Friday, February 26, 2016

College Class on Bible Texts and Versions, Manuscript Evidence, and Biblical Preservation

At Mukwonago Baptist Church we have started a course on Bible Texts and Versions, Manuscript Evidence, and Biblical Preservation.  The course outline states:

This course on Biblical preservation, Bible texts and versions, and manuscript evidence will examine God’s promises concerning the perfect preservation of Scripture and its perpetual availability to His churches.  The fulfillment of those promises throughout history in the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus underlying the Authorized, King James Version of the Bible will be surveyed through an examination of the history of the Hebrew and Greek text’s transmission.  The errors and corruptions found in the Greek alternatives to the Textus Receptus, the Hebrew Masoretic text, and the English Authorized Version will be examined and refuted, as will the unbelieving presuppositions underlying these non-preserved texts and the unbelieving authors of those presuppositions.  The historic Baptist position on the preservation of Scripture will also be examined, as will the history of the Bible in English.

If you are in the area, we would love to have you join us.  If you are not, the course lectures are being posted online here.  Discussions about class content should also be available for those taking or auditing the course at a distance in conjunction with each lecture at the same website.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Judgment Must Begin in the House of God, pt. 2

Part One.

We look around the nation and the world, and people aren't doing what God says.   I see one major contributing factor to the demise with one corollary.  First, people want to do what they want to do, and they're easier to get along with if you let them do what they want.  Second, the corollary, uncertainty buttresses this self-will.  Without absolute truth, people can do what they want.  More toleration equals larger coalitions.  Sometimes getting and then staying big provides enough incentive to discard teachings.

The Charismatic movement -- continuationism -- doesn't produce signs.  Its "healers" don't heal like Jesus and the Apostles.  They don't create new eyes and replace missing limbs.  The "tongues" of its adherents are not real languages.  What I'm saying is, it's a fraud, a lie, a complete fabrication.  Its worship is false.  It undermines discernment with a perversion of true spirituality.  The one and only God is mutually exclusive from lies.  Satan is the liar and the father of lies, not God.

This year Together for the Gospel meets in Louisville, Kentucky, April 12-14.  What is getting together for the gospel?  Apparently, it ignore the lies of continuationism, because this conference brings continuationists (Mahaney and Piper) and cessationists (MacArthur, etc.) together for fellowship -- tongue speakers and healers together with those who say they deny it.  Why?  How?  Not all doctrines rise to a high enough level of importance.  Some things God says are less important compared to others, even if it means the lies of continuationism, which is a series of lies about God, His power, the Holy Spirit, worship, sanctification, and more.

Continuationism isn't all.  They are together for the gospel, but not for premillennialism.   You can allegorize most of the prophetic passages of scripture with amillennialism (Duncan, Dever, and Sproul), but that isn't important enough to exclude someone from fellowship.  Prophecy is non-essential.   Getting together for the gospel does not exclude those who sprinkle infants like Duncan, Sproul, and DeYoung.   When these distinctions are dismissed to get together, it's no wonder that the church and the world both don't think someone can know the truth.

No one has written more than me on this matter of essentials and non-essentials, primary and tertiary doctrines.  This post continues in that theme.  In December of last year, David Cloud picked upon on that subject, especially as he reads it among independent Baptists.  I'm assuming he's been reading here or A Pure Church.  You hear the same tune from them on this as you would from the evangelicals, and for the same reasons.  He quotes Paul Chappell from his Church Still Works (p. 215):

On the other hand, one of the weaknesses of independent Baptists has been calling non-essentials, essential. . . . . Practically speaking -- it will be impossible for our churches to be what God intended and to make the difference that ‘salt and light’ should make if we are debating minor issues.

Cloud's article is excellent and worth reading, as it moves into almost every circle of independent Baptists to join the Southern Baptists and evangelicals in this unbiblical teaching.

False doctrine and practice is justified by calling it a non-essential or tertiary doctrine or practice. When evangelicals use that language, they especially mean biblical standards of dress, holiness with regards to entertainment and recreation, and worldliness in music and worship.  The use of unbiblical methods is another area that you will be discouraged from judging, because it is a non-fundamental part of the Bible.

Last week, the wife of former NBA head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans and assistant coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Monty Williams, died in a fatal, tragic car accident.  Because of the celebrity of Williams, her death was national news.  Williams said a lot of great, actually amazing, things at his wife's funeral at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City.  I was interested in what kind of church that might be, so I looked at its website, and I read this statement among others to inform potential attendees:

We will focus our teaching on the non-debatable principles of Scripture while leaving freedom for personal convictions related to non-essential doctrinal issues.

On the "I'm new" page, the lead pastor writes the all too typical:

What’s it like at Crossings?  Well, we are most definitely a “come as you are” church.  The comment I hear most from people is that the big building was a bit intimidating at first, but once inside, it was so friendly and easy to get around that “I just fit right in.” Dress is a little bit of everything—some in coats and ties, many in jeans.  Just be yourself—and be comfortable.

I’m also asked what Sunday services are like. We offer five Sunday services with three unique styles in three different worship environments. If you prefer the sounds of a large choir and orchestra offering a blend of traditional and contemporary music, choose either the 9:15 or the 10:45 a.m. service in the Sanctuary. If you like a relaxed, upbeat atmosphere with all contemporary Christian music, led by Josh Edington and Venue Worship Team, then one of the two services in The Venue (9:15 and 10:45 a.m.) is the right place for you. For a more traditional, yet powerful, worship, where communion is offered every Sunday, come to the 8:15 a.m. Chapel service.

So much is preferential and personal taste.  You can choose whatever worship or worship environment or dress you choose.  None of that means anything, unless you judge something to be wrong.  Come as you are.  Come to God as you want.  If Cain or King Saul could have known the same.

I use Crossings Community as an example, not because it is even the worst.  It's pretty typical today. Most populated areas are inundated with these types of churches, varying mostly in how small their list of essentials is and how extreme they'll go in their entertainment and creature comforts -- the more tolerance, the bigger the church.  If you don't want sinners to feel too uncomfortable, you've got to shrink the list of requirements.  Crossings is the kind of church to host an occasion of a large number of celebrities.

A percentage of the Bible and a fast decreasing amount really matters.  As long as a certain and diminishing agreement can be found in a shrinking number of essentials, everyone will be fine. Nothing is more important than toleration.

Judgment must begin in the house of God.


As an aside, but maybe not -- I wanted people to know that I was adding this, who might wander over here to read this today.  There is a bit of a "fight" among those "together for the gospel," because of a few of the characters involved.  Phil Johnson, most well known assistant to John MacArthur, has a strong conflict with Thabiti Anyabwile over #blacklivesmatter.  I'm not going to attempt to explain it, but a lot of your readers know of an interesting lean toward liberal social issues and causes even among those included in conservative evangelicalism.  It might be hard to wrap your brain around, but it is happening.  While they have this conflict, John MacArthur and Anyabwile are still getting together for the gospel with the T4G conference that I mentioned above.  At what point does anyone separate over anything -- does any of it matter?  It has to be explained as a non-essential even though it is very fervent and heated in its non-essential-ism and tertiary-ism.

The other relates to John Piper's recent discussion about self-protection and gun rights.  Piper has come out plainly as anti-gun, and in the midst of this says he wouldn't even defend his wife in given violent situations.  This is, again, "a non-essential."  Everyone gets together anyway.  This position of Piper can't stand as isolated belief.  You can't take that type of position without having other problems.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Judgment Must Begin in the House of God

The Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle:  "judgment must begin at the house of God" (4:17).  We can talk about what is going on in the world, but the world is not responsible like the church is, which is why judgment begins there first.  The church can't expect the world to change, if it won't change.

What does God expect?  God expects everything that He said to do.  If God expects everything He said to do, then He would especially expect it of the church.  The standard has always been to do everything that God said to to do.
Exodus 15:26, "keep all his statutes"
Exodus 23:22, "if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries"
Exodus 31:11, "according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do."
Leviticus 10:11, "teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them"
Leviticus 19:37, "observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD"
Leviticus 20:22, "keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out"
Leviticus 26:14, "do all these commandments" and 26:16, "do all my commandments"
Numbers 15:22, "observe all these commandments, which the LORD hath spoken unto Moses,
Numbers 15:39, "remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them," and 15:40, "remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God"
Deuteronomy 5:29, "fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" 5:31, "all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments . . . do them" and 5:33, "Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you"
Deuteronomy 6:2, "fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life" and 6:24, "the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day" and 6:25, "observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us"
Deuteronomy 8:1, "All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live"
Deuteronomy 11:8, "keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong" and 11:22, "diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them" and 11:32, "observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day"
Deuteronomy 12:14, "do all that I command thee"
Deuteronomy 15:5, "carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day"
Deuteronomy 17:19, "keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them"
Deuteronomy 19:9, "keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day"
Deuteronomy 26:18, "keep all his commandments"
Deuteronomy 27:1, "Keep all the commandments which I command you this day"
Deuteronomy 28:1, "hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day" and 28:15, "hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes" and 28:58, "do all the words of this law that are written in this book"
Deuteronomy 29:29, "do all the words of this law"
Deuteronomy 30:8, "obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments"
Deuteronomy 31:5, "do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you" and 31:12, "do all the words of this law"
Deuteronomy 32:46, "command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law"
1 Kings 6:12, "keep all my commandments to walk in them"
1 Kings 8:58, "incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments"
1 Kings 9:4, "do according to all that I have commanded thee"
1 Kings 11:38, "hearken unto all that I command thee"
2 Kings 17:13, "Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers"
1 Chronicles 28:8, "keep and seek for all the commandments of the LORD your God"
1 Chronicles 29:19, "do all these things"
2 Chronicles 33:8, "take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances"
Nehemiah 10:29, "observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes"
Psalm 119:6, "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments"
Ezekiel 18:21, "keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die"
Luke 1:6, "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless"
Even if you didn't read all of the above portions of verses of scripture, you know that this is the message of God's Word.  These are just ones that use the word "all" in them.  Many, many others teach to do what God says, implying that it means everything.  Related verses communicate the same expectations.
Genesis 31:16, "whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do"
Deuteronomy 8:3, "man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live" -- Jesus repeated this in Matthew 4:4.
These might look like what Jesus gave in His Great Commission in Matthew 28:20, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

At the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said (Matthew 5:17-19):
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
God still expects men to do everything that He said to do.  It is said of the person who led the eight surviving people onto the ark, while the other eight billion perished:
Genesis 6:22, "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he."
Genesis 7:5, "And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him."
There were certain high points in the nation Israel.
Leviticus 8:36, "So Aaron and his sons did all things which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses."
Numbers 1:54, And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they.
Numbers 2:34, "And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses"
Joshua 22:2, "And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you"
John 8:29 characterizes the life Jesus lived on earth, according to Him:
And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
Everything Jesus did pleased God the Father.  We know later that this is how Jesus sanctified Himself (John 17:17-19).  Jesus set Himself apart by doing everything that His Father wanted Him to do.  That is the righteousness that He lived.

What I'm expressing to you that is very obvious in the Word of God is no longer the standard of a vast majority of churches in the world, including in the United States.  Even very conservative churches expect their people to keep only the essentials or what they say is important, which is a shrinking list. They do not strive to keep everything God said.

Someone might say, "Aren't we saved by grace though?  We don't have to keep everything He said, do we?"  The new covenant is not about transgressing what God commanded.  No, God gave the new covenant as a means of keeping what God said.  What man could not do on His own under the law, he can by the grace of God and His indwelling Spirit.

Very, very few churches expect their people to obey everything God says in His Word.  Disobedient brethren are very seldom held accountable for disobedience to Scripture.  Churches and their leaders build unity around ignoring large swaths of the Bible.   They won't even deal with it.  They get together based upon a minimization of doctrine in order to hold together a coalition.

If churches do not expect themselves to obey God's Word, how can they expect the world to do that? How can the church judge the world for what it does or doesn't do, when the church itself won't do what God said?  Judgment must begin in the house of God.

I'm going to continue soon in the series I started last week (now two parts).  However, this week on Wednesday, Lord-willing, I will continue this post by giving examples of how churches, even so-called conservative ones today, don't care about everything that God said.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Damning Danger in Asking Christ into Your Heart: The Testimony of Baptist Pastor Ovid Need, part 3 of 4

In a matter unrelated to this post, has now passed 100,000 page views.  Praise the Lord!  Now on to the post.

The Master Deceiver

Remember, the enemy is a MASTER deceiver. A deceiver imitates and/or misuses truth; therefore, Satan counterfeits every spiritual gift of Romans 12 and Galatians 5. As a deceiver, his specialty is not obvious works of the flesh; rather, it is “truth” misused to serve his purpose. What would the enemy do to prevent one from seeing and/or acting on his need of the substitutionary death of Christ? Would he not give the necessary feelings and good works to prevent one from coming to Christ as his Substitute and Saviour? Would he not give “conviction of sin” if that “feeling” would draw a person away from Christ and to something else? He is the deceiver and an expert at using peoples’ emotions. [Rev 12:9. The devil is a spirit, specializing in working with man’s spirit against God’s spirit.] Also, one’s refusal to believe that he can be deceived will give the enemy greater ability to draw him away from the truth. [2 Tim 3:13; Jam 1:22]

The little girl, unless the Spirit intervenes, will always look back and say, “I’m saved because I did what they told me: I asked Jesus into my heart.” She may go on to understand the necessity of trusting Christ, but until she gives up what she was told as a six year old and realizes that she is a lost sinner on her way to hell who must come to Christ to pay for her sins, she will not enter into the Kingdom of God. In other words, we cannot “grow” into salvation; it is a one time event of being born again preceded by the presentation and understanding of Christ’s atoning work for them.

Our responsibility is to emphasize, as simply as possible, the atoning work of Christ and the sinner’s need to repent and trust in that work for his sin payment. It is the Spirit’s responsibility to make it understandable. Anything less than this is another Jesus.

To tell a person he will be saved by “Asking God to forgive his sins and asking Jesus into his heart, then trusting Christ to do that” avoids His atoning work and gives a false assurance of salvation which will take a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit to remove.

For our own benefit, we need to be reminded that the Holy Spirit MUST convict of sin and open the understanding to the Gospel. Far too often, we try to do the Holy Spirit’s work; it is HIS job to convict of sin and draw the sinner to Christ. If the Spirit’s drawing is not present, in Christ’s words, there can be no salvation. [Jn 6:37-45; 15:16; 16:8]

Back to Matt. 7:21: “…but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Here we have two points. First, 2 Peter 3:9:  it is “not God’s will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Luke 13:3-5 also covers this: Repentance, a turning around, is required. But a turning from what? It is a turning from the sin for which a person is already condemned, especially his refusal to trust Christ as his Substitute and Saviour. [Jn 3:18; 6:39]

Therefore, God’s primary will is that all men should turn from their own ways of salvation to God’s way of salvation. Furthermore, the Father’s will is defined in John 6:39, 40: that we believe, that is, trust in His completed work, and, in doing so, have everlasting life.

There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. It seems right to be saved by “Asking Christ to save you,” but the end of that way is death to the sinner if he has not understood and trusted in the atoning work of Christ. The sinner must turn from his way to a complete dependence in what Christ has done in his place, “the just for the unjust,” and accept His payment in the sinner’s place.

The context of Luke 13:1-5 indicates that the ones to whom the Lord spoke when He said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” were religious hypocrites who displayed correct outer actions yet refused to turn from their way to God’s way. [Lk 12:56. Hodge gives us an extremely good insight on these religious leaders; they had a total, but false, assurance of heaven because they were circumcised decedents of Abraham. Charles Hodge, ROMANS, Geneva Series, Banner of Truth Trust, pg. 63. Therefore, what the Lord said here was “fighting words” to His hearers.] In other words, the Lord’s strong message to repent here is given to the outwardly moral person.

Matthew 7:21, “…will of my Father…” John 6:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe (trust) on him whom he hath sent.” [Compare this with Rev 20:12; I Jn 3:23.] The only work that will please God for heaven is trusting Christ as our Substitute and Saviour. Thus both the will and the work of the Father for salvation is the same: trusting, receiving what Christ has done for us.

Matthew 7:21-23 tells of a person who had called upon the name of the Lord (“Lord, Lord”) without instruction in, and understanding of, the atoning work of Christ for him, and of his necessity of trusting in that work alone for the payment of his sin. “…Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name…” Many have preached great sermons and won many to the Lord; however, a person’s preaching of the gospel or leading multitudes to the Lord does not mean he is born again.  “…and in Thy name cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works.” Many have worked bus routes, sung in church choirs, taught Sunday School classes, entered into great missionary endeavors, accomplished tremendous social programs and even held important church offices. But the Lord forbids looking back on those wonderful endeavors with the thought, “I wouldn’t be doing all of these things if I weren’t saved.” [Rev 19:10, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Telling others about Christ or “prophecy” does not mean we are saved.]

Notice what the Lord will say to them: “…I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity…” The Lord tells these “Christian workers” that they are workers of iniquity because they had never trusted in the atoning work of Christ.

The devil is smart deceiver! He will not come as a roaring lion to Bible believers who profess to love God; he will come as a purring kitten, as a minister of righteousness, as a minister of Christ. He will not come with a blatant departure from the truth; he will come in crabways along side the truth with something that looks, sounds and feels like the truth. He will attempt to present his message as being the same as the truth, but, when exposed to the light of God’s total word, it is clearly not the truth.

Both Paul and Peter warn of heresies, that is, erroneous opinions which are a substitute for the truth, that might accompany the truth within the church. [1 Cor 11:19; 2 Pet 2:1-3] They warn of a quiet subverting of the gospel from the atoning work of Christ by something that approximates the truth. [For an excellent treatment of this, see “Barnes’ Notes, James-Jude,” p 236, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI] Heresy is not an obvious departure from sound doctrine. Predominately, heresy is something passed offhand accepted along with the truth. It is among you, from within the fellowship of believers, not from without. Privily speaks of the very “subtle” manner of introduction. Our enemy is an expert at bringing in his subtle departure from the truth completely unnoticed until he has control. [See Vine’s Dictionary, “Treatment of Heresy,” p 574, and “Privily,” p 887, Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, IA]

If a person feels he is saved because he has “Asked Jesus to come into his heart and life and has trusted Him to do that (&c.),” yet at the time was not properly instructed in the necessity of trusting Christ as his Substitute and Saviour, then there is a problem. There can be no salvation apart from the clear instruction of what Christ has done for the sinner and his trust in Him to take the sinner’s place.

Now What?

As we have presented the preceding message, we have seen the Spirit work to bring questions in the hearts of many individuals. Our purpose is not to create confusion; our purpose is most certainly to shake those things which can be shaken. [Heb 12:27] Here is what we suggest for those who feel shaken over the preceding message: 1.) they should put aside everything they have been taught, 2.) they should lay aside all confidences which they might receive from their good works, 3.) they should lay aside all assurance that others might try to give them, e.g. “If anyone is saved, you are.”

Then they should completely read the Book of John, and 1 John, at least once with a burning desire for the Lord to speak to them regardless of what they believe or want to believe. Furthermore, they should ask God to take away anything they might be depending on other than Christ. They should ask God to reveal their true conditions to themselves either by taking away all false assurance or by giving a firm passage for assurance. All of these suggestions are based upon 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 and Philippians 3:15 claiming the work and light of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about one’s salvation.

Through prayer and searching of the Word, many times we have seen God move, opening an individual’s understanding of the work of Christ for him, and the sinner fleeing to Christ as his Substitute and Saviour.
No doubt the NUMBER ONE lie among Bible-believing people today is: “You must ask Jesus into your heart to be saved and trust him to do that (come into your heart),” etc. But look at what this is saying! “You are saved because you asked Jesus into your heart.” There is no Scriptural support for this false plan of salvation which is devastating to the cause of Christ; it places the emphasis upon a prayer that is said and what the sinner can do rather than upon what Christ has done.

An objection might be: “I don’t see any difference.” Okay, then why not change the message to something that reflects the person’s placing his trust in the finished work of Christ’s substitutionary payment in the sinner’s place?

Then the objection might be, “But not everyone is able to understand that message.” If we accept this argument, we say we must reduce the gospel to the level of the natural man, removing from it the work of the Holy Spirit.

What has happened to the plain, simple and clear plan of salvation as preached by past saints of God? “…The simple act of relying upon Jesus as your Substitute and Saviour puts away your guilt and sin forever… (CHS)” It cannot be said any better.

It is not an act of praying, but it is an act of faith. There will be none in heaven because they prayed and turned their lives over to God or because they asked the Lord to save them, etc. We will be there only because of what Christ did for us and our simple faith in His work. A lost person’s growth into this faith, his “I didn’t understand back then, but I do now,” is no more possible than is evolution. The Scripture teaches a new creation, not an evolution of the old. The enemy, a master deceiver, knows and uses our weak points. [Gen 3:1; Jn 8:44]

Proper Action

We pray this little work has been a help for you. If God has used this to speak to your heart, let us encourage you to take the proper action in this most important of all matters. First, one must realize he is a sinner without hope. Second, he must recognize that he can do nothing at all to avoid the wages of that sin. Third, Christ paid it all through His atoning sacrifice, enduring what we should endure. Fourth, the sinner must rely upon Jesus as his Substitute for his sins and as his Saviour. Fifth, this simple act puts away all guilt of sin forever the moment one puts his complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for his sins.

We have found that the deception dealt with herein is so well entrenched today that a one time confrontation against this false doctrine has very little effect upon it. It took a consistent confrontation over a period of many months before the Holy Spirit was able to start exposing this lie with His truth at our Baptist Church. When He started moving, we saw over 50% of our church members saved. His Word is a hammer, and the stronger the grip of false doctrine, the more it must be hammered at and chipped away a little at a time. The first time this rock is struck there may not even be a chip, but it will break if we do not grow weary.

See here for this entire study.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

French Protestants and the Waldenses: The Church and the Text of the New Testament, pt. 2

Part One.

The Bible and a true church never disappeared from the face of the earth.  Scripture repudiates a total apostasy, but history also shows it didn't happen.  The French Protestants discovered this in real time before Calvin, before Protestants period, started over in Geneva.  They weren't alone.  The Waldenses spread all over the French Alps had lived in relative solitude and independence, outside of the purvey of Roman Catholic control, from before Constantine.

There is only one truth of church history.  Devising a handy, different one can be used to buttress a convenient belief and practice, that works for you and your career.  Inventing a new history became the cause of William Heth Whitsitt at Southern Theological Seminary, where he invented the English separatist theory, an impossible and unbiblical position to move Southern Baptists in a far more ecumenical direction.  Whitsitt didn't survive long as president at Southern (1895-1899) because of the immediate response among Baptists, but his theory over time received widespread embrace.  He said Baptists originated in the English Reformation, a view debunked by the reality of the Waldenses, but imagining Baptists according to a kind of restorationist or renewal sect, akin to a Campbellite or Mormon philosophy of history.

While the Waldenses among other independent Bible believing and practicing saints continued on a separate aboriginal path through history, out of His grace God was working upon another track that had diverged from the truth and a true church over a millennium before.  Most of the world, almost mimicking an antediluvian era, settled into an imperceptive rut of spiritual oblivion, only suddenly joggled by the religious war between the West and the East from the 11th through the 13th centuries. A ray stabbed through the darkness and self-interest saw an end to the impoverishment of feudalism.

Pockets of resistance surfaced, some well known now, such as Wycliffe, his early handwritten English translation, and his followers, the Lollards.  John Hus sparked a movement in central Europe in the very early 14th century.   Along with these overt counteractions, a more subtle impact began with the interest in information of all kinds ending in Gutenberg's printing press and a study of ancient languages.  A quiet devotional strain of Christianity within Roman Catholicism, known as devotio moderna, emphasized a personal approach to Christ through the intense study of early Christian texts, perhaps best represented by Thomas a Kempis and his The Imitation of Christ (c. 1418).

The dabbling with ancient texts of all kinds began with renewed interest in the humanities with such men as the Dutch Desiderius Erasmus but also with the French Guillaume Farel (1489-1565) and Jacques Lefevre (1455-1536).  Erasmus's education in the Netherlands in the late 15th century was provoked by devotio moderna, trending toward reformation of Roman Catholicism.  With his curiosity in the original language of the New Testament for purposes of individual growth, education, and improvement, Erasmus endeavored and then succeeded at publishing the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament on March 1, 1516.

Men knew something was wrong in the world.  Roman Catholicism didn't better the lives of its adherents.  The study of scripture exposed the corruption and revealed the right way.  The movement started among the nobility, because it had the money and leisure for education, books, and travel.  As men read and then believed true doctrine, they spread it among themselves and then became a contrasting alternative through increasing numbers.  Enough then rejected the state church to become a risk to the establishment and afford some safety in the mainstream.

As the reformation of Roman Catholicism grew, its proponents intersected with the existing track, the Waldenses and others, alone and surviving detached from the rest of civilization.  The two met and compared and found important similarities with some differences.  They had in common the Bible as a source of authority.

In their seclusion, the Waldenses followed the Bible.  They had a Bible.  The Bible was preserved within their preserved church.  Suspicious of the Latin Vulgate and interested in a Bible in their own language, the Germans and the French both translated and published from the original Hebrew and Greek, the latter the text of the printed edition of Erasmus, the textus receptus, into their native tongue.

As the reformation grew, the separated church, known by different names, but I'll call Baptist, heard and met the reformed, and vice versa. Interaction ensued.  The two saw similarities.  The Baptists did not reject the reformed wholesale.  They saw themselves in them.  The Baptists, however, distinguished themselves, for instance, in 1527 with the Schleitheim Confession.  It is easy to see that both affected the other.  Some Baptists followed more in the direction of the reformed.  Some reformed became more Baptist, perhaps taking the path of semper reformanda, reformed and always reforming.

The junction of the reformed with Baptists did not always succeed.  Many reformed remained loyal to Roman Catholic ecclesiology, the state church teaching, and their allegorical hermeneutic yielding paedobaptism.  Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, and George Cajacob stood against infant sprinkling in Zurich, Switzerland.  You read the following in John T. Christian's A History of the Baptists:

Zwingli and the Council of Zurich knew no mercy towards the Baptists. At first Zwingli held debates with their leaders with indifferent success, then he evoked the strong arm of the law. The first Zurich decree, A. D., 1525, was as follows:

We, therefore, ordain and require that hereafter all men, women, boys and girls forsake rebaptism, and shall not make use of it hereafter, and shall let infants be baptized; whoever shall act contrary to this public edict shall be fined for every offense, one mark; and if any be disobedient and stubborn they shall be treated with severity; for, the obedient we will protect; the disobedient we will punish according to his deserts, without fail; by this all are to conduct themselves. All this we confirm by this public document, stamped with the seal of our city, and given on St. Andrew’s Day, A. D., 1525.

The decree went into effect at once. For the good name of Zwingli it could have been wished that he would never be more severe. There is preserved another official decree which indicates that the Baptists of Switzerland practiced immersion. On March 6, 1526, the Senate of Zurich decreed:

Decrevit clarissimus Senatus aqua mergere, qui merscrit baptismo suo, qui prius emerserat (Zwingli, Elenchus contra Cantabaptistas. III. p. 364).

It is elsewhere written in shorter form. Qui mersus fuerit mergatur, that he who immerses shall be immersed (Starke 183). This is the official statement of the Senate of Zurich that the Baptists of Switzerland practiced immersion.

The civil authorities of Zurich set an example of severity scarcely surpassed by Protestants, and of the deplorable execution of the sentence many examples are on record. The persecutors delighted to fit the penalty, as they cruelly judged it, to the fault, and so they put the Baptists to death by drowning.

Upon the very day of the decree of the Senate, of Zurich against the Baptists, Zwingli, who evidently was greatly pleased with the action of the Senate, wrote to Vadian:

It has been decreed this day by the Council of the Two Hundred (of Zurich) that the leaders of the Catabaptists shall be cast into the Tower, in which they formerly lay, and allured by bread and water diet until either they give up the ghost or surrender. It is also added that he who after this is dipped shall be submerged permanently (qtti posthac tingatur, prossus mcrgatur) ; this is not published (Zwingli, Opera, VII. p. 477).

Before the French Calvinists escaped to Geneva, the Waldenses among other factors influenced ecclesiology of certain French Protestants.  This percolated for many years independent of the predominant effect of the theological titan, John Calvin.  The French had their own freedom revoked on multiple occasions by the government of their nation.  Through the proceeding years with the establishment of its own state church in Switzerland, French Protestants were excommunicated and banned under the influence of Waldenses and Anabaptist ecclesiology.

The first big internal conflict of major scale in the French Reformed movement was incited by the publication of French Protestant Jean Morely’s Traicte de la discipline et police Chrestienne (1562). He said the law of church government established by Christ and practiced by the Apostles is perfect and, therefore, must be applied permanently to all ages and circumstances.  He said that the Calvinists were not “restitutionist” enough, not to “restore things in their primitive stage.”  Morely was convinced that the Apostles had never usurped the power and authority of local congregations.  He said that the power of the keys was once exercised by the Apostles as a special gift necessary to the church in its beginning, but now it belongs to the church as a whole, that is, each congregation.

When Morely submitted the manuscript of his book before publication, Calvin rejected its teaching. When the book appeared, it was publicly burned in Geneva and then Morely was excommunicated. In Calvin's own handwriting in the Geneva Consistory, Jean Morely was condemned and in danger of civil pains.  Morely, however, was only expressing what had already become the thinking of a considerable part of professing believers in France.  They resented the clericalism of the Reformed as much as the Catholic.  This dispute ran right up to the St. Bartholomew's massacre in 1572, another iteration of Roman Catholicism practicing its unique take on the kingdom of God, similar to that of Islam.

Theodore Beza succeeded Calvin as leader in Geneva, and he was loyal to Calvin in the Morely conflict, but after Calvin died in 1564, it is easy to see a shift and growth in Beza's ecclesiology henceforth more in tune with a French laity.  He emphasized the church as a congregation in a way one would not have read in and from Calvin.  The Waldenses affected the French Protestants and their shared suffering of French Roman Catholicism all too well revealed the corruption and destruction of a state church.

More to Come.

Monday, February 15, 2016

French Protestants and the Waldenses: The Church and the Text of the New Testament, pt. 1

Once upon a time I thought about critical text and modern version proponents' defamation of Desiderius Erasmus's work of the first published edition of the Greek New Testament on March 1, 1516, almost 500 years ago today.  Then I thought of Theodore Beza.  I thought, why does the French Protestant, Beza, receive so little attention compared to Erasmus, the Dutch, Roman Catholic humanist? The latest edition of Erasmus was 1535 and Beza published four editions (1556, 1582, 1588-89, 1598), his last the essential basis of the King James Version.  Was Theodore Beza merely rubber stamping the work of Erasmus or was he convinced that his printed edition was the Words of God?

Theodore Beza was the assistant to and the successor of John Calvin among the Protestants with a high view of the Word of God.  When I thought of French Protestantism, I thought of the history of Christianity in France and then Europe.  I thought of the relationship of the persecuted Protestants in France, the Huguenots, and the Waldenses.   Their Christianity cost them most highlighted by the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.  The 16th century is an amazing and colorful period in France and in many ways.  I want to explore them here.

In 1864, J. H. Merle D'Aubigne had published his The Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin. In volume three, he wrote the chapter, "The Waldenses Appear (1526 to October 1532)."  It's public domain, so read this chapter below.  The origination of and then budding of this relationship means something -- quite a bit.

On Friday, 12th July, Farel came from Morat to Grandson, where a quiet conference was to be held. Four disciples of the Gospel begged to receive the imposition of hands. Farel and his colleagues examined them, and, finding them fitted for the evangelical work, sent them to announce the Gospel in the neighbouring villages of Gy, Fy, Montagny, Noville, Bonvillars, St. Maurice, Champagne, and Concise. But the conference was to be occupied with more important business.

For two or three years past a strange report had circulated among the infant churches that were forming between the Alps and the Jura. They heard talk of christians who belonged to the Reformation without having ever been reformed. It was said that in some of the remote valleys of the Alps of Piedmont and Dauphiny, and in certain parts of Calabria, Apulia, Provence, Lorraine, and other countries, there were believers who for many centuries had resisted the pope and recognised no other authority than Holy Scripture. Some called them 'Waldenses,' others 'poor men of Lyons,' and others 'Lutherans.' The report of the victories of the Reformation having penetrated their valleys, these pious men had listened to them attentively; one of them in particular, Martin Gonin, pastor of Angrogne, was seriously moved by them. Being a man of decided and enterprising character, and ready to give his life for the Gospel, the pious barbe (the name given by the Waldenses to their pastors) had felt a lively desire to go and see closely what the Reformation was. This thought haunted him everywhere : whether he traversed the little glens which divided his valley, like a tree with its branches, or whether he followed the course of the torrent, or sat at the foot of the Alps of Cella, Vachera, and Infernet, Gonin sighed after Wittemberg and Luther.  At last he made up his mind; he departed in 1526, found his way to the reformers, and brought back into his valleys much good news and many pious books. From that time the Reformation was the chief topic of conversation among the barbes and shepherds of those mountains.

In 1530 many of them, threading the defiles of the Alps, arrived on the French slopes, and following the picturesque banks of the Durance, took their way to wards Merindol, where a synod of Waldensian christians had been convened. They walked on, animated with the liveliest joy; they had thought themselves alone, and in one day there had been born to them in Europe thousands of brethren who listened humbly to the Word of God, and made the pope tremble on his throne. . . . . They spoke of the Reformation, of Luther, and Melanchthon, and of the Swiss as they descended the rough mountain paths. When the synod was formed, they resolved to send a deputation to the evangelicals of Switzerland, to show them that the Waldensian doctrines were similar to those of the reformers, and to prevail upon the latter to give them the hand of fellowship. In consequence, two of them, George Morel and Peter Masson, set out for Basle.

On their arrival in that city, they asked for the house of Oecolampadius; they entered his study, and the old times, represented by these simple-minded worthy barbes, greeted the new times in the person of the amiable and steadfast reformer. The latter could not see these brave and rustic men standing before him and not feel an emotion of respect and sympathy. The Waldenses took from their bosoms the documents of their faith, 'and presented them to the pious doctor.  'Turning away from Antichrist,' said these papers, and Masson and Morel repeated the words, 'we turn towards Christ. He is our life, our truth, our peace, our righteousness, our shepherd, our advocate, our victim, our high-priest, who died for the salvation of believers.  But alas! as smoke goeth before the fire, the temptation of Antichrist precedeth the glory.  In the time of the apostles Antichrist was but a child; he has now grown into a perfect man. He robs Christ of the merit of salvation, and ascribes it to his own works. He strips the Holy Ghost of the power of regeneration, and attributes it to his ceremonies. He leads the people to mass, a sad tissue of Jewish, pagan, and christian rites, and deprives them of the spiritual and sacramental manducation.  He hates, persecutes, accuses, robs, and kills the members of Jesus Christ.  He boasts of his length of life, of his monks, his virgins, his miracles, his fasts, and his vigils, and uses them as a cloak to hide his wickedness.  Nevertheless, the rebel is growing old and decreasing, and the Lord is killing the felon by the breath of his mouth.' Oecolampadius admired the simplicity of their creed. He would not have liked a doctrine without life, or an apparent life without doctrine, but he found both in the Waldensian barbes.  'I thank God,' he told them, 'that he has called you to so great light.'

Ere long the doctors and faithful ones of Basle desired to see these men of the ancient times. Seated round the domestic hearth, the Waldenses narrated the sufferings of their fathers, and described their flocks scattered over the two slopes of the Alps.  'Some people,' they said, 'ascribe our origin to a wealthy citizen of Lyons, Peter de Vaux or Waldo, who, being at a banquet with his friends, saw one of them suddenly fall dead.  Moved and troubled in his conscience he prayed to Jesus, sold his goods, and began to preach and sent others to preach the Gospel everywhere.  But,' added the barbes, 'we descend from more ancient times, from the time when Constantine introducing the world into the Church, our fathers set themselves apart, or even from the time of the apostles.'

In the course of conversation, however, with these brethren, the christians of Basle noticed certain points of doctrine which did not seem conformable with evangelical truth, and a certain uneasiness succeeded to their former joy. Wishing to be enlightened, Oecolampadius addressed a few questions to the two barbes.  'All our ministers,' they answered on the first point, 'live in celibacy, and work at some honest trade.'  'Marriage, however,' said Oecolampadius, 'is a state very becoming to all true believers, and particularly to those who ought to be in all things ensamples to the flock. We also think,' he continued, 'that pastors ought not to devote to manual labour, as yours do, the time they could better employ in the study of scripture. The minister has many things to learn; God does not teach us miraculously and without labour; we must take pains in order to know.'

The barbes were at first a little confused at seeing that the elders had to learn of their juniors; however, they were humble and sincere men, and the Basle doctor having questioned them on the sacraments, they confessed that through weakness and fear they had their children baptised by Romish priests, and that they even communicated with them and some times attended mass. This unexpected avowal startled the meek Oecolampadius.  'What,' said he, 'has not Christ, the holy victim, fully satisfied the everlasting justice for us? Is there any need to offer other sacrifices after that of Golgotha? By saying Amen to the priests' mass you deny the grace of Jesus Christ.' Oecolampadius next spoke of the strength of man after the fall.  'We believe,' said the barbes modestly, 'that all men have some natural virtue, just as herbs, plants, and stones have.'  'We believe,' said the reformer,' that those who obey the commandments of God do so, not because they have more strength than others, but because of the great power of the Spirit of God which renews their will.' 'Ah,' said the barbes, who did not feel themselves in harmony with the reformers on this point, 'nothing troubles us weak people so much as what we have heard of Luther's teaching relative to freewill and predestination. . . .  Our ignorance is the cause of our doubts: pray instruct us.'

The charitable Oecolampadius did not think the differences were such as ought to alienate him from the barbes.  'We must enlighten these christians,' he said, 'but above all things we must love them.' Had they not the same Bible and the same Saviour as the children of the Reformation? Had they not preserved the essential truths of the faith from the primitive times?  Oecolampadius and his friends agitated by this reflection, gave their hands to the Waldensian deputation:  'Christ,' said the pious doctor, 'is in you as he is in us, and we love you as brethren.'

The two barbes left Basle and proceeded to Strasburg to confer with Bucer and Capito, after which they prepared to return to their valleys. As Peter Masson was of Burgundian origin, they determined to pass through Dijon, a journey not unattended with danger. It was said here and there in cloisters and in bishops' palaces that the old heretics had come to an understanding with the new. The pious conversation of the two Waldensians having attracted the attention of certain inhabitants of Dijon, a clerical and fanatical city, they were thrown into prison. What shall they do? What, they ask, will become of the letters and instructions they are bearing to their coreligionists? One of them, Morel, the bearer of this precious trust, succeeded in escaping: Masson, who was left, paid for both; he was condemned, executed, and died with the peace of a believer.

When they saw only one of their deputation appear, the Waldenses comprehended the dangers to which the brethren had been exposed, and wept for Masson.  But the news of the reformers' welcome spread great joy among them, in Provence, Dauphiny, in the valleys of the Alps, and even to Apulia and Calabria.  The observations, however, of Oecolampadius, and his demand for a stricter reform, were supported by some and rejected by others. The Waldensians determined therefore to take another step:  'Let us convoke a synod of all our churches,' said they, 'and invite the reformers to it.'

One July day in 1532, when Farel was at Grandson, as we have seen, in conference with other ministers, he was told that two individuals, whose foreign look indicated that they came from a distance, desired to speak with him. Two barbes, one from Calabria, named George, the other Martin Gonin, a Piedmontese, entered the room. After saluting the evangelicals in the name of their brethren, they told them that the demand that had been addressed to them to separate entirely from Rome had caused division among them.  'Come,' they said to the ministers assembled at Grandson,' come to the synod and explain your views on this important point. After that we must come to an understanding about the means of propagating over the world the doctrine of the Gospel which is common to both of us.'  No message could be more agreeable to Farel; and as these two points were continually occupying his thoughts, he determined to comply with the request of the Waldensian brethren. His fellow-countryman, the pious Saunier, wished to share his dangers.

The members of the conference and the evangelicals of Grandson gazed with respect upon these ancient witnesses of the truth, arriving among them from the farther slopes of the Alps and the extremity of Italy, where they would have had no idea of going to look for brethren. They crowded round them and gave them a welcome, overflowing with love for them as they thought of the long fidelity and cruel sufferings of their ancestors. They listened with interest to the story of the persecutions endured by their fathers, and the heroism with which the Waldenses had endured them. They were all ears when they were told how the barbes and their flocks were suddenly attacked by armed bands in their snowy mountains during the festival of Christmas in the year 1400; how men, women, and children had been compelled to flee over the rugged rocks, and how many of them had perished of cold and hunger, or had fallen by the sword.  In one place the bodies of fourscore little children were found frozen to death in the stiffened arms of their mothers who had died with them. . . .  In another place thousands of fugitives who had taken refuge in deep caverns (1488) had been suffocated by the fires which their cruel persecutors had kindled at the entrance of their hiding-place.  Would not the Reformation regard these martyrs as its precursors? Was it not a privilege for it thus to unite with the witnesses who had given glory to Jesus Christ since the first ages of the Church?

Some of the Swiss christians were alarmed at the idea of Farel's journey.  In truth great dangers threatened the reformer. The martyrdom of Peter Masson, sacrificed two years before, had exasperated the Waldenses of Provence, and their lamentations had aroused the anger of their enemies. The bishops of Sisteron, Apt, and Cavaillon had taken counsel together and laid a remonstrance before the parliament of Aix, which had immediately ordered a raid to be made on the heretics:  the prisons were filled with Waldensians and Lutherans, real or pretended. Martin Gonin, one of the two Waldensian deputies, was in a subsequent journey arrested at Grenoble, put into a sack, and drowned in the Isere.  A similar fate might easily happen to Farel. Did not the country he would have to cross depend on the duke of Savoy, and had not Bellegarde and Challans laid hands on Bonivard in a country less favourable to ambuscades than that which Farel had to pass through? That mattered not: he did not hesitate. He will leave these quarters where the might of Berne protects him and pass through the midst of his enemies.  'There was in him the same zeal as in his Master,' says an historian; 'like the Saviour, he feared neither the hatred of the Pharisees, nor the cunning of Herod, nor the rage of the people.' He made every preparation for his departure, and Saunier did the same.

Just as Farel was about to leave Switzerland, he received unpleasant tidings from France, and thus found himself solicited on both sides. He wrote to his fellow-countrymen one of those letters, so full of consolation and wisdom, which characterise our reformers.  'Men look fiercely at you,' he said, 'and threaten you, and lay heavy fines upon you; your friends turn their robes and become your enemies. . . . . .  All men distress you. . . . Observing all modesty, meekness, and friendship, persevering in holy prayers, living purely, and helping the poor, commit everything to the Father of mercies, by whose aid you will walk, strong and unwearied, in all truth.'

Towards the end of August, Farel and Saunier took leave of the brethren around them, got on their horses, and departed. Their course was enveloped in mystery:  they avoided the places where they might be known and traversed uninhabited districts. Having crossed the Alps and passed through Pignerol, they fixed their eyes, beaming with mournful interest, on the lonely places where almost inaccessible caverns, pierced in the rugged sides of the mountains, often formed the only temple of the Christians, and where every rock had a history of persecution and martyrdom. Their place of meeting was Angrogne, in the parish of the pious Martin Gonin. The two reformers quitted La Tour, and following the sinuosities of the torrent, and turning the precipices, they arrived at the foot of a magnificent forest, and then reached a vast plateau abounding in pastures : this was the Val d'Angrogne. They gazed upon the steep ranges of the Soirnan and Infernet, the pyramidal flanks of mount Vandalin, and the gentler slopes upon which stood the lowly hamlets of the valley. They found Waldenses here and there in the meadows and at the foot of the rocks; some were prepared' to be a guard for the ministers of the good law;' and all looked with astonishment and joy at the pastors who came from Switzerland.'  That one with the red beard and riding the white horse is Farel,' said John Peyret of Angrogne, one of their escort, to his companions; 'the other on the dark horse is Saunier.' 'There was also a third,' add the eye-witnesses, 'a tall man and rather lame:'  he may have been a Waldensian who had acted as a guide to the two deputies.  Other foreign Christians met in this remote valley of the Alps. There were some from the southern extremity of Italy, from Burgundy, Lorraine, Bohemia, and countries nearer home. There was also a certain number of persons of more distinguished appearance: the lords of Rive Noble, Mirandola, and Solaro had quitted their castles to take part in this Alpine council.  Clergy, senate, and people were thus assembled; and as no room could have held the number, it was resolved to meet in the open air. Gonin selected for this purpose the hamlet of Chanforans, where there is now only one solitary house. There, in a shady spot, on the side of the mountain, surrounded by an amphitheatre of rugged cliffs and distant peaks, the barbe had arranged the rude benches on which the members of this Christian assembly were to sit.

Two parties met there face to face. At the head of that which was unwilling to break entirely with the Roman Catholic Church were two barbes, Daniel of Valence and John of Molines, who struggled for the success of their system of accommodation and compliance. On the other hand Farel and Saunier supported the evangelical party, who had not such distinguished representatives as the traditional party, and proposed the definitive rejection of all semi-catholic doctrines and usages. Before the opening of the synod the two ministers, finding themselves surrounded by numbers of the brethren, both in their homes and under the shade of the trees where the assembly was to be held, had already explained to them the faith of the Reformation, and several of the Waldenses had exclaimed that it was the doctrine taught from father to son among them, and to which they were resolved to adhere. Yet the issue party was strong, and described the reformers as foreigners and innovators who had come there to alter their ancient doctrines. But Farel had good hopes, for he could appeal to Holy Scripture and even to the confessions of the Waldenses themselves.

On the 12th September the synod was opened 'in the name of God.'  One party looked with favour on Farel and Saunier, the other on John of Molines and Daniel of Valence; but the majority appeared to be on the side of the Reformation. Farel rose and boldly broached the question:  he contended that there was no longer any ceremonial law, that no act of worship had any merit of itself, and that a multitude of feasts, dedications, rites, chants, and mechanical prayers was a great evil. He reminded them that Christian worship consists essentially in faith in the Gospel, in charity, and in the confession of Christ.'  God is a spirit,' he said, 'and divine worship should be performed in spirit and in truth.'  The two barbes strove in vain to oppose these views, the meeting testified their assent to them. Did not their confession reject 'all feasts, vigils of saints, water called holy, the act of abstaining from flesh, and other like things invented by men?'  The worship in spirit was proclaimed. Farel, delighted at this first victory, desired to win another and perhaps more difficult one. He believed that it was by means of the doctrine of the natural power of man that popery took salvation out of the hands of God and put it into the hands of the priests:  'God,' said he, 'has elected before the foundation of the combat appeared doubtful;  for the semi-catholic the world all those who have been or who will be saved.  It is impossible for those who have been ordained to salvation not to be saved. Whosoever upholds free will, absolutely denies the grace of God.'  This was a point which Molines and his friend resisted with all their might.  But did not the Waldensian confessions recognise the impotency of man and the all-sufficiency of grace? Did not they call the denial of these things 'the work of Antichrist?'  Farel moreover adduced proof from Scripture. The synod was at first in suspense, but finally decided that it recognised this article as 'conformable with Holy Scripture.'

Certain questions of morality anxiously occupied the reformer. In his opinion the Romish Church had turned everything topsy-turvy, calling those works good which she prescribed though they had nothing good in them, and those bad which were in conformity with the will of God.' There is no good work but that which God has commanded,' said Farel, 'and none bad but what He has forbidden.'  The assembly expressed their entire assent.

Then continuing the struggle, the firm evangelical doctor successively maintained that the true confession of a Christian is to confess to God alone;  that marriage is forbidden to no man, whatever his condition; that Scripture determines only two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper ; that Christians may swear in God's name and fill the office of magistrate; and finally, that they should lay aside their manual occupations on Sunday in order to have leisure to praise God, exercise charity, and listen to the truths of Scripture.  'Yes, that is it,' said the delighted Waldenses, ' that is the doctrine of our fathers.'

Molines and Daniel of Valence did not, however, consider their cause lost. Ought not the fear of persecution to induce the Waldenses to persevere in certain dissimulations calculated to secure them from the inquisitive eyes of the enemies of the faith?  Nothing displeased the reformers so much as dissembling.'  Let us put off that paint,' said Calvin, 'by which the Gospel is disfigured, and let us not endeavour slavishly to please our adversaries; let us go boldly to work. If we permit compromises in some practices the whole doctrine will fall, and the building be thrown down.'  Farel thought as Calvin did. Perceiving this loophole for the two barbes, he urged the necessity of a frank confession of the truth.  The members of the assembly, pricked in their consciences by the remembrance of their former backslidings, bound themselves to take no part henceforward in any Romish superstition, and to recognise as their pastor no priest of the pope's church.  'We will perform our worship,' they said, 'openly and publicly to give glory to God.'

The two barbes, who were no doubt sincere, became more eloquent. The moment was come that was to decide the future. In their opinion, by establishing new principles they cast discredit on the men who had hitherto directed the churches. No doubt it was culpable to take part in certain ceremonies with an unworthy object, but was it so when it was done for good ends?  To break entirely with the Catholic Church would render the existence of the Waldenses impossible, or at least would provoke hostilities which would reduce them completely to silence Farel replied with wonderful energy maintaining the rights of truth.  He showed them that every compromise with error is a lie. The purity of the doctrine he professed, his elevated thoughts, the ardent affection expressed by his voice, his gestures, and his looks, electrified the Waldenses, and poured into their souls the holy fire with which his own was burning. These witnesses of the middle ages called to mind how the children of Israel having adopted the customs of people alien to the covenant of God, wept abundantly and exclaimed: 'We have trespassed against God!'  The Waldenses felt like them, and desired to make amends for their sins. They drew up a brief confession in 17 articles, in conformity with the resolutions that had been adopted, and then said:  'We adhere with one accord to the present declaration, and we pray God that, of his great charitv nothing may divide us henceforward, and that, even when separated from one another, we 'may always remain united in the same spirit.'  Then they signed their names.

The agreement was not however universal.  During the six days' discussion several barbes and laymen might have been seen standing apart, in some shady place, with gloomy air and uneasy look, talking together on the resolutions proposed to the synod.  At the moment when every one was affixing his signature to the confession, the two leaders withheld theirs, and withdrew from the assembly.

During the discussion, and even before it, Farel and Saunier had had several conversations and conferences with the Waldenses, in the course of which the barbes had displayed their old manuscripts, handed down from the twelfth century, as they said: the Noble Lesson, the Ancient Catechism, the Antichrist, the Purgatory, and others.  These writings bore the date of A.D. 1120, which probably was not disputed by Farel.  One line of the Noble Lesson seems to indicate this as the period when it was composed.  Since then, however, more recent dates have been assigned to the other writings, especially to the Antichrist, and even to the Noble Lesson.  In any case, however, these documents belong to a time anterior to the Reformation.  The Waldensians displayed with peculiar pride several manuscript copies of the Old and New Testament in the vulgar tongue.  'These books,' they said, 'were copied correctly by hand so long ago as to be beyond memory, and are to be seen in many families.'  Farel and Saunier had received and handled these writings with emotion; they had turned over the leaves, and ' marvelling at the heavenly favour accorded to so small a people,' had rendered thanks to the Lord because the Bible had never been taken from them.

They did not stop there: Farel addressing the synod, represented to them that the copies being few in number they could only serve for a few persons:  'Ah!' said he, 'if there are so many sects and heresies, so much trouble and confusion now in the world, it all comes from ignorance of the Word of God. It would therefore be exceedingly necessary for the honour of God and the well-being of all christians who know the French language, and for the destruction of all doctrines repugnant to the truth, to translate the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek tongues into French.'

No proposal could be more welcome to the Waldenses; their existence was due to their love of Scripture, and all their treatises and poems celebrated it:

The Scriptures speak and we must believe.
Look at the Scriptures from beginning to end.

Thus spoke the Noble Lesson. They agreed 'joyfully and with good heart to Farel's demand, busying and exerting themselves to carry out the undertaking.'  The proposition was voted enthusiastically, and the delighted reformers looked with emotion and joy at this faithful and constant people, to whom God had entrusted for so many ages the ark of the new covenant, and who were now inspired with fresh zeal for his service.

The hour had come for them to separate.  John of Molines and Daniel of Valence went to Bohemia, and joined the Waldenses of that country; the pastors returned to their churches, the shepherds to their mountains, and the lords to their castles.  Farel mounted his white horse, Saunier his black one; they shook hands with the Waldenses who surrounded them, and descending from Angrogne to La Tour, bade adieu to the valleys.

Where should they go? What would be the next work undertaken by Farel ? . . . . Geneva had long occupied his thoughts, and as he crossed the Alps he had before him in spirit that city with its wants and its inhabitants, especially those who were beginning to 'meditate on Jesus Christ.'  Already, before his departure for Italy, Farel had conceived the plan of stopping at Geneva on his return, and with that intent had even received from my lords of Berne some letters of introduction addressed to the leading Huguenots.  'I will go to them now,' he said, 'I will speak to them, even if there is nobody that will hear me.'

This idea, which never quitted him, was the beginning of the Reformation of Geneva.
D'Aubigne is a Swiss Protestant and might tend toward a Protestant bias, but you read his admission of the existence of a people, of churches, separate from Roman Catholicism, the Waldenses, who followed the Bible as their authority for faith and practice, with a history back before Constantine and the state church.  Here is a Protestant historian, (1) speaking of the perpetuity of a true church with biblical doctrine and practice separate from Roman Catholicism, (2) perpetuating a trail of blood, and (3) debunking English separatism for either landmark or spiritual kinship belief.

To Be Continued

Friday, February 12, 2016

Christians Suing Christians: Is it Biblical?

Relatively recently I was contacted by someone who is, I trust, a genuine Christian and a like-minded Baptist.  He had been in a difficult situation where, from his account of the matter, the pastor who had been called had acted very improperly and had essentially taken over the church and forced out those that did not agree with him in a manner comparable to Diotrephes.  As a result of this, the person who contacted me and those that sided with him in the church split had gone to court to sue the pastor to get the church property back.  When I found out that he and his party had initiated a lawsuit against their former pastor, I wrote him the following:

I must confess that, while I am external to the situation, and if I have all the facts and everything you say is true, the pastor did things that were just terrible, I cannot see how the lawsuit against your pastor/former pastor can be justified.  1 Cor 6 plainly says that we are not to "dare" to do this, for the saints can judge all things of this life, it is to our "shame" if we take a believer to court, and having the most ignorant believer, the least esteemed and most backslidden one (v. 4), is better than going before unbelievers, it is "utterly a fault," and it is far better to take wrong and be defrauded (v. 7), and taking them to court is to "do wrong," v. 8, and is actually the type of thing one would expect from those who will not inherit the kingdom of God (v. 9-10). 

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 states:

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

I must confess that I would be greatly afraid to take a Baptist pastor to court in light of this passage, even if I believed I had great reason to think he was a scoundrel.  I would rather just be defrauded and trust God to vindicate the right.  If you folks are really the church and you put him under church discipline, then he is delivered to Satan, and that is a frightful thing, and you can have God's blessing while getting defrauded of your goods. You stated it was not about the money anyway, so that isn't really the issue. Of course, as an external party, I hardly know everything that has gone on here.

In response, he made a case for the Scriptural lawfulness of Christians taking other Christians to court. He gave the verses such as the following to justify suing the improperly acting Baptist pastor:  Genesis 9:6; Deuteronomy 17:8-13; the Book of Judges; Proverbs 26:26; Matthew 16:15-17; Galatians 6:1; Acts 25:11; Romans 13; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Timothy 5:17-20.  He stated that Paul was arrested and tried before a worldly judge and the plaintiffs were the religious sect of the day, so lawsuits against believers were justifiable. Also, since Paul appealed unto Casear, the portion of the church that split with him could sue the Baptist pastor. He also affirmed that the context of 1 Corinthians 6 in 5:11-13 and chapter 7 show that 1 Corinthians 6 is not forbidding all lawsuits against believer, just lawsuits that are for trivial reasons.

My response to his argument included the following. Thanks for the reply.  What you stated happened sounds just horrible, of course, and it sounds like a really terrible situation.

If you have the time, I would be interested in hearing your explanation for how the verses you cited justify suing pastors/former pastors of one's church before unbelievers.  Of course, there is no question that it is right at times to seek judicial relief when one's car is stolen by a thief, an assault happens, etc.  Also, of course in the Israelite nation there were courts.  Also, as with Paul's appeal to Caesar, when enemies of the gospel are seeking one's execution it is right to appeal to Caesar to avoid getting executed by enemies of the gospel who are lying in wait on the road to Jerusalem.  Perhaps if you have the time you could explain how any of these texts show that we are supposed to initiate lawsuits against Baptist church members or pastors, when that isn't happening in any of these passages.  I trust that with your appeal here: "Paul was arrested and tried before a worldly judge and the plaintiffs were the religious sect of the day" you are not stating that you are like the religious enemies of God and Christ that were instituting the lawsuit.  It is interesting that Paul never, ever tried to counter-sue them, even though they were unbelievers--indeed, he even said "not that I had ought to accuse my nation of" (Acts 28:19) when they had tried to kill him and use the law to have him executed. Without an identification of your action with that of the Pharisees and Sadducees, though, I don't see how Acts helps the Biblical case for suing church members or Christians.  You referenced Mt 18:15-17 and Gal 6:1, but they seem to say exactly the opposite of that--you put the people under church discipline and that is the end of it, not if they don't listen to church discipline you sue them before the unbelievers.  1 Tim says to "rebuke," not "bring a civil lawsuit against" in a worldly court.  I would be interested in seeing why these verses aren't special pleading but are actually teaching, through grammatical-historical interpretation, to sue pastors. I definitely don't want to do the wrong thing if the situation ever comes up in my life, as it has (tragically) in yours.

There is a passage that I would be interested in hearing your take on that actually refers to suing people at the law, and which assumes that others sue us, and when they do, we give generously to them, instead of the other way around, in the Sermon on the Mount:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (Matthew 5:39-41)

It looks like the same thing as 1 Cor 6's saying that we should just let ourselves be defrauded, no?

A passage which seems to be very similar to what you are describing is 3 John with Diotrephes, who was casting out others from the church.  Did the Apostle John say that those Diotrephes cast out should take him to the secular court to protect church property, funds, etc.?  If he did, that would indeed help your case.  I don't see where he tells them that, though.

I agree that it is very good to read the chapters before and after 1 Cor 6, even though the "precept upon precept, line upon line" text you employed was actually what the enemies of Isaiah that were mocking the prophet were saying in the context of Isaiah 28.  1 Cor 5:11-13 says that those in the church are judged when they are kicked out for their sin and are delivered to Satan.  Where did Paul say there that you file a civil lawsuit against them?  If 1 Cor 6 really only means "don't sue over trivial things," so that if something isn't that bad we aren't supposed to make the testimony of Christ look a bit bad over trivial things, but if there is something really bad, then we are supposed to show the horrible evil to the world and bring what utterly destroys Christ's testimony before unbelievers in a secular court, I am happy to believe that if it is really what 1 Cor 6 is teaching.  I'm not sure I see it, though. Where is the word "trivial" in the passage?  Where did Paul say "Sue over really bad things and then take believers to court, just don't do it for minor things?"  I see Paul actually saying that it is better to allow oneself to be "defrauded," which is not a term for a little thing.  It is used of illegally withholding wages in James 5:4, where the workers don't sue but cry to God and let Him bring the judgment.  In the LXX, in Sirach 29:6-7 the word appears and is used of turning away people wickedly and defrauding people of their money; in Sir 34:25-26 it is used of withholding money with results so severe that by doing so one is "murdering his fellow" and becoming a "person of blood" through the other party starving to death through being defrauded.  In Mal 3:1 in the LXX it appears for those who defraud hired workers of their wages and are damned eternally for their evil.  So it sure looks like the sin in 1 Cor 6 is a very serious one, but we are to be "defrauded" instead of taking church members, pastors, etc. to court.  We are to put them under church discipline (1 Cor 5:11-13) and let God judge them.  If you have the time, I would be interested in seeing the serious exegesis of 1 Cor 6 that I trust you did before initiating this lawsuit that demonstrates that here "defrauding" excludes serious things, but really means only in trivial situations don't go to the unbelievers, but in fact we must for the glory of God expose the serious sins of believers to the ungodly and have them judge issues in the church as a court of higher appeal beyond church discipline.  In the earliest post-Christian writings, that word “defraud” is used in the sentence here;  "Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers and sisters, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord, to see who can be the more defrauded, who the more cheated, who the more rejected . . . with complete purity and self control" (Eph 10:3).  I didn't see anything where the earliest Christians thought 1 Cor 6 meant to take believers to secular courts and show the sins of the saints to the Christ-hating world in order to avoid being defrauded.

I trust you know that I took the time to write this out of Christian love, for the glory of God, and because I trust that you indeed to care very much about what the Bible says and so you want to follow it, no matter what the cost.  It is unquestionably done because of respect, love, and care for you and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

That was my response—Don’t take Christians to court, because it is forbidden by 1 Corinthians 6.  Do you agree or not?  You had better be sure what the Bible teaches on this subject before it, God forbid, comes up in a tragic situation in your life, and convenience suggests disobedience to Scripture.