Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jesus Culture?

Bill Johnson and Bethel Church, while on my radar, have never been my focus. But seeing this post by fellow CRN contributor Erin Benzinger on her blog, especially this video, disturbs me greatly. Anyone with the Spirit of Christ in them should feel a gut reaction to the demonic presence in that video clip.

The problem with Bethel Church and Jesus Culture is obvious when we see that nothing in there has any basis whatsoever from Scripture, and yet these false prophets lie and blaspheme God and especially the Holy Spirit in putting words into His mouth, claiming divine revelation where none is given. The Holy Spirit speaks (present tense) in Scripture and through Scripture, not apart from it. To claim divine revelation from God where none is given is the height of hubris, and anyone who knows their Bible knows what false prophets deserve from God.

There are many watchbloggers I am sure who are busy exposing the errors of Bill Johnson and the "New Apostolic Reformation." But we can discount all their heresies at its root: the charismatic claim of new revelation. God has revealed to us how He has and how He will reveal Himself to us (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). God will never contradict Himself. Since God has already told us how He has and will reveal Himself to us, to claim knowledge of God and His Will from any other source is to call God a liar. God will NEVER give us any more new revelation, because God does not contradict Himself. God has NOT given those visions to Kim Walker-Smith, for He will never promise us one thing in His Word and do another thing altogether just for her. Therefore Kim Walker-Smith is being deceived and not telling the truth. The entire Bethel and Jesus Culture movement is built upon something other than God, and we know there are essentially only 2 sources of supernatural power and visions in this world.

There is nothing much we Christians can do except to pray and evangelize. We should not treat these people as Christians, as they are even more deceived than the Roman Church is. At least the Roman communion strive for biblical accuracy, although they will never achieve it since they interpret Scripture through their (false) traditions. Those who belong to the NAR and the Bethel/ Jesus Culture movement are to be treated as objects for evangelism, and treated as worshipers of another God, for that is what they are in truth.

Reformation, Lent and the Church Calendar

Over on the Gospel Coalition, New Calvinist Colin Hansen has posted on the topic of the church calendar in general and Lent in particular. The overall slant of the article is towards the celebration of Lent, while giving room for Ligon Duncun to voice the lone case against the celebration of Lent. Given that people like Hansen are low church baptists, it is interesting to see them adopt what is essentially a high church ritual, but I digress,

The main argument brought up by Hansen is the idea that all churches practice a church calendar, just as all churches practice a liturgy (which is after all an 'order of service'). Since all churches practice a church calendar, the argument goes, why should we be against the celebration of Lent, especially since many churches celebrate Christmas and Easter as well?

Now, it is true that many low church Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, and yet are against the celebration of Lent. But this is not the historic Reformed position. The Reformed with the Regulative Principle of Worship removed the celebration of Christmas and Easter, and all other holy days, as can be seen in the Westminster Directory for Public Worship:

There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath. Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued. (Appendix)

The Reformed see that proper worship is to be centered upon the 52 Lord's Days per year, with the ceasing of all other holy days, which necessarily means removing the celebration of Christmas and Easter. Now of course, such did not happen in the Dutch churches for instance, because of various reasons including the fact that people do want to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

So, yes, Hansen is right in saying that all churches have a calendar. The Reformed at their best however see the calendar as speaking of the celebration of 52 Lord's Days, which are our "holy days." We can say that we have a "church calendar," but it is a church calendar centered around the 7 day creation week, not the circuit of the earth around the sun.

Now I personally have no issue with people wishing to celebrate Christmas or Easter, if they are not done as holy days. By all means people may decide in their personal piety to celebrate Christmas and Easter, but that is different from saying that the Church should celebrate them. Likewise, if some people want to fast during Lent season, that is their own prerogative. But Christians can fast any time they wish to, not just during the Lenten season. And Christians should be meditating upon the death and sacrifice of our Lord every time they partake of the Lord's Supper, which should be done frequently, not just during Lent leading up to Good Friday and Easter. So while I do think believers could choose to fast, and meditate upon Christ's death and sacrifice during the Lenten season, I do not see why they should be doing so, since they should be meditating upon it everytime they partake upon the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Instead of celebrating popish feasts like Lent, why not have a proper church service with frequent celebration of the Lord's Supper? Perhaps the impetus for the promotion of Lent is the fact that many evangelical church services have lost all sense of the sacred, and are more like rock concerts instead of covenantal meetings with our holy God.

Friday, February 22, 2013

DGM, Reformed and Charismatic?

There is a recent session at the Desiring God Conference 2013 where the speaker Tope Koleoso attempts to argue for his case that Reformed people should be Charismatics. The Cripplegate has analyzed his talk (Part 1, 2, 3), while Dr. R Sott Clark has responded to it from a historical point of view.

Perhaps the greatest issue that irks me about all these Charismatic arguments is that almost all of them totally misrepresent the opposing side. To disagree with Cessationism is one thing; to misrepresent it is another. I admit my still limited exposure to Charismatics, but I have not yet found one Charismatic who has adequately represented the Cessationist argument in its strongest form, and then show why he rejects it. Instead, we are treated to trite nonsense like "Cessationists fear the Holy Spirit." If I want to be polemical, I could very well state that Charismatics like Koleoso probably believes in a different Spirit than the one I and other cessationists believe in, because his description of the Holy Spirit certainly does not seem like the person I see described in the Scriptures. So I could very well counter that cessationists do not fear the Holy Spirit; we just fear that the Spirit Koleoso described is not the Holy Spirit at all.

There are many reasons why Reformed Christianity is antithetical to Charismatism, reasons which I cannot do justice to in this short post. My main contention has always been that Reformed Christianity believes in Sola Scriptura, particularly its teaching on the sufficiency of Scripture and thus the sufficiency of the means of grace ordained in God's Word for our growth in Chris, while Charismatism in every form denies this to some extent. In Charismatism, Scripture is not sufficient for the Christian life, for extra revelation of some sort (e.g. prophecy, word of knowledge, interpreted tongues) is necessary for the Christian life. Granted, reformed Charismatics do not consider such revelations on the same level as Scripture, but still they are considered necessary for the Christian life in some sense. In practice, the ordinary means of grace are deemed to be insufficient for the Christian walk. Rather, Charismatism must in some sense add practices like receiving "word of prophecy," "speaking in tongues," "dreams," "vision" etc as being needed for the Christian walk, even if they are needed merely to "enhance" one's spiritual walk. Charismatism therefore has a denial of the fullness of Sola Scriptura inherent within it. They could very well hold to parts of Sola Scriptura or even most of it, but in the final analysis they must depart from the Reformation slogan of Sola Scriptura, or cease being Charismatic in any real sense of the term.

There is thus no way for Reformed Christians to be Charismatics, for there is a fundamental difference between the two beliefs. Reformed Christianity cannot be reduced to the TULIP or the 5 points of Calvinism, for Reformed Christianity is not just Reformed Soteriology, but rather Reformed Christianity has its own pneumatology which is diametrically opposed to the pneumatology of the Charismatics. Koleoso's call therefore only makes sense in the shallow waters of New Evangelicalism, where doctrines are disjointed and not seen holistically.

There are Reformed, and there are Charismatics. There are 'reformed' Charismatics, but there will never be Reformed Charismatics. The whole term itself is an oxymoron, not even historically, as Dr. Clark points out, but doctrinally and logically. One might as well speak of a Oneness Pentecostal Trinitarian, or an Arian Modalist, all of which do not exist in the same logical sense that square circles don't exist.

Perhaps the day will come when 'reformed' Charismatics will stop having Charismatic altar calls. Perhaps the day will come when Continuationalists will finally adequately represent the Reformed objection to their position. But I'm not holding my breath for any of that to happen.

[See also: This is why Charismatics are simply not Reformed]

Sunday, February 17, 2013

NT Wright and the Hebrew Law Court analogy

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. (John 5:45)

Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:5-6)

In James R White's interaction with and discussion of NT Wright's doctrine of justification, Dr. White focuses on Tom Wright's idea of the "law court" analogy, in which NT Wright states that his "law court" analogy is to be that of the Hebrew law court where there is a judge and the defendant, 2 parties only. Dr White focuses on the idea of the newness of the New Covenant in his interpretation of Romans 8, in which clearly there is a third party, the mediator, present. From a Reformed (non-Baptist) perspective, do we or should we go along that line of argument? Or is there a better line of argument against NT Wright's portrayal of what the law court analogy in Scripture teaches?

It is my opinion that there is a better way to go about defending the historic reading of the law court analogy, through looking at the Hebrew law court itself. Is NT Wright true when he says that the Hebrew law court has only 2 parties? True, there seems to be only two parties present (the judge and the defendant), but is that really the case?

To truly understand the Hebrew law court, we must understand the Old Covenant. The Law or Torah was given by God to Israel. God's decrees, statutes and commandments were given to Israel as their covenant document (c.f. M.G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King). This was the way Israel ought to live her life as God's covenant people. Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant or the Mosaic Covenant. He was the mediator between God and Israel, receiving the Law from Mount Sinai. What Moses received was the constitution of Israel, the basis for all of Israel's laws. As John 5:45 assumes, Moses was the covenant mediator of the Old Covenant. He who received the Law mediates Israel's covenant to God under that economy. Heb. 3:5-6 assumes that Moses was a covenant head and mediator just as Jesus is a covenant head and mediator, and then contrasts the two mediators and the two covenants they mediate.

If Moses is the mediator of the Old Covenant with its laws, then Moses is the mediator in the Hebrew law courts under the Mosaic economy. Moses' mediatory office however focuses on the principles of works found in Lev. 18:5: "You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD." The Mosaic economy is strictly legal without mercy. The one who does the Law shall live, while the one who violates the Law dies. Moses in this sense mediates death. This is not to say that the Law is evil, as Rom. 7: 7-14 shows. Rather, because of sin and wickedness, all are under the curse of the Law.

Therefore, in the Hebrew law court, there are not just 2 parties. Moses is present as a mediator everytime the Law is used. The Law in the Hebrew law court therefore brings the mediation of Moses as the covenant head, in typological form, in its deliberations and judgments. If the accused is guilty, Moses "mediates" punishment to him. If the accused is innocent, Moses "mediates" life in the form of acquital. There therefore IS a mediator in the Hebrew law court, the head of the Old Covenant Moses. That is why the Pharisees could set their hope on Moses, while Jesus state that Moses will condemn them instead.

We could very well therefore grant NT Wright his appeal to the Hebrew law court. The problem is that Wright does not truly understand the Old Covenant, and thus his view of the Hebrew law court is defective.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Trueman on Confessionalism, and my reflections

Confessionalism (NOT confessionalization, which is the process of codifying church confessions) broadly speaking is the practice of confessing what one believes (Latin credo "I believe") and practicing this confession in church life. Church historian Carl Trueman has written on the benefits of confessionalism (here and here). In the first part, Trueman deals with how the confession without discipline is no real confession at all. In the second part, Trueman deals with the issue of having discipline without confession, which results in "the stage ... [being] set for potential pastoral tyranny. I would like to reflect here with regards to the necessary of confessions for the discipline of the church.

In churches which focus more on emotions and de-emphasize doctrine, problems related to doctrinal teaching within the church will not surface. Such a church however is not functioning as one, and will easily go astray, as being officially not concerned about doctrine just means that that church will fall prey to every wind of doctrine that comes its way.

Where there is doctrinal concern, what will happen however when doctrines are being introduced into the church by those not part of its "core" leadership? For example, if someone comes in and strongly advocates for Young-earth Creationism, while the church leadership does not take a position on the issue, can the church leadership stop the person from doing so? Upon what basis can they tell anyone to not teach doctrine X, where X can refer to any doctrine under the sun? The answer is that biblically, if they do not take a stand on the issue, they have no basis to forbid anyone to teach doctrine X. If the church does not state that this position is unbiblical, they have no right to forbid its teaching. To do otherwise is pastoral tyranny which is sin that needs to be repented of.

The benefits of confessionalism is that it functions as a basis for managing the teaching of doctrine. Abiding by one's confession means that one has an objective standard to allow or disallow the teaching of diverse doctrines. Doctrines not condemned by creeds and confessions that the church subscribes to have to be tolerated within the church. The pastor could very well disagree with it, and speak against it, but he has no right to forbid it. For example, both supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism are to be tolerated in Reformed churches, since the Reformed confessions do not take a side on this issue. To censure an elder for teaching infralapsarianism when one is supralapsarian, or vice versa, is tyranny, for going beyond what the church considers as orthodoxy and imposing it on your Christian brother.

Confessionalism helps safeguard orthodoxy and safeguards what is considers necessary for the functioning of the church. To the extent that churches desire discipline within the church but is not confessional, to that extent the discipline process in the church is ripe for pastoral abuse and tyranny. Furthermore, since discipline does not pertain to doctrine only, churches that desire to practice discipline without being confessional are extremely susceptible to all manner of abuse by those in leadership not only in discipline of doctrine but also in discipline of the (moral) lives of their congregation, and in conflict resolutions and counseling too.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

No Compromise Ever: Episode 2

Erin Benzinger has posted the link to the second episode of the No Compromise Podcast, which focuses on the topic of Sola Scriptura, mysticism, and some interactions with John Eldrige's idea of masculinity.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Justification Debate: White vs Wright

On Unbeliever radio, James R White debated N.T. Wright on the issue of justification recently, which can be heard here. Dr. White has also started a discussion of NT Wright's JETS article on his Dividing Line here.

ADD: The second discussion by Dr. White on the JETS article can be heard here.

NT Wright wrong on the person and work of Christ?

Is NT Wright right on the person and work of Christ? While he strongly defends the resurrection, there may be more to Wright's Christology than meets the eye, as Rachel Miller muses.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Paper: James 5:1-6— An NT Imprecation Against Injustice

A paper of mine on James 6:1-6 has just been returned. It is entitled James 5:1-6— An NT Imprecation Against Injustice, and can be accessed here. An excerpt:

The motif of wealth and poverty has occupied the attention of Liberation theologians, and is in fact their central dogma through which all of theology and life is seen and interpreted.1 God is seen as the advocate of the poor, and He personally opposes the capitalist rich. In this light, the passage of James 5: 1-6, among other texts in James, is seen to function as a prophetic denunciation of the evil and rich bourgeois who oppress the poor, and as a call for us to take up the cause of the poor. ... [more]

Monday, February 04, 2013

The 20th century Reformed downgrade

Dr. R. Scott Clark has an interesting post on his Heidelblog on why the doctrine of republication (the Mosaic Law as a republication of the Covenant of Works) is controversial today. It is interesting in this regard to see how there has been a serious downgrade in Reformed theology in the 20th century, of which Dr. Clark puts the blame at least partly on Karl Barth's "reformed" theology, especially it seems as mediated by people like G.C. Berkouwer. While I have no doubt Barth and Berkouwer has sent Reformed theology on a downward spiral, I am perhaps not convinced that people like Cornelius Van Til did not in some way contribute to the downgrade in Reformed theology.

That there is a downgrade in Reformed theology in the 20th century seems to be indisputable. Speaking from experience, I did not learn republication from Kline. I had some idea of republication from my meditation on the Scriptures in light of covenant theology as taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith, and then the concept crystallized through reading Herman Witsius' The Economy of the Covenants. It was surprising to me personally when I found out it was controversial. One would have taught that if something is explicitly taught in the WCF, which is subscribed to by Presbyterians, it should not be controversial in Presbyterian circles.

Back to the issue. The Reformed downgrade it seems starts with Karl Barth, the "reformed" revisionist, and his sympathizers. At around the same time, the form of Reformed theology was held to by people like Van Til, but it is coupled with a fondness for innovation and re-interpreting doctrine according to what they think the doctrine means for the modern age. Thus, the archetypal/ ectypal distinction was "transformed," or distorted, into the idea of analogical knowledge which has no point of contact between God and Man. The fondness for innovation in light of the Dispensational challenge caused John Murray to emphasize the unity of the covenants to the formal denial of the Covenant of Works. With Kuyper's unique model, some of those after him ran off with his idea of antithesis to deny common (providential) grace and thus the idea of the common realm of creation, while others so accentuate common grace they practically capitulated to the Zeitgeist. And all the while, monocovenantalism crept in through introducing confusion over Law and Gospel from the pens of Karl Barth, Daniel Fuller, John Piper, Herman Hoeksema, Norman Shepherd among others.

We must recover Reformed Orthodoxy. Not because Reformed Orthodoxy is perfect, but there can be no talk about progressing above them until we have reached their level. In some way, recovering Reformed Orthodoxy helps ameliorates the problems with Vantillianism, and in so doing I am hopeful it will be able to resolve the Clark-Van Til controversy by affirming the good points of each, and rejecting the excesses of the other.

W Robert Godfrey on the Inventions of Rome

Modern Reformation/ White Horse Inn has done a 2 part interview with my seminary president Dr. W Robert Godfrey on the topic of Roman Catholicism. In light of the apostasy of people like Jason Stellman and the fervor of Roman apologists, this is a pertinent subject.