Archive for the ‘ Cutting Edge ’ Category

This time… it’s not my fault!

My ftp, chat, email, or whatever will not connect, at all. All I can get is webpages – so I can’t upload the files for the Church History class yet. As soon as it comes up, I’ll post it :/

Church History – Week 6

Well, we made it through week 6, but I didn’t cover as much as I’d planned, due to a bit of impromptu review.

We made it through Wycliffe, and we’ll hit Hus next week. Here’s the audio, and here’s the link to the notes, yet again.

Church History – Week 3-5

I’m really sorry about the delay, folks.

Week 3 – AudioDoc file

Week 4 – AudioDoc file

Week 5 – AudioDoc file

Notes for next week!

Subjectivism and Presuppositionalism
By Joshua Whipps1

Discovering Presuppositionalism
On the circuitous route I took toward presuppositionalism, the most momentous stop, I think, was where I examined the foundations typically used to posit a subjective view of truth. In the process of learning to repudiate this philosophy, I found that practically everywhere I looked I encountered the idea that what was true for me may or may not be true for someone else. While I’m not sure who or what it was I was arguing against that led me to study it, I’m fairly sure it was wrapped up with a reference to Michael Martin, a prominent atheistic philosopher. I discussed a bit of what Martin was saying with my father, and he pulled a book off the shelf for me: A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer.
Schaeffer was my introduction to presuppositional apologetics, although I didn’t yet know what it was. I did know that it made sense. He knew what he saw, and it was accurate. I do admit, I was quite enamored with Schaeffer from that point on, and read a large portion of his works. I distinctly remember encountering Dr. James White’s Ministry (Alpha and Omega Ministries)2 a short time thereafter. I also had a rude awakening as to the sad state of my own Biblical knowledge. It was a humbling experience, but resulted in a much deeper understanding of what it truly was I was defending – not as an intellectual exercise, but as a deeply serious proclamation of truth over and against error. I’ve always had a bit of a passion for contesting subjectivism, but from that point forward, it was a personal stalking horse. I find it a completely inconsistent system of thought, and it’s truly amazing how deeply rooted it has become in western society.
In my experience, one of the most wonderful things that presuppositional apologetics has taught me is the certainty of a secure foundation, over and against the shifting sands that most of modern thought rests upon. I’ve also found it quite an encouragement how much of the Scriptures speak to how we should think, and what we should think about. It’s not something that most mainstream churches teach about. Sadly, those who do, teach their people to think how the world thinks! Both Schaeffer and another student of Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, pointed out this fundamental dichotomy of thought, showing in their disparate ways that modern man has succumbed to this disease of thought. I call it a disease intentionally. Subjectivism’s effect on our minds has all the hallmarks of a disease. When all references to a moral standard are considered solely from the standpoint of the opinion of the subject, this leads to a wholly illogical system of truth. It is a distinctly prideful system, contrasted with relativism. Relativism is cultural, primarily – although it can also have experiential overtones. Subjectivism, however, is a personally prideful sort of relativism. It insists that one’s own perspective is the only perspective binding upon oneself. This sort of thinking can lead only to self-absorption. This self-absorption can only be harmful. It corrupts, it weakens, and it infects additional hosts.
When we encounter examples of this disease, I have found nothing to be more helpful in the defense of Christian truth than a properly grounded presuppositional methodology. For those who may be new to this methodology, it says, in a nutshell, that things may only be properly understood in the framework of God’s inspired revelation as the sole foundation for truth. That we cannot reason *to* God – but that all knowledge, to be proper knowledge, has to be founded in the truth of God’s Word. That may sound rather obvious – but if you compare that approach to how most popular apologists go about things, you may be surprised! Presuppositionalism is not a popular approach. In fact, I have yet to encounter the person who does not react rather… violently… to the opposition of their subjective philosophies by those means. However, we aren’t interested in being popular. Our interest as Christians is in the truth of God.
Both Bahnsen and Schaeffer hit upon a very key point in encouraging the Christian to think God’s thought after Him – and in a correct balance. Schaeffer’s emphasis was upon speaking the truth in love. (Eph 4:15) We cannot be arrogant as we speak the truth; and we cannot compromise the truth as we love God and others. Bahnsen’s emphasis was similar, but used a slightly different terminology. He counseled us to “humble boldness.” Using Proverbs 15:32-33, and supporting it from passages all over Scripture, he counsels us to be bold in the proclamation of the truth, yet humble, knowing that the wisdom he proclaims is not his own! Humility, because our knowledge comes from God – boldness, because we are to be speaking the words of God. We must not be arrogant in our proclamation of the truth, but humble. We must not be hard-hearted in our proclamation of the truth, but do so in love. We must not compromise the truth by a false appeal to being “loving” or “tolerant.” And we must not fail to proclaim the truth boldly in the name of a false humility that does not serve Christ faithfully. There is a correct balance that must be reached and kept in the forefront of all of our interactions.
When we fail to keep that humble boldness – or fail to speak the truth in love – we fail as apologists. We fail to speak the truth, or we fail to speak lovingly. We fail to be bold in the proclamation of His truth, or we fail to be humble in the proclamation of it. When we concede the truth of God’s word in the name of love, or when we fail to speak that truth lovingly – we are failing to keep a proper balance. When you are speaking to an unbeliever, who is mired in subjectivism, we cannot assume the truth of their worldview, as so many do. We also cannot beat them over the head with their own folly in order that we may win.

Paul’s Exhortation
Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 is “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. [I pray that] the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17, NAS, emphasis mine). I’m constantly amazed at the depth of wisdom Paul shares in this epistle. Notice two things; First, that this spirit of wisdom and revelation is of grace alone – “may give to you”. Second, that it is given “in the knowledge of Him”. Further, “that you will know what is the hope of His calling.” His thesis in this passage is the supremacy of Christ over all things. Is this not true, as well, of our thinking?
I encountered a man asking for advice the other morning. The night before I saw him, I was preparing a lesson on church history by reading a contrast of Ignatius’ epistle to the Ephesians and Paul’s epistle. One thing I noted was the object of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, in Chapter 1: “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
The man’s question was how to handle a situation in his home church. His church leadership and their teaching was decidedly anti-intellectual, and they taught that the Bible is useful, but fallible. So his church was adhering to subjectivism in a religious format; that the Bible is only authoritative for certain kinds of truths, that men can continue receiving revelation, and so on. He knew that this is wrong, but wasn’t sure how to handle it.
The first thing I pointed out to him was the centrality of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. That first, they might receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of Him, and second, that they might know the hope of His calling. What I noticed at that point was how Paul assumed that he should demonstrate the folly of the Ephesians’ view – by a pragmatic appeal. While we are obviously cognizant of the fact that presuppositionalism is quite practical in execution, the appeal is not to the practicality of Scripture – but to the truthfulness of it. When you think of truth, do you think about in terms of yourself? What you recognize as true? Or, do you think about truth in terms of what God’s Word says? For, it is in Christ, that is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!” (Col 2:3)
As we talked, I suggested that perhaps his approach should be to demonstrate the importance Paul sets upon the dichotomy – the antithesis – between truth and lies, especially through Ephesians. Paul’s source of truth is God, and His revelation; it is not his accumulated knowledge from study of natural philosophy, literature, or anything of the sort. Paul’s prayer is specific – and it is that they would grow in something specific as well. The knowledge of Him! That they know the hope of His calling! It’s not that they are lacking in love – that foundational principle is secure. His prayer is for the balance of that principle. His prayer is for the increase of their wisdom and knowledge. Note: Not just any knowledge or wisdom – but wisdom and knowledge in Him. He goes from that point to a remarkable presentation of the Gospel and its purpose in Ephesians 2. In Ephesians 3, Paul gives a description of the means by which God inspires Scripture, and his special task as an apostolic preacher. If you notice, as you read it, Paul’s concern is that “…the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church,” (v. 10). He then reiterates his prayer for the Ephesians, “…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (emphasis mine). Quite a prayer! No wonder that he continues – “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen!”
Then we arrive to Ephesians 4. “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all {aspects} into Him who is the head, {even} Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in {the likeness of} God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph 4:14-24, emphasis mine)
Notice the words in italics. The trickery of men is deceitful. It is a lie, and exchanged for the truth, as Romans 1 tells us. It is balanced, as maturity must be – truth with love. That balance brings growth of the whole body in love. Therefore, we ought not to walk in futility of mind; which brings only darkness to our understanding, and sin to our lives. We did not learn Christ that way – we were taught the truth, which is in Christ alone. We must lay aside that old self, futile and darkened, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds; which is set apart to the truth. I love the phrase “holiness of the truth.” It is quite remarkable. Truth is holy, and set apart to God. When we deal with truth presuppositionally, we set it apart as being holy; sanctified to God, and we are in fact referring to the standard that only God can provide us through His Word, as the self-existent Creator. When we appeal to other things, to somehow “prove” that God exists – we are, in effect, denying that God is the only source of “flaming truth”, as Schaeffer calls it.3 Of “true truth” that has, as it’s ultimate source, the Word of God.
When we examine the subjective philosophy of truth, we see the antithesis of the Scriptural philosophy above. Instead of every conception of truth relating objectively, fixedly to a single reference point, we have every conception being solely self-referential. “The subject doesn’t belong to the world, but it is a limit of the world,” as Wittgenstein puts it4. In a very significant manner, a faulty approach to apologetic ministry can fall into this self-same trap. When the world insists that we must “prove” God’s existence, goodness, morality, faithfulness, omniscience, omnipotence, or any other thing they demand – they are demanding that we give up our own position. This is often couched as a plea for “neutrality” in thinking – or for “tolerance”! What an admission of this viewpoint’s validity demands, however, is that a Christian actually start from the viewpoint of the unbeliever. We have mentioned “antithesis” several times thus far. There is an obvious problem with an antithesis – there is no middle ground, no neutral ground between the two viewpoints. Any idea which tries to present a “no man’s land” between the two viewpoints inherently denies the truth that all ground is God’s ground. This is not neutrality. It is surrender. When we deny that God’s truth is objective, universally applicable, and is the only truth – the only way – and the only life that there is, we not only deny the truth we are professing to defend, but in fact, give up before we begin. Is that any sort of proper defense? There is, however, a defense we are told to assume – to take up. The full armor of God.

Putting on the Full Armor
We come to the end of Paul’s instruction in chapter 6. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:10-20)
First, we’re told once to put on the armor of God. Next, we’re told to take it up. Why? In order to use it. Armor is heavy, and not easily put on. It is your protection, meant to keep you alive in battle. What should this tell us? We can’t just put it on, and lean on a tree on the outskirts of the battle, watching. This isn’t something we are meant to be a spectator of. We are meant to stand, in the place we are assigned. Not to run to the place of our choosing, or from the battle in cowardice. Foolhardiness and cowardice are equally admonished by this statement.
Second, what matters is the whole armor, not simply parts. If you skip a piece of armor, that’s where your enemy will target you. If you leave your head exposed, you leave it open to attack. For instance; the helmet is further explained as the helmet of the hope of salvation, in 1Th 5:8. Wasn’t Paul’s prayer earlier that they would know the hope of His calling? I remember being puzzled as younger man why the head was protected by the helmet of salvation. When looking at the companion verse, I’m no longer confused. Recall that in 1 Pe 3:15, we are called to “…make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Do you see the themes we’ve been discussing, here? The defense is of that hope. What is that hope? Something we know. On what basis do we do so? On the basis of what we are given! How are we to do so? With “gentleness and reverence”. The root for “gentleness” here is the word Christ uses for “gentle”, in the Beatitudes. “Reverence” is the same word Paul uses in Romans 3:18 when he quotes Psalm 36:1; “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.” What is the beginning of wisdom? The fear of the Lord. Recall Proverbs 15:33. “The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor {comes} humility.” This only serves to underscore the importance of what we’re speaking of. Humble boldness, as well as truth in love, are the essence of a scriptural apologetic.
Third, the intention is not to fight a retreat, or to rout the enemy by the skill of our own right arms. It is to stand firm. The word “stand” is repeated three times. We are placed where we are for God’s purposeful effect, and for His glory. Not our own.
Fourth, we are to gird our loins with truth. Now, that’s a bit of an odd reference for modern folks. But girding up is to ensure that you aren’t encumbered by loose clothing. It is to “tighten up,” (Heb. 12:1). What do we accomplish this through? Truth. The very wording used to encourage us in such removal of encumbrance prohibits any view where truth is something loose, or varying. Paul’s point would be destroyed if truth were something entirely conventional. So girding up excises that which will hinder us. It tucks in all the loose ends, so to speak. You might also notice that this is the first thing Paul mentions about the whole armor. It is foundational to everything else. You cannot, for instance, put on a breastplate if you aren’t girded. If you aren’t girded, the breastplate will not fit. It will not sit where it is supposed to, and it won’t protect how it’s supposed to protect. It will be cumbersome, and it will not be of use. Further, how are you supposed to practice righteousness – if you don’t know what it is?
Fifth, given that we are to stand, what is it that enables us to do so, with sure footing so that our foot does not “slip in due time”? The preparation referred to means “sure footing” in the Septuagint. We are shod (?)(Eph 6:15) with the sure footing of the Gospel of peace. Nahum 1 refers to the fact that the one who brings the gospel of peace stands on the mountains, and that the evil one cannot pass him. Isaiah refers to the one who brings good news, and announces the gospel of peace (Is. 52:7). Romans refers to the one who preaches the gospel, and brings tidings of peace (Rom 10:15). The one who stands is the one that is sure-footed in the Gospel.
Sixth, notice that the shield of faith is the overarching defense; “over all.” Faith, as we know, comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. It’s no mistake that this comes after the depiction of the sure-footed gospel; how will they hear without a preacher? So, we often concentrate on the Sword, which will be mentioned shortly. However, the Word is just as integral to our footing and to our defense! It is with this shield of faith that the darts of the wicked will be quenched. It is impervious to them, and as long as we use it for the purpose for which it is intended, we will be, as well.
Seventh, as we mentioned earlier, we are called to put on the helmet of salvation. I Thessalonians calls it the helmet of the hope of salvation. As apologists, we are to give an answer for the hope that is within us (I Peter 3:15-16). It is this very hope that is part of our armor and our answer. It is not an accident that what protects our heads is the hope of our salvation. It is not mere imagery. Scripture has an intention, which we must search avidly for. It has a truth which we cannot deny.
Eighth, we are to take up the Sword of the Spirit. This is not nebulous, nor is it left undefined. Paul explicitly defines it for us. Our weapon is the Word of God. There is an obvious parallel to Hebrews 4:12 here, where the Word of God is living, active, “sharper than any two-edged sword.” A sword, as his audience would well know, can parry as well as strike – and it is the primary weapon of the infantryman. Further, it is connected to the next verse (v.18) where we pray in the Spirit. We pray His words back to Him. We are to meditate on His Word day and night. We are to pray without ceasing, for ourselves and for others. “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, as Paul says earlier in Ephesians. (4:3) In essence, we have the very picture of the presuppositional method. All of the armor is taken from Scripture, and it is in the might of God that we stand. We have the firm foundation from which to assail the subjectivistic position, and the wherewithal to resist counterattacks.
This, in a slightly more condensed form, was my advice to the fellow mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, the person(s) he spoke to were decidedly disinterested in the authority of Scripture. He was rebuffed, and has since left the church after explaining why he was doing so in Scriptural, yet loving terms.
Sometime later, a similar question came up in conversation with another man. He was relating an experience he had with someone who insisted that to say Scripture was free of contradiction was a result of human reasoning. The context for this claim was that Reformed doctrine causes Scripture to contradict itself, especially in differentiating the inward and outward calls of the Spirit. He made the point that “it would seem that the great commission offers the
chance to all.” I’m still not sure, because we didn’t have a very involved conversation, whether he would affirm that the fact that Scripture does not contradict itself is a product of human reasoning or not. However, this led us into an examination of what Scripture says about itself, and about God.
Scripture says God does not change (Ps 55:9), the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35), and that every word of God is tested (Pro 30:5). In fact, the Word itself is truth. And if the Word is truth, then contradiction would result in opposing truths. This is nonsensical. If Scripture is a singular truth, you cannot also have multiple, oppositional truths. Since there are no objects that have a sum of precisely identical properties, be they material or qualitative, there cannot be a violation of the law of non-contradiction. Not due to human reasoning, but due to the laws God has built into His own creation, and sustains by the Word of His power. In other words, there is nothing in existence that is not under the authority and creative sovereignty of God.
So, when we examine subjectivism, how shall we do so? I firmly believe that the most devastating critique of subjectivism is from presuppositional apologetics. When we examine the world’s various systems of thought, they all boil down to autonomous human reasoning, just as Schaeffer points out in his works. Therefore, what is the only answer? To internally critique subjectivism within it’s own system, and to externally critique it, by way of contrast, from the Christian system, and it’s adamantine certainty grounded in God and Scripture.
Subjectivism is not always as obvious as it appears. When someone claims to be objective, they often do not mean objective in the same manner we do. They mean that they are impartial. Let us be honest, however. No person on the face of the earth is impartial. Their understanding of every fact they encounter is colored, and interpreted by, the prism of their own epistemology. How they think they know things will determine how they view all else. When it comes down to it, there are only two possibilities in epistemology. We know things on the basis of ourselves, or on the basis of faith in the authority of someone else. In the former, we are forced to subjectivism, and thus to futility. In the latter, we are simply pushing the question back. However, there is a subset of this authoritative view that is, in fact, valid. If your fixed reference point for all knowledge and all truth is the self-existent, omniscient, omnipotent and sovereign God who created all things; you are justified in that belief, and have a firm foundation for everything else, given that what you think is actually based upon that foundation. In opposition to an apologetic which “gives away the store” by casting away bits of armor we are commanded to take up, presuppositionalism contains the truth of God’s Word in balanced opposition to the falsity of the world. This is the proper response to subjective philosophy, and the most devastating critique of it.

Church History – Week 2

Well, we went through Irenaeus, Tertullian, the Epistle to Diogenes, Cerinthus, Marcion, the Shepherd of Hermas, and Valentinus today. We also had some discussion about canon, apologetics, gnosticism, and church fathers. I hope it was useful. Audio can be found here, and the notes are here.

Oh, I almost forgot. If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Church History – Week One

Well, week one is complete. I have the audio complete, and the notes can be found here. Enjoy 😀

Always Ready Study

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this earlier, but I’ve started participating in a group blog called Choosing Hats, which addresses presuppositional apologetics, and it’s response to the world around us. I was part of the 5th installment of their study of Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s “Always Ready”, and the sound file is now up!

I was very blessed to have participated in this study, and I look forward to being part of it in the future (and fixing my mic issues that were a bit of a disruption – heh. oops 😀 )

Found this to be an excellent bit of teaching on the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ – which is the true meaning for the celebration of Christmas. The Son took on flesh, and dwelt among us! May you be blessed, and bless others tomorrow!

On the SBC and anti-Calvinism

Just to open up, I found Timmy Brister’s timeline very useful in organizing all of the commentary concerning the John 3:16 conference. While the conference was, indeed, an SBC All-Star event – it was decidedly anti-Calvinist. Now, I am quite aware that they don’t particularly like this categorization of their stance – Dr. Allen, for example, has taken exception to this – but, on the other hand, they certainly aren’t worried about categorizing Dr. White (a good friend, and spiritual mentor), Steve Camp, and Dr. Robert Reymond, whose Systematic Theology has been very helpful to me, as Hyper-Calvinists. Now, I’ve had quite a bit of dialogue with real hypers – and I have to say… they obviously have no idea what a hyper-calvinist is.

Now, I’m aware he would also reject this statement. He has, repeatedly. However, he has also repeatedly demonstrated that he has a lack of understanding concerning the difference between orthodox, historical calvinism and hyper-calvinism; decretive and preceptive will; anthropological will/desire and theological will/desire; not to mention showing a complete lack of balance in addressing the issue of Calvinism, in general. Apparently, Dr. Allen, as a professor of systematic theology, is unable to distinguish between these things. As a member of the SBC, I find this lack of perception absolutely mind-boggling, given our historical foundation as a Calvinist denomination. I don’t doubt that he would differ with that – but the fact remains.

My problem with this entire issue – with this entire conference, is that it is a group of SBC theologians with an axe to grind. The axe, of course, being the dismissal of Calvinism as orthodoxy. In the process of attempting to paint Calvinists in a certain light, they stooped to slander, followed by libel, in defense of the original slander. Dr. Allen’s statement is as follows:

“This is important. Here is the reason why this stuff is important. Limited atonement creates a situation where there is a diminishing of belief in God’s universal saving will. Dr. Tom Ascol sums up the historic Calvinist position when he wrote ‘I believe that God desires for all people to be saved but has purposed to save His elect. I see two (at least two) dimensions in God’s will: revealed and decretive. Failure to make this kind of distinction is a failure to read the Bible’s teachings on the will of God accurately.’ This statement was made in 2006 just before the time when the debate with the Caner brothers was scheduled to take place and Dr. Tom Ascol was supposed to join forces with James White to oppose the Caner brothers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, James White is a hyper-Calvinist. By the definition of Phil Johnson in his A Primer of Hyper-Calvinism, Phil Johnson of, who is the right hand man of John MacArthur, Phil Johnson tells you the five things that make for hyper-Calvinism, and James White by his teaching is a hyper-Calvinist. Now whatever we do in Baptist life, we don’t need to be teaming up with hyper-Calvinists. It’s fine for Calvinists to get together and have debates with non-Calvinists. Fine dandy and wonderful; let that happen all day long. But it is time for Calvinists within the convention to come out and say some strong words about hyper-Calvinism.

By the way, James White is a Baptist, he is not a Southern Baptist. On April 10, during a phone call on the “Dividing Line” web cast, James White scornfully denied there is any sense in which God wills the salvation of all men. That is the total opposite of what Tom Ascol said. By the way, Ascol is right that God wills the salvation of all men. White is the one who’s wrong. The denial of God’s universal saving will is a problem.”

Now, the reasons that this is an absolutely absurd statement have been documented, quite thoroughly, by both Phil Johnson, and Dr. Ascol – not to mention Dr. White!

Phil Johnson:

if Dr. Allen thinks James White is a hyper-Calvinist by my definition, then he doesn’t understand my definition.

Dr. Ascol:

Although I must say that any conference that accuses James White of being a hyper-Calvinist loses credibility with thinking people.

Dr. White:

I simply point out that he seems to wish to establish a definition that forces one to somehow confess what God desires without providing any biblical basis for how we as creatures are to know this. Does God command repentance? Of course. Of all? Yes, of all. Do you proclaim the gospel to all? Yes, to all. Do you say it is the duty of all to believe? Surely, of course. Do you believe the proclamation of the gospel is the means by which God’s Spirit draws the elect unto Christ? Most assuredly. So what is the single basis of Allen’s accustion of “hyper-Calvinism”? My refusal to believe God decreed His eternal disappointment. I find nothing in Scripture or in the LBCF1689 that forces me to believe that God chose to create in such a fashion as to create His own unhappiness, His own lack of fulfillment. I see no reason to believe that God desires to do something He does not will to accomplish. It is only man’s limited nature that even raises the issue, for we know that the proclamation of God’s law reveals God’s prescriptive will, i.e., do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc. Hence we ascribe to God the concept of “desire” and say God does not “desire” that man do these things. Yet, we likewise know that texts like Genesis 50:20 tell us that God has willed that such events take place, and that, in fact, He uses them to accomplish His own purposes, His own glory. The problem is in trying to read into God’s will our own self-limitations. I can freely offer the gospel to all, not because I reject election, nor because I ascribe to God a human-oriented desire that runs directly counter to His own self-revelation and consistency, but because I do not know the identity of the elect, and I have the full promise of Scripture that no man, no woman, no child, will ever, ever turn in faith to Jesus Christ and yet be rejected by Him. ALL who believe will be saved. Will any man believe outside of God’s grace, God’s granting of repentance and faith? Surely not, but again, I do not possess knowledge of the identity of the elect. Hence, I can freely and properly proclaim the duty to repent and believe to all, knowing that those who do so will be those God has drawn to Himself. I find myself completely consistent with the Apostle who likewise said he endured all the trials and tribulations of the ministry “for the sake of the elect” (2 Timothy 2:10).

As I’ve said, this commentary by Dr. Allen, and the other j316 presenters, has been discussed by many, many folks – Timmy Brister has also put together a compilation of liveblogging links from calvinists who attended, as well. A cursory search will give you a wealth of commentary. My concern, as I’ve said, is that these noted SBC theologians seem to have an axe to grind. That axe, regardless of their protests to the contray, is an anti-calvinist one. Dr. Allen is on record as saying that “Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward 5-point Calvinism, such a move would be away from, and not toward, the gospel.” (This was met with a standing ovation.) Now, although Dr. Allen’s insistence is that he is not an anti-calvinist – the reason he says this is as follows;

One of the overriding concerns throughout Ascol’s blog post is evidenced by the four times he identifies me (indirectly each time but clearly I am included) as “anti-Calvinist” (emphasis mine). This is simply false. I am not anti-Calvinist. … Neither is it accurate to portray my recent review of the book Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue or my John 3:16 presentation as “anti-Calvinist.” One must distinguish between being against people who hold certain theological views and disagreeing with the views those people hold. I am not against any Calvinist in the Southern Baptist Convention. I do believe that Calvinism, especially five-point Calvinism, is biblically and theologically flawed at certain points.

In my book review and presentation at the John 3:16 conference, I was at pains to show this. It is apparent to me that some Calvinists within and without the SBC simply will not brook any criticism of Calvinism. To do so in their minds is to be anti-Calvinist.

Let me also say that there are occasions where I am against what Calvinists do or don’t do because of what they believe. I referenced one or two such incidents toward the end of my John 3:16 paper as well as in my book review. Why should this be a problem since Calvinists likewise reciprocate here? In fact, is not this rejoinder the result of Dr. Ascol’s own criticism of my criticism whereby he takes exception to what I have done or have not done because of what I believe? I consider this to be an example of being too thin-skinned.

Also, would it be possible for anyone reading Ascol’s blog to come to the conclusion that he is anti-non-Calvinist or anti-Classical Arminian? I suspect some could, some would, and I know of some who have. Sauce for the goose.

News flash: This is equivocation. When we say one is “anti-calvinist” – we very much do mean that someone is against reformed theology. That someone opposse it. To equivocate, as if the statement somehow means that one is personally dead set against the inclusion of Calvinists, as persons, in the SBC, is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, I would have to say that Dr. Allen knows this very well. It was a cheap attempt to score points. Yes, we recognize that, Dr. Allen. Thank you so very much for your attempt to score points off of us with your supporters via condescension. Does Dr. Allen think that we won’t recognize such cheap tricks? If that is what he thinks, I sincerely hope he understands that we do, in fact, recognize such attempts for what they are. They certainly aren’t building any bridges. In fact, it simply propagates the contrary of his insistence that he has no personal animosity, when he makes such remarks. If one treats those one disagrees with such contempt for their understanding, one cannot be surprised if we respond as if he were being insulting. Frankly, if he doesn’t recognize it as insulting, that concerns me. What on earth is he teaching? While the personal dismissal is troubling, what troubles me more is the constant misrepresentation of the positions held by the men he defames. If this misrepresentation is so endemic – as Dr. White, Dr. Ascol, and others have shown – if his understanding of Reymond, Edwards, Owen, Calvin, not to mention Scripture itself, is that flawed – as has been shown by many in the Reformed faith – what on earth can we say other than what we are saying? Dr. Allen is either woefully ignorant – in which case, what is he doing teaching systematic theology? Or, Dr. Allen is being intentionally deceitful, by misrepresenting men of God. What else can we say? Did he not expect this response, when he penned his words for this talk? Did he not expect that those of the reformed faith would examine his words, and compare them to that of historical calvinists, modern calvinists? That those he criticized would not respond? We’ve done both – and we’ve found his comments woefully lacking in historical basis, understanding, and most especially, in any sort of Biblical foundation. Far be it from me to mince words – but in any sort of factual examination of his comments, they have no basis whatsoever in reality, these men’s comments, or in Scripture. This is why we comment so forcefully in our responses. His comments are an affront – not only to these precious men of God, but to the Scripture which we regard so highly. It’s not an attempt to “score points” – but to defend the Word, and the gospel we are commanded to preach. I exhort him to take that into consideration, and to examine his comments in light of Scripture, and not in light of Dr. Byrne’s conception of historic calvinism, which seem to greatly influence his comments.

Yes, I’m a bit perturbed. I’ll admit it. This does not, however, dismiss the fact that the speakers at the J316 conference are either intentionally misrepresenting the Reformed faith to attempt to “stem the tide” of young adherents to calvinism, or misunderstand our position so badly that they are simply firing darts into strawmen constructed of various and sundry piecemeal constructs with no real foundation in real, reformed theology. This insistence is not a new one. Men have been misrepresenting Fuller as an antagonist to Gill for quite a long time. Gill has been represented as a hyper-calvinist for a very long time. Owen, Turretin, and others have also been represented as hyper-calvinist. These representations, however, are simply not true, if you examine their works. You can see a consistent representation of historic, orthodox calvinism in all of the aforementioned men; and their affirmation of it’s doctrines has consistently led to the careful and painstakingly precise exegesis that is the hallmark of the reformed faith. To say otherwise is simply to anachronistically read your own free-will requiring principles back into historic calvinism. To cite Edwards’ Freedom of the Will to somehow affirm unlimited atonement is utterly baffling. To water Owen down in such a manner is simply amazing. To wrest Scripture to an affirmation of autonomous free will, I’m sorry, is just incredible. When you do even a cursory examination of the writings of both the historical and modern champions of human autonomy, and compare them to the historical and modern champions of God’s unquestioned, and incomparable sovereignty; there is simply no comparison whatsoever in the quality and consistency of argumentation. There is no difference in this discussion, either.

Friends, I’m just plain annoyed that this debate even exists in the SBC. That men are so self-deceived that they think that championing man’s autonomous free will, as practically every other apostate denomination does, is somehow an affirmation of Scripture, simply appalls me. If you don’t like the harshness of that comment – too bad. Sneer at the “unkind” tone all you like. I do love my brethren who disagree – but the love of the brethren is grounded in love of Scripture, first and foremost. If you reject the Word of God, and it’s position on the place of man, the place of your will, and the place of your own determination in your own salvation – if you persist in the Romish pursuit of decisional works in your own salvation – if you persist in the downright slander and libel of those who faithfully preach the word of God, for the sake of your desire to preserve the choice of man, while advocating the slavery of God’s will to the will of man – expect opposition. Expect opposition when you defame men who preach the gospel without fear or favor, to all men. Expect opposition when you condescendingly assume that those who were graciously brought to transformation of their mind, lovingly corrected of their conformation to the world in their embrasure of the sovereignty of their own wills, are simply ignorant of history, theology, and Scripture. Sirs, we are most decidedly not ignorant. If we were, we wouldn’t be objecting to the unfair usage of the historical calvinists whom we have read, love, and emulate, as they emulated Christ. Expect opposition when you paint the men who have done so much to teach us the Word out to be heretics, scripture-twisters, and the like. When you tell us that the gospel we preach is nothing of the sort. I beg to differ, sirs, and I expect your opposition when I say the following. “Open union with the people of God is most desirable. It would argue disloyalty in a soldier if he would not wear his regimentals, and refused to take his place in the ranks. True, he might fight alone, but it would probably turn out to be a sorry business. If God’s people will not be ashamed of us we need not be ashamed of them. I should not like to go into a public assembly disguised in the dress of a thief; I prefer my own clothes, and I cannot understand how Christians can bear themselves in the array of worldlings.” – C.H. Spurgeon I, Sirs, think very much that you are ashamed of us. Further, I feel that you are, in fact, ashamed of the Gospel.

Sirs, a gospel which presents sin as sickness, not death; a gospel which presents a foreseen work of faith as the sole, passive acknowledgment of God in salvation of sinners; a gospel which presents Christ as dying for the never-to-be-justified, along with those who will be justified; a gospel which presents the works of faith and repentance as the requirements for regeneration; a gospel which presents certainty of salvation as a nebulous (but still within the freely willed choice of man?) “seal”, but without the decretal, sovereign will of God as the complement to and surety for it – this is a gospel without power, and not the Gospel of Scripture. There is indeed a Gospel delivered once and for all to the saints. The gospel that was presented in this conference is nothing of the sort. You wonder why there was such a response? The response was due to the sub-biblical gospel presented, the dismissive manner in which the Scriptural Gospel was treated, and the frequent, cavalier, even reckless accusations thrown at ministers of the Gospel. First and foremost, the response engendered by the John 3:16 conference was instigated by the complete disregard for Scripture shown by those who spoke. Secondly, it was instigated by the insistence of the speakers to misrepresent and redefine reformed theology. Thirdly, it was instigated by the strange and acontextual cherry-picking of quotes from reformed theologians to substantiate the claims made by the speakers.

As has been shown, by many, many folks around the web, the conference was an unmitigated debacle. It has done nothing but polarize things further – I don’t really midn that, in some ways, because it shows what they really think, when they get together, but will not say in a conventional setting – only in conferences. I challenge Dr. Allen to discuss these things publicly, in a formal setting, with Dr. White, as he has been asked to. Let the SBC see your arguments for your position. Let Dr. Byrne, Dr. Yarnell, Dr. Allen, Dr. Land, Dr. Hunt, Dr. Patterson, Dr. Keathley, Dr. Vines, Dr. Stanley, and Dr. Caner debate these issues publicly, with their theological opponents in and out of the SBC. This was an All-Star conference, as I’ve said. If they truly feel, as Dr. Allen said, that “a move toward 5-point Calvinism is a move away from the Gospel” – let’s hash it out, instead of doing this conference-sniping. Instead of skirting around the issue, let’s get this issue concerning the Gospel out in the open, and freely discussed in public. Let’s debate it, instead of sniping from the opposing sides. If you are truly against the gospel preached by the reformed, then let’s see some real discussion of that, and discussion with the men you disagree with. Like myself. Let’s see, from Scripture, how your position stacks up. Debate it. Yes, yes, good men can disagree on it.

I’m tired of the pussyfooting around. Let’s start talking to each other, not past each other. I don’t need you to tell me what I believe. I need you to show me how what you beleive accords with Scripture. “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason … my conscience is captive to the Word of God.” ~ Luther

Here we stand, my friends. We can do no other.

I’ll leave you with something from the Prince of Preachers.

It has this singular virtue also—it is so coherent in all its parts. You cannot vanquish a Calvinist. You may think you can, but you cannot. The stones of the great doctrines so fit into each other, that the more pressure there is applied to remove them the more strenuously do they adhere. And you may mark, that you cannot receive one of these doctrines without believing all. Hold for instance that man is utterly depraved, and you draw the inference then that certainly if God has such a creature to deal with salvation must come from God alone, and if from him, the offended one, to an offending creature, then he has a right to give or withhold his mercy as he wills; you are this forced upon election, and when you have gotten that you have all: the others must follow. Some by putting the strain upon their judgments may manage to hold two or three points and not the rest, but sound logic I take it requires a man to hold the whole or reject the whole; the doctrines stand like soldiers in a square, presenting on every side a line of defence which it is hazardous to attack, but easy to maintain. And mark you, in these times when error is so rife and neology strives to be so rampant, it is no little thing to put into the hands of a young man a weapon which can slay his foe, which he can easily learn to handle, which he may grasp tenaciously, wield readily, and carry without fatigue; a weapon, I may add, which no rust can corrode and no blows can break, trenchant, and well annealed, a true Jerusalem blade of a temper fit for deeds of renown. The coherency of the parts, though it be of course but a trifle in comparison with other things, is not unimportant. And then, I add,—but this is the point my brethren will take up—it has this excellency, that it is scriptural, and that it is consistent with the experience of believers. Men generally grow more Calvinistic as they advance in years. Is not that a sign that the doctrine is right. As they are growing riper for heaven, as they are getting nearer to the rest that remaineth for the people of God, the soul longs to feed on the finest of the wheat, and abhors chaff and husks. And then, I add—and, in so doing, I would refute a calumny that has sometimes been urged,—this glorious truth has this excellency, that it produces the holiest of men. We can look back through all our annals, and say, to those who oppose us, you can mention no names of men more holy, more devoted, more loving, more generous than those which we can mention. The saints of our calendar, though uncanonized by Rome, rank first in the book of life. The names of Puritan needs only to be heard to constrain our reverence. Holiness had reached a height among them which is rare indeed, and well it might for they loved and lived the truth. And if you say that our doctrine is inimical to human liberty, we point you to Oliver Cromwell and to his brave Ironsides, Calvinists to a man. If you say, it leads to inaction, we point you to the Pilgrim Fathers and the wildernesses they subdued. We can put our finger upon every spot of land, the wide world o’er, and say, “Here was something done by a man who believed in God’s decrees; and, inasmuch as he did this, it is proof it did not make him inactive, it did not lull him to sloth.”
The better way, however of proving this point is for each of us who hold these truths, to be more prayerful, more watchful, more holy, more active than we have ever been before, and by so doing, we shall put to silence the gainsaying of foolish men. A living argument, is an argument which tells upon every man; we cannot deny what we see and feel. Be it ours, if aspersed and calumniated, to disprove it by a blameless life, and it shall yet come to pass, that our Church and its sentiments too shall come forth “Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”

Our Source of Truth

I will say, from the outset, that this post will have political overtones – but only peripherally. I’m not much of a political pundit, but the recent election has served to show a very clear demarcation in worldviews – the subject addressed by this blog. My wife has a childhood friend that she’s kept up with, who tends very much toward a liberal viewpoint of Christianity, social issues, and moral issues. As I read her take on the election, I was a bit taken aback at a nominal Christian expressing such things about a man with such an obviously antithetical viewpoint to orthodox Christianity.

“It felt like a big moment. I could imagine being part of this massive wave of people, with hope burning in our hearts, having faith that this vote wasn’t a risk but a shout for desperately needed change. … I didn’t quite believe it until I turned the channel to CNN, where at least they had put the holograms away for a few minutes, and my heart opened wide to receive the truth, the beautiful truth shining like the sun in my eyes. It’s true. It’s good. It’s here. Thank God.”

Now, if you’ll pardon me for a moment, that looks… idolatrous. I really don’t know how else to put it. A mere man, no matter how powerful, is not worthy of such speech. I can’t pare it down to anything else. I’d like to – but I really can’t see how it’s anything else. “Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” Can we reduce this to anything else? As I also quoted in my response, “Woe to those who call evil, good, and good, evil.” When you pair this with the fact that Obama has voted for late term abortion of babies, has in fact voted for the death of babies who somehow survive their abortions, supports so-called homosexual “marriage”, has ties to Islamic groups likeCAIR, sat under Rev. Wright, whose theology was discussed recently by both Dr. James White and myself, not to mention his varied ties to shady characters of every sort – I find it amazing, when we are told to not let immorality, impurity, or greed be even named among us!

Are we not told that …”although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them?” What then, is the Scriptural response to such an action? Hearty approval of those who practice such things? Are we to idolize such persons? Consider them to be the answer to our prayers for… hope and change? We cannot, are not, and must not! Yet, some who claim the name of Christ do so. Why is this?

The answer is simple – and it fits the purpose of this blog exactly. Presuppositions. Those who are thinking in such a way, are “children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” What, according to the next verse, is the antithesis to such a state? “… Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all {aspects} into Him who is the head, {even} Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

What further amazed me, was this comment on that post. “Just because you believe in someone’s right to choose to do something doesn’t mean you believe in that something they choose to do.” What is it we just talked about? What does Romans 1 warn us of? Those who give approval to such things. The argument that says sin should be allowed as a choice is specious on it’s face. Sin, my friends, is sin. Saying a certain sin is permissible shows something of our willingness to compromise the truth of God. Also, it shows what our view of truth really is. From where it is derived. Does that not sound likesubjectivism ? A relativistic view of man-derived truth, with no stable foundation? I can’t see it in any other way. The original poster, (in her request that I no longer comment on her blog) had this to say; “All I’m going to say here right now is that I continue to celebrate the difference of opinion we can have in our country. And that truly we are all different and I’d rather be accepting of that fact rather than spend time arguing, especially in the presence of people who don’t ascribe to our certain choice of belief. I don’t think we shed light by tossing Scripture (or Tertullian) back and forth between us.” She refers to the fact that I quoted Tertullian’s indictment (in his Apology) of the Roman practice of the abandonment of unwanted infants to the elements, and noted elsewhere that it made her think. I truly hope it did.. He also had a bit to say about abortion – and my point was that it was considered barbarous behavior 1800 years ago – yet we consider it somehow appropriate today. This is progress?

I’d like to examine the inherent presuppositions in her statement above. What I find interesting, first, is her equation of opinions to moral judgment. Is morality truly nothing more than an “opinion”, comparable to one’s like or dislike for, say, lemon meringue pie? Should the fact that people think morality is merely an opinion be celebrated? Then, take her next statement into consideration. Shall we, in fact, accept that simply because some people reject God, are hostile to God, and sin against God, this is ample excuse to refrain from casting down the strongholds we arecommanded to throw down, erected against the knowledge of God? Then, examine this innocuous-sounding phrase; “our certain choice of belief”. Ignoring, for a moment, that “certain”,definitionally, means “true, sure, settled” – certanus – do we really “choose” our belief? Is not faith a gift of God, as Scripture says? Do we, and I’ll be intentional – choose our epistemology as if choosing a hat? Isn’t that the very thing in contention? Whether it’s possible, whether we should? I think that we can find the crux of the matter right here. The underlying assumption is that we simply choose to believe this way – and others do not. Therefore, there is no inherent superiority to our belief – we just chose it, after all. It isn’t as if it’s intrinsically true. Therein lies the problem. This woman has ceded the grounds of truth to man, and removed it from the feet of God. She is not interested in God’s truth – at least not in practice. The last comment is particularly revealing as well.

“I don’t think we shed light by tossing Scripture (or Tertullian) back and forth between us.” This is a breathtakingly plain indictment of the grounds for her conception of truth. Scripture is not the only sure source of divinely revelatory truth to man, and for man. It is not the sole means whereby we mayknow God, and His requirements for us. It is merely something to be “tossed” – not “The Truth,” but merely “a truth” – for, and it is very apparent, there is no truth with a capital to her, and it saddens me to see it. I’ve been to her house, we’ve shared time together, and she’s been friends with my wife a decade and a half. She, however, is not seeing the Word as what it truly is. “the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left”.

The Word is our only source of truth – the Sword of the Spirit. Living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. That is what the Word is. I truly grieve that she does not see it as such – and she will see this post – and my hope is that she may, perhaps, be shown to the Word by it. I pray that thereby the Lord may open her eyes as to the nature of what she dismisses in favor of a merely temporal ruler, and for the opinions of men, who relegate the divine Word to merely another opinion. I’m sorry, but it’s anything but opinion. The Gospel – and the Word which proclaims it, that we may proclaim it in turn, is an exclusive Gospel. It is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. I can only pray, and I hope you pray with me, that all of the temporal fluff that obscures the truth of the Word’s centrality will be revealed to us all more and more – and to her most of all. We cannot compromise our view of Scripture, and subject it to mere opinion, as if it has no more worth than the bare estimation of man. Scripture is God-breathed, and we must treat it as such.

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