Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Ranking the Worst Things Happening In a Given Year

Someone said that they don't like 2022 because it's 2020 two times.  Get it.  Twenty-twenty two.  Twenty-twenty two-times.  They were being funny.

I remember when we got the call that said we had to cancel school and in a real hurry in March 2020.  We went to zoom classes.  Putting an entire school on zoom in a week was huge.

I know people and churches that had really bad things happen for them in 2021.  I'm not going to name them, but you know or know of people who died in 2021, maybe a loved one.  We wish they were here still.  They're not.  I know several from just this year, two I was very close to.  I know emergency room nurses who've had a very difficult time.

This is the end of 2021 and men and groups rank events, books, politics, music, movies, and people.  Did last year's predictions come true?  What will happen in 2022?  People rank the best.  They rank the worst.  Now that we have the internet, it's a good way for someone to get traffic, especially if they post a separate page for every number in their list.

I want us to consider how we make a list of the worst things that happen in a given year.  How does a Christian determine that?  What is actually really bad?  What hurts the most?  Who or what causes the most damage?  The media evaluates events for us.   They look at an event as the end of the world, the next year it happens again, and they don't mention it, because they don't want to shame the one who did it.

When we read the Bible, God doesn't mention national freedom as an important issue.  It's important in the United States Constitution, but not scripture.  If something causes you to violate God's Word, God addresses it.  Daniel had a mandated diet in Babylon.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had mandated worship of an idol.  Then Daniel had mandated that he could not pray.  Daniel ate.  The three Hebrews did not bow.  Daniel prayed.  The mandates were less the concern as much as what saints did with each mandate.

Jewish leaders mandated Peter and John, don't preach.  They answered, we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.  We obey God rather than men.  The worst thing to happen wasn't mandating not preaching.  It was preachers not standing when told not to preach.  That didn't happen in that case.

Not obeying what God said, that's one of the worst things happening in a given year.  Is there anything worse?  I think there is.  Changing what God said and eliminating it as something He even said; that's worse.  Perverting biblical doctrine and practice so that people are hearing sometimes the opposite of what God said, that's worse than not doing what God said.  They are similar, but if the doctrine and practice of God's Word is still safeguarded for future belief and practice, that's more fundamental in importance.

Twitter feeds and social media said in 2021 the worst thing was either the vaccination or those not getting the vaccination, and then masked or unmasked.  The country was split right down the middle on this issue.  Perhaps worse than that was that the vaccination or the mask was such a big issue.  While people are mocking government policy on Covid-19, something far worse could be happening.  Or is that the worst?  Maybe you could argue for that.

When we decide the worst things happening, we could compare events.  January 6 at the U.S. capital or the murders in Chicago?  January 6 at the U.S. capital or the protests in the previous summer?  Abortions or children who live and hear a false gospel, damning their souls forever?

Here's my attempt at a list of the worst things that happened in 2021.

5.  A significant percentage of young people left biblical churches.

Studies show a significant increase in people in their twenties leaving church.  This is close to seventy percentile.  I don't like the fads and philosophies I see embraced by young people, but giving up is the worst.  That influences all the other decisions they make.

I watched a chapel service for Bob Jones University and the speaker said to the congregated group of young people that the crowd would split right down the middle between liberals and conservatives.

4.  Self-centered, materialistic, and superficial living increased in magnitude among all church members.

For years church leaders try to keep their people with social activities and fun.   Church growth means adding more people, not true conversion and disciples.  In the minds of the church members, this is fellowship.  More than ever, professing Christians cannot endure sound doctrine.  Lives are filled up with temporal things.  Biblical doctrines conform to a casual, comfortable lifestyle.  Normal biblical doctrine, practice, and standards are now too offensive.

The worship of churches is very often entertainment, and the people can't tell the difference.  The people are more worldly than ever and you can't distinguish between the church and the world.  What the world was not long ago, the churches are today.

3.  The number of churches preaching a confused, watered down, or false gospel increases.

Churches either remove repentance from their doctrinal statements and plans of salvation or they redefine it so that it isn't repentance anymore.  This affects also what these churches teach on sanctification, because believers aren't expected to live according to the Bible.  More than ever when you ask a professing Christian what the gospel is, he or she cannot tell you.

If someone does something akin to "pray this prayer with me" and gets a salvation statistic, that does not result in someone saved.  It results in someone more fooled than he or she even was before.

2.  The number of churches active in preaching the gospel reaches an all time low.

If a tree falls and no one hears it, did it make a noise.  If a church has the gospel, and no one preaches it, does it have the gospel?

People are so distracted with their phones, social media, politics, and what's happening through the media, that less gospel preaching occurs.  More than ever, people are so filled with doubt and then lacking in confidence, that they don't have the assurance to be bold.  The less gospel preaching, the less salvation and more are lost.  Increase in eternal death is worse than increase in physical death.  Average life expectancy dropped in 2020 more than any time since World War 2.  Less gospel preaching results in less eternal life expectancy.

1.  True worship of God decreased.

True worship gives God what he wants.  What people want clashes with what God wants.  God created the world for His pleasure.  True individual worship decreased.  True corporate worship decreased.  Just like the worship of God decreased in apostatizing Israel, it is across the world.  Rather than giving God what He wants to hear, God received what people wanted more than ever in 2021.

The natural consequence of not preaching the gospel or preaching a false and watered down one is that true worship also decreases.  It results in greater apostasy, turning from the true God, and God receives less worship.

Honorable Mention.  Honorable mention for 2021?  Abortions have dropped since their high in the 1980s, 2017 the lowest since Roe v. Wade was passed.  Still, however, the murder of thousands of innocent babies is the worst physical event every year.  It just can't compete with spiritual and eternal events, as worse than them.

Also honorable mention, increased role confusion.  Role confusion increased significantly in the world, more effeminate men and more masculine women.  This affected the abortion rate.  The lack of reproduction that comes from man and woman relationships results in less abortion.  There are less babies to abort.  God designed the family to pass along the truth to the next generation.  When families break up, this results in less truth, less worship, less preservation of what God wants in the world.  Role confusion breaks up the family as much as any one cause.

Those are the worst of 2021.  Natural disasters, pandemics, and political issues can't compare with the spiritual and eternal ones.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

What Does God Say Is Cured By the New Covenant? The Blame Game

People have their favorite verses in the Bible, beloved ones they commit to memory.  They know them well.  Every verse, every word of the Bible is important, but there are key passages in it.  If you think of Jeremiah, certain texts stand out.  One of those is Jeremiah 31:31-34, the classic location for the new covenant.

I read Jeremiah again recently in my Bible reading.  Something else stood out.  If you google, "new covenant," the first paragraph of the first link, which is the Wikipedia article, reads:

The New Covenant (Hebrew ברית חדשה‎ berit hadashah; Greek διαθήκη καινή diatheke kaine) is a biblical interpretation originally derived from a phrase in the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34), in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament in Christian Bible).
To provide a definition of the new covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34 appears as the only reference in the first sentence.  Here are those verses:
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Many years ago now, when I was in graduate school, I traveled and stayed with a family, whose wife and mother was Jewish.  In giving her testimony of salvation, she said she received Christ from reading Jeremiah 31:31-34.  It impacted her to that degree.
A faithful reader can explain the whole Bible accurately using the various biblical covenants, including this new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34.  The covenants are a system of interpretation of scripture, a grid through which to see it all.
A diligent Bible student can divide scripture into two well-known covenants, the old and the new, more well known as the Old and New Testaments.  I refer to the new covenant as a corollary to the old covenant.  God promises blessing to those obedient to His law, which cannot occur without a transformation of an individual heart.  Then God fulfills the blessing promised in the old covenant through His new covenant.
It's easy to see Jeremiah 31:31-34 as its own isolated segment and stop considering the verses right before and after.  The new covenant cures something.  It cures a lot, when one considers that it represents salvation from all our sins.  However, what does Jeremiah mention in the verses immediately preceding the new covenant?  Let's look at those in verses 28-30 of Jeremiah 31.
28 And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD. 29 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. 30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.
Verse 28 makes mention of the curse on Israel under the old covenant. God plucked up, broke down, threw down, destroyed, and afflicted.  Like God did the cursing, in the future God will build and plant instead.
What in part has occurred that would lead to this building and planting, versus the old plucking, breaking, throwing down, destruction, and affliction?  They would stop making excuses for themselves.  They would stop playing the blame game.  This is directly related to their cursing in contrast to blessing.
As soon as man fell in the Garden, he started blaming someone else (Genesis 3).  This is not the path of restoration to and with God.  Since it is what occurs so early in the Bible, one could say it is typical of lost mankind.
In future days God will watch over His people to build and plant.  They are days when a people will no more say, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth are set on edge."  It's not a day of some kind of national punishment, where people pay for what someone else has done.
The whole nation of Israel went into captivity, including the godly people.  Jeremiah himself suffered despite his godliness, something that his amaneuensis Baruch complained about in Jeremiah 45.  Why should Jeremiah and he suffer for what others did wrong?  They did not cause this predicament.
Representative of the behavior the new covenant would cure is an adult child blaming his parents for how he now lives.  This is a common excuse backed by modern psychiatry, essentially Freudians and behavioral psychiatrists who see man as an animal.  Future blessing will come to those God cures of the blame game.
Of all the practices God could mention before such a pivotal passage for all history, God puts his finger on this following point.  'My parents ate sour grapes, and that's why my teeth are set on edge.'  It's a figure of speech, and it represents an important reason why people do not get back on the path of blessing, the way of righteousness.  People will never receive the new heart, a changed one, that results in the blessing of God, when they blame other people for how they live.
In that future day from the perspective Jeremiah, everyone will die for his own iniquity.  When Israel fought Ai, many Israelites died because of the sin of Achan.  When a church today goes to the Lord's Table, the unrepentant sin of a church member kills only him, not the whole church.  Everyone dies for his own iniquity.
Personal responsibility is the message of Ezekiel 18, the soul that sinneth, it shall die.  No excuse will work when someone stands before God.  The one who eats the sour grapes, his own teeth are set on edge.  God punishes him for his own sin, not his parents.  He takes responsibility for his own sin, not his parents.  It is injustice for someone to pay for what someone else did wrong.
Irresponsible, sinful behavior, essentially someone walking after his own lust, scoffing authority, like one sees in 2 Peter, this does not characterize someone under the new covenant, someone who has received a new heart.  We're in the new covenant era.
If you do you, you're going to pay for it alone.  You do whatever you do because of you.  But you also can escape you.  God offers the power to be what He wants you to be.  Because God gives a new heart through His saving grace, you can do Him instead of you.  You're not doing you any more.  Now you're doing Him.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Can Anyone Be Effeminate? Consider the Chinese

As I begin to write this post, it feels like something canceled on twitter, youtube, and facebook.  No one must think this or this way.  It must not be said or written.  Perhaps a future reeducation camp in store for someone who crosses this boundary.

I was speaking this week to someone from China and the subject of effeminate Chinese men came up. This story made the news at the beginning of September 2021.  You can find articles at major news outlets, such as ABC News and the Washington Post, reporting that as Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), starts a third term, the government cracks down on every sector of society with a "rectification" campaign.  As part of pressure to align with the government's vision of a powerful China and a healthier society, the CCP has banned effeminate men on television.

Apparently the trend or growth of effeminate men in Chinese society spread across the border of China through South Korea.  South Korean and Japanese singers influenced Chinese pop stars toward unacceptable "niang po," a Chinese insulting slang for effeminate men, which means "girlie guns."  The National Radio and TV Administration said that broadcasters must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.”

In a positive way, China's government has ordered its broadcasters to encourage masculinity, a practice just the opposite of that of the United States.  Its government says it wants to put a stop to abnormal beauty standards.  The Washington Post article quotes Rana Mitter, an Oxford professor of modern Chinese and politics as saying:

The party does not feel comfortable with expressions of individualism that are in some ways transgressive to norms that it puts forward.

China does not see a future without two clearly delineated roles between men and women.  Where does China get that idea?  China wants effeminate women and masculine men.

Is there hope for any country that forsakes the God-ordained or natural roles of men and women?  1 Corinthians 11:14 and Romans 1:26-27 read:

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

China sees something abnormal or a transgression of natural norms and stops it.  The United States encourages it and prohibits discouragement.  Listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, Jordan Peterson in an interview seemed to bemoan or mourn the illegality in Canada of conversion therapy.  Not long ago society required masculinity and the fulfillment of the male role in society.  Now it's bullying to do so.

Churches now cooperate with the perversion of men, ignoring effeminate behavior.  Imagine someone in a church telling a boy to stop acting like a girl.  Churches now exalt soft-spoken, effeminate sounding and acting men, calling their mannerisms the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Today's tone police cancels masculine tone.  Churches need their own rectification campaigns.

Will men do anything?  Will the ostensible godly men of churches do anything?

If the Lord tarries and you live, prepare for world takeover by the Chinese, the country with the last men standing.


Other articles from What Is Truth on the subject.

Refreshing Honesty from “Desiring God” on Men Acting Effeminate

Noticeable Increase in Effeminate Sounding Men

Ability to Judge, Standard of Judgment, and Judging Effeminate Behavior (and Separating from It)

Act Like Men, Not Like Girls

Beauty, Worldly Lust, Effeminate and Truth in the Real World

No Reason to Fret the Harry Styles Vogue Cover Unless Designed Gender Distinction or a Male and Female Item of Clothing

God Designed Roles, Their Symbolism, and Sodomy

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Conflicting, Perplexing Calvinistic Doctrine of Free Will (Part Four)

Part One   Part Two   Part Three

 A Hebrew word for "repent" in the Old Testament is nocham and it's mainly used of God.  It first appears in Genesis 6:6:  "And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."  The Old Testament makes those kinds of statements several times.  Compatible with that, consider the last two verses of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6):

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Elijah comes, who is John the Baptist, and preaches to Israel.  The LORD motivates Israel with His coming and smiting the earth with a curse.  If they listen, God withholds the curse.  If they don't listen, the curse comes.  The curse may or may not come.  This is a warning.  So what happens?  A relatively few listen.  The rest are cursed.  This isn't predetermination.  This is how the sovereignty of God works.  God does intervene with the warning and then later with the curse or punishment.

To read Malachi 4:5-6 any other way, complicating it with a wrong view of determinism, would pervert the plain meaning.  The two ideas of Genesis 6 and Malachi 4 are complimentary:  (1)  God repents of what He was going to do because of what men have done, and (2)  Men repent and God changes what He was going to do.  Both of those concepts, which are in scripture in multiple places, speak of men, including unsaved ones, having a free will.  They can make choices.

Men making choices doesn't limit God.  God makes up the rules, His laws, and He uses the responses of men to orchestrate His will according to providence.  Man is not the determiner.  He doesn't make the rules or the laws.  The Lord uses the wrong response by man and the right response by man both to still accomplish His purpose.

God does predetermine events.  He knows everything.  He has the power and wisdom to do whatever He wills.  His will is perfect.  Because all of this, God has free will to the greatest extent.

The Influence of Calvinism

Calvinists say, "Man doesn't have free will, he has natural will, which is not free."  There are many ideas behind it, but nothing in scripture backs it up.  The idea, that I read, is two main influences on the Protestant view of free will, Augustine and then later Luther's writing, The Bondage of the Will.  The Bible will get you a certain distance toward the point of Calvinism about free will, but it doesn't get you all the way.

Calvinism, out of what seems like desperation, crafts a title, like R. C. Sproul uses, the "humanist view of free will."  He surmises this view is the majority view of believers, but when I read the view, I can't imagine anyone believes it.  Is this a scientific study based on poll research?  He defines it this way:

[T]he choices we make are in no wise conditioned or determined by any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Let me say that again: this view says that we make our choices spontaneously. Nothing previous to the choice determines the choice—no prejudice, prior disposition, or prior inclination—the choice comes literally on its own as a spontaneous action by the person.

Every choice comes because of prejudice, prior disposition or inclination.  A high enough percentage thinks there is prior inclination or disposition, that I would say everyone believes that, just the opposite of what Sproul says.

The Bondage of the Will

Just because someone acts on the basis of his strongest inclination at the moment of that choice, terminology used by Jonathan Edwards in his work, Freedom of Will, does not contradict freedom of will.  An unsaved man lacks in moral ability, but there are other means by which someone can choose Jesus Christ.  He has the freedom to choose.

Romans 3:10-12 say man neither seeks after God nor understands God.  Ephesians 2:1-5 say the lost are dead.  I read though that the truth sets some free from being a slave to sin (John 8:32-36).  All these though say to me that man can't initiate the salvation.  That's also what I read in the Bible; we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Can there be spiritual death and bondage to sin and free will?  I'm writing, yes, but it's also because it's what I read in scripture.  If man can't do anything, because he's in bondage, then he's not responsible for anything.  Yet, he is responsible.  He's responsible because God does reveal Himself to man.  I read this in Romans 1 among other places.

When men asked Jesus in Luke 13:23, are there few that be saved?  His answer put it on man and his obvious not striving to enter into the narrow gate.  Everything fits this way.  You read the parable of the soils in Matthew 13.  Jesus starts teaching in parables so as not to harden their hearts.  A less hard heart results in greater reception to the seed.  The truth can harden a heart.  Jesus talks about four types of hearts and all of these are about reception of the truth.

The Word of God, God's Revelation

The Word of God, God's revelation, is the supernatural cure for spiritual death and bondage to sin.  Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is powerful.  It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).

Revelation that defeats bondage and spiritual death starts with general revelation, which is general in its audience.  This is the grace of God that appears to all men (Titus 2:11).  Jesus said the truth is what sets someone free (Jn 8:32).  Determination isn't what sets people free.  Regeneration isn't what is said to set people free.  Jesus freed dead Lazarus from the grave with His Words (Jn 11:43).  God said, let there be light and there was light (Gen 1:3).  Paul wrote, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17).

Faith is not a work.  It is a gift.  Philippians 1:29, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake."  It is given to believe on Christ.  2 Peter 1:1, "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."  These saints obtained like precious faith.

God gives faith.  God gives it by means of His revelation.  He gives it by means of the Word of God.  Without revelation and without the Word of God, someone cannot believe.  God initiates salvation.  Salvation is of the Lord.


I don't mind the claim of "a tension."  I think there's a tension.  The tension comes with two possible questions.  For the Calvinist the question concerns why someone or who is predetermined to Heaven or predetermined to Hell.  For a non Calvinist at least like myself the question concerns why someone responds to God's revelation and some don't.  I have many verses behind the tension that I believe.  All of scripture fits that tension.  The Calvinist says something like, God is sovereign over everything and He doesn't have to answer, like the Potter doesn't have to answer to clay.

I can agree with the Calvinist about tension.  God can do whatever He wants, and it's always righteous.  He's always righteous.  We are clay and He is the Potter.  However, the Potter gives answers all over His Word.

Let's say you're the parent and your child asks why?  You answer, I'm your Dad, that's why.  That's true, but that's not the kind of answer that we get again and again and again in scripture.

I would say that man's will is in bondage.  Maybe I and the Calvinist agree.  Perhaps it's just how the bondage is removed.  Scripture says that God's revelation is the delivering agent.  Since the Calvinist believes in determinism, it seems to me that he makes up this regeneration by the Holy Spirit that precedes faith.  I'll leave it at that.

Faith pleases God and faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  God isn't glorified by adding something to scripture even if it's for the purpose of glorifying God.  I've noticed with Calvinists today, that for apparently completely depending on God's sovereignty, they use Finney-esque new measures to accomplish church growth.  I can listen to most Calvinists and hear them tie church growth success to human methodology.  This is where I tell them I'm more Calvinistic than the Calvinists.  I'm not trolling them.  I think it's true.

In another ironic turn, I say, the truth shall set you free.  The Calvinistic view of free will is not biblical.  It is not the truth.  I have often heard and read Calvinists say that they just got their Calvinism from scripture.  I can't imagine anyone reading the Bible and getting a deterministic position.  Unlike the Bible, it is conflicting and perplexing.  From the very beginning of scripture to the end, the Bible tells a story in which men make choices based on free will.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Pragmatism, Playing Games, and "Recovering from Fundamentalism"

 If you look at a picture of the attendees of a professional baseball game during the 1940s, you see the crowd filled with men in suits and ties.  I don't know if they called them fans then, but were they legalists?  Anyone who would wear a suit and tie to a baseball game must be a legalist.  That's what I've heard about men today who wear that to church.  They're legalists.

On the other hand, if someone now wears skinny jeans and a t-shirt while he preaches, that, my friends, is, what I've been told, someone who understands the grace of God.  He's also recovering from fundamentalism.  Maybe you didn't think it was that simple, but that's how men, who refer to themselves as "recovering fundamentalists," do characterize those who wear a suit, shirt, and tie, when they preach the Word of God behind the pulpit.

Men who wore suits to ball games in the 1940s had their reasons.  They didn't wear suits everywhere they went and doing anything they did.  Men for similar reasons in the 1950s wore suits when they traveled on an airplane or other kinds of public transportation.  In many instances still today, men will wear a suit to a wedding or a funeral.  This was a way to show respect in a culture that put a premium still on showing respect.

Some still consider events and places sacred.  You've heard the question, "Is nothing sacred any more?"  Events and places once treated sacred are not any more.  A culture where little is sacred surrenders its means, its symbols and expressions, for treating anything sacred.  It blurs the distinctions between the sacred and the profane.

More than ever today being comfortable and casual is more important in priority than respect and sacredness.  Men come as they are.  In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul teaches that love does not behave itself unseemly.  Something unseemly is unfitting of the occasion, like having bad manners.  If something can be unseemly, it can obviously also be seemly.[
Personal comfort is about yourself.  "You do you."  Respect, which relates to something else besides you, is less important, of lesser value, than you.  Love is fruit of the Spirit.  Love seeketh not its own.  That's God and not you. Many, if not most, worship the idol of "you."

IFB Off-Ramp

In a very recent youtube video entitled "The IFB Off-Ramp," Mark Ward interviewed, whom he identified as one of the "recovering fundamentalists" (RF), whom I don't know.  His interviewee had debated a Ruckmanite IFB over "KJV Onlyism," also abbreviated KJVO.  Behind the RF in the interview was a piece of modern artwork with a row of varied abstract headstocks of guitars, promoting also a kind of modern music.
The RF says he wants to help and encourage men to be scriptural.  The commonality between Ward and the RF was replacing the King James Version with a modern version.  In the comment section, John Brock, perhaps the former academic dean of Maranatha Baptist University or a close relative, wrote:

Mark, good vid. I appreciate your spirit and the work you do.  I would love to see Nathan's organization change its name to something less demeaning to the IFB faithful.  "Recovering" is commonly used for sinful vices and applying the term to Bible believing Christians/churches is more apropos to the enemies of the cross.  Your ministry is special and done so well.  I appreciate the sensitivity that you have.  The average believers in fundamental Baptist churches are sincere brethren and demeaning them with broad strokes is unhelpful and can be unloving.  I also would tend to respect the common dress expectations of a church (when invited as a speaker) rather than to parade differences on things of lesser significance.  Keep placing the emphasis on lovingly, respectfully but courageously affirming the truth regarding our precious Book.

Mark Ward answered also in public:

I totally understand where you're coming from. I think I've made my peace with the name, because as an internet writer (blogs and YouTube) I have come—a bit reluctantly—to realize that some amount of "clickbait" in one's headlines is part of the game. I say some amount because me and my old editor at the Logos Blog agreed we would never promise something that didn't come true. But we knew we were fighting for eyeballs. You can see that in my video title here: "The IFB Off-Ramp." That's probably a bit more attention-getting that strictly necessary.

Brock presented at least two criticisms:  (1)  Change the name of RF because of wrong aspects especially about the meaning of "recovering" and how it demeans independent Baptists, and (2) respect the common dress expectations of a church.
Ward dealt only with argument one.  He justified to Brock the titles Recovering Fundamentalist (RF) and IFB Off-Ramp because they were (1) clickbait, (2) part of the game, and (3) fighting for eyeballs.  You get a bigger crowd if you use the methodology.
Mark Ward didn't answer either of Brocks points.  He essentially said that you've got to do certain means and methods to reach a certain end.  The end justifies the means.  Some might be familiar with this as pragmatism.


Do modern version advocates, most often critical text proponents, follow scripture as the basis for what they do?  Both Ward and the RF say that's what it is.  I don't hear anything scriptural in particular coming from either of them in the interview, except for Ward's brief reference to 1 Corinthians 14:9 and his intelligibility argument.  I'm not going to address that again here.

From my observation and many others', IFB has been steeped in pragmatism.  They've used gimmicks or carnal means to attract crowds.  They've been doing that for decades, because it was a good way to get eyeballs.  It is proverbial "clickbait" and "playing the game."
This IFB pragmatism also either followed, led to, or paralleled a superficial, 1-2-3 pray-with-me "gospel" for numbers.  The two feed off each other.  You can't keep a crowd attracted by superficial means with an in depth presentation.  It also must carry with it certain characteristics fitting of the spirit of this age.
When almost the entire infrastructure and happenings around an apparently serious dealing with scripture is modernistic, worldly, compromising, and casual, that affects the message.  As someone famously wrote:  the medium is the message.  All of the surrounding and environment and context affect the understanding.  It's like blowing an uncertain trumpet.  The message will lose its intelligibility.  This all relates to Christian worldview.
What does it mean to recover from this brand of fundamentalism?  Does it mean going to more that is superficial, like the modern art, pop music, and casual and worldly dress?  Many adherents to evangelicalism want a church with a modern version.  It's a prerequisite that goes along with all the other pragmatism that is used to get eyeballs.  Most everyone in the theater seating doesn't care what the underlying text is.
Mark Ward is willing to associate and fellowship with Recovering Fundamentalists.  The real deal breaker would be if they used only the King James Version.  On the other hand, if someone preaches a true gospel, evangelizes in a scriptural way, and has a reverent assembly with robust expository preaching, even using the original languages, but it uses only the King James Version, that divides Mark Ward.  The RF are Mark Ward's bedfellows.  These are his people.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Conflicting, Perplexing Calvinistic Doctrine of Free Will (Part Three)

Part One     Part Two

Part of the confidence and tone of certainty about predetermination and free will seems to come from ambiguity that conflicts and perplexes.  A Calvinist will talk to you with a look of absolute conviction.  It's as if he's bluffing.  He knows something you don't know and you can't see.  You're looking, you want to know like he does, but you just don't see it.

Some people talk about a kind of faith not anchored in scripture, which is mere fideism.  I've had that charge made against me on the doctrine of preservation.  Calvinism takes fideistic leaps in the dark. 

A fairly recent article by Tom Hicks in the Foundation Journal (Fall 2016, Issue 106) he explicates Robert Shaw in his 1845 The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (p. 81) in writing:

The doctrine that God eternally and unconditionally decreed all future things necessarily follows from the fact that God is independent, all knowing, and unchangeable, which is what chapter 2 of the confession (WCF) teaches. Since God is independent, it follows that His decree cannot depend upon anything in the future or anything outside of Himself. Since God knows all things, it follows that God must have first decreed all things. And since God is unchangeable, it follows that God must have an unchangeable decree at the foundation of all that He does.

They say that God decrees all future things.  So what do you want to know?  Does God decree sin?  Does man choose to sin?  These are good questions, the answers of which seem contradictory.  It is at the very root of Calvinism.  You take away these foundational doctrines and you've got a different system. What matters, wouldn't we ask, is what does the Bible say?  The right position takes into consideration all of scripture according to the plain meaning of the text.

Listening to the late Calvinist R. C. Sproul explain the Arminian view of free will, he said Arminians came to their position to save or rescue God from a reputation of unloving and harsh, an uncaring manipulator.  He didn't provide any basis for this contention.  It is a typical kind of argument that I hear in discussions.  What if Calvinism was a pendulum swing from Roman Catholicism, the latter teaching man can work his way?  Could Calvinism have swung too far toward an unscriptural view of free will to ensure a position of salvation by grace with all for the glory of God?

In another clip by Sproul, he compares someone who believes in free will to an atheist.  He explains that this is because if God is not sovereign, then God is not God.  There is an informal logical fallacy here, called equivocation, because it's a matter of a definition of the term, sovereignty.  Is sovereignty the understanding of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), chapter three, paragraph one?

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

The London Baptist Confession says almost identical words.  The authors said "God . . . ordain(s) whatsoever comes to pass."  This echoes an interpretation of Ephesians 1:11 to which I've referred already in this series:

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

"Ordain whatsoever comes to pass" seems to match "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."  Do those mean the same thing?  I don't think so.  "Worketh" in Ephesians 1:11 is energeoBDAG takes into consideration all its usage and says it means:  "to bring something about through use of capability."  Does that compare to "ordain"?  The Universal World Dictionary in 1706 says ordain means "to command or enjoin, to appoint or design."

When I look at the meaning of words, I'm considering the history of the doctrine.  What were they saying, when they said "ordain" in the WCF and LBC?  I'm looking at old dictionaries around the same time to have a better sense of what they meant.  However, a modern dictionary says that "ordain" in the religious sense means "to destine or predestine, to order or command" in the context that its being used.

Working all things according to the counsel of his will in Ephesians 1:11 is very similar to working all things together for good in Romans 8:28.  God is not working all things period.  He is working in a way or manner that all things fulfill God's purpose, which is the understanding of "counsel."  Working in that sense is not the same as ordaining all things.  What I'm describing fits much better with the rest of scripture also.

A. A. Hodge was the principal of Princeton Seminary from 1878 to 1886 and wrote A Commentary on the Westminster Confession.  He amazes the convoluted ends he goes to reason that God controls or determines every single event that occurs in the entire universe at every moment.  He writes:

The plan of God comprehends and determines all things and events of every kind that come to pass.  (1) This is rendered certain from the fact that all God's works of creation and providence constitute one system. No event is isolated, either in the physical or moral world, either in heaven or on earth. All of God's supernatural revelations and every advance of human science conspire to make this truth conspicuously luminous. Hence the original intention which determines one event must also determine every other event related to it, as cause, condition, or consequent, direct and indirect, immediate and remote. Hence, the plan which determines general ends must also determine even the minutest element comprehended in the system of which those ends are parts. The free actions of free agents constitute an eminently important and effective element in the system of things. If the plan of God did not determine events of this class, he could make nothing certain, and his government of the world would be made contingent and dependent, and all his purposes fallible and mutable.

With the extent that Hodge goes with his explanation of God determining "all things and events of every kind that come to pass" and the comprehensiveness of it, he still writes:

It must be remembered, however, that the purpose of God with respect to the sinful acts of men and wicked angels is in no degree to cause the evil, nor to approve it, but only to permit the wicked agent to perform it, and then to overrule it for his own most wise and holy ends.

Herein lies a contradiction.  God does not contradict Himself.  Either they are both true or they are both false.  I understand that God does not ordain anyone to sin.  I fully comprehend Hodge's unwillingness to say that God determines evil.  The WCF and LBC say the same.  However, the comprehensive determinism of the first general statement clashes with the following statements.

James (1:13) writes:

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.

Why would someone say he's tempted of God?  From where would that thought or conception arise?  If the sovereignty of God is deterministic, then God could be blamed by someone for his sin.  God determines things, yes, but not all things.  That should be in the general statement.  James 1:13 sounds like, man has choices.  God can't be blamed for sin, because man chooses to sin.  God determines His will, His purpose, but not everything, but it's also His will that man has a choice, a free will.

Thomas Boston (1676-1732) wrote a commentary on the Shorter Catechism, which is a shorter catechism of the Westminster Confession.  He writes:

I am to explain the nature of a decree. The text calls it a purpose, a will. For God to decree is to purpose and fore-ordain, to will and appoint that a thing shall be or not be. And such decrees must needs be granted, seeing God is absolutely perfect, and therefore nothing can come to pass without his will; seeing there is an absolute and necessary dependence of all things and persons on God as the first cause. . . . He worketh all things, says the text. God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass; and nothing comes to pass but what he has decreed to come to pass.

Later in the same commentary, however, Boston writes:

God decreed the permission of sin for great and glorious ends. It is true, sin in its own nature has no tendency to any good end.  If it end in any good, it is from the overruling providence of God, and that infinite divine skill that can bring good out of evil, as well as light out of darkness. . . . God decrees the permission of sin, as above explained, yet is not the author of sin.

The decree of God seems to allow for permission even in its definition.  If anything is permitted by God and not all determined by Him, what is the basis for that exception in the decree?  This is again where Calvinism conflicts and perplexes.  Nothing comes to pass but what God has decreed to come to pass, but regarding sin, God merely permits it, not determines it.

Conflict and perplexity revolves around the compatibility of comprehensive or total determinism and permission only to do evil.  If God decrees or ordains all things, which means predetermine all of them, why did God not also ordain the thoughts or intentions of Joseph's brothers in Genesis 50:20?

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Either God used their evil thoughts against Joseph or He ordained them.  If He didn't ordain them, only permitted them, and then used them, God doesn't determine all things.  If God doesn't determine all things, then why believe that He determines or ordains who goes to Hell or who goes to Heaven?

God is sovereign.  He determines what He wills.  In His sovereignty, however, scripture reads that God willed or wanted free will for man.  Genesis 50:20 offers a good example of this, since Joseph's brothers chose their evil thinking or intentions, but there are many others.

(To Be Continued)

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

The Conflicting, Perplexing Calvinistic Doctrine of Free Will (Part Two)

 Part One

Calvinists say that other systems limit God's sovereignty or control.  Apparently when those systems assign to man free will, they limit God's sovereignty.  Instead of God being in total charge, man is partly in charge.  Calvinists would also say this means that in salvation, ostensibly man is getting involved to the degree that it's not salvation by grace anymore, but salvation by works.

When I listen to Calvinists, trying to believe them, and they refer to all the passages they use to prove their point, saying them in very earnest, serious tones, getting hearty "Amens" from their adherents, I am not convinced.  They are stretching and reading into the passages, sometimes changing the meaning of the words to get their conclusions.

For most of my adult life, I've said that "God is sovereign over His own sovereignty" (here and here).  Sovereignty isn't more or less than what God says it is.  What we believe about sovereignty must come from all of scripture and not proof texts.  The word sovereignty itself is part of the system, because it's not a word in the Bible.  Our understanding of sovereignty should arise from the Bible.

Because God is in control, possesses all power, He can accomplish what He wants in any way that He wants.  Very often in scripture is the word, "will," and for this doctrine, significantly, "the will of God."  God uses His power to accomplish His will.  That doesn't mean God determines everything.  The Bible doesn't read that way.

I'm not saying that God couldn't determine everything.  He has the power to do anything He wants to do.  Everything can be in His control without His controlling everything.  If God is not controlling everything, that doesn't mean He isn't in control.  God is in total charge.  Many verses teach this.  However, it's also easy to see that He exercises that sovereignty, that charge or control,  by also allowing man free will.

Calvinists divide between natural will and free will, free will only possessed by believers, true Christians, or truly converted people.  They say the unbeliever does not enjoy free will.  There are verses they use to surmise this point, and I see how they get the point if those were the only verses that applied to their view, but there is much more.

I think that I believe on sovereignty as much as it can be believed.  I am attempting to believe exactly what the Bible says, no matter what the cost.  I believe salvation is of the Lord.  I believe that faith is a gift.  God alone keeps me saved.  I can list other beliefs I have that relate to the sovereignty of God.

Many Calvinist debates or heated discussions, I 've witnessed, see the Calvinist accusing the non-Calvinist of not believing his verses of scripture.  He also alleges that his foe does not believe in grace.  He doesn't believe in the sovereignty of God.  He limits God.  Somehow then too, God isn't getting the glory.

One avenue, strategy, or technique -- I don't know which of those it is -- is expressing the peace, the joy, and the strength one derives from a true understanding of the Calvinists view of sovereignty.  During hard times, just think this particular view of God and it will make you feel good.  I think this during those expressions:  "It doesn't make me feel better if it's not true."  I get as much peace as I can get from the truth.

In the extreme, the Calvinist says this person does not have faith. He does not believe in the grace of God.  He is not giving God the glory.  In essence, he also rejects scripture.

A browbeaten person might, usually a professing Christian, because the Calvinist will not do this with an unbeliever, someone who does profess faith in Christ, might finally relent.  He recruits Christians to his position of Calvinism.  When they finally become a Calvinist, they finally have the key that opens the scripture, as if it is inculcating a hermeneutic.

Passages Used to Deny Free Will

Crucial in a right interpretation and even application of scripture is going as far as the text and also not going further than the text.  The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:11 says that God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."  To prove that God determines everything, a Calvinist points to the words, "all things."  Indeed, God determines or controls every single happening of all time.  That's what the verse is telling us.  This is an example of a Calvinist going further than the text to conform to the system.

I think you could look at that verse and say that God has His will and He works all things to accomplish His purpose and will.  That isn't determining everything.  He is in charge and in control, but that isn't controlling everything.  This important verse to Calvinists doesn't say as much as they read into it.

To elaborate on what I see it saying in light of everything else the Bible says, I say that God's will is His end or His purpose.  He makes sure occurs what He wants to occur.  He must have power over everything in every moment to accomplish that.  He must have vast wisdom.  He must be able to be every place at once.  He must know the past, present, and future like it is a kind of eternal present.

God in His sovereignty and power gives free will to man.  He allows men to make choices.  He still works everything to the end that pleases Him, that He wants.  God either allows or causes every single thing that happens, so He is involved with everything.

I am not going to deal with every single verse a Calvinist might use.  He may say there are better ones than what I'm listing.  Another one is Genesis 50:20:

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

This is a passage where the Calvinist says that the brothers thinking their deeds for evil, God meant unto good.  Apparently, their evil thoughts and deeds were determined or controlled by God.  This is apparently an example of God doing that.

This viewpoint of the Joseph story conflicts and perplexes, when it makes God the author of his brother's evil.  According to the system, the brothers are still responsible for the evil, even though it was predetermined by God.  None of that makes sense.  Everything can still make sense and God still be sovereign.  The truth will not conflict like this or perplex.

Passages that Present a Problem with the Calvinistic Doctrine of Free Will

As I write this section, I think I'm typing what I choose.  I'm not writing in any order.  I'm just putting down what comes into my brain first from years of reading and studying the Bible and thinking some of that time about this doctrine.  Maybe I have free will because I'm indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

I do think that I understand the Calvinist problem with free will for the unbeliever.  He's in bondage to sin.  Even if he does what he wants, what he wants isn't what he wants, but what the prince of the world wants for him, along side the world and the flesh.  Then other thoughts pop into my brain, that is, God is also controlling Satan, so when he orchestrates the world to bring this person into bondage, God controls Satan and the man too.  That perplexes.  What is the real bondage?

Some of those Calvinistic thoughts of free will clash with what I read in the Bible in many places.  A whole reference Bible could be written called The Free Will Reference Bible that would clash with the Calvinistic doctrine of free will.  Why won't someone write that?  I wouldn't want to.  I could call it, the Bible, because it's so plain that men are making choices and doing what they want to do all the way through the Bible.  That's how it is reported too.

I'll give one passage for now and that's Romans 1:18.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
Paul justifies God's wrath against unbelievers, because they do have free will.  God reveals Himself in many different ways.  God works toward salvation.  Men, however, hold the truth in unrighteousness.

I recognize Calvinists have an answer.  They must.  That's partly how they keep it going.  I know, no one can keep it going, because man can do nothing.

Men know God.  They glorify him not as God.  They know they should be thankful and they are not.  That all looks like human responsibility.  They hold the truth in unrighteousness.

I'm not going to give an in depth exegesis, but "hold" is katecho, which means "hold back" or "suppress."  God is just in his wrath, because man deserves it.  He is definitely under the influence of unrighteousness, but he's still guilty.  He is still responsible.  He has the free will to stop suppressing.

The fact that man suppresses means that God is doing something that requires resistance.  It must be strong resistance, because it is against God.  This does not read like predetermination.  God knows it will happen.  He knows everything, but man is given an opportunity and he freely turns away from it.

The passage also reads like God's wrath would not be justified if man did not have a choice.  He had one.  God could be just, according to His own rules, if man had a choice, had the free will to choose, and he did not take it.  It was more than that, he suppressed something where God was pressing in on him.  Man will not be able to say that he did not have a choice.  He suppressed this good opportunity that God gave Him.

A Calvinist might say that this man could not be saved, because he did not have the will to be saved.  I agree with that, but that discounts the ability that God gives.  I'll talk more about that in the future.

(To Be Continued)

Monday, December 06, 2021

The Conflicting, Perplexing Calvinistic Doctrine of Free Will (Part One)

As I started to write this post, I thought about whether I decided to write it or whether God predetermined my writing it.  After the smoke exited and cleared my ears, I started writing again.  Are my fingers typing on their own?

Okay, so here's how it seems to me.  I'm just reporting.  I recently heard something about free will.  I've thought about it before.  I thought about it again.  I decided to write about it.  No one coerced me and no one prevented me.  I typed freely what I want on my keyboard.  I look forward to the day when I find out what really happened.

I believe God gave me the freedom to choose.  He gave me my will, so I have one and the freedom to use it.  I take responsibility for this writing, because it is mine.  No one made me do this.  No one stopped me from doing it.

At the same time, whatever truth I can know on free will comes from God in His Word.  No truth about free will can contradict another truth.  God does not contradict Himself.  He cannot lie.

The Calvinistic Doctrine of Free Will

The Calvinistic doctrine of free will conflicts and perplexes.  Calvinism says, sure, man is free.  He chooses what he wants to do, but he chooses to sin.  It is in his nature to sin.  He wants to sin.

Being depraved,  man possesses free will, but the will only to sin.  Calvinists say that will only to sin is free will.  That means he does not will salvation either.  He does not want God or righteousness.

Man can choose.  He doesn't always sin.  He can choose paper instead of plastic.  Calvinists consider that a "natural" choice, the realm in which man does exist.  They also call this "secondary causation."

On the other hand, other factors seem to come into play with Calvinism and free will.  Conflict and perplexity rise.  God knows everything, past, present, and future.  If He knows everything, then He also predetermines everything.  Man cannot do anything that God does not know.  Knowledge equals determination and they do not separate those.

Since God knows everything, He also wills everything.  If God wills everything, then God determines everything too.  Calvinists say the alternative to determinism is that God does not know the future, just all the possibilities of what might happen, or "open theism."

If God determines everything, then He also determines sin and suffering.  God predetermines, determines, or ordains sin.  He's got a purpose for sin according to His will.  God knows every sin, so He determines it all.  He determined sin, He determined Hell, and He determined to send most people to Hell.

God ordains suffering for sin.  You might say Adam and Eve sinned.  They did, but every man also sinned in Adam.  Every man deserves suffering for sin, starting in this life, ending in his death, and furthermore in his eternal punishment.

If man is not to go to Hell, he cannot choose not to go there.  He chooses only to go there, because his will is depraved.  If he chooses not to go there, God causes that.  He does that through irresistible grace.  God chooses who goes to Heaven.  God the Spirit regenerates those He chooses to receive the Lord God.  Then God keeps them.  He loses none of them.

People sometimes use the word "robot" to describe what seems like a lack of free will.  Calvinists say, men are not robots.  God's sovereignty to Calvinists though means God determines everything.  It's perplexing and conflicting that God determines everything, yet man is not a robot.

Everyone God does not choose to save those He chooses for Hell.  He chose them to Hell before their birth.  Knowledge is love.  Foreknowledge is knowing ahead of time.  Knowing ahead of time is loving ahead of time.  Loving is electing to save.  God does not love ahead of time those He also chooses not to save.  He chooses them for Hell.

On the other hand, if man chooses, then salvation is of man.  Man becomes the operative agent of salvation.  If it is not God working, then it is man working.   God is not sovereign.  Man is.  All combined, this conflicts and perplexes.

Does Calvinism Square With Scripture?

I can say I get it.  God is in charge.  He is in control.  For that to be true, I can't have man choose.  He can't be a decider.  That makes me more on God's side, and I want to be on God's side.  But is it true?  Does that really represent scripture?  I don't see it for a number of reasons.  It is not how all the passages harmonize with one another.  If Calvinism represent scripture, then scripture itself conflicts and perplexes, and it just doesn't.

When I say Calvinism conflict and perplexes, I mean that Calvinism conflicts with the Bible and perplexes me over its seeming disharmony with scripture.  No truth will contradict other truth.  It must harmonize.  Passages must agree with each other.  The right explanation of every passage fits with the right explanation of all other passages.

I can't expose all the conflict and perplexity with the Calvinistic doctrine of free will in one post or even two.  I agree with both some of what I read in Calvinism and some of what I read in other historical theological systems.  I concur with whatever the Bible says.  I dissent with whatever differs with God's Word.

Calvinism or even Reformed theology did not start with Genesis 1:1 or Genesis 50 or Isaiah 10 or Isaiah 40-48 or with the Apostle Paul and Ephesians 1:11.  If someone in the day those passages occurred read those passages, and he could have read Calvin, he would not read Calvin there.  Joseph and his brothers would not say that God meant them to do the evil they did.  God determined them to do evil.  Calvinism forces scripture into it.  It doesn't harmonize all the passages.

Someone can fit Ephesians 1:11 into Calvinism, but then Ephesians 1:11 doesn't fit the rest of scripture.  To fit Ephesians 1:11 into all of scripture, which it does, it must abandon Calvinism.

There are good things about Calvinism or Reformed theology.  I like them.  I like listening to their proponents on those things.  They are better than other men, other theologians.

Not only does Calvinism conflict and perplex related to scripture, but it conflicts with itself.  It is incoherent with the data of scripture, but now it is incoherent with historic Calvinism.  It's as if Calvinism now allows God to determine modernism and pragmatism.  With the new Calvinist, God uses modernism and Calvinism for good, justifying the two when it is convenient for the Calvinist without regard of his free will.

For instance, God determines Daniel Wallace looking for manuscript and James White practicing textual criticism and judging textual variants according to humanly designed standards.  God determines contemporary Christian rockers or rappers to increase church attendance.  They mold God's sovereignty to fit man's purposes.

(To Be Continued)

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Yes and Then No, the Bible with Mark Ward (part two)

Earlier this week, I wrote part one concerning two separate videos posted by Mark Ward.  The second one I saw first, and since my name was mentioned, I answered.  He cherry-picks quotes without context.  Ward made what he thought was a good argument against the Textus Receptus.

In part one, I said "yes" to his assessment of IFB preaching.  I didn't agree, as he concluded, that a correction to preaching was the biggest step for IFB.  A distorted gospel, I believe, is of greater import, something unmentioned by Ward.


Bob Jones Seminary (BJU) invited Ward to teach on problems with the Textus Receptus (received text, TR), the Greek text behind the New Testament (NT) of the King James Version (KJV) and all the other Reformation Era English versions. It was also the basis for all the other language versions of the Bible.  There is only one Bible, and subsequent to the invention of the printing press, we know the TR was the Bible of true believers for four centuries.  Unless the Bible can change, it's still the Bible.

Ward accepted the invitation from BJU, despite his own commitment against arguing textual criticism with anyone who disagrees with him.   For him to debate, his opposition must agree with his innovative, non-historical or exegetical application of 1 Corinthians 14:9.  It's the only presupposition that I have heard Ward claim from scripture on this issue.

Critical text supporters, a new and totally different approach to the Bible in all of history, oppose scriptural presuppositions.  They require sola scientia to determine the Bible.  Modern textual criticism, what is all of textual criticism even though men like Ward attempt to reconstruct what believing men did from 1500 to 1800, arose with modernism.  Everything must subject itself to human reason.

In his lecture, Ward used F. H. A. Scrivener to argue against Scrivener's New Testament, giving the former an alias Henry Ambrose, his two middle names, to argue against Scrivener himself.  It is an obvious sort of mockery of those who use the NT, assuming they don't know history.  The idea behind it is that Scrivener didn't even like his Greek NT.

What did Scrivener do?  He collated the Greek text behind the KJV NT from TR editions, and then printed the text underlying the NT of the KJV.   It was an academic exercise for him, not one out of love for the TR.  Scrivener was on the committee to produce the Revised Version.

The Greek Words of the New Testament

Did the words of that New Testament exist before Scrivener's NT?  Yes.  Very often (and you can google it with my name to find out) I'll say, "Men translated from something."  For centuries, they did.

The words of Scrivener were available in print before Scrivener.  Scrivener knew this too, as the differences between the various TR editions are listed in the Scrivener's Annotated New Testament, a leather bound one of which I own.  Ward says there are massive numbers of differences between the TR editions.  That's not true.

Like Ward's pitting Scrivener on Scrivener and the KJV translators against the KJV translation, claiming massive variants between TR editions is but a rhetorical device to propagandize listeners.  The device entertains supporters, but I can't see it persuading anyone new.  It's insulting.

When you compare Sinaiticus with Vaticanus, there you see massive differences, enough that Dean Burgon wrote, "It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two MSS differ the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree."  There are over 3,000 variations between the two main critical manuscripts in the gospels alone.  That is a massive amount.  Moslem Koran apologists enjoy these critical text materials to attack the authority of the Bible.  It is their favorite apologetic device, what I heard from every Moslem I confront at a door in evangelism.

There are 190 differences between Beza 1598 and Scrivener's.  Scrivener's is essentially Beza 1598.  Many of those variations are spelling, accents, and breathing marks.  As a preemptive shot, I know that all those fit into an application of jots and tittles.  We know that, but we also know where the text of the King James Version came from and we know that text was available for centuries.  God preserved that text of the NT.  Believers received it and used it.

Men Translated from Something

When you read John Owen, what Greek text was he reading?  He had one.  Ward says there wasn't a text until Scrivener.  Wrong.  What text did John Gill use?  What text did Jonathan Edwards use?  They relied on an original language text.  What text did John Flavel and Stephen Charnock use?  They all used a Greek text of the New Testament.

16th through 19th century Bible preachers and scholars refer to their Greek New Testament.  Matthew Henry when writing commentary on the New Testament refers to a printed Greek New Testament.  He also writes concerning those leaving out 1 John 5:7:  "Some may be so faulty, as I have an old printed Greek Testament so full of errata, that one would think no critic would establish a various lection thereupon."

The Greek words of the New Testament were available.  Saints believed they had them and they were the TR.  This reverse engineering, accusation of Ruckmanism, is disinformation by Ward and others.

The Assessment of Scrivener and the Which TR Question

Ward uses the assessment of Scrivener and the preface of the KJV translators as support for continued changes of the Greek text.  This is disingenuous.  The translators did not argue anywhere in the preface for an update of the underlying text.  They said the translation, not the text, could be updated.  That argument does not fit in a session on the Greek text, except to fool the ignorant.

Just because Scrivener collated the Greek words behind the KJV doesn't mean that he becomes the authority on the doctrine of preservation any more than the translators of the KJV.  It grasps at straws.  I haven't heard Scrivener used as a source of support for the Textus Receptus any time ever.  I don't quote him.

I have written on the "Which TR question" already many .times, the most used argument by those in the debate for the critical text.  It's also a reason why we didn't answer that question in our book, Thou Shalt Keep Them.  If we addressed it, that would have been all anyone talked about.  We say, deal with the passages on preservation first.  We get our position from scripture.

The position I and others take isn't that God would preserve His Words in Scrivener's.  The position is that all the Words are preserved and available to every generation of Christian.  That's why we support the Textus Receptus.

Ward never explains why men point to Scrivener's.  I have answered that question many times, but he doesn't state the answer.  He stated only the position of Peter Van Kleeck, because he had a clever comeback concerning sanctification.  But even that misrepresented what Van Kleeck wrote.

The position I take, which fits also the position of John Owen, I call the canonicity argument. I have a whole chapter in TSKT on that argument.  I've written about it many times here.

If pinned to the wall, and I must answer which TR edition, I say Scrivener's, but it doesn't even relate to my belief on the doctrine.  What I believe is that all of God's Words in the language in which they were written have been available to every generation of believer.  I don't argue that they were all available in one manuscript (hand-written copy) that made its way down through history.  The Bible doesn't promise that.

Scriptural Presuppositions or Not?

The critical text position, that Ward takes, cannot be defended from scripture.  The position that I take arises from what scripture teaches.  It's the same position as believed by the authors of the Westminster Confession, London Baptist Confession, and every other confession.  That is accepted and promoted by those in his associations.

Ward doesn't even believe the historical doctrine of preservation. Textual variations sunk that for him, much like it did Bart Ehrman.  Ward changed his presupposition not based upon scripture, but based upon what he thought he could see.  It isn't by faith that he understands this issue.

Some news out of Ward's speech is that he doesn't believe that God preserved every word of the Bible.  He says he believes the "preponderance of the manuscripts" view. I call it "the buried text view."  Supporters speculate the exact text exists somewhere, a major reason why Daniel Wallace continues looking.  That is not preservation.

"The manuscripts" are an ambiguous, sort of chimera to their supporters.  They don't think they have them yet. That view, the one supported by two books by BJU authors, From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man and God's Word in Our Hands, they themselves do not believe.  Ward walked it back during his speech too.  They don't really believe it.  It's a hypothetical to them.  Men of the two above books don't believe at least that they possess the Hebrew words of 1 Samuel 13:1 in any existing manuscript.  At present, like a Ruckmanite, they correct the Hebrew text with a Greek translation.

In the comment section of the above first video, Ward counsels someone in the comment section to use a modern translation from the TR, such the NKJV.  The NKJV, Ward knows, doesn't come from the TR.  There are variations from the TR used in the NKJV, a concession that Ward made in a post in his comment section after being shown 20-25 examples.  He wrote this:

First the concession: I am compelled to acknowledge that the NKJV does not use “*precisely* the same Greek New Testament” text as the one underlying the KJV NT.

He could not find 2 John 1:7 of the NKJV in any TR edition.  Does it matter?  It does, especially a translation that calls itself the NEW King James Version.  The translators did not use the same text as the KJV used, however Ward wants to represent that.  I would happily debate him on the subject.  I'm sure Thomas Ross would.

Mark Ward has committed not to debate on the text behind the KJV.  He is committed now to taking shots from afar, leaving the safe shores of vernacular translation to hit on the text.  Even though he says the variations do not affect the message of the Bible, he continues to argue against the text behind the King James Version.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Yes and Then No, the Bible with Mark Ward (part one)

My last post of last week, the shell game with Bible words, if you followed the links, referred to a session Mark Ward did at Bob Jones Seminary, where he did refer to Thomas Ross and myself.  Someone sent that to me, and in my path to watching it, I became curious in another of his videos.  I'll deal with both here.  One I essentially agreed with, and the other, no.


Chronologically, Mark Ward first made a podcast from his greenhouse about attending an IFB meeting close to where he lived.  An IFB pastor invited him because R. B. Ouellette was going to preach on the King James issue.  He didn't say which church this was.  It was surely revivalist in the Hyles/Sword realm.  Ward started out ready to deal with KJVOnlyism, but it turned into something else.  Here's the podcast.

Ward traveled to a special meeting at a revivalist IFB church to interact with KJVO.  Based upon a heads-up from its pastor, he expected something promoting KJVO.  Ward reported much he liked about the service all the way up to the Ouellette sermon.  Ouellette opened to Job 31:35-36 to defend KJVO.  A plain reading of Job 31 does not appear to do that.

Ward and Ouellette both graduated from Bob Jones University.  In his criticism, Ward distinguished between using the Bible for what a man wants to say and preaching what the Bible does say.  By his account, Ouellette did the former.  He was not a herald, who delivers the Word of the King.  Ward titled his podcast, "The Biggest Step the IFB Needs to Take."  He treats IFB with generosity, more than what I would.   Instead of the KJVO issue, he found a "preaching" one instead.


Bad Preaching

I wrote, "Yes," in this title.  I agree with the criticism of this typical, popular IFB preaching.  If IFB apparently cares for the perfection of its Bible, then preach the Bible.  Its leaders very often preach like Ward described.  He reported loud "Amens" shouted all around, which supported a message that twisted the Word of God.  Ward exposed a reason for someone to separate from IFB churches and men.  I say "Yes" to Ward.  I agree with him.

What causes a man to preach like Ouellette?  It's not that he is unable to preach the Bible.  Why would he settle for something entirely not what the passage says?  Underlying doctrinal problems exist especially regarding the Holy Spirit.  Keswick theology, second blessing theology, or revivalism, all similar error but with a nuance of difference, affect preaching.

Many IFB believe the preacher becomes a vessel for a message from the Holy Spirit.  They believe that through the Holy Spirit God gives the preacher something others can't even see in a text.  This is called "preaching."  God uses "preaching," but by that they don't mean the Bible.  The Bible is used, but the preaching is something unique.  They trust the man of God has been given something they haven't ever seen and can't see.

However, I dispute preaching as the biggest step for IFB. It isn't the "I" (independent) or the "B" (Baptist) in IFB that's the problem.  "F" for Fundamentalism is at the root of the problem.  Actual preaching of the Bible isn't a fundamental of fundamentalism.  In general, IFB does not confront bad preaching.  It allows it and even encourages it.  If someone spiritualizes or allegorizes a passage and reads something into a text, it doesn't bring condemnation.  However, the biggest step for fundamentalism isn't its preaching.

False Gospel

Fundamentalism is rife with a corrupted gospel.  Ward commended the evangelism of IFB.  What is the evangelism of IFB?  Look all over the internet at the gospel presentations.  Most IFB removes biblical repentance and the Lordship of Christ.  Let's say Ouellette rejected KJVO and started using the ESV, or even just the NKJV.  Would he become acceptable to Ward, reaching his primary goal?  Ouellette argues against repentance as necessary for salvation (I write herehere, and here).  When you read doctrinal statements and the plans of salvation of those churches most associated with Ouellette, they're the same.

A few years ago, James White participated in an interview with Steven Anderson.  In White's many criticisms of Anderson, he never mentions his false gospel.  Anderson hosts an anti-repentance website.  Anderson is worse than Ouellette, but both fall short of a biblical gospel.  As White ignores Anderson's gospel, Ward does Ouellette's.  This diverges from the often stated emphasis of evangelicals, the gospel of first importance.  The version issue stokes greater heat than the gospel does.

Some IFB churches preach a true gospel even as some preach biblical sermons.  Yet, a false gospel subverts IFB unrelated to the version of the Bible it uses.  Years ago IFB allowed and even promoted the introduction and then acceptance of a false doctrine of salvation.  I am happy Ward noticed the bad preaching Ouellette, but his focus harms his ability to see the biggest IFB problem.  Ward doesn't mention the wrong gospel.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Shell Game Played With Words About the Bible

You know right now the concern about the gender of pronouns used to address the sexes.  The controversy revolves around calling a biological male, "him," or a biological female, "her."  People change the meaning of the words and expect us to play along.  You know it's a man, but you call him, a her.  You call he, a she.

Let's say we're talking about the words of scripture.  Inspiration applies to words.  God inspired words.  And then someone says, I believe in the inerrancy of scripture in the context of words.  We think he means, no errors in the words.  I think he even knows that we think he means words.  However, he doesn't mean words.  He's not saying that there are no errors in the words. 

Someone holds up a Bible and calls it the inerrant Word of God.  He doesn't mean words.  He means something different.  It's hard to say what he means, but it's probably the following.  Inerrancy means that you can trust that the teachings of the Bible are without error.  He doesn't bring up inerrancy in the context of the teachings of the Bible.  He brings it up in the context of words.  He's playing a shell game, moving those shells around very quickly.  You thought he meant words, but he didn't.

You think the bead is under the shell.  That's what someone wants you to think.  The bead is words, but you see a shell.  Words aren't under the shell.  It's teachings, and even that is ambiguous, because even with that, he doesn't mean teachings.

When someone says the teachings of scripture are inerrant, if that's even what he means, because that can become very ambiguous, he doesn't mean that you can't find errors in the Bible.  You can.  However, all things considered, if you take all the combined passages of the Bible to come up with those teachings, all the right teachings are available in the Bible.

Men don't even agree on what the Bible teaches, let alone on what's right that it does teach.  Two different men can say they believe in inerrancy and then disagree on ten different doctrines of scripture.  It's a hypothetical inerrancy.  Let's just say it.  It isn't inerrancy.  I can agree to an ambiguous, hypothetical inerrancy, and then agree that the Bible is inerrant.  I can hold up the Bible and say, this is the inerrant Word of God.

When I say the Bible is without error, I mean that it is without error.  Every Word that God inspired has been preserved in the language in which it is written.  Since inerrancy relates to what God inspired, if there are missing words, then it isn't inerrant any more.  I believe that and not in a hypothetical way.  I'm not going to say that we both agree the Bible is inerrant, fully realizing that when you say "inerrant" you don't even mean "inerrant."  You mean something that allows you to believe the Bible is inerrant without believing that it is inerrant.  This is like calling him, her.

If the Bible is perfect, then it can't be given extra perfection.  There are those who do not believe it is perfect.  They also don't believe that scripture says that scripture is perfect.  They believe that it is inerrant, but it isn't perfect.

I would say, don't call the Bible perfect if you don't believe it.  Also, don't call it inerrant, if you don't believe it is inerrant.  Don't make perfect and inerrant mean something different than what they obviously mean in light of what the Bible says about itself.

I can go through my Bible and show you a doctrine of its inerrancy and perfection.  Then I ask, "Does the Bible teach that it is inerrant and perfect?"  You say, "Yes."  So then I ask, "Okay, so which Bible is the inerrant and perfect one?"  You say, "None are."  So is the teaching of the Bible inerrant and perfect?

I believe the Bible is perfect and inerrant because the Bible says so.  Then you start peppering me with individual words, phrases, verses, and even larger passages.  I explain every one of those texts based on the presupposition that I have.  I can do it.  Now let me get into your presuppositions, how you came to having them, or whether they are reverse engineered.

You say, I can see that there isn't a perfect Bible.  So now when you look at the passages that teach the Bible is perfect, they've got to mean something else.  Where do those presuppositions come from?  How did you get those presuppositions?  How is that conservative?

I'm not playing a shell game when I say the Bible is inerrant and perfect.  Many others are.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Regular History of Clever New Interpretations, Teachings, or Takes on and from Scripture: Socinianism

One way to get a Nobel prize in something, you've got to break some new ground or discover something no one has ever seen.  In the world, the invention of a printing press or light bulb changes everything.  People are still out there trying to invent a better mousetrap.  It happens.  The phone replaced the telegraph and now our mobile devices.

Everyone can learn something new from scripture.  You might even change or tweak a doctrine you've always believed.   On the whole, you really don't want to teach something from the Bible no one has ever heard before.  The goal is the original intent and understanding of the Author.

From the left comes progressivism.  The U. S. Constitution, just over two hundred years old, means something different than it did when it was written.  Loosely constructed, it has a flexible interpretation into which are read new meanings.  Hegelian dialectics say a new thesis comes from synthesis of antithesis and the old thesis.  Everything can be improved.

Early after the inspiration and then propagation of the Bible, men began finding new things in scripture no one ever saw.  Many of these "finds" started a new movement.  People have their fathers, the father of this or that teaching, contradictory to the other, causing division and new factions and denominations.  Some of these changes become quite significant, a majority supplanting the constituents of the original teaching.

At the time of the Reformation, it was as if the world first found sole fide and sole scriptura.  Justification is often called the Reformation doctrine of justification.  This opened a big proverbial can of worms.  Everyone could read his own Bible, many times in his own language, and now dig into his own copy of the original languages of scripture.  A certain skepticism grew.  "If we didn't know this before, what else have they not been telling us."  It was a time ripe for religious shysters and this practice hasn't stopped since then.

The Italian, Laelius Socinus, was born in 1525 into a distinguished family of jurists and he was trained at Padua.  Early Socinus's attention turned to scripture research instead of law, which led to his doubt in the teachings of Roman Catholicism.  Socinus moved in 1548 to Zurich to study Greek and Hebrew.  His questioning of established doctrine didn't stop.  He also doubted the Reformers and wrote his own confession of faith that introduced different, conflicting beliefs that took hold in his nephew, Faustus Socinus, born in 1539.

Faustus rejected orthodox Roman Catholic doctrines, was denounced by the Inquisition in 1559, and fled to Zurich himself in 1562, where he acquired his uncle's writings that same year his uncle died.  Catholicism was wrong and the doubt turned anti-Trinitarian.  The Reformation did not go far enough for Socinus and in his first published work in 1562 on the prologue of John, he rejected the essential deity of Jesus Christ.

Socinus's journeys ended in Poland, where he became the leader of the Minor Reformed Church, called the Polish Brethren.  His writings in the form of the Racovian Catechism survived in Polish and Latin through the press of the Racovian Academy of Rakow, Poland.  His and his uncle's beliefs took on the name of Socinianism, which also became a catch-all for any type of dissenting beliefs.

Socinianism held that Jesus did not exist until his physical conception.  He was adopted by God as His Son at conception and became the Son of God when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, a Gnostic view called "adoptionism."  It rejected the doctrine of original sin.  It denies the omniscience of God, introducing the first well developed concept of what is called "open theism," which said that man couldn't have free will under a traditional (and scriptural) understanding of omniscience.  It also taught the moral example theory of atonement, teaching that Jesus sacrificed himself to motivate people to repent and believe.  His death gave men the ability to be saved by their own works, who weren't sinners by nature anyway.

The work of Socinus lived on in the belief of early English Unitarians, Henry Hedworth and John Biddle.  Socinian belief was helped along also by its position of conscientious objection, a practice of refusing to perform military service.  This principle was very popular with many and made Socinianism much more attractive to potential adherents.  The First Unitarian Church, which followed Socianism as passed down through its leaders in England, was started in 1774 on Essex Street in London, where British Unitarian headquarters are still today.

As the Puritans of colonial America apostatized through various means, Unitarianism, a modern iteration of Socinianism took hold in the Congregational Church in America.  After 1820, Congregationalists took Unitarianism as their established doctrine.  The doctrine of Christ diminished to Jesus a good man and perhaps a prophet of God and in a sense the Son of God, but not God Himself.

I write all of this mainly as an example of the diversity in the history of Christian doctrine and why it takes place.  When you read the beliefs of Socinians, you can easily see them in modern liberal Christianity and an influence on religious cults that deny the deity of Jesus Christ.  A limited amount of skepticism wards away the acceptance of false doctrine.  Better is a Berean attitude (Acts 17:11), searching the scripture to see if these things are so, and what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, proving all things, holding fast to that which is good.

As I grew up in fundamentalism and among independent Baptists, I witnessed a strong and regular desire among leaders to find something new in the Bible.  Many sermons I heard espoused interpretations I had never heard and didn't see in the text being preached.  A preacher often would say that "God had given it to him."  You could know that God was using the man because God was giving him insights into scripture never seen before.  He was "inspired."  It continues today in many evangelical churches, the same practice that led Joseph Smith in his founding of Mormonism.  Many cults arose in 19th century America under the same spirit of skepticism of established historical doctrines of scripture.

Anyone could be prey to the temptation of novel teaching, a unique take on the Bible.  Faustus Socinus accepted many orthodox doctrines of his day, but he rejected Christ as fully God and fully human because it was contrary to sound reason (ratio sana).  This steered Socinians toward Enlightenment thinking, where human reason took the highest role as the arbiter of truth.

Warren Wiersbe wrote that it was H.A. Ironside, longtime pastor of Chicago's Moody Church, who said, "If it's new, it's not true, and if it's true, it's not new."  Somewhere else I read that it was Spurgeon who first said that.  I don't know.  It's true though that it has been through clever new interpretations, teachings, and takes on and from scripture that actual scriptural, saving doctrines have been corrupted and overturned in the hearts of men, condemning them through all eternity.