Life, the Universe and Everything
Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are we here? What is man’s ultimate purpose? What is God seeking to achieve? Why did God make everything? In this audio sermon, I seek answer these ultimate questions and show how it is perfectly right for God to be about the goal of bringing glory to Himself and how revealing that glory to us is the ultimate expression of His love. - John Samson
"Circumcise the foreskin of your heart"
Question: "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn." Deut. 10:16 --> If God commands the Israelites to circumcise their own hearts in this verse and in Jer. 4:4, how can we reconcile these two verses with monergistic principles?
Answer: Good question.
Let me first answer with a question. God commands you love love Him with all your heart mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Can you do so apart from grace?
When Adam fell in the garden God did not change his holy standard for him or us. Although corrupted, God still commands all men everywhere to be holy, and he punishes men for not obeying his law perfectly. This demonstrates that our inability does not alleviate our responsibility - God commands holiness even though we are impotent to be holy. This is the whole point of the gospel where He extends grace in Jesus Christ - TO GRANT WHAT HE COMMANDS. And we see this very principle later in (the book you cite) Deuteronomy 30:6 where God declares: “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live."
He grants in Deuteronomy 30:6 what he commanded in Deuteronomy 10:16.
Remember Romans 3:19, 20 teach us the purpose of the commands in the Bible >>> "through the law comes knowledge of sin"... In other words, the purpose of commands is not to show our ability but our inability. Carried over to Deut 10:16 this means the command to circumcise our own hearts is God's holy requirement for us, but can only be fulfilled by grace.
God commands us to circumcise our hearts because this is his holy requirement for us. And then in his mercy He grants the very thing he commands (Deut 30:6). Jesus came to do for us what we were unable to do for ourselves.
As for Jeremiah we see the same principle, The entire book of Jeremiah is about a prophet sent to people who, God tells him, will not listen. "So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you." (Jeremiah 7:27) So the command to circumcise their own hearts is going to people who God declares will reject his message.
Like Deuteronomy 30:6, there are also similar promises for regenerating grace in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
Hope this helps
Question for Those Who Teach Universal Prevenient Grace
If God grants all men a universal grace which precedes, enlightens and enables the first stirrings of a good will or inclination toward God , all the time, (as some erroneously teach) then who are the carnal people described in 1 Cor 2 who have heard the word and do not have the Spirit to understand the word of God? (v. 14) And what of these passages which clearly distinguish between the gospel coming only in word and the gospel which comes in both word AND Spirit (1 Thess 1: 4-5; 1 Cor 1:23)?
"For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." 1 Thess 1:4, 5
"...we preach Christ crucified [outward call], a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles [universal rejection], but to those who are called [inward call], both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." 1 Cor 1:23
"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Cor 2:14
"But Adam Had a Free Will."
Attempting to demonstrate that man has a free will, synergists will often say that the will of Adam was free and there is no reason in the divine reckoning to change His design, that of choice on the basis of the free offer of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ who gives light to all men.
To which we respond, Adam existed before the fall so OF COURSE his will was not in bondage to sin. The entire debate about free will has to do with the condition of man's heart AFTER the fall. Indeed God's character and commands do not change but our relationship to them do. We now owe a debt we cannot repay. The Bible teaches that after the fall, the natural man is spiritually dead (Eph 2: 1) and cannot and will not understand Spiritual truth (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 8:7) until God sends his Spirit to change the disposition of his heart. Christ did FOR US what we were unable to do for ourselves.
Next, contrary to your charge ... we robustly teach that the church must indiscriminately proclaim the gospel to all men. We never said otherwise. But do so remembering that only God can open a person's heart to understand and believe it (1 Thess 1:4, 5; John 6:63. 65).
Sample Debate Between a Humanist and Covenantal Apologist by K. Scott Oliphint
A sample exchange between a humanist (H) and a covenantal apologist (CA)
H: So humanism, I think, is the best expression of modern science. It’s the scientific outlook, using the rigorous methods of the scientific inquiry in order to test hypotheses about nature.
CA: Well, I agree that scientific inquiry is important. Science depends on certain universal laws. One of those laws is that every event, everything that comes to be, has a cause.
H: Okay. Then I suspect you want to say, “The universe has a cause,” and I take it that you would say that God caused the universe. My question then is, if every event has a cause, what caused God?
CA: The problem with that question is that it seeks to turn a scientific law into one that must be universally applied to all that exists. That use of the law is no part of what I have affirmed. I have affirmed the law of causality as a scientific law, not as a law that applies to all that exists. Everything that comes to be has a cause . . . that’s the principle. The universe came to be, and therefore the universe has a cause. Now, if God always existed, he didn’t “come to be” . . .
Weighing in on Macro-Evolution and the Christian
The Bible declares that all death came into the world through sin. That same sin was paid for in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus physical death paid for the sin that caused Adam's physical death (and ours).
One of the most discouraging trends, even among some who call themselves Reformed, is to embrace macro-evolution ... whether it is to appear respectable among intellectuals and peers, I do not know. But such a teaching is clearly inconsistent with the biblical gospel at its core. One cannot embrace evolution without profoundly changing the substance of orthodox theology. So it seems to me when scientists finally do conclude that evolution is false, (and they will) it is sad to consider that theologians very well might be the last people standing who still believe in it.
But isn't that spiritual death? some might say:
Physical death, not just spiritual death, came into the world through sin. The (Hebrew) God created the spirit and the body as a unit, not to be bifurcated. To say that death was only spiritual is a Greek/Hellenistic concept of God and the soul, not a Hebrew one. We do not float up to heaven after the judgment but are resurrected in body and soul. The fact that Jesus had to (among other things) die physically for Adam's sin simply demonstrates this to be a fact. Was Jesus death (absorbing the wrath of God for us) merely a spiritual one? What about his resurrection? Was that only spiritual as well?
If People Do Not Have Free Will, How Do You Explain Adam?
I recently posted the following quote on the bondage of the will with a question from a visitor that follows:
"If the natural man has a free will to believe the gospel, then why does he need grace? If his will is naturally free then it would do away with the need for grace altogether...Therefore, to teach that the natural man has a free will overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage to sin that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34,36)
Question: How do you explain Adam then? God gave him a command not to each the fruit but he also gave him free will to choose. Hence why we fell into sin. If he didn't have free will he wouldn't have needed the command.
Response: Thank you. Your question shows that you may misunderstand the issue being discussed. Before the fall, Adam was "able to sin and able not to sin". At that time, his condition was not that of someone whose will was in bondage to sin. However, after the fall, God's holy standard did not change for us. He still required perfect holiness to his creatures in order for a restored relationship. But in his fallen state, man is "not able not to sin". That is why my post referred to this persons' condition as "natural man" which is the term the Bible uses to describe fallen man. In other words he is in bondage to sin - he cannot choose Christ apart from special grace. So when we discuss the idea of the bondage of the will, it is specifically speaking of what the Bible says our condition is AFTER THE FALL. i.e. Apart from special grace man has no free will to believe the gospel.
so again, it has already been established that the natural man has no free will. All Christians agree with this if they understand what the bible says and what I explained above. The question REALLY is, what is the nature of God special grace.
Question: How do we confront sin in skeptics and not come off as self-righteous?
Response: Important question. Jesus said, "...first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." So how do we take the plank out of our own eye? Well, the first and most important step someone must take if someone is to even be considered a Christian at all is to cast away all self-righteousness, pride, and conceit of their own goodness. In light of God's holiness, they know with certainty that their ONLY hope to be reconciled with God is to recognize themselves as a poor sinner, saved only by the mercy of Christ alone, and not because they have merited God's favor. Therefore, Christians who persistently act or think as if they were superior to others are living and thinking directly contrary to the most crucial concept involved in becoming a Christian, and as such they may not even be Christians at all. The Bible teaches that all people are sinners, and none can even approach the righteous of God on the basis of their own behavior. So when true Christians who have been humbled by God, tell others that their behavior does not meet God's holy standards, it is not an attempt show superiority, since we obviously are not superior... but rather to warn them in love of the danger they are bringing to their soul in light of their actions before God. So we come to others both as an equal and as a friend.
>>>More on this issue here <<<
10 Basic Facts About the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize
Mike Kruger, author of Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Crossway, 2012) has a good series on the New Testament canon, designed to help understand ten basic facts about its origins. Targets a a lay audience.
1. “The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess”
2. “Apocryphal Writings Are All Written in the Second Century or Later”
3.“The New Testament Books Are Unique Because They Are Apostolic Books”
4."Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture”
5.“The Four Gospels are Well Established by the End of the Second Century”
6.“At the End of the Second Century, the Muratorian Fragment lists 22 of Our 27 NT Books”
7.“Early Christians Often Used Non-Canonical Writings”
8.“The NT Canon Was Not Decided at Nicea—Nor Any Other Church Council”
9. “Christians Did Disagree about the Canonicity of Some NT Books”
10. “Early Christians Believed that Canonical Books Were Self-Authenticating”
Jesus among other gods
I once had the privilege of preaching the gospel in a Church in Kerala, India. The name of the Church was the "Church of Mor Thoma" which means "Church of Thomas" and by all historical accounts, was founded by the Apostle Thomas. "Doubting Thomas" as he is often called, was the first man to take the gospel to India and died as a martyr for his faith in the resurrected Christ.
While I have visited India numerous times, Dr. Ravi Zacharias was actually born and raised there, home to Hinduism with its more than 330 million gods. Here he speaks in Australia on the uniqueness of Christ among other religions. - JS
How can God be Fair if Man has No Choice?
Answer: What the Bible teaches, and I hope you would agree, is more important than our feelings about the way we think things should be. And perhaps to your surprise, Calvinists would agree with you that the Bible teaches that everyone has a choice, BUT because men love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19, 20) are naturally hostile to God and think all spiritual truth to be foolish (1 Cor 2:14) they will CHOOSE willingly to reject him. God is not coercing anyone to reject him. We (all of us) do so voluntarily. God would therefore be just if he chose to save no one and leave everyone to their own boasted free will. But instead God is merciful and chooses to save many ill-deserving folk out of the mass of ill-deserving folk on the earth. As soon as you think God is somehow obligated to save you then your salvation is no longer of mercy. So men receive one of two things in this world, justice or mercy, but no one receives injustice. If anyone is in hell it is because they deserved it and chose to go there willingly. Left to ourselves that is what we all would choose and deserve. That is why we need grace to believe. Our own hearts are hard as stone. God must change our hearts if we are to believe (Deut 30:6, Ezek 26:36; John 6:63, 65) and that is what the bible teaches. Are you saying that a man can come to faith in Jesus of his own free will apart from grace? Where do you find this in the Scripture?
Apologetics to the Glory of God
JS - My friend, Pastor Jeff Durbin of Apologia Church (Chandler, Arizona) and Apologia Radio speaks at the 'Concerned Christians National Conference 2013' on a biblical approach to apologetics and evangelism. The topic is: Apologetics to the glory of God.
Jeff teaches on the necessary elements of apologetics:
1. No neutrality
2. Humble boldness
3. Evangelism (the call to repent and believe) cannot be separated from apologetics
4. How we engage in Apologetics is a moral issue
5. Specific examples are given
Has Tolerance become Intolerant?
Is Tolerance Intolerant? Pursuing the Climate of Acceptance and Inclusion - Ravi Zacharias at UCLA:
Even Arminians Believe that the Natual Man Has No Free Will
If the natural man has a free will to believe the gospel, then why does he need grace? If his will is naturally free then it would do away with the need for grace altogether. Therefore, anyone who acknowledges that even a LITTLE grace is necessary to believe, by default, acknowledges that man in his natural state has no moral ability to come to Christ. We all know that Jesus himself says (and I quote) "no one can come to Me unless God grants it" (John 6:65) and "the Spirit gives life (quickens) the flesh counts for nothing." (John 6:63). And Paul says "...no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor 12:3)
If you agree with the above statements from the Bible, then by definition, you already agree that man (left to himself) has no free will to come to Christ. You agree that his intentions are so sold to evil ... that his will and affections are under such bondage that he would never come apart from the grace of Christ. Therefore to teach that the natural man has a free will actually overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34, 36)
So we have already ESTABLISHED that man has no free will. We all agree on this, EVEN ARMINIANS. The question really is what is the nature of God's grace? Is it effectual or does it merely help the sinner? Jesus answers this in John 6:63 when he declares: "All the the Father gives to me will come to me..."
Why I am not an atheist
On April 4, 2013 at Princeton University, Dr. Ravi Zacharias taught a remarkably profound and penetrating lecture on the subject, "Why I am not an atheist." Here is the video:
Here is the question and answers forum that followed the lecture:
Moral Outrage, Evil and Fatal Inconsistencies
When I explained to a man who recently left the faith that we are all ill-deserving and are in bondage to corruption, he said this idea was "evil". That is an interesting response because by declaring something as "evil" he is appealing to something he believes is universally binding. I assume this man and many like him are very moral.. perhaps in many ways more moral than I. The point is that they cannot account for their morality. This man said that my belief that mankind is ill-deserving is an "evil" idea. Yet he is unable to account for the authority for the standard he is appealing to.
The people of this world are filled with moralizing, especially about about the good and bad points of Christianity. Ironically while they say there is no objective morality with their mouths, yet they do require an authoritative reference point if they are going to claim Christianity is evil. Who says? That is where their view completely breaks down. It is a fatal flaw. I asked him to point me to the the place where he is getting his ideas for what is evil. Now either he objectively knows that my view is evil or he is just giving a self-declared personal preference. And if he is simply giving me his preference then he (if he wants to be consistent) should not care one iota what my morality is. But the funny thing, in spite of this glaring contradiction, folks like this often seem to be morally outraged about something. But moral outrage is absurd if they cannot tell me how they KNOW that their morals are binding for all. This is a contradiction -- their presuppositions are thereby demonstrated to be faulty at their foundation. This man spoke over and over to me as if he had authority to declare that my view was evil. So it is a natural question to ask, how does He know? His principle is only binding if he can show me the source for this authority. I propose this is the one of the best apologetics for dealing with persons in this age. Most are left speechless or they change the subject in order to avoid the question.
Theistic Evolution Is a Denial of the Gospel
Jesus physical death was what paid for the sin that led to Adam's physical death (and that which brought death into the world). Therefore those who embrace theistic evolution are embracing an untenable position which is contrary to the gospel. And so to believe the "last enemy" was part of God's original creation is to profoundly misrepresent the gospel itself. It attributes to God that which is only attributable to man - death. And so Jesus would end up dying for something God did, not for something man did - a complete perversion of the truth.
Therefore I find it more than a little disturbing to hear this view flourishing in some otherwise reputable Christian organizations. As Christians, such a view should be seen as outside the bounds of anything approaching historic Christianity.
The Parable of the Four Soils?
Visitor: The Scripture is excessively clear that apostasy from authentic salvation is real. The texts are far too many to express here. However, I will mention one that I wrote my masters thesis on (my masters degree is in New Testament with an emphasis in Greek - I went to both a reformed and baptist seminary). In the parable of the soils, a parable that is the first of Jesus' parables in each of the synoptics and explained by Jesus, he says satan comes to take the seed from the first heart SO THAT the person will not have faith (pistos) and be saved (sozo) - obviously faith would have resulted in salvation. The second soil, Jesus uses the exact words to describe a person who believed (pistos = which equals salvation) ...who believed for a while, but the apostatizes (aphistemi). This is a person who was saved for a time, but CHOSE to apostatize when trials came. Similar language is used for the next soil. Only the fourth soil is indicative of someone who is saved, and the onus is clearly on the one being saved to persevere. Obviously, so much more could be said...but not now. Peace friends. Than
Response: First of all there is PLENTLY of spurious faith out there among so-called Christians. I have an essay here on the visible vs. invisible church which discusses this topic.
I wish to also say this with respect but the interpretation of the four soils offered above is appalling. What it appears you are in fact teaching is salvation by works. Some people just happened to be born good (or have made their own "soil" good) while others are not. Is this really what makes people to differ? Those with naturally good hearts (good soil) believe and are fruitful and persevere; those who are wicked are unfruitful and fall away. But who do you think makes the soil good to begin with? The Farmer! He plows up the fallow ground that it would be good a receive the seed and be fruitful. Anyone from an agrarian society would have known this. The bad soil is the soil which the Farmer left to ITSELF. This parable is not about showing that some people have natively good soil, as you contend. Or that the soil somehow magically made itself "good". No one has good "soil" apart from God granting it (John 6:65). Did someone simply will themselves to be "good soil" and so bore fruit? Such teaching is, in fact, rank heresy and honestly has no place in the Christian faith. Where is Christ in all this? The emphasis on the parable is not where you are placing it.
Next, if one can lose his salvation, as you contend, then you implicitly believe there are some of your sins for which Christ did not die. That your faithfulness somehow makes up for where Jesus' work falls short. So do we maintain our own just standing before God then. Thank the Lord for Jesus who provides EVERYTHING we need for salvation including a new heart to believe (1 Pet 1:3) and persevere. Left to myself (even partly) I would fail to persevere. Thank the Lord that He preserves us as well, or we would have no hope to do so. Our right standing before God is based on HIS FAITHFULNESS, not ours.
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." 1 Thess 5:23, 24
Why does God allow so much suffering and evil?
"Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?" - Amos 3:6
In light of the events of the last few days, I re-watched a message from the West Coast Ligonier Conference (2008) by Dr. John MacArthur on the question of evil and suffering in this world. It was a very good use of an hour as it fixed my heart and mind on the truth claims of the Bible regarding God's Sovereignty over evil in this world. I very much recommend this teaching found here. - JS
Here are some notes I made as I watched:
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SO MUCH EVIL AND SUFFERING?
FOUR FORMS OF EVIL:
MORAL EVIL – Personal sin (transgression)
SUPERNATURAL EVIL – Sophisticated corrupt spiritual identities that seek to torment, entice, deceive and seduce (heresy and false religions have their source in the demonic – the doctrine of demons – 1 Tim 4)
THE EVIL OF HELL (eternal punishment)
1) Evil exists.
2) God exists.
3) God wills evil to exist (He takes full responsibility for all that occurs). If He did not permit its existence, it would not be here.
Evil occurs because God, who could have prevented it, permits it. The permission of evil is under the control of God. To say that it is permitted is to underline the point because God is not Himself evil and could not be the author of evil (James 1:13). It is vital to stress this. But it is not as if, when evil occurs, God temporarily loses control of the universe that He has created and sustains and governs.
"...though Christians face the difficulty of explaining the presence of evil in the universe, the pagan has a problem that is twice as difficult. Before one can even have a problem of evil, one must first have an antecedent existence of the good. Those who complain about the problem of evil now also have the problem of defining the existence of the good. Without God there is no ultimate standard for the good." – R. C. Sproul
In order to try to get around what some people think to be a poor reflection on God regarding point number 3, two main theological errors have been put forward.
1. Process Theology – in simple terms, the idea that God is learning and growing and developing as He reacts to the events of time.
2. Openness Theology – the idea that the future does not yet exist and so not even God knows it. However this goes against clear statements of Scripture. God knows the end from the beginning, is omniscient, and this is why such much of the Bible is prophetic in nature.
Westminster Confession of Faith: God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Answering a Critic of Reformed Theology
Pastor Jim McClarty - an ex-rocker, current preacher, saved by astounding grace (and my friend) provides very good (biblical) responses to a critic of Reformed theology:
Because I am a very public advocate for Calvinism (which is a nickname for the historic theology that lays at the heart of the Protestant Reformation), I occasionally hear from critics. Sometimes, their arguments are logical and well-presented. Other times, they’re little more than rants. Usually, they’re somewhere in-between. And I answer most of them — avoiding the really silly or truly angry ones.
The reason I’m sharing this particular exchange is because it includes assumptions and arguments that are typical and that show up in my in-box with increasing frequency. Some folk simply cannot conceive of God being absolutely sovereign so they attempt to argue against it by insisting that such sovereignty would necessarily make God evil. And that’s where we’ll jump into the exchange –
The Critic writes:
When the philosophy that drives Calvinism is projected to its logical conclusion, even Satan’s activity is an extension of God’s sovereignty. God sovereignly controls Satan’s every move.
Not only is that the logical conclusion of Calvinism, it’s the logical conclusion of Biblical sovereignty. The alternative is to have an uncontrolled devil running roughshod over God’s creation. But, the Bible is full of examples of God limiting and binding Satan. Consider Job. Or Satan’s desire to sift Peter, but Christ intervened. Even Legion could not take the herd of swine without Jesus’ consent.
Or, to look at it another way, we know that in the book of Revelation Satan is bound and put into an abyss for 1000 years. Afterward he is released, vanquished, and placed in the Lake of Fire. Now, since we know that God has the power to do that, why has He not done it yet? The only rational answer is: Satan plays a part in God’s economy. When God is done with him, He will judge him and seclude him eternally.
Remember, God’s way are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. As high as the Heavens are above the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Just because we struggle with the idea of God’s absolute power, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that God cannot exercise it.
This makes God the author of everything evil, and the most wicked sinner of all.
The Bible repeatedly declares God’s holiness and righteousness. So, if Calvinism led to the idea that God was not only the “author of evil,” but the most wicked of sinners, the whole theology would have been abandoned by thoughtful churchmen years and years ago. The reason Calvinism continues to thrive is that it recognizes God’s sovereignty and His holiness. Straw man arguments about how that makes God sinful are just banal.
Theologically, God does not have to be evil in order to create evil in His universe. Just as darkness is the natural state of all unlit matter and energy is necessary to produce light, God can produce evil in His creatures simply by withholding His goodness. He does not have to be positively evil to do this. He merely has to withhold Himself and allow the natural darkness to have its way.
Some Calvinists actually admit what I said and seek to defend it from Scripture. If ultimately God sovereignly is in control of everything, and if free will of man, angels, or even Satan, is ultimately under the control of God, then the responsibility for all wickedness and evil must be placed at the feet of God Himself.
There are no Calvinists who “actually admit” that God is “the most wicked sinner of all.” Please attempt to present our position in a manner consistent with what we ourselves say about it.
Volumes have been written on this topic. God is the creator, sustainer, and purpose behind all things. But, that is not tantamount with being the author of evil. That’s why Satan exists. Satan is the instrument through which necessary evil occurs in God’s universe. Think, for instance, of how God used Satan to bring calamity to Job. God allowed it and limited the extent of it. But, it was Satan who performed it.
Or, who brought about the fall in the Garden of Eden? Satan. But, was that God’s design? Yes. Christ is the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) Why have a sacrifice prepared prior to creation unless the Fall is ordained and inevitable? But, God did not sin in ordaining the lapse. He used an intermediate cause: Satan.
Everything God does is designed to bring Him the greatest glory. And that includes His control over the events of human history and celestial eternity. The responsibility for everything that occurs in God’s universe can rightly be laid at His holy feet. But, that is not the same as charging Him with evil, which no man can do.
Isa 45:5-7 — “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”
If you are going to attempt to limit God’s sovereignty, then what exactly will you use as your plumb line? How far is God capable of going before He reaches the edge of what men will allow? What events is God involved in and what events require His absence? And how will you discern between the two? Where exactly is the limitation on the One who calls Himself “Almighty”?
The Newly Published Nestle Aland 28th Edition Greek New Testament
From wikipedia: The first edition published by Eberhard Nestle in 1898 combined the readings of the editions of Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort and Weymouth, placing the majority reading of these in the text and the third reading in the apparatus. In 1901, he replaced the Weymouth New Testament with Bernhard Weiss's text. In later editions, Nestle began noting the attestation of certain important manuscripts in his apparatus.
Eberhard's son Erwin Nestle took over after his father's death and issued the 13th edition in 1927. This edition introduced a separate critical apparatus and began to abandon the majority reading principle.
Kurt Aland became the associate editor of the 21st edition in 1952. At Erwin Nestle's request, he reviewed and expanded the critical apparatus, adding many more manuscripts. This eventually led to the 25th edition of 1963. The great manuscript discoveries of the 20th century had also made a revision of the text necessary and, with Nestle's permission, Aland set out to revise the text of Novum Testamentum Graece. Aland submitted his work on NA to the editorial committee of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament (of which he was also a member) and it became the basic text of their third edition (UBS3) in 1975, four years before it was published as the 26th edition of Nestle-Aland.
The NA27 edition was published in 1993, and now Dr. James White explains why the newly published edition of the Greek New Testament (the Nestle Aland 28th Edition) is a VERY good thing:
2 Timothy 3:16,17 and the Case for Sola Scriptura
Though this debate took place almost 19 years ago now, the fact is that the word of God has not changed in any way at all in that time. On September 28, 1993, at the Bayview Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Chula Vista, California, Dr. James White debated Roman Catholic Patrick Madrid on the subject "Does The Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?" The full transcript of the debate can be found at this link.
Here's part of Dr. White's opening statement regarding the sufficency of Scripture:
2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction, for training in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be complete, fully equipped for every good work."
We begin by noting that Scripture is theopneustos, "God-breathed." The term is very strong. I refer anyone who wishes a full discussion of this term to B.B. Warfield's excellent treatment of it. That which is theopneustos has ultimate authority, for there can be no higher authority than God's very speaking. "All Scripture is God-breathed."
It is common for Roman Catholic apologists to follow an error made by John Henry Cardinal Newman, with reference to this passage. Indeed, Karl Keating, Patrick's associate at Catholic Answers, makes the same mistake in his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism. And he repeated it again only recently during a debate on this subject in Denver during the papal visit. Newman said that if this verse proves the sufficiency of Scripture, it proves too much, for Paul is talking here only of the Old Testament, which would leave the New Testament as an unnecessary addition. But such is not Paul's point at all.
Paul's point is, if it is Scripture at all, it is God-breathed. Paul is not speaking about the extent of the canon but the nature of Scripture itself as originating in God. All Scripture then, including the New Testament, is God-breathed.
Because Scripture is God-breathed, and hence represents God's very voice speaking, it is profitable for the work of the ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ. We are told that the work of teaching, and rebuking, and correcting, and training in righteousness, can be undertaken due to the nature of Scripture as God-breathed. That is Paul's point.
The Church is not left without the voice of God. For when the Church listens to Scripture, she is hearing her Lord speaking to her. The authority of the Church then, in teaching, and rebuking, and instructing, is derived, despite Roman Catholic claims to the contrary, from Scripture itself.
Now, Mr. Madrid will certainly disagree for, in addressing this very passage less than fifty days ago in a debate on this topic, he said, speaking specifically of verse 16, "I defy you to show me where it says 'sufficient,' in your remarks you said, when you cited II Timothy 3:16, you said, 'sufficient,' but that is not what the Bible teaches." Of course, no one asserts that the term, "profitable," in verse 16, equates to "sufficiency."
When his opponents referred him to verse 17, Mr. Madrid said, "Well, 17 doesn't say 'sufficient' either! 17 says, 'that, so the one that belongs to God may be competent and equipped for every good work.' That does not teach sufficiency. Where does the Bible teach that it is sufficient?" Is Mr. Madrid correct here? Well, let's see.
40 Arabic Words
Dr. James White writes, "The Qur'an denies, in a single ayah (verse), that Jesus the Messiah was crucified. By denying this historical reality, the Qur'an forces its followers to not only reject one of the most certain events of history itself, but by so doing it separates them from the life-giving message of the cross of Jesus Christ.
In this video we compare the 40 Arabic words of Surah 4:157 with the 33 Greek words of Galatians 2:20. Here are the texts (as translated by the co-author of the lyrics, James White):
Surah 4:157: And in reference to the Jews who said, "We killed the Messiah, Jesus the Son of Mariam, the apostle of God," they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it was made to appear to them. And indeed those who differ in the matter are surely in doubt about it. They have no knowledge about it except following mere assumption. But of a certainty they did not kill him.
Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified together with the Messiah. So it is no longer I who live, but the Messiah living in me. And this fleshy life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, the one who loved me and gave himself in my place.
It is our sincere hope that Muslims will know we present this with true love in our hearts for them, and in the hope that they will see their need for Christ's work, and will submit in repentance and faith to His lordship."
For more information on the Christian faith, and for responses to the claims of Islam, see the videos on this channel, and the information available at www.aomin.org.
Libertarian Freedom and God
As you know, those who believe in "libertarian free will" declare the ability to choose otherwise...
Given that God is absolutely holy and without sin by His very nature, it would actually be heretical to declare that God has libertarian free will ... for it would mean that He would have the "freedom" to do otherwise ... i.e. to be unholy, if He so chose to be.
However, the Bible defines freedom relative to sin (See John 8)... so God being absolutely holy makes Him the most free. This is great evidence that libertarian free will is a philosophical construct and not based on biblical presuppositions of freedom.
What Do you Think of the Free Grace Movement?
Visitor? Have you done much research into the Free Grace Movement (FGA, GES)? I have having much conflict with my senior pastor who is a member of the Free Grace Alliance and hold firmly to Free Grace Theology. It would be a great encouragement if you could give me your take on the whole movement.
Response: The free grace movement, if I have my movements correct, are the no-lordship people. We obviously do not share their beliefs. I find it most striking that the "free grace" movement likes to speak of grace when they don't even believe that a work of the Holy Spirit is necessary to believe the gospel. If my memory servers me correctly they are free-willers and erroneously think that faith is what man contributes, as if this were easier than obeying the law. However, it is clear from the Scripture that the nature of proud fallen man is such that he can no more submit to the humbling terms of the gospel any more than he can obey the law, without renewal of heart ... or without the Lord removing the old heart of stone and granting him a new heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26)
Visitor: Yes, you do have your movement correct. From my experience the whole Free Grace Movement exists more for what they are against then what they are for. They are anti-lordship and anti-calvinism. They seem to be strongly dispensational to the point that if you are not dispensational, then you don't know how to interpret the Scriptures. With your understanding do you think this is a theology that will continue to grow, or do you think it is on its last legs? I am a Youth Pastor, and like I said before, my Senior Pastor is really having a hard time with me not being on board with his theology. Thank you, John, for your reply!
Response: I think Dispensationalism itself is on its last legs but it will not die easily. It has influenced American evangelicalism significantly for the last 100 years, but Dallas Seminary, the mother ship of Dispensationalism, has recently changed their tune from Classic Dispensationalism to Progressive Dispensationalism, which is really, in many ways, closer to Covenant Theology than Dispensationalism.
The so-called free-grace movement is indeed anti-calvinism, and what this means practically is that they reject salvation by Christ alone. Why do I say this? Well, of course they believe in the necessity of Jesus Christ, but the reject the sufficiency of Jesus Christ ... Sufficiency meaning that Christ provides EVERYTHING we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. Their free-will theology essentially makes them sneak in a frightening level of semi-pelagianism (even though they like to talk of grace). They are, in fact, not free grace. They believe grace is CONDITIONAL. That is, God only loves a person if they meet his condition, faith. Otherwise they are cast into hell. While we agree with them that God gives us a condition of faith, but since man is impotent to exercise faith apart from regenerating grace (John 6:63-65) Jesus Christ mercifully provides everything we need for salvation INCLUDING a new heart to believe. Their strange belief system asserts that Jesus died for all sins EXCEPT the sin of unbelief. Our belief somehow makes up for our sin. But I believe the Scripture declares that if faith does not spring from a new heart, which God works in us, then we can boast in our faith because we cannot thank God for it. We could easily pray "thank you Lord for providing all I need for salvation except for faith. That is the one thing I came up with on my own." Thus we would end up attributing our repenting and believing to our own wisdom, humility, prudence, sound judgment and good sense. What makes Christians to differ from non-Christians from would then not be Christ but something else in me. Such a teaching radically misrepresents the Scripture.imho. I have long known of this movement (form the 1980s) and think it is a sub-Christian understanding of the gospel. That is not to say that many are not saved, but rather that their system of belief is largely inconsistent with the Bible.
Book Review: The Intolerance of Tolerance, by D. A. Carson Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford
The word “tolerance” (together with its converse, “intolerance”) is one of the day's buzzwords, and constitutes something of a short-circuit to some of the most deeply held and passionately defended beliefs in just about every camp of political, sociological, or philosophical conviction vying for supremacy in courtrooms, universities, shopping malls, and television screens across the nation. It is presumptive, therefore, that a frank discussion of the hullaballoo surrounding the term, by an incisive thinker and lucid communicator, would be a helpful contribution for a wide array of readers. In this case, the presumption is warranted. I found D. A. Carson's latest effort, The Intolerance of Tolerance, both a stimulating and a practically useful book on a number of levels, and would not hesitate to recommend it to a diverse audience.
Carson's central thesis seems to be that the old tolerance, championed by a Modern (as opposed to Postmodern) society, assumed that there is a truth to be discovered, that right and wrong both exist and are worth searching for, but that it is a grievous crime against humanity to silence those who err or disagree by force or coercion. However, in one of the greatest “bait-and-switch” operations of modern history, a new tolerance has usurped its place, which wields the very hegemony that the old tolerance decried. I'm being simplistic, of course, in trying to distill and baldly assert what Carson was able to say with much more nuancing and documentation over the course of the book; but the case he lays out is compelling in its reasoning and striking in the categorical, black-and-white picture he paints of an overtly intolerant tolerance, that threatens not just to supersede, but entirely to subvert the tolerance of the past.
Ironically, the intolerance intrinsic to the new tolerance is totalitarian; it cannot stand any sincerely-held belief, no matter what its content. Drawing from Robert Bellah's book, The Good Society, Carson quotes a disillusioned Harvard graduate as saying, “They tell us it’s heresy to suggest the superiority of some value, fantasy to believe in moral argument, slavery to submit to a judgment sounder than your own. The freedom of our day is the freedom to devote yourself to any values we please, on the mere condition that we do not believe them to be true.” In other words, in the name of tolerance, the tolerance of any actual belief is utterly eviscerated. That is, any belief except the belief (of relativism and secularism) that drives the new tolerance.
This is the point that Carson continues to make throughout the book. Quoting representative and respectable proponents of the new tolerance, he demonstrates that it really and pervasively does intend to establish secular relativism as the only tolerable regime. He quotes, for example, The United Nations Declaration of Principles on Tolerance (1995): “Tolerance . . . involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism.” Or else Thomas A. Helmbock, executive vice president of the national Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity: “The definition of the new tolerance is that every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle, and perception of truth claims are equal. . . . There is no hierarchy of truth. Your beliefs and my beliefs are equal, and all truth is relative.” But not only does this open the door as widely to fascists or pedophiles as it does to philanthropists and champions of democracy; in actuality, it subtly closes the door to all of those whom it professes to be tolerating. When it rejects “dogmatism” and “truth claims” it is rejecting all those who believe that there is a truth and that they have it – that is, everyone but they themselves who believe in secular relativism.
Interestingly, Carson would suggest that while the ruse has largely deceived us who devised it, it has not been so effective with those for whom it was intended – that is, the “others” in our pluralistic global community, who are different from us ethnically, philosophically, and otherwise. When we are arrogant enough to make the claim that all cultures and truth-claims are equal, not only are we insulting Muslims, for instance, by saying that Buddhism is just as true as Islam, or feminists by saying that strongly patriarchal societies are just as valid as the one they envisage; but we are actually saying that our opinion that all truth claims are equal, which contradicts their opinion that their truth claim is superior, is not only true, but it is incontestable and intolerable to claim otherwise. Carson would suggest that this arrogant condescension is clearly perceived and found to be offensive by much of the world.
But not only has the new tolerance been found insulting to outside cultures; it is causing similar frustration within our own nation, which has resulted in an escalating polarity and discontent among us on a variety of levels. The frustration does not come from the advocates of the new tolerance having the opinions they do: it is their totalitarian refusal to give any other hearing an audience. To quote Carson: “The point is that, while claiming the moral high ground, the secularists are unambiguously attempting to push their own agendas. They have every right to do so, of course, but they do not have the right to assume that their stance is “neutral” and therefore intrinsically superior.” And elsewhere: “while the secularist wants all other religions to retreat into the private sphere, he or she insists that secularists have the right to control the public sphere because they are right — completely unaware that they are trying to impose their worldview on others who disagree with it. Others, they say, are intolerant because they say those with whom they disagree are wrong. But of course the secularists are no less insistent that those who disagree with them are wrong, yet never entertain a guilty wisp of thought suggesting that perhaps they themselves are intolerant.”
More alarming yet is the well-documented point that the oppression is not merely intellectual, but is increasingly beginning to be felt on campuses and in courts throughout the land. We are getting to the point where “You cannot say that something is wrong just because it offends anyone who can whisper in the ear of power. And in subtle ways, in the name of tolerance, state-sponsored coercion — the very criterion of what (the old) intolerance consists in — is brought to bear.”
I have so far concentrated on Carson's logical case against the new tolerance – that it is inconsistent, incoherent, and, ironically, intolerant. In much of the book, that is what Carson competently sets his sights on (and he does a much better job of it than my summary would lead one to conclude). But the book is more than just an exercise in critique or logic. Several subjects were broached in a stimulating but preliminary sort of way. His chapter on the historical conversation regarding tolerance took a step away from the trees to scan the wider forest, for a moment, and had a freeingly humbling effect. I realized that my own limited perspective in history is not adequate to address the complicated issues that the new tolerance touches upon; and it struck me that the same sort of historical myopia that I discovered in myself must really be necessary, to a large degree, for the ironic triumph of the new kind of intolerance. At the least, a step back for a historical survey would help impede the kind of naivety in which a kind of tyranny can grow virtually unrecognized. In a similar vein, Carson's musings on democracy as a political ideal, while brief and largely tangential to his thesis, were scintillating and left me craving a fuller-orbed exploration (perhaps in a future book?).
Much more could be said; but maybe it would be more to the point just to read Carson for himself. You don't have to be an academic to follow him, and while his writing is closely reasoned and sure to provide stimulation both for proponents and adversaries of the new tolerance, it also includes some practical suggestions and insights directed toward conservative Christians who don't usually engage in ideological discussions.
The Intolerance of Tolerance, by D. A. Carson,
available at Monergism Books at a 45% Discount - Limited Time only.
Dr. James White's Continued Examination of James McCarthy's Sermon on Radio Free Geneva
A detailed examination of Ephesians 1 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13
Dr. James White Responds to James McCarthy's Sermon on Calvinism
In this youtube video, Dr. White responds to a message given by James McCarthy and in the course of doing so, provides a rebuttal to the impersonal "class" concept of election. He also gives a detailed exegesis of Ephesians 1:4, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him."
"His Eternal Power and Divine Nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (á¼€Î½Î±Ï€Î¿Î»Î¿Î³Î®Ï„Î¿Ï…Ï‚, without a rational defense, an answer, an apologetic)." - Romans 1:20
You don't agree? So what?
Dr. Don Kistler is the the founder and president of Don Kistler Ministries and the Northampton Press. He holds the M. Div. and D. Min. degrees. He is the author of A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love, and Why Read the Puritans Today? Dr. Kistler lives in Orlando, Florida.
(The following is a transcript I wrote, taken from Lecture 2 of a seminar on Jonathan Edwards by Dr. Don Kistler, at Saint Andrews Chapel, Sanford, Florida, September 2003. - JS)
REJECTION IS NOT REFUTATION
Dr. Don Kistler - â€œPeople will often say â€œI donâ€™t agree with youâ€ but what does that prove? So what?â€
â€œLet me tell you how this was driven home to me by the late Dr. John Gerstner. I was his pastor for four years (and you think you have pressure on the job). We used to drive to a Bible Study and Iâ€™d gotten a question in the mail from someone about Sabbath breaking (someone who was a very strict Sabbatarian) and they asked if anyone who did not keep a very strict Sabbath could REALLY be a Christian (that was the essence of the question).
I always drove Dr. Gerstner in his car and so I asked him, â€œhow would you respond to this question?â€ I realized, you donâ€™t ask him questions. He asks the questions.
Dr. Gerstner said, â€œLets suppose for the sake of the argument that you are a practicing Sabbath breaker and I am a practicing homosexual.â€ He says, â€œAre you going to heaven or to hell?â€
I said, â€œIâ€™m going to heaven.â€
He said, â€œAm I going to heaven or to hell?â€
I said, â€œYouâ€™re going to hell.â€
He said, â€œSo youâ€™re violating one of Godâ€™s commands and you get to go to heaven but I am violating one of Godâ€™s commands and I have to go to hell. What is it, did I pick the wrong command, Don?â€
â€œWell,â€ I said, â€œthe scripture is not as emphatic about Sabbath breaking as it is about homosexuality. Paul calls that the lowest form of degradation that there is. The Bible never calls Sabbath breaking an abominationâ€¦ errr.. howâ€™s that?â€
Gerstner responded, â€œHowâ€™s that?... Howâ€™s what?â€
I said, â€œmy answer.â€
He said, â€œwhat answer? You fumbled around and tried to throw a few verses at me. Did you think you were going to intimidate me with a couple of verses? Now do you have an answer to my question or not?â€
Panting for breath I said, â€œwell, good and godly men have disagreed over the issue of the Sabbath, you know Calvin and Luther and your man Sproul.â€
He said, â€œok, Calvin and Luther and Sproul and you and me will all be in hell together. Now what is your response to my question? Why is it YOU get to go to heaven and you can violate a command of God and I canâ€™t violate a command of God but I have to go to hell. What kind of a system are you running here?â€
Well I am really sweating bulletsâ€¦ and so we pull up to the place we are going and I ask, â€œwhatâ€™s the answer?â€
He said, â€œweâ€™ll talk about it on the way home.â€
â€œOn the way home? Thatâ€™s another hour!â€
Well he did this all the way home and when we got there I said, â€œnow tell me what the answer is.â€
He said, â€œweâ€™ll do it next month.â€
â€œNo, weâ€™re not doing it next month. I want to sleep between now and next month.â€
(I was ready to admit that practicing homosexuals could go to heaven)â€¦.
I said, â€œwhatâ€™s the answer?â€
He said, â€œyou gave me the answer the first time I asked you.â€
I said, â€œwhat?â€
â€œYeah, youâ€™re absolutely right. The Bible does not say that Sabbath breaking is an abomination and does not put it on the same level as homosexuality. Paul is very clear that those who practice homosexuality shall not inherit the kingdom of God. He does not say that about Sabbath breaking. You gave me the right answer.â€
I said, â€œthen why did you do that to me?â€ (I was really mad)
And he said, â€œDon Kistler, you had the truth and you had Scripture behind you and you caved because somebody you admired didnâ€™t agree with you. Donâ€™t you ever in your life compromise the Scriptures because of some manâ€™s reputation in your mind. You stand uncompromising for the word of God no matter who says anything.â€
And then he said, â€œrejection is not refutation.â€
As Christians, we believe the Bible is inspired by God, the very word of God, without error, the sole infallible rule of faith for all Christian life, practice, and doctrine. The word â€œBibleâ€ means â€œthe book.â€ Its very title makes the claim that irrespective of whatever else you read, only the Bible is â€˜THE BOOKâ€™ because of its Divine authorship.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, â€œAll Scripture is God breathedâ€¦â€
Jesus Himself had this high view of Scripture. In quoting from the book of Genesis, Jesus said, â€œâ€¦have you not read what was spoken to you by Godâ€¦â€ (Matt. 22:31)
Butâ€¦ the Bible would say this kind of thing, wouldnâ€™t it?
All religions and cults claim that their sacred book is inspired. Is there any objective evidence we can point to that would show the Bible to be of a supernatural origin, or certainly more than a book filled with the thoughts and opinions of mere mortal men?
Hereâ€™s just a couple of evidences that support the Bibleâ€™s claim to being the Word of God, so that we can believe it, beyond doubt. - JS
The End of Racism
Question: How many â€œracesâ€ are there in the world?
What is the Answer?: One? Four? Six? More than six?
And where the rubber meets the road.... What if a Chinese person were to marry a Polynesian, or an African with black skin were to marry a Japanese, or a person from India were to marry a person from America with white skinâ€”would these marriages be in accord with biblical principles? A significant number of Christians would claim that such â€œinterracialâ€ marriages directly violate Godâ€™s principles in the Bible and should not be allowed. Does the Word of God really condemn the marriages mentioned above? Is there ultimately any such thing as interracial marriage?
Properly understood, the Biblical account of our origins found in the book of Genesis provides the basis for the end of all racism. More here. - JS
Christianity â€“ The Greatest Force of Good in the World!
Have you ever heard people say that Christianity is evil? I have. People who say that have to have a very poor sense of history and all the amazing advances the world now enjoys because of the spread of Christianity. Some thoughts on this here. - JS
Short Video on the Trinity
I wanted to put together a short video (less than 3 minutes) to give Christians an introductory resource to help defend the doctrine of the Trinity in their Christian witness. I have done so here.
I would also encourage people to frequently use the search facility at monergism.com. It provides an outstanding selection of materials on a whole host of theological subjects. - JS
Concerning Alleged Bible Contradictions
â€œThe first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.â€ (Prov 18:17 NIV). Here are some useful resources I have collected. - JS
The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life (DVD and Discussion Guide)
Captured live and unscripted, pastor and author Timothy Keller meets with a group of people over six sessions to address their doubts and objections to Christianity. Using literature, philosophy, real-life experiences, and the Bible, Keller and the group explore the truth of Christianity. This DVD (and discussion guide) will help you think about and engage others in dialogue on six common objections to Christianity. The Six 20 minute sessions are:
1: - Isnâ€™t the Bible a Myth? - Hasnâ€™t Science Disproved Christianity? 2: - How Can You Say There Is Only One Way to God? - What About Other Religions? 3: - What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live My Life? - Why Are There So Many Rules? 4: - Why Does God Allow Suffering? - Why Is There So Much Evil in the World? 5: - Why Is the Church Responsible for So Much Injustice? - Why Are Christians Such Hypocrites? 6: - How Can God Be Full of Love and Wrath at the Same Time? - How Can God Send Good People to Hell?
I am going through this DVD and discussion guide with my teenage children and have to say I am very much impressed with it. It is not an indepth biblical study, but it is not meant to be. It is a very helpful starting point to help non-Christians have a safe place to have their main questions answered about the Christian faith and its claims. That is so very helpful. I can see many churches, home groups and individuals using this as an evangelistic tool. My children and I are very much enjoying it (we are half way through). They are already Christians but in their case, the series is providing excellent material for them to help them defend their faith. The series therefore has a double function as both an evangelistic and apologetics resource. I would very much recommend the DVD series and discussion guide. They are now at available at a great discount here at monergism books. - JS
Satellite TV Outreach to the Muslim World
"And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice." - John 10:16
Please pray for ABN (www.abnsat.com), a satellite television outreach ministry to the Arabic and Muslim world. To give you a taste and sense of this ministry, the video below is a sample TV program entitled, "Jesus, 100% God, 100% Man":
Christians proclaim that Jesus is fully God and fully man. How is this possible? Does the Bible actually teach this? Join special guests, Dr. James White and Sam Shamoun as they discuss this vital question on the Answering Islam TV show (below):
Don't know much about Islam?
The 2010 God and Culture Conference on Apologetics took place today at the Oakbrooke Bible Church, Waterford, Michigan, USA. Though I have yet to hear all the sessions (though I hope to over the coming days), the 5th talk on the subject of Islam by Dr. James White was amazing for the amount of information packed into 50 minutes. Dr. White has spent much of the last 5 years studying Islam in depth, including the daunting task of learning Arabic, yet this has proven to be remarkably helpful in preparing him for the public debates he has had with leading Islamic apologists in the USA, the United Kingdom and Australia.
A portion of the talk may be disturbing to some as it includes an Islamic "alter call" as we hear people becoming Muslims as they are guided through the necessary confession in Arabic - and it is certainly uncanny to notice the similarities between this and much that takes place in Christian services today. As I say, the session on Islam is the 5th talk in the list found here. I recommend it very highly. - JS
The Starting Point of Christian and Biblical Apologetics
"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3:15)
The Lordship of Christ is the starting point of all Christian and Biblical apologetics (a reasoned defense of the faith). What exactly does that mean? How are we to apply this truth? My friend, Dr. James White explains in this 40 minute video below:
Can a person be truly happy in heaven knowing that a loved one is suffering under the wrath of God in hell?
Dr. R. C. Sproul spoke on this theme earlier today at the National Ligonier Conference and here are the notes. It provides good insight into our future state of glorification.
Romans 8: 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Monergism = Christ Alone
Recently a visitor seemed deeply troubled that we would equate our belief in Monergism with "Christ alone" -- that by doing so we were being tribal, because this communicates the idea that synergists do not affirm "Christ alone" and to make this claim is to stir up animosity between brothers. But our purpose is not to create bitter feuds, but to be faithful to Scripture on a foundational subject. For those of us who are persuaded of monergism didn't we all come to embrace monergistic regeneration because it best expresses the Biblical data regarding the extent of Christ's work in our salvation?
Doesn't he word "monergism" itself help us understand this concept? The word consists of two main parts: The prefix "mono" means "one", "single", or "alone" while "ergon" means "to work". Taken together it means "the work of one". That is, regeneration is the work of Jesus Christ alone (as applied by the Holy Spirit), not the cooperation of man and God and not the result of unregenerate man meeting a condition (like faith) before regeneration takes place. THE main difference between Monergism & Synergism, then, is that while synergistic theology affirms the necessity of Christ, yet they do not affirm the sufficiency of Christ. That is, synergists do not affirm that Christ provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and understand the gospel. (1 Cor 2, John 6:63-65, 37, 44). Christ does most of what we need, but we still need to meet God's condition to be saved. If, as synergists may say, God grants grace to all men, then we must ask, why do some believe and not others? Did some make better use of Christ's grace than others? Does Christ make them to differ or something else (like our decision)? That 'something else' means that Christ may be necessary to them but not sufficient to provide all they need to be saved (including a renewed heart to believe). Thus 'Christ alone', as it was understood in the Reformation, is a monergistic distinctive. His cross is sufficient to provide all we need including the very faith required of us.
Is our faith, therefore, something we can thank God for, or is it the one thing we contribute to the price of our salvation? Is God's love for us conditioned upon whether we believe or not or does His love meet the condition for us in Christ, according to scripture? We affirm that God gives us this condition but Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We are not, therefore, partly dependent on Christ for salvation but wholly dependent.
Example: Is God's love like a parent who sees his child run out into traffic and who merely calls out to him to get out of the way or is God's love like the parent who, at the risk of their life, runs out and scoops up the child to MAKE CERTAIN that his child is safe. We all know that true love gets the job done ... it doesn't merely sit on the sidelines when something so critical as ones life is at stake. God's love is unconditional for His people and He sends his Son to make certain His sheep are not lost.
Note: a large percentage of synergists who are Protestants would openly confess that there is no hope save in Christ alone - and for this we embrace them as our beloved brothers in Christ, but the debates come about when their theology blatantly contradicts this good confession, when they believe in Christ PLUS a condition we meet, apart from grace. When we deny the sufficiency of Christ to provide anything (for apart from Christ we can do nothing) then we are not faithfully giving witness to the Scriptural understanding of "Christ alone" .
Michael Haykin rightly said, "It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith."
The Emergent Church and the Gospel
A simple reading of the Bible will reveal that the gospel is not about what we have done for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us (Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:8). The mystery of God has been made manifest in the Person and work of the Son, who frees prisoners, gives sight to the blind, breaks loose our chains and changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. At one time we were taken captive to do Satan's will and could not escape until Christ set us free. In other words, Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in order to free us so that we might then proclaim His excellencies, make known his gospel and spread justice and mercy to the poor.
But this is not what many of the the most notable characters in the Emerging church (e.g. McClaren, McManus, Bell) mean when they use the term â€œgospelâ€; for Christ, in their view, did not primarily come to us as a Savior, who delivers us from His just wrath, but rather, He came to make us "Christ followers". In other words, Jesus came as a moral example of how we might live, treat one another, and form communities. But as has been repeatedly shown throughout the testaments, this is a recipe for failure. In Romans 3:20 the Apostle teaches that the purpose of the law was not so much to show us how to live (although it was that too), but more importantly, to reveal our moral inability and hopeless bondage to sin in the face of God's holy majesty apart from the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Some major voices in the emergent church are saying they want a relationship with Jesus and not doctrines, but we must ask which Jesus do they want to have a relationship with? If words mean anything it appears they want a relationship with a moralistic Jesus of their own imagination. They want to believe that God is pleased with us because of what we do ... that He is pleased with us if we join Him in being active in crusades against social ills such as corporate greed, global warming, racism and poverty. That doing this is what the Gospel is all about. But as good as some of these things might be, God is not pleased with them if they do not come from faith in Jesus Christ as a Savior first, not as a mere example for us to follow. The background of the true gospel is that Jesus revealed His sinlessness and our moral impotence and bankruptcy in the face of his holiness. Thus our need for His mercy. But McLaren and many of the other emergent church leaders trumpet their belief that the gospel is more about ethics than the work of Christ on our behalf. They appeal to bettering the world around us as a task that is opposed to and more pressing than seeing our own rebellion and poverty, which prove our need for reconciliation to God through the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This unbiblical bifurcation of orthopraxy and orthodoxy, and foundational preference for the former, is just plain contrary to the Christian gospel.
Ultimately, the emergent "gospel" is not about the grace of Jesus Christ who delivers people from the wrath of God and puts them into the kingdom of light, but rather about becoming a 'Jesus follower', about walking as Jesus walked and trying to live the life he exemplified. Apart from the fact that, according to Scripture, this is an impossible goal when drawing from our native resources, but it misses the whole point for which Jesus came. The gospels showed Jesus setting his face like flint toward Jerusalem for a reason. He did not come primarily to be a moral example for us, but to become a Savior who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The emergent ideology, in other words, is appealing to the fallen will without the merciful act that God has done for us in Jesus. Since we woefully fall short of God's call to us to live this way, it offers no hope.
In his book, Why We're Not Emergent, Kevin DeYoung says, "I am convinced that a major problem with the emerging church is that they refuse to have their cake and eat it too. The whole movement seems to be built on reductionistic, even modernistic, either-or categories. They pit information versus transformation, believing versus belonging, and propositions about Christ versus the person of Christ. The emerging church will be a helpful corrective against real, and sometimes perceived, abuses in evangelicalism when they discover the genius of the "and," and stop forcing us to accept half-truths."
My fear, and I believe it is well founded, is that Emergent (and emerging) is just a newly cast form of the old Semi-Pelagian heresy of behavior modification, or to put it bluntly, moralism. The most tragic "either-or" category they have set up for themselves is this: faith in Christ as a Savior versus following Christ as an example. Many of its leading proponents assert that right living leads to right doctrine, thus reversing the Biblical priority of grace. But ethics are not what make Christianity to differ from other world religions. All world religions offer ethical programs that are remarkably similar to ours. But ethics/morals don't bring us into relationship with God unless you can perfectly keep them (James 2:10, Gal 3:10-12). In that case, you might need a helper, but you certainly don't need a Savior. What makes Christianity to differ is that it is the only way which acknowledges that its own adherents are rebels and without hope in themselves, that is, apart from the sovereign mercy of their Head, who procured salvation for them. All other religions rely on moral improvement and good works, but Christ has shown us that "there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc 7:20) Trusting in Jesus as a moral example alone, trusting in our good works and the social justice we do, simply makes Jesus' Person and work of no effect, for we are ascribing the power to do those things to ourselves apart from His redeeming us. Thus it would appear that both the emergent and seeker sensitive churches are cut from the same moralistic cloth. If you are a young person considering either of these, remember that seeing Christ as merely an example and seeing church as a place to hear stories about how we are to live, apart from the new birth, is a man-centered and not a Christ-centered message and should be steered clear of as you would a poisonous viper.
The Inspiration and Preservation of the Word of God
The first question in recorded history was a subtle attack on God's word. The questioner was the serpent in the garden of Eden, asking "Did God really say?" The devil's intentions have not changed over time. He seeks to destroy mankind's trust and confidence in the word of God.
Part of our responsibility as Christians in obeying the command of 1 Peter 3:15 in being ready with an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within us, involves being able to defend both the inspiration and the preservation of the text of holy Scripture. Here is excellent material in this regard from a very recent one hour televison program from the United Kingdom. Dr. James White defends the reliability of the New Testament and along the way, brings much needed clarity to the issues of the canon of Scripture, the Apocrypha, alleged insertions of the deity of Christ into the manuscripts, what the Council of Nicea was actually about, and the method in which God made sure His word was preserved for His people.
In decades past, this was probably an area of study only of interest to scholars, but with the mainstream media so hostile and prevalent in its attacks on the Bible, we all need SOME knowledge of these issues. That is why I would recommend the viewing of this video (below) very highly. The facts are actually on our side. (There seems to be an annoying 2 second lag between the audio and the video throughout, but hopefully you can still follow the discussion). - John Samson
The Doctrines of Grace (Video Seminar) - Dr. James White (Part 3)
The Doctrines of Grace (Video Seminar) by Dr. James White - Part 2
The concept of "Middle Knowledge" and the Divine Decree
Today's World Population Debunks Evolution
Mathematician, John Heffner PhD, and Dr. Carl Baugh crunch the numbers...
Christianity - a Cleverly Devised Myth? by Dr. James White
2 Peter 1: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, â€œThis is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,â€ 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Secular Colleges and Universities today are promoting the idea that Christianity borrowed stores of dying and rising gods from the cultures and religions around them to start a new religion. From Sunday, September 27 (a.m.), fresh from his debate with Dan Barker on this theme the day before, here is Dr. James White refuting this claim. (youtube video - approx. 49 minutes)
A Guidance for Humanity: The New Testament or the Qur'an?
Lasting approx. 1 hour 42 minutes, here is Dr. James White in dialog with an Islamic apologist, Abdullah Kunde at Sydney University, Sydney, Australia, August 17, 2009.
Follow Up on Codex Siniaticus
After posting the article on Codex Siniaticus a couple of days ago here on the blog, a pastor friend of mine from the United Kingdom wrote to me asking a couple of questions about Mark 16:9-20 (which was referred to in the Dr. Dan Wallace article I pointed people to). I thought that it might be useful to post our interchange here (my pastor friend's questions are in italics to help the reader understand who is writing):
Quick question for you John - did you know that Mark 16:9 onwards was historically disputable as being part of the authentic original texts, and do you accept it as the Word of God? ie, do you think there is enough evidence, and does it really matter in the Sovereignty of God over His Word? I mean, Luther slated James, didn't he? (Although for different reasons than this case).
The Reliability of the New Testament Text
Here is a fascinating discussion on the subject of the trustworthiness of the New Testament text. Concerning it, Dr. James White writes, "When I went up to Salt Lake this past weekend I had the opportunity of recording an episode of The Ancient Paths television show, sponsored by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church there in Salt Lake (Christ Presbyterian Church)... It is about 57 minutes in length, so be aware of that, but here is a discussion of the reliability of the text of the New Testament in the context of Mormonism."
Speaking Boldly Without Compromise
For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. - Psalm 106:45, 46
God is controlling everything: the smallest molecules, big events, and even the hearts of men (Proverbs 21:1). God has a specific plan for you in redemptive history. And God reveals to us in the Scripture that he wants us to be witnesses in Babylon. God has a specific plan for our lives and, according to Scripture, will move into the heart of those he foreordains to put in our paths.
I believe there is strong scriptural warrant to believe that you will enjoy an unearthly protection when you live for Christ and speak boldly about Him. Many of us worry that if we stick our neck out to speak about Christ people may react negatively. We may worry about such things for a minute, but since God got us into this situation by calling us to be witnesses for him, he can get us out of it. God protects those who make a commitment to Him. And however people may react, the outcome is according to God's perfect plan. He has ultimate control over how the message you bring to people will be received. Remember, you are just the mailman. We do not create the massage, God does, and we must deliver that message intact. He will determine the outcome.
But many times we compromise because we're afraid we'll come in harm's way or be ridiculed when we speak about Christ but the fact is if we do not compromise, God will be our protection in the midst of trouble ... but as soon as you compromise, you forfeit that unearthly protection and, at that point, you're on your own.
Speaking of Israel Psalm 106:46 says, "He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives."Do you realize that God can not only sway a king, God can sway an entire society? This is because, verse 45 says He is a covenant keeping God and He made a covenant with His people. And, friends, we have a covenant with our God in Christ. In it he remembers not to treat us as our sins justly deserve. And further, because he has imputed to us Christ's righteousness, You are now children of God, in a covenant relationship that is indelible and unbreakable. So as you pray, ask God to have you move out into the world and engage with those who will be worthy of your time, and even if you do not see instant results, know that you are just the messenger whom God has assigned to this very encounter.
What about those difficult texts where God commands the literal extermination of an entire tribe, or city, or even nation? Dr. James White answers in this youtube video of a sermon preached on April 26, 2009.
Is The New Testament Reliable?
I came across a very good overview concerning historical facts about Jesus and the New Testament (from outside the biblical record) put together by Shane Rosenthal, executive producer of the White Horse Inn. It is information that most people are entirely unaware of and very useful to know when defending the Christian faith, in a 21 page pdf format found here. I highly recommend it. - JS
Bart Ehrman vs. Luke and Matthew
1 Peter 3:15 "... but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;"
Apostate Bart Ehrman's brand new book is sure to be a best seller, but its liberal bias is nothing new at all but represents a loud and blazen attack on the Christian faith. In this 27 minute youtube video, Dr. James White responds directly to Ehrman's claims, displaying his highly selective readings of Mark and Luke. I think it would be very worthwhile for every Christian to be armed with this information for the days ahead so we can be ready to defend our faith as these issues are brought to us. - JS
"All Scripture is God breathed..." 2 Tim 3:16.
Christians through the ages have always believed in the inerrancy of Scripture and would affirm statements of faith such as, "We accept the Bible (the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament) as the written Word of God, the sole infallible rule of faith for all Christian life, practice, and doctrine. It leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Being given by God, the Scriptures are both fully and verbally inspired by God. Therefore, as originally given, the Bible is free of error in all it teaches."
Yet the attacks upon the Bible (in both its inerrancy and sufficiency) continue unabated in our day. The claim is repeatedly made that the Bible is full of contradictions. For example, many who have the attention of the media (Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan and others) are teaching that the Gospel of Mark presents a very different portrayal of Jesus' arrest and crucifixion than that found in Luke or John. It is a common claim but is it one that is substantiated by the text of Scripture itself? In no way! Here is the Sunday morning sermon by Dr. James White at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church from yesterday (December 28, 2008) from Mark chapters 14 and 15.
Former Synergist Embraces Calvinism
This weekend I received the following encouraging email from a visitor which he has graciously allowed me to share with you
I have always thought Calvinism was wrong, I could not see how it could make sense!
I have just read:
What Do Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism Share in Common?
by John W. Hendryx
Is it God's Desire for All Men to Be Saved? by John Hendryx
I must repent in dust and ashes!!!
This FINALLY makes sense to me.
Thank You John.
Now I might have to find a reformed church, do you know any in southern Connecticut.
Always Be Prepared to Provide A Reasoned Defense
"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..." 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
Dr. James White is currently ministering in London, England, and this talk, given yesterday, may be useful to those who are just being introduced to the topic of apologetics as well as those who are more familiar with the subject. The video contains the talk as well as a question and answer session, and lasts approximately 92 minutes. May I therefore suggest that for full cultural impact, and if it is possible, you sit down with a hot cup of English tea and watch this able defender of the faith as he explains his motivations and methods in doing so. (I guess you can still do this with a cup of coffee too, but something beneficial, and very English, may be lost). :-)
What's Wrong With This Picture?
I have read in several places that Emerging Churches are those that define themselves as:
1. Who take the life of Jesus as a model way to live
2. Who transform the secular realm
3. As they live highly communal lives.
Because of these three activities, emerging churches
4. Welcome those who are outside
5. Share generously
8. Lead without control and
9. Function together in spiritual activities.
Boiling it down to one sentence: Emerging Churches are...communities who practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures.
Comment: While on the surface many of these answers may seem commendable but please notice that the central theme of all of the above are not about what Christ has done for us, but what we do for him. Sadly we find this type of graceless moralism throughout their writings, not as peripheral but (unfortunately) as the centerpiece of their faith. Jesus is here portrayed as Lord but not Savior.
Maintaining Certainty While Respecting Others
As with all inconsistent worldviews, there is a certain degree of truth in what is being said by emergent postmoderns [regarding certainty]. We must acknowledge that many people have historically used certainty for oppression and power. Even many persons who claim the name of Christ have done so. But could this not be said of any position, including the emergent position against certainty itself? Emergents are quite "certain" of their position of uncertainty and want others to believe it as well. It seems to be central to their gospel dogma, which has affirmations and denials and a missionary force, just like every other creed. If they are certain of the "dogma of uncertainty" then isn't it also fair to ask if they are not using this position as an attempt to gain power over others? And since certainty is impossible to avoid at some level, rather than pretend that we are free from it, it is a better question to ask how we can maintain certainty without oppressing others. I think THAT is the question we must ask. How can I respectfully engage with others in the culture and still maintain ardent faithfulness to Christ? And the answer to this question is actually in the gospel itself (how it affects me if I really understand it): The "grace narrative" rather then the "moral improvement narrative", as Tim Keller likes to call it. As long as we think we must judge ourselves by our morals, then we always compare ourselves to others, and boasting is the inevitable consequence. But when we come to understand the gospel of free grace, as we should, then all pretence falls away because I see myself as I really am ... a sinner who justly deserves the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone. In fact, there are many people (skeptics) out there who may be better morally than I am. Therefore I can have a real degree of solidarity with everyone; with the poor, the disenfranchised, the criminal, because that's me, if left to myself. It is the grace of God ALONE that makes me to differ, and so what free grace does is that it makes it so that I can only point to Jesus and what He has done for me, for there never will be someting I can point to in myself which makes me superior to others in light of God's majesty and holiness. The emerging church may be right to point out that modern fundamentalism wields power in unflattering ways, but it was not because of its certainty, but rather because of its semi-pelagian roots: its' belief deep down that it is better than others. But the gospel of grace is the great equalizer which shows me that I am simply a beggar pointing out to other beggars where they might find bread. So a robust Calvinistic understanding of the sovereignty of God and the finished work of Jesus on our behalf would go a long way in recovering the gospel which is essentilly lost in most modern evangelicalism, including the emerging church. Yes. the church has historically sought power in unbiblical ways. So the problem of power is one we must deal with but it is not because of our certainty, but because we were certain about the wrong things. Again, Tim Keller likes to point out that fundamentalism is not the problem of wars in the world. "Just look at the Amish", he says. It is the wrong fundamentalism that causes wars and oppression, not fundamentalism itself. So the answer is to be more certain and faithful to the gospel, not less.
Excerpt from Deconstructing Uncertainty
The Emergent Church and the Gospel
The gospel is not about any merit I have on my own, but is based upon Jesus' merit alone. It is not what we have done for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us (Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:8). In the covenant rainbow sign with Noah, God says He "remembers" never to flood the world this way again, so likewise in the covenant in Christ's blood, God "remembers" not to treat us as we justly deserve for our sins. The mystery of God has been made manifest in the Person and work of the Son, who frees the prisoners, gives sight to the blind, breaks loose the chains and changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We were taken captive to do Satan's will and could not escape until Christ set us free. In other words, Christ, in His cross work, does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in order to free us so that we might then proclaim His excellencies, make known his gospel and spread justice and mercy to the poor.
But this is not what many of the the most notable characters in the Emerging church (e.g. McClaren, McManus, Bell) mean when they use the term â€œgospelâ€; for Christ, in their view, did not come so much as a Savior, who delivers us from His just wrath, but rather, came to make us "Christ followers". Jesus came as a moral example of how we might live, treat one another, and form communities. But as has been repeatedly shown throughout the testaments, this is a recipe for failure. In Romans 3:20 the Apostle teaches that the purpose of the law was not so much to show us how to live (although it was that too), but more to reveal our moral inability and hopeless bondage to sin apart from the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Some major voices in the emergent church are saying they want a relationship with Jesus and not doctrines, but we must ask which Jesus do they want to have a relationship with? If words mean anything it appears they want a relationship with a moralistic Jesus of their own imagination. They want to believe that God is pleased with us because of what we do ... that He is pleased with us if we join HIm in being active in crusades against social ills such as corporate greed, global warming, racism and poverty. That doing this is what the Gospel is all about. But as good as some of these things might be, God is not pleased with them if they do not come from faith in Jesus Christ as a Savior first, not as a mere example for us to follow. For instance, Jesus revealed His sinlessness and our moral impotence in the face of it. and thus our need for His mercy. But McLaren and many of the other emergent church leaders trumpet their belief that the gospel is more about ethics than the work of Christ on our behalf. They appeal to bettering the world around us as a task that is opposed to and more pressing than seeing our own rebellion and poverty, which prove our need for reconciliation to God through the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This unbiblical bifurcation of orthopraxy and orthodoxy, and foundational preference for the former, is just plain contrary to the Christian gospel.
An Apology from Dr. Tim Keller
Dr. Keller makes a public apology! 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, "... but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;"
The word "defense" here is the Greek word apologia, from which we get the English word "apology". Historically, the word apology refered to giving a reasoned defense of a position held.
I am fairly new to the ministry of Dr. Keller but became something of an instant admirer after watching his lecture at the Veritas Forum defending the Christian faith. I encourage you to watch it to sharpen your own skills in defending the faith. It is also something useful to point non-christian friends towards as a discussion starter. - John Samson
Same Sex Romantic Love Not a Sin?
A man who claims to be a Christian from the UK has written to claim that same sex romantic love is not listed listed as a sin somewhere in the Bible. He claims to have already been converted... Already a Christian, already read the
Bible cover to cover and can't find a word against same sex romantic love, and, he says "since you can't either, its only logical and fair to put blame on people like you who want a sin to be a sin, even if it aint listed in the Bible. But I don't blame you for it as we Christians do it all the time. We all like to add our own sins, look at the mid 60s when we wanted to condemn black people, we had no Bible text to do it but did it anyway. We condemned women and drowned loads of em in the 1500s with no Bibical evidence, and today we do it to homosexuals with no Biblical texts. Is that a good thing?... I see you want to hold on to a kind of homophobic lifestyle without any Biblical evidence that you can.
While a clear and unambiguos biblical case can be made against homosexuality, it is also true that many people really do just hate homosexuals and construct their arguments against homosexual practice in order to provide a rationale for their angry feelings against them. And it is, no doubt,true that Christians frequently misuse doctrines that are true in order to achieve improper ends. And I would agree that homosexual practice is not necessarily more heinous than a lot of sins out there which are also called detestible to God .. some of which I have personally committed prior to knowing Christ. But sin is sin, and all sin is rebellion worthy of death. But you and I both are all born into a condition - the bondage to a corruption of nature which manifests itself in many sins here on earth than none of us can escape from naturally unless Christ sets us free. Being born into a condition is not testimony that this is what God desires or intends us to do, but is part of our condition in the fall. Due to our corrupt natures, I have committed this sin, and you are addicted to some other form of idolatry but both of are slaves to our fallen condition and are hopeless apart from Christ. Being natural is not not an argument for, but against something being of God because depravity keeps us from being able to save ourselves and extract ourselves from our willful sinful predicament. Fact is, we don't want to.
Professing Christians Who Unwisely Call God a Monster
Recently there were quite a few responses to the post, What About Those Who Have Never Heard? One response was especially harsh and angry, and called God names but I believe it represents many Chrisitians who have not seriously thought through the ramifications of such a response.
A comment by David, a professed Christian (apparently), who said the following:
"So God Chooses to save some and not save others, which basically means he creates people knowing ahead of time he isn't going to save them but burn them in hell. What a monster"
Thanks for taking the time to post and unveil a common point of ignorance among professed Christians. Perhaps you do not realize it, but you just called God "a monster."
"How?", you ask, 'that's your God, not mine', you would say. Consider, are you thereby asserting that God did not know what would take place before He created the world? That He had no idea who he would save? That God is in fact, totally ignorant of any, and every, aspect of the future, including our salvation? Is there anything God does not know? Does time itself, therefore, have mastery over God? Such is not the God of the Scriptures nor is He any God that can be trusted to save. For if God did not know evil would enter the world before He created it then you have no way of knowing whether He will overcome evil in the future. For, if there is something outside of God like 'chance', or 'evil 'which God has no sovereignty over (the god you seem to propose), then evil would be on equal par with God. Such is a Greek, not a Hebrew or Biblical concept of God. Our comfort can only come from a God who has complete sovereignty over all events (Eph 1:11). There is no comfort in a god that has no idea what the future holds.
Similarly, in all concepts of God, even Arminian and Greek Orthodox ones, He exhaustively and meticulously knows the future. And if He knows the future exhaustively, before He created it, then we both know that the future cannot be otherwise than it was decreed. And He knows, not some, but all things before they take place, unless you believe God is ignorant of some things. Therefore, if you are a Christian, as you seem to claim, then even in your conception of God He knows exhaustively what would happen to each individual even before He created them. Their eternal destiny, therefore, could not be otherwise - from eternity He chooses some in Christ (Eph 1:3-5) according to His sovereign good pleasure. In other words, by your own words, you just called your own God a monster, unless you think God is, in any way, ignorant of the future, which would mean that He is no God at all, but a finite, created being. People who think this way need to be called to repentance, for it is pure ignorance and folly, and one of the highest forms of blasphemy, to call God a 'monster' simply because He exhaustively knows all things before they take place, AND this is exactly what you, (and many like you), have just done and do quite often. So if you acknowledge that God knows the future exhaustively, then I think repentance is in order for you because if you consder these things for a moment, you should recognize that you believe the same thing as I. I trust you have said this without deep consideration and if you ask forgiveness of God He will forgive your careless words because Christ has paid them in full.
If you still doubt, ask yourself, is there anything God is ignorant of? Do not fasten ignorance on God - it does not bode well for a Christian of any stripe. And you must remember, God justly casts persons into hell because of the sin he sees in them, not randomly. And since all have sinned, then some get justice and others mercy, but no one gets injustice.
Two New Books by Nathan Pitchford
The following are two valuable reference tools newly published by Monergism Books
What the Bible Says about THE PEOPLE OF GOD by Nathan Pitchford
According to historic Dispensational teaching, Israel and the Church are two distinct peoples of God with two distinct destinies. But is this view supported by the testimony of Scripture?
Designed as a reference tool, this booklet succinctly presents the major tenets of Dispensationalism followed by the key Scripture passages that address each tenet. With this simple format, Nathan Pitchford has created a valuable resource for evaluating the merits of Dispensationalism in the light of Scripture. This booklet is a great tool for guiding your own personal study or for engaging in fruitful dialogue with others.
What the Bible Says about THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE: A Categorized Scripture List by Nathan Pitchford
Designed as a reference tool, this booklet succinctly presents the five points of Calvinism followed by the key Scripture passages that support each point. With this simple format, Nathan Pitchford has created a valuable resource for understanding the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace. This booklet is a great tool for guiding your own personal study or for engaging in fruitful dialogue with others.
"Ever since the Serpent first tempted Eve in the garden by casting doubt on God's word and his character as he had revealed himself to her, mankind has always been engaged in the idolatrous pursuit of fashioning a god after his own imagination...There is no cure for this, but to cast off all our prior ideas of who we think God should be, or what we think he should mean when he speaks of his love, his grace, his justice, and his salvation, and to go to his word for all our answers." (from the Introduction)
The Book (Part 1)
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." - George Washington
"England has become great and happy by the knowledge of the true God by Jesus Christ. This is the secret of England's greatness." - Queen Victoria
"The Bible is more than a book. It is a living being within an action, a power which invades everything that opposes its extension." - Napoleon
"I have known 95 of the world's great men in my time, and of these, 87 were followers of the Bible." - W. E. Gladstone
As Christians, we believe the Bible is inspired by God, the very word of God, without error, the sole infallible rule of faith for all Christian life, practice, and doctrine. The word "Bible" means "the book." Its very title makes the claim that irrespective of whatever else you read, only the Bible is 'THE BOOK' because of its Divine authorship.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God breathed..."
In quoting from the book of Genesis, Jesus said, "...have you not read what was spoken to you by God..." (Matt. 22:31)
but... the Bible would say this kind of thing, wouldn't it? All religions and cults claim that their sacred book is inspired. Is there any objective evidence we can point to that would show the Bible to be of a supernatural origin, or certainly more than a book filled with the thoughts and opinions of mere mortal men?
What follows in this series of articles are some of the many evidences that support the Bible's claim to being the Word of God, so that we can believe it, beyond doubt.
The facts of history and the "secret place"
Interesting interchange between a man called Keith Moore and Dr. James White (taken from the www.aomin.org website)
Dr. White, if you understood how much you are loved by Roman Catholics in spite of your misled ramblings regarding our beliefs, you would go into your secret place and ask Jesus what He would have you do and say instead of assuming what He would have you do and say. I say this from experience and from a very serious concern for your eternal soul. In His Mercy, Keith Moore
Yes, I've truly been feeling the love from Mark Shea and Dave Armstrong and the rest of those who have been sending me their "love." But, like those folks, Mr. Moore, you speak of "misled ramblings." Now, I find it odd, and maybe you should as well, that the folks who continually say this are the same ones who will never, ever expose themselves to the tough task of proving their accusations. I mean, it is so easy to accuse me of ignorance and the like, but, I've done nearly three dozen live, moderated, public debates with leading Roman Catholic apologists. Wouldn't it be rather obvious that I've missed the boat in those contexts? Couldn't these well trained, knowledgable men demonstrate my many errors?
So I have to ask, what is it about a "secret place" that can change the facts of history and the truths of the Bible into their opposites? If I go into my "secret place," will the fact that there was no single bishop in Rome until the middle of the second century go away? Will the fact that Ignatius, when writing to the church at Rome at the beginning of the second century, did not make any reference to the bishop of Rome, disappear? Will evidence that someone, anyone, in the first five centuries of the church, believed what Rome teaches today about Mary, suddenly appear there in my secret place? Will the Pornocracy and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church disappear? Will the text of the Bible change in my secret place, so that I no longer possess, already, peace, having been justified by faith (Romans 5:1)?
Will the statement that Jesus' death perfects those for whom it was made be altered, in my secret place, to where Jesus' repetitive, non-perfecting, non-saving sacrifice, represented repeatedly upon Roman altars, will always leave me uncertain, imperfect, liable to suffering in purgatory, and even to eternal death should I die in mortal sin? And what really frightens me, Keith, is if I go to this secret place of which you speak, will Christ lose His ability to save, perfectly, without fail, every single one given to Him by the Father (John 6:38-39)? If so, to be honest, Keith---I will stick with the revealed Word of God. I invite you to flee any place, secret or otherwise, that keeps you from knowing the truth.
Truth by Consensus?
The following is a short excerpt of a discussion I was having with an old friend who promotes secularism as a wolrdview. He makes a short statement and my response follows:
Statement: My view of values (which you parody) is that they emerge from lessons widely drawn from human experience and around which consensus has emerged. Human rights as a language and as a normative construct came out of the horror of WWII. Such ideas emerge through consensus-building and eventually take on axiomatic existence for most people: Slavery IS bad. Torture IS wrong. Racism IS repugnant. These ideas emerged socially and became axiomatic socially.
Response: I am certainly not denying your civic right to believe these things. But I must point out that, given the above ideas you espouse; it is still quite arbitrary of you to have determined that values and morality come forth from some kind of consensus. How do you know this method of deriving morality is right? What authority are you presupposing? This is a belief system adopted by you but you cannot account for it or justify how you know this is what everyone should do. Your consensus-building concept is still an appeal to something that is not self-validating, no? Adding more numbers to your interpretive community does not make it so. At least there is nothing here under the Constitution that is makes this position any more validating than someone else's. Previously you said Christianity should have no place in making public policy because it is a "religion" under the establishment clause. What I am trying to point out to you is that your view is not any more unbiased (non-religious) than my own. When you make your position into public policy you are likewise promoting your religious dogma derived from a source you have arbitrarily determined to be authoritative. You have affirmations and denials as to what is good and bad, do you not?
Furthermore, National Socialism was built under consensus. The vast majority of the German population delighted in what the Nazis were doing. It was the liberal churches in Germany who had long since determined that the Bible was not to be taken seriously (higher critics) that were taken captive by the cultural consensus and fell right in with Hitler's evil plans. It was only those in the church who were confessing (the conservatives of the day) who were the people who stood up for what was right and many were executed for it. Hitler hated them. Therefore, consensus does not make anything right, unless you would like to argue that killing Jews was right at the time? No, I think you know that you are appealing to absolutes that go way beyond just a mere preference here.
You said "Slavery IS bad. Torture IS wrong. Racism IS repugnant." If you really believed that morality was relative then such statements would be unintelligible. Can you justify such concepts rationally with your worldview? Is it mere consensus telling you this? To be consistent as a relativist you could only say these things are bad for yourself. How is it not arbitrary to adopt such an ethic [for everyone]? Why does consensus make it any more valid than an individual or any other religious view? Either you are claiming it is true that these things are bad, or you are merely telling me your preference derived from a self-appointed authoritative source. And if it is merely your preference then you have no right to impose your personal ethic on society. This is an appeal to absolutes or you would not have such strong feelings toward it.
Making Lemonade Out of Lemons: Using the Talpiot Tomb as a Witness by Dr. James White
From the blog at www.aomin.org, Dr. James White writes:
It is the morning after. Those with an interest in the subject of the resurrection have already seen the film. As most of you know, today I launch into a high-speed book writing project to attempt to collect, collate, and present in a clear and understandable fashion the main arguments and facts regarding the Talpiot Tomb, DNA, patina, statistics, gnostic writings and the like. But at best, that book will not be out until Easter. So how about today? Rather than hope no one will ask you what you think, I believe we should be on the offensive---without being offensive. As I suggested with The Passion and with The Da Vinci Code, let's use this situation to God's glory and for the proclamation of the truth.
Well, it sure looks like the experts have put a crink in your religion! Actually, just the opposite. Instead, we have yet another example of how those who oppose the resurrection of Christ are willing to manipulate facts just to get maximum impact. In reality, the main problem with the film and book is its sensationalistic bent that leads Jacobovici and Cameron, etc., to take otherwise interesting historical facts and twist them into an attempt to turn a regular Jewish tomb into the family tomb of Jesus.
But they have DNA evidence! Yes, mitochondrial DNA evidence that conclusively proves that the tiny bone fragments recovered from ossuaries 80-500 and 80-503 came from people who were not related to one another maternally. Nothing more....
Genesis in the 21st Century by Pastor John Samson
If, like me, you believe the Bible to be the (theopneustos - God breathed) word of God, then you believe some fairly amazing things - things that just sound incredible to so many in our generation.
Take the book of Genesis for example. If you believe Genesis to be the word of God, as I also do, then you are in some good company. The Apostle Paul wrote:
"Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men..." Rom. 5:12.
Jesus also seemed to be convinced that Genesis was literal history: Matthew 19:3-6:
3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" 4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH '? 6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
If you believe that Genesis is literal history, then think about the ramifications of this in the 21st century. You believe that some guy by eating a piece of fruit in some garden, thousands of years ago, thousands of miles away, is the cause of all the suffering experienced in this world. Do we realise how this sounds to our sophisticated, technologically advanced society around us? It not only sounds quite ridiculous but it seems to indicate a total overeaction on God's part! God plunged the entire human race and in fact, all of creation, into a dramatic and terrible corruption. Every human being and every animal experiences death now. Creation itself longs to be released from the dreadful penalty of Adam's sin (see Romans 8:19-22).
Well, either we believe a ridiculous notion here, or else, we have not in any way understood the serious nature of sin. Sin is cosmic treason! Sin is an assault on the unblemished and infinitely holy character of God. God obviously felt He had every right to punish sin in the severe way He did. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), not because God is mean and nasty, but because sin deserves this kind of punishment. And this is not just true of sin in general, but every sin in particular. Every one of my sins deserve this, as does yours. And if for one moment we think the punishment is extreme, I think it is because we have never fully grasped the sheer and utter magnitude of the glory and holiness of God.
Not Right Teaching, But Right Living
In our local newspaper on Sunday, there was a story about the emergent church, The title of the article is "Unchurched? Dechurched? Rechurched? Your prayers may be answered." Here is a quotable quote from Paul Metzger from Multnomah Bible Seminary: "These communities span the theological spectrum, drawing from ancient as well as contemporary sources of spirituality." He goes on to say, "For many of them, it's not about right-thinking or right-teaching, it's more about right-living."
Does that not strike you as an odd statement? How can you have right living without right teaching or right thinking? It is not as if orthodoxy and orthopraxy are mutually exclusive. Yet a close look at the Text of Scripture would have us be aware that orthopraxy (practice) is dependant upon orthodoxy. That is why Paul, in his epistles begins with several chapters of doctrine before He gets into how we should respond to it (See Eph 1-3, 4-6; Rom 1-12, 13+). If we do not know who Christ is, then He simply becomes a wax nose conforming to the latest fashion and our religion becomes indistinguishable from other world religions of human effort.
If the basis of our faith were orthopraxy more than orthodoxy then we could think wrong thoughts about Christ all day, as long as we remain well-behaved. This would amount to nothing more than a religion of behavior modification or moralism. The Scripture makes clear, however, that to the degree we think wrong thoughts about God, to that same degree we commit idolatry. If we reject what Christ taught about himself, in favor of only His teachings about how to behave and treat one another, then we strip the gospel of its substance and turn the grace of God into something about us. Our orthopraxy should, rather, arise our of what He has done for us. The new life in us animates our love for God.
"Reimagining Christianity": The Way Back to Rome by Richard Bennett
Latria v. Dulia in Roman Catholicism
I am sure many of us as Bible believing Christians have been totally bemused by the adoration Roman Catholics give to Mary. It seems so obvious to us that prostrating oneself before a statue of Mary, lighting candles to her and praying to her is an act of worship. In that Scripture is clear that only God Himself is to be worshipped, we find it hard to imagine how people could be deceived enough to see these acts as legitimate and even pleasing in God's sight. But when we talk to Roman Catholics on this issue we soon hear them speak of a distinction between latria and dulia - between true worship given to God, and the high esteem that is rightly to be given to men.
How are we to respond when we hear this? It is obviously a very important issue. The line between the true worship of God and rank idolatry needs to be clearly defined for the sake of our souls. In this regard, I thought you might be interested in reading the fairly brief response my friend Dr. James White gives to someone writing to him on this very question.
Firstly, here's the letter/question written to Dr. White:
This Joyful Eastertide: A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb
by Steve Hays
Last year, Prometheus Books, in conjunction with members of the Secular Web, as well as the infamous Robert Price, published The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.
After writing a preliminary draft of a critical, book-length review, Steve Hays of Triablogue completed a revised and expanded edition which can be accessed, by going to this URL:
This Joyful Eastertide: A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb pdf [2.7MB] by Steve Hays
The book is a defense the bodily resurrection of Christ in particular, and inerrancy in general. The Empty Tomb throws the kitchen sink at the Christian faith, so the review ends up covering many side issues as well. At one level, the review has a certain "evidentialist" appearance inasmuch as, a lot of the time, it simply rebuts the contributors on their own ground. However, the case for or against the Resurrection is as much about the rules of evidence (what counts as evidence), as it is about the evidence itself, so, at another level, the review also has a presuppositional underpinning whenever Hays challenges the methods and assumptions of the contributors, which happens frequently.
The review is in the form of a free, downloadable, ebook format, so Hays is not making anything off the book. He did it simply as a service to the Christian community.
Philosophical & Religious Pluralism
About every other week, I confront popular pluralist notions that have become a large part of the way Americans think. For example, pluralists contend that no one religion can know the fullness of spiritual truth, therefore all religions are valid. But while it is good to acknowledge our limitations, this statement is itself a strong assertion about the nature of spiritual truth. A common analogy is often cited to get the point across which I am sure you have heard â€” several blind men trying to describe an elephant. One feels the tail and reports that an elephant is thin like a snake. Another feels a leg and claims it is thick like a tree. Another touches its side and reports the elephant is a wall. This is supposed to represent how the various religions only understand part of God, while no one can truly see the whole picture. To claim full knowledge of God, pluralists contend, is arrogance. When I occasionally describe this parable, and I can almost see the people nodding their heads in agreement.
Roman Catholic Considers Reformation Theology
I received this email several days ago and thought visitors to the site might find it encouraging. The author has agreed to let me post it but I have removed his name and location per his request:
My name is ________ and I am a 2nd year MA student at ____ College, I am applying to PhD programs this fall and hope to eventually study Medieval Philosophy/Theology (Augustine through Aquinas). I want to thank you for the amount of effort you put into your website and the careful research you have done. Most Christian website are a load of garbage but your has helped me sort out a lot of useful and thought-provoking information.
This particularly became apparent to me this year as I struggled with whether or not in good conscience I could remain a Roman Catholic. I had an evangelical conversion my freshman year at college and (after some bumpy experiences) slowly and painfully grew in my faith. I never really bought into the conservative Trentian orthodoxy but I struggled for a long time because I honestly was scared by most of the crap I saw in "Protestantism" particularly the Bible-Thumping Know-Nothings.
Philosophy of (The Christian) Religion
Philosophy of (The Christian) Religion compiled by Paul Manata New Subsection @Monergism.com
Introduction: This is comparable to a book on the Philosophy of Religion. There are a few differences between this "book" and other books. You will notice that there are no (well, just one or two) arguments against the positions I've listed. This is because this "book" is also meant to substitute as an apologetics "book" for the Christian faith, hence the offensive nature. Furthermore, this "book" is intended to present the Philosophy of Christianity from a Reformed perspective and also a presupposition approach to answering many of these questions (or, what I feel is in the same â€œveinâ€ as presuppositional-esk answers). I also included some dated (or, stated in a non-analytical way) statements of Omniscience and Omnipotence, the reason for this is because I feel that if one could just state the traditional reformed understandings of these doctrines one would avoid many of the so-called problems with these doctrines. I have also included "chapters" in this "book" that are not found in other Philosophy of Religion texts (e.g., Christian Theism and Abstracta). I hope this "book" serves to increase your understanding of the Reformed Faith (or, in other words, Christian Faith) as well as enables you to better defend it.
Blind Until God Opens our Eyes
I recently read a very encouraging book called Flight Path, A Biography of Frank Barker Jr. There are a couple of paragraphs in chapter 17 that I thought appropriate to post here since they relate to important concepts that we speak of often here. The chapter is called "The Gift" and explains Barker's many years (even in seminary) having not understood salvation to be a gracious gift of God until a friend had given him a tract which explained it. What is striking about his experience was his previous inability to to hear that same truth even when plainly put before him.
He writes, "I wondered why no one had told me that salvation was a gift. Then I thought, Isn't it strange that Martin Luther didn't know that. The reason I thought about Martin Luther was that I had just read his commentary on Galatians for a course I was taking. If Luther had not known that salvation is a gift, he would have brought it out in the book! I wanted to see how he had missed it, so I pulled the commentary off the shelf and reread it. To my amazement, it was on every page!.
I thought, I must have been blind when I read this book! It dawned on me that God has to open a persons's spiritual eyes to understand the scripture. I had been trying to do it on my own. Why God used that tract instead of Luther's commentary is a mystery...
Dr. Meredith G. Kline & B.B. Warfield
Here is a great resource for anyone doing research into Meredith G. Kline. (or Covenant theology) Dr. Meredith G. Kline Online - Website dedicated to his Books, articles and essays
For over half a century, Dr. Meredith G. Kline, an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, served as a professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary (in Philadelphia), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Seminary California. He received his B.D. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) and his Ph.D. degree in Assyriology and Egyptology from Dropsie College.
Here is another resource Website recently posted by Covenant OPC
This website seeks to promote the apologetical approach of Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen typically referred to as the "tradition of Old Princeton," or as "Old School Presbyterianism." many articles, links, and papers that promote Warfield's apologetical approach as time permits. Not all the links or articles will be from Warfield's rigorous Calvinism, which we equally share, but they will attempt to give a reasonable argument for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
Prayer of the Synergist Redux
The following is a response from a reader to my short post called " Prayer of the Consistent Synergist" which uses a hypothetical prayer to expose the false belief that we are saved only partially by grace and partially by the human will (i.e. not by grace alone ... or not by grace through faith but by grace plus faith). This was the original prayer I wrote showing the theological inconsistency of synergistic salvation, which he responds to ...
"God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith ... This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my fallen natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. So I thank you Lord that I am not like other men who do not have faith. When you extended your grace to all men some did not make use of it, BUT I DID. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the work of Your Holy Spirit."
Here is Mike's letter with my response to his questions/comments following:
Please allow me to re-write that prayer for your readers:
"Lord God, you have created the earth and everything in it. You created man and put him in paradise. You commanded man not to eat of the evil fruit, but he disobeyed you, and because of that, he doomed man-kind to be underneath the reigns of sin. Everything about man was twisted. Every child who is born is a natural born sinner. Everybody deserves to be sent to hell for eternity because of his state. Yet, because you love ALL of man-kind so much, you gifted him to be able to accept your word. This way it gives ALL men a chance to receive your gospel. Lord God, I know that I am a sinner, yet I know that you came to this earth and you died- not only for my sin- but everybody's sin. You give everyone a chance to receive your Word, as long as it is presented to him, and God, I am so thankful that you presented your Word to me because otherwise, I would be lost in the dark."
We are commissioned to go and tell ALL the world the good news of the Gospel. So put yourself in this picture: You are literally telling the whole world the gospel. Everybody on this entire planet. What would you say to them? Would you say to them,
Van Til: His Logic, Epistemology, and Apologetic
The crystallization of presuppositionalism as an apologetical method is a historic occurrence which has its roots solidly within Reformed thought, and which in fact facilitates the extension of foundational Reformed principles to the defense of the faith. While it may be anachronistic to speak of Calvin, for example, as presuppositional, his writings do evince certain principles, such as the self-authenticating nature of divine revelation, which are foundational to the presuppositional outlook. To substantiate: â€œFor the truth is vindicated in opposition to every doubt, when, unsupported by foreign aid, it has its sole sufficiency in itselfâ€ (from chapter 8 of the first book of the Institutes). The ready reception of the presuppositional ideal among many Reformed Christians has been, in my estimation, a largely positive affair. Therefore, having recently observed a new trend toward rejecting presuppositionalism as an apologetic method by discrediting its widely-accepted â€œfather,â€ Cornelius Van Til, I determined that some thoughts on this particular strain of argument would be in order.
Engagement with Secular People
by Tim Keller
The gospel removes any sense of superiority toward those who donâ€™t share our beliefs. We respect and remember what it is like to seriously doubt Christianity. We therefore expect not-yet-believers in almost every facet of Redeemerâ€™s ministry and life, and we make every effort to engage and address their questions and concerns. One of the main ways we do this is with the missional mindset that makes worship and small groups a place where Christians and non-Christians grow together.
In general the churchâ€™s communication and preaching must continually chip away at the main â€œdefeaters,â€ the main, widely held objections to Christianity that form an â€œimplausibility structureâ€ keeping most people from solid faith thought because â€œall the smart people I know donâ€™t believe Christianity.â€
Keep the Faith Tony!
No matter how much a pastor has studied in the past at a Bible College or Seminary, I think it is always a good thing for him to seek to sharpen his skills. Scripture commands us to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you..." (1 Peter 3:15) To give a defense is to give a reasoned explanation for the things we believe, which is the ministry of apologetics. In learning there was an apologetics course taking place in a Bible College locally, I signed up for the class, not to gain credit, but for the practical benefits of the study. The course was a very enriching experience for me. Though in many ways it was similar to one I took 20 years before, I gained far more from the course this time through. Perhaps that's because my experience as a pastor allows me to now understand just how relevant the material is to help reach people in our day.
One of the tasks we as students had was to imagine someone who had sat under our ministry for some time who had now gone to a secular College or University, and was now feeling fragile in their faith after reading Bertrand Russell's book, "Why I am not a Christian." Our first task was to actually read Russell's book and then respond to an imaginary letter from this person who was now questioning the claims of Christ.
I chose the name Tony for this man... here's what I wrote:
Letter from Visitor on Calvinism, Evil and God's Holiness
Today I received an email to my to Monergism.com account from a visitor named Shawn. He asked some important questions on on Calvinism, Evil and God's Holiness. I have reproduced his email in full with my response (with a couple paragraphs on Job that quote liberally from John Piper)
Dear Mr. Hendryx,
I've been reading your website with interest and find it to be one of the very best Calvinistic resources I've seen on the net. I am not a Calvinist, though I can't say I'm decisively against Calvinism either. I still have lingering questions which I hope you might be able to answer, or point me to ressources that would help.
Perhaps my main objection to accepting Calvinism involves the problem of evil. I've read several of the articles you have on the subject (by Piper, Bahnsen, [Cheung] and two others by authors whose names I can't recall), but none
seemed to offer any new or helpful answers to my objections/doubts/questions.
This is what I understand the Calvinistic claim to be: God is sovereign over everything, having decreed before the foundation of the world everything that will come to pass. This would include, I should think, all moral evil, whether realized in word, thought or deed, or merely imagined in man's heart. In other words, before there was a devil, man, or sin, God 'imagined' (for lack of a better word) all of the horrific, sinful and debased things that have ever and will ever come to pass, and then chose to actualize them. God was not coerced into allowing evil to exist as if it was outside of his power. Rather, God chose to actualize sin and evil where before there was none. Would that be an accurate conception so far?
If it is, then my first thought is that whether or not God uses the Devil or humans as 'secondy' causes of these evils seems to be a moot point at best. I can't help but think that sin, death, and the Devil are nothing more than God in disguise. When I ask some Calvinist friends about this they usually answer in one of two way. Either to say (1) reconciling a holy God with an evil decree is a mystery we should not even talk about; or (2) God is unquestionably the author of evil, but since God is God, and by definition all that he does is good, he can do whatever he likes.
And so we come to my two objection or concerns with Calvinism.
My first problem is fairly straightforward: I have one life to live - why should I spend it serving a God who admittedly is the author of all evil in the world, especially when there are other equally plausible Christian accounts of God that claim he is not the author of evil? Wouldn't making God the first cause of all evil be a reason to think that account is false?
Secondly, if God is the first cause/author of evil, it would seem that claims by Calvinists that God is good, just, or holy, are pretty hollow. At least I haven't read any that seem even remotely convincing. But I have a deep-seated conviction that God is holy, and could not be the inventer, creator or decree-er of evil, therefore its hard for me to accept that Calvinism is true. Rather than being holy or good, it seems to me that in Calvinism what is decisive is that God is all-powerful, where might makes right. He's holy because he says he's holy; He's good because he says he is good, even if he acts contrarily to what he has decreed to be good and holy. I'll leave what questions/comments/objections at that, and hope you might be able to point a way forward. Cheers, Shawn
Thanks for your email. It appears from your email that most all of your objections are moral rather than exegetical. You are, therefore, basing your considerations and thus your theological future on shakey ground...
I Thank God for You!
The following is a excerpt from a very helpful essay by Mark Webb. He goes through some Scriptural references that thank God for the faith of the saints, a practice which acknowledges God to be the source of all faith, not our natural ability, desires, will or affections.
Several patterns exhibit themselves in Paul's writings. One of these is his well-known practice of greeting the saints with a salutation of grace and peace , with the addition of mercy in some cases. Another pattern, not quite so common, but clearly established nonetheless, is what caught my attention. It is Paul's practice of thanking God for the saints. For instance, in Eph. 1:15-16 he states "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers." In this statement, Paul does not directly state why he is thankful, though we might deduce that it must spring from the fact that the saints evidence faith and love. Neither does he state to whom he is thankful. However, the fact that his thankfulness is connected with his prayers makes it rather obvious that such is directed towards God.
A parallel example is found in Col. 1:3-4. Here Paul declares "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints." Here Paul is more explicit. It is indeed God to Whom he is thankful, and, once again, his thankfulness springs from the fact that the Colossian saints are evidencing faith and love. Methinks I see a pattern developing here!
Can You Be More Explicit?
The fullest, clearest, and most precise expression of this pattern is seen in four of Paul's statements in the Thessalonian epistles. In I Thess. 1:2-4, Paul states "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." Here, again, Paul makes it clear that God is the One he thanks and that his thanks involves the recollection of their faith, love, and hope. It is a statement almost identical with those in Ephesians and Colossians.
Enoch and Elijah Sinless?
Question: I'm trying to find anything on Enoch and Elijah relating to inherited sin. Some say we cannot have inherited sin because of these two. Or whatever. I hope you understand the many opportunities available to use them as theological footballs.
Response: Thanks for the email. This is perhaps the first time I have ever heard the argument that these prophets had, through self-effort, pleased God to such an extent that they had no need for a Savior and thus ascended to God. This is the kind of thinking we might expect from the arch-heretic himself: Pelagius, who believed that we did not inherit Adam's sin and could, by nature, reach up to God through our good choices (See Rom 5). In other words, in the view of those who argue we did not inherit Adam's sin, as far as Enoch and Elijah are concerned, neither prophet had any need whatsoever of a sinless Savior who fulfilled the law on their behalf, that it was not by the regenerating grace of God the Holy Spirit, but by their own natural choices (apart from the Holy Spirit) which led to God's favor on them. Is this not a trusting in their own merit, disposition and works? Such a view cannot even be considered Christian.
If such were the case, these prophets would then be completely outside and even above the covenants of God since they would have no need for God's covenants or promises. They would be self-sufficient, autonomous, holy in and of themeselves, and that, apart from God. Not only is this contrary to all of Scripture, which declares all persons, apart from Christ, to be under the wrath of God, but is itself a form of unbelief, for it denies the need for Jesus Christ, and affirms that some persons can save themselves by reaching down into their own natural resources. Those who hold to this view would seem to have no concept at all of God's holiness (read Isaiah 6) and man's incapacity to live apart from his bondage to sin even for one minute. Those who affirm that a person can live sinlessly, I would argue, have no idea what sin is. A Christian is someone who completely despairs of himself and only glories in Christ for their salvation.
Can anyone naturally love God and their neighbor perfectly for even a day? 1 John says that such persons who claim to have no sin are still in darkness and are calling God a liar. It would appear that the apostle is saying that persons holding to such a view are, perhaps, apostate, and have no true knowledge of the Savior.
We are all redemed by grace and grace alone. Christ alone fulfilled the law. Neither Elijah nor Enoch are shown to be sinless, having fulfilled the covenant themselves, apart from grace. No other man, apart from Jesus, has done so even for an hour. Such a low view of sin is, unfortunately, rampant in our day and indeed a sign of the church of our times, but it is a complete misapprehension of the gospel. OT saints and NT saints are all born with the same fallen condition and need Christ. The word "unspiritual" is used of men without Christ. "Unspiritual" means that they are without the Holy Spirit. We are not born into this world with the Holy Spirit and then sometime later lose Him. No, we are born into the corruption of our natures and need the Spirit to quicken us if we are to have any hope at all. Any belief that salvation can be found outside of Christ through self-produced merit is promoting a patently unChristian belief.
"Rainy Day Dylan": Bob Dylan, the Creation Mandate, and the Great Commission by Rev. C. R. Biggs
I am often asked excellent questions by the folks in my congregation and I have the opportunity to write them answers at length. Recently, I was asked a question specifically about the arts and music and how as Christians we should pursue them and understand them in light of Christ. Too many times as Christians, we seem to either abuse or misuse the arts, or we withdraw altogether in an evangelical ghetto, and I donâ€™t believe either is the correct answer to this problem.
We should do all things as Christians under the Lordship of Christ, seeking to honor and glorify God in all things, including art, music, film, or whatever creative endeavor we pursue!
But how do we do this appreciating and obeying Godâ€™s command in the Creation Mandate (Gen. 1:26-28) to have dominion with all creatures made in his image, and fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) as particularly redeemed creatures who are called to be separate from the world and not love the world? Difficult tension, huh?! Many Christians seem to either dive in deep into the culture with enthusiasm and without much thought, not knowing how truly to be separate from the world, or they withdraw from the culture altogether, seeking a â€œsafe and warmâ€ haven in a Christian ghetto. I donâ€™t believe either is the correct answer to the tension. I believe we appreciate the tension, seeking wisdom from God, and fulfill both the Creation Mandate and the Great Commission in Christ!
I wanted to write at length on this because I have been thinking this through to the best of my ability for the last few years. As a pastor, I get the question more often, and so I wanted to begin to try and get at an answer, or attempt an answer to the questions of how to understand the arts and music as Christians from a biblical perspective. Some may be satisfied by my answers and find them helpful; I hope so! For others, it may raise more questions than it answers because this is part of the age-old struggle in Christian theology to understand the relationship between common and special grace, general and special revelation. As I try to remind those who ask me questions, I have some of the answers, but not all of the answers!
This is my answer at this time in my understanding and thinking using Bob Dylan as a guide! Since this began as an answer to two specific questions, I will include those questions before I offer my answer. Read the two questions I was asked before you read my answers!
Facts and Fictions in The Da Vinci Code
by William Wilder
Download the audio lecture Facts and Fictions in the Da Vinci Code by Bill Wilder, delivered April 21, 2006, at the Center for Christian Study. In this lecture Bill Wilder discusses such "Da Vinci codes" as Leonardo's Vitruvian Man, Mona Lisa, and Last Supper. Evidence for the Priory of Sion is also considered, with special attention to the role of Les Dossiers Secrets and the historical Knights Templar. Finally, the relationship of Mary Magdalene and Jesus is evaluated on the basis of such documents as the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the Synoptic Gospels, with a concluding assessment of the very different understandings of the significance of Jesus in Dan Brown and the canonical Gospels.
A PDF of the PowerPoint slides is also available. Download .pdf File of PowerPoint Presentation - 2.23 mb
Excellent Reformed Resource on Da Vinci Code !
The Truth about Da Vinci
On Good Friday, Westminster Theological Seminary launched www.thetruthaboutdavinci.com, a response website to the best-selling novel by Dan Brown and forthcoming movie The Da Vinci Code. "We have been struck by the great number of people whose faith has been shaken by the mixture of fact and fiction portrayed in this tale," says Dr. William Edgar, professor of apologetics and faculty coordinator of the project. "We want to help them as they confront this phenomenon. While a number of 'rebuttal sites' exist, ours is meant to combine responses to distorted facts with our understanding of the spiritual and presuppositional issues that inform them."
Among the resources provided on the website are articles, audio, videos, and book recommendations that set the record straight and commend the historic Christian faith. Additional features will be added soon. Use this website to answer any questions that you may have, as well as those who ask you, particularly in light of the immensely popular book and the upcoming film directed by Ron Howard.
More On The Gospel of Judas
Being an elder/shepherd in the Body of Christ is certainly a multi-faceted responsibility. According to Titus 1:9, one of the elder's functions is to hold fast to the faithful word so that "he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." A shepherd has a double calling. He must both nurture and protect the flock. I believe the following short article provides a very good pastoral response to the current media frenzy over the Gospel of Judas, from Pastor Steve Weaver's excellent blog.
- Pastor John Samson
What I Told My Church about The Gospel of Judas
During the Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study at the church where I pastor (West Broadway Baptist Church, Lenoir City), I discussed the significance of the recent publication of the so-called Gospel of Judas. While I don't think anyone present was about to abandon the faith because of this document, I still felt it to be my duty to inform the people whom God has entrusted to me about this new/old attack upon historic Christianity. One reason this is so important is that our church members are working and/or living alongside people who are influenced by these types of reports in the news media. It is my sincere desire that people will be better equipped to respond to such people as a result of this study.
Faith Not Without Reason
Why should anyone believe in the Resurrection of Jesus? It seems a popular question to ask around Easter. The disciple, Thomas, said in John 20:25, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe" (ESV). He emphatically states that he will NEVER believe, unless he sees (and touches) proof.
We all want empirical evidenceâ€”we're taught to look for it in school using the scientific method (observe & describe phenomena; formulate hypothesis to explain; predict; experiment & refine hypothesis). We sympathize with Thomas, wanting not to find blame with him, but to exonerate him by saying, "it's natural to doubt." And it is natural to doubt, as every human is a natural-born doubter of God's truth. That doesn't mean doubting is innocentâ€”when we doubt God's Word, it's sin.
The Gospel of Judas
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few days, I am sure you would be very much aware of the media frenzy concerning the Gospel of Judas. The subject is filling the news right now.
In seeking to give a defense of the Christian faith against the claims of this second century "Gospel of Judas" (it was not written by the Judas of the Gospels) I have to say, there really isn't too much to worry about here. One way to find that out is to read the thing for yourself. It is very disjointed, and in all honesty, well... just plain silly. Its a fairly short document, so it won't take too long to read. When the topic comes up in conversation, as with most things of this nature, it always helps to be able to say that you have read it. Here's where you can read the Gospel of Judas.
- Pastor John Samson
Fundy Turned Skeptic
Bart Ehrman, previous evangelical/fundy turned skeptic, in his New York Times bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, argues that we can't trust the New Testament documents and we can never truly know what they originally said. He is getting a lot of press and some are making a bit of noise about it. His most recent book is number 9 on the Amazon list and he was even on Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Comedy Central the other day, which I suppose is an appropriate forum for his speculations :) I suggest if visitors to Reformation Theology.com have not already done so, that you get to know a little about him. As the Davinci Code comes out in Theaters, his theories will likely be brandished about by naive people in the street and you should all be ready to give an answer.
Until recently, Bart Ehrman was basically only known in the academic field of New Testament studies. Among academics, he was mostly well known for his work in textual criticism, and his controversial book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. In recent months Ehrman made the contents of the academic book into a more more digestible form and popularized it for the masses in the pages of Misquoting Jesus. Ehrman essentially argues that scribes maliciously changed the New Testament text to create doctrines like the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Thus, according to Ehrman, we can't trust the New Testament documents and we can never truly know what they originally said.
Believe it or not, this textual criticism for lay people, has becomes a New York Times bestseller. This guy Ehrman is now all over the place talking about this book--in national television, radio, and print interviews. The recent interview in the Washington Post will give you a bird's eye view of what Ehrman's all about. Perhaps only The Da Vinci Code has a bigger platform for radical skepticism than Misquoting Jesus.
Foundations of Deconstructionism
"...we have played a game with words and lied to ourselves a thousandfold. Let me say forthrightly that what we have actually done is smuggle in foundational strengths of Christian thought, buried far below the surface to maintain some stability, while above the ground we see humanism's bizarre experiments growing unchecked. If we truly put into place the same principles below the ground that we flaunt above the ground, we would completely self-destruct. And though in the classroom we have tried to dignify what we have done, the songwriters and artists have called our bluff.
An utterly fascinating illustration of this duping of ourselves is the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts at Ohio State University. This building, another one of our chimerical exploits in the name of intellectual advance, was branded by Newsweek as "America's first deconstructionist building" Its white scaffolding, red brick turrets, and Colorado grass pods evokes a double take. But puzzlement only intensifies when you enter the building, for inside you encounter stairways that go nowhere, pillars that hang from the ceiling without purpose, and angled surfaces configured to create a sense of vertigo. The architect, we are duly informed, designed the building to reflect life itself--senseless and incoherent--and the "capriciousness of the rules that organize the built world." When the rationale was explained to me, I had just one question: Did he do the same with the foundation?
The laughter in response to my question unmasked the double standard our deconstructionists espouse. And that is precisely the double standard of antithesim!. It is possible to dress up and romanticize our bizarre experiments in social restructuring while disavowing truth or absolutes. But one dares not play such deadly games with the foundations of good thinking. And if one does toy at the foundational level, he or she will not only witness the collapse of all reason but at the same time will forfeit the right to criticize the starting point of any other worldview."
Excerpt from "Can Man Live Without God" by Ravi Zacharias, pg. 21, 22
There are No Four-Point Calvinists
Within the Dispensational theological camp there are quite a number of so-called four-point Calvinists. This means that while they fully embrace most Calvinistic soteriology, such as the biblical doctrine of irresistible grace, yet they believe Christ died with the same universal intent for all humanity. To put it another way, unlike traditional full-orbed Calvinists, they do not believe Christ died (redemptively) for the elect only. With the notable exception of the MacArthur Dispensationalists who are five point Calvinists, most others in that camp (such as those influenced by Dallas Seminary) reject the doctrine of limited atonement. Well... what I would like to demonstrate today is that rather than giving reasons why they are wrong, I am more inclined simply to call them inconsistent, for I believe it can be easily demonstrated that most of them already believe in limited atonement without consciously knowing that they do. Here's why:
Four point Calvinists will all agree, along with us, that irresistible grace, faith and repentance are gifts of God granted only to the elect. But four-point Calvinists somehow fail to connect the dots because they have not apprehended that these benefits as part of the redemptive work of Christ. We must consider that God does not give us generic grace apart from the work of Christ but all spiritual and redemptive blessings derive their potency from Christ and Christ alone (Eph 1:3). Therefore any belief in a "Christless" irresistible grace or gift of faith is absurd. I am led to believe that perhaps many of them have simply never thought of this. The result is that it should be plain to all that Christ died in a way (redemptively - to procure irresistable grace) for the elect that He did not for the non-elect.
If only the elect receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who irresistibly draws His own people (John 6:63, 65, 37) that they might believe the gospel .... and the same Spirit is never given in such a way to the non-elect (which four-pointers will affirm), then the only conclusion one can reach is that there is a benefit in the death of Christ which was never intended for the non-elect. By maintaining four-point calvinism one must separate the benefits from the Benefactor. In other words, the only way to consistently believe in four-point Calvinism is to erroneously conclude that irresistible grace is a grace given to people apart from Jesus Christ; something I would bet that none of them are willing to do.
The Parable of the Drowning Man
Perhaps you have run into an earnest Christian, that when opposing the biblical teaching of the "bondage of the will", "salvation by grace alone" and "election" will use the common salvation analogy which likens the unsaved to a helpless drowning man. That a loving God gives us free choice while drowning whether we will reach out and take His hand to be saved or not. That only an 'evil' God, they say, would leave or not attempt to save people who are drowning in a lake. "How could a loving God be so cruel just to leave them there drowning," they argue.
There are quite a number of things that might be said in response to this. First of all we must clarify that what distinguishes our tradition from freewillism is not that one God loves people and the other conception of God does not. No... the distinction is between an intensive and an extensive love, between an intensive love where God actually expresses His love by laying down His life to redeem His loved ones, and an extensive love that loves everyone in a generic sense but actually delivers no one in particular. Consider the parable of the drowning man again in light of these two perspectives:
(1) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. You call out to your child to use his willpower to swim back to the boat to save himself, yet he is entirely too weak to do so. You reach out your hand but it depends on whether your child is a good enough swimmer to get to you and has the strength in himself to reach out his arm. But you do nothing more than call for him to come and will only go as far as reaching out your hand since you wouldn't want to violate his free will to let him decide if he will swim back and reach for your help.
(2) Your child is drowning off the edge of your boat. You are a great swimmer but the swells are high and it is risky. But your love for your child outweighs all other considerations and without hesitation you leap into the water at the risk of your own life, due to the weather, and actually save your child from drowning. You drown in the process but your child is saved. In other words, you don't just wait to see if he is willing or has the strength. He doesn't. So you go in and save your child regardless of the cost to yourself.
Which of the two fathers is more loving I ask?
Apologetic Dialogues on CD
If you ever wanted to know how to irenically dialogue with a synergistic leaning Christian while also striving to maintain the friendship we highly recommend this modern classic by Doug Wilson now available for the first time on Audio CD. While we may have have differences with Wilson in some areas of doctrine, I would still recommend these dialogues are some of the best ones produced. Wilson goes through all five points of the doctrines of grace as if it were a discussion between two persons. Very simple, effective and useful.
Easy Chairs, Hard Words:
Conversations on the Liberty of God (Audio CDs)Easy-to-read dialogues between Reformed and non-Reformed Christians on the doctrines of grace. Romans 9 presents hard words indeed, but they remain Godâ€™s words. In this bookâ€™s dialogues, the reader will find unapologetic treatment of many such passages in Scripture. Unlike those pasty Socratic dialogues, these are actually in English.
A Dream of Reason Meeting Unbelief (Audio CD) Another one of Wilson's most popular books called Persuasions is also now available in CD format; this collection of easy-to-read dialogues between Christians and non-Christians is a helpful introduction to the defense of Christian faith against a host of common objections from atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, feminism, and more.
Cryptic Emails by John Hendryx
Each day at Monergism.com, if you can imagine, we receive all kinds of email. These include a lot of sincere questions, encouragement, testimonies, challenges and the occasional cryptic messages. A couple of days ago I received one of the latter. The title of the email was:
"What must I DO to be saved?"
Then the body of the email only had the following Scriptural reference and no other text or explanation:
30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
My first response to the text was "Amen!". What more could be said?
But as I thought it through I realized that perhaps the gentleman who wrote it (whom I had never had contact with before) was either offering some kind of proof against something he had read in the site and/or challenging me in some way. The first clue is the title of his email in which he CAPITALIZED the words "I DO" in "what must I DO to be saved?"
In other words, he is asserting that yes, there is something man must do in order to be saved ... proof against your websites' claim that salvation is by God's grace alone, a monergistic work of God's grace without any cooperation of man.
Free From What? by J.W. Hendryx
Hey John, how goes it? I enjoyed reading your article on "unregenerate will, self-determined but not free"
Question: I was wondering if you had anything else similar that you could recommend. I liked your illustrations and examples. I am still trying to find an article that has a good balance of depth, but is not over people's heads and covers the different types of wills, both mans and God's, in detail. Perhaps I wont be able to find everything I'm looking for in one article but I'm trying to put together something for a bible study class so I will be cutting and pasting stuff, hope that is ok?
Response: Thanks for your inquiry about the concept of free will. For clarity's sake, one important thing we must do when speaking to folks about this issue, I believe, is define the concept of "free will" up front. People come at this with different preconceptions so it is important to explain what you do and do not mean by the expression.
For example, if someone says they believe man has a free will, you may want to ask them, "free from what?" ... From sin? ... from God's eternal decree?
What the majority of people actually mean when they claim we have a free will is that they believe we are free from external coersion. This is a good place to start because it is a place that all can agree upon. But what most Reformed people actually mean when we explain that man has "no free will", is not that we are coerced by some outside force. (Coersion here meaning an outside force that would make us involuntarily choose something). No, rather, the Bible explains that the natural man, without the Spirit, is in bondage to a corruption of nature. The expression "bondage" to the natural man speaks of His lack of freedom. His nature is hostile to God and loves darkness (John 3:19, 20). In fact he is in bondage until Christ sets him free (Rom 6). We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness, the Bible tells us. So coersion is not the only form of bondage, there is also bondage because our poor choices are made by necessity due to a corruption of nature. Coersion and necessity are, therefore, both equally valid ways to express that a person lacks free will. Just because we are not coerced into making desisions does not mean the will is free. One may also sin of necessity, due to the natural man's innate hostility to God, by which he will always flee from God, apart from grace.
There May be More Than One Way to God
by John Hendryx
Today I wish to propose and explore with you the possibility that belief in Jesus Christ may not be the only way to God. Now before you throw me out as a heretic please hear me through. Lets open the Bible together so we can plainly see that Jesus Himself speaks of another way.
But before we do that I would like for us to take a look at a debate that took place a couple years ago on the Donahue show between Phil Donahue and Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary. The context of the debate is the recent move by the Catholic church to no longer evangelize the Jews since they have stated that God has given them some kind of special plan or dispensation. This debate also typifies many of the debates that occur between Christians and non-Christians these days with regard to our exclusive claim that Christ is the only way to be saved for both Jew and Gentile. In Americaâ€™s current climate of postmodern, multicultural, political correctness, the claim by Christians that Christ is the only way gives rise to accusations of hate and intolerance as we shall see in the following excerpts of this interesting dialogue between Donahue, Albert Mohler & Rabbi Shmuley Boteach:
DONAHUE: Well, Dr. Mohler, sir, nice to see you again. Youâ€™re how many strong these days, the southern Baptists?
REV. ALBERT MOHLER, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER: About 16 million members, Phil, and about 40,000 churches. Itâ€™s good to be with you tonight.
DONAHUE: Thank you. Do these 16 million people believe Jews can go to heaven?
MOHLER: Southern Baptists, with other Christians, believe that all persons can go to heaven who come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no discrimination on the basis of ethnic or racial or national issues, related to who will go to the Scriptures. Itâ€™s those who are in Christ. The defining issue is faith in Christ.
DONAHUE: So a good Jew is not going to heaven.
The Question of Inerrancy: A 20th Century Invention?
A United Methodist pastor recently wrote Norman Patterson, pastor of Covenant of Grace church in New Hartford, CT questioning his use of the term "inerrancy". He submitted the exchange to Monergism.com and I thought it might prove useful to those who may be wrestling with this issue.
Here is the exchange:
Norm: Thanks for the handouts. I noticed you use the word "inerrant." What do you mean by that? "Inerrancy" is a 20th century concept popular among Reformed scholars and goes beyond what the reformers: Luther, Wesley and Calvin taught. I believe the concept and word inerrancy gets us into literary gymnastics and fostering a dead literalism the Bible does not claim for itself. For instance and perhaps a silly example: When Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest seed. In reality he was wrong. It isn't, but in that culture it was believed to be. Jesus also spoke in what is called: "oriental hyperbole." His words about cutting off one's arm or ripping out one's eye etc. As I look at the reformers, including the continental ones like Luther and Calvin and later Wesley, the only "infallibility" they claim is limited to salvation itrself. See Article of Religion V, VI, and The 1646 Westminster Confession Chapter one. What are your thoughts?
I hope you donâ€™t mind a thorough reply. Your questions gave me an opportunity to articulate some thoughts that have going through my mind for some time.
Do Humans Have More Freedom Than God AND Does God Have a Libertarian Free Will? by J.W. Hendryx
One of the main objections of Arminians, Semi-pelagians and other synergists to divine election is based on moral rather than exegetical grounds. While debating these issues online over the years, I have heard many of them contend that the Augustinian view of God is morally repugnant since God could and would never force humans to do something against their will. And since God is holy, they reason, He could not ordain all things that come to pass, because this would make God the author of evil. Well, instead of this being an essay defending God's sovereignty and meticulous providence over all things (both good subjects in themselves but best left for another time) I wish to use their belief in God's inability to act contrary to His nature to make a point ... one that is fatal to their belief in libertarian free will.
We all know that the Arminians teach that man has a free will in the libertarian sense. What this means, simply is that they believe man has the ability to choose otherwise. That is, they affirm that human beings are free to choose between opposites ... to make choices uninfluenced any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. They believe the will, being neutral, can just as easily choose good or evil. On the surface this may seem reasonable but when you think about it for a moment it makes no sense because deep down we know, and the Scriptures affirm, that a person must always choose according to what he is by nature, otherwise how could the choice be rightfully said to be his own? Let us never forget that the nature of a person is not a thing he possesses. It is something he is. For example, When a person loves evil by nature, he will always make choices in line with what that nature desires most. Just as it is the nature of a dog to bark and a cat to meow so it is the nature of the unregenerate to be hostile to God and love darkness (John 3:19, 20).
The small but important point I wish to make in all this is simple, and I think it packs the most punch by asking a question. The question is, does God have a free will in the libertarian sense? i.e. Is God able to choose otherwise? (is He "free" to choose good or evil?) And if not does this mean human beings have more freedom then God does, since, to libertarians, human beings do have this freedom to choose good or evil?
The Marks of Cult
This highly anticipated DVD just came off the press and will be available in the first week of March for shipping. It features Dr. James While, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner and others.... It is produced by the Apologetics Group, the same good folks who brought you Amazing Grace, the History and Theology of Calvinism See a clip and read more about it here
Highly recommended!. Both the content and production quality of this DVD are outstanding.
See a clip and read more about it here
The Messianic Claims of Jesus Christ by Pastor John Samson
"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." - Peter, to Jesus - Matthew 16:16
"And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." - Acts 5:42
To say that Jesus is the Christ is to say that He is the long awaited Messiah of Israel. "Christ" comes from the Greek word "Christos" which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word for the Messiah or Anointed One. Christ is not Jesus' last name (He was not born to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Mary Christ), but rather His title - the Anointed King Messiah.
Through what we call Messianic Prophecies, God provided a sure way to recognize His Messiah when He came. These prophecies are events written in the Bible, hundreds and even thousands of years before they would take place in time. Only God Himself could reveal such amazing detail millennia in advance of the historical events.
God had declared that His Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and a son of David (Jer. 23:5,6; 1 Chron. 17:10b-14). God had also said that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), in poverty (Isa. 11:1-2), would be proceeded by a herald (Isa. 40:3-5, Mal. 3:1) and would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David (Micah 5:2), He would be seen riding on a donkey (Zech 9:9, 10) and would be present 483 years after the decree was made to rebuild Jerusalem, after the Babylonian captivity (Dan. 9:24-27). He would be a prophet (Deut. 18:15-19; Isa. 61:1, 2), a priest (Psalm 110:1-7), and a king (Gen 49:10; Isa. 9:6,7),
But thereâ€™s moreâ€¦
The Myth of Political Neutrality
While I generally like to avoid political issues on this blog and spend most of the time with theology, I wanted to use a recent statement by a politician to show the mindset of many Americans and how this mindset influences the practical outworking of theology in our day and age.
Regarding the appointment of Samuel Alito, Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said, "I must say that I wish the president was in a position to do more than claim a partisan victory tonight...The union would be better and stronger and more unified if we were confirming a different nominee, a nominee who could have united us more than divided us."
When I read this line, I sat there baffled, wondering if he actually believed his own deceptive words rolling off his tongue. He might as well have said, "if you would have chosen a nominee who had political positions that aligned with my own then our country would be more united." To think ones 'own ideology is somehow neutral while others are divisive and extreme is either complete blindness or chicanery to appease a certain constituent. Whether right or left, such statements are utterly foolish. Why not just admit that we are all biased and have a position we wish to promote and that neutrality on important issues simply does not exist. Is this pretended neutrality supposed to promote civility? No, rather, it creates division because it is based on a false premise about life that always accuse the other side of prejudice, bias and intolerance. Instead of disagreeing with a position we hurl the "biased" ad hominem their way. This actually deflects from the real issues and creates a society of distrust.
Visitor Questions on the Fall & Evil
A visitor recently wrote to ask the following:
I have to say that I think you made a really good argument against the Amyraldistic point of view. But I have a question about the fall. If Adam and Eve were sinless and had an unstained "free-will" then why would they fall? If they had a "free-will" [i.e. free from bondage to sin] and then fell, it would only go against the Calvinistic teachings of "Perserverance of the Saints."
Not sure what "perseverance of the saints" has to do with this? But consider that Adam, when created, was not originally sealed in righteousness. He was given a trial period which would reveal how he would use his will and he failed as the federal head of us all. Theologians call this biblical concept of Adam's trial period the "covenant of works", which lingers with us to this day. Like Jesus said to the rich young ruler, "obey the commandments and live"...i.e. if anyone could obey the commandments perfectly they would not need a savior, correct?
God created Adam and gave him a time period to fulfil His Law. He did not create him already sealed in righteounsss. Jesus likewise, though in very nature God, as a human being he had to "fulfill all righteousness" and "fulfill the law" from our side in order to save us. His sinless "passive" death alone does not save us (though that is part of it) but we are redeemed also because he positively fulfilled God's covenant obligations toward us. Likewise we believe Adam had to fulfil a positive righteousness if he were to have gained life.
Next the visitor asked the following:
"I Can Only Believe in What I See"
"I only believe what I see" is a contradictory statement. A self-contradictory statement both affirms and denies its own basic meaning. [J.P.] Moreland points out that "the proposition 'I can believe in only what I can see' cannot itself be seen. The underlying metaphysical and epistemological principle of "what is real is visible," is not visible! The statement, "I only believe what I see," expresses a conceptual principle distinct from the literal written sentence and is therefore neither visible to the eye nor detectable by the rest of the senses. Thus, to accept the statement, "I only believe what I see" demands acceptance of a principle that cannot be seen. Put another way, if a person actually believed the declaration, "I only believe what I see," then he or she would not believe the statement itself, because the belief cannot be seen. The statement "I only believe what I see," reduces to absurdity."
[Atheists] committed to naturalism (that nature is the ultimate reality) often say, or imply, "I only believe in what can be observed empirically, or what can be inferred from what is empirically observed. This statement is also self-contradictory. Christian philosopher Greg L. Bahnsen [said]: "I only believe in what can be observed empirically, or what can be inferred from what is empirically observed' cannot itself be observed from empirical observation" The view that nature alone exists is not and cannot be derived from scientific inquiry. Rather, it is an empirical presumption or dogma of secularism that too often interferes with scientific inquiry."
- Kenneth R. Samples(Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions, p. 35-37 ).
Frankly, (like the above example) you would be amazed at how often you can catch people being inconsistent wherein an assertion actually cancels itself out. For example...
The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton
There have been several visitors to this blog who have asked at various times about how to determine which creed or which authority is right in interpreting the Bible. For an in depth study on this we recommend The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton which may be of significant help in this regard. Here is the publishers' description:
It has perplexed many throughout the centuries why if there is one truth, it is so difficult to determine it. Protestants believe in an infallible Bible; but who interprets it with final authority? Roman Catholics believe in an infallible Bible, and an infallible church (their own) as the infallible interpreter of it.
How do we determine who is right? And why does God allow errors in His Church (though never in His Word)? Do we accept the opinions of learned men as right because of their academic acumen? Or do we simply acquiesce to the fact that more people believe this doctrine than don't, so that therefore it must be the truth?
These are exactly the questions that Dr. Samuel Bolton addresses in this rare book. In an irenic spirit typical of the English Puritans, Bolton tackles the tough issues in a gentle, but convincing manner. This book was last published in 1646, but it is as relevant for our day as it was for theirs.
The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton
The Challenge of the Da Vinci Code by Pastor John Samson
"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." - 1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)
This past Sunday, our congregation, Faith Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona, had the privilege of having Dr. James White with us to address the Da Vinci Code book by Dan Brown. I believe it was extremely important for our congregation to hear this material and believe that all Christians need to be familiar with the central issues as May 19, 2006 fast approaches with the release of the movie. As I've noted before, James has written a series of articles on the Da Vinci Code at his web site, www.aomin.org, where many of the quotes from the book, and from the annals of church history are recorded. I would very much encourage you to take the time to review the series and arm yourselves for the onslaught on the faith ahead. The release of the movie could actually become a great opportunity for us, if we are prepared for it.
Today, Dr. White brought his series to a close by writing the following:
Is God Narrow Minded? by Pastor John Samson
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." - John 14:6
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:12
One of the main objections people have to the Christian Gospel is this issue of exclusivity: that the Christian proclaims that only in Jesus Christ is salvation to be found. Certainly it would be less objectionable if Jesus was merely presented as simply one of the many ways to God. Yet it needs to be pointed out that it is not the Christian who came up with this idea, but the claim comes directly from Jesus Himself. Because of this, either Jesus is the Way to God as He said, or else He is a liar and a deceiver, and not even one way to God!
Lets think about this idea of there only being one way to God by looking at it from a hypothetical perspective. Follow the logic of Dr. R.C. Sproul as he writes the following in his book "Reason to Believe":
Let's suppose that there is a God who is absolute in His holiness and righteousness. Suppose He freely creates mankind and gives each human being the gift of life. Suppose He sets His creatures in an ideal environment with the freedom to enjoy the wonders of the entire creation. Then let's suppose that God imposes one small restriction upon them, and warns them that if they violate that restriction, they will die. Would such a God have the right to impose such a restriction with the penalty of forfeiture of the gift of life if His authority was violated?
Then let's suppose that for no just cause, the ungrateful creatures disobeyed the restriction. Yet suppose that when He discovered their violation, instead of killing them instantly, He redeemed them. Suppose the descendants of the first violators increase their hostility and disobedience to God to the point that the whole world become enemies of God. Suppose God still determined to redeem these people, and set aside a distinct nation for Himself, giving them special gifts, so that through them, the entire world would be blessed. Suppose He kept delivering them from all their enemies, yet as soon as they were liberated, they rose up in rebellion to Him.
Suppose, because of His mercy and grace, God sent specially endowed messengers or prophets to plead with His people to return to Him. Suppose the people killed these divine messengers and mocked their message. Suppose they then began to worship idols of stone and things they had made. Suppose they then invented religions which were totally opposed to the truth He had made clear to them, and they worshiped creatures rather than the Creator.
Suppose in an ultimate act of redemption, God Himself became incarnate in the person of His Son. Suppose this Son came into the world not to condemn the world, but to redeem it. Suppose this Son were rejected, slandered, mocked, tortured, and murdered. Yet, suppose that God accepted the murder of His own Son as punishment for the sins of the very persons who murdered Him. Suppose this God offered forgiveness, and a cleansing from all guilt, victory over death and eternal peace with Himself. Suppose God gave these people as a free gift the promise of a future life that would be without pain, without sickness, without death, and without tears. Suppose that God said to these people, "There is one thing that I demand. I demand that you honor my one and only Son and that you worship and serve Him alone." Suppose God did all that, would you be willing to say to Him, "God, that's not fair, you haven't done enough?"
If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, but why is there any way at all?
The Charge of Hypocrisy, Violence and Oppression
When an unbeliever is faced with the question of the identity of the person of Christ, one of the most common forms of resistance we find in objectors is the charge of hypocrisy among Christ's followers. Closely related to that is the charge that much oppression and violence has been done through history in the name of Christianity. Some major historical events cited to back up this charge might be the Crusades or the Inquisition. So how should we as Christians answer this charge? This short essay will hopefully equip you with a meaningful response.
Many shameful charges against individual Christians indeed are true, and even horrific. We should not pretend that Christians are morally superior in any way, because that is simply not the case, but we should, rather, openly acknowledge our personal and historical shortcomings. It does not help our argument to deny our sinfulness. However, one must, at the same time consider that when this is the response of unbelievers as to the identity of Christ, they are actually using a tactic of evasion. That is, they are really dodging any conclusion about the person of Christ by pointing to an important, but secondary issue that does not answer the question of who the person of Jesus Christ is.
The Da Vinci Code Movie
This posting will be a little lengthy today, but I would encourage you to read it through. It comes from the blog of my good friend Dr. James White. I believe it gives an excellent foundation as to the issues involved. For these and other developing blog articles on the Da Vinci Code, please visit Dr. James White's web site at www.aomin.org
- Pastor John Samson
May 19, 2006. That's when one of the most outrageous anti-Christian films we've ever seen will explode onto American movie screens. Powered by big stars (Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen) and Oscar winning director Ron Howard, the film adaptation of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code represents the investment of millions of dollars in spreading the clear message that the Bible "was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda-to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base" (234) all at the cost of the truth about the "divine feminine."
If you haven't read the book (unlike more than twenty million others), you may have only heard bits and pieces about its blatant attacks upon the Christian faith. I have had the opportunity of addressing the book in a number of contexts, and will continue doing so in an attempt to equip believers to respond to the onslaught. But I would like to document some of the major errors and the way in which they are presented by Dan Brown here on the blog. I encourage you to take this information and be prepared to use this opportunity to present a strong case for the Christian faith. Yes, you read that correctly. We need to see that attacks upon the faith are opportunities if we are prepared and if we are willing to count the cost and go against the cultural flow. We all know that nothing like this could ever be produced if the main target were, rather than the Bible and Christianity, the Quran and the Muslim faith, or Judaism. No, that would never be allowed, but Christianity is fair game at Sony Pictures, that's for certain. But since it is going to appear, we need to be ready to take advantage of it, and provide not only a strong denunciation of its errors, but a positive presentation of the truth of Scripture. And in doing so, we need to be willing to draw clear lines between those who call themselves Christians and yet are unwilling to view Scripture as Christ did, and ourselves.