Sunday, March 27, 2016

America Is NOT A Christian Nation

A sentiment endures that America is a Christian nation.  People still treat America as a Christian nation.  That bus long ago left the depot.  I will list and then explain several reasons why I believe America is not Christian.  However, has America ever been a Christian nation?

In a practical way, America didn't start as a Christian nation and I really don't write that to be controversial.  I'm sure it is controversial to some.  In recent decades, David Barton in addition to several others has written or posted much material documenting America as a Christian nation.  The founding fathers didn't intend, however, to start a theocracy per se, where the Bible was a founding document.  Since the nation was a democratic republic dependent on self-government, Christianity impacted the decision making through its people.  Alexis de Tocqueville made that point in his classic book, Democracy in America.

Idealogically, I think an argument could be made that America was at one time a Christian nation. The second paragraph and main body of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States begins:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.

You read the words, "self-evident" (natural revelation), "created," and "endowed by their Creator." Notice that it also reads, "these truths," not facts or ideas or concepts.  "Truths" means absolutes because there are absolutes and that's what they believed.  All of these are Christian language derived from a Christian view of the world, which could be only the Christian God, which is the only God.

When you read Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary was titled, American Dictionary of the English Language.  Webster published the first American dictionary, which uses verses from the New Testament for examples of the words therein.  The original American colleges, the Ivy League ones, were Christian.  Many quotes from founding fathers, including from James Madison, Father of the U. S. Constitution, say that idealogically the United States started Christian.

One can argue this point either way.  I see America one time as a Christian nation.  If that is the case, then how did things change?  A majority of Americans no longer see America as a Christian nation.

Christianity is Christianity.  Something called Christianity that isn't even Christian any more can't be counted as Christianity.  What was Christianity when America was Christian isn't even what Christianity is today.  America can't be Christian because of something called Christianity, but because of something that is Christian.

Early colleges started because of and for Christianity.  They were Christian.  Now Christianity isn't welcome in America's colleges and universities.  The Declaration starts with Creator and Creator isn't welcome in America's institutions.  Just the opposite, Christianity is attacked there.

At one time, businesses closed on the Lord's Day.  Now Sunday is one of the most worldly days of the week in America.  Sunday is a good day for travel and recreation.  The thought of church barely enters into society.  America hasn't stopped us from talking about Christianity, but it's not a sure thing that it is legal to live it any more.

Politicians still use their Christianity for votes.  It's still worth something, but it won't win an election. It won't lose an election unless you attempt to use it in a phony way.  If you think you have a Christian candidate, don't think we will return to a Christian nation again because of him.  You need to become accustomed to Christianity in a secular state, a place where Christianity in general is not welcome.  I like to think of it as being a missionary to France.  It's not that bad, but it's that to which you should become prepared.  The people of France don't expect a Christian president.

Enjoy your church.  Have a Christian church.  Have a Christian family.  Don't expect a Christian nation.  It will be a waste of time for you.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Keswick's History: Keswick Theology's Rise and Development in an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 1 of 5

1.) The Background and History of the Keswick Convention and Keswick Theology

Stephen Barabas’s So Great Salvation is widely considered the standard interpretation of Keswick theology.  In the words of Fred Mitchell, Chairman of the Keswick Convention Council from 1948-1951 and writer of the book’s preface, Barabas’s book is “faithful and accurate; it is well annotated with sources of his information; [and] it is saturated with an appreciative spirit, for he himself has been so much helped by Keswick.  The book will form a text-book and a reference book on this unique movement.”[1]  Thus, its contents accurately represent the theology of the original Keswick movement.  Indeed,  Steven Barabas[’s] . . . book So Great Salvation is perhaps the single best interpretation of the message of Keswick.”[2]  Proponents of Keswick generally affirm:  “The most objective account and appraisement of the . . . Keswick . . . movement is So Great Salvation:  The History and Message of The Keswick Convention—an extraordinarily exact account . . . [written] after exhaustive research.”[3]  Thus, Keswick’s “standard interpretation is Steven Barabas, So Great Salvation.”[4]  Consequently, the analysis of the Keswick system below will engage Barabas’s book in detail while also evaluating other Keswick classics.
Barabas notes that in “the early 1870s . . . the Keswick movement had its rise in England.”[5]  The Quakers introduced the subject[6] of the Higher Life, although there were also very significant background influences of Roman Catholic mystics and heretics such as the monks Thomas á Kempis and Brother Lawrence,[7] and especially the Catholic mystical quietist Madame Guyon.[8]  Catholics and Quakers were essential theological precursors for the rise of the Keswick movement.
Thomas á Kempis, out of his “monastic formation,” zealously practiced the anti-Christian piety that springs from the Roman Catholic false gospel.  Thomas loved:
Marian devotion . . . [believed in] the sacrificial character of the Eucharist . . . “meritorious” works . . . [and] den[ied] the crucial importance of Christ’s mediatorship and sacrifice. . . . [In his writings, such as] The Imitation of Christ . . . the atoning significance of Christ’s work is overshadowed by the exemplary perspective . . . the Holy Spirit . . . remains unmentioned . . . throughout . . . [Thomas has] little to say . . . about the Lord Jesus as a ransom and as our righteousness . . . [he] cannot be considered a fore-runner of the Reformation . . . [but] brokers . . . ideas that are characteristically Roman Catholic.[9]
It is, therefore, not surprising that “Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order[,] . . . was accustomed to reading a chapter in the book [The Imitation of Christ] daily.”[10]
               Barabas claims that more orthodox writers were also antecedents to the Keswick movement.  He follows W. H. Griffith Thomas in claiming that Walter Marshall’s The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, written in 1692, is a Keswick antecedent.  However, “the Keswick view is incompatible with Marshall’s because the Keswick view is influenced by a Wesleyan second work of the Spirit that is conditioned on the believer’s consecration. . . . Despite their claims to the contrary . . . Keswick theology is both historically and theologically novel.”[11]  A more accurate and less historically revisionistic view of Marshall’s work is that the book is a “Puritan classic on sanctification.”[12]  
Barabas also claims that William Romaine’s books The Life of Faith, The Walk of Faith, and The Triumph of Faith were Keswick antecedents.  However, J. C. Ryle’s assessment that the books taught the older evangelical doctrine of sanctification, not the Keswick doctrine, is more accurate.[13]
Barabas may perhaps be cleared somewhat from historical revisionism in that he only implies that Walter Marshall and William Romaine taught Keswick theology, without actually stating it.  In the midst of his discussion of the Pearsall Smith’s actual origination of Keswick theology, he cites Romaine and also Griffith-Thomas’s claim that the essentials of Keswick are found in Marshall.  The only specific claim Barabas himself makes for Marshall and Romaine is that the men taught “the possibility of fellowship with Christ closer than that enjoyed by the generality of Christians.”[14]  Of course, an affirmation that Christians can walk more closely with God could be made for nearly every devotional book ever written in Christendom.  The reader will naturally assume that Barabas is not just making an empty affirmation that Marshall and Romaine wrote books that explained how believers could draw closer to God but that the two men actually taught Keswick theology.  It is uncertain whether Barabas qualified his specific affirmations simply because he wrote carelessly or because he knew that neither Marshall nor Romaine actually taught Keswick doctrine.
Contrast Barabas’s inaccurate and hagiographical explanation of the development of the Keswick movement with B. B. Warfield’s accurate one, which carefully documents the widespread influence of both Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their connection to earlier and later errors in sanctification, in “The ‘Higher Life’ Movement,”Chapter 4 in Perfectionism, Vol. 2,Benjamin B. Warfield, pgs. 463-558.  Note also Chapter 5, “The Victorious Life,” pgs. 559-611; and Chapter 1, pgs. 3-218,“Oberlin Perfectionism,” which examines the perfectionist errors of Mahan, Finney, and others.
In addition to Catholics and Quakers, the “Higher Life teaching . . . [in] the books of the American religious leaders, T. C. Upham and Asa Mahan . . . [and] W. E. Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life[15] is also undisputed theological background for the development of the Keswick theology; Barabas thus recognizes Thomas C. Upham as a Keswick antecedent.[16]  He notes without a hint of criticism that Upham wrote Life and Religious Experience of Madame Guyon, a book which Barabas affirms contributed to “the interest of the Church in the subject of sanctification and the Spirit-filled life,” as did other works of Upham.[17]  What, then, was Upham’s theology?  Upham “experienced [entire] sanctification under Phoebe Palmer’s influence and gave popular expression to the doctrine in a series of books drawing . . . explicitly on Catholic mysticism and Quietism.”[18]  Upham taught, in addition to his Quietistic and Romanist Higher Life doctrine of sanctification associated with Wesleyan perfectionism and Pelagianism, that God was a duality of Father and Mother instead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  However, this Duality became a Trinity through the appearance of a Son, who is identified with the created order itself.  Upham sought to prove this gross idolatry from sources ranging from ancient Gnostics such as Valentinus and Heracleon, to the Jewish Cabala, to assorted other later heretics and perfectionists.  He blasphemously wrote:
God is both Fatherhood and Motherhood . . . from the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood . . . all things proceed. [A] Maternal Principle . . . Sophia . . . [exists] in the Divine nature[.] . . . [T]he Jewish Cabala . . . [speaks of] a feminine deity . . . called Sophia. . . . John’s Gospel . . . identif[ies] the Logos and the Sophia. . . . Sophia . . . was God; not only with God, but was God. . . . [T]he somewhat mystic words of the Apostle John . . . [are] the announcement of the infinite Paternity and the infinite Motherhood. . . . Valentinus . . . speaks of the Aeon Sophia . . . [T]he mystics and Quietists . . . recognized . . . the divine Sophia[.] . . . [T]he Sophia . . . or Maternal Essentia or Personality of the Godhead . . . incarnated itself in Christ . . . caused him, in a mother’s Spirit though in a male form, to endure his great sufferings[.] . . . [T]he Familists . . . recognize the Maternal Principle as a true and distinct Personality in the Godhead. . . . [The] Shakers . . . [and] Bible Communists . . . [recognize] that the Divine Nature is dual in its personalities . . . and includes the fact of a divine maternity[.] . . . [T]he Catholic Church is often regarded . . . as embodying the idea of the Motherhood element which exists in the Infinite, in its recognition of the holy or deific nature of Mary . . . and in the high honors, and even worship, which it is understood to render to her. . . . [U]nder the influence of inward suggestions, which I will not stop to explain and define . . . [and to] the thoughtful mind . . . the duality of the Divine Existence, written everywhere in the book of nature, necessitates a Trinity. . . . we must supplement the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood by the eternal Son . . . the great and unceasing out-birth of the Divine Duality. . . . Generically, or considered in the whole of its extent, the trinal out-birth, otherwise called the Son of God, without which the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood could have neither name nor power nor meaning, is the whole of creation from its lowest to its highest form. . . . [N]ot an insect that floats in the air, nor a fish that swims in the sea, nor a bird that sings in the forests, nor a wild beast that roams on the mountains; not one is or by any possibility can be shut out and excluded from the meaning and the fact of the divine Sonship[.] . . . All living nature then . . . constitutes the Son of God.[19]
Upham continues to develop his stomach-turning idolatry in the subsequent pages of his book, but the quotation above is enough, if not far more than enough, of a sampling of his vile and devilish nonsense to give the sense of his doctrine.  Despite being an unconverted idolator, he was very influential:
Upham . . . became a Methodist holiness leader after contact with Phoebe Palmer.  He studied Fenelon and Guyon, writing a biography of the latter entitled Life, Religious Opinions, and Experience of Madame Guyon.  His [works] . . . influenced much of nineteenth and early twentieth century thinking on faith, including A. B. Simpson . . . leade[r] of [the] CMA [Christian & Missionary Alliance].[20]
Like many other Higher Life writers, Upham also emphasized ecumenicalism and sought to prepare for the one-world religious system of Revelation 17.  Thus, “[o]n the basis of his experience of the baptism of the Spirit, T. C. Upham proposed the foundation of a League of Nations.”[21]  Such a man was Keswick antecedent Thomas Upham.

See here for this entire study

[1]              Pgs. ix-x, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[2]              “Keswick and the Higher Life,”
[3]              Pg. 20, Keswick’s Authentic Voice, ed. Stevenson.
[4]              Pg. 112, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton.
[5]              Pg. 15, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[6]              Pg. 224, The Keswick Convention:  Its Message, Its Method, and Its Men, ed. Charles Harford.
[7]              Pg. 223, The Keswick Convention, ed. Harford; cf. pg. 482, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875, for testimony to discovery of the Higher Life through “Brother Lawrence” at Brighton.
[8]              Pg. 223, The Keswick Convention, ed. Harford.
[9]              Pgs. 97-102, Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation, Arie de Reuver.
[10]             Pgs. 74-75, The Keswick Convention:  Its Message, Its Method, and Its Men, ed. Charles Harford. 
[11]             Pg. 72, 211 Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology, Andrew D. Naselli. 
[12]             Pg. 692, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, J. R. Beeke & M. Jones.  Compare also  “Sanctification by Faith: Walter Marshall’s Doctrine of Sanctification in Comparison with the Keswick View of Sanctification,” Cheul Hee Lee. Ph. D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 2005.
[13]             Cf. pg. xxix, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots, J. C. Ryle. London: William Hunt and Company, 1889.
[14]             Pg. 16, So Great Salvation.
[15]             Pg. 16, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  The wider background to the Keswick Convention included the “work of such figures as Charles Finney; Asa Mahan; W. E. Boardman; Hannah Whitall Smith and her husband, Robert Pearsall Smith; Charles Cullis; and others” from the Wesleyan, Oberlin, and Higher Life perfectionisms and continuationisms (pg. 104, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton).  Thus, for example, as noted in more detail below, both the persons and books of Mahan and Boardman were promoted at the Oxford Convention (e. g., pg. 90, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874).
[16]             Pg. 16, So Great Salvation, Barabas. 
[17]             Pg. 16, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[18]             Pg. 81, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton.
[19]             Pgs. 49-78, Absolute Religion, Thomas C. Upham.  New York, NY: Putnam, 1873, pgs. 45-67; cf. also pgs. 337-459, Warfield, Perfectionism Vol. 2.  Italics in original.  The “inward suggestions” of which Upham speaks came from the devil, who worked through the Higher Life preacher’s corrupt and unregenerate nature.
[20]             Pg. 43, Only Believe:  Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies, Paul L. King.  See also “The Mystical Perfectionism of Thomas Cogwell Upham,” Chapter 3 in Perfectionism, Vol. 2, B. B. Warfield.
[21]             Pg. 21, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Conservative Evangelicals Explore the Doctrine of Separation, part three

Part One     Part Two

I started writing sometime Sunday a first post on a presentation on the doctrine of separation by Albert Mohler at the Shepherd's Conference in Southern California.  I am doing this because it is so infrequent to non-existent that you will hear teaching from an evangelical on separation, and that I have edited and written a book on separation, A Pure Church, dealing with what the Bible says about it.  You should order and read that book.

Mohler doesn't use or deal with any standard passage on separation, even though those passages are all over the Bible.  Anyone and everyone should start with the Bible as the authority for faith and practice.  Mohler contradicts himself by not doing so.  He says that a church is a church by being rightly ordered by the Word of God and then ties that to the five solas of the reformation, one being Scripture sole authority.  Mohler doesn't use scripture as his sole authority for separation, and instead refers to tradition, which is what Roman Catholicism would rely upon for its authority.  Catholicism maintains catholicism by being unscriptural.

In his session, Mohler says point blank that we need to be very careful not to separate from true brothers of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul, however, says that we do need to separate from true brothers of Jesus Christ.  Certain words like "true," I know, can make statements difficult to interpret and give wiggle room.  Mohler, I've found for awhile, is a very natural politician and makes many of these types of statements that allow for multiple possibilities to enable deniability.  Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly."  Scripture teaches separation from Christian brothers.  This is part of ecclesiastical separation.

Mohler uses the terminology "schismatic," "heresy," and "heretical."  If he relegated himself to a solely scriptural understanding of "heresy," he would be left with a belief or doctrine or practice of an individual church.  A schismatic causes division or a faction in his own church and Titus 3 tells how to handle that person.  When one expands the idea of schism to all believers, it is impossible to understand biblical separation.  Mohler's teaching identifies as a schismatic someone who might separate over the unbelief or violation of an actual teaching of scripture.  In other words, you are a schismatic if you obey what the Bible teaches about separation, at least according to Mohler and others like him.

From the 30 to 40 minute mark, where I left off in part two, Mohler speaks about the predicament of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott in the United Kingdom with the Church of England.  Stott did not want evangelicals leaving the Church of England.  He dreamed of the Church of England becoming true through evangelical witness.  The Church of England never had hope of being true, because it never ever was founded on the Bible in the first place and it was never ever a church. Lloyd-Jones preached for separation and Stott advocated ignoring him in order to preserve his dream.  If the evangelicals left the Church of England, Stott said it would cease to be a church.

Mohler compared what was happening in England to what occurred in the United States when evangelicals were deciding to stay in their denominations as an attempt to influence them at least until they "ceased to be a church."   Bringing the argument back to Lloyd-Jones, he was saying that the dividing line isn't the creed of a particular denomination like the Church of England, but what is being believed and preached by the people.  The denomination (he calls "church") has already reached the dividing line when it won't remove people from positions of leadership who proclaim a false gospel.  Referring to Lloyd-Jones, Mohler says that a church, and by that he means the machinations of a denomination like the Church of England, must defrock its teachers of heresies, approving of a type of hierarchicalism repudiated by scripture.

At about 44 minutes, Mohler says the first step of why and how we should separate, we should be a very careful joiner.  He says, "Don't get in if  you have to decide to get out."  Then he offers four reasons to leave or get out.

Mohler lists.  One, when the ministry preaches another gospel.  Two, when the ministry allows for the preaching of another gospel, that is, tolerates a false gospel.  That is the same thing as preaching a false gospel.  He says, "To allow for heresy is to commit heresy."  By the way, two is secondary separation.  Three, when a ministry refuses doctrinal correction by scripture.  Doctrinal, he says, refers to everything in scripture, which includes the definition of marriage.  He says that is Christian doctrine.  Mohler breaks here and uses Spurgeon as an example, but doesn't show this from the Bible. Then, four, we should leave when a ministry refuses to take a stand in public in the open for the faith. Mohler gives an example of a the pastor of a church who had a private opinion on marriage.  If he wouldn't say it in public, then it isn't a church.  It won't give an answer in public.

Mohler then uses John 6 as the public stand on the faith.  That is true.  It was public for Peter.  We can rejoice in that, but how does it affect the doctrine of separation?   He ends with two sets of three, because we'll face the dividing line question.

First, Mohler offers three levels of theological importance, his theological triage -- the gunshot wound gets attention before the blister.  That's an interesting example, really a red herring.  Mohler argues that we have to operate this way or we can't operate -- we must know first, second, and third level theological issues.  He doesn't prove this from the Bible, I guess, assuming people take it for granted.  The first order is what is believed to be a Christian, according to Mohler.  You can listen to his second two levels and you can read it in links I provided in the first post in this series.

What Mohler teaches on the triage is a foundational idea of fundamentalism.  I'm saying that Mohler is in essence arguing for neo-fundamentalism, that is, a new fundamentalism within evangelicalism. His speech may be a seed for a new fundamentalism within evangelicalism. Watch for this.  I can see a segment of fundamentalism joining these neo-fundamentalists in this new fundamentalism.  It is possible some might not join because of cultural issues.  They won't see this neo-fundamentalism as conservative enough, but others will and will be able to do it based upon this theological triage idea, all depending on what kind of music is incorporated in their cooperative gatherings.

For sure, we should separate over gospel related doctrines.  Does that Bible teach that we separate only over those issues? Will we keep a pure church or will we stay obedient to the Bible with that practice?  He never proves that.  No one will maintain God centered purity or holiness without a compliance to all biblical doctrine and practice.  The gospel itself encompasses all of the Bible in the product of the grace of God.  God's grace produces obedience to everything, which assumes everything.

The first so-called first level doctrines are what have been called by others, "essential" versus "tertiary."  Mohler is teaching that we can fellowship with those in the second and third level differences.  People can disobey scripture in everything but the first level.  These neo-fundamentalists will continual to argue about what are first level doctrines, so this is in no way settled.  However, they have a way to disengage from same sex marriage by embracing some form of separation.

The benefit proposed by Mohler for cooperation over only first level doctrines is cooperation in the gospel.  Will the gospel be preserved, however, in an environment or atmosphere of doctrinal and practical capitulation?  A tacit admission exists in this of scriptural obscurity, either in the text, the inspiration, preservation, or teaching.  The Bible loses its authority with advance recognition of incomprehension.  On what basis are first level doctrines clear if second and third level ones can't fully be trusted?  It is no wonder the world would see the Bible as hopelessly ambiguous.  This undermines the gospel, because the Book in which the gospel resides can't be trusted implicitly.  This capitulation on biblical authority also undermines the arbitrarily accepted first level beliefs, the ones that happen to most benefit the recipients.

The second set of three are Mohler's levels of cooperation:  good work, gospel work, and church work. You can do good work, putting out a house fire with neighbors without creedal requirements.  Mohler preaches with a fervor here on something completely absurd, as if there is some important point here to be made.  Gospel work, he says, we can do with people who have the same gospel.  He never proves it.  This says, however, that gospel work might be beyond a church.  After what he's said, one would be hard pressed to say what a church, the church, what church is.  Where does the Bible teach that?  Nowhere.  Then finally, church work is the only place of doctrinal and practical precision, Mohler asserts.  Why?  On what basis?  Nothing.

One is to assume from Mohler's talk, even though he never says it outright, that separation is a refusal to cooperate.  He never says that, but one must assume from what he says.  When someone stops cooperating, what does that look like?  I know that evangelicals don't always cooperate.  What I've found irritates them the most and gets the greatest attention is one's criticism of an evangelical.  The quickest way to stop communication is to bring up a difference.  If you want cooperation,  tolerate almost everything and they might keep working with you.  The greatest sin against an evangelical, as I've witnessed it, is to say they've done something wrong and then even worse, to threaten to do something about it.

The dividing line as presented by Mohler is better than nothing on separation.    It is amazing for evangelicals in that it even utters the subject.  However, it isn't what the Bible teaches, not even close. What I foresee is that these evangelicals, neo-fundamentalists, will have some basis now for separating at least from same sex marriage.  How that will flesh itself out in the real world, we are yet to see, but the philosophical grounds for it have been spoken.  At best it will prolong evangelicalism a little longer, but in the end, the Mohler strategy will collapse and fail, because it isn't founded on the Word of God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Conservative Evangelicals Explore the Doctrine of Separation, part two

Part One.

The Bible teaches separation from the very first chapter when the earth was without form and uninhabited, that is, unusable, and God began separating, starting with light from darkness.  Nothing functions without some sort of separation.  You really can't have unity without separation.  God is a Separatist.

When someone, like Albert Mohler in his The Dividing Line, gets separation wrong or gets it unbiblical, he doesn't just get separation wrong.  When someone misrepresents or perverts separation, he also gets God, scripture, the truth, the church, and even the gospel wrong.  Every doctrine relates to separation.  The wrong view of separation corrupts a Christian worldview. You may ask, "What do you mean?"

God doesn't condone sin or error.  God will not deny Himself.  He becomes that God when we teach separation wrong.  That's a different God.  He isn't holy any longer and He can't be just either. Scripture isn't plain any more.  The truth is either this or that.  The church accepts error.  The gospel doesn't quite change a person or isn't quite following Jesus or it's a different Jesus.  The Christian worldview is one truth and this permits two.  I understand that a Mohler would likely deny all this, but I would debate him on the issue so that he couldn't weasel out in order to show that what I'm claiming is true.

Imagine taking the Mohler separation worldview and applying it to everywhere else in the world.  It doesn't actually work anywhere else in the real world, which is the only world, the one God created.  Allowance of violations of God's laws are not allowed anywhere.  If this were a bridge builder club, would there be a school that said to allow anything but complete compliance to the laws of bridge building?  Why should the world take Christianity seriously when Christianity doesn't take Christianity seriously?  By the way, this is not advocating sinless perfection, but rejecting a dividing line that falls short of full compliance to what God said.

I believe that I know why Mohler gets separation wrong and it isn't that difficult to ascertain.  I say, "I believe that I know," even though "I know," not just believe that I do.  Mohler could start with the Bible, but that would mean he would have to do what the Bible says.  That would so transform his life, it would be like starting over.   Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would shut down and he would be out of a job.  Instead, he is adapting the biblical doctrine of separation to his life.  Separation is being used by him.  It's handy for him.  He's not obeying what scripture says about it.  Separation is a tool of preservation, like separation of light from darkness preserves light.

To begin, Mohler welcomes his crowd and says that the presence of so many people indicates the "urgency of the question."  I would guess that the popularity of such a session on separation would be to hear something never taught at an evangelical gathering with the curiosity of who is going to be separated from.  There would be suspense for a session on separation like no other topic, because it means that someone is going to be a 'have-not.'

After praying, Mohler says that he wants to read a passage of scripture just to set a template for everyone's understanding.  Then he introduces the question, "When should churches separate from other ministries?"  I said he used the "s" word, separate, and he did it right away.  Notice that the question wasn't "when should churches separate from other churches?" but "other ministries?"  He's talking about churches and "ministries," an entirely unscriptural idea, some separate entity, known as a "ministry."  That could open up a whole other important topic, but it does introduce part of the problem right away, the lack of regulation by scripture in what evangelicals do.  Ministry is a very important word, and yet it is used in such a gumby-like way by Mohler.

Mohler then says that the answer to the first question has the same answer as, "when should a believer leave a church?"  Shortly thereafter, he says, "This is not as new a question as might appear to us."  Why would the question seem like a new question to any believer?  And yet it is a new question for an evangelical gathering.

The passage that Mohler chooses is tell-tale, which is John 6.  For sure separation is found in John 6, but for anyone who wanted to investigate ecclesiastical separation, he would not start with John 6. The people who separated in John 6 were unbelievers separating from believers.  That isn't how separation works, that is, making unbelievers uncomfortable with your doctrine to the extent that they leave you.  John 6 is providing a very great template for answering Mohler's question.  He goes to the Old Testament as a second example with Elijah proclaiming, "Choose you this day whom you will serve."  That example is similar to John 6, both of which do not offer teaching about ecclesiastical separation.

Mohler brings then the thought of the dividing line to the debate about the Trinity in the counsel of Nicea, a gathering which he says is the church trying to settle a question.  He continues explaining how that issues continue needing to be settled, and then comes to a full and abrupt stop to answer the question stated earlier with a one sentence answer:  "You should separate when it is no longer a church."  Wow.  What?!?   The question was, when does a church separate from a ministry?  Then he said that a similar question was, when do you leave a church?  He answered those by saying, "You should separate when it is no longer a church."  That doesn't answer the first question.  It is strange answer to the second one.

Albert Mohler uses history to make his point.  He says that "the church" didn't decide on Christianity and some lesser Christianity, but on the gospel, and that a church that wouldn't teach this, I guess meaning the gospel, is no longer a church.  He says that Augustine dealt with this in the Donatist controversy and that the issue is, "is what you are seeing a church?"  He continued by saying this was the central question of the Reformation, where Calvin and Luther weren't starting new churches, but were saying that schism with the church at Rome was necessary because the church at Rome was no longer a church.

Mohler goes to Luther to define what is a church, saying there were two marks and without either mark, it wasn't a church.  Mohler uses Luther to say that it is, first, where the Word of God is rightly preached, and, two, where the sacraments were rightly ministered.  Mohler says that by the Word of God Luther meant "the gospel," that is, where the gospel is rightly preached.  For the sacramental part, Mohler said that in the free church tradition, it is "where the church rightly ordered by the Word of God."  Mohler turns this into a debate on the gospel and the authority of scripture.  Mohler followed that by saying that the solas were what made a church a church.

Mohler says that the question of when a church was a church was really important to Calvin, Luther, and their colleagues and heirs, because they were really concerned not to be schismatics -- he says they didn't want to be the cause of division in the church.  According to him, they wanted to pastor the church, but the question was 'where was the church to be found.'  The first thing Mohler says that Luther tried, and that everyone should try, is to try not to be schismatics, that Luther nailed the theses to the door of the Wittenberg church to stay in the church at Rome.  Mohler maintains that we need to be very careful not to try to make the church into our image and then to separate from true brothers of Jesus Christ, adding "in terms of where we find the true church."  Further, he contends that we do, however, need to be discerning.

It's hard to follow Mohler.  I'm just reporting.  He continues by saying, not only do we need to be discerning, but that the New Testament teaches us to separate from unbelief.  Mohler sounds like he is improvising, completely speaking from the seat of his pants, making it up as he goes along.  I hope these were not his notes, because he isn't giving close to a clear answer.  If someone did know what the Bible taught on separation, he would be more confused after hearing Mohler's presentation.

Following up on separating from unbelief, Mohler says, "to separate from any false gospel, to separate from any unbiblical union."  Unbiblical union?  That is about as ambiguous and muddy as someone could get.

From there, Mohler says that in the history of evangelicalism, some big names jump out at you on this subject:  Charles Spurgeon and J. Gresham Machen.  Like Luther was excommunicated, Spurgeon was kicked out of the Baptist Union after trying to reform it from the inside.  In other words, Spurgeon didn't separate.  Machen was also kicked out of his Presbyterianism denomination because of his actions as it related to error there.  Machen, Mohler says, was just attempting to separate Christianity from liberalism.  Two men who were kicked out of their denominations doesn't seem to be very practical teaching on separation, unless the Bible teaches, really teaches, that separation is waiting for someone to excommunicate you.

Starting around the 17 minute mark, Mohler gives a brief history of the fundamentalist movement of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Mohler uses the example of fundamentalism to separate between Christians and liberals, although he says that these mainly were people kicked out of liberal denominations who had no where else to go. He brings back in John 6 here and says that this is Jesus saying then to the Christians in modernist denominations, "Will you also go away?"  I guess they say, "Yes, we want to go away."  This is the dividing line, Mohler posits, who will stand on the gospel, and who will not?  Some of the churches never separated, so they just went completely the way of liberalism, fully denying the gospel.  It's hard to stick with this flow of thought, his attempt to justify his view of separation by this wandering quasi-historical presentation.

Next Mohler moves to the example of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  He says that Lloyd-Jones taught that the church is a household of faith, so faith is the dividing line.  However, in the house itself are many rooms.  Aaaah.  He says that just because we're in the same house, that is, we're saved, doesn't mean that we might not have different rooms in that house.  You stay in the house and you pretty much go to your particular room, I suspect, certain walls dividing various beliefs within the same big house. This house-room teaching is interesting, but it would be really good if it were in the Bible.  The house-room teaching isn't in the Bible.  Mohler treats it like it is.

I'm stopping here (32 minute mark), but I'll come back soon this week for more analysis, Lord-willing.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Conservative Evangelicals Explore the Doctrine of Separation, part one

Not until very recently have I ever heard an evangelical talk about the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation.  When I attended the ETS meeting in San Francisco half a dozen years ago, I looked everywhere, scouring closely in the mammoth book room for a book on separation, and found none.  I have begun to hear some mentions of ecclesiastical separation in the last few years, but the Shepherd's Conference this year in Southern California dedicated an entire break-out session to this doctrine with Albert Mohler, called The Dividing Line.  Don't be confused about the mimicry of the title of James White's live webcast, The Dividing Line, which is not about ecclesiastical separation. Mohler was teaching on ecclesiastical separation, essentially giving guidelines for this almost non-existent doctrine in evangelicalism.

This year's Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church included a number of sessions that dealt with the worldliness found in evangelicalism -- another surprise -- and perhaps I'll explore some of those later after I've discovered everything covered at the conference.  For instance, Phil Johnson treats the "young, restless, and reformed," while Nathan Busnitz confronts "evangelicalism's quest for popular acceptance."  For the next couple of days, however, I want to work my way through Mohler's presentation.  I've listened once to his whole seminar, so I'm going to provide an overall evaluation in this post.  I will get into detail in the very near future.

For those of you who do not know, Albert Mohler is the now long time president of the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Albert Mohler himself is often referred to as the intellectual leader of the Southern Baptist Convention.  This is not his first foray into teaching on separation.  Mohler became well known for his essay and instruction about what he called a "theological triage."  In the 2005 article, you won't find the word "separation" anywhere.  Later in 2011, Mohler contributed a considerable portion of Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, where he essentially distinguished his position from those of fundamentalism over the doctrine of separation.  Again, Mohler didn't talk specifically about separation, except where he criticized the chapter written by the fundamentalist, Kevin Bauder.

In The Dividing Line, Mohler does approach the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation.  When he says, "dividing," he does mean "separating."  In his presentation, Mohler sounds like a traditional fundamentalist.  Many fundamentalists would really enjoy what he had to say.  He represented fundamentalist style separation in his speech like I have never heard an evangelical address the issue.  It was fascinating in that way to hear an evangelical, even though a conservative evangelical, talk about the subject.

I rejoiced to hear Mohler speak on separation.  I was glad that evangelicals are at least encouraging separation and giving some kind of instruction on it.  I think everyone should be happy for this step taken by an evangelical.  What do I think of what he said?

Overall, the presentation was terrible for many reasons.  First, his presentation was not biblical.  He did not report what the Bible teaches on the subject (which you could get if you read the book, A Pure Church).  You will not get ecclesiastical separation correct if you do not look at what the Bible says about it.  People need biblical instruction and he does not give it.  That is very sad.  I started to listen to the panel discussion from the conference and in it the three panelists talked about theology.  John MacArthur said you must start with biblical theology before you move to systematic.  I heard the other speakers, "Amen."  Mohler does not start with biblical theology, so he failed there.  He talked for over an hour and did not give biblical teaching, where the Bible is rich with teaching on this subject.

Second, Mohler doesn't even practice what he teaches in his own session.  If he did practice what he taught, he would need to leave the Southern Baptist Convention.  I have not heard that he has done that yet.

Third, Mohler gives no justification for his conclusions than his own seat-of-the-pants theology and his own philosophy.  Maybe that's good enough for that audience.  I would hope not.  However, it is not unusual for evangelicals to seek biblical exposition on many different subjects, but look for some kind of pragmatism on the doctrine of separation.  How could anyone who claims to be biblical sit through that session and either agree or enjoy it?

I could give some more minor criticisms of Mohler's presentation.  I recognize that from the three points, one would think I didn't like what he said.  I didn't, but I was glad that the conference and Mohler tried to say something about it.  Mohler did edge and dance around the subject without really teaching it.

I believe that the reason we're hearing finally and now on separation is because of the same sex marriage issue.  We're seeing same sex marriage accepted in churches.  Many are starting to pull separation out of the mothballs because they can see they might need it as a tool in their toolbox, just to preserve a certain proximity to the status quo.

Mohler makes some very strong statements.  It's hard to think he believes some of what he states.  Do evangelicals really believe what he says?  I know they don't practice what he says. I would be hard pressed to find one evangelical in the world who practices some of what Mohler said.  I'll tell you what those statements were when I provide my analysis here in the next few days.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Psalm 12:6-7 Commentaries and the Preservation of Words

Psalm 12:6-7 reads:

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
The exegetical evidence that Psalm 12:6-7 refers to the preservation of the words of Scripture is very strong.  This text receives a chapter in Thou Shalt Keep Them:  A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture. Exegetical questions are also discussed in the blog posts here and here.  This post briefly examines a historical question--does the view that Psalm 12:6-7 (Psalm 12:7-8 in Hebrew, since v. 1 is considered to be the title in the Masoretic Text) refers to the preservation of words, rather than to the preservation of the poor and needy of v. 5 (not that God does not care for them also) exist in the history of interpretation?  The following citations from both conservative and liberal commentators, from both those in Christendom and Jewish grammarians, demonstrates that the view that Psalm 12:6-7 promises the preservation of the words of Scripture is by no means a new view.  While the position that words are being spoken of in Psalm 12:7 is the view advocated in some of these commentaries, in others the view that Psalm 12:7 refers to words and some support for this view is provided, while the commentator himself takes a different position for a variety of reasons.

Samuel Terrien, A. D. 2003:
Thanks to the double chiasmus that encircles the core verse, the structure clearly offers its design:
  1. The Duplicity of the Sons of Adam (vv. 2–3)
  2. The False Words (vv. 4–5)
III. The Divine Promise (v. 6)
  1. The Pure Words (vv. 7–8)
  2. The Aberration of the Sons of Adam (v. 9)
An inclusio poetica appears in vv. 2 and 9; Strophe III constitutes the summit of the psalm. Here as elsewhere for the genre of Complaint, Strophes I and II are echoed in Strophes IV and V, as the false words of the human brood are contrasted with the true and pure words of the Lord. Both sets are articulated around the core verse, which is a prophetic oracle introducing the proclamation of confidence. . . . The psalmist . . . knows that the Lord will keep his word (v. 8)

Hans-Joachim Kraus, A. D. 1993:
In תשׁמרם [“thou shalt keep them”] the suffix [“them”] refers to אמרות [“words”] in v. 6.

Charles Briggs, c. A. D. 1907:
אַתָּה [Thou] emph.—תִּשְׁמְרֵם] [“shalt keep them”] . . . J, Aq., Θ [that is, the Latin Version of Jerome, the Greek Version of Aquila, and the Greek Version of Theodotian] agree with H [the Hebrew Masoretic text] and refer [the suffix] of the first [verb] [that is, “them”] to the divine words.

John Wesley, A. D. 1765:
7. Thou shalt keep them—Thy words or promises: these thou wilt observe and keep, both now, and from this generation for ever.

Matthew Poole, c. A. D. 1670:
Thou shalt keep them [Psalm 12:7] . . . Thy words or promises last mentioned, ver. 6. These thou wilt observe and keep (as these two verbs commonly signify) both now, and from this generation for ever.

John Calvin, A. D. 1557:
Some give this exposition of the passage [in Psalm 12:7], Thou wilt keep them, namely, thy words[.]

Michael Ayguan, A. D. 1446:
Keep them: that is, not as the passage is generally taken, (Ay. [Michael Ayguan]) Keep or guard Thy people, but Thou shalt keep, or make good, Thy words . . .Thou shalt keep Thy word[.]

Abraham ibn Ezra, c. A. D. 1148:
Ver. 7. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, &c.] . . . Aben Ezra explains it . . . [of] the words before mentioned . . . God has wonderfully kept and preserved the sacred writings; and he keeps every word of promise which he has made; and the doctrines of the Gospel will always continue from one generation to another[.]
Thus, it is clear that the position that Psalm 12:6-7 refers to the preservation of the Words of Scripture has been held by significant numbers of people in the history of interpretation--Jewish grammarians, Roman Catholics, Reformed Protestants, Arminian Protestants, theological liberals, and theological conservatives have all recognized this position.

(For sources for these citations, please see the original article here.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"I Don't See Man Clothes and Woman Clothes" -- Evangelicalism and Most of Fundamentalism Agree

Why are professing Christian leaders opposed to same sex marriage?  Sure, God the Father in Genesis 2 and God the Son in Matthew 19 teach marriage only between one man and woman.  It's God's only way.  Yet, what is the major problem with same sex marriage?  It is the rebellion against God's design, which is what we read in Romans 1:18-25.  The creation rebels against Creator. Someone cannot both love and please God as well as rebel against Him.  Those activities are mutually exclusive.  The person may say he loves God, but he only rebels against God.

Someone cannot really oppose same sex marriage and accept rebellion against God's design.  The latter actually is what leads to the former.  If you want the former to stop, you stop it at the latter.

Everything for a believer is about pleasing God.  Pleasing God is pleasing God.  You either want that or you don't.  You can't want pleasing God in the elevation of the design of God for the glory of God in marriage, but not support it everywhere God teaches it and expects it.  What I'm saying is that if you don't want to please God in it all then you don't want to please God in it at all.

If God brings up a particular support of His design that He desires, wants, and requires, then believers, one should assume, would eagerly support just like God requires.  For all of the history of the church, believers kept unique designed distinctions between men and woman.  This was like breathing.  The church just did it.  God expects it.  The departure from this is a very serious departure.

For a long time, American culture was so biblical that it followed the Bible on designed distinctions in dress between men and women.  The symbol of male design was pants and the symbol of female design was the skirt or dress.  This really was just assumed. As the country rebelled against creation, it also moved away from God's design, as manifested in women wearing the male symbol.  The culture rejected it and then the culture began to accept it, but the church still rejected it.  Then like many other aspects of biblical practice, the church began to capitulate too.  Now the same trajectory is occurring with marriage.

Jaden Smith, Hollywood actor and 'son' of Hollywood actor Will Smith, was interviewed for British GQ Style magazine, which was picked up as an article for ET Online and posted at Yahoo.  In those locations, he said the following:
I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction. I don’t see man clothes and woman clothes, I just see scared people and comfortable people.
Is what he said true?  Is there no distinction?  Is there no man clothes or woman clothes?  There are man clothes and woman clothes, but American society and the American church already surrendered on the distinction.  Evangelicalism for sure views the world here as Jaden Smith does. Fundamentalism is not far behind.

I think Jaden Smith would just be ignored as an issue, because in principle for sure evangelicalism takes his same position on this issue.  Evangelicals join him in mocking those who don't see life the same way as he does.  I'm talking about all evangelicals:  John Piper, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, and everyone to the left of them.  Even revivalists like Paul Chappell are capitulating on this issue today.  Like the evangelicals, he calls these types of beliefs, non-essentials, like them to preserve a coalition.

Same sex marriage is not the only abomination to God.  The women who wear the male garment and the men who wear the female one, all who do so, are an abomination to God.  Same sex marriage gets a lot of play still among evangelicals.  It is even a political issue and a Supreme Court justice issue. Why isn't this an issue?  Evangelicals and most fundamentalists already gave up.  Their women already began wearing the male garment.  That's no answer from them for Jaden Smith.  He says, "I don't see man clothes and woman clothes."  Evangelicals and most fundamentalists don't either.

If there are no man clothes and there are no woman clothes, then no one has an answer for Jaden Smith.  That's why for the most part he won't hear an answer.  You won't get a special podcast from Albert Mohler.  There won't be a series of articles from prominent evangelicals.  You are more likely to hear one of them mock an article like this instead.

There is not hope for the marriage issue if churches, if believers, will not stand on the fundamental principle behind it, God's created design.