On Hurricanes, Karma and the Providence of God

Posted September 15, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

If you don’t already subscribe to Steve Matthews’ blog, Lux Lucet, you definitely should.  A great mix of politics, religion, and theology. – SG

Lux Lucet

HurricaneSurvivalGuide“I don’t believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt (sic) care about them.” Thus tweeted sociology professor Ken Storey shortly after Hurricane Harvey had ravaged Texas. This raises the question, just what were the sins of Texas that called for such dreadful punishment? Apparently, it was the voters of Texas’ decision to support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Shortly after his unfortunate tweet, Storey was fired from his teaching position at the University of Tampa.

As a Christian, I reject the mechanistic concept of Karma. But I do find it supremely ironic that, even as I write this post, Hurricane Irma is ravaging the gulf coast of Florida, the very region where the city of Tampa is located and, presumably, where Ken Storey makes his home. But unlike the good professor, I take…

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Reflections on the Christian Apologetics of Gordon H. Clark – E. Calvin Beisner

Posted August 31, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

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[This paper was originally delivered as a lecture at an apologetics conference at Branch of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Torrance, California, October 23, 2015.]

I’m going to focus today pretty exclusively on Gordon Clark’s epistemology. Clark believed Christian apologetics must address not only matters of theological prolegomena (the existence and nature of God, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the historicity of Biblical persons and events, especially of Jesus Christ and His bodily resurrection, etc.) but also the implications of the Christian faith—that is, the teaching of Scripture on—every aspect of human life, private and public, personal and social. For he believed that Scripture does have implications for all aspects of life, and that because it does, it is important to defend those implications against attacks just as it is to defend what most would see as its more prominent doctrines. He wrote over 40 books (including a systematic theology the manuscript of which was only discovered in about the last year, which his grandson now hopes to get published and which I expect I shall read with great relish), many articles, and many lectures, addressing every branch of philosophy, plus history, various divisions of natural science, economics, ethics, politics, and more, and though I personally find everything he wrote fascinating, it would be impossible to treat the broad spectrum of his thought even tolerably, let alone well, in a single short lecture.

For this lecture, therefore, I think it most profitable to confine ourselves to his epistemology, which is probably the aspect of his thought that has been the most divisive in broader Christian circles because of his presuppositionalism, and in narrower Reformed circles because of his disagreements with and critiques of the epistemologies of Herman Dooyeweerd and, more prominently and importantly in American Reformed circles, Cornelius Van Til.

I will not try to document all or even many of my descriptions of Clark’s thought by specific quotations from his work. I’ve written this lecture as one who studied Clark intently for about fifteen years, from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, but whose attention has for the last dozen years or so been on quite different matters. So instead what I’ll give you here is more what I as a serious student of Clark perceive on reflection at some distance to have been the most important epistemological lessons I learned from him. It is entirely possible, therefore, that some of what I say might more accurately describe his impact on my thinking than his own thinking per se. If that is so, it won’t be the first time a great thinker’s disciple has succumbed to some revisionism—not even the first time for a disciple of a famous Reformed presuppositionalist.  Read the rest of this post »

Repenting of Nothing

Posted June 13, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Doug Wilson, Heresies

Dragon-Lady

Last night a friend messaged me letting me know that supporters of Doug Wilson are claiming Wilson is no longer affiliated with the Federal Vision and to continue to label him as a Federal Visionist is unwarranted and generally not nice.  I admit that was news to me and frankly nothing could make me happier to learn that Wilson has rejected the central tenets of this aberrant, deadly and anti-Christian theology and has now embraced the unvarnished truth of the Gospel. His scales have been removed, hallelujah!  However, being generally skeptical of sudden conversions, although knowing from Scripture that they can and do occur, I asked for some proof or a link recounting Wilson’s road to Damascus moment.  So my friend sent me a link to a piece on Wilson’s blog titled; Federal Vision No Mas.  Encouraged by the Roberto Durán surrender reference, I read the piece.

Reading it I had the sense that I had read it before.  Turns out I did, albeit secondhand on Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog.  Lane wrote that Wilson “is not retracting his theology. He is retracting what he would call or label his theology.”  The sum total of Wilson’s conversion is that he no longer identifies with the Federal Vision.  Given that we live in an age where a man can “identify” as a woman or even a reptile, Wilson seems to think he can slither away from the Federal Vision while still affirming its theology.  Sorry, Doug, it doesn’t work like that.

Explaining why he no longer wants to identify with the Federal Vision Wilson writes:

Everybody knew (or thought they knew) what that phrase [Federal Vision] represented. Since I certainly owned the phrase, albeit with modifiers, and lots of energetic typing, what happened was that I was thought to be owning what people knew as this. But the more I typed that, the more it made people’s heads hurt. So one of the few things I have been successful at doing is persuading a number of people that I am a sly fellow, and one who bears close watching. Heretics are slippery with words, and since I have spent a lot of time trying to grease this particular piglet, I must be a heretic.

While I can certainly understand why a heretic wouldn’t want to be known as one, and I suspect that particular epithet has started to hurt Wilson’s bottom line hence his feigned mea culpa, the irony is that he continues to use an almost endless stream of slippery words to explain why and how he is no longer a Federal Visionist; none of which are very convincing.  Pay close attention to just some of Wilson’s slippery words:

This is because—I am now convinced—it is not the case that there is this thing called federal vision, with how much of it you actually get wired up to a dimmer switch. I believe it is a false analogy to say that I am a 7 on this switch, and Jim Jordan, say, is a 9.

Coming to this recognition does not mean that I am now disclaiming all commonality with my friends in the federal vision, even over against what many other believers in other traditions believe. Lutherans and Baptists both believe in the deity of Christ and in justification by faith alone—but Lutherans are still Lutherans all the way down. The same goes for Baptists. Baptists are Baptists all the way down. A federal vision advocate is FV all the way down. I am something else all the way down, and I believe that the terminology is getting in the way of making important distinctions.

So the views I hold to are a different kind of thing from what is represented in the common understanding of the federal vision, and the differences involved are connected to everything. They are a different kind of thing, not a lesser amount of the same thing. Thus when I speak of the objectivity of the covenant—which I will still continue to do—this is not a lite version of what someone else might mean by it.

Wilson says he differs from Federal Visionists like James Jordan “all the way down,” but at the same time continues to affirm “commonality” with his FV friends to include his so-called “objective” view of the covenant where the magic waters of baptism in conjunction with the mystical mumbling of some quasi-priestling-pretend-Protestant renders a person “elect” if only for a time.  But that commonality doesn’t stop there. Wilson assures his readers; “I would still want [sic] affirm everything I signed off on in the Federal Vision statement ….”  So, Wilson continues to affirm the Joint Federal Vision Profession but no longer wants to be considered a Federal Visionist?  Huh?  Not sure how that’s supposed to work.

While there are a number of problematic things with the FV statement, including the affirmation of covenantal nomism, the one thing that has always stood out for me was their description of saving faith:

We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active, and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer.” (JFVP, p. 6, emphasis mine)

Not to unpack all the slippery words above or revisit how they have been used by defenders of the FV, most proficiently by Wilson himself, PCA pastor Wes White sums up their view of saving faith this way:

Now, notice that last phrase, “personally loyal faith.” Here’s how dictionary.com defines loyalty:

1. The state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
2. Faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.

They tried to slip one past us by using the word “loyal” instead of “faithful,” but it means basically the same thing. Faithfulness to commitments and faithful adherence, according to the Federal Visionists, is included in the “sole instrument of justification.” This is justification by faithfulness, justification by obedience, and justification by works. This is a rejection of the sola fide of the Reformation.

Rather than affirming the so-called “objectivity of the covenant” and the Joint Federal Vision Profession which was authored by Wilson, he should reject and renounce these things.  That is what he needs to retract and not some nonsense about not taking his “responsible” and “fair-minded” critics like “Rick Phillips, Cal Beisner, and Richard Gaffin” more seriously and apologizing for lumping them in with the “irresponsible ones” (I’m sure he has people like yours truly in mind). Or, complaining that Peter Leithart’s “end of Protestantism” project is something he can’t go along with.  None of that matters and none of that is enough to separate him from the house he built.

God said through Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”  Wilson may not be happy with the long-term (financial?) consequences from his long association and defense of the Federal Vision, but he has no more ability to wipe this stain from his character than the “transgender dragon man” can repair his forked tongue with super glue or remove his tattooed scales with Palmolive and a dish rag.

 

Scripturalism and the Cessation of Continued Revelation

Posted May 3, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Theology

faithhealer

In his voluminous online writings Cheung calls cessationism (1) blasphemy, (2) heresy, (3) false doctrine, (5) unbiblical, (6) Satan’s ultimate protection, (7) the master heresy, (8) evil and dangerous, (9) incompatible with Christianity, (10) more dangerous and destructive than the heresies of the charismatics, (11) demonic, (12) a counter-Christian religion, (13) the reverse Gospel, (14) an anti-Apostolic cult, (15) the cessation of faith in God, (16) as serious and sinister as any heresy, (17) the great apostasy, (18) transgression, (19) not a doctrine to be argued about but a sin to be repented of, (20) amounting to preaching another Gospel, (21) one big middle finger in the face of Jesus, (22) among other heresies embraced by the Reformed tradition, (23) polytheism, (24) heathenism, (25) a revival of ancient polytheism and heathenism, and (26) the easiest and laziest of fake religions.

Source: Scripturalism and the Cessation of Continued Revelation

Bible Thumping Wingnuts

Posted April 27, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

Bible-Thumping-Wingnut-Logo

Yep, that’s their name and this is their interview of Doug Douma, author of the new Gordon Clark biography:  CLICK HERE

 

Faith is Intellectual Assent … Faith is Belief

Posted March 24, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

Leap_of_Faith

Doug Douma, the author of The Presbyterian Philosopher – The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark, has put together a short article demonstrating from personal letters culled as far back as 1939 that Gordon Clark has always rightly and consistently held to the position that faith is intellectual assent to understood propositions and that faith is belief; nothing more, nothing less.

Douma’s little stroll down memory lane reminded me how Clark had pointed out that Latin, from which the word faith is derived, has not served the church very well.  In his monograph The Johannine Logos (now included in the volume What is Saving Faith Clark writes on the question of faith:

“The Latin language has not been an unexceptionable advantage to theology. Dikaioo was translated justus facere; and thus the New Testament word for acquit or pronounce righteous was taken to mean make righteous. The result was a theory of infused grace that obscured the method of salvation until the time of Luther and the Reformation. So too it would have been better if the King James Version had omitted the word faith and emphasized the root meaning of belief.”

I would probably go further and say that the Latin language has been a bane on the church. One can think of the use of Latin by Rome’s priestlings as a means to keep the masses ignorant of God’s word. Let’s face it, it is hard to be like Paul’s “noble Bereans” when you can’t understand what someone is saying which is exactly how Rome likes it. Historically Latin has also been the language of the religious class, again as a means of elevating and separating themselves from the man in the pew. Further, I think the word faith is a poor choice not only because it is ambiguous, and it is, but because outside of specifically religious discussions and Christian circles no one uses it. The one exception might be when someone wants to disparage Christian belief as irrational. Not that this isn’t without some justification given that since Aquinas faith has been thought of as something that is in addition to and beyond reason. According to Thomas’ two-fold theory of truth, there are truths that can be discovered through reason and philosophy and other truths (i.e., those revealed in Scripture) that surpass “the whole ability of the human reason.” This two-fold definition wasn’t lost on the Existentialists either who similarly thought faith was a leap requiring leaving reason and the laws of logic behind. Even Webster’s defines faith as a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Faith in the minds of most is something that is irrational and, because of this, actually hampers rather than enhances evangelism because it distorts the fact that truth is one, and more importantly, that God’s truth is all truth. As Clark demonstrated through his many volumes there are simply no truths that can be known apart from the revelation of God in His Word. Further, and according to the Westminister Confession, the truth of God’s Word is evidenced by the logical harmony or “consent” of all the parts of Scripture. Rather than reason being opposed to faith, faith when properly understood and applied to Scripture is the height of rationality.

Instead of being a means by which the Gospel might be understood so as to be believed, the word faith has become a stumbling block. That’s because we simply don’t use the word faith in general discussions outside of the church. It has become just more religious jargon. We may say that someone has a belief in science, or belief in evolution, or a belief in the evidence, whatever that might be, but we generally don’t say they have faith.

Also, as Clark pointed out, faith was a poor translation of the Greek noun pistis because it has no verb form.  For example, we don’t say Christians are “faithers.”  We say Christians are believers because of their belief in the finished work of Christ on their behalf.

It is even worse among Christians as the word faith means many things to many people and for most, it doesn’t mean anything very specific at all. Faith for many is sort of a mushy amalgam of sentimental feelings where the head is forever separated from the emotive heart. People simply attach their own often vague meaning, or, worse, their feelings, to the word and we end up talking right past each other. On the other hand, there is no confusion over the word belief, yet some, mostly elders and the seminary trained, think justification by belief alone is somehow heretical.  This lack of clarity and even confusion over the word faith is the reason why otherwise well-meaning Reformed men have done such a poor job defending the biblical doctrine of justification against the heresies of Rome and, closer to home, the false soteriology of the Federal Vision and the so-called “New Perspectives on Paul.”

You can read Douma’s article here.

David Engelsma reviews “The Presbyterian Philosopher”

Posted March 14, 2017 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

cigar-c-cExcellent review by David Engelsma of Doug Douma’s biography of Gordon Clark. Strong stuff. Here’s a sample:

In 2017 one can discern the further adverse consequences of the OPC’s decisions and actions in the matter of Gordon Clark. The OPC committed itself to “paradoxical” theology, abandoning, if not condemning, logical thinking (in fact, this is an abandonment of thinking; illogical thinking is an oxymoron; if it is still thinking at all, it is thinking that is unintelligible). A leading instance was the OPC’s virtual adoption of the theology of a common grace of God, consisting of a desire of God for the salvation of all humans, at least all who hear the gospel (cf. Murray and Stonehouse, “The Free Offer of the Gospel”). The contradiction of this universal grace by the doctrine of predestination, reprobation as well as election, which is creedal for Presbyterians in the Westminster Confession, is not for the OPC an argument against universal grace. Rather, the contradiction is accepted and defended as an aspect of the “paradoxical” nature of doctrinal truth. Over the years, since the 1940s, this honoring of universal (saving) grace as a glory of its “paradoxical” theology has weakened the OPC’s testimony to all the doctrines of (particular) grace. Invariably, indeed necessarily, the truth being, in fact, rigorously logical, the doctrine of universal, ineffectual grace in the “paradox” drives out the doctrine of particular, sovereign grace.

Recently, its “paradoxical” theology has opened up the OPC to the covenant theology of the federal vision. In the just judgment of God, this grievous departure from the gospel of (covenant) grace has had its origin at Westminster Seminary, with Prof. Norman Shepherd, vigorously supported by Prof. Richard Gaffin. Expelling Gordon Clark largely by the efforts of Westminster Seminary, at Westminster Seminary the OPC received Norman Shepherd. Under the influence of Westminster Seminary, the OPC has approved a covenant theology that expressly denies all the doctrines of grace of the Westminster Standards, including justification by faith alone, with special reference to the children of believers. Such is the theology of the federal vision.

When confronted by this theology’s contradiction of the doctrines of the Reformed faith in the Westminster Standards, the Westminster professors and their supporters in the OPC argue that truth is “paradoxical.” The logic of biblical revelation finds no favor in the OPC. Therefore, the illogic of heresy gains entrance.

The Gordon Clark case is unfinished business in the OPC.

A Place for Thoughts

[To appear in the Spring 2017 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. Reproduced here by permission.]

The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark, by Douglas J. Douma. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016. Pp. xxv + 292. $37.00 soft. Reviewed by David J. Engelsma

“Oh, the damnable politics in the church of Jesus Christ,” someone has exclaimed, and rightly. No church is free of the evil. Ministers cripple or destroy their fellow ministers out of jealousy, or out of fear for their own prominent position in the church. The sin of the politics is not only the injury that is invariably done to one’s brother and colleague. But it is also the damage that is done to Christ’s church. The politics deprives the church of the gifts of the minister who is marginalized, or even driven out of the church. It is not…

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