Archive for December 2007

Bodily Noises

December 28, 2007

Wilson and his associates have been teaching salvation by doing in one form or another for years. Consider, in Scripture salvation is spoken of as coming to a knowledge of truth. John Robbins writes; “There are many commands in Scripture to understand and believe the Word of God. Saving faith, contrary to what many theologians say, is simple child-like faith. It is simply understanding the Good News and accepting it as true.” Christianity is a supremely intellectual and rational religion which is premised on a message that is to be understood and believed.

Now, contrast this simple child-like faith as we come a knowledge of the truth by the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit with a series that appeared in Wilson’s Credenda/Agenda a few years ago by Doug Jones on Knowing is Doing. In his opening lob Jones explains that knowledge is not really a matter of the mind at all:

“In contrast to this prevailing view of knowledge as merely mental, Scripture assumes that knowledge is primarily a kind of bodily doing.”

Notice that for Jones and according to Scripture knowledge is “primarily” a function of the body, not the mind. For Jones coming to the knowledge of the truth is not a matter of understanding and assenting to biblical propositions, it is a bodily function. Admittedly, a very specific bodily function that comes to mind when Jones writes:

To begin with, Scripture openly derides mere head knowledge. If mere mental knowing were the worthiest kind of knowledge, then Scripture couldn’t say: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe, and tremble!” (James 2:19), or “these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me” (Is. 29:13; cf. Mk 7:6; Matt 15:8).

First, James 2:19 does not deride so-called “head knowledge” at all. James is arguing that believing in God is not enough to justify calling a person a Christian; a saved man. Hell is filled with theists. Further, James tells us that even if that even if a person’s belief in God and monotheism is heartfelt and emotional to a fault, belief in God per se saves no one. More knowledge is needed not less, specifically knowledge of the gospel.

(more…)

Advertisements

The Kind Of Stuff You Hate To Have To Say

December 26, 2007

Reprinted on Federal Schism is the following from Pastor GLW Johnson. I’ve only provided a section to make an uncomfortable point that will most certainly catch the ire of some of those I respect and admire. Pastor Johnson writes:

May I point out that at no time during this controversy have I singled out for criticism (here or elsewhere) Peter Leithart, who all would consider one of the more prominent names associated with the FV. Why, you ask? Peter and I graduated in 1987 from WTS (Phil.) with our ThM degrees. Peter went on to Cambridge and I entered the PhD program at WTS. I have over the years read with much appreciation Peter’s writings in Credenda/Agenda and even though I didn’t always agree with what he was saying I appreciate his tone and the matter in which he wrote. He didn’t make snide or inflammatory remarks about those with whom he disagreed (he was the only FVer who acknowledged that Waters had indeed correctly represented his views and interacted with Guy’s book in a fair and courteous fashion). He didn’t insult them and call them names and he most certainly did not suggest that his views were the only ones that really were true to the Reformed tradition. As such I respect Peter. In this way, and in so many others he stands in sharp contrast to his colleague Doug Wilson, who revels in ridiculing his opponents and delights in heaping derision on any who would dare disagree with him (don’t take my word for it — just pick up practically any past issue of C/A and see for yourself or read his recent response to Andy Webb on his blog where he, the preeminent presbyterian, relishes calling the FV critics “Baptyrians”). Regrettably, Wilson has had far more influence of the FV peanut gallery than has Leithart.

First, let me first say I love Pastor Johnson’s defense of the faith and the directness of his refutation of the FV over at Greenbaggins(es).

Second, why is influencing the “peanut gallery” more dangerous or problematic than training the next generation of pastors, teachers and elders?

Consequently, it does strike me as a bit odd, if not troublesome, that men like Leithart seem to get a pass, or at least the kid glove treatment, because he went to school with men like Johnson and because he’s a winsome character and not at all acerbic as “his colleague” Doug Wilson. Oh, Johnson doesn’t agree with everything Leithart writes of course, but I guess it’s just dandy to read this particular heretic with profit.

What is that supposed to mean?

Is Leithart sort of like the FV version of the Apocrypha? Read it with profit, just don’t make it part of the canon. You can deny and corrupt the gospel with the efficiency and poignancy of a snake, but if your tone is agreeable then you’re not like all the other snakes? Give me a break.

I’ve notice Dick Gaffin gets that same kind of soft-serve treatment by those who call him “Dick” and who had him at WTS. No wonder the PCA and other denoms are blasted as ol’ boy networks. Seems for some truth takes a backseat to personalties particularly if that particular personality is pleasing to the ear. Haven’t we yet learned that something can be pleasing to the senses but still be deadly poison if ingested?

Why wouldn’t those who are more soft spoken, irenic and who are more pleasing to the ears than a Wilson or a Gerety or even a Mark T. be all the more dangerous when they teach errors? Doesn’t Paul tell us that the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrines, but instead will want to have their ears tickled? Well, at least a couple of my kids are still young enough to enjoy a good tickle from time to time. And, as every father knows, the secret to a good tickle is a soft touch.

The Fiducial Road to Rome, Part 2

December 26, 2007

In my last blog I highlighted a few of the problems with the all too common and tautological tri-fold definition of faith. The additional element of fiducia or trust adds precisely nothing to our understanding of what faith is and instead muddies the waters. To believe what a person says or to trust what they say both mean the same thing. Beyond that the many analogies that are used to describe what is supposed to make faith saving requires us doing something, i.e., sitting in a chair, crossing the bridge, getting on the plane, putting our money in the bank, or climbing into the wheelbarrow as a tightrope walker crosses Niagra Falls. However, and as Clark points out, there is nothing analogous in any of these various physical actions to the internal and intellectual act of believing which alone is the instrument of justication.

Andy Webb perhaps sensing the limitations and dangers implied in his own materialistic analogy of the tightrope walker, simply avoids providing any clear definition at all of this crucial and salvific third element of faith without which no man will see the Lord. Instead Webb appeals to his own ignorance and asserts that the emotion of love in some unknown combination along with trust or agreement as the one thing needful in order to transform ordinary faith, even faith in the gospel message, into saving faith. Webb tells us that ordinary faith, say, in the proposition that Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, is qualitatively different from saving faith. He tells us that assensus or the “believer’s intellectual assent to the truth of the content of the Gospel” will not save. Believing the Gospel in the same manner someone might believe Armstrong was the first man on the moon is insufficient to save a sinner. You can believe that Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins, was dead and buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that His perfect active and passive obedience, even to His death on the cross, satisfied the just wrath of God on account of your sins and that His righteousness is imputed to you by the simple act of belief alone, and you will still go to Hell. Webb, playing the role of the fifth Beatle, tells us all you need is love. Most alarming is Webb doesn’t even provide a method by which we might know if we’ve attained this mysterious right combination of loving emotion and whatever else might be needed. While not much is clear in Webb’s explanation of saving faith, one thing is very clear — if you don’t emote and emote properly, you’re lost.

(more…)

The Federal Vision Mastermind

December 25, 2007

jakeisthebrain.jpg  Click on the thumbnail for a closer look.  A friend sent me this photo of Doug Wilson’s dog and commented that Jake here is apparently the intellect behind the FV movement. I guess this is what Paul meant when he said, “Beware of dogs.” He was referring to real, tangible, photographable dogs — objective dogs.

The Fiducial Road To Rome, Part 1

December 22, 2007

I imagine most have heard some pastor at one time or another try to explain the difference between faith and saving faith. Generally the explanation is lacking any clear definitions and instead takes a short flight into the land of pious sounding analogies and word pictures. The one I’m most familiar with, and one I once heard a PCA pastor share with an adult Sunday school class, has to do with a chair. The story goes a person may believe a chair will support their weight, but they don’t really trust it until they actually aim their rump squarely over the chair and sit down. OK, the pastor didn’t say “rump,” but sitting in the chair was definitely required.

Maybe instead of a chair you’ve heard the one about the bridge or the plane. You might believe the bridge will support you as you cross the gorge or that the plane won’t crash, but you really don’t trust either until you actually walk across the bridge or pay your fare and board the plane. PCA pastor Andy Webb in a piece on saving faith, tells us a story about a tightrope walker crossing Niagara Falls while pushing a wheelbarrow. In this retelling of the story, the performer asks an audience member a series of questions which Webb thinks demonstrates the missing link that makes ordinary belief saving:

During the late 19th century a French tightrope walker made quite a stir by repeatedly crossing over Niagara Falls on rope stretched between the two banks of the river. Reportedly, he once singled out a member of the audience before one of these “trips” and asked him several questions along the following lines:

“Sir”, he asked, ” do you believe I can walk over the falls on this little rope?”
“Sure”, answered the man, “I’ve seen you do it before.”
“And do you also believe that I could push this wheelbarrow across?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And do you also believe that I could do it with a man sitting in the wheelbarrow?”
“Yeah, I’m positive you could.”
“Then, kind sir, would you mind assisting me by getting into the wheelbarrow?”
“Not on your life!”, answered the man.

The man being questioned here demonstrated Notitia, or knowledge, in that he knew what the stunt entailed, because he had seen him do it. The man also demonstrated Assensus, or intellectual assent, because he believed the tightrope walker could successfully push a wheelbarrow across the falls. He did not, however, demonstrate Fiducia because he was not willing to put his life into the tightrope walkers hands by getting into the wheelbarrow.

Gordon Clark in his brilliant study of John’s prologue, The Johannine Logos, tells another one about a bank:

Preachers often use an illustration such as this: You may believe that a bank is sound by having read its financial statement, but you do not and cannot trust it until you deposit your money there. Making the deposit is faith. So, these preachers conclude, belief in Christ is not enough, no matter how much you read the Bible and believe that it is true. In addition to believing you must also trust Christ. That is [saving] faith.

Of course, Clark doesn’t rest there, instead he strips away the layers of error surrounding all these typical but misleading descriptions of saving faith:

The psychological illusion arises from the fact that the two cases are not parallel. In the case of the bank, there is the factor of depositing money. I have some dollar bills to be deposited: I go and deposit them in Bank X and not in Bank Y. Therefore I trust Bank X and not trust Bank Y. But such is not the case. The reason I deposit money in this bank and not another is simply that my financial condition is far from warranting two bank accounts. I believe that Bank Y is quite as sound as Bank X. Both have competent administrators . . . I choose Bank X, not because I trust it more, but simply because it is nearer my home. This is a matter of convenience – not faith. What is more, in the bank illustration there is a physical factor – depositing bills or checks [or sitting on a chair, crossing a bridge, getting on a plane, or crossing Niagara Falls in the wheelbarrow of a tightrope walker]; whereas in saving faith there is no such factor. Thus arises the illusion. Those who use such illustrations import into a spiritual situation something, a physical motion, that cannot be imported into it. There is nothing in the spiritual situation analogous to depositing the currency. There is believing only: nothing but the internal mental act itself. To suppose that there is, is both a materialistic confusion and an inadmissible alteration of the Scriptural requirement.

(more…)

When Justification By Faith Alone Isn’t

December 18, 2007

As the Federal Vision pressure cooker builds and the likelihood that the entire Louisiana Presbytery will be wiped from the PCA for their twice failure to rightly deal with the gross heresies of FV magnet, Steve Wilkins, the blogosphere has started to get inundated by a new wave of amateur Federal Vision apologists fresh from Moscow (Idaho, of course). The great thing about these neophytes to the FV wars is that they’re not nearly as circumspect or as skilled at deception as their teachers. Consequently, they express and defend their neoliberalism and false gospel in terms that even the most determined fence sitter can’t ignore (assuming there can be any left at this late date).

As an example, recently over at Greenbaggins(es) blog comments Pastor Gary Johnson served up this revealing quote from CREC FV minister and teacher Richard Lusk (former assistant pastor of Wilkins’ Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, PCA, in Monroe, Louisiana):

“Initial reception of the white garment is by faith alone; ongoing possion[sic] of the garment is MAINTAINED by faithful obedience…Their ‘whiteness’ before the Father’s throne is due solely to his death and resurrection. In this sense, the robes stand for initial justification. BUT this forensic justification cannot be seperated[sic] from the GOOD WORKS that MAKE THE SAINTS WORTHY OF THEIR NEW APPAREL. In others words, the poetic imagery points in the same direction as the theological prose of Paul (Rom.2:13) and James (2:14ff): those who will be vindicated in the end are those who have been faithfully obedient”

To the above I remarked that Lusk’s quote “is another in a long list of amazingly, openly heretical, anti-Christian statements coming from the FV men.” I then asked how can any man calling himself a Christian embrace such a man or even call him brother? Adding, “It constantly amazes me that any of these men are allowed to preach and teach in any Christian denomination. They belong to Rome heart and soul.”

In response to my only slightly veiled swipe at the otherwise excellent PCA FV Committee Report which for some reason assumes Federal Visionists like Rich Lusk above are our brothers in Christ, Wilsonista and Christ Church member Jeff Moss rushed to Lusk’s defense:

Now here’s the heart of the Lusk quote: “Initial reception of the white garment is by faith alone; ongoing possession of the garment is maintained by faithful obedience…Their ‘whiteness’ before the Father’s throne is due solely to his death and resurrection. In this sense, the robes stand for initial justification. but this forensic justification cannot be separated from the good works that make the saints worthy of their new apparel.”

In turn, what amazes me is how some of these Reformed apologists denounce paraphrases of Biblical passages as false teaching or heresy. Doug Wilson talked about apostates having been sanctified by the blood of the Covenant, and he was loudly criticized for this perversion of Reformed theology — but it turned out that he was quoting Hebrews 10:29. Now read the following statements and compare them to Lusk’s quote above:

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.“

“I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent…. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with [Christ] in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments.”

Both of these are taken directly from the words of Christ and of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. Now, Pastor Lusk says that “ongoing possession of the [white] garment is maintained by faithful obedience,” and that “the good works…make the saints worthy of their new apparel.” Compare these quotes with the words of God quoted above, and then tell me why you think Christians should be ashamed even to call Lusk a brother.

Of course, the heart of the Lusk quote is just as Pastor Johnson quoted him and with emphasis so no one could miss it:

“Initial reception of the white garment is by faith alone; ongoing possession of the garment is MAINTAINED by faithful obedience…”

Neither the writer of Hebrews or John in Revelation teach any such thing and that the ongoing possession of the “white garment” – the imputation and covering of Christ’s active and passive obedience – is maintained on the condition of our faithful obedience. The Scriptures nowhere teach the two-tier scheme of justification advanced by these shameful heretics and false teachers.

(more…)

Important Piece Alert

December 11, 2007

Mark T over at Federal Schism has published a wonderful piece by Pastor Todd Bordow comparing the theology of Doug Wilson to the Liberals of Machen’s day.

A must read.


%d bloggers like this: