Archive for August 2012

Well Roasted Marshmallows

August 23, 2012

One of the single most shocking truths not proclaimed in the anemic Evangelical world today, which includes the swampy backwaters of today’s Evangelicalism, sometimes called the Reformed world, is that God doesn’t love everyone nor does He want all men to be saved.  It was certainly shocking to me to realize over two decades ago, and despite all that I have been told to the contrary, that the Scriptures do not teach God’s universal love for all mankind and that what I was taught in the pew and by my spiritual elders at the time was a lie.

When I was first confronted by the doctrine of God’s sovereign predestination and election, and started to understand why person A was a believer and why person B was not, it presented the first real crisis of my faith.  At that point I had been a professing Christian for more than ten years and I thought I had Christianity pretty much figured out.  I was wrong.  I came to realize that salvation was not due to the exercise of my own free and independent will but God’s.  I was really unprepared to deal with this particular truth and this was despite having previously devoured everything written by the late Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer.  That’s not to say that Schaeffer didn’t provide an oasis to a thinking Christian in a world filled with an endless stream of pompadour haired televangelists hawking Jesus like carny barkers, “precious moments” figurines, and Donny and Marie wannabes crooning for Christ.  Schaeffer was a Presbyterian and deeply rooted in the faith of the Reformers; the very men who took on the awesome power of papal Rome and won.  Yet, even this didn’t prepare me for the truths that were right under my nose.  Truths like:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12,13)

And, of course,

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

Thankfully, my first real introduction to the doctrine of predestination and election was through Gordon Clark and his book simply titled, Predestination.  After that I plowed through books on the subject by Boettner, Luther, Pink, Zanchius, along with Calvin’s Institutes (twice) among others.  I was struck that the faith of the Reformers was a qualitatively different religion than the one I had been taught.  I had thought of myself as a “Protestant” for over a decade, longer if only nominally, but I really had no idea how alien my Christian faith was to the faith of the original Protestants. However, if I could be so wrong, and even ignorant, about such pivotal Christian doctrines as predestination and election, and for so long, then perhaps those in the Reformed tradition were wrong too and Christianity is a farce.  I was determined that if the pieces did not fit in this new system I was now discovering, I was willing to toss my bible in the fireplace.      (more…)

Back With a Vengeance

August 9, 2012

I am a bit reluctant to write more about PCA TE Jeff Meyers as I would have thought that his words, many of which I have documented here on God’s Hammer,  would have been more than enough to have him defrocked in any Christian church in the country.  Sadly, that is not the case in the PCA where he was completely exonerated by the Missouri Presbytery (the same presbytery where the PCA’s Covenant Seminary is located).  That said, a few weeks ago Meyers’ trial transcripts were released and he has been making the rounds letting anyone who will listen that the Federal Vision has been vindicated as confessionally Reformed and perfectly within the bounds of theological orthodoxy according to the PCA.  And, if you don’t believe him, he has Federal Visionists like Mark Horne, Jon Barlow, and others, not to mention that bag of loose change James Jordan, helping him make his case (see the comments at Greenbaggins here).

Even without the aid of these unsavory FV characters coming out from under the floorboards to defend Meyers, I think he’s right.  Presbyteries in the PCA have exonerated one Federal Visionist after another and the Standing Judicial Commission, which is the final court of appeal in the PCA, has been moot.  Well, not totally moot.  The SJC has spoken on the FV controversy by upholding the findings of the Siouxlands Presbytery and their investigation of TE Joshua Moon clearing him of any presumption of guilt in his defense of the Federal Vision.

What I find interesting is the renewed virulence with which these FV men are now willing to defend their false doctrines, even their denial of justification by faith alone.  Their victories in the PCA courts have emboldened them and Meyers is particularly brash when he states:

I’ve never said that someone will not be saved if they believe in the truth of Christ and his finished work but “somehow lack personal loyalty.” The JFVS does not say, and I have never said that “believing the Gospel is not enough; to be saved one must be personally loyal too.” And I have never even remotely suggested that “personal loyalty is the sine qua non of saving faith.” I repudiate such formulations. I’ve never said these things and I don’t believe or teach them.

Yet, in that same thread where he seemingly disavows any notion of justification through personal loyalty he writes:

Sean: I don’t maintain that “personal loyalty” is the instrument of justification. I don’t believe in justification by personal loyalty. And the FB [should be FV] statement doesn’t say anything of the sort. Here’s the statement again:

“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.”

The words “living” and “active” and “personally loyal” all describe the kind of faith that justifies. They are adjectival. I don’t believe in justification by “personal loyalty” any more than I believe in justification by “living” or justificatioin[sic] by being “active.”

It would be absurd for someone to say that the JFVP is advocating “justification by living.” Right? Or that it was teaching “justification by being active.” The words “living” and “active” modify “faith.” It is just as absurd for someone to charge the JFVP with teaching “justification by personal loyalty” when the phrase “personally loyal” only describes the kind of faith that is instrumental in justification.

You may not like the adjectival phrase “personally loyal,” but the signers of the FV statement are not advocating some back-door justification by works. We’re just trying to describe the kind of faith that justifies and distinquish[sic] it from false faith. And we use the words “living” and “active” because these are the words James uses to describe the kind of faith that saves (James 2:14-26).

The first thing to notice in Meyers’ defense of the FV statement is how they define saving faith: “Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer.”  The deception here is that the FV statement employs what at first appears to be the traditional definition of saving faith that is comprised of three elements; assent, knowledge (or, more properly, understanding), and trust.  While the order of the first two elements in the FV definition are switched (as one must first have some understanding before they can assent to something as true), the third element, what is often called the “fiducial” element of saving faith, is rendered “living trust.”    (more…)

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