Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Reasoned" Preservation of Scripture


During the 18th century in France a movement began known as the Englightenment. From France, it spread to Germany and then to all over the world. The Englightenment attempted to apply human reason to all areas of life to bring about a new social order. Religion in France had for centuries been dominated by Roman Catholicism, which severely abused the French people. A number of French thinkers reacted against Catholicism, substituting their own views for the religious dogma. The two most influential were Voltaire and Rousseau. As their Enlightenment philosophies spread to Germany, higher criticism developed in German universities, departing from a literal acceptance of the Bible. According to the higher critics, the Bible was just a piece of literature that should be judged with the reasoning powers of men.

Three German philosophers stood out from the rest---Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, and Friedrich Schleiermacher. Kant contended that the senses and the mind are the sole avenues of knowledge and that the Bible especially should be subjected to them. Hegel introduced dialectic thinking, which taught that one fact or idea (a thesis) works against another contradictory fact (antithesis) to create a "new fact" (synthesis). Hegel said truth was relative and dependent upon man's reasoning. Schleiermacher was guilty of bringing their teachings into the realm of theology, and he has been called the "Father of Theological Liberalism."

Since universities became the primary means of "higher education," liberal philosophies, rationalism, empricism, skepticism, liberal theology, and higher criticism began spreading all over the world as graduates brought this German modernism to and fro. Their thinking no doubt influenced academic institutions everywhere, changing and redefining how men looked at the world. Some men and colleges took the Englightenment teachings hook, line, and sinker, gobbled them up. Others mutated in a more Hegelian fashion---mixing a little reasoning with Scriptural truth to form new doctrines, ones never believed or taught in the history of the church.


Very few "scholars" today believe we have a perfect Bible. Why? Is it because the Bible doesn't teach inspiration or inerrancy? No. Is it because the Bible doesn't teach preservation? No. Is it because the Bible doesn't teach that God's Words, all of them, would be available? No. So then why do these "scholars" not believe in a perfect Bible? The first three paragraphs above answer the question. They have been influenced by rationalism and higher criticism. They don't get their view from the Bible, but from a synthesis coming from human reasoning.

The guys without a perfect Bible don't want the label "rationalist." They despise that. I don't want to call them "rationalists," but I just don't know what else to title what they say they believe. They hate being called "rationalists" so much that they have searched to find a philosophical word to label those who do believe they have a perfect Bible---they call us "fideists." This sounds good, being a "fideist," but it isn't supposed to be good or they wouldn't be calling us "fideists." This is a brand new tactic. As much as I've read, I had never heard of fideism until recently, and as a title for those unstaggering in faith in one, perfect Bible. The word originally has been used by Catholics to label Protestants. If you read Wikipedia on "fideism," you'll probably like it all the way through, so you know that Wikipedia can't have everything, because the imperfect Bible guys definitely don't mean it to be good. When they say "your a fideist," they mean something like: "You're a goof-ball."

Let me try to help you understand why the joke really is on you if you're glad to be a fideist. In their narrow, bad view of fideism, a fideist is someone who supposedly believes in something that is not connected to Scripture or evidence. He just believes, irregardless of whether it is taught in Scripture or is found in space and time. I've heard an explanation something like this:

The Bible teaches that God destroyed the earth with a flood and that the ark rested on Mount Ararat. God didn't, however, say that He would preserve the ark intact on Mount Ararat, so believing that the ark is on Mount Ararat still is sheer "fideism" because no Scripture or evidence supports that belief.
They would connect between the above illustration and what we believe like this:
The Bible teaches that God would preserve His Word, but He didn't say how He would do it. He didn't say, for instance, that He would preserve it in one manuscript in one place in an edition called the textus receptus. Therefore, without physical evidence we are basing our belief that we have a perfect Bible in our hands on fideism.
I think it is important to understand what someone is saying when he calls you a name. It is rather embarrassing to be called a fideist, know that it is bad, and not know why it is bad to be one. This narrow interpretation of the word "fideism" shows us how bad it is to be a fideist. Now when we say they are "rationalists," they can always come back with, "You're fideists." You can say "ouch" now.

Know this. Their strategy of calling us "fideists" is completely straw-man logic. Why? We have never said that the Bible would be preserved perfectly in one edition called the textus receptus. We say that God would preserve every Word, that every Word would be generally accessible, and that God the Spirit would lead His churches to receive the correct Words. We believe that the Words have been preserved by God through His institutions, Israel and the church, and that we would have a perfect Bible because of this. Does the Bible teach everything in this paragraph? Yes. Does history show that it happened? Yes.


What in their reasoning causes them to stumble in believing God's Word on preservation? (drumroll) They trip over existent, old, hand-copied manuscripts of Scripture. We've been told that none of these manuscripts is the same. Every one of them are different than the other in over a hundred places. According to the imperfect Bible people, because we have differences in all of these old manuscripts, we must continue restoring Scripture as best possible to its original condition using already discovered and newly found manuscripts. We will never be finished. The Bible will never be settled. We can be happy to know that we have at least 93% of Scripture based on statistical analysis.

What passage do they base this on? None. What verses guide them to take this view? Um. None again. So if they don't get their view from the Bible, where do they get it? What do you think?

Many of the people who reject a perfect Bible believe that God gave a perfect Bible. They say that God just didn't preserve it for us here on earth. They are inconsistent, however, in their application of human reasoning. They have no Scriptural basis for canonicity. No verse in the Bible says that we would have sixty-six books. No verse says that we would have twenty-seven in the New Testament. And yet, they aren't fideists for believing in the canonicity of sixty-six books. Why? Because they said so. And we're "cultists" and a "sect" and, and, and, "dummies."


When it gets right down to it, they don't have Scriptural reasons for what they believe. We do. They can only attack our Scriptural reasons, because they refuse to believe what God said. Why? They have been influenced by the Enlightenment and have allowed human reasoning to corrupt their faith. They are rationalists and skeptics concerning the doctrine of preservation. They teach a brand new doctrine of preservation not found in the Bible and not supported by church history. You and me, all of us, should reject their way of thinking about the doctrine of preservation.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Atonement (Part Two Continued): Less Excellent Than Christ

Atonement is Old Testament, not New Testament. What Christ did was more than atonement. Atonement was temporary, lasting until Christ should come. Atonement served its purpose like a tent may serve a purpose, but we don't describe it as superior to a mansion. Atonement was offered because Christ had not yet come. In his death, Christ fulfilled atonement at a type, and as a type, atonement is transitional, but the sacrifice of Christ which it typified is permanent. When the Antitype had come and His sacrifice had been accomplished, the place and use of the type passed away.

In atonement, men made an offering to God, but Christ's sacrifice was God's offering for men. The latter is "the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ with His sacrifice of Himself entered into the heaven of heavens, the heavenly Holy of Holies. Atonement was made on an earthly altar. The Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself. Only the blood of animals was taken into the earthly holy of holies. But with the blood of His sacrifice of Himself, Jesus passed into the heavenly One.

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Hebrews 9:24-26

Atonement was made by the blood of beasts, but Jesus shed His own blood to redeem us. The blood of divinely appointed sacrifices atoned for the sins that were unintentional by virtue of its sacrificial and life-giving quality. The blood of an unwitting animal atoned for unwitting sin. An innocent victim involuntarily died for involuntary sin. As its unwitting sacrifice covered unwitting sin, the conscious sacrifice of Christ was voluntarily offered for all sin. He sacrificed Himself to take away the sin of the world.

The Lord Jesus Christ laid on the altar not merely His blood, but all His Person, His entire deity and humanity. The blood shed on Calvary was the visible part of an infinite sacrifice made by God Himself.

Not all the blood of beasts,
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away the stain.

But Christ the heav'nly Lamb
Takes all our sins away,
A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.

John B. Champion, 1927


I don't know if this makes any difference, but that last post was my 200th since I started blogging here during the Lincoln Presidency.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Atonement (Part Two): Less Excellent Than Christ

Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, but the Lord Jesus Christ offered a more excellent sacrifice than Abel and any or all other Old Testament sacrifices. Christ's Work on account of sin was greater and better than atonement. In the Old Testament, atonement was made in many different ways. Moses made atonement by a prayer to God when Israel sinned (Exodus 32:20). In Numbers 16:47, Aaron "put on incense, and made an atonement for the people." In the first article in this series we contended that "atonement" is an Old Testament act, so that it is not a concept specifically found in the New Testament. The death of the Lord Jesus did more than atonement.

Atonement merely covered lesser sins, but the sacrifice of Christ took away all sin.
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4).
On the other hand, "the Lamb of God . . . taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The priest stood day by day offering sacrifices "which can never take away sins" (Heb. 10:11), but "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).

Consider what the work of Christ did.
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:14
"[T]he blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John 5:7
"[Jesus] loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." Revelation 1:5

When Christ was finished with that action, "He sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12). He could not have been seated unless His work was completed. His work was done because provision was made that not a vestige of sin would ultimately remain in man.

Atonement was for errors of ignorance, while the Lord's sacrifice was for all sin. In Leviticus, from the fourth chapter on we have the various directions for atonements for the sins of weakness and inadvertancy. The range of sins for which atonement could be offered was limited. The scope of Christ's work was far different. The Old Testament offerings would atone only for those of the nation Israel, not for anyone in the whole world.

Atonement was but a shadow of the coming substance of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because atonement foreshadowed what would be revealed and achieved in the future, it could do nothing and was intended to do nothing for the future. Never was any atonement offered for sins not yet committed. Atonement looked only one way, back into the past, never forward into the future. The Redeemer, however, made "one sacrifice for sins for ever" (Heb. 10:12). As atonement was only for sins in the past, Christ's Work, if considered strictly as atonement, would be only for the sins which had been committed before the time the sacrifice was made. As an atonement, therefore, we could have no share in Christ's sacrifice, seeing that we have lived so far after it.

(Part Two to be continued)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Atonement (Part One): An Old Testament Term

The middle letter of T-U-L-I-P in the five points of Calvinism is "Limited Atonement." Before anyone can decide what he believes about atonement, he should know what atonement is. What do you think atonement is? Are you confused as it relates to the death of Christ? It seems that men think this term "atonement" is very important, and the more important the term, the more imperative is it that its meaning is clear. Wouldn't you agree?

The term "atonement" has long been employed in theological language. It has been used in Old Testament theology and to designate the work of Christ on account of sin. Should it truly be used to describe the work of Christ? Did Christ atone for our sins? If animals atoned for the sins of people in the Old Testament, does Christ also atone for sins in the New Testament, or was what Christ did more than atonement? I believe the uncertainty of meaning of atonement occurs mainly due to the fact that atonement is solely an Old Testament term. It does not appear in the New Testament.

The King James Version uses the English word "atonement" in Romans 5:11. However, the English word at that time could be understood in the sense of reconciliation. Shakespeare himself uses the word atonement to mean at-one-ment or reconciliation. This is not the sense of theological understanding of atonement. The Greek word (katallage) is used four times in the New Testament and it is translated "reconciling" (Romans 11:15), "reconciled" (2 Corinthians 5:18), and "reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Some have argued that the NT Greek text equivalents for "atone" are found, and they support this by pointing out that the same terms which "the Septuagint" translators used for the word "atone" as it occurs in the OT. The truth is that they used about a dozen different words to translate "atone" and "atonement.," showing that they found no uniformity of meaning than have the authors of the many theories of the atonement that have come down to us.

There are certain NT words that are more or less akin to the meaning of atonement. "Ransom" (lutron) comes pretty near to its meaning, and perhaps "propitiation" (hilasmos) comes even closer. The fact remains, however, that no true synonym or equivalent for atone or atonement is found in the NT. Do you think this might just be because the word "atonement" limits what Christ did on the cross in its description?

The way to understand "atonement" must come from the etymology and Scriptural usage of the Hebrew original. To get the Scriptural conception of "atonement," we can't forget that the Old Testament was not revealed in English. The Hebrew verb kaphar without doubt means "to cover." Its piel form kipper is generally used in the OT. The first time the word occurs in the OT, it is translated "pitch" in Genesis 6:14.
Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
The original meaning of the word was "to cover." However, most of the time in the OT, unlike this usage in Genesis 6, the term is not used in a literal way, but in a metaphorical or spiritual way. The ritual covering in the OT was not literal, but metaphorical. In most cases, blood was not actually laid on the object covered. The blood is instead brought before God and in the ceremony it is the sight of the Lord that is covered.

The verbs kasah ("to cover") and machah ("to blot out") are used synonymously with kipper. It seems clear that while the word "atone" means "to cover," this covering was in a figurative sense, and it is this metaphorical usage that gives rise to its many shades of meaning. There could be no word in another tongue that would mean all that the Hebrew metaphor conveyed in its usage. The English word "atone" must be understood in light of all the Hebrew word expresses, not vice versa. Some of the concepts that are communicated for "atonement" are actually far more the results of the covering, making them a secondary, not a primary meaning.

Atonement does what David prayed for in Psalm 51:9, "Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities." Atonement hid sins, put them out of sight, or invalidated them so that they no longer offended. Atonement expressed by its figure that sin was removed from God's sight and so its effects were also undone. This figure of atonement is not competent in portraying all that Christ achieved through His sacrifice for our sin, which is why it is not a NT word. If "atonement" were sufficient, no doubt the NT would have used it. Of course, the NT was written in Greek, not Hebrew, but still the character and scope of the work of Christ is too vast to be portrayed by the figurative term "atonement."

(This begins a series on atonement in Scripture as it relates to the work of Christ.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Be Still

I have an image in my head of my oldest daughter, explaining to me why she couldn't get a project done that I had for her. This was several years ago when she explained: "I can't sit steeeel." At the time, I was very amused that she did have an answer, one that was a bold admission. Most people don't want anyone one of their character flaws. She boldly admitted it, and I got a chuckle out of it. I still look at her at times and think: "I can't sit steeel."

It is difficult for almost anyone to sit still any more. Our culture is not a sit still culture. We are the fast food nation. You know that. We can't take time to sit steeeel for supper. Everything has drive-up. No service stations anymore. We might have to sit and wait for something. I could take this all back by saying that we can sit steeeel to watch television, well, as long as the people on television aren't sitting steeeel. Television watching is a form of role play. People can "sit" and watch and live vicariously through the characters. And normally they don't want something slow moving. Imagine Barney sitting like a talking head. I'm sure he would grow old just sitting still like that. Viewership would plummet. Kids will tell you how bored they are if they don't have something to do. "Something" usually isn't work. They mean something to do that will amuse them, entertain them. We've created a new word to brag about how busy we are: multi-tasking.

Is it a grasshopper? A large cicada that landed on the side of someone's head? That's what I've thought when I see the genetically attached phone projecting from someone's ear. We have to keep in contact always, even if it's texting, the surface of earth becoming a land of electronic noises, beepings and orchestrations announcing the mere phone call. We need to talk, watch, and listen. Media fixation. Channel and webpage surfing revealing designs that bombard the senses, leaving us unable to concentrate like we once could.

Yes, I do think it's all a conspiracy against God. Living by faith in God requires His command in Psalm 46:10.

Be still, and know that I am God.

God requires stillness. We must stop and pause to listen, to consider, to cogitate, and to meditate, to chew the cud. It's hard to rest in this fast moving current, but God commanded it. We really do need to stop, not to smell the roses. I tried to talk to a woman at her door about eternal life, about the state of her soul, about whether she was ready to meet God. She couldn't. Why? She had beans on the stove. If beans were enough to distract her from the eternal and spiritual, Satan is not going to have to pull out any of his big cannons. To her, God wasn't worth beans. That's the truth of it for many people, perhaps even something less significant than beans. Beans may look substantive comparatively.

God doesn't want us going through life in automatic pilot or in some interminable ritual of indifference toward Him. He wants us to be still. Don't hop into the car. Don't touch that remote control. Keep your fingers off any of the on buttons. Spend time thinking about God---His greatness, His love, His power, His justice, His mercy, His goodness, His holiness---recounting His attributes. He is more than worth being noticed. It behooves us to turn everything off---the radio, television, computer, stereo---get alone, and give Him our time; wait on Him.

Finlandia is an amazing piece of music. My son and daughter's orchestra played this in an afternoon concert on Sunday. The end is spine tingling. I actually think that the music by Sibelius better fits Psalm 46:10 than the typical hymn rendition of Be Still My Soul. Look at the whole verse:

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

God commands us to "be still," but whether we decide to obey that or not, everyone will be still at some point. The second half of the verse takes away the quiet, pastoral presentation we often sense from that snippet of Finlandia that serves as the melody to the hymn. The beginning of Finlandia might better represent the verse. The idea is: "You better be still or else, because I will be exalted among the heathen." The heathen don't tend toward exalting God, so what do you think is going to happen to them for this to occur? Every knee will bow whether they like it, whether they choose to or not.

If any of us would stop to consider the great mercy, grace, love, and goodness of God, we would better understand the joy and peace of stillness. We can cut through the noise, the busy mess, and find the beauty in what God has done. Let's do more than smell the coffee. Let's take a deep breath, unwind, let the tension seep from our knotted muscles, and let God take over our thoughts.

Sit steeeeel. Be still.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Perspicuity and an Emerging Corollary

You know the Monroe Doctrine. President James Monroe. After the War of 1812, the U. S. place expanded in the world. We just finished with England and in this weakened state, Spain generated problems in Florida. Andrew Jackson won at Horshoe Bend in Tennessee and in New Orleans against England, and then against Indians, smugglers, and pirates incited by the Spanish. Shortly thereafter in an 1823 statement to Congress, President Monroe warned Europe that the American continents were not to be "considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power." You know the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Theodore Roosevelt. At the end of the Spanish American War, the U. S. was obligated to protect Puerto Rico and Cuba, and the opening of the Panama Canal would soon make the Caribbean Sea a highway of international commerce, so in 1904 Roosevelt announced that if it became necessary for any European power to intervene in the affairs of Latin America, the United States would do the intervening.


Satan has waged one of his major attacks against God and His Word with regards to the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. Satan wants men to think that they cannot understand the Word of God. Men who have proclaimed Scripture as sole authority have expounded this doctrine. In print we read Francis Turretin from the mid seventeenth century:

It is not a question of perspicuity that excludes necessary means for interpretation, such as the inner light of the Spirit, the attention of the mind, the voice and ministry of the church, lectures and commentaries, prayers and vigils. We acknowledge such meansare not only useful but also normally are necessary, but we want to deny any obscurity that keeps the common people from reading Scripture, as if it were harmful or dangerous, or that leads to a falling backon traditions when one should have taken a stand on Scripture alone [Francis Turretin, The Doctrine of Scripture, ed. and trans. by John W. Beardslee III (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 185].

Repulsed by sinful flesh, man excuses himself by claiming that he couldn't understand what God was saying. "There are so many interpretations." "The Bible is too difficult to understand." Foreknowing this attack, God settled in His Word before time began a defense of His own clarity.

The Word of God is a lamp, bringing light or understanding, not darkness. Psalm 119:105, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." 2 Peter 1:19a, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place." Every verse of Scripture is profitable, so it must be clear to do what 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 says it will do: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Even a child can understand Scripture on salvation. 2 Tim 3:15a, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation." Scripture is addressed to everyone, universally, to common people, not just religious experts (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:37, Eph. 1:1, 1 Cor 1:2). Parents can teach Scripture to their children, nothing excepted. Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."


OK, so we can understand Scripture. It's clear. But can we apply it? Post-modernism has elevated the tack of questioning the clarity of Scripture. Men will sware loyalty to inspiration, even to inerrancy (of the original manuscripts). These "emergents" think they have the inside track on the postmoderns, who reject truth for something that makes them feel good. This is what Wikipedia says is the emergent strategy:

Proponents of the movement advocate an ecumenical, non-dogmatic view of doctrine in which they embrace a continual reexamination and flexible approach to theology which causes them to see faith as a journey rather than a destination, and to accept even radical differences in doctrinal views and moral standards. This humility and generosity leads most emergents to extend an invitation to people of all religions and beliefs to contribute to the conversation.

Their idea of God's love is compromising doctrine, elevating people's feelings above God's Word. Salvation and sanctification aren't miracles to them, but human process pushed along by man's efforts. This viewpoint that says we cannot know what God is saying chafes at new-evangelicals like John MacArthur, who have spent a lifetime telling people that they can know what the Bible means. I applaud "we can interpret." I can understand, however, some of the emergents who think they may have missed something with MacArthur's (among other's) teaching. One Master's (MacArthur's seminary) graduate writes:

I think John MacArthur is the best Bible preacher/teacher living today. That’s why I attended the college and seminary of which he is president. . . . His presentation seemed to indicate that because believers have the mind of Christ, everything should be simple and clear. . . . I do not think that this would be an accurate understanding of the view MacArthur actually holds. I just opened one of his commentaries and quickly found the following quote:

This verse has many legitimate possible interpretations; The careful and honest interpreter may survey the several dozen interpretations offered and still not be dogmatic about what it means… (after suggesting one interpretation as the best) Whether this is the right interpretation of the verse we cannot be certain.

So perhaps not every scripture is absolutely clear.
The non-separatist, universalists like MacArthur, Piper, Swindoll, and others don't want what they started to go any further than what they want it to. They want latitude. They want space on everything, but the gospel. Now the emergents take their worldliness and bring it one step further. The emergent leaders will use foul language to get across their point. They will employ grunge bands in their services with the accompanying tatoos and piercings.


But where did all this start? It started when expositors like the above-mentioned reduced the non-negotiables to a very minimum group of doctrines. Why? No reason. There is no Scriptural basis. They just made it up. They talk of cardinal doctrines and essentials made up of lists of their own choosing. Certain doctrines are more important than others. Sure. But that doesn't mean the rest aren't important. The message of Scripture is plain (perspicuously so) that all of the Bible is to be obeyed. However, MacArthur and others made it clear that we can't separate over the "less-important" doctrine and practice, especially cultural issues. He and others contend that the gospel alone is worth getting together. Other things are just peripheral that we musn't stress over (even like mode and recepient of baptism). The only gospel that will save is also the gospel that will separate us from the world and its influences and expressions (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 John 2:15; Romans 12:2). Therefore, not practicing all of Scripture undermines the gospel, confusing men about what the grace of God is all about.

We have something even more insidious than this, bad as it is. Non-separatist, new-evangelicals sold out to post-modernism first. They paved the way for the emergents with their own bad examples. How did they do it? MacArthur and his lot abolished the authority of the application of Scripture. "Sure, we can know what Scripture means, but we can't be dogmatic about how it applies." There is little difference between Christians and the world today because these new-evangelicals essentially axed the doctrine of personal separation. People want to fit in with the world. The world has just gotten worse and worse, and now it's even too bad for the new-evangelicals. They're drawing lines now. They're even talking about worldliness. It is far from enough.


Separatists never stopped preaching against worldliness. They kept preaching standards. They never slowed down on the mortification of the flesh. Many of these new evangelicals associate themselves verbally with the Puritans and Spurgeon, the old evangelicals, but you will not hear them bring up Spurgeon's teaching on worldliness, well, until recently in a very vague and ambivalent way. With the new expression of post-modernism, things have gone too far, even for them.

Sadly, they already have lost the exegetical ground to deal with the worldliness of the emergents. The elephant's in the room. They are long past their ability to stop the fast moving mud slide, unless they repent, admit the error of their way. But then they would lose so many of the people that they "got" with their compromise. People stayed because they could fit in with the world. They could get their Bible interpretation, meaty stuff, and yet still live nearly like everyone else, at least enough not to stick out---and all the self-gratification anyone would ever want; just toned down a little. One step forward, two steps backward. No Kurt Cobain, but as much pop rock as you want.

Applying the Bible to the doctrine of personal separation has always characterized New Testament Christianity, and it continues to today. The corollary to clarity of interpretation is perspicuity of application. Both are important to which to hold fast. We can know what worldly lust is. We can make application for "fleshly lust," "inordinate affection," "not fashioning [ourselves] according to the former lusts," "be not conformed to this world," "sensual," and "the attire of a harlot." Before postmodernism started breaking down inerrancy and then the perspecuity of interpretation, it was diminishing the application of Scripture. Evangelicals went right with the flow, sailing downstream in the world's current. They ignored the doctrine of separation. The new-evangelicals failed and still are failing in the clear applications of the Word of God. What should you do? "Come out from among them and be ye separate."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Is Sanctification a "Secondary Doctrine?"

Today's new-evangelicals regularly contribute to published materials on the doctrine of sanctification. It is a big deal with them, as it should be with anyone who claims the name of Christ. John MacArthur writes:

Scripture is the manual for all "soul work" and is so comprehensive in the diagnosis and treatment of every spiritual matter that, energized by the Holy Spirit in the believer, it leads to making one like Jesus Christ. This is the process of biblical sanctification.

His article slams psychological sanctification. John Piper, preaching about the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, says:

"Sanctification" is a very irrelevant word, but it is not an irrelevant reality.

D. James Kennedy, the popular evangelical teacher in Florida, writes:

[In this article we will study] the doctrine of sanctification. This is an exceedingly important doctrine because it reaches us right where we are.

More importantly Scripture says:

"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." 1 Thessalonians 4:3
"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." John 17:19

OK, so evangelicals themselves think this doctrine is vital. They preach on sanctification all the time. More than that, Scripture teaches it. At least some form of the word "sanctify" is found dozens of times in the Bible. We are to be sanctified. Yet, how are we sanctified?

We know we are sanctified by the truth, which is the Words of God (John 17:6-8, 19-21). Sanctification is about being holy. Sometimes the Greek word translated "sanctification" is also translated "holiness." Holiness requires doing right, obeying Scripture. Sanctification is a work of the Spirit in our new nature. The enemy within believers is called "the flesh" (Rom. 7:25), so that we have a battle between the Spirit and the flesh within us (Gal. 5:17). We are sanctified when the Spirit gets His way instead of our flesh.

The truth sanctifies us. But we must cooperate with the truth. How do we do that? Romans 6 tells us in three parts. First we must know (Rom. 6:6, 9), second, reckon (Rom. 6:11), and then yield (Rom. 6:13, 16, 19). In order to know, reckon, and yield, we must deny influences from the world. Consider these commands:

Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Titus 2:12

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 1 Peter 2:11

This self-denial of the influences upon our flesh is called mortification in Scripture. We must starve our flesh from those things that will encourage it to have its way in our life. Mortification is commanded in God's Word.

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth. Colossians 3:5

The Puritans were absolute fanatics about mortification. They wrote volumes about it. John Owen defines mortification in his classic volume Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers:

The intendment of the apostle in this prescription of the duty mentioned is, that the mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers.

Let's put this all together now. We are commanded to mortify. We mortify sin by stopping its influence. It has been compared to stopping a car. One aspect of stopping the car is to take our foot off the pedal so that gas ceases feeding the engine. We must prohibit the flow of gas to the engine (so to speak) if we are to keep from sin.

I contend that new-evangelicals preach sanctification, but they have made it impossible to be sanctified Scripturally because they have relegated mortification to a secondary doctrine in Scripture. They preach it as the Spirit's work, but then remove the Christian's clear personal responsibility in sanctification. They aggressively attack the denial of worldly and fleshly lusts, which is required for mortification. They do this in many ways. They argue certain activities, which blatantly feed the flesh, as "liberties." They label those who preach against these activities as "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," only because Scripture does not, for instance, say: "thou shalt not mixed swim" or "hip-hop music is wrong." Like the Pharisees of old, they minimize certain Scriptural teachings. They misuse the text about the "weightier matters of the law" (Mt. 23:23). They leave more than an impression that Christians are free to disobey certain portions of the Bible, and that their faux view of unity is more important than being a stickler over these teachings.

Are these secondary truths in Scripture?

Abtain from fleshly lusts.
Deny worldly lusts.
Mortify your members.
Be not conformed to this world.

New-evangelicals become popular by offering all the benefits of salvation without the most unpopular commands of self-denial in Scripture. While separatists preach against fleshly and worldly lusts, new-evangelicals explain why they're not only permissible but they are a greater opportunity to experience a new found freedom in Christ. In so doing, they are guilty of "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness" (Jude 4) and using "liberty for an occasion to the flesh" (Galatians 5:13). When you look around the United States and wonder what the real difference is between Christianity and the world, because you can hardly see it, know that a major factor is this attack on the doctrine of sanctification.