Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Bitcoin And Biblical Economics

December 10, 2017

matthewsSteve Matthews discusses the idea of intrinsic verse imputed value in economics and throws in some important theology along the way.

Lux Lucet

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Taking One To The Face

October 21, 2017

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John Piper’s departure from the central doctrine of the Christian faith even justification by belief alone has a long history, but the recent flurry of articles and rebukes and counter-rebukes has been particularly interesting.  If you haven’t been following this debate and actually have a life off the Internet and social media, here is a good list of articles on the subject that provide a some of the debate trajectories.  Frankly, and regardless of what you might think of John Piper, this ongoing debate is a good thing.  As Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians; “… if we or even a well-respected evangelical rock star should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, let him be accursed!”

There are a few other articles that are not on the above list that I think are noteworthy, specifically Rachel Miller’s “Back To the Reformed Confessions and Catechism” and Philip Comer’s “Piper, ‘Final Salvation’ and Reformed Baptists.”  The latter is particularly good because the author draws an analogy of chocolate ice cream mixed with dog poop that leaves the appropriate bad taste in the mouth.

Of course, all the salvos haven’t been going in one direction. There has been a lot of incoming mortars too from the legions of Piper’s defenders.  Probably the most noteworthy and visible have come from PCA pastor Mark Jones writing at The Calvinist International.  Jones does an impressive job of quote mining various Reformed theologians throughout history to create the impression that Piper’s doctrine of initial justification by faith alone and final justification by faith and works has a long Reformed pedigree.  However, my favorite part about Jones’ piece is that he begins by asserting that if you don’t agree with him then you’re an intellectual dolt in desperate need of a theological spanking.  Must be the Dale Carnegie technique:

… if you write blog posts taking issue with Piper on this particular topic, but claim to be Reformed, you probably need to spend some time getting theological training and then, after that, publishing via peer-reviewed journals, books, etc., before you can be taken seriously. And even then, it’s possible that you could have such a built-in bias against someone that you’d find a problem with them for saying “Jesus loves sinners.”

Ouch!

Jones’ most recent volley was to challenge one of Piper’s most well-known critics, Westminister Theological Seminary in California professor, R. Scott Clark to a debate.  Jones even promises to fly down to beautiful Escondido on his own dime and debate Clark “on his own turf.” If nothing else, Jones is a scrappy fellow. What I particularly liked about Jones’ gauntlet was that it begins by reminding everyone once again of just how smart he is:

I believe my own writings on the Puritans, Christ, and Reformed orthodoxy are fully consistent with the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Standards are documents I have given my Christian life to studying and trying to master as far as I am able. I do not take a single exception, which my Presbytery can confirm.

And, yes, the above link to his “writings” on his own Amazon page was included in his original piece and it is a very impressive collection by any standard. Needless to say, Jones isn’t shy about self-promotion.

Yet, almost missed in all the chest thumping and resume writing was a comment by John Lewis buried at the bottom of Jones’ initial defense of Piper’s doctrine of salvation by faith and works. Lewis, who identifies himself as “a very young Christian, 70 years old, saved at the age of 61,” notes that Piper (and Jones) have “took something not all that difficult … and made it quite confusing.”  Thankfully, someone who didn’t miss Lewis’ comment was Chris Gordon, a pastor at the Escondido United Reformed Church, writing on a blog called The Gordian Knot. Gordon delivers one of the most stunning rebukes of a fellow pastor that I have ever read.  Here is just a taste:

Mark Jones has made this all the more clear for us; good works are necessary for your salvation. As Dr. Jones says, Zanchius said it, Mastricht said it, Goodwin said it, Owen said it, Twisse said it, and Ursinus said it. This is not difficult, if you are going to take issue with John Piper, you “need to spend some time getting theological training and then, after that, publish via peer-reviewed journals, books, etc., before you can be taken seriously.”

And, according to Jones, if you are not “thoroughly acquainted” with the plethora of past distinctions between things like dispositiva (that’s Latin), the right versus the possession in the necessity of good works for salvation, then “you have no business writing” (or speaking I assume) on this topic.

If that isn’t enough to shut it down, it gets even better. Now Dr. Jones has proposed a disputation with Dr. R. Scott Clark. He will fly down to Escondido on his own dime and debate these fine distinctions for the good of the church. Since things have reached a “hysterical pitch” the disputatio will be the solution. If not, then people should stop tweeting and be called out for questioning anyone who says that good works are necessary for salvation.

If I had the space and time, especially observing that this month we celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation, this would be a good moment it interject the story of Martin Luther. The little known Augustinian monk who questioned Rome who said good works were necessary for salvation, and after a series of disputationes, he was put on trial, excommunicated, his works burned, and he was threatened to “go to the flames” since he had no business questioning the theological giants and the church. But I digress.

But, the crux of Gordon’s castigation is the confusion Jones has sown in the minds of Christ’s sheep, specifically in the mind of 70-year-old John Lewis.  I also encourage you to read the exchange between Chris Gordon and Mark Jones in the comment section to his blog.

My one criticism of this scathing and excellent piece is that instead of encouraging a debate with R. Scott Clark, Gordon pleads with Jones to “fly on your own dime to see John Lewis and pastorally help him since now he is confused about these matters.”  Adding, “We are always forced to more clarity as pastors when we are looking at real, dying people and explaining salvation to them. ”

While I can understand pastor Gordon’s sincere and heartfelt concern for one of Christ’s precious and now confused sheep, it seems to me that Jones has done enough damage to the body of Christ already.  My advice to Jones is to shut up stay home.

John Piper – Heading For the Cliff

October 11, 2017

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John Piper has doubled down on his doctrine of justification by faith and works.  John Robbins first alerted the world about Piper’s rejection of the law/Gospel distinction in his review of Piper’s abysmal Future Grace back in 2002.  Today, Tim Shaughnessy and Timothy Kauffman, the team over at Bible Thumping Wingnuts, have raised the alarm again citing a very recent piece where Piper answers the question, “Does God Really Save Us by Faith Alone?”  Anyone familiar with John Robbins’ review of Future Grace should not be surprised that Piper answers this central question of the Christian faith in the negative. Piper writes:

In justification, faith receives a finished work of Christ performed outside of us and counted as ours — imputed to us. … In final salvation at the last judgment, faith is confirmed by the sanctifying fruit it has borne, and we are saved through that fruit and that faith. (emphasis Wingnuts)

It is important to understand that Piper is not talking about some future reward bestowed on believers on the day of judgment (see Mathew 25:23 and 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). It’s also not as if Piper is saying that we are saved so that we might do good works as Paul explains in Ephesians 2:10.  Piper is crystal clear.  We do good works so that we might be saved.  Our eternal blessedness hangs in the balance. Adding the word “final” to salvation doesn’t change the math. Belief or faith starts the process of salvation but works done through faith finish it.  Piper attempts to draw a distinction between being accounted as righteous through belief in Christ alone in justification and being made fit for heaven on the basis of our works.  But, what good is the justification we receive through belief in Jesus Christ’s finished cross-work if our salvation ultimately rests on our works as well? What has Jesus’ life and death really accomplished? It seems for Piper Jesus only enables us to be saved.  He didn’t accomplish it.  For that, we must all do our part.  I am hard pressed to see the difference between the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by faith and works with the one being advanced by Piper … as the Wingnuts correctly explain.

On Hurricanes, Karma and the Providence of God

September 15, 2017

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

Lux Lucet

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

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

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

August 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

Bible Thumping Wingnuts

April 27, 2017

Bible-Thumping-Wingnut-Logo

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

 

Faith is Intellectual Assent … Faith is Belief

March 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read Douma’s article here.


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