Apologetic Blog


Pros Apologian: Thoughts from the Apologetic Front


James White

Pros apologian
is the Greek phrase translated
"toward a defense" in 1 Peter 3:15

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8/31/04:  A Career God-Hater
I doubt he’d recognize me today.  I was barely twenty years of age when I began a series of appearances on KFYI radio in Phoenix on the radio program of one Tom Leykis, one of today’s best known “shock jocks.”  I was “debating” in studio with one Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Barker is a genius, inarguably: a musician who helped to design the rail network for the entire Northeastern US (or so he told me back then).  A tremendously bright fellow, I remember corresponding some with him after the appearance on Leykis’ show.  I will also never forget the few highly unpleasant moments I spent with he and his “girlfriend” (I honestly don’t recall if they were engaged or just what).  She was a true NARAL/PPoA/NOW “in your face” type feminist (the polar opposite of my wife, to be sure).  It was quite an eye-opening experience for this young Baptist.
     Well, I had recently purchased the debate Barker had with Doug Wilson, not so much because I wanted to hear another theist/atheist debate, but for the transparently honest reason that I like to listen to those I will be debating debate.  It’s called being prepared.  I happen to know Pastor Wilson is doing the same thing, and that quite wisely.  (In passing, I enjoyed Doug’s presentation, I appreciated his willingness to affirm the truth even when Barker tried to make him back off by presenting his question in the absolutely worst possible light, and confirmed what I already knew: Doug Wilson wrote the book on the use of humor and, yes, sarcasm, in argument---and I mean that seriously, check it out---and will be a formidable opponent in debate, though I want to make sure everyone is clear on one thing: Doug Wilson and I agree on so much of the truth our disagreement, while important and worthy of discussion, should not, by any stretch of the imagination, be taken to mean we will be engaging this debate as anything but brothers—but I mean “brothers” in the very sense I will be defending as the only meaningful use of the term in the debate!). 
     Listening to Barker brought back memories of the studio in central Phoenix and my encounter with Barker that day on KFYI.  But it also reminded me that bright, intelligent, well-spoken individuals can still be utterly foolish in their thinking.  As I listened to Barker vainly seek to define God out of existence I could detect, very clearly, the same insatiable hatred of God he had displayed two decades earlier.  I do not know what the source of that hatred is (he was an ordained minister, however, he was so in a very anthropocentric, legalistic church, and in fact found Doug Wilson’s thorough-going Calvinism just a tad bit unsettling at times), but in the classic fulfillment of Hebrews 6 Dan Barker has been caused to love a lie.  It is a sobering thing to hear such a bright intellect twisted and torn, vainly seeking to define out of existence the very God he knows so well is there.  I can see how fellow God-haters would find his arguments compelling, limited, as they were, to the human plane.  “God can’t exist because of this…” and then he would go off into an argument that always had the same fatal flaw (which Doug very rightly pointed out a number of times): his entire argument would be based upon defining God in human terms with human limitations.  I suppose those arguments might have value for those who have a very limited conception of God and who seek to argue from the creation to the Creator, but Wilson had presented a Van Tillian opening, and no matter where you fall in the apologetic spectrum, the fact of the matter is the Bible says men know God exists (Romans 1:18-22), and hence are active in suppressing that knowledge.  Few people give a more stark, sobering example of that suppression than Dan Barker. 

8/30/04 Imputation Controversy #3
We return to our review of Mark A. Seifrid’s Christ: our Righteousness.  We had cited the following from page 176:

In raising the foregoing criticism, we are touching upon problems which attend Protestant placement of justification within in an ‘order of salvation’ (ordo salutis). According to Paul, ‘justification’ has to do with Christ’s cross and resurrection for us — the whole of salvation —and therefore cannot be reduced to an event which takes place for the individual at the beginning of the Christian life. The problem deepens when ‘justification’ is made to follow ‘regeneration’, a sequence which was constructed in order to allow for the response of faith prior to the justification of the individual. In this case, the limitation of the justifying event to the act of faith threatens to diminish the significance of the cross. If justification occurs only upon my believing (or being regenerated), we must conclude that the cross creates the precondition for justification, but not its reality. Indeed, when faith (or regeneration) is given this independent role, the cross appears as an arbitrary means by which God has chosen to justify humanity. Paul, in contrast, locates justification wholly in Christ — and yet makes justification contingent upon faith (see 2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Rom. 3:22, 25). Christ’s cross and resurrection are the whole of justification, but that justification must be ‘distributed’ through preaching and faith: God reconciled the world to himself through Christ, and yet has committed the ‘word of reconciliation’ to the apostles (2 Cor. 5:19). As we have seen, faith for Paul is nothing more than ‘hearing’ the good news, the reception of that already accomplished and given, a mirror-reflection of the word of promise (Gal. 3:1—5; Rom. 10:14—17). Consequently, if we reduce the dimensions of justification’ to an ‘order of salvation’ constructed around the human being we distort Paul’s message.

We have already noted Seifrid’s dislike of the ordo salutis.  But can one truly escape from some form of order without destroying the application of the work of Christ to the individual?  We are time-bound beings, and while that does not mean God is limited by our creatureliness, redemption is, in fact, something that is applied to creatures.  We experience it.  As such, we can properly speak of at the very least a logical order, can we not?  But we should also consider the result of abandoning any ordo at all.  Seifrid writes, “According to Paul, ‘justification’ has to do with Christ’s cross and resurrection for us — the whole of salvation —and therefore cannot be reduced to an event which takes place for the individual at the beginning of the Christian life.”  It is quite true that all parts of God’s salvific work are related.  It is quite true that the cross and the resurrection are the touchstone of every aspect of salvation.  It is true that justification does not exist apart from, in isolation from, all the rest of salvation.  But, all of these things do not mean that justification, or the verb, “to justify,” is a synonym for “the whole of salvation.”  It is self-evident that in many key passages the dikaio- family refers not to sanctification, not to some over-arching salvific concept, but to a specific, forensic act of God whereby He brings peace into existence between Himself and the one who has faith in the God who justifies.  It is true justification as an entire concept cannot be reduced to a singular event at the beginning of the Christian life.  However, it is just as true (and this is a vital point) that the Bible teaches us that one is justified by faith in Christ by faith; that we can look back upon this justification, so that we are “justified,” and that because of this past-tense justification we have, as a present possession, peace with God.  (continue this article)

Why I Care About Christ, our Righteousness
I was scheduled to be at the church at 7PM, but the pastor asked if I might come an hour earlier.  Upon arriving, the pastor explained why he had asked me to come early.  He mentioned that he truly does make a concerted effort to keep up with current trends and developments in theology (a fact I had known and appreciated since getting to know him in previous years).  But he also said it is very difficult to do so when you are a busy pastor, visiting hospitals, doing marriages, funerals, counseling---all the myriad of things that fall upon the shepherd’s shoulders.  And so the busy pastor is often forced to rely upon the recommendations of others so as to read summaries of the issues, not the entire spectrum of published works. 
     At this point he took down Mark Seifrid’s Christ, our Righteousness from his shelf.  He explained that the book was recommended by D.A. Carson as being relevant to the issue of New Perspectivism, hence, he obtained it.  But, the reason he had asked me to come in an hour early was to chat with me about the final sections of the book, which he had marked thoroughly.  I did not have the book with me (I do not transport my library across the nation when traveling) and so he had kindly photocopied the relevant section.  We worked through the same material I have discussed on my blog, and, of course, I expressed the same thoughts in that context, disagreeing strongly with the assertion on Seifrid’s part that to speak of imputation in the way Reformed theologians have presented it for centuries is to go beyond the biblical warrant.  The hour passed quickly, and toward the end the pastor seemed thankful that he was not the only one who had found the discussion in Christ, our Righteousness troubling and disturbing, and that someone else agreed with him in the initial reaction he had to the book’s presentation.
     When I got back from Long Island I began thinking about the situation.  If this pastor, who honors the Lord and His Word by seeking to remain “fresh” and challenged even in the midst of the pressures of the pastorate itself, could encounter Christ, our Righteousness out of a pure desire to remain faithful to the proclamation of the divine truth of justification, view it as presenting a conservative, even Reformed perspective, and then experience fully understandable consternation and concern upon encountering such sentences as “…there is no need to multiply entities within ‘justification’, as Protestant orthodoxy did when it added the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the forgiveness of sins”, then perhaps this pastor is not alone? Perhaps I can aid some others through my small little blog to see that they are not alone in finding such language objectionable?
     And so I began writing. It has always been the concern of Alpha and Omega Ministries to aid, encourage, and support the men God calls into service in the eldership of the local church. And so the primary motivation of my review of Christ, our Righteousness is transparent and simple. The doctrine under discussion is vital, central, and precious. Serious pastoral practice cannot pass over the debate in silence, for it speaks to the very ground of our peace with God. It impacts the proclamation of the gospel, the message of salvation to be preached by the church. Many have commented that my replies have greatly clarified the issues for them, and for that I am grateful.
     At the same time we have heard, through various channels, that for some inexplicable reason, my action in reviewing a book that has been in print for four years---an action taken in defense of the great doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as our sole hope and ground of peace---is being considered a personal attack upon Dr. Seifrid by some in academic circles. When we first heard this, we were left dumbfounded, for many, many reasons. First, we were told this on the basis of just the first few articles (those in July), which were relatively short, indicated they were just the beginning of the review, and were, we believe, to any unbiased reader, exceptionally fair and far removed from anything that could be called an “attack.” There was nothing personal in them whatsoever. And so at first I was very hesitant to even believe what we were being told, but as the streams of information have multiplied and come to us from numerous independent sources, we have had to conclude that there is some kind of substance to the issue.  (continue this entry)

Click Here to Pre-Order Now8/27/04: Scripture Alone

The biblical truth and importance of the final and unique authority of Scripture is vital to the Christian life and to the health of the
Church. James White's Scripture Alone is a passionate and accessible re-introduction to this significant subject. While liberals deny it and sectarians undermine it, every Bible-believing Christian ought to want to comprehend and warmly embrace what the great Protestant Reformers called "sola Scriptura." James White invites the reader into this glorious subject and shows him the way.
J. Ligon Duncan III, PhD
Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi
Moderator, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America
Convener, Twin Lakes Fellowship
Adjunct Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary
Chairman, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Pre-Order Now!  Click the image to pre-order your copy of Scripture Alone.  All pre-orders will be signed!  (Why, oh why? Did I say that out loud?)

rC's Chime In
I wondered when those not involved in the issue would chime in, and I didn’t have long to wait.  But in what is probably one of the saddest comments I’ve read in a while we read from Kevin Johnson:

Imputation, the merit of Christ's active obedience, and forensic justification--one wonders why they are so important for Reformed people to adhere to in opposition to a Roman Catholic Church that is vastly different today than it was 500 years ago. After all, for the first 1500 years of the Church there were very few who really understood justification and the above attendant issues in the same way that the Reformers did, so much so that Alistair McGrath titled justification by faith alone a "theological novum" introduced by Luther.
Perhaps salvation and justification can be thought of differently. Is it necessary to believe in the above concepts for one to be called a Christian? Can we really call someone unregenerate because he doesn't believe in the standard Reformed formulations mentioned above? Somehow I doubt it.

See, “Reformed people” find it so important because it is the very essence of life itself.  Evidently this writer has never understood this.  We do not hold so tenaciously to what Machen called our “only hope” in opposition to Rome, we hold to it tenaciously because the Spirit of God has so clearly opened our eyes to our sins, our defilement, that we know that without that alien righteousness imputed to us freely, graciously, in Jesus Christ, that we will never, ever stand before the awesome holiness of God.  One who has experienced that kind of Spirit-borne conviction could never ask this question.
     Next, Roman Catholicism has indeed changed in 500 years.  At the time of the Reformation, Rome did not dogmatically add to the faith the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Bodily Assumption of Mary, nor the dogma of Papal Infallibility.  So many today ignore the fact that these de fide dogmas did not exist at the time of the Reformation: how would the Reformers have spoken had they existed then?  Further, it seems no one in the rC camp is concerned when men add such falsehoods to God’s truth as if they had the authority to do so.  An amazing thing indeed.  
     We have dealt with the misuse of McGrath by Roman Catholic apologists for years.  The context is of the impact of Augustine’s misunderstanding of the dikaio- stem terms in the New Testament resulting in the medieval errors corrected by Luther’s insight.  So what is the point of this writer?  Evidently the imputation of Christ’s righteousness—central to the sole glory of God in the redemption of His people—just isn’t really “that important” because Rome (a Christian church in his theology) does not confess it, and did not do so during the medieval period.
     Finally, we hear this writer, who once professed the centrality of the doctrine of justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, musing about whether it is really important to believe these things.  Does it really matter?  It doesn’t seem to matter to rC’s.  It only matters to those who still have, as the focus of their theology, their faith, and their life, a single phrase: soli Deo gloria. 

8/26/04: All Blog Entries Combined
    Given the growth in the materials regarding imputation I have placed all of the current blog entries on a single page.  I will try my best to remember to continue adding to it so that those trying to follow the situation can have a single resource rather than trying to go through the blog archives.  Click here.

Fractals: A Stress Breaker  :-)
     These small button versions tend to get pretty dark.  I lightened this one up a bit.  Click to see my entire blog collection.  This one should make you folks who like red happy.  BTW, I use a default 1280x1024 size (guess what the resolution of my main system is?).

Imputation Controversy #2
Before we continue with our examination of Dr. Seifrid’s published views on imputation, I thought it would be wise to note the presence of a rather short chapter in the new book, Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates (Husbands & Treier, 2004) by Dr. Seifrid.  The majority of the text is a discussion of a dialogue between Luther and Melanchthon.  But toward the end Seifrid makes application to the modern situation.  I was most interested to examine this work, since it would give insight into whether the material found in the 2000 work, Christ, our Righteousness, is fully representational or if there has been a “drawing back” in response to criticism in the intervening period.  In his concluding remarks Seifrid confesses his “preference for Luther’s way of understanding justification.”  He states that:

…one of the benefits of this dynamic and comprehensive understanding of justification is that it is accompanied by the recognition that ‘sanctification’ is not a second stage, but simply another perspective on God’s work in Christ.  That is to say that growth is growth in faith and in the repentance inherent to faith.  Numerous biblical passages, which do not fit into the usual Protestant scheme, thereby become comprehensible. (pp. 150-151)

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the “usual Protestant scheme” is eisegetical and artificial in nature, preferring its traditions to a robust biblical nature.  And what passages become “comprehensible”?  We are only offered a few examples.  We are asked, “How else are we to understand that we have been justified by the Spirit (1 Cor 6:11), and justified from sin (Rom 6:7), and that the Corinthian church is made up of “sanctified ones” (1 Cor 1:2)?  The list could go on.”  Let’s look at these three passages and see if the “usual Protestant scheme,” whatever that exactly is, fails the test.

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)

As one immediately sees, the passage does not simply say we are “justified by the Spirit” but that the Corinthian believers, who had exhibited every kind of unrighteousness (1 Cor 6:9-10) have passed from that life into something new. There are three verbs in the phrase, “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.”  Ironically, does this not distinguish, in some fashion, between sanctification and justification, a point being blurred by Seifrid?  Or are these all merely synonyms, resulting in a triple tautology?  Further, there are two agents, not one, listed, the Son and the Spirit.  So no matter what we say, the mere phrasing of “justified by the Spirit” does not find a solid basis in a fair reading of the text.  But beyond this fairly obvious fact, why would the “usual Protestant scheme” stumble at the recognition that each and every aspect of the work of salvation is Trinitarian in nature?  Does Seifrid really imagine Protestant theologians hold to a particular ordo salutis in such a wooden fashion as to have to constantly read a particular order into every passage?  There is no reason to believe Paul is promoting any order outside of the reality of God’s radical invasion into their sin-drenched lives resulting in the change they themselves could see and understand.  I am at a loss as to how this passage is at all relevant.

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom 6:5-7)

Here the verb is dedikai,wtai, and hence can literally be translated “justified.”  But there is a reason why the vast majority of translations do not do so: part of the semantic range of the verb dikaio,w is “to set free,” as in Acts 13:38, “and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”  Here “freed” is from the same verb.  Is it part of the “usual Protestant scheme” to force every use of dikaio,w into the same narrow meaning, never allowing for a wider usage of the term dependent upon context?  If it is, I missed that part!  Hence, so far, two of the three suggested passages just don’t seem to support Seifrid’s position.  So lets move to the third.

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

I am once again left just a tad bit confused: is it seriously being suggested that the “usual Protestant scheme” does not recognize the stative use of  a`gia,zw  (especially when used in the context of the  a`gi,oij “saints”)?  That all uses of “sanctify” are to refer to the process of sanctification (the experience of being conformed to the image of Christ throughout life, involving repentance and growth in grace) and never to the fact that Christians have been set apart with finality in Christ?  Again, I am uncertain where Dr. Seifrid learned the “usual Protestant scheme,” but I certainly did not learn it that way.

Seifrid continues:

The Protestant definition of justification in terms of imputation is no mere description of biblical teaching for which terminology is lacking in Scripture, as is the case, for example, with the doctrine of the Trinity.  Here we are dealing in some measure with the replacement of the biblical categories with other ways of speaking.  This development need not be regarded as deleterious, and certainly has to be appreciated in his (sic, its) historical significance, but it is not without its dangers and shortcomings. 

It is truly a reason for concern when we are told that the precious doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer is in “some measure” “the replacement of the biblical categories with other ways of speaking.”  For the sake of the clarity of the gospel and its defense, may we ask for a clear answer?  Is it, or isn’t it?  “David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits (imputes, logi,zomai) righteousness apart from works” (Romans 4:6).  This sounds like the “usual Protestant definition of justification in terms of imputation” to me.  We are assured (and does this phrase represent some kind of “nuancing” of the material in his 2000 work?) that this “development” (i.e., an unwarranted one, according to his previous work: “there is no need to multiply entities within ‘justification’, as Protestant orthodoxy did when it added the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the forgiveness of sins”) “need not be regarded as deleterious.”  In scholarly circles I suppose such is a possibility, but when we are speaking of the very heart of the gospel, how could such a “development” not be deleterious if it in any way obscures biblical truth?  Lest the reader be losing focus, here we have the heart of the Reformed response to Rome’s “infused righteousness,” the material of the teaching of Reformed theologians for generations, and we are assured not that it is true, or vital, but it isn’t “deleterious.”  Instead, we can breath much easier knowing that it “certainly has to be appreciated in its historical significance….”  The doctrine of imputation is to be appreciated for its historical significance.  I am reminded of those in some circles today who are all caught up in “rediscovering Mary” as if all of the unbiblical notions about Mary that came into vogue in the early centuries of the church in some way cast light upon the real Mary and the real example she is of a faithful, redeemed woman.  We are told we should “appreciate” such things as prayers to Mary or the concept of her perpetual virginity.  Did not great men of old believe such things?  So they should be appreciated for their historical significance.  Is this how the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as central to justification should be understood?  Is something that is to be “appreciated in its historical significance” to be preached from the pulpit with passion by the power of the Holy Spirit, and branded upon the conscience of the believer so that it is central to how he or she understands his or her very relationship to the Almighty God? 
    Evidently not, for the sentence concludes, “…but it is not without its dangers and shortcomings.”  Obviously, when I stood before an audience in December, 1990, while debating former Protestant Gerry Matatics (graduate of Gordon Conwell and doctoral student at that time at Westminster Seminary), and replied to his man-centered soteriology by proclaiming the perfection of the righteousness of Christ, that seamless robe of righteousness which alone will avail before the throne of the thrice-holy God (to the gasps and consternation of Roman Catholics seated only a few feet away from me), I was in fact presenting to them a problematic belief, not a biblical one; a development of Protestant theology over time, a teaching with “dangers and shortcomings.”  Hopefully, the reader can see why I find this kind of rumination so problematic, for such statements provide no foundation for offering a defense of the faith, and as such strike me as being far removed from the apostolic viewpoint.
     Finally, Seifrid concludes his chapter by insisting that:

Luther’s dynamic conception of justification much more effectively conveys the way in which God’s mercy is granted only in judgment.  The justification of the sinner takes place only in and through the justification of God in the event of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  “Justification” is no mere transaction to be applied to my account.  God’s “yes” is given only in and with his “no,” a “no” and “yes” which are mine only in so far as faith echoes them in my heart….All growth in the Christian life, both individually and corporately, is found not in the triumph of progress and ascent (as one might suppose from the usual scheme of “sanctification”), but in that daily repentance and self-judgment by which God “makes out of unhappy and proud gods, true human beings, that is, wretches and sinners.”…By construing divine justice within the framework of bare legal conceptions, Protestant thought separated love from justice and, quite contrary to its own intent, arguably prepared the way for the totalization of love in modern theology.

One should always notice the repeated use of terms like “mere” and “bare.”  I have become accustomed, over the years, to hearing Roman Catholics say that the Protestant doctrine of justification is a “legal fiction” that “merely” involves a transaction that leaves us without holiness.  We have documented a number of times where Seifrid uses the same language.  In this one section we have “no mere transaction to be applied to my account” and “the framework of bare legal conceptions.”  In neither instance does this promote a sound representation of the historic Protestant position. 
     It is quite true that justification cannot be separated from the cross.  It is quite true that justification involves union with Christ and cannot be defined apart from Him.  Who has ever suggested doing so?  Holding to the ordo salutis as defined by someone like John Murray in Redemption Accomplished and Applied does not, by any stretch of the imagination, demand such a result.  It is quite true that justification is not a “mere transaction to be applied to my account.”  Who has ever suggested it was?  This is a straw-man.  The truth is the substitutionary work of Christ in behalf of His people breaks definitively into my life as one of His people when God raises me to spiritual life, changes my heart, grants living and saving faith, and upon the exercise of that faith, I am justified in perfection: I look back upon that forensic declaration on the part of God the Father based upon the perfect work of Jesus Christ in my behalf on Calvary’s tree.  This is when that timeless act breaks into my temporal experience and I am justified (Romans 5:1, which we will expand upon at a later point).  Justification is not merely the transaction indicated by imputation, but justification as revealed in Scripture does not exist without it.  And this is the danger of this kind of “theologizing.”
     The odd representation of historic Protestant formulations continues with the statement that the work of the Spirit in conforming us to the image of Christ, often referred to as the experience of sanctification, involves “
the triumph of progress and ascent” so as to contrast this with daily repentance and self-judgment.  But once again I am at a loss to know who has ever promoted such a view of “triumph and ascent” that did not include repentance and self-judgment leading to a hatred of sin and a love for Christ.  And the same is true with the statement that “By construing divine justice within the framework of bare legal conceptions, Protestant thought separated love from justice and, quite contrary to its own intent, arguably prepared the way for the totalization of love in modern theology.”  I reject, outright, this misrepresentation.  It is simply false to launch this accusation (made without providing examples!) when there is such a mountain of evidence of the careful balance of godly men who have written so fully on these divine truths in preceding generations. 

8/25/04:  The Imputation Controversy
Who knows?  Maybe that title will end up on a book in the not too distant future.  But one thing is for sure: I’m simply amazed that a few blog entries interacting with a theologian’s denial of what used to be assumed to be a central, important aspect of theological teaching and belief (the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer as the sole ground of his or her standing before God, not as some separate thing outside of Christ, but as a vitally important truth regarding why we have true and full peace with God through Christ) could produce such an amazing amount of “chatter.”  But despite the fact that I haven’t even completed my brief, basic, hardly-to-be-called in-depth interaction with the important section of Dr. Mark Seifrid’s book, Christ, Our Righteousness, it seems I have truly stirred up a hornet’s nest by daring to even note the presence of his teaching on imputation, let alone anything else.  Evidently, if you cite someone, in context, correctly, and do not agree, but instead ask questions of their position and point out problems with it, this is considered by some as an “attack.”  I do not know how we are to engage in discussion of vital issues if we are prohibited by some kind of political correctness from even noting our disagreement and, if need be, rejection of what someone else is promoting.  But it is even more mind-boggling that someone who believes in the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ in accord with the confessions of Presbyterian and Baptists churches would find resistance in defending that faith from…those who once confessed the same beliefs!  I well know all those who are denying part or all of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ say that you still “get” the same final result in their systems.  I don’t buy it.  But why would anyone think that we are in some fashion guilty of “attacking” someone merely by reviewing their claims and responding to them in the fashion we have?  It is an incredible commentary on how deeply theological dialogue has been influenced by society: just as you dare not state a position in the context of “right and wrong” in the political realm, so too we dare not raise the specter that someone might just be wrong in something they say in the theological realm.
     Now, if your memory is a bit fuzzy, I have taken the time to bookmark the articles directly related to my reviewing the relevant material in Seifrid’s Christ, our Righteousness.  There are five blog entries, all in the month of July. 

First Second Third Fourth Fifth

There, that was easy.  As you review this material, remember that Seifrid has said that the distinction of the active and passive obedience of Christ (which underlies the theological foundation of Southern Seminary as well as the London Baptist Confession of Faith) is “unnecessary and misleading,” and that to teach the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, at least as Seifrid imagines it has been taught by later generations of “Protestant divines” “inadvertently bruised the nerve which runs between justification and obedience.” These are not small assertions, no matter how "nuanced" they may be.  They have far-reaching implications. What is this “nerve” and what is its function?  How does this relate to “works of covenant faithfulness”?  How is it any different for Paul’s opponents to say his doctrine of grace led to licentiousness?
     We had gotten to the following section on page 175:

It is not so much wrong to use the expression ‘the imputed righteousness of Christ’ as it is deficient. Paul, after all, speaks of the forgiveness of sins, of reconciliation to God, the gift of the Spirit, ‘salvation’ and so on. But his teaching on justification is more comprehensive than any of these, and provides the framework in which they are to be understood. Even where he speaks of ‘salvation’ and not justification, the essential elements of the latter appear alongside the former. If we fail to capture the sense of the whole, the pieces themselves lose their significance. It is better to say with Paul that our righteousness is found, not in us, but in Christ crucified and risen. The Westminster Confession (and that of my own institution) puts the matter nicely when it speaks of ‘receiving and resting on [Christ] and his righteousness by faith’.  (Christ, Our Righteousness, 175). 

Given the controversy that has erupted by merely seeking to bring clarity to this issue, I now feel it is necessary to expand our response to cover other issues in passing.  Specifically, to point out the apologetic impact of attempting to make such a fine distinction as saying it is not really “wrong” to speak of imputation but is instead “deficient.”  Apologetically, what is a “deficient” statement of truth?  Should we not avoid such deficient statements of truth?  Does it not follow that we should not speak of imputation when responding to Rome’s teachings, for example?  Does Dr. Seifrid understand the usefulness of such a statement to one who promotes a denial of the position of the Westminster Confession of Faith or the London Baptist Confession?
     Why is it “deficient” to speak as Reformed theologians have spoken for so long?  Was Machen’s dying hope, as expressed, we are told, in a telegram to John Murray, in the active obedience of Christ, a “deficient” hope?  Seifrid says it is deficient to speak of the imputed righteousness of Christ, seemingly, because “It is better to say with Paul that our righteousness is found, not in us, but in Christ crucified and risen.”  This assumes, it seems, some kind of almost “spatial separation” in the Reformed doctrine of imputation, as if by imputing Christ’s righteousness to us as our present, precious possession and the very ground of our peace with God forensically, that it is no longer really Christ’s righteousness, and that it somehow exists outside of Christ.  But this would require us to believe the Westminster divines and all who have likewise confessed the imputed righteousness of Christ thought you could separate Christ from His righteousness, and that union with Christ is somehow not to be connected with the rest of the perfect work of salvation accomplished in Him.  As we have noted before this is an element of Seifrid’s presentation that we find baseless.  Are there some who have focused so much upon one element of divine revelation as to lose focus on other elements?  Of course.  Does this mean we then must abandon the very differentiation that makes sense of the entire revelation of the gospel in Scripture?  Surely not.
     We have already had opportunity to note that the phrase Dr. Seifrid quotes, “receiving and resting on [Christ] and his righteousness by faith” is actually representative of a fuller statement in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, in the London Baptist Confession, and in the writings of James P. Boyce.  It is very, very hard to avoid the conclusion that this work is indeed asserting that the profession of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as found in those documents is without biblical warrant, even if understandable in certain contexts. 
     This continued, we believe, erroneous representation of historic Reformed theology’s presentation of the truth of justification and especially the reality of the imputation of the “alien righteousness” of Christ to the believer continues on page 176, where we read:

In raising the foregoing criticism, we are touching upon problems which attend Protestant placement of justification within in an ‘order of salvation’ (ordo salutis). According to Paul, ‘justification’ has to do with Christ’s cross and resurrection for us the whole of salvation and therefore cannot be reduced to an event which takes place for the individual at the beginning of the Christian life. The problem deepens when ‘justification’ is made to follow ‘regeneration’, a sequence which was constructed in order to allow for the response of faith prior to the justification of the individual. In this case, the limitation of the justifying event to the act of faith threatens to diminish the significance of the cross.  If justification’ occurs only upon my believing (or being regenerated), we must conclude that the cross creates the precondition for justification, but not its reality. Indeed, when faith (or regeneration) is given this independent role, the cross appears as an arbitrary means by which God has chosen to justify humanity. Paul, in contrast, locates justification wholly in Christ and yet makes justification contingent upon faith (see 2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Rom. 3:22, 25). Christ’s cross and resurrection are the whole of justification, but that justification must be ‘distributed’ through preaching and faith: God reconciled the world to himself through Christ, and yet has committed the ‘word of reconciliation’ to the apostles (2 Cor. 5:19). As we have seen, faith for Paul is nothing more than ‘hearing’ the good news, the reception of that already accomplished and given, a mirror-reflection of the word of promise (Gal. 3:1—5; Rom. 10:14—17). Consequently, if we reduce the dimensions of justification’ to an ‘order of salvation’ constructed around the human being we distort Paul’s message.

It will take some work to “unpack” all of this, but as an over-all comment it should be stated that again we find the foundational assumption that the ordo salutis (which is under attack from all angles in our day) is somehow an improper, external, artificial contrivance that leads to a “distortion” of the biblical message, to be in error.  It functions upon the assumption that the revelation of God in Scripture is insufficient to allow us to know the truth with enough clarity to identify the constant errors men intrude into the gospel so as to “borrow” some element of God’s glory for themselves (the constant penchant of men, and the necessary action of false teachers seeking to draw disciples away for themselves).  But for those who think that all we need to do when examining such theological writings as this is allow for the proper “nuances” so that any and all statements can be made to “fit” within confessional boundaries, it should be noted that the language of the final sentence should be clear enough for everyone.  Obviously, I do not believe the men of Westminster or the London Confession (“later Protestant divines”) were “reducing” the dimensions of justification at all by speaking of imputation, active and passive obedience, or the like: indeed, we are seeking to defend the fullness of the truths they so clearly propounded from the text of Scripture.  But no matter how scholarly the context, when we speak of distorting Paul’s message, we are touching upon the very core of gospel truth itself. 
     Tomorrow we will work through the above paragraph.  Is it wrong to speak of having been justified?  Are we wrong to look back upon our justification and to distinguish it, in our experience, and in its meaning and application, from sanctification, or other aspects of Christ’s work of salvation?  Does a statement like “Christ’s cross and resurrection are the whole of justification, but that justification must be ‘distributed’ through preaching and faith” truly represent the Pauline argument, especially in the context under discussion?
     Finally, one further comment on our motivations.  We have been deeply disturbed by reports from various locations that simply reviewing and disagreeing with an openly published book is being construed by some as an “attack.”  We realize that in the political climate of our day anyone who speaks the truth is liable to be accused of “attacking” others, whether what they say is true or not.  But the doctrine of justification is not a political issue.  And it is just here that we see one of the main problems that arises when the world’s view of scholarship invades the church: the great truths of the gospel itself become mere “theological paradigms” to be discussed in the classically academic fashion, but never to be passionately defended, never to be discussed in such a way that it might just be said that someone is wrong in what they are saying.  What is worse, it seems that in that all-too-common context, one can hold almost any position, and then “nuance” it enough to make it “fit” into any confessional mold, even if it is self-evidently not what the original writers of confessional statements intended.  Such a framework is death to meaningful apologetics, and, we would further add, to the clear proclamation of the truth in the church.  We do not need less specificity and more confusion concerning the nature of God’s work in Christ in the church today.  We address this issue out of the conviction that God’s Word is significantly clearer than the vast majority of scholarly writing and that the truths it presents are the precious possession of God’s people.  We lay our case before the Lord himself to examine our motivations and our hearts, and pray that God will be pleased to place in the hearts of all of His servants a burning desire to have as our first priority "the truth of the gospel," the love of which prompted Paul to speak boldly in public in rebuke of Peter himself. 

A New Fractal

8/23/04: Anti-Christian Bigotry at Google
     What was once the unthinkable is now the moral.  Click here.  Now Christian morals are "hate speech" and subject to suppression.  The tide moves a bit higher...

Back from PA
     It was great to meet all of you who traveled to Middletown for the apologetics conference this weekend.  I'm exhausted, but it was great to get to meet you all!  Thanks to Jeff Downs for all his work.
     I was truly blessed to get to meet again, after 30 years, the pastor who baptized me as a young person at the Bible Baptist Church of Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania, Pastor Cass F. Santos, Jr.  I was a tad bit smaller the last time he saw me!  I remember well Pastor Santos' ministry, even as a young person (we left Pennsylvania when I was eleven years of age).  I hope the fact that one of those who attended the ministry of the Word under him thirty years ago is himself continuing that proclamation is encouraging to him.
     Sunday afternoon, on the way (sorta) to the airport for the return

flight we stopped at Gettysburg.  I had visited there in 1994 and had taken beautiful pictures, but sadly, have lost them in the meantime (I still hope to find them hidden in a box somewhere).  We had very little time, so I was only able to grab a couple of pictures this trip.  I did as many did and re-created my own version of the famous Gardner picture from Devil's Den.  I also snapped this shot of the Pete Longstreet memorial.  I think I will find time to once again put Gettysburg and Gods and Generals in the DVD player (while rowing, of course!) and once again escape into a day when men were brave and actually believed in something beyond themselves.

8/19/04:  Off to Pennsylvania!
     I'm off to the Apologetics Conference in Middletown, PA (click here).  Lord willing, back on Monday.

Secular Jihad
     Al Mohler has commented on an amazing example of the hatred of the world for the "God who is there."  Check it out.

The Five Points of Calvinism
Presbyterian & Reformed has released a new version of an old-time classic.  S. Lance Quinn has updated The Five Points of Calvinism by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas.  This work contains a great deal more information than the original, including an annotated bibliography.  Our readers might find the following entries interesting, if not somewhat amusing:

White, James R.  The Potter’s Freedom…White is to be thanked for carefully, fairly, and meticulously refuting Geisler’s disturbing and misleading book, Chosen But Free….In the preface to the book, Philip R. Johnson, executive director of Grace to You (the media ministry of John MacArthur), writes of Geisler’s book, “Unfortunately, Chosen but Free is a disappointment.  More than a mere letdown, actually.  It is a stunningly inept treatment of the subject it undertakes” (p. 11).  Geisler responds to White in the second edition of the book, and White has a detailed response to Geisler at www.aomin.org/CBFRep2.html.  (pp. 114-115)

Then, under a previous entry:

Hunt, Dave and James White.  Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views…This book grew out of James White’s response to Dave Hunt’s 2002 book, What Love is This?…This book has a debate format and could well go down as the most lop-sided debate in church history.  Once again, as in What Love is This? Dave Hunt neither understands true Calvinism nor correctly represents classic Arminianism.  If you want to see an excellent presentation of classic Calvinism, you will find it in James White’s portion of Debating Calvinism.  (p. 91)

8/18/04:  Have You Ever Thought?
Open Theism teaches that God does not have exhaustive divine foreknowledge of future events that are determined by free-will choices of men.  (Open Theists are, at least, consistent Arminians: they, unlike their more historical brothers, recognize that libertarianism is the lynch-pin, the central focus, the heart, of their theology, and they are seeking to defend it fully, recognizing that God’s sovereign decree, and hence exhaustive knowledge of all events in time, is a deadly enemy to their faith).  Consider for a moment some of the ramifications of this system which has passed, with such painful ease, into many “evangelical” churches today.
     On September 10th, God must have been somewhat nervous.  He did not know, in that long night (God doesn’t sleep, even in Open Theistic circles), what would happen the next day.  Oh, He well knew the possibilities (God dwells much on them), but would some of the hi-jackers crack?  Even if they were successful, what would happen to the buildings?  Where would the planes hit?  Would some of the people on the planes fight back?  It must have been a very restless night for the Omnipotent, for the next day would be very busy if He had to start trying to put back together all the lives impacted by the events of the next day.  And what if some of those who were to die were to do important things in God’s “plan”?  He would have to start all over again.  Yes, September 10th, 2001 must have been a difficult day for God.
     It is one thing to look back upon an event like 9/11 and consider God’s ignorance of its full impact prior to it happening.  But if you truly wish to understand the impact of this system of belief, consider today: what if God knows, perfectly, the intentions of all hearts today, and knows that a major attack of similar, or greater, proportions is planned for tomorrow.  God is just as agitated as He was 9/10/01, but there is absolutely nothing He can do about it since He values libertarian free will more highly than even His own glory or decree.  Or think of the Christian parents with sons or daughters heading into Iraq in the American military today.  God may know that rebel terrorists are planning an attack against those very young people tomorrow, but He cannot do anything about it, and does not know if the attack will succeed, or if those parents’ children will be alive tomorrow or not. 
     You may notice that the God of Open Theism is very much like you and I.  And that is purposeful.  Open Theists speak often of the “reality” of God’s “interaction” with us.  What they mean by that is that for such interaction to be “real” it has to be human (note the similar train of thought in the “for love to exist, man must have libertarian freedom” mantra so popular in evangelical circles).  Since we as time bound finite creatures who are but a vapor cannot wrap ourselves around the idea of a timeless being whose interaction with us is through the means of an eternal and timeless decree, we feel…well, sorta like Isaiah when he saw God, or Job when he put his hand on his mouth and, in a very modern paraphrase of the Hebrew, said “Gulp!”  So, what do we do?  We do what any self-respecting creature does: edit the Creator till He fits the image of the created! 
     If you haven’t listened to it, I debated one of the leading proponents of Open Theism on the subject in November of 2001 in Orlando, Florida (click here, #451). 

8/17/04:  Quick Announcement for KDOV Listeners!
    I should have noted this days ago, but I will be on KDOV radio, which covers Southern Oregon and Northern California, Tuesday morning, August 17th, at 8:05AM, talking about Debating Calvinism.  Dave Hunt has already told his side, now it is my turn.  Of course, I am open to being on with Dave, but so far, Dave isn't open to being on with me.  :-)
Quick Update:  Just got off the phone with Perry and the folks at KDOV.  Had a great time!  The half hour went way too fast, but I managed to touch upon the key inconsistencies in Hunt's arguments against the Reformed faith.  A couple of pastors were going to be on after me, and I have asked for a tape so I can hear what they had to say, but the host said he is going to ask Dave to come on with me.  I don't expect that to happen, but we can hope!  Another update: the pastors were Reformed guys who had contacted me about Hunt being on on the first place!  Yeah!  So all-in-all a great morning.  Let's hope it leads to more opportunities in the future.

8/16/04:  Conversations with God
Recently I took the time to obtain a number of books by Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God (www.cwg.org).  For a while it looked like I would have the opportunity to respond to Walsch’s contentions in a televised setting, but he has now declined that engagement.  So, I did not want the investment to go completely wasted, so I will note a couple of issues relating to these books here on the blog, hoping that some of you who have family susceptible to such New Age style materials will be helped.
     Walsch’s books are based upon his claim that God (please define that in a sufficiently nebulous, New Age/Eastern mysticism form to fit this less-than convincing “conversation”) has engaged in a number of “conversations” with him, which he has dutifully written down (in an almost automatic writing style).  He is currently making a healthy living selling these “conversations” in an ever-growing number of books, doing seminars, and in essence making his fortune through repackaging, yet again, the “same ol’ same ol’” of New Age theology regarding God and creation.
     When I purchased “Book 1” I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant with my daughter, Summer, and started scanning for “give-away” topics in the book.  It did not take long to run into a glowing example of where Walsch’s “God” flunked basic history.  Now remember, this is supposed to be a “conversation” between Walsch and God.  I will put Walsch in italics:

The Bible writers were witnesses to the life of Christ, and faithfully recorded what they heard and saw.

Correction.  Most of the New Testament writers never met or saw Jesus in their lives.  They lived many years after Jesus left the Earth.  They wouldn’t have known Jesus of Nazareth if they walked into him on the street.


The Bible writers were great believers and great historians.  They took the stories which had been passed down to them and to their friends by others---elders---from elder to elder, until finally a written record was made.
            And not everything of the Bible authors was included in the final document.
           Already “churches” had sprung up around the teachings of Jesus---and, as happens whenever and wherever people gather in groups around a powerful idea, there were certain individuals within these churches, or enclaves, who determined what parts of the Jesus Story were going to be told---and how.  This process of selecting and editing continued throughout the gathering, writing, and publishing of the gospels, and the Bible.
            Even several centuries after the original scriptures were committed to writing, a High Council of the Church determined yet one more time which doctrines and truths were to be included in the then-official Bible---and which would be “unhealthy” or “premature” to reveal to the masses.
            And there have been other holy scriptures as well---each placed in writing in moments of inspiration by otherwise ordinary men, none of whom were any more crazy than you.  (p. 67).

Here we have the standard New Age attack upon biblical sufficiency, accuracy, and history, this time under the guise of the poor benighted human learning from God that what he had heard all along was all wrong (shades of Da Vinci Code again).  Walsch’s “God” turns the eye witness accounts into distant recollections; they are only recording oral traditions passed down to them (note the confusion here, not recognizing the difference between, say, the passing down of information that becomes collected into an historical work in the Old Testament and the recording of the gospel accounts themselves).  Then we have the ever-present “some stuff is missing” story, always laid at the feet of the “church” or “churches” of the early centuries.  The fact that the farther and farther back we push our knowledge of the manuscripts of those very accounts only confirms the primitive form of the text as that which has been passed on to us somehow escapes “God’s” notice.  And then, as if Shirley MacLaine didn’t get enough mileage out of her fanciful histories of the church, a wonderfully nebulous “High Council of the Church” (you’d think “God” would at least be able to tell us with some specificity when and where this allegedly happened) performed a final “edit” and suppressed even more “truth.”  Evidently, “God” does not have to provide any factual basis for such claims, even when they fly in the face of all known facts, and in fact, are directly contradictory to the state of the New Testament text today. 
     This is followed by one of many, many passages where “God” lays the foundation for people viewing Walsch’s meandering fictions as “Scripture,” which, in fact, is his long-term goal.  One of the books I obtained, from 2002, is titled, The New Revelations: A Conversation with God. The cover proclaims, “One of the most important spiritual statements of our time.”
     There will be no end of these new “gurus” claiming special knowledge and conversations with “God,” so how can a Christian be prepared to respond to all their individual quirks and viewpoints?  Obviously, no one can become a master of all false teachers.  Instead, knowing the truth about the history of the text of the Bible, the canon, the transmission of the text over time, etc., will allow you to respond to all of these gurus as they come, making their fortune, and fade from view. 
     Toward that end I’m pleased to note that we are truly hoping to have Scripture Alone available for shipping around the first of October (rather than later in the month as we expected).  We should start taking pre-orders soon.  Keep an eye on the column to the right for an announcement of when we will start taking pre-orders for signed copies, and plan on helping us get this work, which defends the inspiration, inerrancy, sufficiency, and perspicuity of the Bible, by getting it in the hands of your elders, or, if you are a teacher, your students.

8/14/04:  Psalm 12:8 Fulfilled on CNN, LIVE!
What happens when a nation which was founded with a knowledge of God’s moral law abandons that law—no, not only abandons it, but spits upon it, dances upon it, and rejoices in their rebellion against it (as we see in San Francisco and all across our nation)?  We all watched an incredible example last evening.  The final story is not out, but it appears that the Governor of New Jersey, James McGreevey, appointed a man to a high position (and $110,000/year salary) that involved the security of every citizen of the state.  The man, it seems, was his homosexual lover (though McGreevey is on his second marriage and has two children).  The man’s greatest credentials, it seems, involved his ability to write poetry.  In any case, McGreevey was involved in fornication and adultery with this other man, and when that “relationship” ended, the man threatened to bring a lawsuit against McGreevey for “sexual harrassment.”  Rather than showing the slightest bit of repentance (which would have involved his immediate resignation, which he so far has refused to do, preferring to play more politics and push off the selection of his successor until after the general election), McGreevey heaped further shame upon his wife and family by announcing he is a “gay American.”  This immediately brought the far left to his side to laud him as a great hero and tragic figure.
     The truly incredible part of his “confession” involved the manhandling of Scriptural phrases and a thoroughly post-modern defense of his sexual debauchery.  I transcribed the relevant portion:

I do not believe that God tortures any person, simply for its own sake.  I believe that God enables all things to work for the greater good.  In this, the 47th year of my life, is arguably too late to have this discussion.  But it is here, and it is now.  At a point in every person’s life one has to look deeply into the mirror of one’s soul and decide one’s unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it, or hope to see it, but as it is.  And so my truth is that I am a gay American.  And I am blessed to life in the greatest nation with the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world.

I am uncertain what the first sentence means.  He seemed to stumble in his notes at that point.  But the abuse of Romans 8:28 is quite clear.  The Governor seems to have missed the fact that the promise of Romans 8:28 is for those who love God (not their sin) and who have been called according to His purpose.  It doesn’t say “for the greater good” but “for the good of those who love God.”  Yes, I know, he’s a politician: but when were politicians given free license to pervert the Scriptures?  Does anyone think God will be any less offended by a politician perverting His truth? 
     Next we have the wonderfully post-modern yet still utterly unintelligible phrase “decide one’s unique truth in the world….And so my truth is that I am a gay American.”  Well, there you go.  There you have the ultimate post-modern trump card.  Such a statement is, in a society gone morally blind, beyond challenge.  Why?  Because McGreevey told us he had “looked deeply into the mirror of his soul” and in that existential experience he had decided his “unique” truth.  And that’s it.  That’s the whole story.  That’s the ultimate claim of truth today: who can dare say he’s wrong?  Only he can look into the mirror of his soul, therefore, what he says must be true, right?  Only if you have the moral IQ of a potato chip.  McGreevey looked into his soul alright, and realized the walls were falling in on him.  His lusts had done him in, his poet-lover was about to blow the whistle, he had traded the safety of the people of New Jersey for his own sexual satisfaction, he had betrayed his wife and children, made a mockery of marriage, and only then did his soul-mirror scream “Make yourself a victim!”
     There was a day, once, long ago, when such behavior would have brought on a feeling called “shame.”  But we have gotten far beyond that feeling now.  Shame is bad!  No one should ever feel shame, even when they embarrass their wife, their children, their office, their state, and themselves, by their behavior!  Still, there should be no shame, because shame implies a standard of behavior outside of ourselves, and we cannot be good post-moderns unless we manage to rid ourselves of that ancient notion!
The Psalmist said it long ago:

The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.

8/12/04:  Phil Johnson on The Dividing Line Tonight!
     Phil Johnson of Grace To You and The Spurgeon Archive will be my guest on the DL tonight.  We will be discussing NT Wright's views on justification and why they are so controversial.  Join us at 7PM EDT for the program at www.aomin.org/dllive.ram
Now, this has nothing to do with Phil's joining us on the program (though, he would probably enjoy this), but I promised some folks after the last DL that during the "pre-show" where we just play music for half an hour before the program starts that I would do a special segment where I will be playing some of the greatest hits of...Spike Jones and the City Slickers.  So if you want to "tune in" (i.e., connect up) half an hour early, you will be...entertained, anyway.  :-)  In fact, the more I think about it, the more I am sure Phil loves Spike Jones.  Maybe he'll want to call in early just to listen.

Peterson Confirms Reasoning
    I was sent a response to my entry below concerning Daniel Peterson whose unwillingness to defend Mormonism in public debate runs contrary to his own stated stance (as in this clip from a radio program in California).  In it Peterson does not refute any of the facts I presented, nor even mention his own statement in the audio clip.  Instead, he refers to me as a "professional anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon" with whom he has had "deeply unsatisfying" encounters.  Well, I can imagine he would find them unsatisfying.  I mean, when you have to redefine your opponent as an "anti-X" rather than just having the honesty and temerity to refer to him for what he is, obviously something is not right in your own neighborhood to begin with.  And the fact is Dr. Peterson has not done very well when he has wandered out of his field of expertise.  I have documented numerous errors on his part over the years, and I'm sure he has found that to be "unpleasant."  I have repeatedly pointed out errors in what is still one of the primary "apologetic" works of Mormonism, Offenders for a Word, which he co-authored with Stephen Ricks.  If I had written such a work, I surely would not wish to have to defend it against someone who could demonstrate its many errors and misrepresentations.  We have posted documentation of its problems for years (click here).  But, that's the problem: Peterson tells the "choir" that they need to "stand up to" their critics and demonstrate that they are "bluffing."  Well, we have done many debates in Salt Lake City, and we are not bluffing, and Dr. Peterson knows it.  As to his disliking me, well, I find that a rather poor excuse.  Fact is, we can provide video taped evidence that we handle ourselves as scholars and gentlemen in debate.  Peterson cannot.  Facts are facts. 
     In looking over the review of their book we have offered for a number of years now, I did find this section most interesting.  I wonder if Peterson would call this "bluffing"?

On an even more basic and fundamental level of error, Peterson and Ricks show no familiarity at all with the standard works on Old Testament canonization, such as Beckwith (1985), Bruce (1988), or Sundberg (1964). They write,

It is true that Mormons irritate their critics by accepting other books of scripture not included in the traditional canon. But is this enough to exclude them from Christendom? It seems odd to take such drastic action on so flimsy and uncertain a basis. The Hebrew canon had not yet been fixed in the time of Jesus. Josephus (d. Ca. A.D. 100) was among the first to identify an authoritative collection of Hebrew scriptural texts. But the collection of which Josephus spoke consisted merely of the Pentateuch, thirteen prophetic books, and four books of "writings" —for a grand total of twenty-two, seventeen short of the canon insisted upon by fundamentalist anti-Mormons (p. 118).

Seemingly our writers are ignorant of how the Jews collected books. As Beckwith rather exhaustively documents (The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, Eerdmans, 1985, pp. 235-273), the twenty-two books of Josephus includes the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament canon. The minor prophets were rolled into the major prophets, some books were made appendices of larger works, etc. The comment that the twenty-two is "seventeen short" only shows that Peterson and Ricks are trained in areas other than biblical history and canon issues.

8/11/04:  Almost as If I Had Requested an Example...
     Below I noted an only semi-fictitious go-around with some rC's (for those who haven't been reading the blog for a while, that stands for "reformed Catholic") where the constant shifting of the ground and circular argumentation was highlighted.  And almost as if someone felt I needed a new example, this morning Mr. Johnson decided to chime in on the new edition of the Reformed Baptist Theological Review (RBTR I:2) which, along with a lot of other stuff, has the first half of my article on the New Covenant.  Now, it seems rather painfully obvious to me, and I think to most of our readers, that if you are going to address the subject you do so first by providing an exegetical examination of the key texts and only then approach the differences that exist between credobaptists and paedobaptists on their application and understanding of those texts.  Hence, the first half of the article is exegetical, and the second half (due out in January) will interact with two of the presentations found in The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism (Strawbridge).  This is all laid out at the very beginning of the article,
     Now remember as well that Mr. Johnson and some of his co-horts have often accused us of 1) causing issues by publicly attacking people, 2) of not publicly engaging the issues, 3) of naively thinking we can do "objective exegesis" and ignoring the testimony of "the church" and yet 4) not being consistent in our claimed belief in sola scriptura (whenever we address the writings of non-inspired authors).  Also remember that twice a week we do a web-cast that almost always includes taking phone calls, toll-free, no less.  So, with all of that in mind....

Well I finally received my copy of the 'Reformed Baptist Theological Review' and the long-awaited article by Dr. James White on Hebrews 8 and the New Covenant. Looks like I'm going to have to wait until "part two" because the devastation in the article of the Presbyterian view of the New Covenant promised by certain Reformed Baptists just wasn't there.

Now, if I could suggest a little something.  You will be able to search this website, the archives of the Dividing Line, and any number of other relevant sources, and you will not find anything wherein I have spoken of "devastating" anyone or anything.  You see, if these rC's had the first care about the only meaningful form of "ecumenism" a Christian could ever engage in, they would realize that my article is meant to promote just that.  You see, unlike rC's, who beat their opponents like red-headed step children, drive them back into caves, or seek to bury them under a mountain of obscure works of medieval philosophy, etc., I happen to get along with godly men with whom I have disagreements.  When I have a foundation of common confession in the gospel of Jesus Christ with a man, I can go a very long way in discussion about issues upon which we disagree.  That is what drives rC's nuts, it seems, for they are constantly mocking those Presbyterians who can "cooperate" with us dreaded Baptists. 
     Now, apart from a rather childish complaint about the fact that the article is long enough to require it being split into to parts (oh, the shame!) and that it begins with exegesis (rC's don't tend to find that to be the most compelling portion of any argument anyway), I would like to inform Mr. Johnson that the only folks that I am concerned about reading the article and finding benefit therein are those who believe the Bible is the Word of God and as such it deserves the utmost respect in how we handle and hear its message.  It is God-honoring ecumenism for me to disagree with the godly men I do in my response.  If they, like I, honor the Word, they cannot possibly object to my response, for as any semi-unbiased person can see from reading the article, there is not a shred of ad-hominem argumentation in it.  It just so happens that I do not personally know one of those whose position I review (Dr. Pratt), but I do know Pastor Niell, very, very well, and I have every confidence that he will read the exegesis for what it is, and reply on the basis thereof, not on the basis of childish claims of "devastation."  Jeff Niell is one of the most godly men I know, he is my brother, and though I disagree with him clearly and firmly on the matter of the exegesis of Hebrews 8, I, for one, will show what real ecumenism is by engaging that disagreement in the only way possible for those committed to the ultimacy of inspired Writ. 

The exegesis provided by the article appears to be providing the Reformed Baptist view with something like a big tall house of cards just waiting to be blown down by a few rather standard Reformed observations. But, hey, "part two" will tell it all.

The readers will forgive me if I do not put a lot of stock in Mr. Johnson's unbiased opinion.

I may post specific comments on the article later--I was just disappointed that there wasn't more there that actually dealt with the Presbyterian/Reformed position--mostly just a lot of window-dressing and framing of the discussion in a way that will allow Dr. White to present a supposedly airtight case in the next article with all the attendant and necessary Reformed Baptist presuppositions having their bearing on the exegesis and interpretation of Scripture.

You would think that the 11,000 words of Part I would provide more than sufficient basis for in-depth demonstration of these "Reformed Baptist presuppositions," yet, nothing is noted.  How odd!  One is left wondering how one is supposed to do exegesis and, at the same time "deal with the Presbyterian" position.  Perhaps Mr. Johnson is not familiar with the process and work of exegesis?  You have to have a foundation upon which to stand in engaging those extended issues, and that foundation is the text itself.  Also, if someone would like to again document where I have used the term "airtight case" I would like to see it.  And then, as if the preceding hadn't been enough to make one's head spin,

Oh well...at least Dr. White's view is actually getting out into the open in a journal format allowing others to interact with it in a scholarly way. It may very well prove to be a valuable example of looking at how we moderns often try to engage the text. More on that later perhaps.

Getting out into the open?  Oh yes indeed, I truly hide in the shadows, quiet and retiring as I am, away from all avenues of communication. I've never discussed any of this on the Dividing Line, and it was just a fluke that one of his compatriots on the Counter Reformation blog has accused me of seeking to start a "war" by preaching from the pulpit of the church where I am an elder on this very issue two years ago.  Yes indeed, it's great I'm finally "out there"!
     I would like to invite Mr. Johnson and his compatriots to quit hiding behind their cadre of platitudes and actually engage the issue on the exegetical level.  Don't waste our time with your "But, but, you didn't cite medieval authors!" stuff, don't invest any more effort in attacking the very idea of doing exegesis, just get in there and say, "No, White is wrong, because the grammar and syntax would indicate this instead...."  Otherwise, just openly admit that you can't touch the text at that level, and that you prefer smoking a stogey with Chesterton while singing the praises of de Sales.

8/10/04:  Daniel Peterson at FAIR Conference
One report on the conference contained these, somewhat ironic, words:

SANDY — Bluffing is involved in a great many verbal and written attacks on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to an unofficial apologist for the church.
     Daniel C. Peterson, sometimes referred to as the "chief apologist for the LDS Church," made that declaration Friday in the final session of the sixth annual Mormon Apologetics Conference, sponsored by the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, at the South Towne Exposition Center.
     "Sometimes you just have to stand up to them," said Peterson, himself a member of the LDS faith.
     Peterson is a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University and the director and executive editor of BYU's three-part Middle Eastern Texts Initiative.

I say these words are ironic given the opportunity that has been offered Peterson, repeatedly, to “stand up to them” and be counted right in his own back yard.  His language seems to indicate he is willing to “take on” critics of Mormonism.  In fact, in this audio, he says just that.  In fact, the direct quote, given by Peterson at the end of that clip (which aired on radio: the first voice is Bill McKeever, Peterson replies) was that he would be willing to go “head to head” with “any of those people” (my name specifically had been mentioned) “any day of the week.”  First, that sounds like he’s willing to take on critics he doesn’t personally find to be possible future “buddies.”  There’s nothing in those words that would lead me to believe he was really saying, “I will only debate milquetoast scholars who wish to exchange notes on comparative religion but don’t really believe anything themselves.”  It seems Daniel Peterson, in public, wishes to be seen as a defender of the LDS faith, able to take on “the critics.”  Secondly, he’s been given the opportunity, more than once (not just on one day of the week!) to do what he has publicly claimed to be ready to do: and has declined each time.  There seems to be a continuing contradiction between the public persona and the reality. 

Skipping Records
     Remember “records”?  Those 12-inch wide platters of vinyl we used to listen to on “record players” or “turn-tables”?  Yeah, well, if you got a scratch on your record, it could end up “skipping,” and getting stuck so that one brief section of the song, say, about 1.5 seconds or so, would keep repeating itself over and over again until you “nudged” the needle out of that groove into the next one (ah, technology!). 
     Well, that’s how I feel about the rC’s out in Blogopolis.  Right now the song is “Let’s be kinder and gentler,” but the second stanza is always “not like the people who oppose us, and especially that James White guy.”  And like the record with the scratch that repeats itself, the same scenario just repeats itself over and over again.  In simplified form, it goes like this,

Me:  So, Rome is not a true Church because it lacks the gospel, for it teaches such things as the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice, limited in its effect, purgatory, indulgences, sacramental confession and absolution, and it denies the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

rC:  You radical Baptists are so narrow minded and focused upon only your views of “truth” as propositions floating about without any connection to the space-time continuum!

Me:  But I am just following the example of the Apostle Paul, who, when he wrote to the Galatians….

rC:  Oh, as if you can exercise objective exegesis and come to such conclusions without reference to the traditional and cultural matrix (or matrices) that so deeply impact your reading of the text of Scripture!  I bet you haven’t even read Wittgenstein like I have, so you are simply naïve to think you can even begin to enter fully into the context of Paul in Galatians!

Me:  I reject, of course, the idea that one has to know Wittgenstein’s theories to accurately handle the word of God or to understand what Paul was saying to the Galatians!  Goodness, couldn’t the Galatians figure it out, long before Wittgenstein?  Do you not see how you are destroying the functional perspicuity of Scripture by taking that stance?

rC:  I am doing nothing of the kind!  How incredibly mean-spirited of you to go ad-hominem like that, and attack me personally!  And you claim to be a minister!  You radical Anabaptists are all alike!  And why don’t you ever interact with what we say, anyway?  You talk a lot about sola scriptura, but why don’t you practice it!  We raise all these deep biblical presentations and you just ignore them! 

And so it goes.  Round and round.  I saw a comment about myself just today as a “vocal critic” and how I have failed to interact with the viewpoints presented by the rC’s!  So, if I respond, as I did a few days ago, to Mark Horne’s comments, without saying a word about Mark Horne as a person, or anyone else, but instead generalize about the movement when I speak of its functional diminishment of the perspicuity and clarity of the text of Scripture, I am being mean spirited and personal; yet, at the very same time, the substance of those comments has been completely ignored by the rC’s in favor of their “Oh, he’s so mean to disagree with us!” tactic, and yet they can still say I am the one not interacting with their position!  I am not the only one who has concluded that there is something about putting two contradictory terms together in a single name that results in a major disconnection with reality itself. 

8/9/04:  John 8: So Very Relevant to the Modern Church
     The patient people of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church endured the "second string" (i.e., Pastor Fry was on vacation) this past Lord's Day.  I spoke from John 8:21-59 in the AM (save) and PM (save) services.  Topics addressed included false faith, man's inabilities, Christ's deity, and the sacred cow of libertarian freedom (the denial of which prompted the transformation of surface level believers into rock-throwing blasphemers).  I also began addressing the biblical materials on justification and imputation in the adult Bible Study class (stream/save), though I did not get very far (started preaching a bit too much).

Angel Makes a Visit
     Lest some of you think you managed to convince me to abandon my sense of humor and the use of well crafted, purposeful, high-quality cartoons to make a point---you were wrong.  Angel has simply been swamped with "real life" and unable to carve out any time for us (can you imagine what he'd come up with regarding some of our rC friends?  Hey Angel, I have jpgs!).  He popped into channel today to let us know he's still kicking, busier than can be, but likes my fractals (see, a quality man there!).  While he was there I introduced him to my favorite sweater, the COOGI (face it: a Coogi tie or sweater is the closest thing to a wearable fractal made).  Who knows, maybe someday Angel will do a cartoon of me in a COOGI.  Then again, maybe not.  But be warned!  I shall be wearing a COOGI tie in the debate in November!  Bring sunglasses!

8/8/04: Overheard from the rC camp:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people argue that Reformed theology is unbalanced because it is “so focused on Paul.”  I remember Roman Catholic apologist Art Sippo rant on and on about developing a doctrine of justification from other sources, and quoting Peter’s statement that there are hard things to understand in Paul as grounds for his view.  I’ve heard Mormons do the very same thing.  The text says,

 2 Peter 3:14-18   14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,  15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,  16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.  17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,  18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

So today on the New Counter-Reformation Blog Mark Horne quotes the above and comments,

This is, as far as I know, the only Scriptural witness that a particular portion of Scripture is "hard to understand." It would seem to me that, according to the analogy of faith, we should be interpreting Paul in light of the other Scriptures rather than the other way around.

Let’s consider this rather well-known writer’s thoughts for a moment.  The text above is not, in fact, a warning that Paul’s writings are any more difficult or “hard” than say John or Hebrews or Luke.  Peter calls Paul as a second witness to that which he is himself proclaiming, and obviously, he is expecting his audience to be aware of the writings of Paul and their contents.  Why on earth make reference to a teaching in Paul’s writings if, in fact, you are implicitly teaching that his writings are to be subjected to a wider canon and they themselves, due to their difficulty, subjugated to an external interpretive grid?  When he speaks of these difficult things, he immediately tells us that these things are twisted by “untaught and unstable men.”  Is there anything in Scripture that cannot be twisted by untaught and unstable men?  My brief experience of life has surely provided me with a litany of simple truths men can distort.  And it seems to pass right by those who seek to misuse this text that Peter says, “as they do the rest of the Scriptures.”  Anything in God’s Word is liable to twisting.  But, if untaught and unstable men can distort these things, does it not logically follow that taught and stable men can handle these very same “difficult” things aright?  Such would follow. 
     Peter then continues his exhortation to steadfastness and growth in grace by assuming his audience not only understood what Paul said, but did so well enough for him to base his exhortation upon that understanding! 
     Now, let us ponder for just a moment what is really being said here.  Steve Schlissel of Messiah’s Congregation has accused many of us of over-reliance upon Romans and Galatians, as if one could draw an equal number of statements defining justification from each book of the New Testament, or an equal number from each author.  Just a few moments of thought will reveal the error of such thinking.  Let’s put it this way: can you define your ecclesiology from Luke?  Can you tell us about the church officers, or the proper form of worship, or the over-all purpose of Christ’s Church, by reference to the gospel of Luke?  Mark, perhaps?  Why not?  Because, obviously, they do not address these issues.  You draw most heavily from those epistles that specifically address the divine truth under discussion (or attack).  When dealing with the deity of Christ, a “disproportionate” number of verses will come from John and Colossians.  Does this mean we have a “problem,” and should promote some form of “equal citation quotas” for all books of the New Testament regarding the deity of Christ?  Surely not.
     So there is a rather obvious reason why Romans and Galatians figure so prominently in the discussion of the doctrine of justification: it’s the same reason 1 Timothy and Titus figure so prominently in the discussion of the qualifications of the elders of the church: that’s where the Scriptures address the issue.  Such seems so obvious, so basic, it should not have to be mentioned.
     So why do we have to mention it?  Because those who are drawing back from the clarity of the doctrine of justification (for a myriad of reasons) need to sow doubt and confusion in the minds of those they are seeking to sway to their views.  When you are seeking to bring people from believing X to believing only a portion of X, you need to convince them that they were wrong in going “too far” in believing X in the first place.  And hence the Counter Reformation in seeking to convince others to join their march to the camp on the west side of the Tiber (a camp they may well decide to make permanent) must seek to convince us that we have had too much confidence in the clarity of Scripture in the past.  Ponder that one for a few moments, then listen once again to Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, and be encouraged in your stand for truth.

8/7/04:  Metallic Sheen Fractal

Mark Dever Interviews J. Ligon Duncan on New Perspectivism
     Lots of resources noted in this hour long discussion.

8/6/04:  Charles Stanley on John 6
    Next Tuesday on the Dividing Line we will discuss yesterday's In Touch radio broadcast.  Charles Stanley not only insisted that conviction of sin is not a necessary part of conversion (conviction of a felt need is), but his comments on John 6 left a number of listeners wondering if he had adopted the Dave Hunt Translation.  Remember, the DL airs live on Tuesdays as 2PM EDT.

Owen Bears More False Witness
Presbyterian scholar and professor at Montreat College Paul Owen continues bearing false witness in his public writings.  After writing to Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong that he would indeed be able to worship alongside a Roman Catholic “much more easily than with James White or David King” (Owen has said before he would rather see someone in a Catholic Church than a Baptist) and that while he doesn’t agree with the Mass, it’s just not one of his "issues,” Owen states,  “Folks like White and King get along fine with Baptists, and hate Roman Catholics.”  I would simply like to point out two really obvious problems with Dr. Owen’s statement: first, I do try to get along with Baptists, because I am one.  Secondly, it is a lie, plain and simple, to say I hate Roman Catholics.  This is the same ploy used by those in our society who refuse to engage issues but instead seek to inflame passions by construing disagreement as hatred.  I have a long history of ministry regarding Roman Catholicism (Owen has none), and unless we adopt his post-modernistic way of thinking, he has no basis for such a slanderous allegation.  It is troubling to note that in the very same paragraph Owen noted the use of the death penalty by some of the Reformers for Anabaptists (the difference, of course, between an Anabaptist and a modern Reformed Baptist or a Southern Presbyterian having been swept conveniently under the rug) but failed to voice any condemnation of the use of capital punishment.  One is truly left to wonder.

8/5/04: Alexander Strikes Again
I’ve put up with his personal insults since 1996, sniping footnotes in papers, the regular drumbeat of the “thorn in the flesh” that we sometimes must bear with as much grace as we can.  But over the past year Dr. Owen has decided to take a much more public role not only in his ever-personal campaign, but now he is rallying the rag-tag group of “reformed Catholics” around himself, sowing confusion and division, all in the service of his own much-vaunted brilliance and scholarship.  Despite having only written a couple of articles and being a general editor of Zondervan’s 2002 release, The New Mormon Challenge, Owen boasts loudly of his great insights and abilities.  Some who follow cyber-exchanges know he speaks of beating opponents like “red-headed step children,” and driving them back into the “caves” from which they came.  Meanwhile, he sings the praises of Mother Church, promotes odd, eisegetical interpretations of key texts (such as Galatians and the nature of the error of Paul’s opponents), is one of the two favorite “evangelical theologians” (a title given he and his cohort even before their graduation from seminary) of F.A.R.M.S. (The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies out of BYU), and has confirmed his role as “Alexander the Coppersmith” to almost anyone involved in inter-faith apologetics of any type (having expanded out from shredding those who have sought to minister to the LDS people to now giving aid and comfort to Roman Catholicism as well).  This former-Mormon has established himself as king of the below-the-belt punches and that while still in only his fourth decade.
     Over the past few months Owen has been posting, sporadically, on Eric Svendsen’s NTRMIN webboard.  In that process he has run into David King, co-author of Holy Scripture, the 3-volume defense of sola scriptura we have spoken of many times here at aomin.org.  And while Pastor King has extended to Owen a Jobian-level of patience and long-suffering, Owen has chosen to leave that forum in a huff, and take his case elsewhere (specifically, to reformedcatholicism.com).  To those of us who have followed the situation, the reason is obvious: Owen, who boasts of his great apologetic abilities and victories, had his head handed to him on a silver platter.  He was out argued and out cited 2:1 or more.  He was soundly and roundly trounced in direct debate on the topics he chose to engage, often leaving the forum in a huff only to return a few days later to repeat the cycle over again.  The documentation is there for all to see.  The debate was primarily inter-presbyterian, but was still very enlightening for us non-presbyterians to read.
     Having been soundly defeated (if the roles were reversed, Owen would be speaking of beating red-headed step children and driving them back into their caves), Owen has chosen the “Internet Option.”  When you can’t handle the heat, get a blog!  (Yes, I know my low-tech blog doesn’t engender debate: you don’t think we do enough debating as it is?  And remember, the phone number is 877-753-3341 and it is called the Dividing Line).  And so Owen launched off into a tirade (“rant” is the technical term) on the blog today.  In classic Owen humility we read of pastors (i.e., Pastor King, who dared to stand up to him) who…

simply do not understand the historically conditioned nature of all written texts, biblical or otherwise. They simply look at the Bible, or Reformational commentaries on the Bible, as a phone directory of prooftexts, from which they are free to choose at random. This is how they preach, and this is how they conduct their ugly polemics on the internet.

Owen, himself not ordained (to my knowledge), dares to speak to the preaching of a Presbyterian pastor, when he has never, to my knowledge, heard that man preach and has not the slightest idea whether what he is saying is true or false?  I have heard Pastor King preach.  I have never heard Owen preach.  Owen should think very carefully about posting such comments when he himself has no basis upon which to speak. Then, having been driven from the field of intellectual battle by overwhelming argumentation elsewhere, Owen soothes his wounds by assuring his followers:

Recently, a Presbyterian pastor, who has shown himself to be particularly prone to melting down when confronted with facts that conflict with the canned, simplistic presentations of theology which were spoon-fed to him in seminary, has taken to posting little snippets from Calvin on the internet, which allegedly promote his own ugly and just downright ignorant view of the Roman Catholic Church. The reason this pastor can quote such comments with glee is because he is not conversant in any serious way with the historical context of the Reformation.

 Owen goes on to summarize his viewpoints (it is so much easier to sound like you know what you are talking about without anyone around to contradict you!), including aspects he completely failed to defend on the webboard, and then has the audacity to conclude,

Keep these FACTS in mind the next time some internet wonderboy tries to quote some out-of-context statement of Calvin to justify his own ugly attitude towards our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

“Internet wonderboy” summarizes the attitude of Owen, Enloe, and company.  It is very, very hard to try to keep in mind the fact that these internet theologians do not, and cannot, represent at least some of those holding similar positions but for (we can only hope) meaningful reasons.  This is especially true when some of them will stoop to this kind of behavior---behavior normally aimed at yours truly.  But this time I simply could not allow it to go by unnoticed, especially when the one engaging in it has so very little ground upon which stand in praise of himself. 

8/4/04:  Woah...Had to Post This One
     Sorry, for those of you who do not appreciate fractal art, but this thing suddenly appeared on my screen as I was tweaking a setting and I must say, it is one of the most amazing fractals I've ever produced.  You can't tell from this image, but if you download it from my website (click on the image) and view it full size on your screen, you will see that it not only has amazing lighting, but the result is an amazing three-dimensional image that is just fascinating.  Enjoy!

Tradition Glasses
     Want to test to see if your friendly neighborhood Arminian (a very common species of Christianus Evangelicus) has the Glasses of Libertarian Tradition firmly glued upon his or her face when reading the Scriptures?  John 8:47 provides an excellent detection device:

"He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."

The amazing powers of the Libertarian Tradition optics alters these inspired words, so that before their meaning impacts the brain, they are magically translated,

"He who has chosen to be of God hears the words of God; the reason you do not choose to hear them is because you have not yet chosen to be of God."  (3rd Arminians 3:16)

Just listen to a few sermons...a few minutes of "Christian radio," or, if you dare, watch a little "Christian television."  You'll see the amazing results of the Libertarian Tradition glasses everywhere you look.

Did You Know I Was a DJ---When That Meant Something?
     Yes, that's me, March, 1981, sitting at the controls of KWAO FM 106.3 in Sun City, Arizona.  I worked there in High School and into college, working six to midnight Monday through Friday and noon to six on Saturdays.  And though that image is small, you can note that 1) I weighed about 140 lbs and had a 30 inch waist; 2) I had HUGE glasses (we all did); 3) I had HAIR; 4) we played RECORDS (for those who are too young to know, those were large vinyl disks, easily scratched and ruined, a full foot across); from what I can see, Duke Ellington is playing, and Stan Kenton is up next (Sun City is a retirement community, hence, I played Big Band music); 5) and those who know the industry will recognize the stack of carts there in the bottom right.  Yes, they used tape in them.  Yes, they broke, often; 6) and yes, that is a paper "log" there next to me, rather than the electronic versions they use in radio stations today.  My how things have changed!  Ironically, I just realized, looking at the date, that this was taken the day before my first date with the young lady who would become my wife!  Wow, nostalgia attack.

Today's Fractal: Something Different

8/3/04:  Me Dumb.  Me No Undustand
     Try to read past the acidic tone (a commonality of rC's these days); step back, listen, consider, and come to understand the capacity of the modern scholar to turn the most obvious statements on their head.  But remember, through it all, I'm just a dumb Baptist, and it is probably my fault, too.  :-)  Prepare to enter the theological spin zone....  (BTW: one of the really, really sad things about this rC movement and its insistence upon trying to form Rome in its own image is that obviously no one is saying Rome promotes atheism and says, "Trust in yourself, not in Christ!"  What Warfield was saying, what we have been saying since this particular rC was in high school, and more importantly, what Paul was saying long ago, was that Christ will not share His glory with others, and the gospel is compromised when men insert themselves in the process the way Rome does.  How on earth would this modern scholar engage the likes of Bellarmine, we wonder?  Thank the Lord those who stood firm for the gospel in the past did not share his ability to turn white into black and black into white).

8/2/04:  To Die for "the Calvinist Doctrine"
I get the Berean Call’s e-mail newsletter/update, and scan through it as time allows to see what comments are made regarding Dave’s anti-Calvinism campaign.  I’ve seen some interesting comments.  But this one was worth a reply:

Dear Mr. Hunt,

I enjoyed reading Debating Calvinism. I sat in the Calvinist camp for many years....Why don't Calvinists preach their "doctrines of grace" to the unsaved? Why are they hiding this doctrine they so fervently believe? [They should say] plainly, "If you're not one of the elect, you will not be saved.  There is nothing you can do about it, and you'll spend eternity in the lake of fire." They live and breathe this doctrine; they all but condemn Christians who don't believe in it, yet when it comes time to witness, they say along with Paul and Silas, "believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." Stop lying to people and tell them there is nothing they can do! Yet this is a hidden doctrine only for the intellectual....At one time I would have died for the Calvinist doctrine. It eventually divided my family, split friendships and plummeted me into despair....My advice is to pursue Jesus, not Calvinism. It will consume your Christian walk. Let it go. JLG (PA)

Given that this writer repeats all the same canards that Dave Hunt repeats in What Love is This? and Debating Calvinism, one is truly left scratching one’s head as to what kind of “Calvinism” this man claims to have “lived and breathed.”  What kind of Reformed church did this man attend that did not clearly, consistently preach the whole counsel of God so as to get past this basic level Arminian confusion?  And I have never, ever heard any Reformed person say, “I would die for the Calvinist doctrine.”  That is not how we speak.  We do not refer to “the Calvinist doctrine.”  Well, obviously, I do not believe for a moment this man was a Calvinist.  Indeed, he probably doesn’t even know what the term refers to.  We preach the gospel knowing that outside of the Spirit’s activity, there is indeed nothing that will come of it of lasting value.  But we trust the Spirit to do His work in the hearts of His elect, and hence we preach the gospel boldly to “every creature.”  There is no contradiction, and no apostolic example of any other means of preaching.  At least we do not have to altar passages such as Acts 13:48 to “fit” our theology into the Bible, as Hunt has had to do, and as all synergists must, in some fashion or another.  I would love to get to talk to “JLG from PA” and find out just what “Calvinist doctrine” he was once so dedicated to…if such a person actually even exists.

A Quote to Ponder

The question which is raised in sacerdotalism, in a word, is just whether it is God the Lord who saves us, or it is men, acting in the name and clothed with the powers of God, to whom we are to look for salvation. This is the issue which divides sacerdotalism and evangelical religion.  (B.B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, p. 53)

8/1/04:  UltraFractal 3 and Orbit Traps
     For the half dozen of you who are enjoying your desktops more these days....I upgraded one of the two fractal programs I use, and have found Orbital Trapping a wonderful arena for exploration.  (Actually, I've had a couple thousand visits to my fractal pages since I started posting a few samples here.  I hope those who have downloaded a few for use on your systems enjoy them!).

Stark Contrast
Presbyterian Scholar of Today:

In other words, I believe Roman Catholics and Protestants both agree that the sole OBJECT of faith is Christ. Anyone who believes in someone or something OTHER than Christ for justification does not have genuine faith. Faith is a whole-hearted commitment of oneself to, and trust in the person of Christ. The Roman Catholic who trusts in his good works, plus Christ, is damned. (Can anyone show me where the Council of Trent says that we are to trust in ourselves, as well as in Christ for our justification?) The Protestant who trusts in the accuracy of his doctrinal formulations, plus Christ, is damned. The Protestant who trusts in his faith, plus Christ, is damned. Anyone who trusts "in themselves" is not justified (Lk. 18:9, 14). (Paul Owen, Montreat College)

Presbyterian Scholar of a Century Ago:

In one word, the Church in this system (Rome) is conceived to be Jesus Christ himself in his earthly form, and it is therefore substituted for him as the proximate object of the faith of Christians. "The visible Church," says Mohler, "is the Son of God, as he continuously appears, ever repeats himself, and eternally renews his youth among men in human form. It is his perennial incarnation." It is to the Church, then, that men must look for their salvation; it is from the Church and its ordinances alone that salvation is communicated to men; in a word it is to the Church rather than to Christ or to the grace of God that the salvation of men is immediately ascribed. Only "through the most holy sacraments of the Church," it is declared plainly, is it, "that all true justice either begins; or being begun is increased; or being lost, is repaired." (B.B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, p. 52).

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