Archive for the ‘ Doctrine ’ Category

Confessional Eschatology and Civics

I’m fairly disinterested in the political debates as a rule – and probably just as disinterested in the majority of eschatological debate, as well. However, due to recent circumstances I’m not going to get into, I thought it fitting to outline my position on these two subjects for future reference. Firstly, I want to make it absolutely clear that I consider theonomy and the requisite postmillenial eschatology to be contra-confessional. Secondly, I want to make it absolutely clear that I consider these positions to be an abuse of as well as a hindrance to a truly Covenantal apologetic.

Confessionally, it must be mentioned that the LBCF consistently and frequently mentions the “end of the world” – and treats all things related to the church; her work as well as her offices – as continuing until that time. As such, it must be granted that there is absolutely no provision for a “golden age” kingdom in or of this world prior to the end of it. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, and the kingdom in which and for which we labor is identical to it. Since this is the case, we labor here as aliens and strangers, with the understanding and expectation that all things in this world will pass away. The same cannot be said for the kingdom of heaven, as this will never pass away. This kingdom, however, is not of this world, does not consist of anything we build or fashion, nor is it anything to which the so-called “dominion mandate” applies. Definitionally, the “dominion mandate” belongs to Christ, as the second Adam – and the kingdom mandate belongs to us, as the members and sum of that kingdom. Ours is not to take dominion over the earth, but to build the kingdom of heaven. Aliens and strangers are not mandated to build an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. We could go into more detail should it become necessary, but this will suffice for the purposes I have for this post.

It must also be mentioned that the confession clearly states that the civil, or judicial law is abrogated, along with the ceremonial law. The typical theonomist response is to use the “general equity” clause in the WCF; the LBCF’s parallel clause is much more specific, and impossible to mistake. It clearly states that the judicial laws only have a general equity of moral use, and expired together with the state of that people. Any attempt to go beyond this general moral equity is, however, covered by the next section of the confession, which prescribes our Christian liberty, within proper bounds. Another common response is to split the law into two groups, and not three; this is also explicitly denied by both confessions. They clearly state that there is a tripartite division in the law. Therefore, if you claim to be a confessionalist, you cannot subscribe to the theonomic view. It is prohibited by those same confessions. There is plenty more to say about this subject if it becomes necessary, but I believe this will be sufficient for my purposes.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the antithesis between autonomy and theonomy is being rejected, by taking this position. It must be clearly understood that what is meant by “theonomy” is somewhat different in these instances. In the case of the presuppositional method advanced by Van Til, what is in reference with “theonomy” is the same as that which is referenced by WCF/LBCF XIX, and which I address in my exposition of Romans 1-2. This is not identical to the schema of “theonomy” advanced by other, primarily Reconstructionist proponents, as outlined above. Van Til, obviously, was not a theonomist in the Reconstructionist sense, nor was he post-millenial. Thus, it can be seen that repudiating these positions on a confessional basis is neither a critique of Van Til, nor a repudiation of his apologetic. In fact, it is far from either! It is an affirmation of his emphasis on a Biblically consistent, systematic, confessional apologetic.

I consider both postmillenialism and theonomy to be foreign to the fabric of confessionally Reformed Baptist theology, and foreign to the framework of the Covenantal apologetic found therein.

For further reading, I suggest the following:

Frame: Penultimate Thoughts on Theonomy
Duncan: The Mosaic Covenant
Duncan: The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Theonomic Document?
Gordon: Critique of Theonomy: A Taxonomy
Waldron: Theonomy, A Reformed Baptist Assessment
Gaffin: Theonomy and Eschatology: Some Reflections On Postmillennialism

The Argument from Necessity

“The Reformational doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that the Scriptures are sufficient to answer all of our questions. Rather, the doctrine means that the Scriptures are a sufficient guide to our communion with God, a guide to faith and life in the religious sense. WCF 1.6: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”
Theonomists often argue that it is “necessary for…man’s…life” that humans have revealed directives for statecraft. If this argument were valid, however, why would it not be equally (or more) valid to argue that it is “necessary for…man’s…life” that humans have revealed directives for medicine? Is it not the case when our loved ones die that the Scriptures have not been, in their medicinal instructions, sufficient in providing what is “necessary for…man’s…life”? Is it not the case, when a suspension bridge collapses due to no construction failure, that the Scriptures have evidently not provided adequate instruction in the field of design?” – T. David Gordon, “Critique of Theonomy: A Taxonomy,” Westminster Theological Journal 56.1

Dominion

We often see something called “The Dominion Mandate” spoken of. It comes from the KJV rendition of Genesis 1:28, rendered in the NASB as “rule over”, rather than “have dominion over.” Obviously, “dominion” has a much better ring to it than “rule” – so that’s what stuck. Essentially, the version I’m discussing today (in a short example) says that it is “the duty to have children and to take dominion over the earth” – and “in its essence it is a call to take every thought, deed, and action captive to the Lordship of Christ, to advance the work of the Lord in every realm, and to live lives of Kingdom service to our Savior.” That sounds like a good thing, right? I mean, it is hard to argue with taking all our thoughts, deeds, and actions captive to the Lordship of Christ, advancing the work of the Lord in every realm, and living lives of service to God.

Here’s where you see the kicker, however. We have to examine at least some presuppositions to begin with, there. 1) What is meant by “the duty to have children” 2) Who is “to take dominion over the earth” 3) What it means to “take dominion over all the earth.” It is often assumed in these conversations that everyone agrees on what is being discussed – almost by default – but I don’t think think that this can be assumed, for a number of reasons, or from a number of perspectives. We will return to that, however, in a minute. Let’s look at the “key verse” for this viewpoint.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”[1]

Now, I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Adam was not given dominion over the earth in this passage. That’s so vanishingly rare an argument, at least in Christian circles, that it can be ignored. Where the objection is going to come in is at one, two, or both of the following points. 1) The Fall, and its ramifications regarding Adam’s position 2) Christ, seen as the second Adam.

My questions for supporters of the Dominion Mandate as expressed above, are as follows;

1) What sort of accounting have you made for this “Dominion Mandate” as a pre-lapsarian command?
2) Do you assert that the “Dominion Mandate” consists of having as many children as one possibly can?
3) If so, why?
4) What does it mean to take dominion in this post-lapsarian world?
5) What is this dominion over?
6) Who has, and is taking dominion in this post-lapsarian world?

As a discussion opener, let me answer the questions above.

1) The dominion mandate was given to the sinless Adam as his charge – to rule over the earth and all it contained as the subordinate of His Creator. His charge was to care for all things he was given authority over, and to cultivate them. When Adam fell, his rulership was perverted and therefore cursed[2], he himself was enslaved to sin[3], and his power usurped by Satan[4], who became the ruler of this world[5]. Dominion is used 4 times in the LBCF[6] – concerning the dominion of God over all His creatures, the dominion, which while he kept the command, Adam had in the Garden, and the last 2 times of the dominion of sin – thus, confessionally, we do not have an easy answer on this point. The catechism doesn’t help us any more on this point, as it only uses “dominion” once, and with a bare reference to Gen 1:28, and concerning Adam as created, not as fallen.

However, there is another route to take. What does the confession say about the results of Adam’s fall? “Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.”[7] Wholly defiled, might we say, in dominion, as well? Well, we might say, if in Christ we are restored, does this not restore our dominion as well? I’m not so sure. Take this; “The corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.”[8] I don’t think this means that this same dominion is restored. Are we in union with Christ? Absolutely. In principle, we might say, we are restored to it, in some sense, perhaps – but that needs to be defined first. However, in practice, we do not have dominion as Adam did. First, because while we are in union with Christ, what does that mean concerning dominion? It is dominion mediated through Christ, who has that dominion, not direct dominion as Adam was given it. Second, there is another aspect – but we will deal with that in a bit, while answering another question – although I have essentially answered that question above, you may have noticed.

2-3) No, we are to be fruitful, and multiply. This doesn’t give us a set number, yet, recall, that this was also directly influenced by the Fall in specific, not just a general way. Childbirth was directly and specifically affected by the curse. It is accomplished in pain, and sometimes accompanied by death, as I can personally attest. Is there a regulative principle in Scripture concerning what number or factor we are to be focused upon? I argue that there is no such statement in all of Scripture – and since Scripture does not give such a principle, then insisting upon one is to argue for what Scripture does not – and that is itself a violation of the regulative principle. Abraham is blessed in Isaac, and there is no scorn placed upon him for his single legitimate offspring. Isaac himself has only Jacob and Esau. It is Rachel who is the blessed mother, despite dying in the birth of Benjamin, with only two children, while Leah has 10. Samson is an only child. We are to multiply, as a general rule – but I believe it cannot be said that Scripture puts a low or high figure on the amount of children we are to have.

Secondly, there is no direct connection between “be fruitful and multiply” and “dominion over all the earth” to consider “be fruitful and multiply” as an act of dominion. It is often assumed that there is such a connection, but I haven’t seen any good argumentation for this. As far as I can tell, the passage says 1) They are to be fruitful and multiply 2) Fill the earth 3) Subdue it 4) Bring all living things under dominion. It seems that dominion presupposes multiplication and filling; but it doesn’t seem that multiplication and filling presupposes dominion. You have to be many and in all places in order to take dominion; but multiplication et al does not presuppose dominion – it’s the other way around.

Thirdly, note the context of the multiplication and filling – it is for the purpose of dominion over and throughout the earth. Yet, how does this work when humanity is already throughout the earth, and in this post-fall, ante-diluvian, post-Babel diaspora? Are we now multiplying to fill in every square mile? Are we shooting for a specific number or percentage of Christians per square mile? Or are we, perhaps, shooting for the maximum number of Christians per square mile? What standard are we using, here, for what is considered “proper” multiplication? Again, as there doesn’t seem to be any specific, regulative command for how many progeny we are to produce, where is it do we stop, and for what purpose? Are we to min/max procreation cycles to pump out children every 11 months? 13 months? Chart optimum recovery patterns for the womb so as to maximize births and minimize miscarriages as much as possible over the “usable lifetime” of our wife’s womb? Are we to consider this to be the highest goal, a middle goal, or a low goal, in our schema of overall obedience? By what standard is this to be determined? Is it determined by Christian liberty and godly wisdom in personal circumstances, or are there hard and fast guidelines to be observed from various passages I’ve somehow missed over the years? Am I okay with my six, or should I shoot to redeem the rest of my wife’s childbearing years and shoot for another half dozen with Jacob as my model, and ask repentance for our half-hearted observance of the dominion mandate? Obviously, you can probably tell my answers from the tenor of my return questions – but I think it bears mentioning that the general sense (although, obviously, there are exceptions) of the responses from those who espouse the “dominion mandate” in the sense outlined above are that it is a requirement, in some sense, to have as many children as possible, and that the cessation of child-bearing when there remains a capability for it is somehow sinful, or at the least, an unsatisfactory solution.

Fourthly, it might be argued that while there is no limit, there is no command to stop having children. In the same vein, however, I can argue that there is no command to keep having children. If the argument is that silence is golden, then the gold glints in either direction, does it not? There is no command to stop having children at any specific number, or factor of multiplicative replacement. Fine, let’s grant that for the sake of argument. By the same token, it also remains the case that there is no command to continue having children to any specific number, or until it is no longer possible to have more. Further, there is no specific blessing considered concerning, say, 12 children that is not also offered concerning 1, or 2, or 6. Let’s grant that a man with a quiver full of children is happy. How many arrows belong in a quiver? As Gill points out, “Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, render it, ‘that fills his desire’ has as many as he desires or wishes for.”[9] How many arrows do I want, or need in my quiver, therefore? Now, this is not to say that God does not give the increase – but it also says that God gives us that which we desire righteously – that which is fitting for us to have. Instead of an insistence upon ever-increasing numbers, we should be mindful that God gives to each according to what He Himself wills, and according to what we are able to bear, or are suited for. Hence, here we have the true regulative principle of God’s ordination of the family unit – the precise amount of children which He Himself wills, in accordance with the gifts He has given us. As in all things, there is a proper balance which needs to be kept in mind. Some families only receive one child, and that is sufficient as well as proper. Others have a dozen, or even more. Let us not go beyond Scripture to insist on ever-increasing numbers when there is no warrant for doing so. In fact, let us recall that God uses means in accomplishing those ends – and one of those means may in fact be either the lack of desire or recognition of one’s lack of ability to provide for and parent more children than you have now. Not always, of course, but wisdom is granted to parents when they ask it in His name.

4-5) My answer to the question is that God gives the increase – but in the sense of “dominion,” you aren’t populating the kingdom by having children – because kingdom needs to be properly defined. You populate the kingdom by the preaching of the gospel and discipling those to whom it is preached and are given citizenship in it. In this fallen world, we live in a creation that groans to be released from bondage. We are not the ones who will strike off those chains. We have as much hope of that as we do of breathing life into dry bones. In fact, to think of dominion in terms of this world is to think of the kingdom in precisely the wrong fashion. We are not to be prophets, priests, and kings of this world. We are to be prophets, priests and kings in the world, but not of it. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world, and any dominion we have here will be equally ephemeral, if it is of this world. Focusing on dominion over this fallen, decaying world, which is passing away, is a waste of time and energy. This does not preclude the preservation of that which we are in, to some extent, but that preservation is that of salt – preserving that which is and must be decaying, due to the curse, in order that it might last until the appointed time, by the due use of means. Even the mountains will melt like wax at His coming, and all things will pass away and be made new. To try to usher in the kingdom here, and take dominion here is to invest precisely the wrong capital in precisely the wrong project. What we are given, we are given as prophets, priests, and kings in our families, churches, and only then to the world – but not directed toward the things of this world. We are not in the business of empire building in the material sense. We are in the business of empire building in the spiritual sense – in building up the church. Are we used as means in the restraint of sin and God’s common grace toward saint and sinner alike? Certainly. However, recall that common grace and the restraint of sin is for the sake of the elect. Not even primarily for their physical comfort or blessing, either – but primarily for their spiritual well-being and survival.

6) The answer to this question should be self-explanatory by now, but it needs to be explained. The dominion is Christ’s. The “dominion mandate” was given to Adam – and Adam failed to accomplish it. Christ, however, is the second Adam – He is the heir, and in Him is the restoration and summation of all things. Yet, what did He tell us? His kingdom was not of this world. Psalm 8 seems to be somewhat of a commentary on Genesis 1; in that commentary[10], we see that man is crowned with glory and majesty, rules the works of God’s hands, all things are under His feet. At that point, if you’re thinking “well, there you go! The dominion mandate is still in full flower!” – read the passage below.

What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth![11]

There’s a problem with the above interpretation of this passage as a continuation of the dominion mandate, however. It is found in the following passage, which cites Psalm 8.

For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, “WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.[12]

Note the first phrase. It is the world to come that is being spoken of. What does this mean? First, it means that it is speaking not of the world as in bondage, but of the world restored. After quoting the passage, he goes on to say that while everything is subject to Christ, we do not see all things subjected to Him. Here, we do not have a lasting city. We seek the one which is to come. He went away to prepare it for us – we are not here preparing it for Him. The verses above clearly specify the holder of this dominion to be Christ. This is inescapable. However, Christ Himself identified His kingdom as not of this world. Thus, if we receive our dominion from union with Christ, and by adoption as joint heirs with Him, our dominion is also not of this world.

So, by telling others to “take dominion” – what do you mean when you say that, and when you say it, are you telling us to take something that is rightfully and even possibly ours? “Taking dominion” seems to be a popular catchphrase – but the exegetical basis for it seems to be shaky, at best. How do you account for taking dominion over this world when the only dominion in view seems to be not of this world at all, but of the world to come? Assuming we all mean the same things when using these words is not going to work, nor is assuming the interpretation you have of them. There needs to be less buzzwords and more exegetical foundation for these ideas, or the audience you’re seeking to reach will quite simply not take it seriously. As for myself, I’m not convinced that we need to take dominion in the sense that it is being encouraged that we take it. In fact, I’m convinced that I need to spend less time taking “taking dominion” seriously, due to the lack of exegesis provided by the pro-dominion groups. If you are willing to make the case, however, go for it.

  1. [1] Gen 1:26-28
  2. [2] Gen 3:17-19
  3. [3] John 8:34
  4. [4] Eph 2:2
  5. [5] Eph 6:12
  6. [6] II.2, IV.3, XIII.1, XXI.1
  7. [7] VI.2
  8. [8] VI.5
  9. [9] Gill, Psa 127:5
  10. [10] See Gill on Psalm 8:4, as well
  11. [11] Psa 8:4-9
  12. [12] Heb 2:5-10

God and Desire

It was a bit of an eyebrow raiser – mostly due to the nonchalance of the entire affair – (albeit unsurprising, given prior statements he has made) to read Piper simply handing over 1 Tim. 2:4 to Arminianism. What’s also quite interesting is that the handoff is done with practically no exegetical attention paid to the surrounding verses, or seemingly, even an attempt to interact with the historic Reformed commentators on the subject.

Put two texts together, and see what you see.

“God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (eis epignōsin alētheias)” (1 Timothy 2:4).

“God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (eis epignōsin alētheias)” (2 Timothy 2:25).

Now, do you see any treatment of the surrounding verses in the following discussion? I don’t. Essentially, it’s conceding the Arminian conception of the first verse – and there is no reason whatsoever to do so.

Here’s what I see:

1. Though God desires all people to be saved, he “may perhaps grant repentance.” Which I think means that God’s desire for all to be saved does not lead him to save all. God has desires that do not reach the level of volition. They are restrained by other considerations — like his wisdom, which guides him to display his glory in the fullest way. He has his reasons for why he “may perhaps grant repentance” to some sinners, and not to others.

First, what is meant by “all”? He doesn’t address the subject. In “The Potter’s Freedom”, there is an extensive treatment of this section of Scripture. Who do I want to bring to your consideration on this verse, however? Why, John Gill, of course! His commentary is amazingly thorough. I’ll post the rest of Piper’s comments, and then follow with Gill.

2. The “knowledge of the truth” is a gift of God. God “grants [i.e., gives] repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” Without the gift of repentance, we would not know the truth. This is evidently what 1 Timothy 2:4 means also: We must be “saved and [in that way] come to a knowledge of the truth.” Saved from our blindness to the truth.

3. Therefore the truth Paul has in mind is not truth that the natural man can see. But the natural man can see a lot of truth. Tens of thousands of truths are open to the natural mind. What truth can the natural man not see? The natural man cannot see the glory of Christ in the gospel. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

4. This is why God must “grant” what it takes to see the truth of the gospel. We are blind to it. And Satan keeps us that way. Until God “grants” repentance (metanoia) — the change of mind that can see and receive the truth of the gospel.

5. Therefore, our prayers for the unbelievers we love, and our evangelism, should be driven by this one and only hope for their salvation: “God may perhaps grant them repentance.” Since he alone has the power to overcome spiritual deadness and Satanic blindness, we lay hold in prayer and witness on the truth: “God may grant repentance.” That is our only hope.

So let us follow Paul: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). And: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Now, although this looks, superficially, to be a complete answer – it isn’t. It’s a superficial answer. I appreciate the comments in the following points – 2-5 – but his comments on the first point are quite simply lacking, in a variety of respects. Compare Gill, starting at verse 1:

1 Timothy 2:1:

I exhort therefore, that first of all

The two principal parts of public worship, being the ministry of the word and prayer; and the apostle having insisted on the former, in the preceding chapter, in which he orders Timothy to charge some that they teach no other doctrine than that of the Gospel, gives an account of his own ministry, and call to it, and of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to his trust, and stirs up Timothy to the faithful and diligent discharge of his work and office; now proceeds to the latter, to prayer, and exhorts unto it; either Timothy in particular, for so read the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, “I exhort thee”, or “desire thee”; or else the church in general; unless it should rather be thought to be a charge to Timothy to exhort, and so Beza’s Claromontane copy reads, “exhort thou therefore”: but it is commonly considered as an exhortation of the apostle’s, which he was very urgent in: it was what lay much upon his mind, and he was greatly desirous that it should be attended unto; for so the words may be read, “I exhort first of all”, or before all things; of all things he had to say, this was the chief, or it was what he would have principally and chiefly done by others: for this does not so much regard the order of time, that prayer should be made early in the morning, in the first place, before anything else is done, and particularly before preaching, which seems to have been the custom of the primitive saints, ( Acts 4:31 ) but the pre-eminence and superior excellency of it; though the words may be rendered, “I exhort, that first, the supplications of all be made”: and so may regard public prayer, the prayer of the whole church, in distinction from private prayer, or the prayer of a single person; which is expressed by different words,

supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks:

the first of these, “supplications”, signifies such petitions for things that are wanted by men, either by themselves or others; and that either for their bodies or souls, as food and raiment for the one, and discoveries of pardoning love, supplies of grace, spiritual peace, comfort for the other: and the second word, “prayers”, signifies good wishes and desires, directed and expressed to God for things that are in themselves to be wished for, and desired of God, either for ourselves or others: and the next word, “intercessions”, intends either complaints exhibited in prayer against others that have done injuries; or prayers put up for others, either for the averting of evil from them, or for the bestowing some good thing on them: and the last word, “thanksgivings”, with which requests should always be made known to God, designs that branch of prayer in which thanks are given to God for mercies received, whether temporal or spiritual: and these are to

be made for all men;

not only for all the saints, for all the churches of Christ, and, ministers of the Gospel; nor only for near relations and friends, according to the flesh; but for all the inhabitants of the country and city in which men dwell, the peace and prosperity of which are to be prayed for; yea, for enemies, and such as reproach, persecute, and despitefully use the saints, even for all sorts of men, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, high and low, bond and free, good men and bad men: for it cannot be understood of every individual that has been, is, or shall be in the world; millions of men are dead and gone, for whom prayer is not to be made; many in hell, to whom it would be of no service; and many in heaven, who stand in no need of it; nor is prayer to be made for such who have sinned the sin unto death, ( 1 John 5:16 ) besides, giving of thanks, as well as prayers, are to be made for all men; but certainly the meaning is not, that thanks should be given for wicked men, for persecutors, and particularly for a persecuting Nero, or for heretics, and false teachers, such as Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom the apostle had delivered to Satan. But the words must be understood of men of all sorts, of every rank and quality, as the following verse shows.

(Ver. 2)

For kings, and for all that are in authority

For supreme governors, as the emperor of Rome, and kings of particular nations; and for all sub-governors, or inferior magistrates, as procurators or governors of provinces, and proconsuls, and the like; all that were in high places, and acted under the authority of those that were supreme; these are particularly mentioned, the then governors, whether supreme or subordinate, who were avowed enemies, and violent persecutors of the saints; and it might be a scruple with some of them, whether they should pray for them, and therefore the apostle enjoins it; and this in opposition to the notions and practices of the Jews, who used to curse the Heathens, and pray for none but for themselves, and those of their own nation:

that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty;

which does not merely design the end of civil government by kings and magistrates, which is to preserve the peace and quiet of the commonwealth; to protect the persons and properties of men, that they may possess their own undisturbed; and to secure to them their civil and religious rights and liberties, that they may have the free use and exercise of religion, signified by “all godliness”; and to encourage morality and virtue, expressed by “honesty”; and so is an argument for prayer, taken from the advantage of civil government: nor does this clause only point out the duty of saints to live peaceably under the government they are, and not disturb it; to mind only their religious exercises among themselves, and behave honestly and morally among men, as they generally speaking are, the quiet in the land; but also expresses the thing to be prayed for; and the sense is, that since the hearts of kings are in the hands of the Lord, and he can turn them as he pleases, prayer should be made to him for them, that he would either convert them, and bring them to the knowledge of the truth, they now persecuted; or at least so dispose their hearts and minds, that they might stop the persecution, and so saints might live peaceably under them, enjoy their religious liberty, and be encouraged in their moral conversation. The Arabic version renders it, “that they may be preserved”: that is, kings, and all in authority. It is a saying of R. Hananiah, or Ananias, the sagan of the priests[1],

“pray for the peace or safety of the kingdom (one of their commentators on it adds[2], even of the nations of the world, which is remarkable, and agrees with the exhortation of the apostle); for if there was no fear of that, men would devour one another alive.”

(Ver. 3)

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.

Not only to live peaceably and quietly under the government men are, since that is the ordination of God, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, which his grace teaches; but to pray for all sorts of men, and for those who are set in the highest place of government, even though enemies and persecutors: this is good in itself, and in the sight of an omniscient God, who sees not as man seeth; and it is acceptable unto him through Jesus Christ, by whom every sacrifice of prayer or praise is so; for by God our Saviour is meant God the Father, who is the Saviour of all men, in a way of providence, and the Saviour of all the elect in a way of special grace;

(Ver. 4)

Who will have all men to be saved,…

The salvation which God wills that all men should enjoy, is not a mere possibility of salvation, or a mere putting them into a salvable state; or an offer of salvation to them; or a proposal of sufficient means of it to all in his word; but a real, certain, and actual salvation, which he has determined they shall have; and is sure from his own appointment, from the provision of Christ as a Saviour for them, from the covenant of grace, in which everything is secured necessary for it, and from the mission of Christ to effect it, and from its being effected by him: wherefore the will of God, that all men should be saved, is not a conditional will, or what depends on the will of man, or on anything to be performed by him, for then none might be saved; and if any should, it would be of him that willeth, contrary to the express words of Scripture; but it is an absolute and unconditional will respecting their salvation, and which infallibly secures it: nor is it such a will as is distinguishable into antecedent and consequent; with the former of which it is said, God wills the salvation of all men, as they are his creatures, and the work of his hands; and with the latter he wills, or not wills it, according to their future conduct and behaviour; but the will of God concerning man’s salvation is entirely one, invariable, unalterable, and unchangeable: nor is it merely his will of approbation or complacency, which expresses only what would be grateful and well pleasing, should it be, and which is not always fulfilled; but it is his ordaining, purposing, and determining will, which is never resisted, so as to be frustrated, but is always accomplished: the will of God, the sovereign and unfrustrable will of God, has the governing sway and influence in the salvation of men; it rises from it, and is according to it; and all who are saved God wills they should be saved; nor are any saved, but whom he wills they should be saved: hence by all men, whom God would have saved, cannot be meant every individual of mankind, since it is not his will that all men, in this large sense, should be saved, unless there are two contrary wills in God; for there are some who were before ordained by him unto condemnation, and are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction; and it is his will concerning some, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned; nor is it fact that all are saved, as they would be, if it was his will they should; for who hath resisted his will? but there is a world of ungodly men that will be condemned, and who will go into everlasting punishment: rather therefore all sorts of men, agreeably to the use of the phrase in 1Ti 2:1 are here intended, kings and peasants, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, young and old, greater and lesser sinners; and therefore all are to be prayed for, even all sorts of men, because God will have all men, or all sorts of men, saved; and particularly the Gentiles may be designed, who are sometimes called the world, the whole world, and every creature; whom God would have saved, as well as the Jews, and therefore Heathens, and Heathen magistrates, were to be prayed for as well as Jewish ones. Moreover, the same persons God would have saved, he would have also

come to the knowledge of the truth:

of Christ, who is the truth, and to faith in him, and of all the truth of the Gospel, as it is in Jesus; not merely to a notional knowledge of it, which persons may arrive unto, and not be saved, but a spiritual and experimental knowledge of it; and all that are saved are brought to such a knowledge, which is owing to the sovereign will and good pleasure of God, who hides the knowledge of Gospel truths from the wise and prudent, and reveals them to babes: whence it appears, that it is not his will with respect to every individual of mankind; that they should thus come to the knowledge of the truth; for was it his will they should, he would, no doubt, give to every man the means of it, which he has not, nor does he; he suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, and overlooked their times of ignorance, and sent no message nor messenger to inform them of his will; he gave his word to Jacob, and his statutes unto Israel only; and the Gospel is now sent into one part of the world, and not another; and where it does come, it is hid to the most; many are given up to strong delusions to believe a lie, and few are savingly and experimentally acquainted with the truths of the Gospel; though all that are saved are brought to the knowledge of such truths as are necessary to salvation; for they are chosen to it through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.

—–

The difference is stunning. The “quick” answer – the “put two verses together and see what you get” approach – just doesn’t work. It’s not sound, and it gets you into trouble – even if you’re John Piper. If you want to get the real answer, you have to really dig into theology proper – dig deeply into systematic and biblical theology. Otherwise, the “combination” you try to make just isn’t going to be sound. I’d also recommend to you Gill’s comments on 2 Tim. 2:25, as well. In the end, the whole difference between these two solutions is exegetical. Piper doesn’t give an exegesis of the text – Gill does. Dr. White gives an exegesis in his book, too – and comes out with the same conclusion as Gill. This should be instructive to us.

One further point to make. Job 23:13 says this: “But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does.” God, of course, is the referent of this verse. vs. 3-12 in this same chapter all refer to God Himself. What does it say? God accomplishes all that He desires. The Hebrew word for “does” is עָשָׂה – the primary semantic domain of the term is “to do, fashion, accomplish, make” – and this is not the only place where this is said, of course. Isa 46:10 says ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’ The word for “good pleasure” is חֵפֶץ – delight, pleasure, with the further connotation of “desire”. Thus, it can be established that that which God desires, is that which is accomplished. It is no solution to assert that there is a “desire” which does not rise to the level of “volition” – as God is eternal, and thence is to be seen as eternally frustrated in His desire. This is no fitting view of God. While I appreciate the work that John Piper has done for the kingdom, and his faithfulness as a shepherd – he is simply wrong on this issue of God and desire.

  1. [1] Pirke Abot, c. 3. sect. 2.
  2. [2] Bartenora in Pirke Abot, c. 3. sect. 2.

There are the Jehovah’s Witness claims that the entire Christian church has always been wrong about, well, almost everything. Except for those few ECFs they could massage into some sort of superficial agreement, of course. Mormonism likewise asserts that all churches ceased to be true churches rather quickly following Christ’s ascension. Islam, with it’s idea of scriptural supercessionism and their revisionist version of what the Scriptures actually are, or taught, have a similar view of Christianity as a whole. It’s much the same with any other warmed-over historical error – be they large, as the wholesale replacement religions seen above – or be they smaller, specific, targeted errors like conditionalism/annihilationism, with their aberrant views within anthropology and eschatology.

In both cases, the assertion is made that despite the fact that we are told the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church, in Matthew 16:18 – they did in fact, prevail in some specific sense – be that in a wholesale fashion, or in a specific area. In the case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is some attempt to try to support their claims from the ECFs (failing miserably upon any detailed examination), but in the case of Mormonism, there is usually the flat assertion that the church was essentially defeated entirely for 1700 years or more. Islam’s claims are far more modest, despite the more militant nature of the religion as a whole. In the specific case we’re addressing, the assertion is made that the church, in a practically universal fashion, has lost entirely what is supposed to be meant by “Hell” – and we must “rethink” Hell to somehow recover the original beliefs as taught in the Scriptures, but were “hijacked” by one or more foreign belief systems. Your mileage may vary. Sure, there are books like “The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers” – but like any other book of this kind, the assertions therein are quite similar to those made by the Arians, the Pelagians, the Romanists, the Socinians, or the Landmarkers; “There have always been people who believed what we believed!” Athanasius addressed such claims, as did Augustine, and their respective counterparts throughout church history, defending the Christian faith. Whether we are dealing with the trail of blood, the trail of Racovian models of theology, the trail of Papal authority, the recurrence of Pelagianism, or even of Arianism, there is always recourse made to either “brave dissenters” throughout history, when it is clear that their position was not that of the universal church, or in the case of positions like that of Romanism, that it was always the majority view – even at times when their church did not exist as the current entity – such as during its period as a multiple-elder ruled body – which can be quite an interesting subject of study, incidentally.

Similarly, volumes such as “The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers” try to recruit early church fathers, or famous figures to their cause, and then proceed to ransack the annals of church history for any and every viewpoint that could possibly accord with their position in some fashion. What is also tiptoed around, at least in some evangelical circles, is that Froom himself is a Seventh-Day Adventist. Although considered by many in the general evangelical community to be “orthodox” – is considered to be “unorthodox” by many in the conservative side of that community, and to be a cult by a significant minority. This cannot be de-emphasized when the appeal is so often made to the “Protestant” heritage of the SDAs. Even Fudge’s book does a bit of “recruiting” in the ECFs, and it’s essentially a topical overview of the subject, if not from an SDA perspective, but a (generally) Church of Christ background. What isn’t clearly depicted, however, is that they are pulling a few dozen or so names from a cast of hundreds of thousands of historical writers, and that those who share their position are typically the only ones who think many of these ECFs were saying anything of the sort. What is even more often neglected is that many, if not most of their supporting cast they appeal to beyond the ECFs were themselves members of a great variety of historical heresies – where there were bigger fish to fry when dealing with their various problematic theological positions. For instance – do you address the Socinian adherence to an Arian view of Christ first, or their aberrant view of Hell? Quite obviously, the answer is the former. When dealing with heresies, you must do triage. When you address Millerites – what do you deal with first? It’s not quite as simple as “this has never been addressed before” – it’s also not quite as simple as “conditionalism hasn’t had a thorough response,” either. Conditionalism as distinct from other heretical views is a fairly recent phenomenon. How does this matter?

As has long been recognized by theologians, positions are refined and obtain precision through apologetic engagement. Christology was refined by Arianism’s challenges, and the challenges of Docetism and Nestorianism at Nicaea, First Ephesus and Chalcedon. Trinitarianism has always been refined by challenges from Unitarianism, the nature of man’s slavery to sin refined by the challenges from Pelagianism and it’s natural heirs, and, of course, Justification was given elegant refinement by the Reformation’s disputes with Romanism. Apologetic encounters with the challengers to orthodoxy is nothing new, nor is it original with the modern church. In fact, it is something that has always served as tempering for our doctrinal steel. What must be remembered is that Conditionalism and the oft-resulting Annihilationist credo is nothing new to the annals of the church’s apologetic encounters, either. What makes it an interesting study is the frequent pairing it seems to have with other heretical views. Compared to the denial of the deity of Christ the Socinians made, their ideas concerning conditionalism seem rather trivial in comparison. Unitarian denials of eternal damnation seem rather mild in comparison to their denials of the Trinity, similarly.

It should be noted, however, that the idea of an otherwise “orthodox” conditionalist or annihilationist is a rather modern conception. Why is this the case? Even granting Pinnock’s claim, for the sake of argument, that the belief in eternal damnation was fixed in the 6th century, that leaves how much of church history with practically every adherent to Christianity with no earthly idea what the Bible teaches about Hell? Such an argument proves entirely too much for even the “general evangelical” to stomach when seen in those terms. The resort to “traditionalism” as the favored explanation for this practically universal ignorance smacks entirely too much of the revisionist histories of the LDS and the Watchtower. Church history does not allow us such ghastly, lasting rents in the fabric of historic orthodoxy. Even in the Roman communion there was always the Pauline/Augustinian emphasis on Sola Scriptura in at least some fashion – as well as the persistent, recurrent witnesses to justification by faith, and the persistent, nagging memory of days in the history of the church where one bishop could not set himself up above the rest. The Roman version of church history simply does not accurately portray what actually transpired – and neither does the conditionalist version of events in church history.

One reason that there has been fairly little in response to the conditionalist case in church history is that there is no distinctive conditionalism in church history, even as we see it in chiefly centered in today’s modern Anglicanism, General Baptists, and the doctrinal descendants of certain strains of Millerism. Anglicanism and the Particular Baptists churches had a serious bout of trouble with Unitarianism/Socinianism that they have never fully recovered from. The Presbyterians and Particular Baptists contemporary with the English Unitarians (often called Socinians) went to great lengths to address this movement, as we should expect from the doctrinal heirs of the Reformation; but Anglicanism and the General Baptists did not fare nearly as well. Anglicanism fared far better than the General Baptists – who were all but destroyed by the inroads of Unitarian influence, and are effectively scattered wholesale into other groups – but the influences are still seen to the present day, despite their attempts to curb that influence. In the Americas, the Millerite movement, born of disaffected members of a number of denominations, spawned a great number of sects which show a distinct influence of the conditionalist influences – which I submit to you is due to the leavening of General Baptist and Methodist Anglican thought in the Millerite movement, the descendants of which have elements scattered throughout more mainstream channels of evangelicalism. Members of the Millerite movement with conditionalist stances also influenced Russell, the founder of the Bible Student movement, which became the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The fracturing of the Millerite movement is complicated and laborious to track – but there are common themes to be seen throughout, if you take the time to do so.

In summary, you will notice that there has not been a distinctly “otherwise orthodox” conditionalist movement until very recent times. When a particular subject is made the center of controversy, that is when the apologetic response is most fully brought to bear. Since it is a thoroughly Biblical picture, let’s use some military references to illustrate what we mean. When a front is not central to, but peripheral to the the main theatre of warfare, the troops assigned to that front are sufficient to “hold the line” in skirmishes. The more pressure that is brought to bear on that front, the more troops are assigned to it, and the more attention is given to the defense of that area. Far from demonstrating that we need to “rethink Hell” – the lack of a thoroughgoing apologetic response in church history demonstrates most clearly that there has not been much of an assault made on this position. When not coupled with other heretical views more in need of a response, there has been vanishingly little historical “push” on the topic of Hell. My prediction, hope and prayer is that the desire of modern annihilationists to make this subject a central focus will have the effect it has always had in the history of the church – to cause the opposite of their intent in bringing that sequence of events about. There will not be a “rethinking” of Hell – but a “refinement” of the historic doctrine which more clearly and more precisely outlines the Scriptural teaching on the subject, and again vindicates the Scriptural promise that the church will not be left rudderless, or the Spirit without a witness to the truth, and the Scriptures without right division. A lack of precision on a subject has never been a sign of a lack of orthodox agreement – it has been a sign of a quiet front, on the whole. Such is the history of apologetic disputation, and as such we can be confident that this historical sequence will transpire yet again. It is whenever orthodoxy gets pushed that there is a cohesive, controlled, and coordinated response to that push. I hope that the annihilationists do push the way they say they will. That’s what engenders the responses that improve precision and detail.

As I stated in a previous post:

[W]e must see that only those with adequate preparation should be engaging unbelievers. Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord. Paul, of course, had intensive training as a Pharisaical student – but even that did not suffice, did it? He spent 3 years being “taught of God” before he began his ministry – interestingly, roughly the same amount of time the other Apostles spent with Christ. I’m not trying to say we should all go be desert dwellers of some sort – or that we are all called to be seminarians, either. What I am saying, however, is that we cannot neglect an intensive, intentional course of study in the foundations of our faith, if we are to be apologists. This is not negotiable. In order to defend the faith, we must know what we believe, and be unshakably convinced of the truth of what we know before we are involved in ministry of this sort. Apologetics is no ministry for neophytes. The Christian life is likened to warfare, in Ephesians and elsewhere. Front-line troops are experienced, well-trained soldiers. They know precisely where they fit into the ranks, what their duties are, and have undergone systematic training in the art of war. No soldier learns his trade by osmosis. His trade is soldiery. Soldiers are trained; so must we be. This training is primarily not in the assemblage of arguments, philosophical justifications, or evidenciary studies. Those of you who are in the military; where did your training start? It started with the discipline a soldier required. Next, it moved to the care and operation of your equipment. Then, training moves to the proper movements of troops, of which you are a part.[1]

Here’s exactly what I was talking about.

Superficiality is not what we are called to. A large amount of Bahnsen’s lectures is not what we’re called to. I have a great many of Bahnsen’s lectures. So what? Is that the central focus? Having an extensive library of Van Til is not it, either. I have an extensive library of Van Til – but that’s not my prized set of books, as much as I enjoy them, and as much as I have learned from him. My prized (and most-referenced) books are Calvin’s and Gill’s theologies. When I reference Van Til, it’s typically to show that he was, in fact, pointing us to the same aspects of theological study that those men spoke of. The title of this gentleman’s blog is “Apologetics with a Hammer” – might I suggest an instrument with a bit more delicacy is more appropriate to the task? There’s a reason that we do things the way that we do, and with the approach we have in doing so. As a student of military history and strategy, let me say this, in closing. There is a significant difference between charging off alone directly at an enemy stronghold, and doing in the company of a great force, arrayed in precisely the correct configuration to encircle, besiege and successfully assault that structure. When you play “lone ranger” apologetics, when you do so without reference to the Scriptural methodology of spiritual warfare, you are asking for a resounding defeat. In any case, that’s all I have to say about the subject.

  1. [1] So, You Think You’re a Presuppositionalist?

Thoughtful Young Men

How often have we heard an excuse for heresy made out of the desire to impress “thoughtful young men”! Young men, whether thoughtful or otherwise, are best impressed by the gospel, and it is folly to dream that any preaching which leaves out the truth is suitable to men, either old or young. We shall not quit the Word to please the young men, nor even the young women. This truckling to young men is a mere pretence; young men are no more fond of false doctrine than are the middle-aged; and if they are, there is so much the more necessity to teach them better. Young men are more impressed by the old gospel than by ephemeral speculations. If any of you wish to preach a gospel that will be pleasing to the times, preach it in the power of the devil, and I have no doubt that he will willingly do his best for you. It is not to such servants of men that I desire to speak just now. I trust that, if ever any of you should err from the faith, and take up with the new theology, you will be too honest to pray for power from God with which to preach that mischievous delusion if you should do so, you will be guilty of constructive blasphemy. No, brethren, it is not our object to please men, but our design is far nobler. – Charles Spurgeon

What is propitiation? That was one of the central elements of the Reformation of doctrine, and one of the most problematic issues in the modern Evangelical movement today. It has to do with many, many areas of theology, and we can’t possibly cover them exhaustively in a single blog post. But in a nutshell, what is it? In a nutshell, it is the “turning away of,” “appeasement” or “satisfaction for” the wrath of God due sinners. It is, therefore, intimately bound up to our notion of what the wrath of God actually is. It is bound up with sacrifice, atonement, substitution, holiness, sin, and many, many other subjects – to include the attributes of God, as we’ve already noted. With it having such a central place in our theology, the smallest misstep will have far-reaching consequences throughout.

If we are to talk about the wrath of God, are we to speak of it as something incidental to God, or as an attribute of God? It surely cannot be something incidental to Him. It is something He is said to possess; “My wrath”[1], and it is just as often called the “wrath of God”, or “of the Lord”. It is said to be magnified by the frequent use of modifiers such as “great”. God’s name is great, His power and strength is great, He is great in mercy, lovingkindness, and holiness. All of these likewise belong to God, and are affirmed of Him, then so must Wrath belong to God, and be affirmed of Him. It is one of His attributes.

If, as we have seen, it is an attribute of God, then it must be addressed per Divine Simplicity. Under Divine Simplicity, the wrath of God is omnipotent, immutable, eternal, sovereign, just, a se, infinite and holy.

Further, it must also be noted that it is not the natures of Christ that were our substitute, it was the Person of Christ – namely, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. If we are to say that He was our substitute, we must say that it was the God-man that was our substitute. We must also note the connection with this being the case alongside the nature of the wrath of God. Gill:

Eternity it not of the essence of punishment; and only takes place when the person punished cannot bear the whole at once: and being finite, as sinful man is, cannot make satisfaction to the infinite Majesty of God, injured by sin, the demerit of which is infinite punishment: and as that cannot be bore at once by a finite creature, it is continued ad infinitum; but Christ being an infinite Person, was able to bear the whole at once; and the infinity of his Person, abundantly compensates for the eternity of the punishment.

Let me add a few more notes, here. Gill, above the quote given here, notes

that Christ was ‘put to death in the flesh;’ as the apostle expresses it (1 Pet. 3:18), that is, in the body; that only suffered death; not his soul, that died not; but was commended into the hands of his divine Father: nor his Deity, or divine nature, which was impassible, and not capable of suffering death; and yet the body of Christ suffered death, in union with his divine person; hence the Lord of glory is said to be crucified and God is said to purchase the church with his blood (1 Cor. 2:8; Acts 20:28). And the death of Christ, as the death of other men, lay in the disunion of, or in a dissolution of the union between soul and body; these two were parted for a while; the one was commended to God in heaven; the other was laid in the grave: but hereby he was not reduced to a state of non-existence, as say the Socinians; his soul was with God in paradise; and his body, when taken from the cross, was laid in a sepulchre, and where it saw no corruption.

We cannot say that only one nature of Christ suffered, or we 1) Deny the union of Christ’s natures as expressed in Scripture, and formulated at Chalcedon, or 2) Deny, at least potentially, that Christ was our actual substitute, in His Person; we also cannot say that both natures suffered in the same fashion, however, at risk of 1) Denying the nature of God as immutable, impassible, eternal, and immaterial or 2) Violate the Creature/Creator distinction hypostatically. The Divine nature is immutable, impassible, immaterial, and eternal; hence not subject to the decay and corruption of death. It was, however, that one infinitely Divine Person who suffered the wrath of God. Not both natures alike, but both natures in union, and in concert, according to their nature. What the simply human cannot suffer immediately, the Divine Person, as Gill notes, did. Not equally in both natures, as the natures are not equal. This is a very, very complex subject, and we cannot treat it lightly. We cannot, on the one hand, attribute too much to mystery if it has, in fact, been revealed; but we cannot, on the other hand, speculate on things not revealed, and call them as such, if they are mysteries – so we must toe a very precise line. We must do so carefully, reverently, and studiously, lest we either take too much upon ourselves, or not enough.

It was not merely one nature which took the wrath of God upon Himself; else, we would be throwing out Chalcedon just as easily as Fudge does, if from a different perspective. We must ask ourselves – what was the point of it being the God-man who came if it was only the human nature which was under that wrath? We must also face the theological implications of passages such as “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” Only with a full-orbed Christology, a full-orbed Theology Proper, a full-orbed Anthropology and a full-orbed Soteriology can we have a full-orbed Eschatology. The one demands all of the others. A lack of concentration on theology as an organic, cohesive whole spells disaster for our theology, and the apologetic which flows from it.

This outpouring of the Wrath of God against sinners is something which must be addressed if we are to speak of the propitiation for those sinners, or of Christ’s substitution for those sinners. What it was that was suffered is intrinsic to our idea of propitiation. The nature of the God-man is something that cannot be overlooked if we are to deal with his propitiatory sacrifice on the behalf of his people. The nature of substitution, in a precise manner, is also something we cannot pass over. In short, this further shows that a modification of one element of CT has a great, if not catastrophic, effect on the rest of our theology and doctrine, if we see that doctrine as it truly is – an organic whole.

  1. [1] 2Ki 22:17, 2Chr 12:7, Psa 2:12, 6:1, 76:10, 78:38, 102:10, 106:23, Isa 34:2, 48:9, 60:10, 63:3,5,6, Jer 4:4, 7:20, 21:12, Eze 5:13, 6:12, 7:14, Hsa 5:10, 13:11,

For days, the blogs and facebook statuses have been replete with pro and anti Prop 26 messages. What I haven’t seen from the anti side, however, is much of anything that isn’t a Slippery Slope fallacy.

The common refrain is that this proposition will *likely* lead to the banning of abortion, IVF treatments, stem cell research, and human cloning. It will keep women from receiving chemo while pregnant, deny them treatment in case of ectopic pregancies or other life-threatening pregnancy problems, “most” birth control options will be removed, that if a woman’s miscarriage is “suspicious” they will be subject to investigation,in vitro fertilization will almost certainly be regulated and priced out of existence, the State should force a pregnant woman to carry a dying fetus until it miscarries naturally, victims of rape (including the mentally disabled and girls as young as 8 ) should be forced by the State to carry and give birth to their rapists’ babies, that there will be additional thousands of babies brought to term and in foster care. That’s a selection.

The problem with all this being; it’s a fallacious argument. Namely, the Slippery slope fallacy. This fallacy is presented in this form:
Event X has occurred (or will or might occur).
Therefore event Y will inevitably happen.

Unfortunately, there is no argument typically given for *why* this will inevitably happen. More often, the wilder the claim concerning what will occur, the better. For instance, I read on a forum that this means “reproductive rights are being stripped away right before my very eyes.” Followed shortly after by another saying that the passage of this bill will make us “a country that reduces women to incubators.” Such rhetorical silliness is truly amazing, but it gets better. A woman wonders what the “future would hold in a country where abortions & birth control are illegal, and a woman is a second-class citizen compared to the fetus she carries.” One opines that women will be “required to go through inquests when they have miscarriages to determine if they were somehow at fault for “murdering” their fetus.” This is the kicker: “Do you not realize this is the first step to taking away freedom? What’s next? Your freedom to religion? Speech? To vaccinate your kids or not? Its a slippery slope.” That’s a fallacy, folks. There’s no argument for why this is the case. It’s just stating that it is the case. X, therefore y – no intervening premise.

Is there a good reason not to vote for Prop 26? Yes, actually. Because it’s considered by some to be unconstitutional. Does that mean it isn’t right? No. That’s the best argument I have seen on the matter, bar none. However, there are arguments on the other side, as well. It is not a *direct* ballot initiative – it requires legislature review. It was presented to the MS legislature early this year. Hence, the counter-argument goes, the constitution is speaking of direct initiatives. As this was reviewed by the state legislature, it does not fall under that purview. Clear as mud? Good! That will likely be the “best bet” of the folks arguing against this, if it gets adopted – but we’ll see how far they get. That, however, is just my opinion on the matter. I’m also not sure they have any federal appeal in this instance, as it’s an article of a *state* constitution.

Here’s the argument: The State Constitution says that “(5) The initiative process shall not be used: (a) For the proposal, modification or repeal of any portion of the Bill of Rights of this Constitution”
This initiative specifically states that it is amending Article III (the Bill of Rights, in the MS Constitution).
Therefore, the initiative is unconstitutional.

However, there are a couple ways to go, here. The first is that this isn’t a modification, addition, or repeal – but a clarification. The second is that since it was an indirect initiative, and under the supervision of the state legislature, that it doesn’t qualify under that heading. I don’t know how far that one goes, but that’s one response I’ve seen. I’m sure there are others, but there are two quick outlines.

I have yet to see an objection, save the objection of it’s illegality, that is not a slippery slope fallacy. Saying what you *think* will happen in the future is something else altogether than making a logical argument. It’s simply stating your opinion on the matter of it’s eventual result. On the contrary, I can pretty clearly tell you what it does prohibit. 1) Abortion 2) The intentional destruction of any fertilized embryo 3) Human clones being considered “non-persons” in such an eventuality 4) Killing unborn children with the “morning after” pill. This is in terms of how it defines a person; the language used, not my feelings concerning it. This is always a tough thing to do – look at an issue from the standpoint of it’s logical implications, not it’s emotional ones. Logically, murder is of a person. If a person is a fertilized embryo, then destruction of a fertilized embryo is, therefore, murder. Abortion, obviously, is murder – as is the use of the “morning after” pill. These are all issues that have surrounded the pro-life movement for the last couple decades. There should be no surprise from anyone to see the oft-discussed logical implications in other areas besides abortion.

Does this mean we will be faced with some tough choices? Sure, it does. Does it also mean that we’ll have to be ethical in terms of unborn children in a similar fashion to the way that we have to be in the case of adult or infant persons in the case of triage situations? Yes. Is there established law in these cases? Yes, there is. Saying that there isn’t is simply just untrue. Putting an unborn child on a “level playing field” with a child a matter of months older is nothing more than being consistent. What is at issue is establishing, legally, what a person is. Using rhetorical tricks such as were outlined above is, simply, beneath us. Thinking logically about these sorts of issues is what we should be doing, not making emotionally laden accusations without anything more than speculation to go on. It is not “mean”, or “condescending” to point out that an argument is fallacious. In fact, we should welcome such criticism, if it helps us think more clearly about the issue.

Since I am a Christian, let me clearly state my position. I believe that life begins at conception. This is not a slogan, but a Biblically exegeted position, culled and exposited from Scripture. This means that we are making a point of *principle*, and applying those principles to the world around us, as we all do with our principles. In the case of this position, it is exposited from the story of Samson, in Judges 13. His mother was promised a son, after having been barren for many years. She was told that this child would be dedicated to God – a vow called the “Nazarite” vow, discussed previously on this blog. She is told 1) That she *will* conceive. 2) She is told to be careful not to eat anything unclean, or to drink any wine (things forbidden by the vow) – starting now (vs 7). 3) The child is dedicated from when? From the womb. With conception explicitly mentioned, and all things related to this vow were to be put in effect, as of now, in order to ensure there was no violation. If the point at which we are concerned is not conception, then what shall we say it is? There is also the witness of John’s recognition of Christ “from the womb”, and being filled with the Holy Spirit “from the womb.” There is David’s testimony that God knit him together in his mother’s womb(Psa 139), and God’s concern for him there. There is the recognition of a spiritual state, even while in the womb, in Psalm 51. I also note Stott’s words on Psalm 139; “The psalmist surveys his life in four stages: Past, present, future, and before birth, and in all four refers to himself as ‘I.’ He who is writing as a full-grown man has the same personal identity as the fetus in his mother’s womb.”

Not only that, but human life is just as valuable in the womb, as it is outside of it. Shedding of innocent blood is often remarked on, in Scripture. This, incidentally, does not mean “innocent” as in “sinless”, but “innocent” as in “unworthy of being slain.” In Gen 9, we are told that whoever sheds the blood of man, by man will his blood be shed; but this is because man is created in the image of God. The doctrine of the imago dei is far-reaching, and central to why we take the position we do. We know when life is considered to start; and we believe that the image of God is intrinsic to the life of His human creatures. As such, they are the imago dei from the very beginning. In Exodus 21, we are told that even causing a woman to give birth prematurely (even though there is no lasting harm) is worthy of the husband choosing what to fine the guilty party. Directly after, we are told that any harm is to be met with life for life, etc. This is very plain. The unborn child is considered to be human life on equal footing with the adult. Just the potential of harm, in carelessness, is worthy of punishment, because they endangered a child. Proverbs 24:11-12 commands us to deliver the innocents from slaughter. (This verse is often cited in relation to the Holocaust, as well.) Deu 27:25 states that the one who accepts money to kill the innocent is cursed. In Amos 1:13, killing unborn children is cited as a sin. In 2 Sam 4:11, David tells men who killed Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, in his bed, that that deed was worthy of them being blotted from the earth. How much more, if children in the womb are being killed in the only bed they know?

In the case of rape; are children to be held accountable for the sins of their fathers, contra Deut 24:16? Do they deserve death? In the case of “freedom”, are we allowed to use that a covering for sin, contra 1Pe 2:16? Are we to kill the disabled, rather than care for them, contra Lev 19:14? Third, a woman’s body “belongs” to her no more than a man’s does. We belong to God. Instead of using speculative excuses for why it might not be most convenient for us were we to adopt an equitable law, it would behoove us to submit our convenience to the principles laid out in Scripture. Equity is found in just laws, not in the speculative enumeration of possible abuses or inconveniences we might face as a result. Scripture tells us that conception is when God considers life to begin. We are being given problems, but no solutions for those problems in reply. A fallacy is not excused by convenience. Immorality is likewise not excused by convenience. Even if IVF is made more expensive as they retool their procedures, for example – what is that to you, if it preserves life, and restrains evil? What else is it the government’s principal job to do? Instead of offering your personal nightmare scenarios, offer me an alternative. Further, tell me why the amendment *itself* is wrong – not why the potential consequences are wrong. There is a whole network of fallacies involved in that sort of argumentation. Speculative consequences are not a conclusion for an argument, if you don’t connect premise a to conclusion c. You can’t skip b, and call it a valid argument.

To wrap this up; if you want to offer an argument, offer us a premise b. Offer us a premise b, further, which the conclusion can be shown to follow from. Saying that y will occur if x occurs, without any reason given to think that y will occur is just simply illogical. Also, note that we are talking about something 1) Unprecedented and 2) That hasn’t yet occurred. Saying that we are speaking of “facts” in a case such as this is absurd. There are no facts to be had about the consequences of a future event. You might make an inductive case, but you have to make the case! So, please work on those arguments, boys and girls.

In About.com‘s article “Seven Reasons Why Mormons are Christian[1], Rachel Bruner offers us some interesting claims to examine.

Her Seven Reasons are as follows:
1. Christ is Head of Mormon Church
2. Faith in Jesus Christ
3. Prophets Preach of Christ
4. Scriptures Witness of Christ
5. Mormons Act in the Name of Christ
6. Holy Ghost Testifies of Christ
7. Mormons Believe in Atonement of Christ

In this series, we’ll examine each of her claims. In this post, we’ll examine some presuppositional issues, and provide some introductory comments. For reasons not given by the author, it is deemed important that the title “Christian” be applied to the LDS Church and its adherents. When we look at the very statements of Mormon statesmen, however, we find that there is no such desire to be found numbered among Christendom.

“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”” [2].

Note this; if you follow the link, you will find that Smith specifically mentions Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians as the target of these words – so, we are being informed that none of these groups are Christian – yet the article’s author is arguing that Mormonism, on the contrary, is Christian. Keep this in mind.

“The fact is that orthodox Christian views of God are Pagan rather than Christian.” [3]

If the orthodox Christian view is Pagan – what are we to believe is ‘Christian’? Further, note that anything that “Christians” consider “orthodox” is, by this definition, pagan. If so, who is determining what is Christian, and why does it seem to be exclusively unorthodox?

“The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church, is the great corrupt, ecclesiastical power, represented by great Babylon….” [4] “Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the “whore of Babylon” whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness.” [5]

Pratt, apparently, is even more willing to throw out every putative Christian group in his sweeping statements. We are left wondering; who is left, by this point? The modern apostates and cults who self-identify as ‘Christian’? (Simply because they are too new to fall under this indictment, obviously.) Mormonism, evidently, is self-identifying itself as, if not the only, at least the best ‘Christian” group, isn’t it?

If necessary, we can delve more into these and similar statements at a later date, but this should suffice to pique our interest; why, if the elder statesmen of the LDS had these things to say about “Christendom”, do modern Mormons want to be considered “Christian”? We are also left wondering due to the explicit statement of D&C 1:30: that “this church” is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” Puzzling, to be sure.

It must also be understood that within Mormonism, there is a distinct tendency to “redefine” terms. As Dr. James White puts it, “Mormonism uses our language, our terminology, but it fills those words with utterly foreign meanings.”[6] As such, when they speak of “Jesus Christ”, it can be conclusively demonstrated that we’re not talking about the same thing we are talking about. When they speak of “God”, they are similarly not speaking of the identical “God” that we are speaking of. We are not speaking of the “atonement” they are speaking of. In short; when we are speaking of practically anything in the Christian lexicon, the Mormons have a different definition for it. When we deal with issues that they raise, we must keep this clearly in mind; we must accurately represent both what we believe, and what they believe – set them in opposition, and argue transcendentally. In doing so, we will not merely be “arguing about the facts” – we will be arguing the meaning of fact, on a presuppositional level – and able to truly compare these two worldviews in a fashion that will be decisive and clear. This we will do in the remainder of our series, Lord willing.

Next

  1. [1] About.com
  2. [2] Joseph Smith History 1:19
  3. [3] Mormon Doctrine of Deity by B.H. Roberts, p.116
  4. [4] Orson Pratt, Orson Pratt, Writings of an Apostle, “Divine Authenticity,” no.6, p.84
  5. [5] Pratt, The Seer, p.255
  6. [6] AOMin.org
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