Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Repost: Excerpts from the article The Church Irrational

Reposted from Archive

Originally posted on the 26th June 2006.

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Here is my last installment from the book The Church Effeminate — a collation of essays by John W. Robbins. I would be sharing this excellent article written by John W. Robbins himself entitled The Church Irrational, which is also incidentally the last chapter (chapter 39) in this book.


Many observers have lamented [1] the lack of discernment among professing Christians, [2] the disappearance of "antithesis" in the thinking of contemporary Christians, and [3] the worldliness of the churches. ... (p. 631)

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... "Parachurch organizations", which ... others decry [for being the cause of the lack of discernment] are no worse theologically than the churches. The name of every erring parachurch organization can be matched by the name of an erring church. ... Let us recall that just as Marxists find the free market "anarchuc," and fascists find elections and parliaments anarchic, so ecclesiastical totalitarians .... find parachurch organizations anarchic. (p. 632)

... So neither organization connections nor motivations are the central issue; the important consideration is the message preached. The matter of parachurch organizatios is a red herring. If the churches do not proclaim the Gospel, God will make rocks preach. The important question is: What is being preached? ...

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The first cause of the lack of discernment

The Bible provies several answers to the question: Why do people lack discernment? The fundamental answer, the will of God, is an unpopular and unpalatable aswer, and modern man will not hear of it. ... "Whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes undiscerning." That is exactly what passages such as Romans 1 teach:

They are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their fooliosh hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. ... And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind... undiscerning... (p. 635-636)

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The consistent message of the Bible is that God gives knowledge and wisdom to those who are to be saved; and withholds knowledge and wisdom from those who are to be destroyed. [Follwed by quotation of Jer. 13:13-14; Job 12:13-25; Job 17:4; Dan. 4:28-29 as proof texts]

These passages clearly show that discernment is an intellectual function, and that God controls the minds of all men, giving understanding and discernment to those whom he favors, and withholding understanding and discernment from those whom he is punishing. (p. 636-637)

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It is clear from Scripture that all knowledge, wisdom, and discernment come from God alone. It is equally clear that it is God who withholds knowledge, wisdom, abd discernment from people. God darkens the minds and hardens the hearts of men; he withholds his knowledge and wisdom and sends delusions and lying spirits to men; he diminishes the ability of some men to judge correctly, not merely of those he wishes to destroy eternally, but those whom he wishes to destroy temporally as well: (p. 639)

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The lack of discernment is the lack of wisdom and knowledge. It is an intellectual deficiency. Professed churches and professed Christians lack discernment today because they do not know or believe the truth. They profess to, but they do not. Those who decry the lack of discernment in today's churches usually fail to attribute the lack to its first cause: the purpose, plan and providence of God. Further, they fail to indicate how God carries out his plan, how he darkens minds, how he withholds his light and his face. Objectively this darkening is the dearth of preaching and publication of the Word; subjectively it is the rejection of revealed truth, including, at the present time, the revealed truth about logical thought. (p. 641)

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Today, logic — usually denigrated as "mere human logic" — is suspect, not only in humanist circles, but also, perhaps even more so, in religious circles. ... But the effects of modern misology — the hatred of logic — have been far more extensive than the feminization of the churches. It is because churchofficers and churchgoers disdain "mere human logic" that systematic theology is de-emphasized in both seminaries and churches, and unsystematic theology is preferred. It is because seminary professors and students detest "mere human logic" that "practical" books, and in seminaries and churches "practical" courses, are preferred to doctrinal courses. It is because church officers and churchgoers despise "mere human logic" that they prefer "continuum thinking" to making distinctions and judgments. ... It is because church officers and churchgoers decry "mere human logic" that church discipline has disappeared, for the exercise of just discipline requires the most rigorous application of our rational powers of distinction, and judgment. Church discipline requires clarity and precision, two godly qualitites decried by modern churchmen. Those things which modern churchgoers and church officers find offensive about Christianity— its claim to be an exclusive religion; its claim to have a systematic monopoly on truth and salvation; its insistence on clarity in written and oral expression; its demand for clear definition of terms; its demand that judgment be done righteously, according to defined and objective standards; its requirements that Christians discriminate between right and wrong, god and evil, godly and ungodly; its requirement that Christians be a distinct people, seperate from the world — they find all these things offensive because of their deep-seated and sinful antipathy to logical thought. (p. 641-642)

This antipathy is itself due to hostiliy to God, who is the Logos, the Logic that lights the mind of every man: (p. 642)

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The world and the wordly church hate "mere human logic," because it is the image of God in man, and they hate God: (p. 643)

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God's truth and man's truth are not two different truths; the concept of twofold truth, in which one thing can be true in theology and its contradictory true in philosophy, or in which two contradictories can both be truein theology, is medieval and modern Antichristian nonsense. God's logic and man's logic are not two different logics; the notion of polylogism — many logics — is nonsense. ... Since the Logos is not created, the light of the Logos, logic, is not created. Man's arithmetic and God's arithmetic are not two different arithmetics; the notions of many arithmetics is mathematical nonsense. ... There is no such thing as "mere human logic," just as there is no such thing as "mere human arithmetic" or "mere human truth". Man is logical because he is the image of God — he has the capacity to think, to reason, as God thinks and reasons. (p. 643)

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... Postmodernism in the churches — even many of the professedly Reformed churches — takes many forms:

Man cannot know God's truth, but only an analogy of God's truth.

Many, being finite, cannot understand the infinite.

God cannot be understood.

God is "Wholly Other."

Logic is created and is not the way God thinks.

There is an "infinite qualitative difference between man and God."

God's knowledge and man's knowledge do not coincide at any single point.

Truth is not propositional but personal.

God and the medium of conceptuality are mutually exclusive.

To think God is not to think God.

Life is deeper than logic.

Such pious platitudes are relativistic, agnostic, and Antichristian. They explicitly deny the central and fundamental idea of propositional revelation ... they make nonsense of all of Christianity, for they make it all unknowable. It is this rejection of the ontological and epistemological status of logic, this pious theological agnosticism, that lies at the root of the lack of discernment, the lack of judgment, and the worldliness of today's churches. (p. 644)

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Because we are creatures with the gift of rationality, made in the image of rational God, the Logos, refusing to judge is impossible. All declarative statements — the cat is black, abortion is murder, chocolate is poison — are judgments. ... (p. 648)

... There is no command in Scripture to have one organization or one institute, [or one emotion either,] but to have one mind, the mind of Christ. Christians are to be unified in their doctrine, in their judgments. (p. 649)

... it is not judging per se that is condemned, but judging according to the wrong standard. (p. 652)

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Paul continues his discussion of judging:

Do you not kow that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters [now]? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more [then]. things which pertain to this life? (1 Cor. 6:2-3)

Here, Paul expects Christians to judge; he demands that they judge. Paul calls men "foolish" (Gal. 3:1), "dogs" (Phil. 3:2), and "evil workers" (Phil. 3:2), as well as "saints". (p. 656)

... One motivation is quite clear: The moral agnostic wants to escape judgment himself. He thinks that if no one is permitted to judge others, then he himself will escape judgment. ... The proscription of moral judgment is a futile attempt by sinners to escape judgment. Paul says that moral agnosticism is futile, whether one condemns or approves the sinful practices of tohers:

Therefore, you are inexcusible, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn youself; for you who judge, practice the very same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? (Rom. 2:1-3)

One motivation that lies behind moral agnosticism is the desire to escape the judgment of God for one's own beloved sins. Its purpse is to allow the unrepentant sinner to escape uncondemned and unpunished. When a moral agnostic argues that we must not judge between good and evil, his advice, when followed, benefits only the evil and harms only the good. To refuse to judge righteous judgment is not neutrality or tolerance; it is an attack on the good and a sanction to the evil. (p. 656-657)

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Moral agnostics, like their theological cousins, do not state their agnosticism tetatively; they do not humbly say, "I do not know", for that would be a candid admission of their ignorance. But it is not their ignorance they are admitting. They are actually boasting of their omniscience. They are asserting that no one can know. ... They are very dogmaticabout their agnosticism. And they are very arrogant of accusing anyone who claims to know of arrogance and pride. ... (p. 659)

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To fail to object when error is being taught and truth denies is to condone error by treating error and truth as if they were the same. If Christ is under attack and a Christian keeps silent, he has not maintained neutrality; he has denied Christ. (p. 660)

Sometimes those who are concerned about the doctrines their church is teaching are told, "There are no perfect churches, so you might as well stay here." ... It is as if one were to argue, "There are no perfect women (or men), so it doesn't matter whom you marry." Or "There are no pure foods, so it doesn't matter what you eat." ... Foolishness in religion is a sin greater than foolishness in business or family. The stake are much higher in matters of theology than they are in matters of finance. (p. 663)

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Collaboration, unlike cooperation, requires unity of purpose. One may collaborate with persons unknown, say in a large political or social organization, but only for a common purpose. The principle governing collaboration is: Do not collaborate in any purpose, project, or organization that has a non-Christian purpse. We are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers ... (p. 664)

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Today's churches and churchgoers lack discernment because they lack knowledge and wisdom. They lack knolwedge and wisdom for two reasons: There is a famine of the preaching of God's Word in America [and in fact in Singapore and many other places also], and churchmen and churchgoers despise logic, clarity, definition, and precision. There is a famine of preaching and hearing God's Word, and a disdain for logic because God apparently intends to destroy us, either temporally or eternally or both. The only way in which to improve the situationis by repenting of the sin of unbelief, the sin of irrationalism, the sin of moral agnosticism, the sin of silence, and the sin of collaboration; by begging the forgiveness of God; and by asking God, who is truth Himself, for wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

6 comments:

Jenson said...

It is nice to see this post. What do you think of Gordon Clark, John Robbins and the Trinity Foundation?

I only have a couple of their booklets - mainly those about the OPC/Westminster Seminary, etc. I got them out of my own interest with Machen.

I have avoided the Clark/Van Till controversy in the past, but since you brought it up, would you mind giving me your thoughts on this whole issue?

ddd said...

I agree with Gordon Clark on certain issues, particularly those related to soteriology and epistemology. I am not sure about the rest. My opinion is that Gordon Clark, John Robbins and the Trinity Foundation are 'high Calvinists' in the historical sense of the term (holding to supralapsarianism etc.) They are not hyper-Calvinists, regardless of the slander heaped upon them by neo-Amyraldians such as John Murray, Van Till etc.

Regarding the Clark/ Van Till controversy, I have not read enough to comment. Both sides insists the other is wrong, though the fact that I take Clark's position on soteriology and epistemology (which was the topics upon which Van Till charged Clark of being unorthodox of) should tell you where my symphaties lie.

Jenson said...

I sent a comment a few days ago about the books you would recommend one read to know more about Gordon Clark's view. Care to contribute?

ddd said...

- The Johannine Logos
- Lord, God of Truth
- The Philosophy of Science and the Belief in God
- Religion, Reason and Revelation
- Faith and saving faith
- The Atonement

Jenson said...

Ah, thanks.

2 Q:

1) Have you read all of them?

2) Are they really as good as the publishers blurb?

ddd said...

1) I have read all except Religion, Reason and Revelation (only read one chapter which was published indepeendently as a booklet: God and Evil) and Faith and saving faith.

2) For those that I have read, I agree, although I wouldn't exactly promote it as if no else comes close to doing the work which Clark has done. Good yes, Superior? Maybe, maybe not...