Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Case Study for Biblical Separation: James White and Michael Brown, According to Phil Johnson

I would be fine with Phil Johnson being right about separation and fine with James White too, if what they believed and practiced was biblical about separation.  I often check the old pyromaniacs twitter feed, because of the interesting links and comments of either Phil Johnson or Dan Phillips.  Through that feed, I've noticed the recent issue of some of James White's associations with various people and institutions.  Phil has been attacked by certain factions for his support of White, finding himself in the position of defending White and himself against certain charges.  A recent effort from Johnson was commentary on the friendship of James White with Michael Brown, the Jewish Charismatic apologist.

Several years ago, I attended the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in San Francisco, and in particular one session with a panel discussion on the book, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism.  Separation came up in the discussion, because that differentiates all other forms of evangelicalism from fundamentalism.  I asked during the session where one book on biblical separation could be found anywhere in the mammoth book room for the ETS meeting.  In general, evangelicals ignore what scripture says about separation, so when you do read something about it, it's worth taking note.  How much will evangelicals rely on the Bible for their doctrine and practice?  Is what Phil writes about it true?  Does he represent what the Bible teaches about separation?

The James White and Michael Brown relationship and its interaction provide a case study for biblical separation.  I'm not writing to get personal with Phil Johnson or James White.  I see it as a great opportunity to think on God's Word about separation.  Separation is found in every New Testament epistle and all over the Old Testament.

Phil Johnson divides his article into main points.  First, he deals with the friendship of James White and Michael Brown.  He is not troubled that James White and Michael Brown are friends, because, he says, Michael Brown needs better, more scriptural friends.  It's worth considering.  What is the relationship between fellowship and friendship?  How are they different?  Can you be friends and yet not be in fellowship with someone?

At the beginning of his second point, Phil says that he doesn't tell his friends who they should and shouldn't be friends with.  Is that the biblical thing to do?  Phil offers no scriptural guidance for his dogmatic statement.  I would deal with friends over whom they're friends with, because they're my friends.  Several passages all over the Bible forbid ungodly associations (cf. 2 Sam 13:3; Ps 1:1, 101:3, 139:21-22; Prov 22:24; 1 Cor 15:33; Eph 5:11; James 4:4).  Friendship doesn't just relate to us, but it also relates to God.   In 1 Corinthians 10:24, Paul writes, "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils."  What or whom you associate with does matter to God.

Phil says second, "I deplore hyper-separatism almost as much as I hate ecumenism."  Ecumenism is a technical term with a lot written about it, while hyper-separatism is not.  Both terms need definition.  I've found him to provide anecdotes of hyper-separatism, often hypotheticals and straw men.  It would help to know what scripture says about separation and unity (like we have laid out in our book, A Pure Church).  Phil's first reference to scripture is to justify friendship with sinners from Luke 7:34.  Verses 33-34 say:
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
The "ye" of these two verses, the commentators upon John and Jesus, were the Pharisees.  The Pharisees called Jesus a "friend of sinners."  That doesn't mean He was a friend of sinners.  If Jesus was a friend of sinners, was He also a glutton, winebibber, and, did John the Baptist also have a devil?  Because Jesus cared for unsaved people and evangelized them, the Pharisees attacked him as being sinner's friend.  What we know is that He cared for and evangelized sinners.  We don't have any actual examples of the Lord Jesus being friends with unsaved people.  We should not justify friendship with all manner of doctrinal perversion and unbelievers by what the Pharisees said about Jesus -- that is a fallacious application of that passage.  It also clashes with other teaching in the Bible, which cautions believers about their friendships.

If a Pharisee asked me to eat with him, like Jesus, I would, and, like Jesus, with a purpose to evangelize.  That doesn't make the Pharisee and I friends.  The Apostle Paul distinguishes between who  we should and shouldn't socialize with in 1 Corinthians 5, treating professing believers different than unbelieving people.  Scripture teaches us that we shouldn't socialize with everyone.  We should try to help people follow what the Bible says about separation.  1 Corinthians 5 isn't talking about even friendship, but about socializing with someone.  It matters even who you socialize with, let alone who you are friends with.

According to Phil, "Dr. White stated that critics have been telling him, 'You have to separate yourself from anybody that you have disagreements with when it comes to theology.'"  I've heard James White enough, that I don't believe him.  He's striking a straw man as he so often does, and also is treating his criticism like he's persecuted.  I've never heard anyone say what he claims they have in my entire life.  I think you've got to be about as gullible as you can be to believe that critics, plural, have been saying that to James White -- "anybody that you have disagreements with when it comes to theology."

I would happy for anyone to show me one person who separates over every theological disagreement, even among the mystery group, the "hyper-separatists," what Phil describes as those "who seem to relish conflict and treat every disagreement as an excuse to fire off anathemas."  This doesn't exist as a problem.  The word "seem" probably gives Phil a semi-truck of deniability.  Who in the world treats every disagreement as an excuse to fire off anathemas?  I've never met one, except that Phil would probably categorize me as one.  Phil needs to do better than that for this to be a realistic discussion of fellowship and separation.  Anathemas are in the Bible in Galatians 1 or in 1 Corinthians 16 and they are reserved for those who preach a false gospel and those who love not the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever type of friendships Phil Johnson has, his own experience can't serve as a basis for friendship.  Is there any line to be drawn on friendship?  The way Phil talks, there isn't any.  That is dangerous teaching (which is different than saying anathema to the teaching).  What are the limitations?  Would a modern day Nadab and Abihu, offerers of strange fire, be fine friends?  Cain, post murder of Abel?  You might work with Korah, but should you be friends with him?  At what point are you complicit with someone's false teaching or conduct?  Maybe you're not offended with someone as a friend, but is God?  Life is not all about you.  If someone is your friend, couldn't he influence you, and you don't even know it?  Are you not also subject to possible deceit?  What does scripture say?

Phil Johnson focuses on a very narrow teaching and application of separation, that is, "we are forbidden by Scripture to partner with or promote someone who comes in Christ's name and perverts or rewrites the gospel (Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 7-11)" [underlining his]. The Bible has far more to say about separation than that.  It does teach that, but not in contradiction to the other several teachings about separation in the New Testament.  That's how Johnson communicates this issue, as if the teaching in those two passages has drained all the Bible says on the subject. Phil knows of 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14:
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. . . . And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him,, that he may be ashamed.
Among others, why not list those verses and their teaching too?  They apply to White and Brown and separation, and there are other passages too.

Hyper-separation seems to be any separation that is more than Phil's separation.  For years, I've noticed that's how both Phil and James White roll on separation.  Hyper should be something unscriptural, adding to scripture in some way.  We know God separated from everyone on earth except for Noah and his family.  Is that hyper separation?  The concern should be over biblical separation.  If someone obeys scripture on separation, he is not a hyper-separatist.  If someone is not a biblical separatist, is he an ecumenist?  What matters, what should matter, is that we are obedient to God and His Word.

Brandenburg-Wilhite Wedding (Now Mr. and Mrs. Derek Wilhite)

My daughter, Julia, married Derek Wilhite last Thursday at noon in Berkeley at the Brazilian area of Tilden Park.  Here is the wedding.

You'll find some interesting pictures and videos already online, and perhaps we'll share some more.
Here is a link to a video of the sendoff.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Abiding in Christ: What Does it Mean? part 7 of 9: Exposition of John 15:4-5

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
The aorist imperative “abide” here indicates the characteristic of the whole life of the saint, not a momentary action, or repeated points of faith-decisions to surrender to Christ; cf. the aorists of meno in Matthew 10:1126:38John 1:32. Commenting on the like form in v. 9, A. T. Robertson in his Word Pictures stated that meinate is a “Constative first aorist active imperative of meno, summing up the whole.” A similar aorist for keeping Christ’s commandments appears in John 14:15. Remaining, continuing, persevering, or abiding as a characteristic of the whole life is the mark of the genuine convert, John 8:31. He will abide because Christ and the Spirit dwell or abide in him, and thus make certain his continued perseverance or abiding, 1 John 2:2427. “Abide in me” means to continue in Christ’s word and commandments, John 15:7 and 10, to remain united to Him. The true convert, because he is in Christ and Christ is in him, will persevere in unity with the Lord, and one would expect him to remain in unity with His church, which is His body, as well. There is also a connection between the second half of the command, “and I in you,” v. 4, and Christ’s words abiding in believers, v. 7. One notes that the imperative in v. 4 covers both halves of the abiding; saints are responsible for both the “abide in Me” and for the “and I in you.” Advocates of the position that only Christians that have received the “higher life” abide typically do not say that Christ only indwells those on the higher plane—but here those that abide in Christ are those who Christ abides in Himself. It is noteworthy that the commands here are all plural, addressed to the corporate pre-Pentecost church. Is there not a corporate, assembly requirement here for the church to be abiding in Christ, and Christ in the assembly, and His Words in her, as well as an individual application to do the same? In any case, the individual aspect is certainly found in Scripture, 1 John 3:24—the individual who abides or dwells in Christ individually keeps His commandments by the power of the indwelling Spirit.
No spiritual fruit, no good works, are possible without a living union to Christ, without abiding or dwelling in Him, a state brought about by regeneration (cf. also Hosea 14:8Galatians 2:20Philippians 1:11). On its own, “the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,” for the unregenerate man cannot in any way please God (Romans 8:7-8). However, saints can and do bear fruit, for they do abide or dwell in Christ.
That Christ commands His saints to abide or remain in Him does not require the possibility that they will fail to do so; rather, as has been demonstrated above, their continuing to abide is guaranteed by the Spirit’s dwelling or abiding in them (1 John 2:2427). Only those who overcome will enter into life (Revelation 2:71017263:21), but all believers will overcome (1 John 5:54:4). Their continuing to abide in Christ is as certain as Christ’s continuing to abide or dwell in them.
Note that Christ was in them; contrast Judas, who had Satan in him (6:70; 13:27), and consequently went into open apostasy. Christ is in His saints, and there He controls them and leads them to do righteousness and continue faithful to His Words, so they will not go into apostasy, but will abide in Him. The Lord Jesus does this in part through His sending of the Spirit, the Paraclete, who is such a prominent part of the discourse of John 14-16which surrounds the teaching of John 15:1ff. The Lord also guarantees the saints’ perseverance through His high priestly ministry (John 17, the postcontext of John 15). Christ’s High Priestly intercession guarantees believers both God’s preservation of their souls unto eternal life (John 17:24) and their perseverance in obedience (John 17:17).
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
The believer, who will abide (present tense) or remain faithful to Christ’s Word and commandments as a pattern of his life, will bring forth much fruit; good works are the certain consequence of spiritual union with Christ (John 3:19-218:3110:2712:24-26Mark 8:34-36Matthew 13:23Romans 6:22Galatians 5:18-24Ephesians 2:10Colossians 1:6). In contrast, the unregenerate man cannot bear any spiritual fruit or do any good works. The “much fruit” phrase is found here in v. 5 and in v. 8, as “more fruit” appears in v. 2 (and “fruit” with “more fruit” certainly looks like “much fruit”). The only previous appearance of the phrase in the New Testament is in John 12:24,[5] where “much fruit” is a result of Christ’s death. Living union with the Christ who died and rose again, a position in the vine, results in the bearing of much fruit. Those who are united to Him bear much fruit and are disciples, saved people, John 15:8.

See the complete study on meno or "abiding," which includes the passages not only in the KJV but also in the Greek NT (not present in this series of blog posts), by clicking here.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Negativity of the Holy Spirit

Since the Holy Spirit is spirit after all, so we can't see Him, He is easier for men to mold into what they prefer Him to be.  He is Who He is, which is what scripture says about Him.  The Holy Spirit, yes, gives joy, peace, those fruit of the Spirit, which people want.  They want other people to get love, you know, so that they'll be able to receive their love, because they do want that.

2 Thessalonians 2:7 gives a title to the Holy Spirit, "he who now letteth," which is katecho, "to hold back," a modern understanding being, "restrainer."  In 2 Thessalonians 2, the Holy Spirit restrains from apostasy, restraint without which would be total apostasy.  He holds back the sewage by restraining.

In general, restraint is negative.  People want something and someone stops or impedes what they want.  In the case of the Holy Spirit, He is not giving someone something, but stopping him from having it.

When Jesus talked about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in very important teaching of His disciples before His death (John 16:8), He said that the Holy Spirit "will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment."  "Reprove" is to convict, that is, to prove guilty.   He reproves someone for something he has done of which the Holy Spirit does not approve.  He points out wrongdoing with the goal of repentance.

One of the list of the fruit of the Spirit is "temperance."  Temperance is about doing something you don't want to do or not doing something you want to do.  The Holy Spirit works toward self-control.

The Holy Spirit is called the Restrainer as a title.  Some might say, "Well, He's also called 'the Comforter.'"  Right.  "Comforter" has changed in understanding since the KJV translators gave that translation to the Greek word paraklesis.  The English word comes from the Latin, com, "with," and forte, "strength," so the etymology of the English word is "with strength."

The Holy Spirit is the Strength Giver as a title and the Restrainer as one too.  The Holy Spirit inspired scripture, a lot of which is negative.  As you know, the ten commandments are almost all negative.

Negativity is a trait of the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in and through a believer, the believer will be negative too.  Very often, people who are often negative are assumed to be unspiritual.  Spirituality is many times seen almost entirely as chipper and upbeat and high energy.

John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15).  How positive was John the Baptist?  Not very.  He was very often as negative as someone could be.  That manifested the Holy Spirit in Him.

I'm not saying that you should go out of your way to be negative because now you see the Holy Spirit to be negative.  It will just occur in your life if you are regenerated by the Spirit and then filled with the Spirit.  You will see sin or scorning or foolishness and you will say something negative about it.  It's what the Holy Spirit does.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Faithful Flooring

A brother in my church, Jim Appel, has a ministry called "Faithful Flooring," through which he uses his extensive ability in flooring and remodeling to help the Lord's churches and saints.  He states his goal as the following:

My desire is to encourage Christian churches, camps, colleges, and other local-church ministries by using the abilities God has given me. Having a desire to be a help and blessing to the local church, I only request that travel expenses and lodging would be covered for the duration of any project in which I help. If you do choose to take a love offering, your liberality would be greatly appreciated and would enable me to minister to many others.

If your church needs help with flooring or remodeling projects, and your independent Baptist church has beliefs and practices similar to mine, I would encourage you to contact Bro Appel on his website.  He is a faithful servant of Christ and of the saints.

I also have Bro Appel's testimony of conversion on my website in case you wish to read it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

The Ministry of Satan as Caused or Allowed by God

Scripture has everything anyone needs to know about Satan.  Whatever we can know about Satan, we get from scripture and there is no other source.  Satanology is a subcategory of angelology, the doctrine of angels, which has far less biblical source material as a basis than, for instance, the doctrine of God and the doctrine of salvation.

In 1 Thessalonians 2, in answer to false teachers and his critics at Thessalonica, Paul explains why he had not been back there yet.  Men were using that against him and his teaching with the saints in Thessalonica.  One of the points he makes in his defense is in verse 18:
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
Paul writes, "Satan hindered us."  Paul said, I would have arrived there already at some point, but Satan hindered us.  Satan can hinder us.  Other places in scripture teach this.

What we should say in light of Job (chapters 1-2) and the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is that God allows or causes Satan to hinder us.  God uses Satan.  When He used Satan with Job to try Job, God was trying Job.  Consider 1 Corinthians 5:5, also Paul writing:
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus
Satan's destruction of the flesh is used by God so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  Satan does something that results in someone being saved.

I'm calling the work God allows Satan to do, the ministry of Satan.  Job was tried and purified by the ministry of Satan.  The member of the church at Corinth was delivered by the ministry of Satan.  Scripture says this.  What good could have come to Thessalonica by Satan hindering Paul?  A lot.

In the next chapter (3), Timothy is sent.  Timothy gets to be used.  The work of Paul and Timothy is divided and, therefore, multiplied.  The church at Thessalonica must trust the Word of God that Paul had preached (2:13).  This is good, relying on the Word of God.  They can't lean on Paul, so they have to stand on their own.  That's also good.  In so many cases, I've seen Christians lean so much on others, they don't stand on their own to the degree they should.  Of course, every believer stands on his own, but not to the degree that he should.  He needs to grow and having to stand on his own can help in this.  It's the spiritual equivalent of being pushed out of the boat, so he has to swim on his own.

God doesn't take away every opposition for the believer in His Christian life.  Sometimes God sends it or allows it.  This is the later "thorn in the flesh" of 2 Corinthians 12:7:
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
Again, "the messenger of Satan" is the thorn in the flesh.  Sometimes we might want all the problems taken away, but that's why we're here still in part -- to deal with problems.  It's how we grow and how the people grow to whom we minister.

In Thessalonians, Paul doesn't pray that he would not be hindered.  He was being hindered.  What does he do?  He trusts the sovereignty of God.  During times of hindrance, we should apply scripture.  Paul didn't do that in 2 Corinthians 12.  Instead, he prayed that God would take away the thorn in the flesh.  He didn't want hindrance.  God said that His grace was sufficient.  God's grace is sufficient.  That is both a popular and unpopular message.

The messenger of Satan would strengthen Paul.  His strength would be made perfect through weakness.  This is the ministry of Satan again.


[By the way, if God uses Satan, He can also use Donald Trump, whom some readers think is Satan.]