Saturday, July 28, 2007

David Cloud and Camels

I never heard of David Cloud before yesterday. I was directed to an article of his entitled "Calvin's Camels."

But apparently, now that I look into it, Cloud is something of a big deal in independent, fundamentalist Baptist circles. He's ministered for over thirty years. Nary a bad word to say about him, personally. I want to stress that I am not here attacking the man, David Cloud. I am examining what he wrote and comparing it to Scripture, which also demands subjecting it to the test of logic and reason. I hope God blesses David Cloud real good, okay? This is not about him, but about the arguments he has put forward to attack Calvinistic theology.

At the outset of his article, Cloud goes to some lengths to show that he has done his homework. I have no reason to doubt that he has read all the books he says he did. He is to be commended on that. But right at the beginning, I note that Cloud sets out to "muddy the waters" by blocking nearly every possible avenue a sincere Calvinist might use to answer his attack.

He writes: "Thus, while I have not read every book on this subject that could be recommended by my readers, I have made a considerable effort to understand Calvinism properly and not to misrepresent it (though I have learned that a non-Calvinist will ALWAYS be charged with misrepresentation)."

You see how that works? Now, if after reading his article, I think that he has in fact not done a good job of explaining what normal, historic, confessional Calvinism believes, my complaint is already deflected. That's what Calvinists ALWAYS do! We can therefore be dismissed if we argue thus.

Now, to be honest, I do see Calvinists on the internet argue this way all the time. I can see why a synergist would make that ALWAYS assertion. We do it a lot. But that begs the question. Is that a baseless argument that we have grown accustomed to falling back on, or are we in fact genuinely misrepresented by a great many of those who seek to argue with us?

Y'know? It's possible we say that all the time because we ALWAYS get misrepresented! The key to that is this: once we assert misrepresentation, and we go on to clarify what we really believe, then does the anti-Calvinist argue on the basis of what we say we believe, or does he persist in knocking down the straw man he has set up instead? I've got to say, my experience leans heavily in favor of the latter option.

More from Cloud:

"The Calvinist will doubtless argue that I simply don’t understand Calvinism properly, and to this I reply that if Calvinism is that complicated it can’t be the truth. "


"The apostle Paul warned that it is the devil that makes theology that complicated. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3)."

The argument here is that Calvinism is too complex and tough to understand to be true. More mud thrown into the waters before the contest starts.

Now, the Calvinist is precluded from making any arguments that may take some brain power to understand.

Apparently, all Biblical truth must be able to be encapsulated in explanations that can fit on a Christian T-shirt, eh?

Is it really true that all the Bible's teachings are straightforward and rather easy to comprehend? Would Cloud assert this is the case when it comes to the doctrine of the Triune nature of the Godhead? The Incarnation of Christ? The "Problem of Evil?"

The gospel of Christ itself is simple, I'll grant (and I'll thank God as I do!) Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That ain't complex. Praise God that the actual content we absolutely must know to be saved is relatively easy! That's what Paul is talking about when he mentions the simplicity that is in Christ. There ain't a lot to it, in one sense. Believe the Son of God died on a cross for your sins and rose from the dead the third day. Turn from your sins and trust in Jesus. Bingo! You're there.

But to speak as if all Biblical truth must be just so reducible as that is a hopeless overstatement. I believe it appeals to a latent (and sometimes blatant) anti-intellectualism that is part-and-parcel of modern Fundamentalism. If you have to think about it, it's prolly of the devil! Ole Slewfoot is jest tryin' to ensnare your minds with smooth-soundin' argy-ments.


"If a reasonably intelligent preacher who has studied and taught the Bible diligently for 32 years and has published a Bible encyclopedia and many other Bible study books can study Calvinism with a desire to understand it properly and still not understand it, then it is far too complicated to be the truth!"

Cloud is talking about himself here, so you're not confused.

What he has done is suggest that his intellect and theological prowess is the measuring stick. If even I cannot understand it, then we may know with confidence that it is false.

A couple thoughts on this argument:

1. Every heretic in the world has published his own commentary on the Bible. The mere fact of publishing books about the Bible does not make one an expert on theology. What if they're lousy books? I'm not suggesting Cloud's are, but merely pointing out that even idiots and morons can get books published. I've published a couple myself, so there!

2. Cloud desires to honestly represent Calvinism, according to his article. I don't doubt that. But the desire does not ensure the outcome. His desire is noble, I'll grant, and I appreciate it, as a Calvinist who is sick of being misrepresented.

But the proof will be in the pudding, won't it? We will be able to tell from what you write when you start to actually discuss it, whether or not you get it. You've done some commendable reading, with a noble heart, which is all good, but which, sadly, does not gaurantee the result. We'll see.

3. The whole characterization of Calvinism as complex and intellectually over-demanding is a farce from the outset.

I personally know people of average intelligence who became Calvinists simply by reading the Bible and accepting what it told them. Somebody then had to come to them and explain what their beliefs were called.

In fact, when Reformation theology reigned supreme among Protestants in America, nearly every child was instructed in doctrines like election and substitutionary atonement. It didn't prove too taxing, even for the Sunday School set.

Heck, I understand Calvinism, and I don't have David Cloud's pedigree. How tough can it be, really?

"Of course, Calvinism is not simple by any means and this is one reason why it produces an elitist mentality. To understand Calvinism one must deal with compatibalism, monergism versus synergism, electing grace vs. irresistible grace, effectual calling vs. general calling, effective atonement vs. hypothetical atonement, libertarian free will vs. the bondage of the will, objective grace and subjective grace, natural ability and moral ability, mediate vs. immediate imputation of Adam’s sin, supralapsarianism, sublapsarianism, infralapsarianism, desiderative vs. decretive will, and antecedent hypothetical will, to name a few!"

Whew! You mean when theologians discuss theology they might actually have to use some technical terms? Oh, the humanity!!

I wonder if Cloud would eschew the use of technical terminology as he sets about to defend his Dispensational, Pretribulational, Premillennial Rapture eschatology? Or, when he's advocating the use of the King James Only, would he refrain from talking about text types, fragments, various codex's, the Textus Receptus, higher criticism, the Vulgate, the Masoretic, the Septuagint, and Alexandrian texts?

Then there is the tried-and-true canard of Calvinism producing an "elitist mentality." The funny thing about all elitist mentalities is that they get to be defined exclusively by people who feel themselves somewhere beneath the elitists. Meaning, if you sound smarter than me, I get to remark on your elitist mentality. How come brain surgeons, writing in journals about brain surgery, don't get accused of elitist mentalities by general practitioners? Or by the mailman who delivers the journal? Don't we want those guys to know more about the topic at hand than we do?

But Calvinists have an elitist mentality. In practice, this usually means, in the mouth of the synergist: "You guys think you're right! How dare you? Just because I can't figure out why you're wrong doesn't mean you're more right than I am."

"The Calvinist will further argue that the reason I have studied Calvinism and rejected it is because I think man should be equal to God. Calvinists invariably claim that the non-Calvinist doesn’t believe in God’s sovereignty."

Well, we know Cloud is not a prophet, at least. His prediction of the future here is a little off.

I, for one Calvinist, do NOT think Cloud believes "man should be equal to God." I suspect that his theology, however, may make the will of God subservient to and dependant on the will of Man, at least in the area of faith and justification.

In contrast to what Cloud says is invariable, I do not claim the non-Calvinist disbelieves God's sovereignty. I claim the non-Calvinist believes God is not ultimately sovereign over the question of who gets saved and who doesn't. The synergist may believe in a type of sovereignty, but it is often a sovereignty "that has chosen not be sovereign." Or so it is often stated.

Continuing to muddy the waters now: "I realize that a staunch Calvinist has an answer for everything."

Now, regardless of how solid my answers, well, that's just the way Calvinists are, an answer for everything. Apparently, it's become a bad thing to be able to consistently and even minutely defend what you believe the Scripture teaches. If you can meet every challenge to your belief system, and do it robustly, that's a strike against you. Calvinists have answers...but you don't have to listen to them, because they've always got answers! I'm not entirely certain I understand that logic, but the rhetorical effect Cloud is shooting for here is quite clear: I know Calvinists have answers for whatever I'll say hereafter, but, trust me, there's nothing to's all a smokescreen. No need to consider their answers. Just wave your hand and make them go away.

Lord willing, we'll look at some of David Cloud's actual Scriptural arguments against Calvinism in later posts. Keep in mind, I'm already not allowed to be too smart, to use technical terms, to claim my views have been mis-defined for me, or to have an answer for everything. I can comply with the first requirement without even trying, but the others may well tax me.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Prayer and the Purpose of God

Last Sunday I preached a sermon on 2 Kings 20:1-11 entitled, "One Call, That's All." It should be available to hear online at this location soon. The following is an excerpt from that sermon:

"All prayers, offered up in the will of God and according to his desire will be answered in the affirmative. For the Christian, this is not a restriction to his prayers but a delight; for, he delights in the will of the Lord. Therefore, we should not hesitate to ask for the new job, the new car, or extra money. However, in our limited knowledge, we do not know how to pray as we ought. Thus, the Spirit takes our prayers and plucks the sin out of them as Martin Luther said. So since God is working everything to our good and his glory as Romans 8:28 says, there are times when the gift will be to best of the child and times when it will not be. That’s why the Spirit’s role is so essential in interceding for us and enabling us to pray in accordance with the will of God. Because of this, we can think of our prayers in terms of a bullet-both upwards to heaven and outwards to the enemy. Our desires are like that of gun powder. On its own it is useless. But when the Holy Spirit comes and encases our desires as the lead shell encases the powder, our prayers actually penetrate Heaven’s domain and become powerful projectiles that can be launched in the face of the enemy."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Christocentric Hermeneutic

Graeme Goldsworthy says:

The fact that Jesus is the one mediator between God and people has enormous hermeneutical implications (1 Tim 2:5). The Christology of mediation brings the major dimensions of communication into contact so that they operate in a way that human sin is inoperable. Thus the communicator (God), the message (God's Word), and the receiver (humanity), all are united in the God/Man who is himself the message.

Only when we have been reconciled to God, through the agent of reconciliation/mediation Jesus Christ, will we begin to even come close to understanding and unpacking the meaning of the biblical text. The role of Christ as Mediator is significant even as we approach the Bible. Approaching the Bible apart from Christ will lead us only to our own destruction. Approaching the Bible through the person and work of Jesus Christ is essential to getting the message of the Bible correct.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Romans 9 and Steve Gregg

I was listening to James White's radio show today and I received the distinct privilege of getting to hear a beautiful exegete in one Steve Gregg. Here are some things I never knew about Romans 9:

1. Romans 9 is not referring to the election of individuals to salvation (nevermind the proceeding context of Paul agonizing why some WITHIN THE NATION of Israel are perishing). Romans 9 is referring to the election of nations to accomplish God's historical purposes (is this really any different from what we heard from Adrian Rogers or Dave Hunt).

2. God chose the nation of Israel to temporal purposes not to eternal salvation(hmmm.."You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews"). People were just as likely to be saved in unchosen nations like Edom as they were in chosen nations like Israel (what other chosen nation than Israel is there?).

3. The hardening of Pharoah is an act of judgment on the nation of Egypt and not a case of an individual being hardened for judgment.

4. Mal. 1:2-3 can only have ONE initial fulfillment and not a greater fulfillment to show why some of Israel is lost and perishing. Thus, Mal. 1:2-3 is referring ONLY to God's sovereign choice of Israel over Edom.

And last, but certainly not least...

5. The objector's cry in verse 19 is not emerging from Pauline doctrine. "For who has resisted his will", according to Mr. Gregg, is contrary to Paul's doctrine but is what the objector is coming up with from his own misunderstanding. Fortunately, Paul sets this man straight by saying, "WHO ARE YOU" and, as we can all see, "WHO ARE YOU" is Paul's way of emphasizing you are the one who is resisting God's will, you are the one who is going against his sovereign purposes, you are an example of one who is doing precisely what God would not want you to do. Therefore, Paul is pointing out the fallacy in the objector's own question (this, I must admit is one of the most creative interpretations of these verses).

With those brilliant observations from the text compiling such an impenetrable case for the absolute, autonomous will of man and the right of the sinner to thwart the will of God, I believe I have been convinced of the veracity of the synergistic, semi-Pelagian gospel. Please excuse me. It's time for me to go find a copy of Dave Hunt's, "What Love is This."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Turbulance of Love

Another quote from Walls and Dongell:

One stream of turbulence results from restricting God's saving intention to a subset of humanity, the elect. Just how wide are God's saving intentions? If God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (John 3:16), then it would seem that the loving heart of the Father embraced the whole word as he set in motion the saving mission of the Son." We read that Jesus "is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The same writer elaborates on the ministry of expiation by connecting it to the love of God: "God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:8-10). It appears that God's universal love energizes God's worldwide mission of redemption.

First let me say that I agree: It does appear that God intends to save every person worldwide...without any careful exegesis of the text. Many of these passages were problems for me, because like Walls and Dongell, I had failed to exegete these passage, but reluctantly read my presuppositions into the text.

I think it is quite interesting, the very people who brought into question of the clarity of the Scriptures, believe these verses to be extremely clear, teaching a universal scope of redemption. Without any exegesis or defining the Greek word for kosmos, or seeing how the word is used in other contexts, specifically the phrase "the whole world" in 1 John 2:2, I too, can see how one can believe this. While, "the whole world" seems all-inclusive, the only other place in 1 John (see chapter 5) where this phrase is used, is used in an exclusive manner. With this knowledge, why assume that 1 John 2:2 is all-inclusive when there is no reason to do so.

Go ahead, attack the clarity of Scripture, until it is a verse that might support your case, but don't bother exegeting the passage or you might discover it doesn't support your confabulations at all and extirpates your entire theology.

Such moot and tortuous reasoning above as Walls and Dongell have done is characteristic of Arminian reasoning.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Postmodernism vs. Christ

Albert Mohler has aptly stated that postmodernism "allows for infinite forms of meaning." From an epistemological standpoint, defending the Christian faith against this type of thinking can seem impossible. Aside from the infiltration of postmodern thinking in others, those fighting for the faith must also battle postmodern tendencies within themselves. It's no wonder that some Christians find themselves frustrated as witnesses for the gospel of Christ.

This short article is a broad summary of continuing thoughts I have had concerning this struggle. There was a time when I sought to be a well-spoken apologist with an answer for any anti-Christian argument that faced me. Besides the fact that I have the memory of a goldfish born from the inter-breeding of thirteen generations, I realized afterwards that my particular goal to become a great apologist was objectively unreasonable.

By no means am I suggesting that apologetics are unnecessary. God often uses apologetics as a bridge to the gospel. The situation of Paul at the Areopogus is a classic example of this (Acts 17:16-34). Paul researched the belief system in Athens to understand the worldview held by the people. He did his homework first, and then he spoke. When he addressed the people, he did so in a way that was relevant to their expansive cultural context. From that point, he masterfully transitioned into a presentation of the gospel.


Pictured above: One suggested method for converting postmodernists.

The point I'm trying to make here is that Paul's objective was to present the gospel of Christ through Scripture. Paul's chief end was to arrive at a point where he could say, "Here is Christ, your Savior." Yes, he studied. Yes, he reasoned. Yes, he philosophized. But in the end, when he had finished reasoning with them, he says in verse 24, "this I proclaim to you." Paul had come to proclaim the gospel of Christ to these people, not to defeat their arguments or show them their deficiency of logic.

In light of these things, I am writing as a reminder to all of us who labor hard for the truth of the gospel that we must not forget our objective, who is Christ of the Scriptures. We must not compromise the power of God's Word for the eloquence of any argument of logic. No matter how impenetrable or beautiful a philosophical argument may seem, it will never bring someone to Christ. The gospel "is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." Peter wrote "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

The Word is power. The Word reveals the hidden darkness as light. We must not be ashamed of the Word or be afraid that it is too weak to overcome the most brilliant arguments of intellect. When we feel overwhelmed by the many faces of postmodernism, we must not rely on philosophical reasoning. We must spiritually assault the confused reasoning of postmodernists with the penetrating power of Scripture. This will keep us centered. This will keep us humble. Most of all, this will bring God the most glory as we battle against the enemies of the gospel.

Back to the Basics: A Return to the Centrality of the Word of God

Amidst the cacophany of evangelical music trends, one noticably missing element stands out in our corporate worship: Spirit-empowered preaching. Somehow, our churches have gotten away from the centrality of the Word of God in worship and instead replaced it with praise bands, drama skits, testimonies, DVD clips and so forth. We have more programs than we know what to do with yet when it comes to personal holiness and public evangelism we are as stagnant as ever. Long forgotten is the fundamental tenant of Historic Protestantism of sola scriptura and the primacy of preaching. Instead, we are more concerned with our Senior Citizens program, our Youth Group, the Sunday School department and the Movie Night events. We have obscured the aim and objective of the people of God: to exult over Holy Writ. As a result, many in the church do not even question when our worship services become reduced to singing and self-help talks. Is it any wonder that we haven't seen revival in our churches? Is it any wonder that the Spirit of God hasn't come down from heaven and blown over the dry bones around us? If we expect to see such a change in our churches, we would do well to heed the words of the apostle Paul in his second epistle to Timothy. In chapter three, Paul reminds Timothy of the "sacred writings" and points to them as the ultimate and authoritative source to guide him in his faith and practice. Then, the apostle makes this bold claim:

"16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." -2 Timothy 3:16-17

Here, we will examine three points Paul makes concerning Holy Scripture: its origin, its function, and its goal.

1. Its Origin

First, notice in verse 16 that Paul says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God." The Greek word here is theopneustos, which means Scripture is divine in nature. It has as its very source God. Though brought to us through human instruments, the Bible is the revelation of the Creator to His creation. Thus, we should tremble with fear when we hear it read aloud! We should bow our heads in reverence as we contemplate its truth. We should fasten it to our hearts and delight in its riches for this is God speaking to us. To reject Scripture is, in essence, to reject God. Calvin said that we ought to show the same amount of reverence to Scripture as we do to God himself. And since we owe that kind of reverence to Scripture, it follows that we owe that kind of reverence to all of Scripture. "All Scripture" Paul says is "breathed out by God." We must not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God but preach the whole gamut of Scriptural truth.

2. Its Function

After asserting the authoritative origin of Scripture, Paul then begins to list the function or the role of Scripture. Pay close attention to four things he mentions: "...profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Consider that three of the four functions of Scripture have negative connotations in most evangelical minds. It is only the fourth that seems positive: "training in righteousness." The word that is used for teaching in the KJV is the notorious "doctrine." In our postmodern age where authority is rejected and egalitarianism is espoused, no one wants to think of having to be taught, much less reprooved or corrected. However, that is precisely what Paul says the function of Scripture is and if we are to be faithful to it, we will allow it to do its sharpening work.

3. Its Goal

To prevent us from thinking that the teaching, reprooving, correcting and training proccess is for no purpose, Paul inform us that it is so "that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." The Greek word here for "competent" has as its meaning the idea of completeness or wholeness. It means one who has reached a point of spiritual maturity. This person who has reached spiritual maturity is "equipped for every good work." Thus, the goal and end of Scripture is not just so we can have theological knowledge. The goal and end of Scripture is so that we can have knowledge and have it "equipped." The Bible's goal is never to sever doctrine from practice but rather doctrine is foundational to all our Christian practice. Paul would have had a hard time imagining an ivory tower theologian.

In light of Paul's words, let us then be about the reforming work of our churches. Trusting that fidelity to God's Word is our priority and that Christ, not us, will build His church. Soli deo gloria!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

New Enforcer!!

I am pleased to announce that Seth Fuller has joined the Reformed Mafia!

Seth is a Reformed Baptist and graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also runs the infamous "What? ..Um" Theological Satire.

I enjoy Seth's work on his website and I look forward to seeing what he does here on the Mafia blog!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rival Gang?

Had to happen.

You can't just come up with a cool name like the Reformed Mafia and hope that's the end of it. LOL!

Just brand new, starting up, is the "Conservative Reformed Mafia" blog. To their credit, their site is much tougher-looking than this one, and they seem to have come by their name honestly.

I guess there's room for more than one Mafia family. Always has been. Especially one that is committed to the Doctrines of Grace. The more the merrier, I say.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Baptizing Little Believers?

I'm interested in some feedback from other Mafia members, and all other Reformed Baptists on this one.

I want to talk about baptizing children upon their profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

As a Calvinistic Baptist myself, I'll lay my cards on the table right at the outset on this one: I say just baptize them. I know that's a controversial position to hold. I know, for instance, that it's rumored that Spurgeon did not baptize his own twin sons until they were 19, even though neither one of them had ever confessed anything other than faith in Christ. (And whatever that guy did has to be right...right?)

I know the concern from the other position is over protecting the regenerate church membership. It's about doing what we can to ensure that we're not baptizing the unregenerate. I get that, and I appreciate the concern.

But here are my random thoughts on the matter:

1. It's not the baptism of children that necessarily produces unregenerate church members: it's a faulty and/or false gospel that is centered on emotional response and the free will of fallen man. If we repent of preaching that sort of "gospel" and return to preaching the apostolic content of the Gospel of Christ, then the response that we will get will be far less likely to be emotion-driven in the first place.

2. Scripture only ever gives us one hurdle to clear prior to baptism, and there's some manuscript evidence, apparently, that even this one hurdle may not be original with Luke. In Acts 8, when the eunuch asked why he couldn't be baptized, Philip replied that he could if only he believed. The eunuch said he did, and Philip baptized him. He didn't catechize him first, or make him fill out a seeker's workbook, or wait months for fruit to appear. But again, consistent with #1 above, Philip knew he had preached the genuine Gospel to him.

3. If anyone had a right to be gun-shy about baptizing new converts, it was Philip. He had just previously been involved with the whole sad incident involving Simon Magus and his false conversion/false baptism. But getting burned by Simon didn't cause him to hesitate to pull the trigger once faith in Christ was confessed.

4. We are tempted to demand that children have adult-like faith, but Scripture tells us we adults need to become childlike or we shall in no wise see the kingdom of heaven!

5. By not baptizing children who confess Christ consistent with their ability to understand, and by demanding to see some fruit first, we generally make it more difficult for them to be baptized than we do for adult converts.

6. Again, baptizing kids is not the problem: Manipulating kids into being baptized, with things like Vacation Bible School peer pressure and Fire Engine Baptistries, and with a lobotomized "Gospel" of the spiritual ABC's is the problem. You want to stop baptizing the unregenerate, then start preaching the true gospel and start relying on God to call those whom He will, completely apart from your parlor tricks and machinations to make it happen.

7. We should baptize on confession of faith, which confession is consistent with ability to understand, and is not blatantly contradicted by anything. This is true for both adults and children. Now, each of us sins, and thereby we are all habitual contradictors of our confessed faith; but we shouldn't withhold baptism from professing believers unless there is some obvious, glaring defect. Like, "I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I also believe Mohammed is the Son of God." Or, like the guy who confesses on Sunday morning to believe but the whole town's heard what hell he raised on Saturday might want to wait and see some repentance in a case like that. But those are major, obvious contradictions. If you have a third or fourth grader who has listened to your consistent, expository presentation of the Gospel and subsequently confesses to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and that forgiveness is through His Name, I'm not sure what the great wisdom is in waiting around for something more.

None of this is in stone for me, as in, I'm looking for interaction on this. I'm truly interested in your thoughts.

The Marks of a False Teacher: A look at 1 Timothy 6:3-5

Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

How can you tell if someone is a false teacher?

1. They teach a different doctrine.
2. They do not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. They do not agree with the teaching that accords with godliness.

Here the apostle Paul admonishes timothy to teach the truth, and recognixe those who teach otherwise as false teachers. He begins by admonishing Timothy to teach these things. What things, the things he has previously written to him in his letter. And then he says, if anyone teaches anything otherwise and does not agree with this, they are a false teacher. In fact, this is what he says about those people.

They are:
1. Arrogant~they are puffed up
2. Ignorant~they understand nothing

Likely what Paul was warning timothy about was gnosticism, which was definitely rooted in pride, because they believed they had an upper hand on knowledge than the orthodox Christians. However, the gnostics rejected the gospel to invent their own religion. The irony of this is that these prideful folks who thought they had gained secret knowledge, actually understood nothing. You could say they were dumber than a brick.

Here are some other characteristics of these folks:

1. They have an unhealthy craving for controversy.
2. They have an unhealthy craving for quarrels about words....Interesting...sounds like someone I know....any guesses?

But notice, that these unhealthy cravings don't help anything. They actually fuel sinful ways in the minds of lost people. It produces envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among those who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth.

Another thing is that false teachers like money. They use religion to gain material wealth. "Godliness is a means of gain." We know it is talking about monetary gain from the context....Sounds like a lot of tv preachers.

I write this post so that you as you listen to preachers and read books, you will be discerning as you do it, looking for the marks of a false teacher. I am in no way saying these marks are exhaustive, or that a false teacher must exhibit everyone of these. But these are some things that the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, sought to warn young Timothy about, and we too should take heed lest we fall.

Speaking of Luther...

Speaking of Luther, I have a bud who knows a thing or three about him.

See here.


Hmmmmm....very interesting...

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466): Some people who have fallen foul of this complaint have endeavored to level charges at the divine Scripture, and especially the inspired oracles, of being shrouded in obscurity. To such people the divine-inspired Paul would retort, “Now, even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, but to the mature it is wisdom we are speaking.” In keeping with this, too, is what is said by our Lord and savior to the holy apostles, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, whereas to those others it is not given;” and to explain the reason he immediately adds, “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand” — that is, they willingly bring upon themselves the cloud of ignorance: if they turn to the Lord, as the apostle says, the veil will be lifted. Divine realities, therefore, are not obscure to everyone, only to those who are voluntarily blind; they ought to take note and realize that nothing worthwhile is readily accessible to human beings. Robert Charles Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentaries on the Prophets, Vol. Two, Commentary on the Prophet Ezekiel (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2006), preface, pp. 27-28.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466): Let no one, therefore, especially devotees of the true religion, adopt such a presumptuous attitude to the divine Spirit as to accuse his words of obscurity. Instead, in their longing to understand the sacred words, let them cry aloud with the divinely-inspired David, “Unveil my eyes, and I shall grasp the marvels of your law:” having promised the knowledge as a benefit, he will definitely grant the request. In fact, in our case, too, let us offer this request to the Lord, who according to the divine David gives wisdom to the blind, and according to blessed Isaiah to those in gloom and darkness, and let us venture upon a commentary on the divinely-inspired Ezekiel, attempt to plumb the depths of the prophecy as far as is possible for us, and make available to all religious people the value drawn from it. Robert Charles Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentaries on the Prophets, Vol. Two, Commentary on the Prophet Ezekiel (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2006), preface, p. 29.

Sounds like he ran across an ancient version of E-D and the Deviant one.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Clarity of Scripture

"For what solemn truth can the Scriptures still be concealing, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light--that Christ, God's Son, became man, that God is Three in One, that Christ suffered for us, and will reign for ever? And are not these things known, and sung in our streets? Take Christ from the Scriptures--and what more will you find in them? You see, then, that the entire content of the Scriptures has now been brought to light, even though some passages which contain unknown words remain obscure. Thus it is unintelligent, and ungodly too, when you know that the contents of Scripture are as clear as can be, to pronounce them obscure on account of those few obscure words. If words are obscure in one place, they are clear in another."

Martin Luther to Erasmus, in The Bondage of the Will

Luther saw, correctly, that Christ is the object and end of the whole of Scripture. He is the Logos, the eternal Word of God, and so it ought not surprise that He is the focus of the inscripturated word.

To claim, therefore, that the Scriptures are not open and plain in what they teach, or that we risk getting as lost as Becky Thatcher in the cave when we dive into them, is really a tacit denial of the Incarnation. God is not only Transcendant. He is not only holy, holy, holy and dissimilar to His creation. But He is has come near in Christ. The Word became flesh. And that, above all else, is what Scripture is about. Scripture is about making that clear.

So to hem and haw and wring our hands with false humility and refuse (as if with academic hesitancy) to hear what the Scripture says to us is to deny that God accomplished what He set out to do: which was to reveal Christ by them.

James White on Postmodernism and a New Word!

A couple items that may be of interest to the Mafia:

1. James White critiquing some of Brian McLaren's nonsense...
Part 1 and Part 2

2. A new vocabulary word to describe the response you get when dealing with a Postmodern thinker: Circumlocution.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Welcome to the Gang!

If you look at our list of enforcers, you will see that it has now grown by 3... That's because the four founding Dons of the Reformed Mafia got together and decided we wanted to expand.

We then scoped out a few fellows who we thought would be up to the challenge and made them an offer they couldn't refuse!

So without any further delay, I want to officially welcome Douglas Mabry , Trevor Almy, and Sam Meza to the Reformed Mafia!

Gentlemen, it is good to have you on board!

I hope this little venture will be edifying as well as enjoyable. I look forward to getting to know you all even better as we continue "bootlegging subversive doctrines in the Evangelical Prohibition on truth!"

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Postmodern Liberal Challenge

This is a challenge for anyone (I have two specific people in mind) to engage in the discipline of exegesis, and provide that exegesis in the comment box of Ephesians 1. I want to see you engage the historical and literary contexts, the context of the chapter in the overall book. Why each verse, under the inspiration of the Spirit is placed where it is, looking at important grammatical structures (verbs, prepositions, etc.), and examining the original languages to help get to a closer understanding of the teaching of the text. If you can do this, I will give you my respect, and I will also send you a free copy of AW Pink's, The Sovereignty of God.

Note: Philosophizing over Ephesians 1 DOES NOT COUNT. Biblical Exegesis using the means about is what I am looking for.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Truth and Clarity

Liberal postmodernism is a passionate lover of the ancient Gnostics. Both use as an interpretative grid some form of higher knowledge, whether that is “secret” knowledge available to only a few, or philosophy. Ancient or modern, wolves continue to creep in, wanting to distort scripture by denying the clarity with which God has spoken. Both ancient and modern repeat the first lie ever told: “Has God really said…”

Here is a small sample of those who fought against that lie. Notice what each appeals to in their own struggles.



Basil wrote against those who would deny that the scriptures were sufficient to establish the Trinity:

"But all who maintain that either Son or Spirit is a creature, or absolutely reduce the Spirit to ministerial and servile rank, are far removed from the truth. Flee their communion. Turn away from their teaching, they are destructive to souls. If ever the Lord grant us to meet, I will discourse to you further concerning the faith, to the end that you may perceive at once the power of the truth and the rottenness of heresy by Scriptural proof." (Letter 105)

1)Notice who is denying the scriptures.
2)Notice what it is that Basil makes his appeal to.

This in itself presupposes not only the clarity but the sufficiency of scripture as well. Notice that there is no appeal to such nonsense as “well, that is just your interpretation.”


Hilary of Poitiers

Hilary is another example much like the above. Lest some postmodern misunderstand, the point isn’t about the Trinity. The point is about how the heretics wanted to distort what was clear in the scriptures. Hilary writes:

"For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text." - Hilary of Poitiers (On the Trinity, 2:3)

As the above, notice that it is the heretics who gave some “arbitrary interpretation of their own” in the face of the “plain words” of scripture. Hilary also affirms what all who hold to the Perspicuity of Scripture, that error lies not in the written word, but in the motivation of the expositor.


Julius Africanus

Julius Africanus refers to the clarity of Biblical prophecy, such as Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy, which is surely one of the more difficult passages of scripture. He says that Jews and other non-Christians can easily understand these things:

"But I am amazed that the Jews deny that the Lord has yet come, and that the followers of Marcion refuse to admit that His coming was predicted in the prophecies when the Scriptures display the matter so openly to our view." (The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus, 18)


John Chrysostom

"All things are dear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain." (Homilies on Second Thessalonians, 3, v. 5)

That should be very easy to understand. That is as plain as saying that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet to remain consistent, who is it that would have to deny what is mentioned above? We have seen a demonstration of that here on this very blog.


Theophilus of Antioch

Theophilus of Antioch doesn't seem to have thought that scripture is as unclear as neither ancient nor modern (postmodernism) Gnosticism would want everyone to believe:

"And why should I recount the multitude of prophets, who are numerous, and said ten thousand things consistently and harmoniously? For those who desire it, can, by reading what they uttered, accurately understand the truth, and no longer be carried away by opinion and profitless labour” (Theophilus to Autolycus, 2:35)



What does the man who wrote against the early heretics have to say? Quite simply:

"A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in acquaintance with them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall plainly under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures....the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all" - Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 2:27:1-2)

As in the previous examples, his arguments were against heretics. And it is Irenaeus who affirms clarity, which is something no Gnostic, ancient or modern, would ever support.

As the saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." As such, one thing is guarenteed: Those who do not hold to the clarity of the written word will prolly not get what this post was about.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Theological Suicide

I should have known how it was going to go from the start. But they tricked me. It started off really good and I found myself in agreement with them. Walls and Dongell said this:

We hold that the Bible stands beneath us, giving us a foundation to our understanding; that it encircles us, marking boundaries for our speculation; that it resides within us. granting and conforming the true understanding of God and of ourselves; and it ultimately stands over us, judging according to the very mind of God.

I like this quote. But, they commit theological suicide only a few pages later.

They say this:

What are we suggesting? That in matters of biblical interpretation our own sense of certainty about what the Bible says on a given matter can't determine whether our particular understanding of the Bible is viable.

While there is some truth to this, because Catholics are "certain" that the Bible teaches transubstantiation," there is still a problem with this. Using proper hermeneutics, grammatical skills, original languages, one can be alot more certain than what Walls and Dongell suggest.

Here is a question that they pose, and I too would like an answer:

Have we not undercut the entire project of this book? After all, if we are claiming that the Bible may not be clear as we might have hoped, even about those issues directly related to the Calvinist- Arminian debate, why would we invest anytime at all in the swamps and quagmires of this longstanding theological debate?

Honestly, I really don't know. They seek to show how Calvinism distorts the biblical picture of God, and with the same pen say this Bible really isn't all that clear on the subject.

Another thing that they do is they take a few sentences from creeds and confessions out of their context and make it sound like they are being true to church history. But, its out of context.

OK, IF you believe the Bible is unclear on practically everything, then how in the world can you make the claim that Calvinism distorts the biblical picture of God, if it is so hazy and unclear. That's theological suicide.

Secondly, If the Bible itself is unclear, then the fault is God's. However, God's Word is clear enough to understand, through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and proper means of study that God has enabled us with. (He gave us a brain!!).

The problem is not that the Bible is unclear, the problem is that we live in a fallen world. Even strong Calvinists disagree on finer points of doctrine, but they have all faithfully studied the word of God. Is the Bible unclear on those issues? No. Are men just retarted? No. We live in the context of a fallen world, and that is the primary cause of disagreement on finer points of theology.

Here is the thing: I have never seen any exegesis done by an Arminian. I read a book with the chapter entitled "Approaching the Bible" and they attack the clarity of Scripture.

Here is what I want to say to the Arminians: Just please try to exegete a passage. John 6 for starters, then perhaps Ephesians 1 and 2. Look at the meaning of Greek words. Look at the historical and literary context. Look at the context of the passage in the entirety of the book. Use grammar skills you learned in second grade. That should be a good start. But if you say that Calvinism distorts the biblical picture of God, and then say the Bible is unclear, then you commit theological suicide and have no business debating these issues biblically and making statements like that.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Why I am not a Calvinist: Introduction

Just the other day I decided to began reading the book, Why I am not a Calvinist, written by two professors of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Perhaps by reading this book, I will also see through the lenses of men who have had an influence on Exist Dissolve, since that is where he went to school.

I must begin by stating that by just reading the introduction of the book, I have a greater respect for these two men than most critics of Reformed Theology. Of course, their position is going to be against Calvinism, but there are a few statements that are made in the introduction that give Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell a better rating than most critics.

They have said these things:

We have an enormous respect and appreciation for Calvin and the heritage he defined and engendered. Calvinism has for centuries represented a vital tradition of piety that is intellectual and morally serious. Calvinists have set a standard for scholarship and cultural engagement that evangelicals of other traditions can readily admire and emulate.

Moreover, many Calvinists have been zealous evangelists and missionaries and have contributed powerfully to the cause of winning the lost for Christ. In their passion for the glory of God, Calvinists have played a leading role in the renewal of worship in this generation.

This was a better change of place than, "Evangelical Calvinism is an Oxymoron," or "Calvinism kills evangelism." I am thankful that these men have recognized this important fact.

Also, when discussing the "Reformed Resurgence" as I like to call it, these men say this:

Part of Calvinism's attraction is surely that it represents a stark alternative to the superficial, seeker-sensitive theology that predominates in many churches in America. In such churches, God is often reduced to a "cosmic bellhop" whose only concern is to meet whatever needs contemporary people feel in their lives.

Surely, this is one thing that has contributed to the reformed resurgence, and I can agree with the authors.

Speaking of Calvinism, these men also say:

Calvinism is, if it is anything, serious about doctrine, passionate about the Bible, and zealous for the glory of God.

The introduction to this book has been by far the most enjoyable because of the respectable way that the represent the tradition of reformed thought. However, these critics are far from escaping critique themselves.

For the most part, these men accuarately described the five points of Calvinism. My one problem is when they speak of Irresistable Grace. Given the doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement are true:

Then it follows naturally that the elect will not be able to resist God's Sovereign choice to save them. Those who are elect cannot fail to respond positively to God's grace.

While there is nothing in this quote that I disagree with, I would like to say that the irresistible grace does not hinge on man's ability or inability, but on man's desire. The fact that the elect are not able to choose otherwise does not matter. The don't want to choose otherwise. The don't desire to reject Christ once they have been effectually called of the Holy Spirit. They are so effectually drawn, the humbly submit to the Lordship of Christ.

Another thing I would like to comment on is their position on the atonement:

God's grace enables and encourages a positive saving response for everyone, but it does not determine a saving response for anyone.

So, God does not command anything, he just encourages. So, the Sovereign King of the universe is reduced to a divine encourager, like a little league baseball coach, cheering on humanity to make the right choice. Yeah, sure...whatever.

Listen to this, who does this sound like:

The reality is that Calvinists no less than Arminians rely on controversial philosophical judgments and assumptions. When this is not understood, contested philosophical judgments are sometimes passed off as simple biblical truth. But the less aware we are of our philosophical assumptions, the more they control our thinking.

Hmm.....I believe I know someone who has practically repeated this word for word. Perhaps this is true, or perhaps the "contested philosophical judgments are actually simple biblical truth. If so, we must submit to it, and not rebel against it with our philosophical biases.

They state their purpose in writing on page 8:

In the chapters that will follow, we will argue that Calvinism distorts the biblical picture of God and fails in other crucial ways that show its inadequacy as a theological system.

This should be good. I am ready to see their argument. Bring it on!!

Patristics, Sex, And Mary -- From A Friend in Texas

Part of an email from a friend in Texas:

Here are a few of the more detailed quotes about marriage, sex, and procreation. As you can see, Tertullian and Augustine were truly warped in their understanding of this (Tertullian's is more directed toward females in general).

Tertullian on women:

And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age:4 the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer5 of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded6 him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert-that is, death-even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins?7

"Tertullian was so repulsed by sex he publicly renounced his own sexual relationship with his wife and taught that sexual intercourse drives out the Holy Spirit. Women, he declared, are "the devil's door: through them Satan creeps into men's hearts and minds and works his wiles for their spiritual destruction." Tertullian, De exhortatione castitatis 11.1, in CCL 2:1030-31,

An article on Origen and marriage:

"Origen lived an austere life characterized by extreme self-discipline and ascetic practices, including his own self-castration in accordance with a literal reading of Matthew 19:12."

Clement of Rome:

For he who covets for himself these things so great and excellent, withdraws and severs himself on this account from all the world, that he may go and live a life divine and heavenly, like the holy angels, in work pure and holy, and "in the holiness28 of the Spirit of God,"29 and that he may serve God Almighty through Jesus Christ for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. On this account he severs himself from all the appetites of the body. And not only does he excuse himself from this command, "Be fruitful, and multiply," but he longs for the "hope promised" and prepared "and laid up in heaven"30 by God, who has declared with His mouth, and He does not lie, that it is "better than sons and daughters,"31 and that He will give to virgins a notable place in the house of God, which is something "better than sons and daughters," and better than the place of those who have passed a wedded life in sanctity, and whose "bed has not been defiled."32 For God will give to virgins the kingdom of heaven, as to the holy angels, by reason of this great and noble profession.


The union, then, of male and female for the purpose of procreation is the natural good of marriage. But he makes a bad use of this good who uses it bestially, so that his intention is on the gratification of lust, intend of the desire of offspring.

Now, wherein could be found a more fitting demonstration of the just depravation of human nature by reason of its disobedience, than in the disobedience of those parts whence nature herself derives subsistence by succession? For it is by an especial propriety that those parts of the body are designated as natural. This, then, was the reason why the first human pair, on experiencing in the flesh that motion which was indecent because disobedient, and on feeling the shame of their nakedness, covered these offending members with fig-leaves; in order that, at the very least, by the will of the ashamed offenders, a veil might be thrown over that which was put into motion without the will of those who wished it: and since shame arose from what indecently pleased, decency might be attained by concealment.

Whosoever possesses his vessel (that is, his wife) with this intention of heart, certainly does not possess her in the "disease of desire," as the Gentiles which know not God, but in sanctification and honour, as believers who hope in God. A man turns to use the evil of concupiscence, and is not overcome by it, when he bridles and restrains its rage, as it works in inordinate and indecorous motions; and never relaxes his hold upon it except when intent on offspring, and then controls and applies it to the carnal generation of children to be spiritually regenerated, not to the subjection of the spirit to the flesh in a sordid servitude.

But in the married, as these things are desirable and praiseworthy, so the others are to be tolerated, that no lapse occur into damnable sins; that is, into fornications and adulteries. To escape this evil, even such embraces of husband and wife as have not procreation for their object, but serve an overbearing concupiscence, are permitted, so far as to be within range of forgiveness, though not prescribed by way of commandment: and the married pair are enjoined not to defraud one the other, lest Satan should tempt them by reason of their incontinence.

It is, however, one thing for married persons to have intercourse only for the wish to beget children, which is not sinful: it is another thing for them to desire carnal pleasure in cohabitation, but with the spouse only, which involves venial sin.

Wherefore the devil holds infants guilty who are born, not of the good by which marriage is good, but of the evil of concupiscence, which, indeed, marriage uses aright, but at which even marriage has occasion to feel shame.

...whenever it comes to the actual process of generation, the very embrace which is lawful and honourable cannot be effected without the ardour of lust, so as to be able to accomplish that which appertains to the use of reason and not of lust. Now, this ardour, whether following or preceding the will, does somehow, by a power of its own, move the members which cannot be moved simply by the will, and in this manner it shows itself not to be the servant of a will which commands it, but rather to be the punishment of a will which disobeys it. It shows, moreover, that it must be excited, not by a free choice, but by a certain seductive stimulus, and that on this very account it produces shame.

Now, in light of that small sampling of the views on sex in those days (and much further down the road as well), how could Mary possibly be considered anything but EV and conceived as in the IC? Hence, the need for the unnatural/goddess/woman invented in the place of the real Mary. Contrary to the intention of keeping Jesus fully man and fully God, this makes Him a mere counterfeit. The "need" to keep Him from touching sin (as in the womb of a completely normal Mary), actually disqualifies Him and His testimony as given in scripture of how He came to save the sick, ate with the sinners, touching them ALL along the way. Ironic, eh?

Excellent work, Terry. Amen!

(Disclaimer note: While the information sourced from one or two of the links is good and accurate, the Mafia (nor Terry) does not endorse those sites.)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

From the Front Lines...

I was just browsing the web a bit, and I decided to check out the blogs of our good friends Exist-Dissolve and Deviant Monk.

When I stopped by Exist's blog to check out his latest drivel, I saw the place got a nice makeover. What really got my attention though was that he has added the Reformed Mafia to his "non-hostiles" list. Seeing us listed there almost caused me to go out and buy the latest Hal Lindsey book. Folks, this has to be a sure sign of the End!!

Deviant has some real interesting stuff on his blog, especially a little artwork he did in honor of John Calvin. There was also a long, yet entertaining article where the Monk clearly demonstrates that he still doesn't get it.

Sources tell me that a picture of Deviant -almost in the fetal position- was actually the result of a theological meltdown caused by watching the Godtube video of John Piper preaching on Postmodern error. Someone else has suggested that it was a new Yoga position, but I'm not so sure about that... If anything, I'm more inclined to believe he passed out because of an allergic reaction to encountering some form of Biblical truth.

In other news, Josh needs to be congratulated for helping Exist earn his 4th Notable Pagan Award! (That's two for Josh so far!) Now that Gojira has joined the Mafia, we can now be proud of the fact that members of the Reformed Mafia are responsible for every single one of Exist's Notable Pagan awards!

By the way, in the speak-easy a while back -during a discussion of Christ's mediatorial role- I gave some awards to Exist and Deviant myself! I'm not sure if that will qualify for another Notable Pagan, but at least I tried.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Why You Shouldn't Mess With Paula White

She will throw the mess right back atcha!

The Demonic Doctrine of Cheap Grace

Recently in the Mafia speak-easy, we've heard some things that are very disturbing. We've been told that a person can possess genuine faith yet never produce any good works as an evidence of having genuine faith! In spite of the clear language see in James 2:14-24, we have been told, "the idea that James is dealing with a distinction between false and genuine faith is an eisegetical import into the text."

This whole line of reasoning is foreign to me, because if anything, I normally see this passage being used by Catholics and Pelagians as a proof text against the Reformed doctrine of Sola Fide. After much debate in the speak-easy, I have not seen our detractor bring any compelling evidence that the Reformed Mafia has eisegeted anything into James 2:14-24. The only reason I can imagine that someone would want to propagate the idea that saving faith can be wholly lacking in any good works is either to protect their Antinomian theological framework, or to allow for the willful and habitual indulgence in sin by those who want to call themselves Christians.

Concerning this so-called "faith" that produces no outward manifestation of good works, the great Baptist John Gill said:

"for as works, without faith, are dead works, so faith, without works, is a dead faith, and not like the lively hope and faith of regenerated persons: and indeed, such who have no other faith than this are dead in trespasses and sins; not that works are the life of faith, or that the life of faith lies in, and flows from works; but, as Dr. Ames observes {b}, good works are second acts, necessarily flowing from the life of faith; to which may be added, and by these faith appears to be living, lively and active, or such who perform them appear to be true and living believers."

Saving faith is not a dead faith. It is not a faith that allow a person to go, perhaps, for decades totally devoid of any good works whatsoever. Genuine saving faith is a faith that changes a man on the inside and therefore cannot help but show in some way on the outside. In Hebrews 11, we see examples of Old Testament saints who's lives were not always the best examples of godly living, but in spite of their failures, we see that all of them did some good works!

In 2 Cor. 5:17, Paul tells us "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." According to the "Free Grace" scheme, Paul would have to reword that verse to say "if any man be in Christ, he may not necessarily be a new creature: old things may stay the same; behold, nothing really needs to change at all."

Not only does Scripture teach that God has ordained that Christians will manifest good works (Eph 2:10), but experience teaches us the same thing. I'm certainly not the most perfect Christian on the planet, but when God saved me, there was a change! It wasn't much at first, but over time God has brought me to the point to where I'm not the same guy I was 9 years ago!

When I was an Arminian, preaching in a Pentecostal denomination, this Antinomian perversion is exactly the kind of nonsense I used to attack at every opportunity. Ironically, now that I'm a Calvinist in the Southern Baptist movement, I'm still in opposition such nonsense! The idea that a person can experience a genuine conversion and continue living in a completely reprobate manner is untenable. This sort of "easy-believeism" is what has plagued Baptist churches for decades and has resulted in a multitude of people who profess to know Christ, who profess to be Baptists, but in their works deny him.

We who are Reformed (and yes, Arminians as well) believe that real saving faith -the kind faith causes a person to be justified in Christ- is not a dead faith that may never bear fruit. Though works do not save a person or keep a person saved, we understand both from Scripture and experience that when a person is saved, the works they do are an evidence of that faith.

What I am about to say may be shocking to the modern "to each his own" mentality so prevalent in our day, but I truly believe the theology we have been defending against recently is a dangerous heresy. It may masquerade as "Free Grace" but it's not...

It's Cheap Grace and a doctrine of demons!

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:14-17 ESV)

Please see also my article entitled Aspects of Faith and Evangelism where I discuss the differing aspects of faith.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Shameless Simul-post

(This is posted simultaneously with the same article at Incrediblog. I normally wouldn't dare, but the Lord has lit a fire under me on this topic lately. Please accept my apologies.)

After Peter's big speech in Acts 2, the Bible records the result:

"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (v. 41, ESV)

Wow! Praise God. Now them's the kind of numbers that'll get a Baptist preacher hoppin' around. Three thousand...amazing!

We can easily focus on the big number, the dynamic events of that day, and then miss what the very next verse says.

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (v.42)

Okay, now who's the "they" of verse 42?

Drum roll's the three thousand who just got baptized in 41!

Well, imagine that.

New, baptized converts who don't need to be coerced, cajoled, or captured in order for them to be interested in Bible teaching (the doctrines of their new faith) and fellowship with the church, and prayer meetings.

All I can say is, this is proof that the church in Acts was not Southern Baptist. And I say this to our shame, cuz I are one.

Give us a month to plan a program, a big enough city, and a few buses and some radio spots, and we can get you 3,000 people baptized in a day. We know all the tricks. We can get that done.

But don't come back next Sunday expecting to see any of those 3,000 sitting eagerly with their Bibles and notepads open on their laps, hungry for the Word of God. And, puh-leeeze, don't even think about trying to locate those "converts" in a mid-week prayer service!

Y'know, where the sadness of this situation turns comical is this: We Southern Baptists still have the temerity, the brass, the you-know-whats to say that we believe in a regenerate church membership. But it doesn't stop there: we haven't yet scratched the surface of our impetuous daring. Oh, no. We go farther. We count every one of those 3,000 who got dunked and then got away. We count them as members, implying that we are idiotic enough to think they might be regenerate after all.

Hey, we're morons, but morons with chutzpah...which I'm sure pleases the Lord to no end.

Barclay on Faith and Works

Commenting on James 2:18-19, William Barclay says this:

James is thinking of a possible objector who says, "Faith is a fine thing; and works are fine things. They are both perfectly genuine manifestations of real religion But the one man does not necessarily posses both. One man will have faith and another will have works. Well, then, you carry on with your works and I will carry on with my faith; and we are both being truly religious in our own way."

The objector's view is that faith and works are alternative expressions of the Christian religion. James will have none of it. It is not a case of either faith or works; it is necessarily a case of both faith and works.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Even the Demons Believe

In an era where sound doctrine is viewed with contempt, and that uncertainity of truth is the desired mentality, as evangelicals we must fight for doctrinal purity and doctrinal clarity. It is of an eternal importance to get the gospel right. To be uncertain of the basic truths of the gospel is to lead billions of people to an eternity in the bottomless pit of hell. Doctrinal preciseness is vital to true Christianity.

On the flip side, I want to make a point from the scriptures that having good theology is not enough. There is more to the Christian life than having good theology. Having sound theology but not sound orthopraxy is hypocrisy. Notice what James says in his second chapter:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!

James is writing this letter to the believers of the twelve tribes that have dispersed from Jerusalem. In the context of this particular verse James 2:19, James is speaking of a superficial faith versus and authentic faith in Christ. It is apparent that these people have good theology, because they affirm the biblical doctrine of the Trinity...You believe that God is one. Another truth that we see in this verse is that even demons believe this. The demons also affirm this doctrine. And they respond in fear, unlike most Christians! It seems as if the demons have a better response to sound doctrine than most "professing" Christians do. I believe that the demons probably have better theology than any human being on this earth. They recognize the sovereignty of God, yet they dishonor His kingship. They recognize that Jesus is Lord, yet they are in rebellion to his Lordship, not submission. Here we see they affirm the doctrine of the trinity, yet, they are still demons. They have good theology, but they do not trust in Christ, they have rejected God and are in opposition to everything pertaining to godliness.

Friend, what I want you to realize is that good theology, although it is of vital importance, is not enough. We must have nothing less than a concise theology, but we MUST go deeper into a genuine trust in the atonement and the Lordship of Christ, and our genuine faith will me manifest in the way that we live out our lives. Friend, even the demons have good theology. Are in the category with the demons, or do you presently trust in Christ for your salvation?