D G Em A D
I greet You, who my sure Redeemer are
G Em A
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
D Bm E A
Who pain did undergo for my poor sake;
D G A D
I pray You’ll from our hearts all cares to take.

2:

You are the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Your pure day.

3:

You are the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
O comfort us in death's approaching hour,
Strong-hearted then to face it by Your pow'r.

4:

You have the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness You have and no bitterness;
Make us to taste the sweet grace found in Thee
And ever stay in Your sweet unity.

5:

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Your promise free;
O grant to us such stronger hope and sure
That we can boldly conquer and endure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Response to Trevin Wax's "A Word to my Calvinist Friends"

Trevin Wax, whose blog is on the Gospel Coalition Compromisers (TGC) website, has decided to complain about the perceived "tone" of two 5-point Calvinists who have taken a stand against 4-point "Calvinism." Dr. James White spent about 45 minutes of his Diving Line podcast responding to Wax's whining.

While there are a lot of issues with 4-point "Calvinism," or Amyraldism, my main response here is with regards to Wax's mild rant and the attitude he brings to the entire issue.

Before I begin, let me first say that I don't know Trevin Wax. His person is not the issue; his article is.

First, we note that Wax wrote this:

Instead of asking, “Why do you reject the unlimited atonement view?,” the question is framed in a way that treats four-point Calvinists like they have simply failed to adequately consider all the relevant points. The implication is this: Oh, those four-pointers are good guys, but they obviously haven’t thought it through as well as we have.

No, my brothers. There are plenty of us who reject the traditional Calvinistic understanding of limited atonement precisely because we have adequately considered the arguments and have found them wanting. The reason I stand with theologians like J.C. Ryle, Millard Erickson, Gregg Allison, Bruce Demarest, and Bruce Ware is because their argumentation is more persuasive than yours.

Wax here is complaining about the language that Barrett and Nettles used, that 4-pointers have not thought through the issues clear enough. In reply, we must ask, would Wax prefer them to express their view in these other ways?

4-pointers reject the Bible

4-pointers reject the clear teaching of Scripture for their emotional feelings

4-pointers refuse to consider the alternative option because they are emotionally unable to bring themselves to consider the other option objectively

Positing a failure to be logically consistent is by far the most charitable judgment given to 4-pointers by those of us who are convinced of the biblical teaching of Definite Atonement. We are unable to say that Amyraldism in any of its forms is biblically warranted or legitimate, and asking for us to think of it as a possible biblical option with just as much legitimacy as consistent Calvinism is to ask us to betray our conviction of what Scripture teaches.

The problem with Wax is the absolutely emotional nature of his article. He claims that there are universal texts that Calvinists then are forced to fit into "tight, particular shoes." That itself is false. There are NO universal texts in the Bible. Just because he thinks there are does not mean that by fiat they exist.

Wax claims that he, along with other 4-pointers, have "adequately considered the arguments and found them wanting." No argument however has he put forward as to why these arguments are considered wanting. If really there is a known-down argument for universal atonement, where is it? Throwing big names at us don't mean anything.

We are not to wear our emotions on our sleeves, especially when we are dealing with what the Bible teaches. Wax claims that Amyraldism is biblical. Fine, prove it! If you are so certain that your system of doctrine is biblical, surely you can defend it according to the Scriptures? Instead of doing so, why are you whining on a blog post about you taking offence at a perceived "tone" of condescension?

That's the problem I have found with quite a few of these "New Calvinists." They always claim they are reading the Bible (so by implication are they accusing me of NOT reading my Bible?) and thus they found all these particular doctrines they are subscribing to. Yet, none of them that I have interacted with wants to interact with me on the biblical basis for their particular doctrines? You would have thought they since they are convinced of their views according to Scripture, they could defend their views according to Scripture? Nope! Its basically "Ego dixi, finitus est" (I have spoken, it ends). So are we or are we not trying to be biblical? Or does "tone" triumph over the truth of Scripture? Or maybe you are your own mini-pope, that your impression of what the truth of Scripture is is THE true interpretation of Scripture? Who is your ultimate authority in interpreting Scripture? Is it your own intellect, or the Holy Spirit using the means of the Church to sharpen our interpretation of Scripture and correct our blind spots?

The Protestant view of Sola Scripture does not make everyone their own mini-popes shouting "here I stand" and then claim that their conscience bind them to whatever interpretation they found through reading the Bible by themselves. No, that is Solo Scriptura. The Protestant view of Sola Scriptura states that the conscience of believers are to be bound to the interpretation of the Scripture they found through reading the Scriptures in the power of the Holy Spirit in interaction with the Church. The idea that anyone can just claim to "read the Bible" and then state that they have "adequately considered the arguments and found them wanting" is contrary to the Protestant hermeneutic. Whoever thinks their system is biblical, let them put forward their case and argue for it. The Reformed Churches and their descendants have rejected Amyraldism as error, while not considering it outright heresy. The onus is on those who claim otherwise to defend their positions, not whine about perceived slights due to our rejection of their errant doctrines.

So no, I will not defend my Amyraldian friends from the charge that your positions leads to universalism. To do so is ridiculous, since we are convinced that is contrary to biblical truth. If none of them desire to biblically defend their positions, perhaps they are not actually following Scripture but rather their emotional gut feelings.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"An Open Letter to Praise Bands"

Professor James K.A. Smith has written a succinct open letter that expresses the practical problems with most of contemporary worship in evangelical churches, which can be seen here. An excerpt:

Dear Praise Band,

I so appreciate your willingness and desire to offer up your gifts to God in worship. I appreciate your devotion and celebrate your faithfulness--schlepping to church early, Sunday after Sunday, making time for practice mid-week, learning and writing new songs, and so much more. Like those skilled artists and artisans that God used to create the tabernacle (Exodus 36), you are willing to put your artistic gifts in service to the Triune God.

[more]

No Compromise Radio: On the Elephant Room

The first episode of No Compromise Radio has finally aired. The issue is a bit dated, but the principles are still very important.

No Co Ever: Episode 1 from No Compromise Radio on Vimeo.

[HT: Aomin.org]

Saturday, August 04, 2012

James White on the liberal redefinition of terms like "hate"

Once upon a time, to hate someone means you wish them evil, especially that they die. Now however, the word "hate" has been redefined to mean "doing anything that makes me feel hurt." In this light, James R. White has done a Dividing Line episode on this issue, here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chick Fill-A, Political activism and 2-Kingdoms

Homosexual activists have been up in arms over the spin of Chic-Fill-A president's remarks re-posted on the Baptist Press. The personal remarks of its president has now created a firestorm of criticism from the LGBT and their allies, with threats of boycotts, demonstrations and counter-demonstrations from conservatives.

Politically, this whole issue is none of my concern. The focus of those ministering the Word is the Scriptures, not politics. I have no desire to take part in the "culture wars." There is the City of God, and there is the City of Man, and the two are not to be conjoined.

That said, it is naive therefore to think that those in the ministry can just play the 2-Kingdoms card to try to appear non-partisan. True, we are to be non-partisan politically, but let us remember that homosexuality is a MORAL issue first and foremost. Wanting to distance oneself from political activism from the "Christian right" does not give one the right to throw stones at them in the process. And trying to appear neutral over a moral issue is not biblical.

The question here is not whether one thinks that one should be politically involved in opposing the gay agenda. The question is not whether one desires to join in the latest skirmish of the "culture wars." The question is: Does one take a stand on the right to express biblical truths?

It is noted that in the interview, Chick-Fill-A's president did not even mention homosexuality, although it certainly is implied. The reactions of the homosexuals have once again given proof of the fascist nature of the movement. The homofascists are all about silencing opposing opinions. They are manifestly intolerant of all other opinions and desire to control the thoughts of everyone. In their twisted and warped worldview, anyone who does not celebrate homosexuality is guilty of "hate crimes."

Those who try to play the 2-Kingdom card need to really think this through. Does having a desire to be non-partisan mean that we therefore do not take a stand on a moral issue, which due to its nature has been very much politicized? If we do not take a stand on this issue, what happens when the homofascists attacked Christian pastors for saying homosexuality is wrong? Oh wait, it probably has happened already. Now, is that a political issue, or a moral issue?

Do our desires to appear non-partisan become so overwhelming that we therefore have almost nothing to say about homosexuality, since homosexuality has become so politicized? When asked about homosexuality, are we going to hedge so much and qualify ourselves so much, to the point of dying the death of a thousand qualifications, in order to try to appear "non-partisan"? Has the desire to be "non-partisan" becomes an idol in and of itself, with the pendulum swinging from idolatry to "Christian right activism" to idolatry in "non-partisanship"?

Taking a stand on homosexuality, and opposition to homosexual bigotry, is the biblical thing to do, regardless of whether it seems partisan. To be focused on the Scriptures and not be entangled in politics means one must be trans-partisan, not non-partisan. In other words, we expressed moral truths regardless of where they stand in the political realm. We should not try to express moral truths to appear non-partisan, and thus try to win over both sides by showing how neutral we are, perpetually sitting on the fence on such issues.

Morally, the homofascists are in the wrong. It is morally right to call out their bigotry and hate speech, and thus a moral imperative for Christians to do so if they have the ability to. This has nothing to do with being of the "Christian right." This is a moral issue, not a political issue.

That said, that is the limit to the Christian's moral response. After that is all politics. I am indifferent to the "Chick-Fill-A Day" campaign. I may or may not eat at Chick-Fill-A on Aug 1st. Being trans-partisan means that as far as I'm concerned, Chick-Fill-A is just another fast food joint which offers nice chicken. If I go, I go there for the food, not because they are for or against homosexuality. In this light, to boycott Chick-Fill-A because one is so fed up with the culture wars as opposition to the "Religious Right" just shows that one is not truly following 2-Kingdoms principles. Such a one is still reactionary to partisanship, and has not the ability to transcend it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stellman and the failure to distinguish terms

I have come to understand the gospel in terms of the New Covenant gift of the Spirit, procured through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, who causes fruit to be borne in our lives by reproducing the image of the Son in the adopted children of the Father - Jason Stellman [Source]

Stellman's apostasy from the Faith has been saddening. In this quote, one sees the failure to properly distinguish terms and the different stages of redemption.

The Holy Spirit does give us the "New Covenant gift of the Spirit" and so on. But the fruits of the Gospel is not the same as the Gospel itself. Stellman does not seem to be properly distinguishing terms and concepts, but just mix everything into one big blur.

Terms are important in theological discussions. For example, Christians have always believed in salvation by works — Christ's work, not ours. Our Spirit-wrought works are a posteriori evidence of faith, and therefore it can be said that it is a posteriori necessary for salvation, while for Romanists Spirit-wrought works are co-terminus with grace unto salvation. The usage of terms and the order of the stages of salvation make all the difference between orthodoxy and heresy.

It is not enough for Stellman to say that the Gospel includes all these spiritual things which he mentioned. Stellman has to show that this constitute the crux of the Gospel and not the fruit of the Gospel. If Stellman merely shows that the Gospel message includes all these in the text of Scripture, it would only go to show that he continues to fail to properly distinguish terms.

A response to the Called to Confusion's criticism of Sola Scriptura

One criticism leveled at Protestants by the new Roman apoologists is that there is no essential difference between Solo Scriptura (Scripture Only) and Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). This allegedly one of the reasons behind Stellman's apostasy, and likely behind Joshua Lim's and countless others' too. The sad thing is that the whole argument is rationalistic to the core and flawed throughout. As such, it shouldn't be given any credence by those who claim to believe in the power and presence of God and the Holy Spirit.

The neo-Romanist argument (Part 1)

According to these neo-Roman apologists, the difference between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura is that in the former, the individual is directly "acting as his own ultimate and magisterial authority." In the latter, the individual does so indirectly, by submitting "to others only when one agrees with them."

As opposed to these, the Romanist claimed that he submits to an "objective" church which is marked by apostolic succession. Such a definition of the church is supposedly "objective" without the subjective looking for the "marks of a true church" which Protestants use. The argument presented to prove his case is as follows:

1. According to solo scriptura, Scripture is the only ecclesial authority. [def]

2. If solo scriptura is true, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential. [1]

3. According to sola scriptura, Scripture is the only infallible ecclesial authority. [def]

4. If sola scriptura entails that each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential, then in this respect there is no principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura.

5. If apostolic succession is false, then no one’s determination of the marks of the Church is any more authoritative than anyone else’s.

6. If no one’s determination of the marks of the Church is any more authoritative than anyone else’s, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential.

7. If apostolic succession is false, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential. [(5),(6)]

8. The doctrine of apostolic succession is false. [A]

9. If sola scriptura is true, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential. [(7),(8)]

10. There is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura. [(4),(9)]

First response

Before we go on further, what are we to make of this argument? First, we note that God and the Holy Spirit is noticeably absent throughout the entire argument. The whole argument is naturalistic to the core.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)

To the new Roman apologists, the decision of choosing a true church and the true Gospel is an autonomous decision. Since it is an autonomous decision, final authority ultimately rests upon the individual. But Protestantism has never claimed that the decision of choosing a true church and the truth Gospel is an autonomous decision. Rather, it is something that is done by the Holy Spirit working within a person. It is not a choice so much as an acknowledgment of what is already there.

We believe that the true church and the true Gospel is extra nos. We do not get to choose it. It is objective and spiritual, and thus spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). The person of the Holy Spirit works within an individual's heart to recognize (not create) the true church and the true Gospel.

Thus, in the Romanist constructed syllogism, premise 4 is wrong. Sola Scriptura does not entail that each individual is his own final interpretive authority. The Holy Spirit is the only final interpretive authority. Yes, on the surface it seems that one person (e.g. Martin Luther) is the final interpretive authority. But that only shows that the Romanists are materialists in this regard. Just because the Spirit's work is invisible does not mean that it is not real. That the blind do not see does not make what those with eyes see wrong.

In the same light, premise 7 is wrong. In fact, it so blatantly contradicts Scripture in Jn. 16:13 that it is not funny. The whole argument for apostolic succession is circular to the extreme. Where in Scripture after all is the notion of apostolic succession taught? A dubious interpretation of Mt. 16:18 does not count!

This brings us to our counter-charge. It is the Romanists who are actually indirectly making themselves the final authority. The only difference is that their leap of faith is supposedly a final leap. Thus, as opposed to those who practice Solo Scriptura, the decision to make Rome the final authority is supposed to stop after they have made the plunge into the Tiber.

The Romanists claim that they submit to the church which objectively has apostolic succession. The problem is that the very notion of a physical apostolic succession is disputed outside Roman (and Eastern Orthodox and Anglican) circles. Therefore, one will only think that apostolic succession is objective only if one is in either of these three groups. Aside from that, upon what basis should anyone accept that apostolic succession actually exists and is unbroken (think of the problems posed by the Avignon Papacy)?

True, Romanism does not practice an individual choosing the church "acting as his own ultimate and magisterial authority," directly. However, it does involve an individual choosing to accept the claims of apostolic succession through "acting as his own ultimate and magisterial authority." In other words, the choice to think that there is such a thing as physical apostolic succession is a leap of faith to make, not an objective fact that can be proven.

Solo Scriptura and Romanism therefore are actually two sides of the same coin of rationalism. Both sides (the Anabaptist and the Romanist) refuse to deal with the person and power of the Holy Spirit. The Pietist decides based upon "a burning in the bosom," while the Romanist decides based upon alleged "apostolic succession." The biblical Christian however decides base upon the Spirit working through the Word. To use R. Scott Clark's categories, the Pietist errs with QIRE (Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience) while the Romanist errs with QIRC (Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty).

The neo-Romanist argument (Part 2)

The Romanists continue by claiming that Sola Scriptura is contradictory. Citing Matthison, they see a contradiction in saying that "all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture" (contra Solo Scriptura) and "Scripture is the final authority." It is then claimed:

But, if all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture, then it follows necessarily that either someone’s interpretation of Scripture is the final and authoritative norm of doctrine and practice, or Scripture itself cannot be the final and authoritative norm of doctrine and practice.

Second response

The problem with this argument is that it flattens the issues and thus present a false dichotomy. All appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretation in the sense that there is no such thing as an uninterpreted naked text of Scripture. This is mere recognition that there is no such thing as a naked fact or naked text. But this is not to suggest that since there are no uninterpreted texts means that all interpretations of texts are equally valid, which is the postmodern position. Rather, by stating that Scripture is the final authority, we are saying as a synedeche that the Holy Spirit who breathed out the Scriptures is the final authority, and the Holy Spirit works through Scripture (Rom. 10:17, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Romanists think that putting forth this dichotomy would mean that one should chose for the insufficiency of Scripture. But the same argument can be used against Rome. Look at Rome's decrees and how many different ways they have been interpreted. Does Vatican II implies that people may be saved by earnestly seeking God without professing Christ? Do the many interpretations of Rome's decrees mean that Rome is not the "final and authoritative norm of doctrine and practice"? Let's say Rome issued a decree to clarify what she meant, the process is then repeated over and over again.

In the Roman church, it is ironic that one gets to say that other fellow Romanists (espeically liberal RC clergy) are wrong. Why should one think that one's interpretation of Vatican II on salvation of those who haven't heard of Christ is to be preferred over the interpretation of liberal RC bishops? The dichotomy applies even more to Romanists, since it cannot be denied that there are many interpretations of Rome's decrees.

Final remarks

In reply to the tu quoque objection on the nature of authority, the Romanist claims that the difference between Romanism and Protestantism with regards to authority is that Protestants do not find a Magisterium and thus they retain ultimate final authority. That is a truly astonishing claim, because it is false. Reformed Protestants do have a "Magisterium" to bind the conscience. This "Magisterium" is the Holy Spirit. Protestants are not free to believe whatever they want to, which is the problem with Solo Scriptura adherents. And this is what makes Rome such an abomination — the Roman Magisterium usurps the office of the Holy Spirit in binding the consciences of Man.

The next objection of an infinite regress in interpretive authority states that one needs an interpretive authority to interpret another interpretative authority and on it goes. The reply by the Romanists is that such is true for a book but not for a person, since one can put a person in the dock but not a book. First, this does not work as an argument against Sola Scriptura, since the Holy Spirit is a person! Second, this still works against Rome because the Magisterium is made up of fallible human beings, whereas the Holy Spirit is infallible. Putting together a bunch of fallible human beings does not an infallible institution make. The way to solve a leaking bucket is not to put 10 leaking buckets together one inside another and then think that the composite bucket does not leak!

In conclusion, the new Romanist apologetic has been tried and found wanting. It is utterly rationalistic and materialist, making Rome a usurper of the person of the Holy Spirit in binding the conscience with her "infallible" interpretation, instead of the Holy Spirit's infallible interpretation.

I would rather choose the Holy Spirit as my "Magisterium." At least He is infallible always, sinless, loving, and true. These cannot be said of any human magisterium no matter how learned they may be.

Jason Stellman has officially apostatized to Rome

It has been in the making, but finally former PCA pastor Jason Stellman has announced his apostasy to Roman Catholicism. Stellman has fought the lure of Rome, and the Devil has won. The Church did not win because Roman Catholicism is a false church with a false Christ and a false gospel. May God be merciful to his lost soul.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26-29)

[HT: Aomin.org]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The issue of hell and eternal punishment

Over at the Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson reviews the impact of Rob Bell's heretical book Love Wins, one year on. Johnson makes some interesting points. What I would like to focus on here, however, is his claims on the issue of hell as follows:

If sound and biblical thinkers could be persuaded out of believing in hell, they would abandon the doctrine. Most people who hold to the doctrine do so not because they want to, but they have simply been overwhelmed by the biblical evidence. For me at least, this is how my thoughts go: “I don’t want to believe in hell, and I can’t imagine the horrors of it, and I can’t imagine how and why it would endure forever and ever, but the Bible is so clear that this is the case, and I am bound to believe what the Scripture teaches.”

Johnson's reasoning is true as far as it goes. However, I would like us to consider one very much omitted aspect to the entire doctrine.

Most of the time, discussion on hell hovers around the aspect of God's love and the necessity of the fulfillment of divine justice. But should we not consider another aspect, the wickedness of Man deserving justice?

God's justice is no mere abstract principle. Damnation is God's rightful and just response to wickedness. God is not merely someone who reluctantly just *has* to send people to hell because they have *unfortunately* broken God's law and thus justice must be served. No, Man fully deserve damnation. Wickedness is absolutely abhorrent to God, and wicked men are an abomination to God.

We shudder at the thought of eternal punishment, and to some extent we should. But do we likewise shudder at the wickedness of sin? Do we recognize how abominable wickedness is to God and thus God relishes to get rid of the sinners who are in their sins? Just as those in pain relish to remove the source of their pain, so likewise God relishes to remove sinners in their sins from His presence. Do we recognize how disgusting all mankind is, apart from Christ, to God?

If we cannot grasp this essential aspect of the faith, we will always struggle to make sense of hell. And without it, we do not understand why God seem to be so "cruel," and our foundation for a belief in hell will always be shaky.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Message Study Bible?!

It has been said that Eugene Peterson's The Message is a paraphrase, and thus it has no say in the discussion over translational methodology. Well, somebody should inform the guys over at NavPress then. Introducing ... The Message Study Bible which is described as a "best-selling contemporary translation" of the Bible, not a paraphrase.

I content that The Message, and others like them, are the logical consequent of the Dynamic-Equivalence methodology. Since only the meaning is important, D-E proponents can only object to the Message by disputing that the meaning has actually been properly translated and conveyed. But upon what basis are we to prefer their interpretation of the meaning over the interpretation of Eugene Peterson's? Peterson after all is not a mere layman and had taught at Regent College! Are we going to stay at the level of word games?

Only when we repudiate this flawed philosophy and realize that meanings are not Platonic forms which exist apart from words (and is derived from them) can we properly repudiate the Message as a distortion of the Scriptures. Words and forms are important, even though we do not translate them woodenly. If we disregard them as accidental to the meaning, as the D-E translational methodology does, we have severed the link between language and meaning, and end up with neither.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Is the Incarnation of Christ a paradox unresolvable by human reason?

In the Incarnation, Jesus who is God became Man. Jesus Christ became and is now fully God and fully Man, united in one person forever. Is this an antinomy (a contradiction) or a paradox (a seeming contradiction) unresolvable by human reason?

The reason why the Incarnation seems to be a problem is because we are claiming that Jesus is both fully God and fully Man. Jesus is not 50% God and 50% Man. Jesus' nature is not a combination of divine and human elements. Rather, Jesus has a human nature, and a divine nature, and both are full natures, not partial natures. According to normal reasoning, shouldn't the addition of 1+1 = 2, and therefore 1 over 2 is 0.5 or 50%? But it seems that in the Incarnation, we are saying that 1+1 = 2 but 1 over 2 is still 1!

The problem why this conundrum exists is because we have a faulty view of who God is. If God is truly a se, which is to say He is who He is, totally other from us ontologically, then there is no equation of quality between God and Man. God and Man are not two different types of being, where on a continuum God has the most being, and Man less being. The difference between God and Man is infinitely qualitative, not infinitely quantitative.

If God is other, then there is no comparison with us ontologically. Just as an x axis has nothing to do with the y axis, so likewise the divine nature has nothing to do with the human nature. God and Man (and the Creation) are not opposites in a spectrum, but opposites in kind. So when Christ is fully God and fully Man, it is analogous to saying that x + y = (x + y). (x + y) is fully x and fully y, not half of each.

The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore neither an antinomy nor a paradox unresolvable by human reason. It is only unresolvable when we we continue to think of God along Platonic categories of being, but when we alter our paradigm, the conundrum is easily resolved.

The pastoral implications of translational choice and philosophy

In preparing sermons, the preacher's goal is to exegete the meaning of the text in the original languages, communicate the sense to the congregation, and apply the text for the edification of the congregation. The choice of the Bible translation to use is thus very important for the task of preaching.

Since the goal is to exegete and expound the text, using a good translation of the Bible in the vernacular is very important. Practically speaking, does anyone wants to read the Bible text in, let's say English, and then correct it later in his sermon by saying, "Actually, a better translation would be ....," and then change the English text? Such would erode the confidence the people in the pew have over their Bibles. The impression given is that the Bibles they use do not actually convey the true sense of God's Word since the pastor is frequently correcting it. Therefore, what the Bible actually says is not available to them since most lay people don't know Greek and Hebrew.

But must the preacher change the English text? Since we are to proclaim God's Word, how can we not do so when something that the Bible teaches cannot be seen if one uses a non-literal translation of the Bible? Must we then omit teaching a truth of the Bible if it cannot be seen in a translation of the Bible that the people happen to be using? I hope not.

An alternative method promoted by the proponents of the Dynamic-Equivalent translation methodology is to use many versions and commentaries. Such would allow a person to get a much fuller sense of what a certain verse actually teaches. To this we ask: Is this even feasible in the context of preaching a sermon? Is doing a Rick Warren, in using multiple "translations" of the Bible, actually a good thing?

Utilizing many translations of the Bible in a sermon sound great initially. When one wants to teach a certain truth, one just finds the Bible translation that best teaches that truth. One therefore will not be seen to be correcting the Bible in order to expound the teaching of the biblical text.

Such reasoning however is flawed. First of all, not all Bible "translations" actually states what God's Word says. How can one know whether the pastor is choosing a particular translation because it happens to teach what he wants to say, which is not actually found in the Scriptures? Rick Warren uses "translations" such as the Message to give his teaching legitimacy, although the Bible does not actually teach what the Message claims it teaches. So how can the normal lay person in the pew actually discern if the pastor is using a particular version because that version actually expresses the sense of Scripture, or if the pastor is using that version because that version actually says what the pastor wants to teach regardless of whether the Scriptures actually teach it? To be able to discern, the lay person needs to know the original languages, and so we are back to ground zero.

The second flaw in such reasoning is this: How can one know which translation for which verse expresses the sense that is most accurate to that in the original text? Perhaps for one verse the NASB expresses the sense best, while for the next verse the NLT best expresses the sense, but how can the average layperson decide? In a sermon, presumably one can trust the pastor's choice of translation for a passage or verse. But not having any knowledge of the original languages, how can a normal person discern when he studies the Bible for himself? Use a commentary? So which commentary is the lay person supposed to treat as his personal magisterium to tell him what the Scripture teaches?

The fact of the matter is that the translational philosophy and methodology of Dynamic or "Functional" Equivalence actually erodes the confidence believers have in Scripture. It practically destroys the idea that Scripture is perspicuous, and creates new magisteria for the individual believer. Of course, the choice of a good translation utilizes the wisdom of scholars and theologians. But the role of scholars and theologians is to be an instrument to hand the lay people the Word of God so they can read it on their own for their own understanding. It is not the role of scholars and theologians to hand the lay people many "translations" and then tell them they have to return to them in order to understand what the Word of God actually teaches, since these "translations" are sometimes very diverse in what they claim the Word of God teaches. Scholars and theologians mediate the Word of God by preparing the Word of God in the language of the common people, and then the Word of God is to do its work! They are not to usurp the authority of the Spirit of God in making themselves the magisteria and the ones who will guide you through the maze of translations they have themselves created.

That is why it is very important to choose a good literal translation. The whole objection by the progressive "Functional Equivalence" promoters that all translation is interpretation totally misses the point! It misses the difference between lexical interpretation, which seeks to preserve as much of the original words as possible, and no-holds-barred interpretation, where whole phrases are interpreted according to what one *thinks* the Bible is actually teaching. It is the difference between holding that the Scriptures are above us and we should not presume to fully understand all the Scripture is saying, therefore preserving the text as much as possible, and between thinking that one has already fully comprehended the words of the text and thus is able to alter the words to make the meaning explicit. The former understands that our manner of knowing of God's truth is analogical. The latter thinks that our manner of knowing God's truth (not the content of God's truth itself) is univocal.

If we desire to expound God's truth while keeping the confidence of lay people in the Bible translation that they have, we should use an accurate translation of the Bible so that we do not have to change the wording every so often. True, some nuances cannot be seen because of the nature of translation, but it is one thing to explicate a nuance, and another thing to change the wording of a translation altogether.

Such therefore is the crux of the difference in translational philosophy and methodology. It is for the love of Christ's church that I stand for essential literal translations such as the ESV. We do not want any magisterium of scholars to stand between God's people and God's Word. True, God's people need guidance to understand God's Word, but guidance (through Bible study, tradition and their pastor) is not the same as being the foundation! We guide them by showing them how Scripture teaches what it teaches, and through the instrument of guidance the Spirit of God reveals the truths taught by the Word of God. Instrument is not grounds. Scholars, theologians, pastors are all instruments for the communicating of God's truth, not the grounds for its communication.

The Church must therefore seriously consider the Bible translation they are to use. Seriously consider the issue, so that scholars, theologians and pastors continue to be instruments for communicating the truth of God's Word, and God's people continue to be confident in their ability to read and understand the Scriptures.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Kong Hee incident: How should we respond

With Kong Hee and associates charged with financial misconduct, how should Christians respond? I have mentioned that we should first of all recognize that Kong Hee's teachings are false and contrary to biblical truth. Secondly, we should stand on the side of truth not blindly defending Christian pastors and leaders. Thirdly, we should recognize our complicity in tolerating this false prophet in our midst with our mistaken notions of "love" and "don't judge." Fourthly, we should pray for justice to be done, and for Kong Hee's repentance for his sins.

We should be grieved in our hearts over the matter. True, Kong Hee is a false teacher, but we should not gloat over his misfortunes. We should on the one hand be happy that the Lord in His providence has (at least temporarily) removed him from the scene through this scandal. Yet, we are not to gloat over his fall, no matter how well deserved it is (and he deserves far worse for his promotion of heresy in the churches). We are not like the unregenerate, beloved, or the Purpose Driven visionaries who throw people under the "Church bus." No, our goal is not the destruction of heretics but their repentance. God will judge those who persist in their heresies to the end.

So yes, in one sense, we can be relieved that God has temporarily removed Kong Hee from the scene. Yet, let us pray that this episode will be the catalyst for Kong Hee's repentance from his wicked deeds. Heresy leads to the murder of souls, and Kong Hee is responsible for the systematic murder of thousands and tens of thousands of souls. Just as God saved Saul on the road to Damascus, and saved wicked King Manasseh after bringing the Babylonians against him (2 Chron. 33:12-13), let us pray that God will bring Kong Hee to repentance from his wickedness into true faith.

James White versus Ed Young Jr

Dr. James R. White has recently did a Radio Free Geneva program demolishing Ed Young Jr's rant against Calvinism, which can be heard here. Ed Young believes that Calvinism is a different gospel from his, and I agree. Ed Young's "gospel" is indeed another gospel, the gospel of Sexpirement in which he and his wife manages to make Absalom's misdeed with his father's concubines glamorous (2 Sam. 16:21-22).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Word-faith "preacher" Kong Hee and others arrested

Word-faith prosperity preacher Kong Hee of the hyper-Charismatic City Harvest Church in Singapore has been arrested on charges of financial misconduct. How are bible-believing Christians to deal with this issue?

First of all, we must recognize the damage Kong Hee has already done to the Church at large. His promotion of Word-faith prosperity heresy and Dominionism has done untold damage to the cause of Christ. To put it nicely, Kong Hee is not a true shepherd of Christ.

Secondly, we must be on the side of truth. Christianity is not a party religion, where we side with our pastors and leaders even when they are wrong. Such behavior is more like that of a cult than of believers in Christ. Whereas the Campus Crusade incident occurred because of the malicious intent of non-Christians, this incident if true is purely Kong Hee's fault. Kong Hee was not hauled up for charges of preaching the Gospel or evangelizing people, but for financial misconduct. That charge alone if true should be enough to disqualify him from being a leader in the church, even if we disregard the other charges.

In the growing anti-Christian climate in Singapore, incidents like these give non-believers a chance to gloat, as if the failure of professing Christians mean that they are fine after all. The main problem however is this: Where are the Christian leaders who ought to have condemn Kong Hee for his doctrinal error even before other problems surface? Oh, of course we know where more of them are — keeping silent in the face of sin! The idea of "let's not be judgmental" and "what will unbelievers think when they see Christians fighting" etc ad infinitum ad nauseum. Well, if Christians do not judge sin within the church, the world will judge the Church when she commits major sins that even the unregenerate know are wrong. So Christian leaders and pastors, you want to be nice and be "loving" and not rock the boat? Well, I have bad news for you: God will use the world as His instrument of judgment. You think Christian critics (like me) are "haters"? Wait till you see how vicious the world can be!

In this time, let us pray. Let us first of all repent of our complicity in the sin, by keeping silent when we ought to have spoken up. Judgment after all begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Let us pray for justice to be done in this matter. Let us pray for Kong Hee's repentance of his many sins and heresies, especially his catering to his wife's rebellion in pursuing a career in Hollywood especially with her sensual China Wine MTV video [Warning: Very sensual]. May the Lord use this episode for cleansing His Church

Monday, June 25, 2012

Verbal Plenary Inspiration and the charge of worshiping the Bible

The charge against a biblical view of the verbal plenary inspiration (VPI) of the Scriptures has been that such makes the Bible a "paper pope," and therefore those who hold to that position worship a book. Against this charge, Gordon Clark has excellently refuted it as follows:

This caricature [by the VPI-denying liberals] stems from their materialistic turn of mind; a naturalism that may not be apparent in other discussions, but that which comes to the surface when they direct their fire against fundamentalism. They think of the Bible as a material book, with paper contents, and a leather binding. That the contents are the thoughts of God, expressed in God's own words, is a position to which they are so invincibly antagonistic that they canot even admit it to be the position of a fundamentalist [i.e. Bible-believing Christian].

[Gordon H. Clark, "The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark," in The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark Vol. 7 (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2009), 60]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Presupositionalism and Sense Experience

The Vantillian attack against Clarkian epistemology has so far seem to be based upon blatant misrepresentation and failure of logical thinking. One direction of attack which Vantillians such as Greg Bahnsen has advocated is the objection of sense experience.

According to Greg Bahnsen:

ARGUMENT I — Clark contends:

P1. Any position that leads to skepticism is false

P2. Empiricism leads to skepticism.

C1.: Empiricism is false.

ARGUMENT II — Furthermore, Clark argues:

P3. Man cannot know anything through his senses (from C1).

P4. Human knowledge is limited to the contents of divine revelation (The Bible).

P5. But man cannot know the content of the Bible save through his senses.

C2. Therefore, man cannot know the truths God has revealed in the Bible.

ARGUMENT III

P6. The only knowledge available to man is contained in the Bible (from P4).

P7. But, for Clark, man cannot attain this knowledge (from C2).

C3. It follows that Clark's view reduces to skepticism.

C4. It follows further that Clark's view is false (from P1).

[Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended (ed. Joel McDurmon; Powder Springs, GA: American Vision & Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media, 2008, 2011), 194]

The issue arises from premise 5. If Bahnsen has accurately represented the problem, then of course he is right in his argument.

Leaving aside discussion of premise 4 for now and granting its truth for the sake of argument, the main problem with premise 5 comes about through the confusion between senses functioning as the instruments and as the grounds. Bahnsen's error is that he does not differentiate between the two. For example, in justification the grounds of justification is Christ's merit, and the instrument of justification is faith. To confuse the two would be fatal, for making faith the ground would imply that our faith is meritorious towards our salvation.

Likewise, if we claim that the senses are instruments for knowing and not the grounds for knowing, that implies that knowledge is not dependent upon the use of the senses; only our process of knowing is dependent upon the senses. Therefore, both Bahnsen's premise 5 and conclusion 2 are amphibolies.

To clarify Clark's argument, we should amend the argument as follows:

ARGUMENT II

P3*. Man cannot know anything based upon his senses (from C1).

P4. Human knowledge is limited to the contents of divine revelation (The Bible).

P5*. Man cannot know the content of the Bible save through the instrument of his senses.

C2*. Therefore, man cannot come to know the truths God has revealed in the Bible without his senses. But man can know the truths of the Bible without grounding it in his senses.

With this amended argument, we can see that Bahnsen's criticism is invalidated.

The Vantillian critique should lead us to ask of Vantillian presuppositionalism some questions. Do the Vantillians mean to say that sense experience can help us to know the truth? If sense experience in some sense functions as part of the ground for knowledge, then Vantillianism does not have Scripture as its ultimate authority epistemologically.

To be sure, Vantillianism and Greg Bahnsen in particular claim that one must presuppose God and Scripture in everything. How this works out however is an ontological presupposition not an epistemic presupposition. In other words, all manner of knowing (e.g. sense experience, science etc) are legitimate tools to gain true knowledge. What Vantillianism teaches however is that these grounds must be ontologically corrected by a Christian worldview. In other words, a "Christian worldview" as an ontic entity, for the knowledge that comes from treating Scripture as the principium cognoscendi, norms all knowledge (viewed ontologically). But epistemologically, how one knows something is pretty much irrelevant.

Clarkian thought is true and proper presuppositionalism. Vantillian thought is presuppositional only in its ontological view of knowledge. In its epistemic grounds however, it is not truly based upon Scripture but regards all grounds and methods as legitimate as long as they are normed by a Christian worldview and thus presupposed God.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Christianity, Verification and Falsifiability

[Greg Bahsen in criticizing Gordon Clark's alleged rationalism] The regulative demands of logic provide an atmosphere that envelops both Creator and creature. Hence if God should wish to speak to man, His revelation should be testable by the fourth book of Aristotle's metaphysics. He should be able to pass the test honorably. As Clark sees it, the sinner is not furthering his hostility against God and His Word by calling His revelation into question and subjecting it to the criterion of logic, but rather has the right and obligation to scrutinize any claim to revelation. (p. 151)

The very notion of proving God's existence is inherently misguided; God alone is adequate to witness to Himself. All of man's interpretive and discursive reasoning must be self-consciously subordinated to God and the authoritative direction of His Word. If the truth of God's Word were Clark's absolute presupposition, he would not consider it needing verification, or God's existence needing proof. (p. 154)

We are led to believe that Christianity would be undermine if certain proofs could be verifiably formulated. However, Clark should have maintained that Christianity salvages logic, not vice versa. (p. 150)

[Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended (ed. Joel McDurmon; Powder Springs, Georgia: American Vision, 2008, 2011)]

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:12-19)

In Greg Bahnsen's posthumously published book, Bahnsen attempts to critique Gordon Clark's epistemology. In the process, Bahnsen showed an appalling ignorance of logic, misrepresentation of Clark's epistemology, and a misunderstanding of how Scripture argues.

One main critique Bahnsen has is that Clark promotes the fact that one can verify the claims of Christianity. According to Bahnsen, by making Christianity verifiable by logic, Clark places logic above revelation and thus is a rationalist. Scripture is no more the ultimate authority in Clark's system but reason is. But has Bahnsen even begin to understand Clark's epistemology, and even the basic concepts of logic?

The problem that Bahnsen has is that he fails to differentiate between verification and falsification. Verification means that one proves that something is right. If done via deduction, the form of the argument is some form of modus ponens. Applied to Christianity, verification would give an argument of such a form:

If X, then Christianity is true

X

Therefore, Christianity is true

Falsification however follows the form of modus tollen. Applied to Christianity, falsification would give an argument of the form:

If Christianity is true, then X

~X (?)

Therefore Christianity is false

The process of verification would make Christianity dependent upon truths discovered via either the empirical or rational methods or both. In other words, the process of verification would certainly make Scripture not the final authority. If Clark was indeed promoting verification, then certainly Bahnsen's critique would be valid.

The problem comes when we see that Clark is actually promoting falsification not verification. We can see this even from a quote used by Bahnsen to argue to the contrary. Clark is quoted as saying:

If the Biblical doctrine are self-consistent, they have actually met the only legitimate test of reason. This test of logic is precisely the requirement that a set of propositions be meaningful, whether spoken by God or man.

[Gordon Clark," Special Divine Revelation as Rational," Revelation and the Bible (1959, 37). As cited in Bahnsen, 151)]

We note here that Clark is arguing for the logical coherency within a system. Clark's argument can be described as follows:

P1: If [belief system A] were true, then propositions X, Y, and Z

P2: If X were true, then ~Z

IC1: Therefore, if [belief system A] were true, then propositions ~Z

[Consequentia Mirabilis!]

C: Belief system A is false

In form, such a reductio ad absurdum follows the similar form of modus tollens. In other words, even from the quote cited by Bahnsen, we can see that Clark is actually advocating for falsification and not verification.

In falsification, one can make Scripture one's final authority. In fact, unless Scripture is totally disconnected with the real world, Scripture must be falsifiable. Scripture in fact gives us a perfectly clear falsifiable criterion for Christianity in 1 Cor. 15: 12-19. The complex argument there can be boiled down to the argument that if Jesus is not raised from the dead, then Christianity is false and so on. The logical argument of this passage of Scripture therefore is as follows:

If Christianity is true, then Jesus rose from the dead

[Jesus did not raise from the dead]?

Therefore, if [Jesus did not raise from the dead], Christianity is false

The problem with evidentialism is that they argue based upon verification principles. Thus, they argue as follows:

If Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is true

Jesus rose from the dead

Christianity is true

Such an argument makes something other than God's revelation the ultimate authority, and is in fact false since the first premise is not necessarily true.

Christianity therefore must be a falsifiable religion. Clark is perfectly consistent in stating that Scripture is the final authority and also claiming that Scripture could be tested for its consistency.

Bahnsen's critique simultaneously reveals the problem with the Van Tillian approach. If one claims that one must subordinate logic to revelation epistemology (as opposed to ontologically), then one is saying that Christianity is non-falsifiable. For revelation to be primary epistemologically means that Scripture is beyond all means of testing. In other words, Van Tillians such as Bahnsen are logically committed to saying that even if Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity is still true, since after all we cannot elevate "facts" above Scripture. This sort of fideism makes Christianity no different from all other mystery religions that are disconnected from this world. Of course, Van Tillians are not consistent with their professed epistemology, and still believe the teaching of 1 Cor. 15:12-19.

Bahnsen's critique of Clark at this main point is totally without any basis at all. Bahnsen misrepresents Clark, ignores the arguments of Scripture in 1 Cor. 15:12-19, and fails his logic. Christianity is a rational (not rationalistic) religion, and it can be be subject to tests for disproval but never proved.

Mark Driscoll: A Pile of Dead Bodies behind the Mars Hill Bus

Chris Rosebrough in his latest radio podcast has exposed *Pope* Mark Driscoll's tactic of "blessed subtraction." One wonders why anyone think that Driscoll is even called a pastor since his conduct here is more like a hired hand.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Christianity as Objective Truth

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:17-19)

...If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 15:32b)

A large segment of modern Evangelicalism is not only pietistic, but hyper-pietistic. Believes are not only interested in issues of practical living, and how to be "better Christians," but also engage in seeking after experiences from God. Christianity is reduced to feelings and morality and spiritual experiences, and the one over-arching value has become not truth but "love," whatever that means.

Recently, I was emailed by an Evangelical who was into the teachings of Emergent House Church mystic Frank Viola, on how to be "nicer" and "more graceful" in my interactions with others. Now, I would be the first to admit that I am not perfect; I sin daily. But the issue is not so much about my sin, but this well-meaning Evangelical has bought into the contemporary Zeitgeist and in the process distorts the meaning of "love." True to the pietistic streak, he refuses to interact with what Scripture teaches and instead views everything through the lens of what he thinks "love" is.

It is extremely frustrating interacting with such people. In fact, after this particular interaction, I am moving towards the opinion that contemporary Evangelicalism with its hyper-Pietistic streak has mutated into a form of religion that is antithetical to true Christianity. How can one claim to be a Christian and yet refuses to deal with the teachings of Scripture is totally beyond me.

In 1 Cor. 15, we see how Paul argues for the resurrection of the dead. In the process, Paul states the available options starkly. Christianity is an objective religion based upon truth. Christianity is not a mystical subjective religion. Christianity occupies the same realm of truth-orientation as all theories of ultimate reality do, and competes with these theories (scientism, materialism etc) as their superior. Christianity is a total system, not something that one adopts for its practical benefits. In fact, if Christianity is not truth (e,g,. if Christ is not raised), then we have hope for this life only (e.g. Christianity as being helpful for you in this life), and therefore we are of all peoples to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19)

If Christianity is a mere subjective religion, then there is no reason to be a Christian. Let us eat, drink and merry, for tomorrow we die (1 Cor. 15:23b cf Is. 22:13). If Christianity is the type of religion which one adopts because it is spiritual, because it aids morality, because it allows one to meet more friends and get a life partner, or for any other reason, then why be a Christian? Karl Marx called Christianity the "opiate of the masses,"and there is no reason why he is wrong if Christianity is that type of subjective amorphous thing that contemporary Evangelicals make it out to be.

A friend of mine claimed that she only believes in what she sees. And if Christianity is merely subjective, she is right. Christianity demands faith and calls for a response only because it is objectively true. If Christianity is not objectively true, it is not worth believing in.

Miscellaneous responses to Roman conversion stories

Here are some articles dealing with the recent conversion stories to Rome:

CTC conversion stories — AOMin blog contributor James Swan interacted with the conversion story of Joshua Lim

Dr. Michael Horton addresses the issue of conversion to Rome:

Part 1: Rome Sweet Home?;
Part 2: Which Church would the Reformers Join Today? Avoiding a False Choice;
Part 3: Who's in Charge Here? The Illusions of Church Infallibility

.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Follow up to Joshua Lim

Here is my follow up to Joshua Lim:


Dear Joshua,

I would prefer to interact directly with you. A setting such as the “Called to Communion” site is not as conducive for the type of discussion I prefer to have. Nevertheless, I will interact with what is written in the com box as it pertains to what I have written.

Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

You claimed that they are very similar, but ultimately it was the “Petrine office that did it for [you].” The problem is you have only Rome’s word that Peter was even in Rome, Rome’s word that apostolic succession even exists, and Rome’s word that the Holy Spirit intended successors to the apostles to be infallible when they proclaim doctrine ex cathedra. You also have only Rome’s word that the Petrine office is limited to one location. In other words, you presuppose Rome to choose Rome. That is hardly a good argument for why one would choose Roman Catholicism over Eastern Orthodoxy.

Submission to authority

You claim that Roman Catholics submit to an external authority as established by Christ. But how do you know that such an external authority has been established by Christ? Again, you presuppose Rome to choose Rome. Eastern Orthodoxy will dispute that Roman Catholicism is established by Christ because they have fallen away from the patriarchs.

Next, you misrepresent the Reformed and Protestant notion of authority. We do not submit to “his/her own interpretation of Scripture.” I am surprised and sad that you did not even get the Protestant view of authority correct. How can you claim to be competent in rejecting Protestantism when you cannot even represent it correctly?The Holy Spirit is the one who brings people into the one true interpretation of Scripture. Your view denies the Holy Spirit and prefers a material authority over a spiritual authority. You cannot claim that such is totally subjective since Roman Catholicism claims to believe in the person and work of the Holy Spirit also. Similarly, you cannot use empirical evidence to attack Protestantism since the same empirical evidence of diversity works against the myriad views within Roman Catholicism.

The question is: Did the Holy Spirit promise to guide believers into the truth? Indeed, He has (Jn. 16:13). Therefore, your preference for Rome has absolutely no biblical authority at all, but rather you presuppose Rome to choose Rome.

You claim that “the moment a [Roman] Catholic disagrees with the Church, he goes against Christ’s own authority.” It sounds nice, but the problem is that you have yet to define who “the Church” is. Is the Church referring only to the present occupant of the Vatican? Or is the Church referring to the Vatican at the time of the Council of Florence? What happens when popes contradict each other, which is what we see with Pope Honorious who was anathemized by later popes? Or as I have mentioned: the contradiction between the inclusivism of Vatican II with the ecclesiastical exclusivism of Florence? Who is right? Vatican II disagrees with Florence, so regardless of what position is taken, all Roman Catholics disagrees with “the Church.” You either disagree with Florence, or disagree with Vatican II. Or will you settle for chronological snobbery in saying that the Vatican at the present time is right by definition?

The Nature of the Church

You claimed:

I joined the Catholic Church because I became convinced that if Christianity is true, then there must be a way to know and submit to its truth in a more than intellectual manner. In other words, there must be a historical and visible Church that is in substantial continuity with the Church from her inception at Pentecost, through the Early Church Fathers, through the Medieval and Reformation era, until today. Christ, after all, promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.

The problem is upon what basis is this true? Why must there be a “historical and visible Church” &c if Christianity is true? You have further stated that Jesus has prayed for a visible unity, but why must a visible unity be an institutional one? I am united with my Baptist friends, even Charismatic friends in the Gospel, and such a unity can be seen in my fellowship with them. Why must I be in the same church to show forth unity?

Concluding remarks

You have consistently presuppose Rome to choose Rome. That is totally illegitimate argumentation. You have no real reason to prefer Rome over Constantinople. You don’t even have any real reason for not following Mel Gibson in his sedevacantism. Your whole argument is viciously circular, and the circle begins and ends in Rome, which has NOT remained the same throughout the ages.

Once again, I call upon you to repent of your apostasy from Rome. The Holy Spirit is available to all believers, and He is the only one who reveals the objective truth of Scripture to those who are His. You are sadly rejecting the Holy Spirit and rejecting Christ in choosing a material faith rather than one grounded in the Holy Spirit. For the sake of your soul, I implore you to turn from your present path towards perdition. It is not too late to repent now.


Ultimate, this is a spiritual issue, not a intellectual issue. Do pray for Josh Lim (and Jason Stellman) that the Holy Spirit will turn their hearts back to Him.