Archive for the ‘Theology’ category

Scripturalism and the Cessation of Continued Revelation

May 3, 2017

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

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John Piper: Taking Candy From A Baby

November 10, 2016

taking-candy-from-a-babyI have never understood the fascination with John Piper. Years ago my pastor gave me a copy of Piper’s The Pleasures of God telling me it was his favorite book.  Even then, and while still wet behind my newly Reformed ears, I thought Piper was a bit muddle-headed and self-contradictory.  As a result, I have spent very little time following him over the years. I did make an exception when I read his atrocious ode to Daniel Fuller in Future Grace. That book helped explain, at least for me, why Piper would align himself with Doug Wilson, the chief spokesman for the heretical works based Federal Vision, even inviting him to participate in various “Desiring God” conferences.

I suspect people like Piper because his “yes and no” theology allows everyone to have their ears tickled at the same time. It also helps that we live in an age where, for many, the abandonment of reason means to think “in submission to Scripture” and is considered the height of Christian piety (insert Isaiah 55:8 here).  That’s why it was no surprise to see Piper’s “yes and no” theology on display recently on the Facebook page: Calvinism: Fellowship, Debate & Discussion.  The post that started the ball rolling included a link to a short piece titled:  “Isn’t Unlimited Atonement More Glorious Than Limited Atonement?”  In it, Piper sets out to defend limited or what he prefers to call, “definite atonement.” Most of his response is solid. For example, Piper argues:

Those who espouse definite atonement affirm all of that; namely, that the death of Christ did effectively secure the complete, eternal, full salvation of God’s elect, the bride of Christ, including the fulfillment of the promises of the new covenant to take out of each one of his chosen people the heart of stone, put in a new, believing heart, and cause us to walk in his statutes.

So far, so good. But then he adds:

[Christ] died for everyone without distinction in John 3:16, in that sense: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” — in what sense “for the world”? — “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is because of the atonement that that is possible. You can say that to everybody.

So, which is it?  Did Christ die in order to ”effectively secure the complete, eternal, full salvation of God’s elect, the bride of Christ” or “for everyone without distinction.” The elect and everyone without distinction are mutually exclusive categories.  The former is limited to a particular people known by God and the latter to an amorphous faceless humanity who are no particular people at all.  Piper wants it both ways and by interpreting John 3:16 like your typical A-1 Arminian he places himself outside of the Reformed tradition which understands the “world” of John 3:16 in terms of non-Jews hearkening back to God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 17.  Or as Paul explains in Galatians 3:14: “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” And, again in Galatians 3:29; “And, if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Or, as that far more consistent Reformed Baptist theologian John Gill explains:

…not every man in the world is here meant, or all the individuals of human nature; for all are not the objects of God’s special love … nor is the whole body of the chosen ones, as consisting of Jews and Gentiles, here designed; for though these are called the world, ( John 6:33 John 6:51 ); and are the objects of God’s special love, and to them Christ is given, and they are brought to believe in him, and shall never perish, but shall be saved with an everlasting salvation; yet rather the Gentiles particularly, and God’s elect among them, are meant; who are often called “the world”, and “the whole world”, and “the nations of the world”, as distinct from the Jews; see ( Romans 11:12 Romans 11:15 ) ( 1 John 2:2 ) ( Luke 12:30 ), compared with ( Matthew 6:32 ).

While I had to dig back a bit to find it, Piper made virtually the same “yes and no” claim regarding the imagined universal nature of the atonement in The Pleasures of God where he warns the reader to “not allow some alien logic to force [you] to choose between these two teachings of Scripture.” I admit, I have no idea what sort of logic aliens might use, but on this planet, we’re stuck with things like the law of contradiction and excluded middle. So, what “alien logic” would forbid Piper or anyone else from harmonizing the teachings of Scripture, particularly when dealing with something so central as the atonement? Only by adopting a non-scriptural premise can one be forced to maintain a non-biblical conclusion.  The problem is not with logic but with Piper’s exegesis that leads him to reject the clear teaching of Scripture regarding Christ’s atoning work for the elect alone. Consequently, there is no sense in which Christ atoned for the sins of everyone universally considered. I freely admit that God does not reveal himself exhaustively in Scripture, and, with Calvin, I affirm that we cannot go further than Scripture permits.  However, this is not one of those cases. Piper’s solution to the atonement is to abandon logic. Maybe that’s why he’s such a popular preacher.

Now, someone (a PCA pastor who will remain anonymous since I didn’t ask his permission to quote him here) asked; “What are the effects of the atonement? And are some of those effects suitable or fitting for the non-elect?”

To answer that, I think one only needs to consider countries where the Gospel has taken root and the civilizations they have produced. Compare those countries with countries devoid of the Gospel or where it has been replaced by clever a counterfeit like Romanism (see also John Robbins’ booklet, Christ and Civilization).  There is no question that the non-elect fare much better in Christian countries (even in post-Christian countries like our own) than, say, in Muslim countries or under the thumb of some sort of some authoritarian tyrant. Let’s face it, nobody lives well in North Korea.

Next, my interlocutor asked; “Could that be the kind of distinction Piper has in mind?” While you might say that some temporary benefits of Christ’s particular atonement extend beyond those for whom Christ died, that’s no consolation for those spending their eternity in hell.  Besides, you cannot validly infer non-saving benefits to the non-elect from John 3:16 correctly understood.  That’s because the non-elect are nowhere in view.

Then came this reply:

Your first point is right–he does approach John 3:16 in a way that Reformed folks don’t, and that sets off an alarm. Your second point is wrong because I’ve shown that he’s not saying what you claim–he’s not saying it’s binary, and you have to believe both A and Not A. He’s saying the atonement has aspects that apply to all.

Since Piper interprets John 3:16 in a way that the Reformed traditionally have not, it is impossible to see how he’s not saying we must believe both A and Not A. The point being, it’s impossible to maintain an Arminian or universalistic understanding of John 3:16 and not contradict Reformed soteriology.

To illustrate this point again, and from the same article, Piper argues:

The transformation that made faith a reality was secured in the atonement for the beneficiaries of the new covenant. In other words, a new heart was purchased for God’s people in the atonement. This is more than the purchase of a possibility. This is more than the purchase of an offer of salvation. This is the real purchase for God’s people of God’s sovereign work to take out the heart of stone and put in the new, believing heart of flesh. Nobody would believe if that hadn’t been bought for them [emphasis mine].

Later he adds:

It not only purchases a genuine offer to the whole world in terms of John 3:16, but goes beyond the offer and actually accomplishes the triumph over unbelief and hardness of heart and brings to pass salvation and all the purposes of God that depend on it.

Where is this genuine offer given to “the whole world”?  As already noted, it is nowhere found “in terms of John 3:16.” It seems to me that Piper wants to proclaim to all men that Christ died for them and has a wonderful plan for their life on the condition that they believe.  But, then he says; “Nobody would believe if that hadn’t been bought for them.” Again, Piper wants it both ways and ends up with a completely incoherent view of the atonement.  It’s like saying I bought some candy for my daughter, but I also offer it to my son even though I have no intention of ever giving him any.

Faith Alive

June 18, 2016

faith aliveLuther rightly maintained that justification by faith alone is the linchpin upon which the church stands or falls.  If this doctrine is lost or even muddied, the semblance of religion remains, but the church fades into nonexistence. That is why a clear and unambiguous definition of faith is essential. If you don’t know exactly what the alone instrument in justification consists of how can it be defended? Further, and in order to avoid equivocation, any definition faith has to apply to all forms of faith whether saving or not.  Seems simple, right?  The problem is that in the minds of the vast majority of pastors and teachers any time the word “saving” precedes the word “faith” it’s the latter that takes on an entirely new meaning. To that end the traditional threefold definition of faith has been shown to be ambiguous at best and outright dangerous at worst providing an open doorway for pernicious and deadly heresies that snake their way into the Church unabated.

While a source of irritation to many modern Reformed pastors, it was Gordon Clark who first identified this gaping crack in the Church’s foundation and correctly argued that the difference between faith and saving faith are the propositions believed.  In contrast, a majority of Reformed pastors and churchmen, who are blindly wed to tradition seemingly for tradition’s sake, maintain that the difference lies not in the propositions believed at  all, but in some nebulous psychological state that when mixed with simple faith makes ordinary faith saving.

Like the secret recipe for KFC or McDonald’s special sauce, today’s Reformed leaders and apologists differ wildly when it comes to explaining what exactly in addition to simple faith in the Gospel is needed to save a sinner. PCA pastor Andy Webb says the secret ingredient is a Harry Potter potion mingling “the emotion of love with trust, inclination, and agreement.”  The self-proclaimed “Reformed Apologist,” Ron DiGiacomo, claims the magic happens when “a disposition of commitment,” whatever that might entail, is added to simple belief.  Alan Strange, who is an OPC minister and professor of church history at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, says the alchemy that makes simple belief alone in Christ alone saving is a “mystery.”  Strange warns that any attempt to define what it is that makes ordinary belief saving is like peering into the doctrine of Christ’s Incarnation and is “not amenable to rationalistic reduction.”  For Strange what makes ordinary belief saving is beyond human understanding or definition.  According to Strange even the words faith and belief differ, despite being translations of the exact same Greek word in Scripture, and that “justifying faith is something more than merely belief: not something less, but something more.”  The central error in all this is that faith is belief. Nothing more, nothing less. Consequently, and when you come right down to it, none of these men really believe in justification by faith alone.  They just pay it lip service.  No wonder the FV continues to spread unabated and the PCA is now a safe haven for the FV.  Such is the state of the Reformed and Presbyterian church today.

So, Sean, are you saying that the vast majority of Reformed churchmen don’t believe in justification by faith alone? Well, yes and no.  Yes, because they add to saving faith that which is absent from faith simpliciter and end up equivocating, even contradicting themselves, when explaining what exactly the alone instrument of justification is. No, because while confused and mired in meaningless religious jargon, metaphors and word pictures, they don’t add works as that which completes faith making it somehow “saving.”  They at least attempt to draw a distinction between God’s once and for all declaration of righteousness the moment a person first believes with works done as the result of this faith in sanctification.  They differ, albeit ever so slightly, with the FV men who profess  “the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as … a living, active, and personally loyal faith” (admittedly very similar to DiGiacomo’s “disposition of commitment”).

Concerning this idea of “a living, active, and personally loyal faith,” perhaps the best example demonstrating the inability of the defenders of the traditional threefold definition of faith to safeguard against the deadly errors of heretics like those in the Federal Vision (but you can think of the ever encroaching tentacles of Romanism as well), came during the final days of year long debate between Lane Keister and Federal Vision bigmouth, Doug Wilson.  At that point the discussion turned to the nature of saving faith and the questions concerning the “aliveness” of faith in justification.  Keister wrote:

Contrary to the criticisms of FV proponents … I know of NO Reformed scholar who says that we are justified by a dead faith. I know of no Reformed scholar who even hints at this. I know of dozens of Reformed scholars who say the aliveness of faith is not what justifies us. The best way I can put this is to say that the aliveness of faith is a sine qua non, but is not part of the inherent structure of justification. Of course the person who stretches out his arm to catch a ball has to be alive to do that. But his being alive is not an action inherent in stretching out his arm. Maybe I can put it this way: states of being are distinct from actions, just like verbs of being are distinct from verbs of action. We must distinguish then between the state of being alive and the verb of action of what faith does in laying hold of Christ’s righteousness. To put it another way, our aliveness can have no object. It is inherently reflexive. But faith’s action in justification takes a direct object: the righteousness of Christ. I really think this is as clear as I can be. I don’t see any reason why Doug should disagree with this, either.  I suppose I will have to enact a qualification of this, nevertheless, lest people think I am making faith active. When I am referring to “faith’s action” I do not mean that we are doing a work. I mean only that faith is doing something in justification. And this is what it is doing: it is “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification” (WCF 14.2).  https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/one-last-word/

Before unpacking this tragically confused paragraph, the central thing to recognize is that both Keister and Wilson are operating from the exact same definition of saving faith. Both believe that faith can be either “alive” or “dead,” which means, when stripped of its metaphorical trappings, that a person can believe the truth of the Gospel, assent to it, yet still be lost.  In order to be saved and for faith to be effectual, something in addition to belief is needed.  I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve had Reformed pastors tell me that simply believing the Gospel and Christ’s finished work on the cross on account of sin is not enough to save anyone. So much for the idea that the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” But, then, almost in the same breath, they identify Christians as “believers” blissfully unaware of the contradiction right under their nose.  This is also why Reformed Christians who refuse to accept contradictions or so-called “paradoxes” in Scripture are routinely attacked and routinely banned from blogs and discussion groups by men for maintaining that sinners are justified by belief alone.

Keister begins by saying that he knows of “NO Reformed scholar who says that we are justified by a dead faith.”  But, then he says the aliveness of faith is “not part of the inherent structure of justification.”   So, which is it?  If we are not justified by dead faith, wouldn’t it follow that we’re saved by a faith that is “alive” whatever that might mean?  He then adds this “aliveness” is a “sine qua non,” that which is indispensable or essential to something, just not to justification.  Again, how can that be?  If faith is the alone instrument in justification than it would seem it is very much “inherent to the structure of justification.” If it’s not, by what means can a sinner be justified?

The tragedy is that Keister is far from alone and his confusion is endemic to virtually all Reformed pastors today who cannot clearly define the difference between faith and saving faith without equivocating or just speaking nonsense.  This is why they identify faith as something that can be either “alive” or “dead.”  In fact, Keister takes a pointed jab at the late John Robbins writing:

…Robbins and his crowd seem to me to be in danger of denying that justifying faith is alive, which is what the confession says. Now, they may say that assent is alive.

First, as one who identifies with “Robbins and his crowd” I do deny that saving faith is “alive” simply because it is a metaphor that is misapplied to saving faith.  Besides, in order for any metaphor to make sense it has to be first explained in literal language.  Now, it could be said that saving faith is evidence that a person has already been translated from death to life in regeneration, but beyond that it is a completely irrelevant to the question of the role faith plays in justification.  This is an important point because as Dewey Robert’s observers, Federal Visionists like Wilson deny God’s grace in regeneration (see “The Federal Vision and Grace“).  Second, the Westminster Confession nowhere says that “justifying faith is alive.”  Concerning faith in justification the Confession states; “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.” Keister is mistaken simply because that which accompanies something, in this case saving faith, is not part of the essence of saving faith, but rather results from it. That should have been obvious to Keister and the clue is the phrase “works by love,” but more on that later.

(more…)

Whitefield Follies

January 16, 2016

ken

Something is rotten at Whitefield Seminary.  There are a number of current and former students all claiming that the views expressed in Gordon Clark’s monograph, Faith and Saving Faith (re-released along with The Johannine Logos as What Is Saving Faith?)  are not Clark’s views of faith and saving faith, but rather are the views of the late John Robbins.  Jason Peterson, who I believe is a current student at Whitefield (he booted me from his Facebook group so fast as to make my nose bleed so I didn’t get the chance to confirm if he’s currently enrolled) posted the following:

I had a question earlier concerning a comment that I made about the trinity foundation:
“Which of the Trinity Foundation’s resources should we avoid?”

Answer:

First, Gordon Clark’s book, Saving Faith, was edited to express Robbins’ view that faith is merely intellectual assent rather than Calvin’s view (which Clark agreed with).

Second, John Robbins’ misrepresented Bahnsen on theonomy and was rather rude during their dialogue.

Third, John Robbins’ book on Ayn Rand is a rather uncharitable representation of Objectivism.

Most of what I have read on the Trinity Foundation website is good stuff. Hopefully the Trinity Foundation will release the original manuscripts of Clark’s works one day. The Gordon Clark Foundation, however has quite a bit of his works. I’d say that if you see something that looks strange, to cross reference the article on the Trinity Foundation with a related article on the Gordon Clark Foundation. One other consideration that must be kept in mind however, concerning the Gordon Clark Foundation’s unpublished works of Clark is that Clark might have changed his mind on some topics at a later date. Interpreting Clark’s thought is going to be really tricky unless the unedited version of Clark’s published works are released.

Leaving aside Petersen’s other comments regarding the imagined “rude” behavior of John Robbins in his “dialog” with Greg Bahnsen and his supposed “uncharitable representation of Objectivism” (is there a charitable representation of Rand’s Objectivism?), Petersen’s charge regarding F&SF is without merit as demonstrated in my previous post. But the question is, where is Petersen getting these ideas?

Recently I have been contacted by a number of current and former Whitefield students all telling me that Ken Talbot, the president of Whitefield, told them that Clark held to the traditional threefold definition of faith (that mystical stew of notitia, assensus and fiducia) and that it was John Robbins’ view of faith, not Clark’s, that we find in the book published under Clark’s name.

Make no mistake, that is a serious charge. I have tried contacting Talbot asking him to either confirm or deny the claims made by his students, but I have yet to hear back from him.  Suffice it to say anyone making that claim, whether it is Talbot or another professors at Whitefield, is just being silly to the point of absurdity. Clark unambiguously rejected the traditional threefold definition of saving faith and instead properly defined faith as understanding with assent.  Consider the following reply Clark gave in a lecture cited in my last post:

This student correctly saw what I was saying: that faith was a matter of assent. And not understanding by itself, but understanding plus assent….

… And I prefer John Calvin who talks about assent itself being pious. It is not something else added to the assent that is pious, the assent itself is pious. And so believing, and I really prefer the word believing, because the word faith is Latin, and I don’t like Latin, I like the Greek pistueo. And belief is assent. It is assent to an understood proposition … Now, the trouble, I think in contemporary civilization is, at least for the last couple centuries, is that some people have begun to think that assent is merely something verbal that you say out loud but perhaps you don’t mean. Of course, that is not assent, that is hypocrisy. But assent in its theological meaning is simply the fact that to believe you accept this proposition. As the Scripture says, you believe that Christ is Lord, you believe that he rose from the dead, and if you believe those things you are saved. That’s it. Now, I’ll repeat it, now the reason I don’t like that threefold analysis of faith is that the third part of it is just the word that you asked the definition for. And hence the addition of the word fiducia doesn’t add anything to your understanding of it.

What is particularly bizarre is that the transcript of this lecture is available at Ken Talbot’s own website, The Clark Foundation. Further, the date and place listed on that the transcript is;  “Believer’s Chapel Tape Ministry, 1977.” Assuming the date is correct, Clark was defending his view of faith as the intellectual assent to an understood proposition for nearly a decade prior to the publication of F&SF. Even if the date is not correct, it should be obvious to everyone except the most intellectually handicapped that Clark unequivocally rejected the traditional threefold definition of saving faith. A man is justified by belief alone.

In addition, the first edition of F&SF, the one that I own, was published by John Robbins and the Trinity Foundation in 1983 two years prior to Clark’s passing, which is more than enough time for Clark to have publicly protested and demanded Robbins correct any editorial altering of his views.  It’s not like Clark had become some dotty old invalid drooling in the corner in 1983.  Clark was hard at work up until the time Lord took him home when he had virtually completed a far more controversial work, his theologically earth shattering; The Incarnation.

There is more, but since some others have already picked up the gauntlet, and frankly have done an even better job than I have exposing some of the errors emanating from Whitefield, I thought I would share them here.

The first is a piece by Carlos Montijo and Tim Shaughnessy titled: “The Marks of a ‘True’ Clarkian.” The piece deals with both the absurd claim that Clark didn’t actually write F&SF and that Clark didn’t differentiate knowledge from opinion or true belief.  To put it another way, some at Whitefiled argue that Clark did not require an account for knowledge. That’s almost as silly and misguided as saying that Clark didn’t write F&SF. Haven’t the students at Whitefield, or at least their professors, read Clark’s Introduction to Christian Philosophy?

The second piece is by Luke Miner at Scripturalism.com titled; “Clark on Saving Faith in 1961.”  This second piece is important in continuing to establish a timeline because it demonstrates that throughout his long career, Clark consistently defended the idea that faith is understanding with assent and that saving faith is assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel.

Faith Is Understanding With Assent

January 10, 2016

clark01As someone who has shed considerable spiritual blood defending and advocating for Gordon Clark’s simple and biblical definition of faith as an assent to an understood proposition (for example see here, here, here, here and here for starters), I was shocked this past week to learn that there are people coming out of Whitefield Seminary who are under the impression that John Robbins altered Clark’s understanding of faith in his monograph, Faith  And Saving Faith (later reissued as part of What Is Saving Faith).   For example, one Whitefield student, Jason Petersen, posted on a Whitefield Facebook page that calls itself, “Clarkian Apologetics: Institute for Philosophical Thought”:

Gordon Clark’s book, [Faith and] Saving Faith, was edited to express Robbins’ view that faith is merely intellectual assent rather than Calvin’s view (which Clark agreed with).”

Jason Petersen is one of the list moderators and as soon as I asked Petersen to support his charge, while at the same time showing him why he was wrong, I was booted from the group. While I’m no stranger to the left foot of fellowship, normally it’s from blog sites and discussion boards run by Van Tillians who are more interested in protecting Van Til’s anti-Confessional P&R hegemony. However, these were self-professed Clarkians.  I guess with friends like these….

To be fair, evidently the group has a rule against disagreeing with, much less challenging, any one of the moderators. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I ever actually joined the group and I suspect my friend, Hugh McCann (who has a habit putting me on FB lists I had no intention of joining), signed me up. Regardless, I would never be a part of any discussion group that doesn’t allow discussion.  Besides, I think FB is generally a horrible forum for theological discussions of any kind and is much better suited for cute puppy videos … and who doesn’t love cute puppy videos.

While I plan to get more into this odd bit of funny business coming out of this little Whitefield sponsored group, I thought I would share part of a transcript from a Clark audio lecture that can be found at John Robbin’s Trinity Foundation website: A Defense of Christian Presuppositions in the Light of Non­-Christian Presuppositions. Interestingly, the transcript of that lecture can be found at The Gordon Clark Foundation website run by Ken Talbot and Whitefield Seminary. Don’t get me wrong, I was initially thrilled to learn about The Gordon Clark Foundation.  I was also thrilled to learn of the Scripturalism site run by C.Jay Engel and Luke Miner out of California. The more the merrier. I was also thrilled to learn over the years that Whitefield uses some of Clark’s works as source material.  Every seminary should. After all, Gary Crampton (a long time contribution to the Trinity Foundation) is on their Administrative Board and from what I can tell from their promotional materials, teaches New Testament, Theology, and Apologetics at the seminary.

Moreover, I don’t care if Crampton or Talbot disagree with Clark and hold to the irrational and nonsensical traditional threefold definition, most do, but for anyone to suggest that Clark shared their view and that Robbins somehow altered the text of F&SF as to change Clark’s simple and unambiguous definition of saving faith reflects very badly on the character of those making that charge. I can’t really blame Jason Petersen however, but I’m happy to blame his teachers at Whitfield if they are in any way responsible for this nasty bit of misinformation.

So, to correct any misunderstanding of what Clark actually taught regarding the nature of faith and saving faith, the following is the Q & A portion from the above mentioned lecture.  It should be more than enough to demonstrate that the view of faith expressed in Faith And Saving Faith is very much that of Gordon Clark:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Questioner 4: Yes sir. What is the barrier between this intellectual understanding and assent. Is it a barrier to man’s mind? Is it an inherent defect in man’s mind, is it a suppression of righteousness or a combination of both?

The question is what is the difference between understanding and assent.

Questioner 4: What is the barrier that prevents a man from moving from understanding to assent?

Oh, What is the barrier that prevents a man from moving from understanding to assent? Well, of course, it is sin.

Questioner 4: But in what respect does sin affect the mind of man? Does man inherently defective or does he simply not like what he is told, or both?

Sin affects people in various ways. To different degrees. And there isn’t any general statements you can make. But I’ll give you some. For example, not everybody commits murder. Even worse criminals don’t do it except on Saturday night. There are, you know. they have different ways of doing this. But one of the effects of sin, is the inability to correctly add up your columns on your income tax blanks. You make a mistake in arithmetic. That’s due to original sin. It might not be the worst sin in the world, but it is a common one. And we have this effect of sin in our lives. And so we make mistakes in arithmetic. Now when it comes to the gospel, men have very good opinions of themselves. They don’t think they need salvation. They have, well some people think they’re all going to go to heaven anyhow. And so they’re not much interested in what you have to say. But this differs from person to person. Of course, the basic effect of sin is to make a person at enmity with the gospel, with God. But it manifests itself in various ways. It is not necessarily a defect, not a defect in human nature as such. And it certainly not a defect in arithmetic. We may make mistakes in arithmetic but that doesn’t mean arithmetic is mistaken. The effect of sin in various human lives differs from person to person. But there is a general reluctance to accept grace. And to admit that you need to be saved. Does that answer your question or doesn’t it? Not quite. Well, ask it over again.

Questioner 4: Well, I understand perfectly as far as sin does affect the mind. My question is simply is how does it affect the mind? Is unregenerate man able to reason up to brink of faith, to understand cognitively all the aspects of the gospel in its fullest sense and the problem is he doesn’t come to faith simply because he doesn’t like the implications of what he sees? Or does he not really have a full cognitive awareness of what the gospel is? Does he have a 98% understanding of it?

Did everybody hear all this long question? I don’t mind you asking a second time and making it long, I just want everybody to hear the question. I can hardly repeat it. But you’re again asking why a man doesn’t accept the gospel. Doesn’t he understand it, or so on. Again, it varies from person to person. I think the person in the first century of our era after the death and resurrection of Christ, the one person who understood the doctrines of Christianity better than anybody else was the persecutor Saul. He had a better Christian theology in his understanding than any of the Christians had. That’s why he was so mad, that is why he wanted to persecute them. There was no defect in his understanding. If you want defects in understanding why you better look to the apostles. Or some of that at any rate. Or the other Christians. But Paul understood the implications of the gospel. He hated it. Then Christ met him on the road to Damascus and changed his mind. That’s change of mind, metanoia, that’s repentance. But not everybody is as brilliant as the apostle Paul and they have various difficulties. Does someone else wish to. Yes sir.

Questioner 5: Yes sir, you ordered faith, and I think Sam’s question was in the same area, if you define faith as notitia, assentia, and fiducia. I think you’re saying the essence of faith is assentia, assent, agreement with fact.

Yes I am.

Questioner 5. Ok. How about fiducia? How does that enter into your definition of faith?

It doesn’t. And I’ll tell you why. The word fiducia is the same root as the word faith, fides. Repeat the question I thought everybody heard.

Moderator: Pronounce the Latin word correctly. It is assensus and not assentia.

Yes, its assensus. The gentleman’s question was if you define faith as notitia, assensus, fiducia quae, et fiducia or something like that, what do you do with fiducia? This student correctly saw what I was saying: that faith was a matter of assent. And not understanding by itself, but understanding plus assent. Then he wants to know about fiducia. Now fiducia is the same root as fides, and what has happened is this. A person has asked you to define faith, and you say faith is understanding, assent, and faith. Well, that doesn’t add anything at all. You’re simply repeating the word for which you previous asked for the definition. And I prefer John Calvin who talks about assent itself being pious. It is not something else added to the assent that is pious, the assent itself is pious. And so believing, and I really prefer the word believing, because the word faith is Latin, and I don’t like Latin, I like the Greek pistueo. And belief is assent. It is assent to an understood proposition. And it is a voluntary assent to something you understand and being voluntary and the nature of assent it is nothing hypocritical. It must be sincere, that is what assent is. Now, the trouble, I think in contemporary civilization is, at least for the last couple centuries, is that some people have begun to think that assent is merely something verbal that you say out loud but perhaps you don’t mean. Of course, that is not assent, that is hypocrisy. But assent in its theological meaning is simply the fact that to believe you accept this proposition. As the Scripture says, you believe that Christ is Lord, you believe that he rose from the dead, and if you believe those things you are saved. That’s it. Now, I’ll repeat it, now the reason I don’t like that threefold analysis of faith is that the third part of it is just the word that you asked the definition for. And hence the addition of the word fiducia doesn’t add anything to your understanding of it. You want to make some rejoinder to that? Oh, I don’t mind, you know, I love a brawl. 

(more…)

Revenge of the Magic Lizard People

December 27, 2015

revenge of the magic lizard people

Steve “Shapeshifter” Hays has responded in much the way I knew he would, which makes him a pretty predictable shapeshifter.  Like all Van Tillians, especially those who are perpetually impressed with their own cleverness, even one who tells us there is “extrabiblical evidence” for the possible existence of shapeshifters (can Big Foot be far behind), Hays spends the bulk of his reply venting his infected spleen on all things even remotely related to the late Gordon Clark.  He begins by citing the opening lines of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable…

Notice that that’s an appeal to natural revelation, including empirical evidence for God’s existence. So it’s actually a Clarkian like Sean who rejects WCF 1. But Sean is too dim to realize that he just contradicted himself.

Hays starts out his reply by simply lying.  This makes sense since he believes in the probable existence of shapeshifters.  One lying spirit deserves another.  But, perhaps lying is too strong and I want to be charitable.  I could say he’s just ignorant of Clark’s thoroughly biblical philosophy, but that would suggest Steve isn’t as smart as he thinks he is and I don’t want to insult him.  First, neither Clark nor Robbins nor any Scripturalist I’ve ever met has any problems with the opening words of WCF 1; they simply refuse to impose empirical presuppositions on the text as Hays so foolishly has done.  Instead, Clark writes in the opening pages of What Do Presbyterians Believe (which evidently would exclude Hays):

Is it not possible that knowledge of God is innate? May we not have been born with an intuition of God, and with this *a priori* equipment we see the glory of God upon the heavens? In this way we would not be forced to the peculiar position that the Apostle Paul was giving his advance approval to the Aristotelian intricacies of Thomas Aquinas.

… In the act of creation God implanted in man knowledge of His existence.  Romans 1:32 and 2:15 seem to indicate that God also implanted some knowledge of morality. We are born with this knowledge; it is not manufactured out of sensory experience.

Not even Romans 1:14-20, the main prooftext to the WCF’s opening clause, supports Hays’ belief in the “empirical evidence for God’s existence.”  The passage instead supports Clark’s view of the natural endowment in man created in God’s image.  As Paul explains, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”  First, Hays errs by not including man as one of the things that “have been made” and thinks he can see with the eyes in his head what Paul tells us is invisible. Second, this innate intuition of God is something God shows man and is not something man infers from observing the “empirical evidence.”  Like most things, Hays has it precisely backwards.

The point conveniently ignored by Hays is that the Confession doesn’t begin with the “empirical evidence for God’s existence” at all.  In fact, the “empirical evidence for God’s existence” is completely absent from the entire Confession.  Rather, the Confession begins, in good Clarkian fashion, by positing the truth of the Holy Scriptures and then inferring God from them; along with the entire system of doctrine outlined in the Confession.  More importantly, the evidence for the truth of Scripture highlighted in the first chapter of the Confession has nothing to do with what can be inferred by the so-called “empirical evidence,” rather the Divines assert the complete logical harmony of all that the Scriptures teach.  As Clark explains:

If, nonetheless, it can be shown that the Bible — in spite of having been written by more than thirty-five authors over a period of fifteen hundred years — is logically consistent, then the unbeliever would have to regard it as a most remarkable accident . . . Logical consistency, therefore, is evidence of inspiration.  — God’s Hammer, 16.

Since Van Tillians reject the logical consent of all the parts and maintain instead that all Scripture ends in a morass of “apparent contradictions” to which men must bow, they logically reject the WCF 1 and are non-Confessional from the get go.  Or, to put it another way, their belief in biblical paradox, which are very real contradictions for us even if, or so we’re told, for God not so much, is the complete rejection of one of central evidences the Confession sites to support belief in the truth of God’s inerrant and non-contradictory Word.  Starting from their faulty and destructive view of Scripture the Van Tillian ends up with any number of contradictory doctrines from God being both One Person and Three Persons (a heterodox belief advanced by Van Til and most recently defended by paradox monger James Anderson)  to a contradictory understanding of the Gospel call where God simultaneously desires and does not desire the salvation of all men.  For the Van Tillian beginning with their defective paradoxical view of Scripture the irretraceable web of what R. Scott Clark calls the “mystery of paradox” is all encompassing.  It is the root of their faith and piety.

In the comment section of Hays’ post, one of his regular and most loyal defenders, a man who goes by the name “Annoyed Pinoy” wrote; “I don’t see why God couldn’t use apparent paradoxes to sift the elect and non-elect. Where does Scripture teach that there are no apparent contradictions in the teaching of Scripture?”  Notice, according to this confused soul,  the categorical and Confessional rejection of biblical paradoxes that are impervious to logical harmonization at the bar of human reason makes one a reprobate; one of the non-elect.  Of course, the Scriptures do teach there are no “apparent contradictions in the teachings of Scripture,” for our Lord said; “The Scriptures cannot be broken” and the Confession similarly asserts the meaning of God’s word is not manifold, but one.  If the Van Tillians were actually faithful to the Confession they would affirm that that all claims to “apparent contradictions” in Scripture falls squarely in the lap of interpreter who has failed to rightly divide God’s Word. They would recognize biblical paradoxes as red flags demanding they recheck their premises as they continue to study the Scriptures.  But, instead these proud Van Tillians place the responsibility for their intellectual and exegetical failures squarely at God’s feet while piously claiming that “a paradox remains for us, though by faith we are confident that there is no paradox for God.”  In their arrogance Van Tillians like Pinoy (who describes himself on his website as a “Filipino … Baptistic … Charismatic … Van Tillian”) think that acceptance of irresolvable paradoxes in Scripture is what separates “the elect and the non-elect.”

Further, too, the Confession rejects the Van Tillian theory of analogy and their denial of any univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s even in the propositions of Scripture.  As Paul said concerning revelation of Scripture “we have the mind of Christ.”  Besides, can anyone seriously imagine the Divines at Westminster contemplating the possible existence of the magic lizard people and using WCF 1 to justify their lunacy? Hays can, because he continues:

I assume “magic lizard people” is an allusion to M. Scott Peck’s report about two of his demonically possessed patients who manifested a serpentine or reptilian appearance during exorcism.

Actually, I was informed that the magic lizard people, which is not original to me, is an allusion to the old TV series, V.  I never watched V and am more familiar with the flying monkey man tormenting William Shatner in the Twilight Zone.

From there Hays switches to defending his favorably citing of Michael “Hare Krisha” Sudduth and his lifelong fascination with the occult even while still pretending to be a Christian.  But, even here, Hays uses this as an attempt to attack Gordon Clark (Hays may actually be a shapeshifter as he seems to be a one trick pony):

How does a Clarkian like Sean distinguish real belief in Jesus from feigned belief in Jesus? Didn’t Sean’s idol, Gordon Clark say “Assent can never be hypocritical, for it is the voluntary act of according belief to a given proposition” (Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?), 69.

That one is easy and the question itself belies Hays rejection of the Reformed doctrine of perseverance of the saints and a proper understanding of the Confessional doctrine of saving faith. Whether someone holds to the traditional and tautological threefold definition of saving faith, or Clark’s biblical two-fold alternative, it’s not always easy to tell the true believer from the feigned variety.  So this question has really nothing to do with Clark at all. However, we do know that Jesus said of those given to Him by the Father; “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” That includes Sudduth’s demonic Lord Krishna.  Or, as John would say; “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

It’s not always easy to tell those “who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit” from God’s real children for whom Christ died.  Hypocrites are everywhere, which is why the Confession makes the distinction between those who not only assent to the truth of the promise of the gospel with those who also assent to the imputation of Christ and his righteousness for the pardon of sin and by which we are accounted as righteousness.  So, while hindsight might be 20/20, the signs of Sudduth’s sure apostasy have been a long time coming.  I started suspecting it many years ago when he first took a job at a Roman Catholic university.  John Robbins was understandably critical of Sudduth’s decision and from what I understand privately counseled Sudduth against taking the job.  Something Sudduth didn’t receive very well.  I remember Suddth publicly flying off the handle years ago on a Yahoo Clark discussion group at Robbins. It was like watching an insolent teenager lashing out at his father who had taken away his car keys.  I just thought it was bizarre for someone who was even published in Trinity Review and who had won the Clark Prize in Apologetics to take such offense at the suggestion that he shouldn’t use his talents in the service of the pope and the Roman church/state.

Interestingly, Hays claims to have seen the writing on the wall too after Sudduth’s public rejection of the one true Lord Jesus Christ.  Hays writes:

To my knowledge, Michael has never been biblically oriented. His Christian faith has always been more philosophically oriented. Now, there’s nothing wrong with philosophical theology. But Christianity is ultimately based on historic revelation. Unless your faith is moored in Scripture, you’re adrift.

Hays also suspects that one reason for Sudduth’s defection from the good things of God in favor of his new found love for some Hindu demon stems from his lifelong fascination with the occult.  Hays explains; “I think he’s been under some degree of occultic bondage for most of his life. Never able to shake free of that.”  Sudduth, despite his religiosity and feigned belief in Jesus Christ, even once identifying himself as a Protestant and a “Reformed” Epistemologist, was never a really a Christian; never really born again.  No one can be in Christ and freed by the power of the Holy Spirit yet remain in bondage to the occult.  Either Sudduth was a liar when he claimed to be a Christian, or Jesus was a liar and Sudduth’s demonic Lord Krishna did in fact snatch him from Christ’s hand.  You can’t have it both ways.

So, yes, I am critical of Hays favorably quoting Sudduth, a man who subjected the name of Jesus Christ to public ridicule and shame.  Hays’ defense: “I quote Sudduth’s experience of living in a haunted house.”  Oh, brother.  It also seems Hays does think the Amityville Horror is real too, writing:

There’s a difference between the horror film and the alleged experience on which it was loosely based. I haven’t studied that in-depth. But why does Sean react to reports of occult entities with the same knee-jerk derision and disbelief as an atheist? Evil spirits are part of the biblical worldview. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if some people encounter evil spirits. Sean is a functional atheist.

I have to laugh at this one.  My friend who first pointed me to Hays’ examination of the reality of the magic lizard people said; “If you want to troll him, tell him you think the Amityville Horror was fake and see if he calls you an atheist.”  There you have it.  When I shared Hays’ remarks with my friend he said; “If denial of magic lizards is functional atheism, is belief in lizards a necessary proposition of orthodoxy?”  It seems for Hays it is.

Now, it’s not all complete lunacy and lizard people.  Hays did provide some clarification regarding his favorably quoting Sudduth:

No, I wouldn’t say Sudduth’s experience provides evidence of shapeshifters. Rather, that provides evidence for the existence of occult entities (of which shapeshifters might be a subset).

Of course, Sudduth’s experience provides no evidence at all.  According to Sudduth the “paranormal occurrences” he claims to have experienced are traced back to 1969 “the year resident Walter Callahan Sr. committed suicide in the home.”   This poor delusional soul believes Walther was coming back to spook him and his former wife.  Now, I have no problem saying that Sudduth has a long history of flirting with demons and demonic forces, he does, but the dead do not roam the earth and what Sudduth experienced, and evidently continues to experience, supplies no evidence whatsoever for “postmortem survival.”  With the possible exception of the transfiguration, Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus should have been enough to settle that question even for someone who once pretended to be a Christian.  What Sudduth claims to be valid evidence for life after death, Jesus said is impossible (Luke 16:26). As for the magic lizard people, Hays needs to keep on trying. Who knows, maybe one day I will see Hays and Suddth both dressed in orange playing bells and banging drums while begging for change in the San Francisco airport. Happy hunting.

Van Tillian Monkey Men

December 23, 2015

twilight zone

 

I confess I thought the Van Tillian belief in biblical paradox and their systematic rejection of WCF 1 was about as destructive and as bad as it gets.  I was wrong.  As someone recently observed on Facebook:

“Van Tillians can’t get weirder than this. John Frame’s fanboy and ex-TA, Steve Hays, discusses the evidence for shapeshifters. Magic lizard people.”

You can read Hays’ musings on the existence of the magic lizard people here and here.

Now, I don’t read Hays’ Triablogue very often and I seriously thought his musings about the existence of shapeshifters was a joke.  I was sure after reading his posts I was going to feel like an idiot for not getting it.  Yet, according to the person who pointed me to Hays’ defense of the magic lizard people; “He’s not kidding. Hays believes that all paranormal claims must be accepted at face value unless proven otherwise. Anything else undermines belief in Biblical miracles. This includes charismatic gifts, but goes far beyond that. In other words, he’s gone off the deep end.”

One would think Hays and the other contributors to Triablogue (are there any others left?) would have learned their lesson after Michael Sudduth renounced his once feigned belief in Jesus Christ for his new found faith in his demonic Lord Krishna.  Now we see Hays favorably quoting Sudduth’s fascination with the occult and his belief in poltergeists and haunted houses.  I  suspect Hays thinks the Amityville Horror is real too.  But the weirdness doesn’t stop there.  Hays goes on to quote a series of tales from his unidentified “friend” who claims to have been on a bus traveling at 85mph while being chased by a “skinwalker.”  Hays’ friend writes:

“The skinwalker ran up to the edge of the road and just kept up pace with the bus hurdling sage brush and rocks while staring at me. After I made eye contact with the thing, I COULD NOT look away. It was as if something was holding my head and eyes in place. The skinwalker just smiled at me this inhuman smile that went ear-to-ear, showing crooked, yellow, pointed teeth. I felt like I was going to throw up and I was panicking through the whole ordeal. The skinwalker started to crumple down on to all fours, still keeping up with the bus. I could see his bones crack and reform, hair started appearing all over the skinwalker’s body and in about 3 seconds was now a coyote and it ran off back into the desert out of view.”

According to Hays these stories, along with Sudduth’s dive into spiritual darkness, all provide “extrabiblical evidence for shapeshifters.”  It seems to me that once you accept extra-biblical evidence for anything, then anything is what you’ll believe in.  I just wonder how long it will be before Hays will be seeing flying the monkey-man on the wing of a plane as he continues his dive into the Twilight Zone.

 


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