Friday, September 30, 2016

Keswick's Perfectionism: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 6 of 17

               Additionally, the related Keswick idea that, in this life, “sin . . . need not be a continued source of trouble,”[1] is likewise unbiblical.  Such a concept lays the groundwork for either self-deception in the believer who thinks he has arrived at such a state of complete triumph over sin, or for hopeless despair in the believer who knows his own heart too well to make such an affirmation.  The support by Keswick leaders of such ideas, along with their unabashed affirmations of the truth of perfectionism,[2] explain why “from the first, opponents of Keswick have accused it of holding a shallow view of sin. . . . [and of being] perfectionist.”[3]  Indeed, Scripture does not present progressive sanctification as an instantaneous transition from a state of utter defeat to one of total victory.  Likewise, the fact that sinless perfection is impossible in this life is Biblically a motive to continue striving for ever-greater progressive victory against sin—not, as is commonly argued by many groups of perfectionists, a reason to give up the fight in despair.[4] Barabas states:  “The value of a system of thought or of a doctrine therefore depends upon the manner in which it proposes to deal with the problem of sin.  Any failure here means failure all along the line.”[5]  Unfortunately, the Keswick theology does not properly deal with sin.  While some who have been helped spiritually because of Keswick preaching are blessedly inconsistent, consistent belief that sin no longer need trouble the believer is only possible by disregarding the true nature of sin or by adopting perfectionism.  Furthermore, to the extent that Keswick lowers the standard of God’s requirement from literal and absolute sinlessness to a lower and subjective standard of “known sin” that downplays the evils of sins of ignorance,[6] it leads believers to be satisfied with less than what God requires and discourages them from striving after the actual standard of perfect conformity to the absolute holiness of the Most High.[7]
               Associated with the Keswick idea that sin need no longer trouble believers who have entered into the Higher Life is the Pelagianizing and perfectionist idea, adopted by Keswick from the Broadlands Conference,[8] that the obligation of the believer to obey God is coextensive with his ability to do so.[9]  “A saying frequently heard at Keswick is this[:] ‘God’s commandment is his enablement,’ meaning that God never issues a command that He does not give us grace to fulfil.”[10]  The Keswick theology asks, “Does God therefore make demands of human beings that they cannot fulfil?  Does He expect of them conduct beyond their reach? . . . God’s requirements cannot be greater than His enablements.  If they were, man would be mocked. . . . What He demands He makes possible.”[11]  Barabas cites no texts from the Bible to prove his position, since none teach his equation of obligation and ability.  His argument, however, stands squarely in the line of centuries of perfectionist argumentation and arises out of the denial of total depravity that accompanied the Divine Seed heresy of the Broadlands Conference and the Quakerism of the Pearsall Smiths.  Consistency with the affirmation that man has the inherent ability to perform all that God demands of him requires sinless perfection, since God’s standard for man is nothing less than the perfect purity and holiness of His own nature.  Affirming that, in this life, one can be entirely without sin is a dangerous heresy affirmed only by unregenerate individuals (1 John 1:8, 10).
Keswick, however, since it at times recognizes the dangerous and unscriptural character of a more consistent perfectionism,[12] does not usually take its perfectionist doctrine that obligation is limited to ability to its actual conclusion, but stops with the affirmation that believers can live without known sin, while at the same time affirming that all believers still are sinners and do sin, although unwittingly.  It is certainly true that believers can have a clear conscience and determinately oppose all sin.  It is likewise true that genuine and ever-greater progressive victory over sin—although not the absolute victory coming in heaven—is given to the saints on earth (Romans 6:14).  However, the restricted Keswick perfectionism is not compatible with its doctrine that obligation is limited to ability.  God commands all men and angels to be perfect, just as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48), but the Holy One of Israel is not just free from certain areas of conscious sinning.  God does not lower His standard to what is possible for either unregenerate fallen man or pre-glorified regenerate man who still has indwelling sin.  Consistency with its affirmation that man’s obligation is limited to his ability would require Keswick to affirm either literal, absolute perfectionism for fallen men or to downgrade the character of God’s holy character and law, and the nature of sin, to something less than absolute conformity to the holiness of Jehovah.[13]  Such conclusions cannot be avoided by Keswick’s affirming that grace enables ability to meet Divine obligation.  Absolute perfection or a downgrade in the nature of sin must still follow—only the sinless perfection would now be allegedly enabled by grace.[14]  God certainly will give all His people the grace to be sinlessly perfect, but He will only do so when they are forever with Him, not during this life.  The necessary consequences of the Keswick doctrine of ability and obligation explain why “opponents of Keswick have accused it [of being] perfectionist.”[15]  Happily, Keswick advocates do not usually believe what is truly involved in their affirmation that God’s standard for fallen man is limited by the sinner’s ability.  But would it not be better to simply represent the teaching of the Bible on sanctification accurately than to affirm a Pelagian and perfectionistic view of obligation and ability, but inconsistently deny its consequences?

See here for this entire study.

[1]              Pg. 36, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Compare Robert Pearsall Smith:  “The Christian who has the faith [of the Higher Life] need never sin” (pg. 257, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875).  Of course, Smith reduces “sin” to “conscious sin.”
[2]              E. g., W. H. Griffith Thomas, responding to Warfield’s critique of Keswick theology and attempting to justify Keswick, boldly stated: “‘Keswick’ stands for perfectionism.  I have heard that scores of times, and so have you—and it does” (pg. 283, “The Victorious Life (I.).”  Bibliotheca Sacra (76:303) July 1919, 267-288).  Keswick leader A. T. Pierson said:  There is one kind of sinless perfection in which every Keswick teacher believes—the sinless perfection of instantaneously and for ever renouncing every known sin.  Pierson proves this sort of perfectionism in the following manner:  “There is no mistake in the attitude of our Lord. He says: ‘Sin no more;’ and He would not say that if He did not mean it.”  That is, God’s obligation on man and man’s ability to obey are coextensive, Pierson believes, so if God commands man not to sin, a fallen man with indwelling sin is able to be perfect; and, furthermore, “Paul preach[ed] perfect holiness,” meaning the Keswick doctrine of perfectionism.  However, other sorts of perfectionism were not accepted at Keswick, according to Pierson—only their peculiar brand was acceptable.  Other than the distinctive Keswick perfectionism, “being sinlessly perfect” is not for the “present” (pgs. 8-10, A Spiritual Clinique:  Four Bible Readings Given at Keswick in 1907, Pierson.  New York, NY:  Gospel Publishing House, 1907.  Italics in original).  During the “‘turn of the century’ era” from “1897 to 1909 . . . Dr. Pierson came to Keswick more often than any other speaker from America . . . and assumed from the first . . . a position of leadership unique in a speaker from overseas.  Again and again we read of him guiding the proceedings in times of particular moment.”  The editor of the Keswick Life of Faith periodical verified that Pierson “dominated the Convention by his spiritual and intellectual powers, and thousands hung upon his words with an intense eagerness” (pg. 405, Keswick’s Authentic Voice, ed. Stevenson).
               While Pierson was generally correct that the distinctive perfectionism of Hannah W. and Robert P. Smith was dominant at the early Keswick convention, he was not correct in his affirmation that other forms of perfectionism were not also acceptable at the Convention.  Asa Mahan’s early influence makes it clear that Oberlin Perfectionism was acceptable from the beginning.  Moule was converted to the Keswick theology at a convention that included both Evan Hopkins and “an ardent Salvation Army captain,” an advocate of the Army’s standard Wesleyan perfectionism (pg. 42, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall).  Likewise, the “Japan Evangelistic Band . . . formed at the Convention of 1893 . . . looked to Wesleyan holiness speakers” (pg. 115, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall; cf. pg. 81, The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck; the Band was founded by Webb-Peploe’s curate Barclay Buxton).  “Another vital link between Keswick and the Wesleyan holiness tradition was through Charles Inwood,” who spoke at twenty-one Keswick conventions and represented Keswick internationally while receving prophetic impressions through which he predicted the future (pg. 112, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall).  “As a Wesleyan Methodist himself, Inwood actively sought to influence Keswick thinking from within the movement . . . Inwood was deeply indebted to the Wesleyan revivalist tradition” (pg. 50, Ibid).  The Methodist perfectionist, continuationist, and woman preacher Amanda Smith, who preached at Keswick and was then invited to and preached at Broadlands by invitation of Evan Hopkins and Lord Mount-Temple in the 1880s, is another example of Methodist perfectionism being propagated at Keswick (pg. 116, The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck; The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life:  The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith, ed. Dieter, entry for December 30; Chapter 20-21, An Autobiograpy:  The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, The Colored Evangelist, Containing an Account of her Life Work of Faith, and her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa, as an Independent Missionary, Amanda Smith.  Chicago, IL:  Meyer & Brother, 1893; pgs. 71-73, 114, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  The ecumenicalism of the Keswick Convention embraced a variety of conflicting perfectionisms, predominently the type taught by Hannah W. and Robert P. Smith, but also that of the Oberlin and Wesleyan theologies, in its seeking for a Higher Life spirituality.
[3]              Pg. 40, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[4]              As already noted, Keswick does not (usually) teach actual sinless perfection.  However, by teaching that continued struggle with sin in the Christian life, and anything less than “perfect and constant victory over temptation” is “heart-breaking defeat” (pgs. 95, 76, So Great Salvation, Barabas), it lends itself to the argument of other and more radical perfectionisms that anything less than the possibility of perfection (of whatever kind is advocated by a particular perfectionst theology) in this life is a ground for despair.  Snodgrass notes:
[Doctrines of] perfectionism . . . [and] entire sanctification . . . fee[d] the mind with the notion of entire freedom from sin; and this is, at once, the essence of the system, and the reason of its danger. . . . [T]hose who anticipate better effects [in holier Christian living] from the doctrine of Perfection than from the common doctrine of Sanctification, reason falsely[.] . . . The question is asked . . . “Who would expect an army to fight, with energy, under the impression of inevitable defeat?”  And this, it is taken for granted, is a parallel case to that of the Christian, who entertains no hope of entire sanctification in the present life.  But, is it so?  Has he the impression of inevitable defeat, because he expects the war to be somewhat protracted?  Does he lay down his arms, in despair, because he believes that more than one battle is to be fought?  Does he cease from the contest, because he does not anticipate a perfect triumph, until the “last enemy” shall “be destroyed,” which “is death”?  The truth is, that, on his own principles, he has an expectation of victory, which is qualified by no peradventure; he anticipates it, with unwavering faith, and with joyful hope; it is as certain to him, as the love and faithfulness of God can make it;—nay, he has the earnest of it, in his present success;—he has already come off as a conqueror in many a struggle;—he is pursuing his advantage from one battle-field to another; and he has no doubt, that the time is near, when all the armies of the aliens shall be put to flight, “And death, the last of all his foes,/ Lie vanquished at his feet.”  So far, therefore, as the certainty of success is concerned, he has the same reason to persevere and be active, with those who anticipate a speedier triumph. 
Again:  it is wrong, in principle, to say, that the hope of success, in order to be an efficient motive, must terminate upon acquisitions to be made within the limits of the present life.  This is neither consistent with Scripture, nor in accordance with actual experience.  The hope of the apostles and primitive Christians, was a hope, which “entereth into that within the veil,” and, this was the reason why it was an “anchor to the soul.” . . . It transported its subjects beyond the region where sin and sorrow dwell, and brought them into communion with the inhabitants and felicities of heaven.  And this was the true secret of its animating influence.  It derived its energy from the importance and glory of its object; and this was something entirely above and beyond any degrees of sanctification to be anticipated here.  “Every man,” says an apostle [1 John 3:3], “that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself.”  Such a hope will undoubtedly sanctify those in whom it dwells; but a similar influence is never ascribed to any hope, the object of which is to be realized on this side of the grave.
Moreover: it is incorrect to assume, that the Christian derives his strongest impulses for holy living, from direct meditations upon his prospect of success.  No doubt, he has “respect unto the recompense of the reward,” both here and hereafter; and yet, his experience will bear me out in saying, that his heart is never assailed by more irresistible motives to active and entire consecration to God, than when his mind is most fully occupied by other considerations than those which relate immediately to himself. . . . [A greater motive than being] taken up with reflections on the degree of proficiency at which he [is] expecting to arrive . . . [is] “the love of Christ constraineth us” [2 Corinthians 5:14]!  Here [is] the main-spring of [Christian] activity . . . with his face towards Calvary, with his eye on the cross, and with his mind intent upon the compassion and condescension of a suffering Saviour, he [is] carried beyond himself, and [is] borne away, by the impulse of a mightier and more generous motive.  So it is in all the higher achievements of the Christian life.  It is not by sitting down to meditate upon the prospect of our perfect sanctification that we gather the strongest motives to the pursuit of holiness.  Our best seasons, both of feeling and action, are those, in which we think least of ourselves, and most, of the love of God, of the compassion of Christ, of the claims of gratitude and duty, and of the beauty and excellency of holiness itself.  We are not servants, who work merely for wages, but we are bound to our employment, by love and gratitude to the master, as well as by the happiness we find in the service itself. . . . And in these considerations, are contained our highest inducements, to persevere in his service, and live to his glory.  “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; for whether we live, we live unto the Lord, and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” [Romans 14:7-8] (pgs. 95-101, The Scripture Doctrine of Sanctification, Snodgrass).
[5]              Pg. 101, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[6]              Lyman Atwater notes:
Some of our most dangerous sins are sins of ignorance.  Nay, the very ignorance of moral and Christian duty is itself often most culpable, and incurs the divine condemnation, even the woe upon those who call good evil and evil good; who put light for darkness and darkness for light [Isaiah 5:20].  It is the very essence of sin to be deceitful, to disguise itself, to hate the light, and refuse to come to the light which would unveil it—and is not this declared by the Light of the world to be eminently its condemnation?  What!  Do men become innocent by blinding themselves to their guilt, and sinless by ignoring their sin?  Paul “verily thought that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” [Acts 26:9].  Can a man be innocent and perfect in persecuting the Church, whatever his ignorance or sincerity therein?  Out [with] such casuistry, no matter how plausible and acceptable it may be to a worldly and backslidden church, or those who think they are something when they are nothing, or who “say they are perfect,” by whatever names sanctioned! (pg. 407, “The Higher Life and Christian Perfection,” Lyman H. Atwater.  The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review (July 1877) 389-419)
[7]              B. B. Warfield incisively notes concerning this sort of teaching:
Nothing can be more important than that the conception of perfection be maintained at its height. If there is an eternal and immutable distinction between right and wrong . . . then [g]oodness must be everywhere and in all beings essentially the same. The fundamental principles of right moral action, must be the same to God and to his creatures; and there must be one rule of duty—one standard by which to test character—to angels and to men. . . . True perfection is one and the same thing in all beings[.] The habit of conceiving of perfection as admitting of many imperfections—moral imperfections, glossed as infirmities, errors and inadvertences—not only lowers the standard of perfection and with it the height of our aspirations, but corrupts our hearts, dulls our discrimination of right and wrong, and betrays us into satisfaction with attainments which are very far from satisfactory. There is no more corrupting practice than the habit of calling right wrong and wrong right. That is the essence of antinomianism, if we choose to speak in the language of the schools. To give it its least offensive description, it is acquiescence in sin. And this is the real arraignment of all perfectionist theories[.] They lull men to sleep with a sense of attainments not really made; cut the nerve of effort in the midst of the race; and tempt men to accept imperfection as perfection—which is no less than to say evil is good. (pgs. 457-458, Studies in Perfectionism, Part Two, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 8, B. B. Warfield)
[8]              As Hannah W. Smith taught at Broadlands:  “God’s commands are not grievous, but they would be if He commanded what we could not do” (pg. 128, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  Because of the Divine Seed, “We have in our hearts the germ that can receive” (pg. 185, Ibid); no monergistic and supernatural regeneration of the totally spiritually dead sinner is necessary.
[9]              The doctrine that fallen man’s obligation to obey is limited to his ability to do so is refuted in the chapter in this book “Is Fallen Man’s Obligation to Obey God Limited to His Ability to Do So?”
[10]             Pg. 30, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[11]             Pg. 63, 188, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Indeed, that “What He expects of us He gives us the power to do, both in sanctification and service” is stated to be “the message of Keswick” (pg. 155; cf. pg. 88).
[12]             Keswick opposes consistent perfectionism, at least most of the time—however, sometimes more consistent strains break out.  For instance, Robert P. Smith permitted “an aged minister by his side to assert roundly that he had lived for thirty-five years as purely as Jesus” (pg. 325, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Perfectionism, Part One, Vol. 7, Benjamin B. Warfield.  [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008]).
[13]             This dilemma faces all perfectionist positions that attempt to deal in any degree of seriousness with the Scriptural data.  Note also that inability to sin because of a will permanently and immutably inclined to holiness is not a little of the bliss of the saint’s heavenly holiness, as it is a glorious characteristic of the Divine holiness (Deuteronomy 32:4; Romans 9:14; 1 John 3:2-3).
[14]             Furthermore, once such a state of sinless perfection had been entered, grace would no longer be necessary to sustain the believer in his holiness; as God is perfectly holy and unable to sin, so the Christian would be inherently perfectly holy and unable to sin.
[15]             Pg. 40, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Barabas must ignore the many affirmations of perfectionism by Keswick’s greatest leaders to label the charge of perfectionism a mere “accusation.”  He would have been more faithful to actual historical facts had he stated: “[O]pponents of Keswick have accused it [of being] perfectionist, and they were right,” or “The facts clearly demonstrate that Keswick stands for perfectionism.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Lie to Deny for Evangelism to Thrive

Saviors are heroes in our culture.  In 2009 Chesley Sullenberg, a USAirways pilot, emergency landed an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River, saving all 155 passengers.  He is a hero, because he is given much of the credit for the salvation of 155 people.  Each of those people sees a debt to Sullenberg.  I know a film has been made about it, out in theaters right now, it's such a renowned and celebrated event.

I don't know if any of the 155 people saved on that plane have died since then.  All of them will. Sully will.  They're saved for 10, 20, 40, 50, 60 years.  They'll still die.

The name, Jesus, means "savior."  Not just saving people from physical death, Jesus saves men from eternal death.  Eternal death is forever.  It will never end.  Even people saved by the incredible efforts of a pilot with an emergency landing will still die eternally.  They are given a little longer physical lives, only to die and still die eternally.

People celebrate Sully.  Joy is in heaven over one person saved from eternal death (Luke 15:7).  The world doesn't care.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16).  Before Jesus left, He said to preach the gospel to everyone.  Would you be a Sully?  Many Christians might want to be a Sully who won't preach the gospel to someone.  Many professing Christians go weeks without even handing out a gospel tract.  The lie to deny is that saving someone physically is superior to saving someone eternally.  People live that lie.

Someone like a Bill Gates gives his life to end malaria and bring clean water.  He spends billions of dollars for those priorities.  He denies God.  He rejects the Bible.  He is applauded by men.

Christians must embrace the truth that gospel preaching brings eternal salvation.  It doesn't prolong physical life.  It gives eternal life, which is physical and spiritual and forever.

The men who ran into the twin towers were heroes.  Police are heroes.  Firemen are heroes. Preachers are what?  They are treated like the offscouring of the earth, worse than scum.  I know.  They are garbage in this culture.  Don't let that fool you.

Someone saved forever is better than someone saved for the moment.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Liberty and Equality: Adducing the Protests

It takes a lot to have a great nation.  It doesn't take much to tear it down.  However, like God said to Baruch, seek not great things for yourself.  That can be said of and to a nation too.  You can easily go down as a nation, and we are.  It's been ugly to watch.

A Frenchman with great yearnings for his own country, its having been torn asunder, Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831, taking extensive notes about what he saw.  Comparing what he observed with what he knew of France and its revolution, he wrote in 1835 to report his findings in his book called Democracy in America:
There is in fact a manly and legitimate passion for equality that spurs all men to wish to be strong and esteemed. This passion tends to elevate the lesser to the rank of the greater. 
But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.
Men want all the benefits of liberty without the requirements.  Nicholas Capaldi and Gordon Lloyd write in Liberty and Equality in Political Economy (p. 73):
What is problematic for Tocqueville is that love of equality rather than love of liberty is the ruling passion of modernity. . . . Humans in modernity prefer equality in slavery to inequality in liberty.  In short, equality and not liberty is the default position of modernity.  Thus, liberty is in constant need of being defended and equality is in constant need of being moderated.
Most people in this country don't even understand the opportunity they have been given.  They are not satisfied with opportunity.  They want equality of outcome.  They really want even more than that, as I observe America now.

If you are white, I don't think you can just be angry with black people.  White people caused this. They took advantage of the depraved taste of equality that almost everyone possesses. They couldn't guarantee a better life though, so many black people now are left in a state of hopelessness, followed by anger.  We see the anger. The history of African Americans in America is that they were brought here against their will and since then they have been used as political pawns by evil opportunists who pose as their saviors.

Why obey the law if you can't have a better life when you do?  People see what they don't have and they don't see a path to get there except through some form of government assistance.   They think that violent protests and kneeling during the anthem will get them there. They think that because there are white people and select black leaders who tell them they are right.  The media also rewards the behavior.  It is a losing, totally losing proposition.   It is absolutely the wrong message.

You cannot succeed against natural law.  The path to success follows a natural progression.  You can't skip the steps to getting there.  No amount of tilting the playing field will help.

De Tocqueville was brutal in his observations about both African Americans and American Indians.  He hated slavery, but he believed that, even though assimilation was best for both, it mainly would not occur.   He assessed that neither were people "democratic" enough to live in a democracy. They just wouldn't.  He predicted the extinction of the Indians in America, because they would be too proud to assimilate.

If I project myself backwards to De Tocqueville's time, I don't share his pessimism, proceeding from his underlying Roman Catholicism, because I believe God's Word.  I don't take the Hillary Clinton's, her basket of deplorable and unredeemable, view of the world. People can change through conversion.  God intervenes in depraved hearts.  They stop lusting for equality and accept liberty. However, they will not change without moral absolutes or absolute truth, a true gospel, and then careful and plain biblical preaching, none of which are even accepted any more in the United States.

Booker T. Washington had a plan at the turn of the 20th Century that was rejected by African Americans in general and the United States as a whole, his plan founded on the laws of nature and nature's God.  If implemented, it would have succeeded.  A depraved taste of equality impelled the weak to bring the strong down to their level, which summarized the lying vanities of W. E. B. Dubois.

Kneeling at a national anthem and violent street protests are the less significant symptoms of a depraved taste of equality.  They are but pawn movements on the board of massive political demagoguery.  Joining them among many others is economic punishment targeting a very miniscule moderation of transgenderism.

When rewards and punishments are not tied to merit according to principles of natural law and the revealed law of God, the opposite, what some have called, "learned helplessness," results.  People stop trying to succeed.  They want it handed to them.

Some would say they don't want a hand out, but a hand up.  The need a hand up:  college tuition, free medical, child care, and subsidized housing.  These are hand. outs.  They are learned helplessness, helplessness that isn't liberty; helplessness that is slavery.

The future isn't bright for a nation that doesn't respect the law, that offers even foreign neighbors an equality that is a lie.  Then police say, "Take your hands out of your pockets so I can see them," and the suspect doesn't have to do that.  Police say, "Kneel down," and he doesn't.  They don't think any longer that there is any merit, any value to doing what police say.  'It won't help you to listen, to submit to authority' is a lie.  The lawbreakers see little path to success.

If you walk back the anthem protests, you end at non violent protests.  Someone is right to protest injustice.  Injustice is wrong.  You aren't right to protest justice, and we do not have evidence of systemic police injustice.  You can go to statistics to prove that.  It isn't even close.  A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black person than any cop killing an unarmed black person. No evidence exists of unique police violence based upon racial discrimination.  It's a bigger and deeper issue though.

Every police shooting, whether just or not, produces extraordinarily imbalanced amounts of media attention and coverage.  The stories are slanted toward the victims of the shooting.  The overarching narrative is a lie.  Let me tell you the result.  Police will back away and more people will die.  When someone calls for help, he won't get it.  The people who suffer those results will get no media attention or coverage.  They will still die and mostly in anonymity.  Their mothers will not become celebrities.  They will not speak at a party presidential convention.  It won't matter to those who are really taking advantage of this situation, which are the subject of an entirely different post.

A man paid millions of dollars as a backup quarterback claims to speak for the voiceless victims.  His message is false.  He's free to protest something.  He's free to pose as a significant thinker, but he is only another pawn.  He isn't bringing liberty or equality.  He is leading a movement that will not end well for anyone.  He is encouraged to tell his little lies while the big truth is forbidden on a state school campus. Liberty loses.

Equality provides the motivation in America now, not liberty.  You can see that liberty doesn't result from anthem protests.  It rewards lawbreakers.  More lawbreaking ensues and people lose their freedom.  Worse, they lose their lives.  Their lives don't matter to those feeding this depraved taste of equality.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Grace through the Word: the Lutheran and Reformed Doctrines Contrasted

A (relatively) short time ago, while working on other things, I was listening through the renowned Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodges's Systematic Theology. Within that work, he has the following discussion about his (Reformed) view of the power and efficacy of the Word and the Lutheran view of the matter.  By reproducing the quotation below, I am not agreeing with or endorsing Hodge or his theology.  However, I wanted to reproduce it unedited and unchanged, and see what readers of this blog had to say about the doctrines affirmed and denied on this subject by Hodge as a Reformed theologian in contradistinction to what the Lutherans affirm.  In particular, what caught my attention was the difference between his Reformed view of the power of the Word--namely, that the Spirit in His sovereignty at times uses the Word in a greater way than at other times--versus the Lutheran view that this is not the case.  What do you think is the Biblical, and, therefore, we trust, the view that ought to be believed and practiced in Baptist churches--the Reformed view, the Lutheran view, or neither?  Do you have any Baptist historical theology that relates to this question that you would like to put in the comment section?  I look forward to hearing your Biblical comments and thoughts on this question.

The quotation from Hodge:

The Office of the Word as a Means of Grace

Christians then do not refer the saving and the sanctifying power of the Scriptures to the moral power of the truths which they contain; or to the mere coöperation of the Spirit in a manner analogous to the way in which God coöperates with all second causes, but to the power of the Spirit as a divine Person acting with and by the truth, or without it, as in his sovereign pleasure He sees fit. Although light cannot restore sight to the blind, or heal the diseases of the organs of sight, it is nevertheless essential to every exercise of the power of vision. So the Word is essential to all holy exercises in the human soul.

In every act of vision there are three essential conditions: 1. An object. 2. Light. 3. An eye in a healthful or normal state. In all ordinary cases this is all that is necessary. But when the object to be seen has the attribute of beauty, a fourth condition is essential to its proper apprehension, namely, that the observer have æsthetic discernment or taste natural or acquired. Two men may view the same work of art. Both have the same object before them and the same light around them. Both see alike all that affects the organ of vision; but the one may see a beauty which the other fails to perceive; the same object therefore produces on them very different effects. The one it delights, elevates, and refines; the other it leaves unmoved if it does not disgust him. So when our blessed Lord was upon earth, the same person went about among the people; the same Word sounded in their ears; and the same acts of power and love were performed in their presence. The majority hated, derided, and finally crucified Him. Others saw in Him the glory of the only begotten Son of God full of grace and truth. These loved, adored, worshipped, and died for Him. Without the objective revelation of the person, doctrines, work, and character of Christ, this inward experience of his disciples had been impossible. But this outward revelation would have been, and in fact was to most of those concerned, utterly in vain, without the power of spiritual discernment. It is clear, therefore, what the office of the Word is, and what that of the Holy Spirit is in the work of sanctification. The Word presents the objects to be seen and the light by which we see; that is, it contains the truths by which the soul is sanctified, and it conveys to the mind the intellectual knowledge of those truths. Both these are essential. The work of the Spirit is with the soul. That by nature is spiritually dead; it must be quickened. It is blind; its eyes must be opened. It is hard; it must be softened. The gracious work of the Spirit is to impart life, to open the eyes, and to soften the heart. When this is done, and in proportion to the measure in which it is done, the Word exerts its sanctifying influence on the soul.

It is a clear doctrine of the Bible and fact of experience that the truth when spiritually discerned has this transforming power. Paul was full of pride, malignity, and contempt for Christ and his Gospel. When the Spirit opened his eyes to behold the glory of Christ, he instantly became a new man. The effect of that vision—not the miraculous vision of the person of the Son of God, but the spiritual apprehension of his divine majesty and love—lasted during the Apostle’s life, and will last to all eternity. The same Apostle, therefore, teaches us that it is by beholding the glory of Christ that we are transformed into his image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18.) Hence the Scriptures so constantly represent the heavenly state, as seeing God. It is the beatific vision of the divine glory, in all its brightness, in the person of the Son of God, that purifies, ennobles, and enraptures the soul; filling all its capacities of knowledge and happiness. It is thus that we are sanctified by the truth; it is by the spiritual discernment of the things of the Spirit, when He opens, or as Paul says, enlightens the eyes of our understanding. We thus learn how we must use the Scriptures in order to experience their sanctifying power. We must diligently search them that we may know the truths therein revealed; we must have those truths as much as possible ever before the mind; and we must pray earnestly and constantly that the Spirit may open our eyes that we may see wondrous things out of his law. It matters little to us how excellent or how powerful the truths of Scripture may be, if we do not know them. It matters little how well we may know them, if we do not think of them. And it matters little how much we think of them, if we cannot see them; and we cannot see them unless the Spirit opens the eyes of our heart.

We see too from this subject why the Bible represents it as the great duty of the ministry to hold forth the Word of life; by the manifestation of the truth to commend themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. This is all they need do. They must preach the Word in season and out of season, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. They know that the Gospel which they preach is the power of God unto salvation, and that if it be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Cor. 4:4.) Paul may plant and Apollos water, but God only can give the increase.

Besides this general sanctifying power of the Word of God, when spiritually discerned, it is to be further remarked that it is the means of calling forth all holy thoughts, feelings, purposes, and acts. Even a regenerated soul without any truth before it, would be in blank darkness. It would be in the state of a regenerated infant; or in the state of an unborn infant in relation to the external world; having eyes and ears, but nothing to call its faculties of sight and hearing into exercise. It is obvious that we can have no rational feelings of gratitude, love, adoration and fear toward God, except in view of the truths revealed concerning Him in his Word. We can have no love or devotion to Christ, except so far as the manifestation of his character and work is accepted by us as true. We can have no faith except as founded on some revealed promise of God; no resignation or submission except in view of the wisdom and love of God and of his universal providence as revealed in the Scriptures; no joyful anticipation of future blessedness which is not founded on what the Gospel makes known of a future state of existence. The Bible, therefore, is essential to the conscious existence of the divine life in the soul and to all its rational exercises. The Christian can no more live without the Bible, than his body can live without food. The Word of God is milk and strong meat, it is as water to the thirsty, it is honey and the honeycomb.

The Lutheran Doctrine

This doctrine has already been briefly, and, perhaps, sufficiently discussed on a preceding page;1 it cannot, however, be properly overlooked in this connection. The Lutherans agree in words with Rationalists and Remonstrants, in referring the efficiency of the Word of God in the work of sanctification to the inherent power of the truth. But Rationalists attribute to it no more power than that which belongs to all moral truth; such truth is from its nature adapted to form the character and influence the conduct of rational creatures, and as the truths of the Bible are of the highest order and importance, they are willing to concede to them a proportionate degree of power. The Lutherans, on the other hand, teach,—First, that the power of the Word which is inherent and constant, and which belongs to it from its very nature as the Word of God, is supernatural and divine. Secondly, that its efficiency is not due to any influence of the Spirit, accompanying it at some times and not at others, but solely to its own inherent virtue. Thirdly, that its diversified effects are due not to the Word’s having more power at one time than at another; or to its being attended with a greater or less degree of the Spirit’s influence, but to the different ways in which it is received. Christ, it is said, healed those who had faith to be healed. He frequently said: “According to your faith be it unto you,” or “Thy faith hath saved thee.” It was not because there was more power in the person of Christ when the woman touched his garment, than at other times, that she was healed, but because of her faith. Fourthly, that the Spirit never operates savingly on the minds of men, except through and in the Word. Luther in the Smalcald Articles says: “Constanter tenendum est, Deum nemini Spiritum vel gratiam suam largiri nisi per verbum et cum verbo externo et præcedente, ut ita præmuniamus nos adversum enthusiastas, i.e., spiritus, qui jactitant se ante verbum et sine verbo Spiritum habere.”1 And in the Larger Catechism,2 he says: “In summa, quicquid Deus in nobis facit et operatur, tantum externis istius modi rebus et constitutionibus operari dignatur.” Luther went so far as to refer even the inspiration of the prophets to the “verbum vocale,” or external word.3

This divine power of the Word, however, is not, as before remarked, to be referred to the mere moral power of the truth. On this point the Lutheran theologians are perfectly explicit. Thus Quenstedt4 says: “Verbum Dei non agit solum persuasiones morales, proponendo nobis objectum amabile; sed vero, reali, divino et ineffabili influxu potentiæ suæ gratiosæ.” This influx of divine power, however, is not something occasional, giving the word a power at one time which it has not at another. It is something inherent and permanent. Quenstedt says:5 “Verbo Dei virtus divina non extrinsecus in ipso usu demum accedit, sed … in se et per se, intrinsice ex divina ordinatione et communicatione, efficacia et vi conversiva et regeneratrice præditum est, etiam ante et extra omnem usum.” And Hollaz6 says it has this power “propter mysticam verbi cum Spiritu Sancto unionem intimam et individuam.”

Professor Schmid, of Erlangen, in his “Dogmatik der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche,” quotes from the leading Lutheran theologians their views on this subject. Hollaz, for example, says that this “vis divina” is inseparably conjoined with the Word; that the Word of God cannot be conceived of without the Spirit; that if the Holy Spirit could be separated from the Word, it would not be the Word of God, but the word of man. Quenstedt says that the action of the Word and of the Spirit is one and indivisible. Baier says:1 “Nempe eadem illa infinita virtus, quæ essentialiter, per se et independenter in Deo est, et per quam Deus homines illuminat et convertit, verbo communicata est: et tanquam verbo communicata, divina tamen, hic spectari debet.” A distinction, says Quenstedt, is to be made between the natural instruments, such as the staff of Moses, or rod of Aaron, which God uses to produce supernatural effects, and those, as the Word and sacraments, which are “sua essentia supernaturalia.… Illa indigent novo motu et elevatione nova ad effectum novum ultra propriam suam et naturalem virtutem producendum; hæc vero a prima institutione et productione sufficienti, hoc est, divina et summa vi ac efficacia prædita sunt, nec indigent nova et peculiari aliqua elevatione ultra efficaciam ordinariam, jamdum ipsis inditam ad producendum spiritualem effectum.”2 That the Word is not always efficacious is not because it is attended by greater power in one case than another, but because of the difference in the moral state of those to whom it is presented. On this point Quenstedt says, “Quanquam itaque effectus Verbi divini prædicati nonnunquam impediatur, efficacia tamen ipsa, seu virtus intrinseca a verbo tolli et separari non potest. Et ita per accidens fit inefficax, non potentiæ defectu, sed malitiæ motu, quo ejus operatio impeditur, quo minus effectum suum assequatur.”3 A piece of iron glowing with heat, if placed in contact with anything easily combustible, produces an immediate conflagration. If brought in contact with a rock, it produces little sensible effect. So the Word of God fraught with divine power, when presented to one mind regenerates, converts, and sanctifies, and when presented to another leaves it as it was, or only exasperates the evil of its nature. It is true these theologians say that the operation of the Word is not physical, as in the case of opium, poison, or fire; but moral, “illustrando mentem, commovendo voluntatem,” etc. Nevertheless the illustration holds as to the main point. The Word has an inherent, divine, and constant power. It produces different effects according to the subjective state of those on whom it acts. The Spirit acts neither on them nor on it more at one time than at another.


1. It is obvious that this peculiar theory has no support from Scripture. The Bible does indeed say that the Word of God is quick and powerful; that it is the wisdom of God and the power of God; and that it convinces, converts, and sanctifies. But so does the Bible say that Christ gave his Apostles power to work miracles; and that they went about communicating the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, healing the sick, and raising the dead. But the power was not in them. Peter was indignant at such an imputation. “Why look ye so earnestly on us,” he said to the people, “as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” If the Apostles’ working miracles did not prove that the power was in them, the effects produced by the Word do not prove that the power is in it.

2. This doctrine is inconsistent with the constant representations of the Scriptures, which set forth the Spirit as attending the Word and giving it effect, sometimes more and sometimes less; working with and by the truth as He sees fit. It is inconsistent with the command to pray for the Spirit. Men are not accustomed to pray that God would give fire the power to burn or ice to cool. If the Spirit were always in mystical, indissoluble union with the Word, giving it inherent divine power, there would be no propriety in praying for his influence as the Apostles did, and as the Church in all ages has ever done, and continues to do.

3. This theory cuts us off from all intercourse with the Spirit and all dependence upon Him as a personal voluntary agent. He never comes; He never goes; He does not act at one time more than at another. He has imbued the Word with divine power, and sent it forth into the world. There his agency ends. God has given opium its narcotic power, and arsenic its power to corrode the stomach, and left them to men to use or to abuse as they see fit. Beyond giving them their properties, He has nothing to do with the effects which they produce. So the Spirit has nothing to do with the conviction, conversion, or sanctification of the people of God, or with illuminating, consoling, or guiding them, beyond once for all giving his Word divine power. There it is: men may use or neglect it as they please. The Spirit does not incline them to use it. He does not open their hearts, as He opened the heart of Lydia, to receive the Word. He does not enlighten their eyes to see wondrous things out of the law.

4. Lutherans do not attribute divine power to the visible words, or to the audible sounds uttered, but to the truth which these conventional signs are the means of communicating to the mind. They admit that this truth, although it has inherent in it divine power, never produces any supernatural or spiritual effect unless it is properly used. They admit also that this proper use includes the intellectual apprehension of its meaning, attention, and the purpose to believe and obey. Yet they believe in infant regeneration. But if infants are incapable of using the Word; and if the Spirit never operates except in the Word and by its use, how is it possible that infants can be regenerated. If, therefore, the Bible teaches that infants are regenerated and saved, it teaches that the Spirit operates not only with and by the Word, but also without it, when, how, and where He sees fit. If Christ healed only those who had faith to be healed, how did He heal infants, or raise the dead?

5. The theory in question is contrary to Scripture, in that it assumes that the reason why one man is saved and another not, is simply that one resists the supernatural power of the Word and another does not. Why the one resists, is referred to his own free will. Why the other does not resist, is referred not to any special influence, but to his own unbiased will. Our Lord, however, teaches that those only come to Him who are given to Him by the Father; that those come who besides the outward teaching of the Word, are inwardly taught and drawn of God. The Apostle teaches that salvation is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, but of God who showeth mercy. The Lutheran doctrine banishes, and is intended to banish, all sovereignty in the distribution of saving grace, from the dispensations of God. To those who believe that that sovereignty is indelibly impressed on the doctrines of the Bible and on the history of the Church and of the world, this objection is of itself sufficient. The common practical belief of Christians, whatever their theories may be, is that they are Christians not because they are better than other men; not because they coöperate with the common and sufficient grace given to all men; not because they yield to, while others resist the operation of the divine Word; but because God in his sovereign mercy made them willing in the day of his power; so that they are all disposed to say from the heart, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.”

6. This Lutheran doctrine is inconsistent with the experience of believers individually and collectively. On the day of Pentecost, what fell upon the Apostles and the brethren assembled with them? It was no “verbum vocale;” no sound of words; and no new external revelation. The Spirit of God Himself, enlightened their minds and enabled them to remember and to understand all that Christ had taught, and they spoke every man, as the Spirit (not the Word) gave them utterance. Here was a clear manifestation of the Spirit’s acting directly on the minds of the Apostles. To say that the effects then exhibited were due to the divine power inherent in the words of Christ; and that they had resisted that power up to the day of Pentecost, and then yielded to its influence, is an incredible hypothesis. It will not account for the facts of the case. Besides, our Lord promised to send the Spirit after his ascension. He commanded the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they were imbued with power from on high. When the Spirit came they were instantly enlightened, endowed with plenary knowledge of the Gospel, and with miraculous gifts. How could the “verbum vocale” impart the gift of tongues, or the gift of healing. What according to the Lutheran theory is meant by being full of the Holy Ghost? or, by the indwelling of the Spirit? or, by the testimony of the Spirit? or, by the demonstration of the Spirit? or, by the unction of the Holy One which teaches all things? or, by the outpouring of the Spirit? In short, the whole Bible, and especially the evangelical history and the epistles of the New Testament, represents the Holy Spirit not as a power imprisoned in the truth, but as a personal, voluntary agent acting with the truth or without it, as He pleases. As such He has ever been regarded by the Church, and has ever exhibited himself in his dealings with the children of God.

7. Luther, glorious and lovely as he was—and he is certainly one of the grandest and most attractive figures in ecclesiastical history—was impulsive and apt to be driven to extremes.1 The enthusiasts of his age undervalued the Scriptures, pretending to private revelations, and direct spiritual impulses, communicating to them the knowledge of truths unrevealed in the Bible, and a rule of action higher than that of the written Word. This doctrine was a floodgate through which all manner of errors and extravagances poured forth among the people and threatened the overthrow of the Church and of society. Against these enthusiasts all the Reformers raised their voices, and Luther denounced them with characteristic vehemence. In opposition to their pretensions he took the ground that the Spirit never operated on the minds of men except through the Word and sacraments; and, as he held the conversion of sinners to be the greatest of all miracles, he was constrained to attribute divine power to the Word. He was not content to take the ground which the Church in general has taken, that while the Word and sacraments are the ordinary channels of the Spirit’s influence, He has left himself free to act with or without these or any other means, and when He makes new revelations to individuals they are authenticated to others by signs, and miracles, and divers gifts; and that in all cases, however authenticated, they are to be judged by the written Word as the only infallible rule of faith or practice; so that if an Apostle or an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel than that which we have received, he is to be pronounced accursed. (Gal. 1:8.) “We are of God:” said the Apostle John, “he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6.) The Scriptures teach that not only the Holy Spirit, but also other spirits good and evil have access to the minds of men, and more or less effectually control their operations. Directions, therefore, are given in the Bible to guide us in discriminating between the true and false.

The power of individual men, who appear in special junctures, over the faith and character of coming generations, is something portentous. Of such “world controllers,” at least in modern times, there are none to compare with Martin Luther, Ignatius Loyola, and John Wesley. Though so different from each other, each has left his impress upon millions of men. Our only security from the fallible or perverting influence of man, is in entire, unquestioning submission to the infallible Word of God.

1 See vol. ii. p. 656 f.
1 ii. viii. 3: Hase, Libri Symbolici, 1846, p. 331.
2 iv. 30; Hase, p. 540.
3 See Smalcald Articles, ii. viii. 10, 11: “Quare in hoc nobis est, constanter perseverandum, quod Deus non velit nobiscum aliter agere, nisi per vocale verbum et sacramenta, et quod, quidquid sine verbo et sacramentis jactatur, ut spiritus, sit ipse diabolus. Nam Deus etiam Mosi voluit apparere per rubum ardentem et vocale verbum. Et nullus prophets, sive Elias, sive Elisæus, Spiritum sine decalogo sive verbo vocali accepit.” Hase, p. 333.
4 Theologia Didactico-Polemica, I. iv. ii. quæst xvi. ἔχθεσις, 4; edit. Leipzig, 1715, p. 248.
5 Ibid. I. iv. ii. quæst. xvi. fontes solutionum, 7; p. 268.
6 Examen Theologicum Acroamaticum. iii. ii. 1, quæst. 4; edit. Leipzig, 1763, p. 992.
1 Compendium Thelogiæ Positivæ, Prolegg. II. xxxix. d; edit. Frankfort and Leipzig, 1739, p. 106.
2 Quenstedt, Theologia, I. iv. ii. quæst. xvi. ἔχθεσις, 7, ut supra, p. 249.
3 Ibid. quæst. xvi. 9.
1 No one knows Luther who has not read pretty faithfully the five octavo volumes of his letters, collected and edited by De Wette. These exhibit not only his power, fidelity, and courage, but also his gentleness, disinterestedness, and his childlike simplicity, as well as his joyousness and humour.

 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, 476–485.