Monday, October 20, 2014

The Two Most Important Facts about the Bible Version Issue -- Ignored or Covered Up

Frontline magazine, a publication arm of the FBFI, dealt with the Bible Version issue in its latest edition, which led to a so-far short discussion at SharperIron.  Our book is mentioned and referenced in one of the articles (you should buy and read the book).  When you read discussions such as these, the two most important facts about the Bible Version issue are either ignored or covered up in what seems like a conspiratorial manner.

Most people who use new or contemporary translations of the Bible think that the issue is readability. They think their churches use a newer translation, because they are easier to read.  They do not know that there is a textual issue, that their new Bibles are not the same.  They don't know that, and the men in charge are glad to have them continue thinking under that delusion.  They don't care.  And they will not bring in the doctrine of preservation.  That is left out of bibliology.  It would clash with practice.

The two most important facts about the Bible Version issue are the following two:

The Bible Teaches Its Own Perfect Preservation and General Accessibility

Our book expounds important passages that teach the preservation of scripture.  Our exegesis represents the passages.  You will find many, many men through history writing the same meaning that we say these sections of scripture or verses mean.  Still today, men looking at the passages in their context know they teach what we are saying they do.  It is easy to see that the Bible itself teaches that God would preserve every one of His Words to be accessible to every generation of believers. You will flesh that out from God's Word.  And we could have brought in even more verses than we did, and probably will in a future second volume.

The average Christian, when he reads his Bible, will think that we have the Bible.  He will not come to the position from reading the Bible that he doesn't have all the Words of God.  He will think that he does.  It will take someone from the outside to put a spin on that particular teaching, to have him think otherwise.  Your rank and file church member, who just reads his Bible, believes in this same position on the Bible.  The Bible is very clear about its own preservation.

You will not read anything coming from textual critics on what the Bible teaches about preservation.  It has only been recently and as a reaction to men who have published a biblical theology of the perfect preservation of scripture, that you have started to see some interaction to a bibliology of preservation.  Men are trying to figure out how to fit these passages in with textual criticism and having a difficult time.  The doctrine was not a basis of textual criticism.  The practice of textual criticism was atheological and even anti-theological.  The textual critics themselves say that you can't go into figuring out what the words of the Bible with any kind of scriptural or theological presuppositions.  Instead, you have to allow the evidence to lead you to the truth.  And when they say that, they don't mean to absolute certainty of what the words are.  They don't think you will ever know, which flies in the face of what God says you will know.

What I read are attacks on the doctrine of preservation.  A common statement that has been answered many, many times, and is answered in our book is this bit of propaganda that the Bible says God preserved His Word, but He didn't say how He would do it.  Since this has been written on and answered, at this point, all the forms of that statement are a lie.

The Bible tells us how God would preserve His Words.  It is all over the place in the Bible.  It's not a matter of the Bible not saying, but of men not accepting what God said.  They won't accept it, but it is part of the strategy for ignoring or covering up the doctrine of preservation of scripture.

The eclectic and critical text position, that denies perfect preservation, by the way, is the same position taken by Islam and the Jehovah's Witnesses on the doctrine of preservation.  The major argument for Islam against the Bible is that it has not been preserved.  I don't think that is the best argument against eclectic and critical text, but it should be tell-tale.

Some of the most vocal critics against the biblical position call it a stupid position.  They attack the intellect of it.  It isn't intellectual just to believe what God said He would do.  It's also not intellectual to believe in the miracles of the Bible, young earth creationism, and justification by grace through faith alone.  A faith position is often called the stupid position, but you should still take it, because when you believe what God said He would do, you are following wisdom from above, not the wisdom of this world, which is earthly, sensual, and devilish.

True Believers Have Also Taken the Position of Perfect Preservation and General Accessibility of Scripture

The Frontline article said that systematic theologies don't have a doctrine of preservation in them.  To its credit, I believe the article was saying that was bad.  However, a true statement is that modern systematic theologies have left it out.  You will find it in the old theologies.  It is a major teaching of Francis Turretin and John Owen among others.

You will also find this position, the one we show is what the Bible teaches, is the one that Christians historically believed for hundreds of years.  That is left unreported.  People will not say that this is true.  Many will not.  This, my friends, is dishonest.  They at least should be required to deal with the arguments made for centuries and they don't.  They act like history started in the late 19th century. If anything is stupid, that is.  And then they have to think we're all stupid to think the way they do.

You can find many, many men who have written the perfect preservation position.  It was the only position taught.  Daniel Wallace has admitted that, to his credit, unlike fundamentalists.  Bart Ehrman knows the Bible teaches preservation like I'm saying and he knows that this is what people believed. He, however, wasn't willing to believe it, because his "evidence" told him otherwise, so he pushed the eject button on the Christian faith.  Wallace doesn't want that, so he comes up with a new position and even a new doctrine of inerrancy.  And many fundamentalists and evangelicals will defend him on that.  This is how important it is to them to keep people away from the true doctrine of preservation.

I have written about the history here many times.  I have debunked all these things here.  I don't get answers.  You won't get answers.  You get ignored and ad hominem attack.

However, these two facts, the two in bold print above, are the most important to the Bible Version issue.  If you know and believe these two, then you are left with the King James Version.  That's why.  It is not out of loyalty to the English or to King James or to tradition.  It is because it is the conclusion you are left with.

I noticed that one person commented that the KJV side has been badly defeated in debates on the issue.  I would agree that the debate is cherry picked against the most inept debater.  I slam dunked over a little person.  There hasn't been a good debate on this.  I've also said I would be glad to debate the issue.  I did debate Frank Turk at his debate blog.  You should read that debate.  If he had won the debate, you would have been hearing it all over the internet.  But, alas, crickets. It would be proclaimed far and wide.  The fact that you hear nothing about it is because he lost that debate. Granted, he isn't the best to debate the other side, but I don't think it would go much different if it were James White, Daniel Wallace, or Bart Ehrman.  The truth will win out.  Others could fog or red herring a little more, but they don't have the truth on their side.

So again, what I'm saying here, and what we teach, is what the Bible teaches.  And, it is what Christians have believed for hundreds of years.  It's all you read as a position until post textual criticism.  Were all those people wrong?  Was this a total apostasy of the true doctrine of preservation?  Which is what?   The other side hasn't produced their treatment of preservation.  They didn't start with what the Bible says.  What does that say about their position?  Hopefully, that is bad to you.

These are the two most important facts about the Bible Version issue, and they are either ignored or covered up.  I say that it seems conspiratorial. Why?  If you are not sure what the words of God are, then you will not believe them and practice them.  This is an attack on God and His Word, on the faith once delivered.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology? Part 1 of 3

The contradictory nature and unintelligibility of the Higher Life position[1] explains why defenders of Keswick can complain that its critics employ “inaccuracy” and “major misrepresentation” when discussing the movement.[2]  Unlike Scripture, which is the non-contradictory and clear revelation from God about how to live a holy life for His glory, the contradictions, shallow understanding of theology, and ecumenical confusion evident at Keswick produced the following self-assessment by Keswick leaders:
Defining the fine points of Keswick teaching is not a simple exercise, for there has never been in its history an agreed system of the particular truths it has purported to proclaim.  A supposed Keswick view on something may depend on who is speaking at the time.  When it is stated fairly emphatically that “Keswick teaches such and such,” as has often been done, it is usually possible to find teaching from the Keswick platform that has given a different slant, an alternative interpretation, or a completely contradictory one altogether. . . . Critiquing “Keswick teaching” is a little like trying to hit a moving target, or getting hold of a piece of soap in the bath. . . . It is important to keep in mind the . . . sharply different views of different speakers. . . . [M]any phases of the doctrine of holiness have been presented by a wide variety of speakers, some of them contradictory. . . . Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Brethren, Reformed, charismatics, and those of other persuasions can stand shoulder to shoulder [at Keswick.] . . . Any attempt, therefore, to survey the preaching at Keswick and create a systematic picture . . . is bound to be unsatisfactory.[3]
Rather than following the Biblical model and allowing no other doctrine than the truth (1 Timothy 1:3), separating from all error (Romans 16:17), and earnestly contending for all of the faith (Jude 3), Keswick will allow speakers to contradict each other and mislead their hearers with false teaching.  Keswick critics are then accused of misrepresentation when they point out heresies and errors in Keswick writers and speakers.  In a similar manner, separatists who point out that goddess worship goes on at the World Council of Churches can be accused of misrepresentation by ecumenists, since only some, but not all, those at the World Council worship goddesses.  Thus, certain Keswick critics may represent Keswick inconsistently because Keswick is not itself consistent—inconsistency in representations of Keswick may, ironically, be the only consistent representation of the movement.  Of course, a critic of Keswick certainly may fail to present its position fairly, just as critics of any position are not universally fair and accurate.  However, a statement by a critic of the Higher Life such as Bruce Waltke that “the Keswick teaching [affirms] that from the inner passivity of looking to Christ to do everything will issue a perfection of performance”[4] is an accurate statement of the dominant classical formulations of Keswick theology as taught by its founding leaders, not a misrepresentation. There is no evidence that critics of Keswick are more liable to engage in misrepresentation than others engaged in theological critique.
            J. Robertson McQuilkin, arguing for the Keswick doctrine of sanctification in Five Views of Sanctification, wrote:  “Two authors who attack the [Keswick] movement and are universally held by Keswick speakers to have misunderstood the teaching [are] Packer [in his] Keep in Step With the Spirit [and] Warfield [in his] Studies in Perfectionism.”[5]  The only evidence McQuilkin advances that Warfield misunderstood the Keswick theology is an anecdote.  McQuilkin recounts:
[M]y father, Robert C. McQuilkin, a leader in the movement known as the Victorious Life Testimony, told me that when [Warfield’s Studies in Perfectionsim] was published, he went to Warfield and discussed the matter of Keswick teaching and perfectionism at length.  Afterward Warfield admitted, “If I had known these things, I would not have included the last chapter [“The Victorious Life”] in my work.”[6]
J. R. McQuilkin provides no actual instances of misunderstanding of the Keswick theology, misquotations of Keswick writers, or any other kind of hard evidence of misrepresentation by Warfield.  Such hard evidence is very difficult to come by since more objective historiography describes Warfield’s Studies in Perfectionism as “meticulous and precise . . . extensive and detailed analysis . . .  [of] the higher life, victorious life, and Keswick movements.  Warfield’s treatment of these teachings . . . serves as a vivid sample of his thoroughness as a historical theologian.”[7]  Recording in 1987 in his Five Views chapter what McQuilkin claims his father told him Warfield had said in the early 1930s, long after the parties who allegedly engaged in the conversation were dead, is hardly actual evidence of misrepresentation, especially since both McQuilkins have a clear and strong interest in undermining the credibility of Warfield.  Furthermore, J. R. McQuilkin has overlooked the overwhelming historical problems that make it certain that his anecdote is inaccurate.  David Turner notes:  “Something is amiss here, since Warfield’s . . . will provided for the publication of his critical reviews in book form, which occurred in 1932. Thus Warfield . . . could not have referred to retracting this last chapter of his book—he had been dead eleven years when it was published.”[8]  Similarly, Warfield scholar Fred G. Zaspel indicates:
Interesting as this [quote by McQuilkin] may be, the quote cannot be accurate.  First, Warfield never saw the publication of his book Studies in Perfectionism.  This two-volume work is a collection of essays that were originally published in various theological journals from 1918 to 1921, the last of which was published posthumously (1921);  the two-volume work to which McQuilkin refers was not published until 1931-1932, some ten or eleven years after Warfield’s death.  Second, the “last chapter” of the book to which this McQuilkin quote refers is the chapter on the higher life, which was in fact not the last but the very first article of the series published (1918).  As to the accuracy of the substance of the remark . . . [w]e only know that while Warfield continued to write on the broader subject of holiness-perfectionism, he made no retractions.[9]
Unless a Keswick continuationist raised Warfield from the dead so that he could recant of his critique of the Higher Life, McQuilkin’s quote concerning Warfield is historically impossible mythmaking.  McQuilkin does not even provide hearsay to support his statement about Packer’s alleged misrepresentation.  Perhaps these severe problems with McQuilkin’s affirmation explain why he affirms that Packer and Warfield are “universally held by Keswick speakers to have misunderstood the teaching”—Keswick writers might have to provide actual evidence, while speakers can simply make undocumented and inaccurate statements.  Then again, McQuilkin does not just speak his attempt to discredit Warfield and Packer—he does register his charge in writing.  While McQuilkin did actually write down the alleged but mythological recantation by Warfield, the Keswick apologist did not put his quotation in the main body of his chapter in the Five Views book, but in a concluding section, with the result that the other non-Keswick contributors were unable to point out the problems with and the vacuity of his affirmation.  If one wishes to prove that Keswick has been misunderstood and misrepresented, mythmaking about Warfield and a passive voice verb, that Warfield and Packer “are universally held” to have misunderstood the system, fall abysmally short of the standard of real evidence.




This entire study can be accessed here.




[1]           For example, Jacob Abbott, reviewing the foundational The Higher Christian Life by William Boardman, notes:
[W]e will proceed to state, as clearly as fairly as we can, the results of our investigation [of Boardman’s book]. . . . [T]he book is a difficult one to analyze satisfactorily[.] . . . In a word, the book has no method at all;  no development, no progress, no “lucidus ordon.”  We are not sure it would suffer (with trifling qualifications) by arranging its eighteen chapters in any order different from the present, even if that were by chance.
         But to the treatise.  What is the subject treated?  What does the writer mean by the “higher life?” and by “second conversion?” as its equivalent, or the stepping-stone to it?  Precisely what he does mean, we will not attempt to say;  because it is not said intelligibly in the book, and cannot be inferred from the book.  On the contrary, it can be inferred, most certainly, from the book, that he had no well-defined idea, in his own mind, on the subject (see p. 57). . . . Let us now pass on to that which is obtained in “second conversion.”  And here . . . we have got to the end of the author’s self-consistency, and shall henceforth wander about, in fogs thicker than those of the Grand Bank. . . . We are aware that he, or a defender of his system, may take the same book and convict us of unfairness[,] [f]or we have already given some examples of the contradictions it contains.  There are others.
(pgs. 508-509, 516, 527, Review of William E. Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life, Bibliotheca Sacra, Jacob J. Abbott. Bibliotheca Sacra (July 1860) 508-535)
Similarly, Stephen Barabas notes:  “Keswick [has] furnishe[d] us with no formal treatise of its doctrine of sin, and no carefully prepared, weighty discourses of a theological nature . . . for over seventy-five years” (pg. 51, So Great Salvation:  The History and Message of the Keswick Convention).  Since the Higher Life position itself is a murky muddle of confusion it is just about inevitable that those who criticize specific representative statements and affirmations by Keswick advocates will be accused of misrepresentation by those who can cite conflicting and contradictory Higher Life statements.
[2]            Keswick’s defenders regularly affirm critics misrepresent;  see also, e. g., the defense of Keswick and critique of Warfield on pgs. 213-215 of Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.
[3]           Pgs. 34-35, 222-226, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.
[4]           Pg. 22, “Evangelical Spirituality: A Biblical Scholar’s Perspective.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31:1.
[5]           Pg. 183, Five Views of Sanctification.  Melvin E. Dieter, Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M Horton, J. Robertson McQuilkin & John F. Walvoord, authors;  Stanley N. Gundry, series ed.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1987.
[6]           Pg. 245, Five Views of Sanctification, Dieter et. al.
[7]           Pg. 465, The Theology of B. B. Warfield:  A Systematic Summary, Fred G. Zaspel.
[8]           Pg. 98, Review by David L. Turner of Five Views on Sanctification, by Melvin E. Dieter, Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M. Horton, J. Robertson McQuilkin, and John F. Walvoord. Grace Theological Journal 10:1 (1989) 94-98.
[9]           Pgs. 473-474, The Theology of B. B. Warfield:  A Systematic Summary, Fred G. Zaspel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Is Conservatism in a Church? Is This Good?

Men associated with Religious Affections Ministries (RAM), led by Scott Aniol, have written and published a book, A Conservative Christian Declaration (at Amazon), which idea was then critiqued by others on SharperIron, an online forum.  On top of writing the declaration and book, RAM has afforded church leaders to include their church in a list of likeminded conservative churches.   Along with others, I asked myself whether this was a good thing, being a conservative church -- shouldn't it suffice to be a biblical church or an obedient one?

To come to the correct conclusion as to whether one should call his church a conservative church, he needs to understand what it means to be a conservative church, which also means that he should grasp what conservatism itself is and what it means to be a conservative.  Does being conservative add anything important to identifying one's self?  Would people outside of the church understand what it means to be a conservative church, so that the designation could be helpful to others?

We have all sorts of designations that we apply to churches in order to help identify who they are:  independent, Southern, fundamental, evangelical, Charismatic, etc.  There is some history and rich meaning behind the word "conservative," that is helpful in distinguishing the characteristics of a person or church.  Even in evangelicalism today, many are using the term "conservative evangelical" to set apart a particular subset of them that are different than the other evangelicals who are not conservative evangelicals.

When we talk about theology, we do divide between conservative and liberal.  If I said a church was conservative theologically, I believe I am saying a good thing about that church, but also hopefully helping someone understand what that church is.  If you have a big set or circle of "church," and you are narrowing it down to what type of church it is, applying the word "conservative" is going to leave out the liberal churches.  If I said the church had conservative theology with conservative music and conservative lifestyles, all of that would focus our understanding even more about that church.

Would I want my church called a conservative church?  I would.  I like the term "conservative" even as applied to a church.  Our church is an independent Baptist church.  That sets our church apart.  I often called us historic Baptists.  I would use the word conservative too.

What does "conservative" do as a label?  It has a connotative meaning to people for sure, usually to say that we take the Bible literally or strictly.  We are preserving the practices of the past.  We are not loose in our approach to God.  It also says something about the culture of our church.  I remember Mark Driscoll saying that his church was conservative theologically and liberal culturally.  People get what that means.  They should reject the designation, because of its self-contradiction, but they do get what it is.

Conservative also has a specific, definitive meaning.  Some who claim the name conservative are not really conservative.  They might possess some of the tenets of conservatism, perhaps the parts that they think will bring them benefit, but that alone makes them, in my view, not conservative.  You shouldn't be able to pick and choose what is conservative with you and what isn't, because conservatism is a consistent position that applies everywhere.  It has a denotative meaning that starts with a transcendent order, which must be God and, therefore, Christian.

Since the transcendent order proceeds from God, it also must be permanent.  The conservative concerns himself with permanent things, because God is eternal and unchanging.  The map of the world in His mind reflects upon God. The categories of permanent things have been labeled the transcendentals, because they transcend space and time unto the being and nature of God.  They represent the perfections of God for which men strive, made in the image of God, which are truth, goodness, and beauty.   The conservative strives to preserve these and shape his society, whether government, church, and family, upon their grand design.

Since God is one, no transcendental can be separated from another.  You can't give up one without the giving up the others.  You don't get to be conservative about truth and not about goodness and beauty, or about truth and goodness, but not about beauty.

Some ask, "Who cares?  What difference do they make?"   First, each of the transendentals are Bible.  God ordains them.  If we would obey God, submit to Him, like Jesus submitted to the Father, we will live them.

However, all three -- truth, goodness, and beauty -- are up for grabs not only in the culture and in the country, but also in the churches.  We live in a relativistic society where none of these three are absolute, like neither is God absolute.  To adapt to the world for utilitarian purposes, men abandon the absolutes.

Biblical Christianity is truth concerning total reality.  It is the story.   It is in this sense that all truth is God's truth, because everything is God's story.  He originated the world, the world fell because of rebellion against Him, and it will be redeemed only through Him.  It starts, continues, and ends with God.  Your Christianity affects every area of your life, because your life is a component of the whole.

THE OPPOSITION

The most noticeable opposition to the above conservative declaration comes from those who reject absolute beauty.  Their primary basis for their resistance is that no one can be sure about objective beauty, that beauty is merely in the eye of the beholder.  This is well represented by a few comments in the SharperIron forum:

Does beauty objectively exist? and How do we know what beauty is?  are two separate questions. Not that this group would deny that, but while most of us would agree on the first, agreement on the second would not be so easily reached. And we have to respect that.

This is typical.  He argues from uncertainty.  There is objective beauty, but we don't know (can't know) what it is.  Beauty is inaccessible, lost to this generation.

Again, in typical fashion, someone else agrees with subjective beauty, and again because of unattainability:

 I think that I could be persuaded to agree with goodness - as in the works of the Spirit - but beauty, as discussed, is going to need to defined and Scripturally defended, not just made as an assertion to be proclaimed.  When I hear an instrumental piece with no lyrics, it's can be considered "christian" because it's "beautiful"?  By what standard?

I do sympathize to a certain extent with the plight of these two comments.  I read a lot at Religious Affections and they stay too ambiguous.  The explanations often are enigmatic and vague.  I can't say that I know why.  I have my opinion.  They want to keep a seat at the table, and if they talk with more clarity, they will be excluded.  It is a communications strategy, is what I think.  If I'm right, they are not fully depending on God for the persuasion to their position.

If God has a standard of beauty, if He wants us to judge it, then we can.  I don't think it is that difficult.  I don't believe it is an intellectual problem.  Men can understand.  The problem is either lust or pride.  They have a lust they cannot abandon or they don't want to be rejected, which is the pride. Success is numbers and numbers require pleasing men.  Men want what they want.  They want their music, even for worship.

Judging music for beauty is as easy as judging foul or profane speech.  Ugliness has become acceptable.  A lot of immorality and false doctrine has too.  However, we can judge beauty.  It is objective, but we have to apply principles like is the case in so much application of scripture.

WHY

I understand the attraction to a "conservative church."  Even if that church were separatist, perhaps even historically fundamental, it might not be and probably won't be truly conservative.   I see this as the appeal of a conservative church.  It distinguishes from vacuousness of fundamentalism, especially related to beauty.  They see much of fundamentalism as not getting it, and being part of the problem.  They see this, I believe, as helping churches and Christians who are looking for the total truth.

The conservative declaration focuses on aesthetics.  They are important.  One cannot love God rightly without objective beauty,  The ugliness also distorts the imagination necessary for true worship of God.  However, I see these same men as having capitulated on a biblical or transcendent view of truth and goodness.  I love their work on beauty, but they are wanting on truth and goodness.  I'm not going to explain in this post, but they are more dogmatic about beauty than the other two.  It amazes me.  As I said, you can't have one with the others.

On top of my concern for their shortfall on truth and goodness is their lack of conviction. Conservation requires separation.  They won't take the stand against ugliness necessary to preserve loveliness.

I cannot sign off on the declaration or join the list of churches.  I don't even believe that these men are conservative.  They are more conservative than most others, but they are not consistent in their conservatism.  However, I like the idea of being known as a conservative church.  If you are a conservative and your church conservative, then you are biblical.  You have to be.  His Word is Truth.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Games Calvinists Play to Keep the System Breathing, Part Two

Part One

The five points of Calvinism do not present a different gospel per se, because those five points don't deal with the crux of the gospel, which is, one, whether you believe in a biblical Jesus, and, two, whether your faith is a biblical faith in Christ.  I could leave Calvinism alone, except that Calvinism itself gets your attention by either stating or implying that you don't preach a true gospel unless you present Calvinism.  If you really do believe what they say you do, then you are in real trouble, attention-grabbing kind of trouble.  It sounds like, as coming from Calvinists, that if you don't believe and teach Calvinism, you could preach that salvation is by grace alone through a biblical faith alone and in a biblical Jesus, but still not be preaching a true gospel.  The following is case in point.

Bill Combs, professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, writes concerning the absolute binary necessity of being either a Calvinist or an Arminian:

The real issue comes down to the question of who saves us. Does God save us, or do we, with some help from God, save ourselves?

He continues in explanation:

One answer is that God chose Joe (unconditional election) and gave him grace (efficacious) that caused him to believe. He owes his salvation completely to God (monergism). Joe cannot boast in his salvation (1 Cor 1:28–29; Eph 2:8–9). This is Calvinism.

And finally, he writes:

One may not like the labels Calvinism and Arminianism and can rail against them all day long. But they historically represent the two evangelical options for the salvation of sinners. Either God is the ultimate decider: He gets all glory. Or the sinner is the ultimate decider: he deserves to share in that glory.

In support of Combs and to supply his own explanation, Dan Phillips writes:


Over at the indispensable DBTS blog, professor Bill Combs asks whether a person really has to be either Calvinist or Arminian, with no middle-ground. He answers, correctly, Yes.

Here's one way I'd put it: either God's choice of me is the result of my choice of Him, or my choice of Him is the result of His choice of me. There's no middle-ground that isn't exclusively populated by weasels.

I point out these particular quotes of Combs, because they look and read like they are saying that, unless you believe in unconditional election, you believe in salvation by works.  This is where a Calvinist gets my attention.  I could leave it alone, if it weren't for that.  You've got to step in at this point and say, "Uh-uh, that's not true."  And it isn't how the Bible reads.

The Bible doesn't present with these two options, that it is either/or, period.  This is an invented dichotomy. It reminds me of something my younger brother would do when I was in school.  He would point out two unfavorable females and ask which one I was going to marry.  Those two and only those two were the only options for me, when they really, of course, were not.

It is true that there is only one truth.  However, the Bible doesn't present two options like this relative to choosing or deciding.  It isn't even true according to history.   It is what we call in logic, a false dilemma, and in that sense is just a propaganda technique.  Phillips just makes it a little bit more biting, by calling those who won't accept the false dilemma, weasels.  You accept this viewpoint or you're a weasel.  Perhaps we could call this one of the 'new measures' of Calvinists to persuade others of Calvinism.  I have to ask, can someone persuade someone to be a Calvinist, using this technique, or isn't that just predetermined?

CHOOSING

In his above linked article, Bill Combs quotes Wayne Grudem:

The reason for election is simply God’s sovereign choice…. It was not because of any foreseen faith or foreseen merit in us.

In the same paragraph, Combs summarizes from this:

 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world” (Eph 1:4). God’s choosing or election of the individual to salvation is not conditioned on anything within the individual himself—thus unconditional.

What matters about election is what God says about it.  Knowing what God says, I question the quotation of Grudem -- the reason for election is God's sovereign choice?  The reason?  I love God's choosing, His election, but the reason for it is God's sovereign choice?  Where does scripture say that?  And isn't "election" itself simply "God's choice"?  Election is His choice, not the reason for His choice.

Choosing ahead of time does not follow that the choosing is unconditional.  Not with God.  God is not bound by time.  He is Omniscient.  I guess we're supposed to believe that choosing beforehand means the choice is unconditional.  Doesn't God's timelessness and omniscience allow for God to elect only those who believe?

Grudem also twists foreseen faith into foreseen merit.  Calvinists do this by making foreseen faith a work by categorizing faith as someone's individual choice or election.  I agree that election or choosing is separated in the Bible as a unique aspect of God in salvation.   However, man does believe and believing isn't technically, that is, scripturally, a choice.  Men choose, but salvation doesn't come by choice, but by faith.  I'm saying that faith isn't a choice, because the Bible doesn't say it is. Faith and choice are different.  Even in real time, after the foundation of the world, among men, faith is not choice.

Grudem and Combs are saying that faith, if it is foreseen, is a choice and, therefore, merit, because man is making that choice, because man believing equals man choosing.   However, let's say that faith isn't a choice and yet man is still believing.  Because man is believing, that doesn't make it or mean it is a work, just because it is a man believing.  Is God believing for a man?  Is a man actually not doing the believing either?  Because if he believes, a man, then it is a work?  Either way, biblical faith isn't a work, and Grudem and Combs are wrong on this, no matter how they promote this false dilemma.

I have a theory or opinion about Calvinists.  Even if it were true, I can't see one of them admitting it, but I think that Calvinists feel ashamed of their view of God, which is why they keep barking about these points that don't plainly follow from the text of scripture.  Their emotion, often anger, comes out of that shame.  I expect Calvinists to mock this.  But they know why people don't believe it.  People who reject the points of Calvin can't wrap their brain around the idea that God has predetermined people to heaven and to hell. Scripture doesn't come out and say that.  Calvinists get that idea from a kind of deduction that I don't think we should call logical.  All teaching in scripture included, the Calvinist idea isn't supported.  It isn't logical because the premises of Calvinism aren't all true.

DECIDING

Combs writes about deciding:

What I mean, and what I’m trying to get at, is who is the ultimate decider in the matter of our salvation? Is God the one who ultimately decides if I end up in heaven or hell, or am I the one who ultimately decides if I end up in heaven or hell? Quickly, someone will say that both God and I decide. There is truth there, but there can be only one ultimate decider, one person who makes the final determination.

The language, "ultimate decider," is a definition of "choice" or "election" that Calvinists choose for God.  The Bible doesn't say, "ultimate decider."  God doesn't choose to call Himself the ultimate decider or even use that kind of language.  It doesn't square with scripture.

I don't care if someone believes God is the ultimate decider.  If I was asked if God was the ultimate decider, I would say, "Yes."  And yet I don't believe in unconditional election.  God decided there was a condition:  faith.  He decided to provide the only way of that salvation.  He decided to reveal Himself to all men.  He decided to make His Word accessible to man.  He decided to make His Word powerful.  He decided to send His Son.  He decided to start the church.  He decided to choose apostles.  Men can be saved, not because they decided, but because God did.  We don't get saved when we want to get saved, but when God decides to allow us.

God will sit on the Great White Throne.  Only God could choose before the foundation of the world. He is the ultimate decider, but I still don't believe election is unconditional.  He chose us "in him." He chose us "according to foreknowledge."  He chose us "through belief in the truth."  His choosing is not unconditional.

God gets all the glory through salvation by grace through faith.  If you don't add unconditional election to that, Combs is saying that God doesn't get all the glory, but man does.  He doesn't have a verse to back that up.  He's making it up.

In this way, Calvinism is lazy.  Rather than thinking through all the ramifications of God's election and man's faith, Calvinists just resort to predetermination.  God chose to send this person to heaven and He chose to send this person to hell, regardless of the person's faith.  Someone will believe.  Why?   The fourth point of Calvinism says that grace is irresistible to the one God elects without condition.  Every person God elects must believe.  Each will believe.  He makes each of them do that with the irresistible grace at His disposal.  He doesn't dispense of that grace to everyone, just those He elects.  Everyone else is doomed in advance, created or formed for destruction.  Calvinists say these people have no choice and yet they are responsible for making a bad choice -- both.  That is not how the Bible reads.

More to Come.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Studies in Perfectionism by Benjamin B. Warfield Available for Free Dowlonad

I am delighted to announce that I have made available for free download something freely offered nowhere else (as far as I am aware) on the web:  Benjamin B. Warfield's classic and crushing review, analysis, and critique of perfectionism, his two volume Studies in Perfectionism, volumes 7-8 of the ten volume set of Warfield's works! You can read and download the volumes on my website here. Copyright laws have been honored because the two volumes are compilations of earlier journal articles that Warfield wrote, and these articles are in the public domain.  So, technically, I have not posted the two volumes per se, as these are still within copyright time limits, but I have grouped together and posted the content of the journal articles, which are no longer under copyright, and which are identical in content to the two volumes.  The chapters of his work are:


Warfield's set is just about as timely and relevant today as it was when he wrote it, as perfectionism still troubles the Lord's church, the wider realms of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and Christendom in general.  The baneful influence of the Oberlin theology of Charles Finney and Asa Mahan is yet a plague harming many churches, and the Higher Life and Victorious Life perfectionisms of Hannah W. Smith, William Boardman, Charles Trumbull, Keswick, and their associates has likewise profoundly affected--and troubled--numberless churches.  Indeed, dear reader, you are almost certain to have been exposed to the Higher Life theology in one form or another if you are an American and a Baptist, fundamentalist, or evangelical. You consequently would do well to read this two-volume set to strengthen your Biblical doctrine of sanctification and so that you can both avoid for yourself and help others avoid the snares of perfectionist error.

Of course, Warfield was not infallible, and you would do well to avoid his TULIP Calvinism, his openness to various forms of evolution, his embrace of the Greek critical text and lower criticism, and his Presbyterian ecclesiology. These errors, while you need to be on guard against them, do not remove the great value of his Studies in Perfectionism, which approach the topic from what is a very close to a Biblical, historic Baptist view of the doctrine.

Advocates of the Higher Life and Victorious Life movements that Warfield demolishes have never successfully critiqued or refuted his work – instead, what many of them do is affirm that he misunderstood the movements that he was analyzing. This provides them a way to ignore his work and continue to teach their perfectionist errors. However, the claim that Warfield or other prominent Higher Life critics did not really understand the movements they were critiquing is simply false – as demonstrated here, they understood what they were doing very well. No one has successfully demonstrated that Warfield twisted or distorted the movements he analyzed. In fact, information that was not accessible in the Princeton theologian's day, but is available in ours (for example, see here and here) demonstrates that the roots of the Keswick movement are even worse than Warfield knew.

In conclusion, Benjamin B Warfield's Studies in Perfectionism is precise and accurate scholarship that honors the Lord and advances the work of His kingdom by promoting a Biblical view of sanctification and exposing and refuting baneful errors that are still harming the people of God today. You would do well to read and carefully consider the contents of his classic work.