Archive for June 2012

Oliphint — Vantillianism Unleashed

June 28, 2012

The attack on the logical harmony of the teaching of Scripture by Vantillians seems never ending.  I think what bothers me most is not the fact that these men have a low view of logic.  Nor is it their belief in the paradoxical or assumed contradictory nature of the teachings of Scripture.  After all there are plenty of  liberal and neo-orthodox theologians and pastors who share their view.  Rather, what bothers me most is their complete lack of integrity when it comes to informing their respective Presbyteries about their defection from their vows of ordination.   For example, in the PCA every would be elder (ruling or teaching) and deacon is required to vow in the affirmative that they:

 … sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures….

They must also promise

…that if at any time [they] find [themselves] out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, [they] will on [their] own initiative, make known to [their] Presbytery the change which has taken place in [their] views since the assumption of this ordination vow.

Assumed in the above is an adherence and fidelity to the fundamental of fundamentals; the complete and sole authority found in the Scriptures alone, a position summarized in WCF 1, “Of the Holy Scriptures,” from which every other truth of the Christian faith is deduced.  This includes the belief that in Scripture there is a logical “consent of all the parts” (1.5).  There is nothing in the Confession that asserts that the Scriptures contain apparent contradictions or insoluble paradoxes in anything it teaches and to which we must submit.  Instead, WCF 1 asserts that the meaning of Scripture is one (1.9), and that the “infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself” (1.9).   You will not find in the Confession the notion that Scripture teaches apparently contradictory and conflicting “truths” that can command our assent.

Instead, what we find is the belief that the Scriptures present to the mind a harmonious system of doctrine that includes those things set down in Scripture along with everything that can be validly deduced from Scripture (1.6).  Biblical Christianity is a deductive system and all the doctrines of the faith must be validly inferred from Scripture alone and this constitutes the “whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life.”  In short, the Christian system is totally self-contain to the point where “nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men…”(1.6).   Notice, neither the esteemed findings of science, assumptions derived from so-called “common sense,” observation, sensation, experience, new revelations (Charismatic “prophetic” delusions or papal so-called “ex-cathedra” pronouncements included), even long held and beloved traditions can never challenge or undermine the sole authority of Scripture.  Every thought must bow to Scripture alone.  As Gordon Clark argued:

 Archaeology, of course, can contribute little or nothing toward proving that the doctrines, as distinct from the historical events, of the Bible are true . . . The literary style of some parts of the Bible is majestic, but Paul’s epistles are not models of style. The consent or logical consistency of the whole is important; for if the Bible contradicted itself, we would know that some of it would be false. – What Do Presbyterians Believe p. 17,18.

Which brings us to the most recent attack on the logical coherence of Scripture and God Himself by Scott Oliphint professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  Interestingly, Dr. Elihu Carranza  (who wrote the companion workbook to Gordon Clark’s  Logic) recently alerted me to a piece by Oliphint  that appeared in the June edition of Reformation 21 (the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals);, “Thought Thinking Itself?: Christianity and  Logic.”  I invite people to read Oliphint’s entire article, but I just want to highlight a few quick gems to keep in mind while reading it:

“… it is Scripturally mandatory for us to affirm the paradoxical…”

Notice, for Oliphint it is not mandatory for us to affirm that in Scripture there is a consent of all (and not just some) of the parts.   Has he informed his Presbytery?

“Before creation, there was no logic.”

And,

“He uses language, and He uses logic, to communicate truth to us. They are, we could say, built in to His creation. But, in terms of His essential Triune character, he is bound by neither….”

According to Oliphint God is irrational.

 “In the Christian faith, there are basic and foundational truths that are and remain paradoxes for us. The Triunity of God is one of those truths. But when we say that they are paradoxes, we are saying more than simply that our minds do not have the intellectual resources to put these truths together.”

In Oliphint’s mind perhaps, but what he assumes (and it’s not very becoming) is omniscience and that if he cannot formulate the doctrine of the Trinity in a non-contradictory manner than no one can.

And, finally, this bit of incomprehensible nonsense:

“So, for example, I have been asked on more than one occasion, something like the following question, “If you accept that God is One and Three, or that Christ is fully God and fully man, and you cannot reconcile those truths, why can you not also accept that Christ died both for His own people, and also (in the same way) for all people?” The response to a question like that, which moves toward a fuller answer, is that the extent of the atonement in Scripture is not taught as a paradox, such that “death for His people” and “death for the world” imply, entail and require each other, but rather is meant to be understood non_paradoxically. So also for other incompatibilities and supposed contradictions that we think we find in the Bible. The coherence of the paradoxes taught in Scripture, in other words, are meant to move us toward understanding how, and that, the rest of what Scripture teaches coheres”

According to Oliphint the Scriptures logically cohere except where they don’t — and evidently he’ll be the one to tell us which is which.  Unbelievably he asserts irreconcilable truths of Scripture are to “ move us toward understanding how, and that, the rest of what Scripture teaches coheres.”  But how is this possible?  First, if the paradoxes of Scripture logically cohere then they are no longer paradoxes.  Instead of tensions in Scripture there is harmony.  Second, if the Scriptures teach truths that cannot be reconciled (i.e., the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.) and that it is  “Scripturally mandatory for us to affirm” — and not resolve  — “the paradoxical,” then it follows that the Scriptures do not cohere.

Now compare Oliphint to Clark:

 Logic is fixed, universal, necessary, and irreplaceable. Irrationality contradicts the Biblical teaching from beginning to end. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not insane. God is a rational being, the architecture of whose mind is logic. – God and Logic

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John Robbins Quick Quote

June 26, 2012

I have been taking a bit of a break from blogging, but don’t want to ignore it entirely.   So here is an old comment from Dr. Robbins in response to one of Clark’s many critics that infested the old Yahoo groups “Clark discussion list”:

John says that he has written that we may know — that is, it is the writing — the Scripture — that gives us knowledge. He does not say that extra-Biblical knowledge — if there could be such a thing — is needed. He says the Scripture is sufficient. In that he agrees with Paul in 1 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, Colossians, etc. One who believes the Gospel, whether he is assured or not, can have the true belief that he is saved. When Clark spoke of deduction, I suppose he had in mind a syllogism such as the one I suggested earlier:

All who believe the Gospel are saved.
I believe the Gospel.
Therefore, I am saved.

Now the question is, Can we be mistaken about whether we believe the Gospel?  Yes, we can. Do you deny that? It is not possible that the proposition “All who believe the Gospel are saved” is false. That is a revealed truth. But we may deceive ourselves about what the Gospel is, and about our own state of mind. Christ says that many church leaders will appear before him on the last day, assured of their salvation, only to be thrown into Hell. That is, they believe, incorrectly, the proposition “I am saved” to be true. They are assured of eternal life, but they do not know they have it. Assurance is a state of mind, not a quality of propositions. Biblical assurance comes from believing the Word of God, as John says.

…There are many warnings in Scripture — take heed, lest you fall — that the Arminians have misused to teach that a person can lose his salvation, but which in my opinion bear on this very question of self-deception. If anyone wants to be assured of his salvation, he must stop looking at himself and look only at Christ. The error of those in Matthew 7 who are turned into Hell is that they cite their own accomplishments, not Christ’s.  – Robbins  (#406)

*See also “Justification and Judgement” by John Robbins.

Dr. Choong and the NY Metro Presbytery

June 15, 2012

When my family and I first joined the PCA some 20 years ago I was new to the Reformed faith and hopelessly naive.  To give you an idea just how clueless I was, before applying for membership I carefully studied the Westminster Confession of Faith to make sure that I agreed with the system of doctrine being taught in the PCA.  I was even under the impression that some knowledge of the WCF was required for membership and I admit I was a little let down when I was only required to profess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and share a little bit about how I first came to Christ.

Another sign of my hopeless naivety was my belief that the PCA was a theologically conservative and confessional church, i.e., that it actually believed what the WCF taught and was in no way like the religiously liberal PCUSA.  I believed that my family and I had joined a church that unequivocally proclaimed the Gospel, affirmed the doctrine of predestination without apology, and believed in the unquestionable inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word.  What a fool I was.  Since that time I learned that besides tolerating false gospels like the one being spread by Federal Visionists, that the many preachers and teachers spreading these false gospels are to be considered our “brothers in Christ” (at least according to the official PCA study report on the Federal Vision and the New Perspectives on Paul).

Even before the flawed FV/NPP report, I learned that multiple interpretations of the days of creation found in Genesis are all permissible; even if holding to so-called “theistic evolution” was strictly verboten.  At the time when the PCA Creation Study report came out the study committee observed:

We have found a profound unity among ourselves on the issues of vital importance to our Reformed testimony.  We believe that the Scriptures, and hence Genesis 1-3, are the inerrant word of God.  We affirm that Genesis 1-3 is a coherent account from the hand of Moses.  We believe that history, not myth, is the proper category for describing these chapters; and furthermore that their history is true.  In these chapters we find the record of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth ex nihilo; of the special creation of Adam and Eve as actual human beings, the parents of all humanity (hence they are not the products of evolution from lower forms of life).  We further find the account of an historical fall, that brought all humanity into an estate of sin and misery, and of God’s sure promise of a Redeemer.  Because the Bible is the word of the Creator and Governor of all there is, it is right for us to find it speaking authoritatively to matters studied by historical and scientific research.  We also believe that acceptance of, say, non-geocentric astronomy is consistent with full submission to Biblical authority.  We recognize that a naturalistic worldview and true Christian faith are impossible to reconcile, and gladly take our stand with Biblical supernaturalism.

The Committee has been unable to come to unanimity over the nature and duration of the creation days.  Nevertheless, our goal has been to enhance the unity, integrity, faithfulness and proclamation of the Church.  Therefore we are presenting a unanimous report with the understanding that the members hold to different exegetical viewpoints.  As to the rest we are at one.  It is our hope and prayer that the Church at large can join us in a principled, Biblical recognition of both the unity and diversity we have regarding this doctrine, and that all are seeking properly to understand biblical revelation.  It is our earnest desire not to see our beloved church divide over this issue.

While ultimately allowing for diversity concerning various exegetical positions on the days of creation, the study committee concluded their report with this final observation and warning:

It should be acknowledged, however, that there are presbyteries that do in fact receive men holding other views [concerning the days of creation] without requiring an exception, provided the men can affirm the historicity of Gen 1-3 and do reject evolution.

It seems that rejecting evolution is no longer a given in the PCA, much less a requirement for PCA pastors.  Rachel Miller, who has been following the advance of so-called “theistic evolution” within the PCA, recently reported on PCA minister Ron Choong and provides an insightful review of his book, The Bible You Thought You Knew.  Evidently, and according to Miller, whatever you thought you knew about the Bible was wrong, because Choong argues:

  1. Moses didn’t write Genesis, Genesis was written as a polemic against the Babylonian gods, Genesis does not teach ex nihilo creation.
  2. Genesis does not speak to how the universe began or where humans came from, Adam is best understood as a group of hominids adopted by God to be imago dei, Adam and Eve were not created with perfect morality.
  3. Paul’s Adam wasn’t necessarily the singular progenitor of the human race.
  4. Noah’s flood was an adopted ANE story retold for Israel’s purposes.
  5. The Tower of Babel doesn’t explain the origin of languages.
  6. Interpreting the Bible literally can be dangerous.

You can read Rachel Miller’s entire review of here, but some of the quotes she provides from Choong are particularly revealing. For example, Choong writes:

Thus you will find lapses in historical and scientific accuracy as we increase our modern accuracy of historical and scientific knowledge. Even doctrinal articulation of theological points need to be revised in each generation to account for our greater understanding of the world we live in.

So much for the psalmist’s confession in Psalm 119: “Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven.”  God’s word isn’t settled at all, rather according to Choong our understanding of the truths of Scripture needs to be revised “in each generation” in order to account for the increases in our “historical and scientific knowledge.”  Oh, that silly psalmist.  In addition to an arrogant and rebellious rejection of the sole sufficiency and authority of Scripture, Choong begs the question by assuming that history and science can provide us with knowledge, even knowledge that is of equal authority to the Scriptures that can and should cause us to revise our “doctrinal articulation of theological points.”  As Gordon Clark carefully demonstrates in Historiography: Secular and Religious and The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, neither history or science can be competing sources of knowledge simply because neither of these presumed sources of knowledge can give us any knowledge at all.  And, I might add, this isn’t just the opinion of some backwoods Christian Biblicist lacking Choong’s sophistication and temperament.  Concerning the belief in so-called “scientific knowledge,” an idol Choong seems particularly attracted to, the late secular philosopher of science and atheist Karl Popper wrote:

 …in science there is no ‘knowledge’, in the sense in which Plato and Aristotle understood the word, in the sense which implies finality; in science, we never have sufficient reason for the belief that we have attained the truth. What we usually call ‘scientific knowledge’ is, as a rule, not knowledge in this sense, but rather information regarding the various competing hypotheses and the way in which they have stood up to various tests; it is, using the language of Plato and Aristotle, information concerning the latest, and the best tested, scientific ‘opinion’. This view means, furthermore, that we have no proofs in science (excepting, of course, pure mathematics and logic). In the empirical sciences, which alone can furnish us with information about the world we live in, proofs do not occur, if we mean by ‘proof’ an argument which establishes once and for ever the truth of a theory. (What may occur, however, are refutations of scientific theories.) – The Problem of Induction 

I don’t know what Choong thinks he knows that could controvert Popper’s observations above, much less those provided by Clark, but that doesn’t stop him from asserting:

Most people, whether religious or not, look to the realm of science for hard data about the environment and cosmology. Prior to the modern period and the rise of the natural sciences, people tended to be more simple or naïve about such things and tended to think (if they thought about it much at all) about the origin of the world in religious and theological terms (Footnote 39, 13).

I’m not exactly sure what this footnote is supposed to prove other than appealing to most people is fallacious and that the Apostle Paul was right when he said of those same people: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”  But, look how utterly disparaging this PCA minister is concerning those who would reject the so-called “hard data” of science and instead rest on the unchanging word of God.  He calls such people “simple or naive”and who are out of touch with modern “advances” in history and science.  Basically, if you believe that God created the world and everything by divine fiat, and that the account God gives in Genesis concerning the origins of creation is both historical and true, you are a pre-modern Neanderthal hominid knuckle-dragger unfit for civilized society.

Now, you might be tempted to think that a man with Choong’s views, particularly as they undermine, if not completely gut, the authority of Scripture (which would appear to be of lesser authority than the “hard data” of science) would warrant some sort of investigation even if only to see whether this minister in the PCA has violated his ordination vows.   Well, you’d be wrong and would be guilty of thinking the PCA was a theologically conservative and confessional church I once thought it was.

As Wes White reports the Metro New York Presbytery of the PCA (the same Presbytery where you’ll find Tim “Biologos” Keller) has refused to investigate Choong’s views. Not only did they refuse to investigate Choong, but even the suggestion that his views should be investigated were not “recorded in the minutes lest Choong’s name be illegitimately besmirched.”  Obviously the NY Metro presbytery is not concerned that God’s unchanging and eternal Word might be “illegitimately besmirched” by Choong, but I guess that’s par for the course in the PCA.  I know, I know.  I shouldn’t be surprised.

The Revolution that Was

June 10, 2012

Want to know what the Ron Paul candidacy in ’08 and ’12 is all about?   I have never heard of Jack Hunter before, but his analysis below is solid.   Must be, because I couldn’t think of anything I disagreed with.  🙂   Hunter is evidently a radio host (maybe I can get my local talk radio station to drop Hannity and pick up this guy) and he either co-wrote, or more likely ghost wrote, Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington.   Viva la REVOLUTION!

Leithart Prosecutor Rejects Gospel and Leaves PCA for ….

June 4, 2012

Jason Stellman, the prosecutor in the unsuccessful trial of Federal Visionist Peter Leithart, has announced his rejection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has left the PCA for . . . well, can there be any doubt where this man is headed when he says things like this:

I have come to believe that a much more biblical paradigm for understanding the gospel—and one that has much greater explanatory value for understanding Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John—is one that sets forth the New Covenant work of the Spirit, procured through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, as internally inscribing God’s law and enabling believers to exhibit love of God and neighbor, thereby fulfilling the law in order to gain their eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:1-4). While this is all accomplished entirely by God’s grace through the merits of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, it is at the same time not something that occurs through the imputation of an external and alien righteousness received through faith alone.

You can read Stellman’s pathetic and shameful farewell to the Christian faith here (although leaving the PCA if it were for the right reason is nothing to apologize for).   Wes White has a few cautionary remarks here.   John Bugay has even more to say here.  If Stellman had any moral or personal integrity at all (and I have no reason to think that he does), he would never allow himself to stand in a pulpit again, anywhere.  If he could come to reject Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide after all these years and reveal himself as a complete hypocrite, what is to stop him from doing it again if he dons a funny robe and cap while mumbling mystical babble over a loaf of bread and a glass of wine?   I do think it is terrifying that a pastor, even a prosecutor of one of the most notorious Federal Visionists and false teachers active in the PCA today, could come to such a change of heart on doctrines that are so completely non-negotiable.

These are truly dark days.  May the Lord have mercy on us.


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