Continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue [2]

bunyan

I have taken up explaining why I believe continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue. My previous post introduced my basic thoughts on the matter, but just a quick recap:

Contrary to what is generally agreed upon among garden variety Evangelicals and Christian denominations, I don’t believe continuationism, or charismaticism, or even Pentecostalism for that matter, is merely a quirky, but otherwise acceptable tradition of Christianity. I believe the otherworldly claims of the paranormal, coupled with the bizarre, aberrant behavior inherent with continuationism, are detrimental to core doctrines of Christianity, most significantly, the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

I think we can all agree that if there are any beliefs, doctrines, or even peculiar worship practices that claim to come directly from God via the Holy Spirit, those things are certainly essential, and can hardly be considered non-essential. They strike, as it were, at the very center of what Christians believe about God, especially the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That is definitely essential.

One clarifying point is in order. As soon as we invoke the idea of “essential” vs. “non-essential” the notion of a person’s salvation comes to mind. Am I saying that if one is a continuationist, he believes false doctrine that is outside the defining bounds of the Christian faith? Put another way, can a person be a Christian and adhere to continuationist views? Why yes, I believe a person can hold to continuationist views and be saved. But that hardly means that continuationism in itself is far from being erroneous or a primary issue.

During a twitter exchange where I was fleshing out my thoughts on the matter with some detractors, a friend of mine, David Kjos, asked the question, “Must error be immediately damning to be a primary issue? If cessationism is secondary, isn’t Sola Scriptura also?”

A right thinking Christian would immediately recognize the importance of his question. If the opposite of cessationism, that being continuationism, is a secondary, non-essential doctrine that has no direct bearing on one’s saving faith, then Sola Scriptura would fall into the secondary, non-essential category as well.

But the right thinking Christian would also recognize and affirm that what is believed and taught concerning the authority of Scripture in the Church, that being Sola Scriptura, is not just a non-essential doctrine for Christians, but it is one that is primary. While one is saved if they do not believe upon Sola Scriptura, rejecting all that the doctrine entails regarding the authority of Scripture will lead to all sorts of gross error.

So too with continuationism. It is enough of a primary doctrine that the pursuit and practice of it by Christians easily leads to major theological error both in the teaching of Scripture, as well as the life of the Christian.

My attempt here is to document my claim that continuationism strikes at the heart of our doctrine of God. I am particularly concerned that the practice and behavior of continuationists can be blasphemous, attributing works to the Holy Spirit that are certainly contrary to His character as revealed in Scripture, and in some cases making the Holy Spirit out to be a liar. My last post pointed to some doctrinal compromise and I argued that the Holy Spirit will never, ever at any time, direct believers to compromise with unbelievers or those promoting a false Gospel.

With this I want to hit on a second major point,

Lies and Tall Tales. I could make this topic an ongoing series all it’s own, because tall tales of supernatural adventure are ubiquitous throughout all of continuationism.

Ever since I became aware of Pentecostals and charismatics back as a youngin’ in Missouri, I came to recognize that the speakers on the radio would tell some of the most amazingly fantastic stories of supernatural abilities and encounters. Such things as healings, visits to heaven, visits with Jesus in their bathroom, visits with angels, and extraordinary powers, like mind-reading, commanding evil spirits, or seeing into the future.

The way the testimonies were presented, such experiences should be a frequent occurrence for the average, spirit-filled believer. Every Christian should be having visits with Jesus or trips to heaven on a regular basis. I, as a young churched teen was not having such experiences, so I often wondered if God really loved me.

And those kind of stories were not relegated to the fever swamps of your typical continuationist churches like the Assemblies of God or Pentecostal denominations.

When I was in college, my Southern Baptist church had an evangelist named Sam Cathy come to lead a series of “revival meetings” for a week. Every night he would regale us with his supernatural exploits. He apparently had the ability (in Christ, of course) to command evil spirits. He could tell them to levitate furniture and force them to tell him all of their top secret plans for evil doing (in Christ, of course). He was like an evangelistic superhero rescuing wayward, demon-possessed sinners and Christians from lives of disastrous consequence.

For instance, Cathy recounted how he was counseling a young pastor struggling with sexual issues. As he talked with the man, his “devil senses” began tingling, and he immediately recognized the pastor was demon-possessed. He then commanded the demon to tell him who he was. The devil, unable to overcome the controlling powers of the evangelist, was forced to speak.

According to Cathy, an Exorcist moment began taking place as a scary voice started speaking from the man. The devil told Cathy how “they” (meaning he and his devil buddies) set up homosexual encounters for this guy with other men and their plan was to elevate him to the office of president of the SBC and then expose a homosexual scandal around him so the SBC could be brought down. Thankfully, God raised up Cathy, Jedi master evangelist, to use his spirit powers to drive the devil out of the man, thus saving his soul and delivering the SBC from future embarrassment.

This was long before Ergun Caner, but I digress.

devilLooking back now, I believe Cathy was a liar; he made up those stories out of thin air. At best, he seriously embellished, but that is still lying. But he is not a rare exception. Just visit Charisma News Online or the Elijah List  or Sid Roth’s TV program to see what I mean. And again, those are the mainstream of continuationists. They are hardly the fringe.

Let me begin with highlighting a couple we would all acknowledge are crazy ones.

First. Back when I was reviewing Michael Brown’s book, under my review of the fourth chapter, I linked to a video of self-appointed apostolic prophetess, Cindy Jacobs, claiming that she miraculously fed a church of 3,000 people with three loaves of stale bread that were found in the church pantry. She further stated that her and her ministry were given a large sum of donation money for a service she conducted. When they took the money to the bank, what they deposited had miraculously increased in value from the amount they originally took in and counted at the church.

Watch the video below to hear her make those claims from her own mouth.

Now, I do have to point out that the video was uploaded by Rightwing Watch, the barking a the moon, crackpot lefty group. In spite of their overt bias against right wingers, the video does not appear to be altered in any way. Jacobs is telling her audience that she fed a church gathering of 3,000 people in the same way Jesus fed 5,000.

I think she has reached stratospheric levels of lying. The immediate questions I have raised in my mind, where is that church she performed the miracle? and surely, out of 3,000 folks, are there any who would come forward to verify her story?

Second. Bethel Church in Redding, California, is swiftly becoming for crazy charismatic stuff, what Roswell, NM is for UFO believers. I might add, Soul damning crazy charismatic stuff, but that’s for another post. Watch the following video and listen to Kevin Dedmon from Bethel Redding, bobbing in a Kundalini style, tell how his son and his friends walked on water and walked through walls just like Jesus,

What I find even more troubling than him recounting what I believe to be an entirely embellished story of his son and his buddies jumping in the swimming pool, is that he would actually make an entire church full of people believe it.

But Jacobs and Dedmon are the extreme, correct? The fringe. Again, those kind of tall tales and Herculean spiritual feats can be found everywhere among continuationists.

But let’s consider an example from a source closer to the more “sound and balanced” continuationists.

In an article responding to the Strange Fire conference, John Piper, recounts the following story,

“A lawyer one time prophesied over me when my wife was pregnant and said: ‘Your fourth child is going to be a girl, and your wife is going to die in childbirth.’ And that lawyer with tears told me that she was sorry she had to tell me that. So I went home and I got down on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, I am trying to do what you said here in 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21. And frankly, I despise what that woman just said.’ It proved out that my fourth child was a son, and I knew as soon as he came out that that prophecy was not true, and so I stopped having any misgivings about my wife’s life. She is still with me now thirty years later. That’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy.” [Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos]

If I may be so bold, I think that lawyer friend of Piper’s is a liar, too. If she is not a liar, she was woefully deceived by her own flights of fancy to the point she wanted to inject herself into Piper’s life and family in some fashion. It’s kind of creepy in a way. If that is the case, she should be sharply rebuked and told to keep her mouth shut.

But what is truly tragic is that for months, Piper had to bear under the emotional weight of a false prophecy. He genuinely entertained the soothsaying of this woman telling him she had a Word from God that was quietly upending his life. Even still, one has to wonder about why a pastor, considered to be a champion of the Reformed faith, would allow himself to be manipulated by such superstitious whimsy.

The problem I see with all of those tall tales and urban legends of epic spiritual adventure is two-fold.

First, what does this say about continuationism producing a theological matrix that empowers countless teachers, preachers, evangelists, and self-appointed prophets to stand in front of churches with thousands of attendees and brazenly fabricate falsehoods with impunity and no sense of guilt?

Second, what does it reveal about the countless thousands of continuationists who willing drink in their lying tales without the least bit of question? A work of the Holy Spirit is that Christians develop a sense of discernment. That can hardly be said of these individuals.

The Holy Spirit is not involved with anointing and promoting liars, and what spiritual danger is at hand with those who willfully believe the lies calling them from God?

I have one more point for next time.

The Prophets of Doom

doomThe last month or so, I have been introduced to the Hardcore History podcast hosted by Dan Carlin.

Now, I am guessing, that originally, these history talks/lessons started out as a general podcast, but as they were produced, Carlin had such an amazingly awesome way of presenting the material, that Amazon’s Audible picked it up and began charging for it. There are only a few that are downloadable for free at this point.

The one I wanted to direct my readers toward is his 4 hour overview of the Munster rebellion in 1534-1535.

The Prophets of Doom

If you recall that incident during the birth of the Reformation, a group of Anabaptist seized the town of Munster, Germany, believing it would be the center of Christ’s return to earth and establishment of his kingdom. That belief was disastrous, and led to the city turning into an ISIS like cultism that saw many of the inhabitants slaughtered by either the hands of the militant fanatic Anabaptist or the armies besieging the city.

Carlin is not a Christian, at least to my knowledge, so he isn’t filtering it through a Reformed theology like a lot of us like with the books of Iain Murray, for instance. However, he does present the history well, explaining the background of the events that formed around the enthusiasm for the general principles of Reformation. That in turn led to Anabaptists gaining power on the town council in Munster, and their eventual take over of the entire city for a year.

I think folks will greatly benefit from his retelling of that bizarre, tragic chapter in the history of the Reformation and the Anabaptist movement. Interestingly, the Munster Anabaptists were continuationists who believed in divine prophecy and other “manifestations of the Spirit” that present day charismatics insist demonstrate the filling of the Holy Spirit.

I would also recommend downloading his other talks. Carlin just has a fantastic ability with walking you through the history of the various events he covers. I understand his lessons on WW1 are excellent.

Continuationism is not a non-essential doctrinal issue

asuza

I am becoming convinced more and more every day that continuationism is not just a non-essential doctrinal issue for Christians.

My thinking about this started shortly after the Strange Fire conference as I engaged continuationist critics on social media. They denounced the conference with such fervent descriptions as hateful, divisive, painting with a broad brush, throwing all the faithful Pentecostal/charismatic people from around the world under a heresy bus.

The strongest antagonist to the conference, Michael Brown, even wrote a 400 plus page book responding to the various talks and lectures presented at Strange Fire. My friend Lyndon and I wrote up a lengthy, chapter-by-chapter review of his book that can be read HERE, if anyone is interested.

Their primary claim was to say the Strange Fire participants wrongly attributed the bizarre, wild-eyed antics and paranormal stories witnessed at a typical health and wealth style mega-church, to faithful continuationists who never display any of that ridiculous conduct or claim any of those types of otherworldly experiences. The wacky high jinks seen on so-called Christian TV like TBN or Sid Roth’s “It’s Supernatural!” program are not the norm, but are fringy and embarrassing. They hardly represent genuine, enthusiastic charismatic worship and belief.

Yet, in spite of their assertions of false accusations, what I was observing from the charismatic world provided an overwhelming contrary conclusion. The insistence by those pure and clean continuationists that true continuationism is not marked with the outlandish faux-testimonies of miraculous healings, visits to heaven, and pronouncements of fake prophecies, really had to make me wonder about their credibility. Certainly they couldn’t be that blind.

In fact, with what I was seeing, the TBN and Sid Roth style charismatic continuationists are the standard majority, whereas the ‘balanced,” sober-minded continuationists were the true fringe. Their view of continuationism has practically zero influence upon the vast body of charismatic believers. And that vast body is pretty vast, like say in the hundreds of millions world-wide.

If a person just does a simple search on the best selling charismatic books, he will find that all of them are written by the health and wealth continuationists. Just take a look at the material sold at Bethel Redding’s bookstore. It is all goof-ball charismatics like Derek Prince, Rick Joyner, Joyce Meyer, Randy Clark, and C. Peter Wagner. I don’t see anything representing the balanced, non-crack-pot continuationist. Say for instance, Wayne Grudem, or even Michael Brown.

Now. I understand that when I claim continuationism is not a non-essential, secondary issue that I am making a rather bold charge. I even had some respected friends push back against what I am stating; but I am prepared to back up what I mean.

When I write that continuationism is not a non-essential, secondary doctrinal matter, I am obviously saying continuationism has a direct and detrimental influence upon essential Christian doctrine, or those essential, core doctrines being what defines Christian orthodoxy and practice. I was asked by my detractors to provide some examples, and I believe I can.

I want to aim my focus upon what I believe to be the most significant, and that is how continuationism maligns the doctrine of God, specifically the work of the Holy Spirit. While I certainly affirm a robust belief in the work of the Holy Spirit in acts of providence and individual salvation, continuationist conduct and claims of the supernatural attributed to the Holy Spirit are often blasphemous, or lead to the blasphemous. I’d like to demonstrate what I mean in a series of posts highlighting what I believe are key areas. I’ll begin with this post considering the first one,

Theological Compromise. I think we would all agree that one of the major works of the the Holy Spirit is to lead God’s people in spiritual truth. In fact, in John 16:13, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth. His ministry will be to speak authoritatively for the Father and the Son and He will glorify our Lord.

Thus, if the Holy Spirit was truly at work among God’s people like a number of continuationists claim, then He would not be leading the church into compromising with gross, doctrinal error. Any person equating the proclamation of gross, doctrinal error as a move of the Holy Spirit would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit, would that person not?

Cases in point:

Check out this picture:

copelandHere we have, from left to right, John and Carol Arnott of Catch the Fire ministries, Brian Stiller of World Evangelical Alliance, Kenneth “X-men weather controller” Copeland, an antichrist, Thomas Schrrmacher, another guy from the World Evangelical Alliance, Geoff Tunniclife, a peace activist, again with the World Evangelical Alliance, James and Betty Robinson of Life Today ministries, and the now eternally judged, Bishop Tony Palmer.

Back during the summer of 2014, that writhing nest of spiritual asps, met together to discuss joint efforts in unifying Catholics and “evangelicals”®™ for the purpose of working together. James Robinson gushingly stated after the meet up, “This meeting was a miracle…. This is something God has done. God wants his arms around the world. And he wants Christians to put his arms around the world by working together.” [Charisma News Online 7/7/2014].

I happen to believe God had absolutely nothing to do with it at all, because I happen to believe the Holy Spirit does not affirm heresy. To say the Holy Spirit does is blasphemy.

Both sides teach a false gospel. And while Catholics and those pseudo-evangelical grifters have a canyon’s wide divergent views of what is “the gospel,” each of their “gospels” are built upon the foundation of false doctrine that does not save anyone.

The only thing that brought them together is their continuationist views of the Spirit. The pope, and those useful idiots meeting with him, represent the largest world-wide collection of continuationists. While the pope believes Mary is a co-redemptrix with Jesus, and Copeland thinks Jesus wants Christians living in emperor decadence, both sides affirm the on-going supernatural work of the Spirit either in forms of continued revelation, visions and dreams, and even miraculous healings. Is anyone beginning to see how continuationism is not just a non-essential doctrine?

“Oh, Fred,” someone may say, “Kenneth Copeland is hardly a representative of true continuationism. Everyone agrees with you that he and his lunatic wife are goofy.” Okay, let’s consider a second picture,

louengleHere we see Lou Engle, founder of The Call ministries on his knees, kissing the feet of Matteo Calisi at the Azusa Now event held at the LA Colosseum. Calisi has been an active leader for years in Italy attempting to unify Catholics with Italian Pentecostals, as well as Pentecostals worldwide. The common factor for him? Why it’s the continuationist views of the Holy Spirit shared mutually between Pentecostals/charismatics and Roman Catholics.

In a 2014 interview with ZENIT, the online equivalent of Charisma News, but for Catholics and minus the howling mad crazy, Calisi explains in the interview the significance of the pope visiting with a group of Pentecostal evangelicals in Italy,

The Bishop of Rome is perfectly aware of the urgency to search for unity between the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Evangelical Churches. More than half a billion Christians adhere to the Pentecostal Movement, which is the second Christian confession soon after the Catholic Church for its large numbers. The Pentecostal Movement is the fastest growing movement in the whole history of the Christian Church, there is no other precedent. A movement born from the Holy Spirit without human founders, so little known by specialists and ecumenists especially here in Italy, which had an astonishing growth in the past century from 0 to 600 million participants. [ZENIT 8/7/2014] (emphasis mine).

Engle invited Roman Catholics to the Azusa Now event because he wanted to bring all the followers of Christ together for the “purpose of unity, miracles, healing, and the proclamation of the gospel.” [CT 4/11/2016]. In other words, continuationism. Calisi was quoted as saying that the doctrinal divide between Catholics and evangelicals®™ is sinful and that Jesus doesn’t care about our doctrinal difference. I may be going out on a limb here, but I happen to believe with sound conviction that Jesus does care about individuals who venerate Mary and the saints to the point they pray to them. Put another way, Jesus hates idolatry.

Again, someone is gonna say, “Fred, Fred, Fred. We are continuationists and we agree with you that Lou Engle is a wack-a-doodle. How can you possibly say continuationism has anything to do with this?”

Look. The folks of this conference is specifically meeting together under the guise of a mutual, charismatic fraternity. They are laying aside key, theological talking points, talking points that mark the difference between biblical truth and soul damning error, for the very purpose of promoting their fraternity.

Moreover, go back to Engle’s website and check out that “about The Call” page. Look at that massive header photo of thousands of young people packed into a stadium at one of their prayer rally things. Thousands of other people all across the nation where Engle does his shtick will hear him say that doctrinal division from Catholics is sinful, and we need to love one another as brothers and sister in Christ in spite of any theological or doctrinal difference.

Those young people go away thinking there is nothing wrong with Catholicism because they have a shared experience with the Catholic in the Holy Spirit. I can even imagine them thinking, “Oh, Catholics have visions and dreams and visits from Mary and the saints just like charismatic leaders say they have with dead charismatics (as I wrote about HERE) and frequent visits to heaven (as I wrote about HERE). The conclusion then is that there is nothing particularly wrong about the theology of Catholicism. Everyone loves Jesus, experiences the Holy Spirit, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the Holy Spirit does not affirm heresy and to say He does is blasphemy! Hence, I see continuationism as touching right in the middle of core doctrinal truths about who God is and the ministry of the third person of the Trinity.

I’ll pick up with some more here soon.

BTWN Hangout: “I used to be an atheist”

pasta1I recently had the privilege of participating in a Bible Thumping Wingnut Google hangout. There were a variety of topics, but our overarching theme was the knowledge men have of God, apologetic methodology, my recent articles on that topic, and atheism. Larry Herzog gave his testimony about how God saved him from atheism.

We spent the last 30 minutes of the time going Mystery Science Theater on an atheist talk by The Thinking Atheist.

“I used to be an atheist”

Gleanings from Judges [6]

eglonThe First Three Judges (3)

The basic theme of Judges is outlined in chapter 2:11-19. A cycle took place during this time in Israel’s history: The people would sin, God judged them, the people would cry out to the LORD for help, and God would raise up a judge to deliver them. After the judge died, however, the people fell back into sin, and then the whole cycle repeated itself.

With that in mind, Judges chapter 3 introduces us to the first three men who would be God’s deliverers.

Othniel – 3:7-11 Verse 7 opens with the typical situation, the people forgot God and served the Baals and Asherahs. They gave themselves over to serving the fertility cult gods and seeking them for their provisions, not the LORD.

One will note verse 8: “Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia.” Notice it is the LORD acting in judgment. He is the one who “sold them into the hand” of their enemies. Later, in verse 12, God is said to have “strengthened Eglon” against Israel. In other words, God is in complete control. Furthermore, He is upholding His side of the covenant: if the people disobey, He will be faithful to judge them.

Verse 8 also states that the “anger of the LORD was hot against Israel.” Here God is described as aroused to anger. “Hot against” has the idea of flaring nostrils and heavy breathing of one who is upset and angry.

In response to their disobedience, God sells them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim. We are not entirely certain who this individual is. What is known is that his name literally means, “The doubly wicked from between the two rivers.” Perhaps this is the area between the Euphrates and Tigris.

Whoever this individual was, he was a world-class king because his power exerted a heavy, wicked hand all throughout the area, reaching out far and wide from Mesopotamia and into the land of Israel. It is suggested that he was looking to establish a base of operation in Israel in order to launch campaigns into Egypt. “Double wickedness” may also be a name given to him describing how he cruelly oppressed Israel for at least 8 years.

Israel eventually cries out to the LORD for deliverance, and God raised up Othniel. He is mentioned first in Judges 1:13 as fighting to take the city Kirjath Sepher and winning Caleb’s daughter. He is said to be the younger brother of Caleb. It is uncertain the family relationship. Two other possibilities is that he was Kenaz’s younger brother or he is a half-brother from the same mother who remarried after the death of a husband.

Whatever the case, Othniel was stirred to action by the Spirit of God and he led a battle against the oppressor, “Double Wickedness,” and God delivered him into his hand. Note that verse 8 says God sold Israel into their oppressor’s hand, whereas verse 10 says he, the oppressor, was delivered into Othniel’s hand.

Ehud – 3:12-30 – After Othniel died, Israel repeats their cycle of disobedience against God. This time God delivered them into the hands of Eglon, king of the Moabites. Moab, if one remembers the history from Genesis 19, was the son born from the illicit encounter Lot had with his daughters after they escaped from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The LORD is said to have strengthened Eglon against Israel, which clearly implies God helped Eglon and used him against the sinning Israelites. He gathered up the Ammonites and the Amalekites and took the City of Palms, which is the remnants of Jericho. That was in direct defiance to Joshua’s curse upon the remains of the city.

After 18 years, the people cry out once again to the LORD, and he raised up Ehud. Ehud was from a group of elite fighters. He is said to be left-handed. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, and according to 1 Chronicles 12:2, those unique individuals specialized in training themselves to fight efficiently with both hands.

Apparently there was a custom to pay tribute, or protection money, to Eglon. Early on in the history of Judges, Israel, rather than wiping out the wicked Canaanites, brought them into bondage to themselves and had them pay tribute. Here, God reverses the roles; Israel pays tribute to their oppressors.

Ehud, taking advantage of the arrangement, fashions a dagger and smuggles it into the area where the tribute is brought. He gave the money, and then sent away the people who were with him. The text says he turns back from “the stone images that were at Gilgal” to announce he has a message for the king. It is not entirely sure where he was when Ehud “turned back from the stone images that were at Gilgal.” The little note does remind the reader for the reason for Israel’s situation and why they were being oppressed, they gave themselves over to serve other gods.

When Ehud returns to give his “special message” to the king, Eglon dismisses the other people in attendance, and retired to his private chamber, a room that was perhaps situated near the throne room there in his citadel. Once they were alone, Ehud says he has a message from God, draws out his smuggled dagger, and plunges it so hard into Eglon’s belly that it went all the way into his body. Because Eglon was an enormously obese man, the fat is described as closing around the wound and almost sucking the dagger into his tummy so that his entrails came out.

Ehud locks the door and escapes a different way from where he entered. When Eglon’s servants return, they find the door locked, but “smell” Eglon. They thought he was using the toilet, as it were. However, after an extended time waiting around for him to come out, they fetched the key to check on him and found him dead. Ehud then rallies the people and leads them to war against the Moabites, and they broke their rule over Israel.

Shamgar – 3:31 – Shamgar receives one verse at the end of Judges 3. There is uncertainty as to who Shamgar was, or even when his work defeating the Philistines took place. Deborah mentions him in her song of praise recorded in Judges 5:6. There she speaks about the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath. Anath is an Egyptian name. Whoever Shamgar was, he was able to kill 600 Philistines with an ox goad. A similar work to what Samson did near the end of the history of Judges.

The one verse seems to imply that Shamgar was not particularly called of God to do his work. It was like he had some issue with the Philistines. Reading Deborah’s song, her comments suggest that perhaps the Philistines were involved in attacking travelers that prevented the Israelites from journeying over their own land. God providentially stirred up Shamgar who took it upon himself to engage the Philistines. His actions unintentionally delivered Israel from the Philistine influence.

Sinners and Their Knowledge of God – A Rejoinder

adamandevePrepare yourselves. This is a, a long, withering, geeky post. Pack a sammich.

I recently participated in a podcast discussion on the topic of apologetic methodology with Adam Tucker, the director of evangelism and missions at Southern Evangelical Seminary. The discussion was meant to highlight the key differences between classic Thomistic apologetics and presuppositionalism.

During our two hour conversation, we had a spirited exchange on the subject of man’s knowledge of God. Referencing the 24 theses of Catholic philosophy, Adam affirms the Thomist perspective that argues man’s knowledge of God is mediate, meaning mankind must learn about God through our sense perception. Thus, the goal of a Christian apologist is to build an accumulative case for the existence of God with the use of various perceptible lines of evidence that start with effect and leads back toward an ultimate cause, that of course being God.

I, however, believe man’s knowledge of God is immediate, meaning that because mankind is God’s special creation, the knowledge of God as sovereign creator is imprinted upon the hearts of all men, as it were. Human beings bear God’s image, and because we are the image bearers of God, we do not need to have God proven to us; we know intuitively that He exists. If that was not the case, men could not be held accountable for their rebellion against Him.The goal of the Christian apologist in this instance is to confront man’s active rebellion against God that they know is real, with the totality of the Christian worldview and the Gospel, and call them to repentance.

Now, I attempted to point out during our discussion that my position is derived from holy Scripture, most specifically Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18ff, particularly verse 19 which states, that which is known about God is evident within them. Meaning, that man’s knowledge of God is written on his conscience or upon his heart.

I posted a follow up blog article that marked out the differences between the mediate and immediate views of man’s knowledge of God and that explained why Paul in Romans affirms an immediate view of God’s knowledge — What Romans 1 tells us about man’s knowledge of God.

Adam has since responded with a rebuttal to my article posted over at the SES blog, Romans 1 and Man’s Knowledge of God: A Response to Fred Butler (that’d be me!)

He is insistent that my take on Romans 1 was eisegetical. In other words, I’m reading my conclusions about the immediate knowledge of God into the text of Romans. Really? In the spirit of online debate, I wanted to offer a rejoinder and prove to everyone why Adam is dead wrong.

But before I get to the heart of the article, let me set the stage with his opening remarks, he writes,

First, it is interesting that the post begins with a poisoning the well/begging the question fallacy as Fred classifies his brand of presuppositional apologetics (as opposed to my classical apologetics) as “what [he] like[s] to call biblical apologetics.” … Merely labeling one’s position as the “biblical” position from the outset is not an argument, and as our two hour dialog demonstrated, we both consider our differing views as the “biblical” view (in the sense that it is in line with what Scripture reveals about man’s knowledge of God).

Rather than subliminally manipulating my readers to think Adam’s classic apologetics are unbiblical, my primary reason I call my form of presuppositionalism, “biblical apologetics,” has to do with the foundation upon which we build our methodologies. It really has nothing to do with well poisoning.

dilbertAdam, by his own admission during our conversation, stated that he begins with philosophy in order to build his accumulative case for the Christian faith. When he provided his definition of classic apologetics in his opening remarks, he even cited Richard Howe’s methodological formula that begins with philosophy defining “reality,” moves to proving general theism, and then the viability of Christianity.

His basic position is what I have always encountered with every classic apologist I have interacted with. Rather than having the Bible and biblical Christianity as the engine driving apologetics, philosophy (of the Thomist/Aristotelian stripe) is the foundational starting point; the key presupposition, as it were. From there, a case for general, vanilla-style theism is made, and Christianity and Scripture is the caboose, coming along at the end.

When distinguishing my position as “biblical apologetics,” I am merely pointing to the approach I take when engaging in apologetics. I am not fixated upon what Aristotle has written. Nor do I care what his confused surrogates in Christendom past who assign greater importance to his work than is warranted have stated concerning the role philosophy should take with shaping our theology.

I begin with a comprehensive Christian theology derived from the exegesis of Scripture alone and move out from there. Any “philosophy” that may be intertwined in the discussion flows from the exegesis of biblical texts. Thus, the Bible and Christianity is the engine driving apologetics and any necessary philosophy is the caboose in my scheme.

boethius2Boethius has spun his wheel of fortune and he wants you to know
he thinks
Thomas Aquinas was a hack

Let me move along to Adam’s main presentation of his complaint against the thesis of my article.

Recall that I argued from Romans 1:19 that Paul tells us that what knowledge men have of God is evident within them. The language here, particularly the word within translated from en autois, means that knowledge is manifested or innate to all humanity, and is not acquired over time or discovered by reading effects back to causes as Adam insists. In fact, the reason why men can even utilize the concept of reading effects back to causes has to do because of that basic knowledge they have of their creator. God has created man so he can rationalize and understand His creation and be drawn to worship.

Sin, however, has marred that image of God so that men intentionally reject, and in nearly all cases, fight against the truth of what  that knowledge communicates to them regarding their creator God.

Additionally (and I didn’t draw this out in my article), the next clause of verse 19 tells us God’s revelation is clear and known. The gar, translated as for, connects the explanatory phrase, for God made it evident to them with the previous, that which is evident about God is known within them. God is the subject of the word “evident,” translated from ephanerothe. Thus, He is the one doing the revealing of Himself to them, meaning all humanity.

And then thirdly, I pointed out that as Paul develops his case about the culpability of sinners before God, he states in Romans 2:14-15 that gentiles do instinctively, or by nature, the requirements of God’s moral law. How exactly do they have knowledge about what it is God requires? Because, as Paul goes on in verse 15, that knowledge of the law is “written on their hearts.” In other words, all humanity have an immediate knowledge of God.

So with that overview in mind, I’ll work through the remainder of Adam’s article and respond to specific points he raises.

He writes,

I would argue this is a classic example of eisegesis, or reading a view into a text rather than extracting the meaning from the text.There is no reason to conclude from the English phrase “within them” that Paul is talking about innate (or preprogrammed if you will) knowledge of God.

To suggest that what I presented is eisegetical is laughable. If that is the case, that means John Calvin, indeed, pretty much all of the magisterial and Puritan Reformers, John Gill, Charles Hodge, James Boice, S. Lewis Johnson, Leon Morris, commentators William Sanday and Arthur Headlam, John Murray, and James White, just to name a few, are all employing eisegesis.

Moreover, given the review of the exegesis I just laid out, I find it difficult to understand how he could make such a claim. Honestly, as I work through his points in the remainder of his article, I have to confess that I was a bit disappointed he didn’t really interact at all with any of the key arguments I raised in regards to what Paul wrote in Romans 1:19 and 2:14,15.

As much as Fred chides those holding my view (built as it is from the thinking of Thomas Aquinas and thus from Aristotle) for adopting “pagan Greek philosophy,” Fred is espousing a view of innate knowledge that would be right at home in the writings of Plato and Enlightenment philosophy.

Good for Plato for acting upon his God-given cognizant abilities that come along with being made in the image of God. That knowledge helps him recognize the obvious. That doesn’t mean, however, that his views of Forms and Ideas supply a filter through which I read the Bible. Anymore than me believing in the Resurrection of Jesus means I’m right at home with Mithra cults.

Though the words for “evident” in this verse are related, they have slightly different meanings. The first means something’s ability to be clearly known, while the second is more active in the sense of something being made clearly known.

Two thoughts. First, the word phaneros, translated as “evident,” is the same in both instances. The difference being that the first occurrence, “that which is known about God is evident…” is nominative, whereas the second, “God made it evident to them” is aorist.

Then secondly, I am at a loss why he believes that difference helps his position. All that Paul is saying is that the reason all of mankind has knowledge of God evident within them is because God purposefully made in evident to them. If anything, the grammar here only continues to solidify the idea of an immediate knowledge of God.

But he continues,

Human knowing is a metaphysical, and thus immaterial, event that occurs “within” man as it were. How could man have knowledge “without,” that is, how could man’s knowing happen outside of the man? That would be incoherent. The question is, how is that something, God’s existence in this case, made clearly known? The context gives us a clear answer.  The very next verse tells us, “For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made” (Rom. 1:20). Paul essentially says that we can argue from effect to cause (via sensible reality) and reason to God’s “invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature.” There is no reference here to innate knowledge of God.

This is another mystifying comment. If we read carefully verse 20, Paul writes that those invisible attributes and eternal power are “clearly seen” and “understood.” Both seeing and understanding take place inside the person, not outside. The point Paul is making is that God is clearly on display for every person in the world, including in the outward created world, as well as directly within the creation, that being, within them. Men see God on display and understand that what they are seeing is their creator. In other words, they know there is a God.

That is why men are “without excuse,” as Paul goes on to write. They are all held accountable for what they know. There is never any point when men are without the knowledge of God. If they had no knowledge of God, they could potentially have an excuse as to why they didn’t submit to Him. Yet the Bible never offers that as a possibility.

Concluding my thoughts, let me interact with this paragraph, especially the last comment and pose three questions,

Fred jumps to Paul’s reference to natural law in Rom. 2:14-15 in a failed attempt to further his case for innate knowledge. Those verses are about man’s knowledge of natural law (or the basic moral law known via sensible reality) and have nothing to do with man’s knowledge of God’s existence being “immediate” or innate. In fact, this passage is precisely where classical apologists go to show that the natural moral law is known by all normally functioning men because it is based on what we are by nature, that is, human beings (Fred seems to agree with this much). Yet, this is another example of effect-to-cause reasoning regarding God’s existence. We can reason from the fact that this natural moral law exists based on human nature to the fact that God is the author of human nature and the creator and sustainer of all men. This passage is clearly about man’s knowledge of morality, not man’s knowledge of God.

Given what Paul writes in Romans 2:14,15, his comments here are amazing. The last sentence is especially perplexing, “This passage is clearly about man’s knowledge of morality, not man’s knowledge of God.” But the text specifically states that when the gentiles do instinctively, a word that means naturally, the things written in the law, you know, act morally, they show the law written in their hearts.

That raises three questions I have for Adam, What law is this? What does it mean that it is written on their hearts? and Who wrote it there? I would hope that his response is 1) God’s law, 2) it is innate, meaning it wasn’t acquired, because 3) God wrote it there. If that is the case, how can one conclude that Romans 2 is about man’s knowledge of morality apart from his knowledge of God? Seeing that God is the one who established absolute morality, it is impossible to be moral without an innate knowledge of God.

One final comment before wrapping this up. I get the impression, and I could be wrong, that maybe Adam is thinking I am conflating general revelation with special revelation. What Paul presents in Romans 1 and 2 is general revelation, revelation about God that is seen in nature and understood in men’s heart and expressed in the way people live in our world. That revelation only makes mankind culpable before God because he is without excuse to act upon what he knows to be true about God. To truly know God in a salvific way, there must be a special revelation that comes only from God’s Spirit working through the Scripture. We have to keep those categories distinct in our discussion.

Now, is this exchange an important one or is it just the equivalent of a group of geeks arguing whether the Enterprise is faster than the Millennium Falcon? I certainly would think both of us believe it is important. I know for myself, I recognize my apologetic methodology has direct bearing on what I know about the lost, what they are thinking, and how I expect them to react to our discussion. My objective is to have an apologetic methodology that is biblical and the most effective. That is why I want it to be driven by the Word of God, and not filtered through the pagan philosophy of Aristotelian scholastics.

Gleanings from Judges [5]

lionThe Book of Deliverers (2:16-19)

The book of Judges takes its name from chapter 2:16. In fact, Judges 2:16-19 sets the theme for the entire book,

16 Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.
17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers.
18 When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them.
19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways.

Though Judges is a book recording the apostasy and rebellion of Israel, it is also a book recording God’s grace, mercy, and loving kindness. His loving kindness is expressed throughout Judges even though Israel deserved what they were getting.

The word Judge is translated from the Hebrew shaphat. A judge was originally a specially appointed individual who decided between disputes and acted as some judicial arbitrator invested with authority to make final decisions. Exodus 18:13 is a classic description of a judge. In that case, Moses interacting and leading the people who gathered around him.

But in the book of Judges, the word take on an additional, broader meaning. A judge becomes known as an individual who exercises leadership to deliver. They were in essence saviors or deliverers. The book of Judges, then, could be called Deliverers.

There was certainly some uniqueness to these Judges. Allow me to highlight three areas:

They were Divinely Called. In other words, they were divinely commissioned by the LORD Himself. He raises them up specifically for the purposes of delivering His people during their time of distress. In a way, they are ministers and agents of God’s grace.

There was nothing particularly special about them that earned them this temporary office. In fact, a number of the judges did not possess qualities that reflect. Many of them were chosen in spite of their immoral character. Samson, as we will see. That only goes to show the certainty of God’s graciousness.

They were Divinely Empowered. The reader will note in 2:18 that it says “the LORD was with the judge.” Again, it wasn’t the godly character or the military prowess that gave the judge his abilities, but it was the fact that God was with the judge.

The judge was given a special anointing that is described as the Spirit coming upon the judge. That is not regeneration as we know it as regarding salvation, but a special anointing of God that empowers the person with special abilities they did not previously possess.

For instance, Exodus 35:30ff tells how the spirit came upon a group of men anointing them with the ability as craftsman for the tabernacle. In Numbers 11:16-17 seventy men are anointed with the spirit to help Moses in his leadership of the nation. And Deuteronomy 34:9 describes how Joshua was filled with the spirit so as to have wisdom in leading the people like Moses had.

Relating to the men who would be judges, Alva McClain writes that “the anointing by the Spirit was seen in its outstanding effects in the realm of the purely physical.” The judge took on regal functions as mediators of the divine government of Israel utilizing physical abilities and leadership qualities unnatural to him. The judges were divinely empowered to lead and deliver Israel from their enemies.

Samson, once again as an example, was empowered to do mighty physical feats. His physical strength was not in him (he was more than likely an average built man physically), but it was direct from God. In like manner, the other judges who are strengthened by God demonstrate God’s power to deliver, because unless the LORD moved, the judge had no ability on his own to act.

They were Divinely Directed. Their direction was two-fold. First, the judge had a specific task. That being, to deliver Israel out of the hands of their enemies. Secondly, the judge seems have this appointment for a predetermined amount of time. In other words, it was temporary. Generally ending when the judge died or perhaps when he fulfilled his usefulness for God.

Ultimately, the judges were an instrument of God’s loving kindness to His people. Though God would uphold His end of the covenant by giving the people over to their enemies when they broke their agreement with the LORD. But when they groaned, broken by their sin, God moved pm their behalf by raising up a judge for deliverance.

Reviewing Which Bible Would Jesus Use? [9]

kjvpowerThis will probably be my final review article of Jack McElroy’s King James Only book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? I want to cover four of his concluding chapters in his book because they are so vital to the way a lot of KJVO advocates think and argue their position. His chapters also underline clearly why KJVO apologetics as a whole are subversive to biblical orthodoxy.

In chapters 14-17, McElroy defines his understanding of biblical inspiration. I’ll summarize his position on the doctrine and then return to evaluating the key talking points he lays out in defense of his definition.

Synopsis

Beginning in chapter 14, McElroy mocks the concept of what he calls “The original Bible.” That “original Bible” is an imaginary book, he claims, because the “original autographs” which allegedly comprise the “original Bible” were never gathered into A BOOK in the first place [230]. In other words, there is no tangible book that contains the authentic original autographs of the Bible anywhere on the planet.

For example, Moses may have made an inspired copy of the tables of stone, but that was 1450 years before Christ. The mythical “original Bible” could not have been “assembled” into one book until AFTER 90 AD when the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation [231].

Moving into chapter 15, he attempts to define the doctrine of inspiration. Directing his readers to 2 Timothy 3:15 and 16, he builds his doctrine of inspiration around three areas.

First, he notes that Timothy was taught the Scriptures from his childhood. McElroy points out that the Scriptures Timothy read were copies, not the original autographs.

Next he states that the Scriptures Timothy read are described by the present tense: “All Scripture is given by inspiration.” That means the Scriptures are presently inspired or God-breathed. That further means it is not only the original autographs that are inspired, but all the copies, because Timothy read copies, not original autographs.

Then thirdly, it was an inspired book Timothy read. Not just ideas or words, but words written down in a book that can be handled and touched.

He states that the word inspiration is only found in two places (in the KJV of course), here in 2 Timothy 3:16 and then Job 32:8. Job 32:8 states (in the KJV), “understanding is given to men by inspiration of the Almighty.” He then provides the following definition of inspiration,

Inspiration is a method by which the Holy Ghost imparts understanding to men. The inspiration of the Almighty gives you understanding of the Scriptures. It’s a ministry of the Holy Ghost. [McElroy, 242]

Thus, inspiration is not God-breathing out the Scripture, but is God-breathing out a person’s understanding of the Scripture.

In Chapters 16 and 17, McElroy tries to explain how the inspiration of only the original autographs is a recent teaching within the last 150 years or so of church history. It was made up by the early Princeton theologians like Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield and early Fundamentalists like James Hall Brookes. Before those men, he argues, no one thought that inspiration was only found in the original autographs.

Analysis

It is truly difficult to know where to start with answering what really amounts to heresy regarding Scripture. In his zeal to defend his KJV idol, McElroy causes his readers to drink a concoction of neo-orthodox postmodern continuationism. Whereas he believes he is defending his commitment to God’s book that Jesus would most certainly use, in truth, he has removed God’s book from the realm of objective authority into subjective uncertainty.

Let me work my way through his presentation to show you what I mean.

First, in chapter 14, he mockingly suggests that non-KJV only folks believe in an imaginary Bible since the so-called original autographs of that Bible were never gathered into A BOOK” (all CAPS). Those evangelicals “believe that the words of God are found in the multiplicity of extant manuscripts” and states “Too bad the Lord never saw fit to assemble them into a printed book we believe in.”

Those are some profoundly ridiculous comments, because the Bible is clear that God’s Word was gathered into one document, especially what we know as the OT. Take for example Luke 4:17 when Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah. God’s Word had been “assembled” into a collection of scrolls. They may not be books with pages, but it’s the same idea. Even Timothy had access to Scriptures as we see in 2 Timothy 3, so God’s Word had to have been assembled into a “book.”

Additionally, we know from church history that early Christians collected the letters from the apostles that became the canon of our NT into portfolios. Paul’s letters, for instance, would be collected and circulated together from church to church. The same happened for the Gospels.

McElroy is either seriously uninformed about the formation of the early Christian canon, or he is intentionally re-writing the facts to boost his KJVO apologetic. The reality of those multiplicity of extant manuscripts that he ridicules testify against him, because there is absolutely no two manuscripts that are the same. At some point, anyone who wants to make a copy or a translation of those copies from Hebrew and Greek into English (you know, gather all those originals into one BOOK) has to make an educated determination which of those extant manuscripts best reflects what the prophets and apostles originally wrote.

Secondly, he draws our attention to 2 Timothy 3:15 and 16. Here he begins some of his more gratuitously ignorant claims he makes in these chapters. First is the word “is” in verse 16 when Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired.” McElroy writes, “Note, the operative word “IS” – present tense – which means the Scripture “IS” presently either “God-breathed” or “inspired” according to all the versions” [238].

What he doesn’t tell his readers is that the word “is” wasn’t written by the Apostle Paul. In fact, there isn’t anything in the present tense in 2 Timothy 3:16. The word “is” is certainly implied, but the conclusion McElroy wants to make from it is concocted from his reading of the KJV. There, the translators, like all English translators, insert the word “is,” but if you check a KJV, the word is italicized, meaning, the translators are alerting the English reader that the word isn’t a part of the original text.

McElroy then does a cross-reference to the second time he says the word “inspiration” appears in the Bible (KJV), Job 32:8 that reads, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” He then makes the wildly absurd assertion that inspiration is likened unto one’s understanding of God. He goes on to explain that the context of 2 Timothy 3:16 is present tense, and just like the Lord gave Timothy a book he as given us a book (KJV) so that we can become wise unto salvation.

What??? There is no explanation as to why that book has to be the KJV. It’s just assumed that it is. It truly is a bizarre logic. But what is worse is how McElroy’s view of inspiration tosses the authority of Scripture into the realm of subjectivity.

If inspiration is defined as God giving a person the understanding to know God’s book, by what means does that person judge whether his understanding is correct? How does he know it is from God? How exactly is his understanding confirmed to him? Does he feel compelled to believe the Scripture? Does he have burning in the bosom? Is it a neo-orthodox view of inspiration that says if the Scriptures become meaningful for a person well then they are inspired?

I have encountered that kind of nonsense regularly from charismatics who allow their personal experience/feelings to trump the teaching of the objective Word. If that is how we define what it means to have God’s Word breathed out, how do we distinguish from all the various interpretations of particular passages that lead to all sorts of diverse opinions among those who claim to be Christians? His position boils down to the same things the various writers for Charisma Online believe about the Bible.

bethmoorecrazyeyesBTW, Beth Moore is judging you with her crazy eyes.

Lastly, in chapters 17 and 18, we witness McElroy’s ironic dependence upon liberal, higher-critical views of Scripture in support of his KJVO apologetic. Along with positive references of Bart Ehrman, he cites favorably Ernest Sandeen, who wrote a book entitled The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism.  In that book, Sandeen claims that the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, especially the idea of inerrant and inspired autographs but errant copies, were never really affirmed as Christian doctrine until the Princetonian theology of Hodge and Warfield. The doctrine of inerrant and inspired autographs but errant copies, concludes Sandeen, was a view unique to Warfield who developed it because of an unnecessary overreaction to encroaching modernism. 

Seizing upon Sandeen’s material, McElroy uses it to bolster his KJV onlyism and the subjective definition of inspiration. However, as I pointed out in the fifth review of this book, the concept of inerrant autographs but errant copies was not original to Warfield. Many of the early church fathers, and especially the Reformers, tied inerrancy to the original autographs of Scripture and argued if there are errors, it is due to poor copying by scribes or bad translations by translators.

John Woodbridge and Randall Balmer wrote a chapter for the book Scripture and Truth called “The Princetonians and Biblical Authority: An Assessment of the Ernest Sandeen Proposal.” In it, they thoroughly dismantle Sandeen’s thesis and demonstrate rather clearly the complete opposite of what he, and by extension, McElroy, is arguing regarding the “original autographs.” Warfield was merely documenting the historic Christian view of Scripture; he was hardly creating anything novel.

Is he even aware of that book and their critique of Sandeen? Or does his two chapters represent yet another example of the sloppy, lazy research found in KJVO apologetics intentionally avoiding those uncomfortable truths that expose their foolish views of the Bible?

Wrapping it Up

As I bring my reviews to a close, there is certainly something to say about all the historical revisionism, egregious textual errors, and overall terrible teaching found in his presentation that  I have documented.

But what I find absolutely mystifying is how a guy who runs in the circles of Independent, Fundamental Baptists would advocate the levels of skepticism he does regarding Scripture. In my opinion, that is the most troubling portion of his entire book. You cannot possibly insist that God’s Word is only found in one unique, 17th century English translation and then turn around and say we have no idea where it came from because no one knows where to find the original autographs.

Rather than dealing with the crushing weight the historical evidence and textual criticisms proves about our inspired and infallible Bible, McElroy instead appeals to the criticisms developed by counter-Reformation Catholics who attacked the authority of Scripture. He then appeals to apostates like Bart Ehrman and other nit-picky, pseudo-evangelicals who constantly attempt to overthrow the authority of God’s Word.

If a KJV onlyist has to call upon hostile witnesses to testify on his behalf in order to safeguard his apologetics, his apologetics aren’t worth defending.