Paul and His Rights as a Roman Citizen

Doug Kutilek is one of my favorite obscure writers. He comes from an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist background. Back when I was wrestling through my convictions on King James Onlyism, his online articles were extremely helpful in freeing me from that quagmire. I soon learned he had an monthly email newsletter list that I joined immediately. For years, I would receive his book reviews, articles on various theological topics, and other interesting highlights that he passed along. His writing has tapered off the last few years. I am guessing his age may be a factor. None the less, when I do receive a newsletter, it is always a bright spot that illuminates my inbox.

The most recent newsletter contains a brief study of Paul’s appeal to Roman government during his missionary ministry. It is said that during this draconian lockdown that has wrecked countless lives and forced everyone to participate as actors in a ridiculous hygienic fascist theater, that believers should take no recourse to appeal for their rights as American citizens. This is false, as we can see with a brief review of Paul’s appeals to Roman when he was falsely accused and hindered by his enemies.

From the “As I See It” newsletter, Volume 19, number 6.

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A couple days ago, I spent some five hours watering my drought-stressed garden, which gave me a great deal of time for thought and reflection.  I turned my attention to the teaching of Paul regarding the Christian and his relationship to civil government.  Of course the classic text is Romans 13:1-7.  I have written elsewhere on this text and so will not do so again here, other than to briefly summarize: we are to submit to legitimate government authority.  It exists for our benefit by maintaining order in society, punishing evil doers and protecting the innocent (in recent weeks, numerous state governors and city mayors in America have abnegated their responsibilities in this area, allowing evil doers to literally run riot, without consequence).  We follow the law not simply because we don’t want to suffer punishment, but because it is the right thing to do.  And we support government in its legitimate functions by paying taxes, and by recognizing government authority in its proper realm.  Elsewhere (I Timothy 2:1-2), Paul admonishes prayer for government officials, so that we can simply be left alone, free from government harassment or persecution—“that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life,” to quote his exact words.  That Paul was serious about submission to the lawful authority of government is evident from his words, when charged with a crime: “If then I am a wrong-doer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death,” (Acts 25:11a; note, furthermore, that he supports the death penalty in principle).

From his actions, as recorded in the book of Acts, we learn something more about Paul and his view of government—that he repeatedly displayed a strong insistence that his legal rights as a citizen be recognized and respected, and objected to government usurpations and violations of those rights.

At Philippi (Acts 16:16-40), Paul and Silas were accused of crimes by slave-owners whose income they had indirectly interfered with by freeing a fortune-telling slave girl from demon possession.  These owners stirred up a lynch mob, resulting in Paul and Silas being severely beaten at the direction of the mob-accommodating city leaders, and subsequently consigned in shackles to the city jail.

Now, it is important to know that Paul (and Silas, too) was a Roman citizen, a privilege at the time enjoyed by only about 5-10% of the populace in the vast Roman Empire.  Among the rights of a citizen were freedom from beatings without trial, the right to be tried before the emperor rather than in a local court of law, and the right to not be executed by crucifixion.  When the magistrates sent orders for Paul and Silas to be released, ‘having learned their lesson,’ they supposed, these abused men refused release, until the magistrates spoke to them personally.  Paul’s message to them: “We are Roman citizens, and you have beaten us and jailed us without cause.”  The magistrates were fear struck upon learning that they had violated the sacred civil rights of two Roman citizens, an action which could have subjected the rulers to severe personal penalties, perhaps up to and including execution.  Profuse apologies followed, and a request that the abused men quietly leave the city.

Some years later, when Paul gave his personal testimony and verbal defense to the violent and badly misinformed mob in the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 22), he was rescued from the rioters and certain death by the Roman soldiers garrisoned nearby (demonstrating that the police power of government can be and often is for our benefit).  The method of “interrogating” the prisoner to find out the cause of the riot was to be severe flogging while bound (v. 24).  As they bound Paul and prepared to inflict the beating, no doubt his mind flashed back to Philippi and he decided to demand his rights sooner than later this time, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”  As with the magistrates at Philippi, the centurion in charge “was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him,” (v. 29).  Paul insisted vigorously that his civil rights be respected and not violated.

Two years later, Paul was still a prisoner in Judea but now at Caesarea, and facing possible trial before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, where his condemnation was a foregone conclusion (Acts 25).  The newly-arrived Roman governor Festus was amenable to the Sanhedrin’s demand to try Paul themselves.  To escape from the injustice of a prejudicial tribunal, Paul invoked his right as a Roman citizen: “I appeal to Caesar,” (v. 11).

So then, Paul as one who had certain definite civil rights, repeatedly invoked them and demanded that they be recognized by the governing authorities.

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The citizens of the United States have “certain unalienable rights” with which they have been “endowed by their Creator,” to quote the Declaration of Independence.  The rights are specified in writing in the “Bill of Rights,” the first ten amendments to the Constitution.  It is notable that these amendments expressly tell the government what it cannot do: “Congress shall make no law, . . .”; “. . .shall not be infringed,”; “. . .shall not be violated,”; “Shall not be construed, . . “  And just here is the genius of the U. S. Constitution as written: it expressly limits government to the specified powers delineated and denies all others to it.  Throughout most of history, the case has been the opposite: governments have often exercised nearly unrestricted powers over the people, and the governments have instead declared to them what they, the people, could or could not do.  The general populace had only such rights as the government might concede to them for the present time, subject to revocation at will.

It is not wrong, indeed it is right and necessary, that we Christian citizens of the United States insist and demand that our Constitutional rights be recognized and respected, and that any and all infringements and usurpations be removed forthwith.  This includes, especially, our right to unhindered religious worship—“Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  For governors or mayors to demand the closing of churches but not of retail stores, for crowd (and masking) restrictions to be imposed on churches but not on street demonstrations (and rioters), is a blatant violation of our rights.  And I could add demands by a mayor for full lists of members from the churches in his city, and a governor’s prohibition of hymn singing.  (I could also note the arbitrary government forced closure of certain businesses as “non-essential” while leaving others open for business as usual is a power I do not find in the Constitution).  Likewise, it is proper that we demand—and exercise—our right to armed self-defense, as guaranteed in the Second Amendment.  So, too, with the other God-given, and government-guaranteed civil rights.  “Use them or lose them.”

When infringements of rights are allowed to go unchallenged, governments are emboldened to push the envelope again and again and again, until the “rights” exist only on paper and not in reality.  Jefferson wrote of “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinc[ing] a design to reduce them under absolute despotism.”  What we are experiencing now is the very thing Jefferson wrote about.  Such has been the sad legacy of government after government through time, as ambitious rulers, gripped by “libido dominandi” (Latin for “the lust for power”) sought evermore control and power over the people.  As has been famously said, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” that is, vigilance against those who would seek to take that liberty away.

Joe Carter Creates A Conspiracy

Joe Carter, the TGC never-Trumper who routinely data-mines Wikipedia providing the world with Big Eva think pieces, has favored us with a breathless warning of ecclesiastical danger.

The Christian Church is becoming infiltrated by QAnon and Alt-Right cultic forces.

If you are like most Christians, your immediate response is “Who?” Folks can read his article to get the gist of who or what QAnon is supposed to be and do. Needless to say, Joe thinks they are a dire threat against the Christian church even risking the pushing open of the very gates of hell to prevail against God’s redeemed.

If we chase Joe’s white rabbit, however, in reality he is troubled that serious Christians supported Trump in 2016 and he is extremely annoyed that even more will support him in 2020. This is especially true in light of the fact that they have witnessed how crazy leftist Democrats hate them, America, and anything that stands in the way of their leftist progressive Utopia breaking forth upon the planet. If those Evangelical were like me, a Ted Cruz guy throughout the 2016 election, the last four years have only demonstrated that Trump – warts and all – is the only rational option. He is a flawed man for sure, but he is the one man who actually loves America, it’s people, and it’s core values. Democrats want to fundamentally change that as Obama proclaimed back in 2008.

At any rate, Joe is convinced that during these last four years, conspiracy theories have abounded, and hapless Trump evangelicals, blinded by their unwavering adoration of Trump and their America First religious ways, have allowed conspiracy theories to cloud their thinking, the QAnon conspiracy being the most insidious. But do serious evangelicals know what QAnon is? I mean really?  He tries to bolster his QAnon taking over the church thesis by comparing it to groups like Lyndon LaRauche and the Aryan nation, but they are just as way out fringe and virtually unknown to most faithful Christians as QAnon. It’s actually an insipid comparison.

Joe only lists two conspiracies as examples of his conspiracies seeping into the church, flat earthism and the belief that COVID 19 originated in a bio weapons lab.

Notice the sinister conflation. Anyone even familiar with flat earthism knows it is a kooky idea that swirls around in the fever swamps among moonbats on the internet. If I would venture a guess, most of them are untethered from a solid church and are the kinds of individuals who are easily tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. No serious minded Christian believes anything they promote.

The Wuhan bio weapons lab, however, is a possibility. Remember how Arkansas senator, Tom Cotton, was ridiculed for pushing what was called a debunked conspiracy theory when he suggested this very idea?  WaPo ran a ridiculing hit piece against him in early February, and since then, intelligence has put forth some serious evidence that COVID 19 is a virus that originated in a lab.

Of course, only a few are saying the CCP intentionally manufactured the virus as a weapon, but the bat-to-human transfer involving some anonymous adventure tourist eating bat soup at a wet market in Wuhan is a bit fishy. Being a kid raised during the end of the cold war, I know that commies lie all the time. They also do dastardly things, and have a horrifically bad human rights track record. Moreover, they govern with catastrophic incompetence, Chernobyl for example. It is easy to see the same thing happening with the current communist thug cartel running China. Joe insists that a conspiracy cannot be believed without data and evidence. Okay. But there is lots of evidence that COVID 19 originated in a viral research facility near that wet market. Jim Geraghty lays out the trail in this article.

Unironically, however, he believes conspiracies without the presence of data and evidence. The biggest: the Russian collusion hoax that was initiated by the HRC campaign and investigated by direct order from Obama. Joe believes it was all legit, because that terrible Trump had to be colluding with Russians, the kind of conspiracy that lacked data and evidence as Joe outlines in his article. Now that conspiracy he believed for so long is crumbling day by day as documents are declassified.

More and more, during the last three years of Trump, we have seen absolute jaw dropping reports in the MSM, sources of news I imagine Joe believes are trustworthy and fair-minded, telling us Trump was finished. Almost without exception, all of those bombshell reports confidently predicting it was the beginning of the end as the walls are closing in on Trump were retracted within 24-hours. Believing legacy media without question is itself believing conspiracy theories.

Now that the Russian hoax has been exposed and all his hopes that Trump would be hauled from the White House in hand cuffs have been dashed to pieces, Joe has turned to projecting his conspiracy theory failure onto the Christian Church by creating a fresh conspiracy theory that accuses countless believers of drinking the QAnon kool-aid. The only problem is that the vast, vast majority of believers literally know nothing about QAnon. In a way it is slander, though a passive aggressive slander, the kind he decries at the conclusion of his article.

 

 

Presuppositionalists in the Dock

Internet gadfly, Jacob Brunton, believes presuppositional apologetics is maddening idiocy and any sound-minded believer who thinks presuppositionally and utilizes the methodology is a fool. He has taken to both Facebook and Twitter to rail against presuppers like myself.

Before we begin with a response to his missives, let’s remind ourselves of the main presup distinctives.

– Presuppositionalism desires to reform apologetic methodology. An apologetic approach that honors the sovereignty of God in salvation and the self-attesting nature of Scripture. It also focuses in upon the antithesis between believing and unbelieving thinking and philosophical worldviews. It then structures the Christian engagement with unbelievers according to a biblical framework. Classicists, like Jacob, will say they hold to the sovereignty of God in salvation, but they typically reject the self-attesting nature of Scripture and operate from the notion that proofs and evidence can be self-authenticating, as well as reasonably considered by unbelievers.

– The Christian begins his defense of the faith by setting apart Christ as Lord (1 Peter 3:15). He is the ultimate authority over our reasoning, argumentation, and confrontation with the unbelieving world.

– The Christian also acknowledges the fact of fundamental presuppositions. What would be considered elementary, unquestioned assumptions and axioms, govern the thinking, opinions, personal beliefs, and the ultimate heart commitments of every person.

– John Frame notes in his book analyzing Van Til’s theology, that man’s ultimate heart commitment, “plays an important role in our knowledge. It determines our ultimate criteria of truth and falsity, right and wrong. As long as we consistently maintain our ultimate commitment, we cannot accept anything as true or right that conflicts with that commitment.” [Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, 136].

Robert Reymond writes in his systematic theology that the word “presupposition” can be used both objectively and subjectively. When used objectively, “it refers to the actual transcendental foundation of universal meaning and intelligibility, namely, the triune God.” When the word is used subjectively, “it refers to a person’s most basic, personal heart commitment, this commitment having (1) the greatest authority in one’s thinking, being the least negotiable belief in one’s network of beliefs, and (2) the highest immunity to revision.” [New Systematic Theology, 145]

– With all of that in mind, a Christian’s apologetic and evangelistic encounter involves challenging an unbeliever’s ultimate heart commitments and presuppositions with the truth of Scripture. There is a trust in the work of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the mind of the unbeliever so that he will recognize his sinful rebellion against God, relinquish his commitments/presuppositions that stand in defiance of his creator, and bring his every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Presuppositionalists don’t tend to bother with trying to “prove” the truth claims of Christianity or the existence of God with various philosophical arguments and evidences. It’s not that they won’t engage in philosophical arguments or utilize evidence, for they certainly will. They just recognize what the Scriptures tell us about the nature of  mankind: that men have an innate knowledge of God (see Romans 1:18ff) and they are merely suppressing that knowledge, excusing it away. The issue is not that the unbeliever has a lack of compelling evidence or never heard persuasive philosophical arguments. It’s that unbelievers refuse to believe any evidence or philosophical arguments that contradict those non-negotiable heart commitments, and according to Scripture, those heart commitments are at enmity with God and hate anything to do with God. Until those heart commitments are overcome and defeated supernaturally, no presentation of any evidence reasonably presented will convince an unbeliever of the truth claims of Christianity.

The Thomist/classicist like Jacob don’t agree with that assessment of fallen men. The way presuppositionalists engage with unbelievers is considered inconsistent, confusing, irrational, and a whole lot of other similar descriptors. Hence his objection which I will now turn.

He lays out a summation of his complaint in a seven part tweet thread. Let me consider them in turn.

Here is the objection to the self-sufficiency of Scripture. The classicist insists that Christians can never use Scripture to prove the claims of Scripture, because that’s circular reasoning or some such nonsense. God doesn’t seem to agree with that notion, however. Scripture is a source of knowledge, because God declares it to be a source of knowledge. The entirety of Psalm 119, for example, is a declaration of Scripture being a source of knowledge. Just do a search of the word “truth” in Scripture and note how is is synonymous with Scripture itself.

Well, what about stuff the Bible never speaks to? Like what exactly? Rarely are genuine examples provided. How about Neanderthals? The Bible doesn’t say a word about Neanderthals. Okay, I’d agree. But I do know that Scripture tells us Adam and Eve were the first living humans on earth, that they did not evolve from some common ancestor between modern humans and Neanderthals, and it is denies the fundamental theology of sin and man when we try to speculate how we can harmonize modern day secular paleoanthropological interpretations of Neanderthals with the Bible like the majority of classicist apologetic ministries attempt to do. See Reasons to Believe, for instance.

We include general revelation? General revelation is usually understood to be the “evidences” an unbeliever can reasonably consider. He seriously seems to be under the impression that presuppositionaists never consider general revelation. If that’s the case, it’s a terrifically ignorant claim and one of the reasons why, as we will see in a moment, presuppositionalists say people like Jacob misrepresent them.

Van Til had a robust theology of general revelation. He understood general revelation to be what the Christian apologist appeals to when talking with unbelievers. He wrote about it extensively in his works. The disagreement presuppositionalists have with classicists regarding general revelation is how it is related to the unbeliever. Presuppositionalists believe, as the Bible tells us, that general revelation is misunderstood by unbelievers and they use it to suppress their knowledge of God rather than submit to him. It does not stand alone as self-sufficient to explain God, but works in tandem with the explanatory grid of special revelation.

The fact of the matter is that classicists DO compromise the doctrine of total depravity. Well, certainly those who claim to be Calvinistic and Reformed in their soteriology. What is the extent of “total” in the mind of the classicist? How total is total? I get the impression that they compartmentalize man. Man is fallen; but his reasoning ability is left untouched or intact so that he makes rational and reasonable evaluations of evidence, proofs, arguments, etc, and forms correct conclusions.

But the Bible says that man’s mind, the organ for his reasoning capacity, is severely impacted by sin. For instance,

– Romans 8:7 states that “the mind set on the flesh (all fallen men without exception) is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” “Not able” has the idea of incapable.

– Second Corinthians 4:4 states “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ.”

– Ephesians 4:17, 18 states that the gentiles, who would be all the world of men not Jewish by birth, walk with futile minds and their understanding, you know, their reasoning ability, is darkened.

– Paul reminds the Colossians in 1:21 how they were once “hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds.”

– Paul warns Timothy in 6:5 of “men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth” who will stir up all sorts of strife in the church. The word for depraved can have the meaning of disabled, not working.

– Paul tells Timothy in his last letter to him, 2 Timothy 3:7,8 about the difficult times coming in the last days when men with depraved minds will oppose the truth. Not only are they morally corrupted, but they are marked as ones who are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Just with that smattering of verses, the Bible is telling us that fallen, unregenerate men CANNOT reason rightly and Christians would be foolish to think they are capable of doing so. So we are not confusing soteriology with epistemology because the two concepts are intertwined with each other when it comes to men thinking and reasoning rightly about their lives and the world they live in. The world God created and endues with meaning.

Of course every epistemic standard is presupposed. Any so-called “epistemic standard” has to exist outside ourselves. Something greater has to be informing what it is that we know and establishing the rules that carries one to that knowledge.There is one, absolute, authoritative epistemic standard, and that is God revealed in Scripture. He is not arbitrary (I mean, God is God for crying out loud!) and it is not arbitrary, or “postmodern,” to declare that to an individual in an apologetic encounter.

Jacob likes to boast that he has these defeaters against presuppositionalism by asserting that they confuse philosophical categories and the like. His big one he will throw out is that presuppositionalists confuse metaphysics, philosophy that attempts to understand and explain being, with epistemology, philosophies that theorize about knowledge and systems of knowing. What he refuses to acknowledge is that those two philosophies are inextricably bound together. Only metaphysical beings with minds (metaphysics) can seek knowledge (epistemology). And metaphysical “first principles” must be in place in order to know them and how exactly do we know we are knowing about those first principles rightly? Honestly, this is a conundrum that has been mocking men for thousands of years. Ultimately, one has to take their understanding of those categories by faith (*cough* presuppositionally *cough*) just like Jacob is doing here.

Or virtue signalling by throwing down some fancy-smancy philosophical words to sound, like, really smart. Accusations of misrepresenting presuppositionalism will only continue if he raises these kind of sloppy objections and though he insists he has read the basic presuppositional literature, he gives no indication of actually engaging it.

Apologetics is not only a defense of the Christian faith against all the detractors, but it is meant to focus on evangelism. While Jacob may roll his eyes and accuse me of inconsistency, being postmodern, or whatnot, I will maintain my simple-mind ways of preaching the Word of God when I do apologetics. I don’t believe I have to prove it’s authenticity to anyone (and I am happy to answer questions if asked) and I am not ashamed of miracles, or telling someone I believe something by faith, or otherwise appearing foolish before a group of chortling Youtube skeptics. It is the preaching of the Word of God alone that God has promised will tear down loft thoughts raised against God and destroy the wisdom of this world.

Books I Heard and Read in 2019

I haven’t posted a yearly book overview in a couple of years because of life and stuff. But I have some time this week and thought I would recommend some good reads (and listens) for folks.

Books I Heard

Jayber Crow – My wife attended a classical education conference this past summer and a lecturer in one of the seminars insisted that the members of the audience read this book. My wife got the physical book; I downloaded the audio version on Overdrive.

While it was well written, the story is weird. It’s about a guy who lives in rural Kentucky. He loses his parents as a young child, is raised by relatives, who then die when he is a young teen. He then is taken to a religious orphanage. Shortly before attending college, he essentially becomes an atheist skeptic, sets out on his own to make his way in the world. He comes back to the community where he originally lived and opens a barber shop. The book is his narration of the lives of the various characters in the community over 80 years. The story takes a strange turn when he falls in love with a woman in a bad marriage and becomes something of a stalker.

The author, Wendell Berry, has a number of books retelling the lives of people in rural Kentucky. People rave about him being this fantastic writer, but his books are his outlet to share his moonbat environmentalist musings. He’s practically a sophisticated, American Hillbilly version of Greta Thunberg.

Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality – I have been wanting to dive into Thomas Sowell for sometime. Sadly, there isn’t much of any good pickings at my local library in either print or audio format. I was able to secure this short book. It was quite excellent, though dated (originally written in 1984). I hope I can find more of his material.

Justice on Trial – This book was a riveting retelling of the Justice Kavanaugh hearings and the leftist insanity that surrounded his nomination to the Supreme Court. The two authors, Mollie Hemmingway and Carrie Serverino, provide detailed interviews with various individuals involved with the hearings as they develop the timeline from Kavanaugh’s days as a clerk with Justice Kennedy, to his nomination by Trump, and the bizarro circus of senate hearings manufactured by the leftist Democrats. That there were well-know Christian personalities who defended his accusers as credible is embarrassing in light of the truth presented in this book.

Heir to the Empire – This was my only fictional book I read or heard this year. The first in a Star Wars trilogy written by Timothy Zahn. Takes place five years after the fall of the Empire. Main characters, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and the others all involved in various adventures with a story arc that involves a new villain, Admiral Thrawn, who commands what is left of the broken up imperials. The audio was well done; like a radio drama. The fellow who did the main narration captured the voices of the characters really well. It is a tragedy these books were not developed into movies.

Books I Read

So here’s the stack of books I read this year:

For the sake of time, I am not linking these to Amazon. I will highlight each one and trust the readers can locate them on their own.

Starting at the top,

Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem – F. LaGard Smith. I began this book in late 2018 and finished early 2019. It is probably the best book I have read in recent years that utterly debunks the working thesis of Darwinian evolution. If the starting pair of organisms cannot sexually reproduce, thus spreading their genetic material into the next generation, evolution of life cannot happen. Smith lays out his case with methodical devastation.

A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism – Matt Waymeyer. Matt was a former Presbyterian baby baptizer. This short work is an excellent engagement of all the arguments for the baptism of infants and his response to them.

No Quick Fix – Andrew Naselli. A brief overview of so-called higher life/Keswick theology and the doctrinal harm it has brought to the church. I would highly recommend this book for folks to read. It does a lot with explaining the reasons behind many dopey views of salvation and sanctification Christians have. Naselli has a much larger, expanded work on this topic available in electronic format on Logos if you are a user.

Long Before Luther – Nathan Busenitz. Survey of the doctrine of justification by faith alone from the beginnings of church history. Nathan shows how Christians held to pretty much the same articulation of justification by faith alone that Luther and the reformers taught.

None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God – Matthew Barrett. A treatment of the major attributes of God like incomprehensibility, aseity, impassibility, and the omni attributes. Excellent devotional study for small groups or personally.

John Owen: Prince of Puritans – Andrew Thomson. A brief biography of John Owen. Short and concise, covering his life and ministry and all his major works. I appreciated the context of why Owen wrote what he wrote in the main printed works still available today from Banner of Truth.

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity – Rodney Stark. I recommend anything Stark writes. All of his material tackles the bogus narratives put forth by atheists against religion and the lefty historians against western society. This book is an easy read that outlines the development of Western culture and why it succeeded and thrived, while other cultures failed. Have your teenagers read this to help detox their thinking from all of the Howard Zinn nonsense that will bombard them.

The History of God’s Remarkable Providences in Colonial New England – Increase Mather. I have been immersed over the last year or more in the life of Cotton Mather and his father, Increase. They were a major influence directing the flow of colonial America and setting the stage for the Great Awakening and eventually the Revolutionary War. I didn’t read this book in it’s entirety, just selected chapters. Both the Mathers collected unusual stories about what they perceived as God’s remarkable providence. Things like sea deliverances, the appearance of apparitions, and thunderstorms.

Saving the Reformation – W. Robert Godfrey. A history and overview of the Canons of Dort. I appreciate the work Godfrey put into this book, but in all honesty, it was a brutally boring read. I had to muscle my way through it. I like the historical background information, and the first appendix that provides a new look at Arminius and his theology and motivation, was interesting. This is one of those kind of books you keep around for research purposes.

Witchcraft at Salem – Chadwick Hansen. I picked this book up years ago at Archives from the back room where they had all of their deep discounted books kept separate from their main collection. I was happy to get it for 5 bucks. It sat on my shelf since 1999. What is that? 20 years!? Recently, I picked it up to add to my reading rotation because of my interest in Cotton Mather, he being associated with the Salem witch trials. The book is an engaging read, thoroughly debunking the bogus traditional narrative of mass hysteria and the like.

Destroyer of the gods – Larry Hurtado. This was a gift from a previous Christmas. I heard the author interviewed on various “apologetic” podcasts, like Stand to Reason. People gushed about how this book is a “must read” for Christians doing apologetics. I thought the book was an okay read. His primary thesis is showing the uniqueness of the Christian faith contrasted with the Roman religions and culture of the first and second centuries, and what made Christianity special and why it thrived in spite of persecution and other external pressures. I thought the author was a bit too higher critical with his convictions. For instance, he doesn’t believe Paul wrote the books assigned to him, etc. I would recommend people picking up Michael Kruger’s book, Christianity at the Crossroads, that covers the same ideas, but he actually believes the Bible is true.

A History of Christian Thought, Volume 1 – Justo Gonzalez. One of the last awesome finds I was blessed to pick up from Archive books before they permanently closed their doors was Gonzalez’s three volume work on historical theology. I remember my church history prof on the first day of my first class in seminary insisting everyone purchase these volumes. Fifty bucks for a beggarly seminary student was like 50,000 dollars, so I was never able to obtain them. My seminary prof was correct: these books are well done. Gonzalez provides historical background to the various theological controversies, as well as biographical sketches of major theologians of the church. I appreciate the information he provides for the secular philosophies Christian apologists had to engage and why. This volume really provides a well rounded understanding of the early centuries of the Christian church. Looking forward to cracking the second and third volumes in the new year. I believe the three volumes have been combined into one large print edition.

Pastor Don Green’s Series on Transgenderism

Transgenderism has come avalanching into our lives. There really is no area safe from it’s crushing force that wants everyone without exception to celebrate their agenda, if not by personal choice, then by threat of legislative penalty. Already, true women’s sports has been undone by hulking males claiming they are really females and a lobotomized culture who applaud their “achievements” setting new records. Even Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to work for the full rights and inclusion of the “T” across all areas of society.

How do we respond as Christians? Don Green, pastor of Truth Community Church, did a series of messages addressing that very topic. I’d encourage folks to take the time to work their way through his series on transgenderism. He lays a solid foundation in Scripture of how the Church must respond apologetically to this menace seeking to abolish human civilization.

The Bible and Transgenderism

Credalist Torch and Pitchfork Society

While the vast majority of the Beth Moore defenders were overcome with the vapors and collapsed on their fainting couches in response to John MacArthur’s comments, there was another side controversy with him that went unnoticed. During his opening message to the GTY Truth Matters conference, John cited the following Tweet that states,

MacArthur never mentioned the tweeter by name, but a number of folks demanded that he apologize forthwith to the man for slandering his character. One has to wonder what it is exactly he needs to apologize for seeing that he merely just read the guy’s tweet.

Never the less, the tweet represents a small number of Reformish folks who insist MacArthur’s position defending the Lordship of Christ in salvation is adding works to the Gospel. Now, anyone who is familiar with what it is he has taught over the years about the Lordship controversy is bumfuzzled by such a bizarre assertion. That was the smear that rose out of the fever swamps of independent fundamentalist Baptists who hated Calvinism. Why would those Reformish people claim such an absurd assertion against MacArthur?

I’m here to help, so let me break down the basic complaint.

Their charge against MacArthur emerges out of their idea that the Bible must be rigidly interpreted alongside one of the many historic creeds. In the case of the tweeter, the 39 Articles of Religion. The historic creeds, that can also include the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, as well as the early church creeds affirmed at Nicea and Chalcedon, are considered guard rails that prevent the misinterpretation of Scripture. The London Baptist Confession of 1689 is the exception because these Reformish types tend to believe Baptists are heterodox renegades.

MacArthur, of course, acknowledges the importance of those creeds in defining for the modern church the theological thought of Christianity throughout the centuries. He has never said church history or creeds are of no value for the church in understanding what it is Christians have believed and confirmed about Scripture. It’s that idea of the Bible MUST BE interpreted according to those creeds, that’s the sticking point. That sounds an awful lot like the Roman Catholic Magisterium handling of Scripture and their notion that the Bible is interpreted by church authorities. It’s like a Roman Catholic “sola scriptura.” MacArthur’s Reformish critics insist it’s not really, because it’s Protestant, which is okay, because it’s not Roman Catholic. BUT, if the biblical teaching from your church or denomination isn’t governed by one or more of those creeds, you’re all in danger of ignoring church history, and becoming “Bible Only” biblicists or a Dispensational. That’s like really bad.

Their Protestant magisterium application of the creeds and confessions brings them to nitpick over the semantics of theological terminology and concepts. Because MacArthur hasn’t used the credal precision in his preaching about soteriology and the Lordship of Christ as they insist he must, they accuse him of confusing law/Gospel distinctives and mixing up sanctification and justification, and being a dastardly Dispensationalist.

For those familiar with MacArthur’s views on Christ’s Lordship, he was originally responding to the spiritually disastrous teaching that was permeating all of evangelical Christianity in America at the time, that being, in order for a person to be saved all he ever has to do is pray a prayer telling Jesus he wants eternal life. That person is now saved, and even if his life never changes so as to conform to godly Christlikeness, and he continues to live worldly, he is saved, because he prayed what amounts to a Christianized mantra when an evangelist told him to raise his hand if he wanted salvation.

MacArthur then spent a lot of his time — like years! — preaching and writing against such easy-believism infecting the church. Salvation entails much more than just “praying a prayer” or “walking and aisle.” It involves repenting from sin and making Jesus Lord of your life. His sermons and books, like the Gospel According to Jesus and Hard to Believe, flesh all of that out. But again, because he doesn’t use credal terminology, the credal only Reformish insist he is confusing law, gospel, works and grace, and teaches justification by grace+works.

There are a number of individual articles, podcasts, and Youtube videos berating  MacArthur about this, for instance HERE (featuring our tweeter). His critics come from two extremes on the theological spectrum from R.Scott Clark (HERE) and of recent, Brannon Howse (see HERE).

So to recap:

The tweeter took note of MacArthur reading his tweet and responded to him by retweeting his original tweet (see above) and then expanding on his view against “Lordship salvation” under the thread. The responses he offered to inquirers asking why MacArthur’s Lordship view is works oriented were — to be charitable here — a tad misleading.

Consider his examples,

He cites from a couple of places in MacArthur’s seminal book on the topic, The Gospel According to Jesus. The examples provided has MacArthur saying that faith is humble, submissive, and encompasses obedience. The implication is that he is advocating that true faith somehow requires humility, submissiveness, and obedience from the sinner in order for it to be genuine. Meaning, the sinner musters those qualities FIRST so as to generate true faith. Thus, faith is not a divine work and considered alone with humility, submission, and obedience being the fruit that grows in the work of sanctification. The conclusion drawn by our critic is that MacArthur is saying that faith is an act of obedience on the part of the sinner and is so confusing justification with sanctification.

There are a couple of problems with these examples.

First, the citations are taken out of context, and that’s kind of big. Let me reproduce the paragraphs in their entirety. I will bold the quotes mentioned in the tweets.

This is taken from chapter 12, The Treasure of the Kingdom,

Obviously, a new believer does not fully understand all the ramifications of the Lordship of Jesus at the moment of conversion. But a true believer has a desire to surrender. This is what distinguishes true faith from a bogus profession. True faith is humble, submissive obedience. As spiritual understanding unfolds, that obedience grows deeper, and the genuine believer displays an eagerness to please Christ by abandoning everything to His lordship. This willingness to surrender to divine authority is a driving force in the heart of every true child of the kingdom. It is the inevitable expression of the new nature. [GATJ, 1st edition, 140].

In context, MacArthur is nowhere saying that obedience, or submissive humility, are necessary preconditions for saving faith. That charge is rather scurrilous to say the least.

Consider the second and third citations taken from pages 172 and 173,

This is taken from chapter 16, The True Nature of Saving Faith.

We have seen already that repentance is a critical element of genuine faith, and that repentance is granted by God; it is not a human work (Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25). Likewise, faith is a supernatural gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 is a familiar passage: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” [GATJ, 1st edition, 172).

The third citation is terrifically dishonest,

Again, taken from chapter 16,

The faith God begets includes both the volition and the ability to comply with his will (cf. Philippians 2:14). In other words, faith encompasses obedience. [Here the critic inserts ellipses, but in doing so robs MacArthur of his argument and making him say something he never did] Berkhof sees three elements to genuine faith: an intellectual element (notitia), which is the understanding of truth; and emotional element (assensus), which is the conviction and affirmation of truth; and a volitional element (fuducia), which is the determination of the will to obey truth. Modern popular theology tends to recognize notitia and often assensus but eliminate fiducia. Yet faith is not complete unless it is obedient. [GATJ, 1st edition, 173].

Put together in context, MacArthur is not confusing law/Gospel or sanctification with justification. He is clear that saving faith, and even repentance, are a supernatural, divine work of God. His point is that real faith is more than just a profession that never amounts to a changed life. Real faith is the fuducia kind mentioned by Berkhof that is a determination to willfully obey truth, not just the emotional acknowledgement of facts as true. Our tweeter (and the entire host of credal critics) have, I can only guess intentionally, misrepresented everything that MacArthur has taught on this topic.

But even worse, those critics are arguing with the first edition of the Gospel According to Jesus. The second edition contains some clarifying rewrites and an entirely new chapter on the topic of justification that was added for the purpose of addressing those sorts of dishonest criticisms. MacArthur writes this important paragraph in the preface of the second edition,

The original edition had no treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith. My goal in writing the book, of course, was not to set forth a systematic soteriology, but simply to expound the major evangelistic messages of our Lord. I rather assumed that evangelicals on both sides of the lordship question were in basic agreement on the matter of justification. Admittedly, this omission was unfortunate. It seems to have contributed to some reader’s [Insert here: pedant Reformish credal nitpickers] of my views. A few even imagined that I was explicitly repudiating the great Reformation emphasis on justification by faith alone. Of course, that was not at all the point I was making. [GATJ, 2nd edition, 13-14].

Peruse MacArthur’s catalog of sermons and books and it will be discovered that he affirms and teaches a forensic understanding of justification, that men are saved by faith alone in Christ alone by the grace of God. This is clearly seen in his sermon series on the book of Romans, specifically his study on chapters 3 and 4. I would also add his messages on the Doctrines of Grace, as well as his message specifically on the Gospel According to Jesus.

I would hope that going forward, the credalists would interact with John’s most recent thought on this topic, rather than cherry-picking selected highlights from an older work. Even still, the older work, when considered in full, doesn’t even come close to advocating what they claim it does.

The Last Temptation of Christ

The Australian arm of The Gospel Coalition recently published an interview with Ed Shaw, one of the founders of Living Out, the U.K. version of Revoice. Consider the title of the interview, “The Church and Same-Sex Attracted People.” It assumes such a category as “same-sex attracted people” is a reality of the human existence, that Christians should recognize them as legit, and accept them into the body dynamic of the local Church. Shaw, for example, even wrote up a church audit that determines just how inclusive a congregation is for same-sex attracted, LGBT+ people. I wrote a response to it HERE.

The interview was troubling and sound-minded folks on social media rightly blasted it. The reaction was so overwhelming, that the TGC Australia editors felt it necessary to add a postscript responding to the backlash. It states,

Editor’s Postscript: In view of some strong reactions on social media to some of the material in this interview, the TGCA editorial panel would like to make clear that we are very grateful for the heroic stand of Christian leaders such as Ed Shaw who have been open and honest about their own struggles with sexuality while defending biblical standards of sexual practice.

We would urge those who believe that there is something wrong with the idea that Jesus might have struggled in regard to matters connected to his sexuality to consider the meaning of Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15. Jesus (i)  was genuinely tempted in every way like us; (ii) suffered in the process; (iii) did not sin. Every one of those statements is important—not just the last. The Bible does not tell us what particular temptations Jesus may have experienced in these areas, but it stresses that he had a human nature that was capable of being tempted. Temptation, in other words, is not the same as sin.

We would also urge readers who want to be properly informed about what Ed Shaw and Living Out believe to take some time to visit http://www.livingout.org and spend some time looking at the questions and answers discussed there.

For the purposes of this post, I want to focus in upon that second paragraph.

Advocates for the Orwellian named “same-sex attracted Christian” want us to believe that same-sex attraction is a possible category of human existence — about two percent of the population. Out of that group, there are same-sex attracted people who will profess Christ as their Lord and Savior. Those individuals, we are told, will struggle throughout their entire life with romantic feelings and sexual desires for someone of the same-sex. The church must not guilt them into believing those desires must be changed, but instead, should help LGBT people accept who they are, exhorting them to remain celibate, and serve in the church as vibrant, single members.

The first sentence of the postscript says, “We would urge those who believe that there is something wrong with the idea that Jesus might have struggled in regard to matters connected to his sexuality…” Whoever wrote that comment seems to believe Jesus might have struggled with homosexuality. That our Lord and Savior, the Son of Man, the Son of God, Who always did the will of the Father, may have had sexual attractions to other men. Perhaps, for example, the apostle John, because, well, he did lean on Jesus’s bosom at the Last Supper and he is said to be one of the disciples whom Jesus loved (John 13:23).

The reason that such a filthy, blasphemous idea is even suggested has to do with a terrifically bad take on two crucial passages, Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15.

Hebrew 2:18 states, For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. And Hebrews 4:15 states, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. The editor of the post script goes on to conclude that Jesus was tempted just like us, suffered in the process, but didn’t sin, and though it is noted that we cannot know for sure what temptations Jesus may have experienced that enticed Him toward sin, he did have a human nature that was tempted and temptation is NOT the same as sin.

In the context of the backlash TGC Australia encountered, the suggestion is that Jesus could have struggled with gay attraction (He was of course single), He agonized throughout that temptation, but he did not give into it (remained chaste and advocated for biblical men and women relationships). Haters need to turn down the anti-SSA rhetoric. Even though there are Christian men who really want to have sexual intercourse with other men, the fact that they may think about it, but refrain from engaging in the act, proves they are modeling how Jesus responded to the same temptations.

The post script not only has a terrible biblical anthropology, it has a terrifically bad christology as well.

First, SSA advocates insist that temptation is different and separated from desire and sin. In other words, a person may struggle with SSA, desire a romantic/sexual relationship with a person of the same sex, but the temptation to act upon homosexual sin is not sinful in and of itself. The person was merely tempted, yet struggled with resistance and took victory over those temptations. The person didn’t commit any sin. So, just because a person has the desires of SSA doesn’t mean they are in sin if he or she experiences temptation to behave sinfully on a daily basis.

But Jesus never chopped sins into different categories. When he preached the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confronted head on the false notion that desire and sin are separate. If a person is angry with his brother, curses him, and speaks ill of him before others, he is a murderer (Matthew 5:22). The person never even raises so much as his fist against the man, but his animosity against him makes him a murderer none the less. His desire is hatred toward his brother and Jesus calls it sinful murder even though he has done no physical act against him. Jesus also talks about adultery in the same way (Matthew 5:27-28). Even if a man never has physical intercourse with a woman, the lust he feeds in his heart toward her makes him an adulterer. The woman may never even know a man is committing adultery with her.

The point Jesus makes throughout the Gospels is that man’s sin originates from his heart (Matthew 15:18-19). Notice the first sin listed in verse 18 is “evil thoughts.” In other words, desires. The heart is the seat of man’s desires and so specific desires can be sinful. Scripture calls those desires like SSA, inordinate affection, a desire that is disordered (Colossians 3:5). The King James translates the phrase concupiscence, an old fashioned word meaning strong, sensual, involuntary sexual arousal. That captures exactly what SSA is.

Secondly, there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what happened when Christ was tempted. Christ is not overcoming temptation as a model for how we all overcome temptation. He was not struggling with every sin that ever was so as to sympathize with those people who struggle with and often yield to those same sins.

The point of Christ’s temptation by the devil (Matthew 4, Luke 4) was to demonstrate that Jesus was unable to sin and thus was God’s perfect, second Adam. That is what we call the doctrine of impeccability: Jesus was unable to sin. (See W.G.T. Shedd’s chapter on this important doctrine). He was unable to sin because He did not have a sin nature like all of humanity. He was impervious to sinful attractions because he had no sin nature to actualize sinful desires that would lead Him to sin. Hence, the temptations were designed to show how it was impossible for Jesus to fall into sin, not whether he can overcome sinful desires that were in his heart. I recall one old preacher likening it to a newly built  bridge over a river. We drive a heavy truck over it not to test if we can make the bridge collapse into the water, but to demonstrate that it is incapable of collapsing.

But someone is asking, “What about Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15?” Those passages are describing the doctrine of impeccability. Jesus was tempted (tested being a better word) in the larger areas of human experience in the world. The apostle John describes them in 1 John 2:15-17 as the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. Jesus suffered temptation, but it was not a suffering of having to placate sinful desires. It was the common suffering all men in their human natures encounter, but unlike humanity, Jesus was never susceptible to them and remained unconquerable.

Worldly thinking regarding homosexuality has poured into the church at an alarming rate. Christians have so submerged themselves in the flood that their apologetics and counseling have become soaked through with heretical error. They truly believe they are helpful witnesses for the faith, when in fact they are blind guides leading the blind. I recently was in a twitter exchange with a guy who was emphatic that modern science has shown that homosexual orientation is a genuine expression of human sexuality. He argued that the Bible is not scientific and Paul wrote his words to a scientifically illiterate audience who would have no understanding of sexual orientation. He also claimed to be a Christian. Many who advocate for same sex attraction embrace that false notion of “orientation.” Their error, however, leads them to direct people away from Scripture and the life changing, transformative power of the Holy Spirit. They accommodate those men and women trapped in the sin of homosexuality, affirming the lie that the world tells them, that their orientation will never change and they must resolve themselves to a life of celibacy. Their counsel only enslaves them into more misery.

What we see happening now is a redefinition of historic doctrinal terms that have shaped the theology of the Christian church for centuries. What Scripture has always taught regarding sex, gender, gender roles, and even orientation, is cast off as unscientific and hurtful to a new generation taught to believe sexual perversion is normal for a Christian who has been made holy before God. The inevitable result of that cataclysmic change in terminology is a new Christ. A Jesus who was just like us to the point he was enticed to involve himself in sinful, sexual deviancy. We are watching the emergence of a brand new psuedo-Christian cult.

Ken Ham vs. the SES Apologetic

I wanted to spend a few moments interacting with this article over at the Southern Evangelical Seminary blog,

Does Ken Ham’s Defense Biblical Authority Lead to Biblical Skepticism?

It’s an article written by my past internet foil, Adam Tucker. He has provided us with a helpful treatise expaining the methodology behind how SES teaches apologetic engagement. He excellently contrasts a classical/Thomist approach to apologetics from a presuppositional/Bible-based one that I believe lends us insight for sharpening our apologetic focus.

Bear with me, this is gonna be a long one

A Little Background

Now the first thing one is probably wondering about is what exactly does Ken Ham have to do with all of this. Well, since about 2012, folks over at Southern Evangelical Seminary have expressed dismay at Ken Ham’s presentations defending biblical creationism. The first real vocal critic was SES professor, Richard Howe, who wrote an emotional critique of a talk he heard Ken Ham give at a church in his area. I wrote a response to Howe’s article that can be read HERE.

His critique eventually grew into a written journal dialogue between him and Jason Lisle who now operates the Bible Science Institute. A discussion on creation was also held at the 2013 SES apologetic conference between Howe, Lisle, and Scott Oliphant, and eventually a discussion between Howe and Ham at the 2017 SES apologetic conference.

The main complaint against Ham is the manner he goes about defending the historicity of Genesis and his young earth views. If you hear his talks or read the literature of Answers in Genesis, the creation ministry founded by Ham, his talking points remain consistent. In sum:

We must begin with Scripture as our starting point for understanding origins. Any attempt with revising the straightforward interpretation of the creation week from Genesis with the constructs of Darwinian evolution or deep time ideas is reading man’s interpretations of the world onto Scripture. Men, according to Scripture, are fallen and their interpretations are fallible. Thus, we allow the revelation of Scripture to inform and shape our interpretation of the world and the history of it’s origins, and we should never allow man’s fallible interpretations of the world apart from Scripture shape our reading of Genesis.

Adam insists Ham’s apologetic “starting point” ultimately spirals into skepticism. After he lays out some of Ham’s main arguments from his written articles, fundraising letters, and various talks, Adam summarizes his apologetic methodology,

I think the reader is intelligent enough to recognize the pattern of thought here. It seems Mr. Ham’s position is that because of our fallen state, introducing outside ideas, or man’s word, into the mix of our interpretation of God’s Word ultimately undermines biblical authority. The problem is that there are at least two reasons why this position actually leads to biblical skepticism instead.

He the goes on to explain what he means by skepticism by framing his critique around those two reasons he mentions. Let me outline each one in turn.

First, he says Ham has a “knowledge problem.” By that he means when Ham uses such descriptions as “worldview,” “worldview neutral,” “autonomous human reasoning” or says everyone has the same evidence and that evidence must be interpreted based on a belief system, he is essentially contradicting himself. He is in fact bringing human reasoning to bear upon the Bible, Ken Ham’s reasoning. That’s because none of those concepts, worldviews, autonomous reasoning, etc., are directly talked about in Scripture.

Additionally, if it is universally true that all evidence is interpreted according to one’s specific worldview as Ham insists, then that fact is true across the entire spectrum of human worldviews making that fact “worldview neutral.” That in turn makes his position false. Laws of logic, Adam, goes on to note, are the same across ALL worldviews. They don’t differ from one culture to the next, and that again falsifies Ham’s position. He also asks how Ham knows the Bible is the starting point and not the Quran or the Book of Mormon. He has to make that determination from outside the Bible, so his starting point begins elsewhere, not from Scripture.

He goes on to write that the Bible is a part of the very reality that Ham claims one cannot know apart from Scripture. That view creates a glaring inconsistency, because as Adam asks, “If all of my thinking is skewed by my “fallen” and “fallible” worldview, how can I in principle “let God speak to me to the best of my ability to not try to impose my ideas on Scripture”?”  In other words, a person has to properly understand a specific part of our reality, the BIble, before having a starting point for properly understanding any other part of reality. That, Adam insists, is “a contradiction and rules out the possibility of properly understanding anything!”

Secondly, Ham has an interpretation problem. While it is true that Ken Ham employs the grammatical-historical hermeneutic for interpreting the Bible, his problem is that the Bible nowhere teaches that interpretive method. Ham is using the right hermeneutic, but he came to the use of that hermeneutic apart from Scripture. In other words, he is again starting with “man’s ideas” to read the Bible, not the Bible itself. Additionally, the Bible Ken Ham uses is translated into English from Hebrew and Greek. How does he know the language scholars translated it correctly? In fact, in his talks, he often appeals to what Hebrew scholars say about the Hebrew in Genesis 1 to defend his hermeneutic. Is he not trusting in man’s words?

Moreover, why exactly is Ken Ham’s interpretation the correct one? Adam points out that he says in his talks that anyone can read the Genesis account and plainly see that it speaks of creation happening in six days. But if that is true, why are there so many different interpretations of not only Genesis, but other biblical doctrines like those who deny the deity of Christ or affirm open theism? Those various groups are claiming they are plainly reading the Bible to draw their conclusions. With all those different interpretations, why is Ham’s the right one? Especially if everyone is fallen, as he says, and cannot trust their human senses to know things about the history of the physical world.

What can we say about Adam’s critique?

First, there is a huge failure with understanding what Ken Ham is saying. The most significant problem with Adam’s article is he fails to actually engage with what it is Ham is saying. He is providing a biblical defense of young earth creationism. When he says “we don’t bring man’s autonomous reasoning to Scripture” or take “man’s words and add them to Scripture,” he is NOT saying there is nothing of value outside of Scripture human beings can learn that helps us understand the Bible. Rather, his point is that Genesis chapter one clearly states that God created the known universe, the earth, and all life contained with in it in six days. The reason Ham’s says that is because the Bible says that. The language of the text is unambiguous. Hence, if we, as Christians believe the Scripture is our ultimate authority, we believe what it says regarding origins. We allow it to direct our understanding of origin history and how we evaluate the scientific evidence.

What Ham is arguing against are those individuals, especially Christians, who are influenced by Darwinian deep-time views of earth’s origin history (earth came into existence 4 billion years ago after a big bang event several billions years before that) that allow those views to reread the creation narrative of Genesis. Instead of Genesis revealing God creating everything over the course of six days and then resting on the seventh day, our understanding of a week, Sunday through Saturday, those individuals influenced by deep-time insist that Genesis must be reinterpreted. The creation week is something of a theological tract explaining God’s purpose of redemption, or a polemic against ANE mythology, or whatever, rather than an historical narrative providing real, historical information about the origin of the earth. Ken Ham is essentially upholding article 12 (XII) of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy which reads,

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

 

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

He is also affirming what is written in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics under article 19 (XIX) and article 22 (XXII) that denies the teaching of creation in Genesis can be overthrown by “scientific hypothesis,” which is another way of saying “Man’s autonomous reasoning.”

Second, he misunderstands Bahnsen’s distinction between the knowledge of sinners and the saved. Adam cites two quotes on logic from Greg Bahnsen’s posthumous work, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended for the purpose of demonstrating that Ham creates a false dichotomy between what fallen men know and what the Christian knows. He implies that Ham, following Van Til, Bahnsen, and other presuppositional apologists, is saying fallen men cannot truly know reality with their senses. Adam asks, “Why can man not trust his senses to reveal truths about the creation timeline?” The answer, according to Ham and Bahnsen, is that the minds of men are fallen and the conclusions they draw with their knowledge cannot be trusted.

Consider the fuller context of what Bahnsen wrote,

Even though the Christian and the non-Christian have the facts of the objective world in common, they have radically divergent interpretations of them. For the Christian all facts are pre-interpreted by God, created by God, and revelatory of God; they must be handled in such a way that glory is brought to God. But the non-Christian views these facts as meaningfully interpreted only by his own mind, as uncreated and free from God’s control, as ambiguous and contingent; he uses them to bring glory to man. Hence the Christian and non-Christian have different interpretative schemes.

Even when the believer and unbeliever share the same rules of logical inference, they nevertheless can be said to have different “logics.” For the believer and unbeliever differ as to the use, significance, ground, and authority of these rules; basically one subordinates logic to God while the other does not. [emphasis mine]

If one reads the entire section from his book, Bahnsen is demonstrating that all men without exception evaluate any factual evidence according to a set of preconditions concerning how they view the world. The scientific materialist for example, will never consider the possibility of the supernatural, because in his mind, the supernatural doesn’t exist. The idea of a miraculously created world, or even a resurrected man, is dismissed out of hand as fantasy and not worthy of serious thought. Whereas the Christian believes the supernatural does exist, because God has provided revelation telling us it does, so he accepts the historicity of a miraculously created earth and the resurrection of Jesus as really happening.

So neither Bahnsen, nor Ham, is saying fallen men can never learn things about reality using their senses. Fallen men do live in God’s created world and they bear the image and likeness of God, which means all men are designed to learn things using their senses. Rather, the conclusions they draw from their learning is often skewed, or mistaken, and many times untrustworthy, especially when it comes to so-called evidence regarding origins, mankind, and history. The fallen man, with the use of all his senses, will only default to a Darwinian model and deep time when it comes to evaluating any such evidence, because he is convinced his senses is telling him the truth about it. The believer, on the other hand, while using his senses to gain knowledge, submits that knowledge to what he knows is absolutely true regarding God’s revelation contained in Scripture. That’s why Ham says we start with Scripture.

Third, he has a deficient anthropology. A number of times throughout his article, Adam chides Ken Ham for his distinguishing between the thinking of “fallen” men, those men who are unregenerate, and the thinking of men who are regenerated. The general consensus among classic, Thomist apologists, what is advocated and practiced at SES, is that even though man is fallen into sin, his fallenness is merely moral and has no direct influence on his rational faculties. In other words, fallen men are in bondage to sinful desires and are morally corrupt, but their mental abilities that gather information with their human senses can draw accurate and honest conclusions about that evidence.

But is such a dichotomy within human nature biblical? As Christians, we should gather our understanding about humanity from the very One who created us and has left us a lengthy record documenting mankind’s interactions with both his Creator and each other. When we evaluate Scripture, the Bible doesn’t paint for us a picture of men who are bifurcated into a morally corrupted person, but has a mind freed from the taint of sin allowing him to make sound judgments about the evidence they gather with their senses. Certainly, men are created in the image of God. He has created them with their sense organs to interact with the world. However, that doesn’t mean their minds are freed from sin.

The Scripture, especially the NT, frequently speaks of the bondage that traps the mind of men so that they corrupt any use their natural senses may provide them. Man is said to have a “depraved mind” (Romans 1:28), a mind imprisoned by “law of sin” (Romans 7:23), a mind “set on the flesh” (Romans 8:6,7), minds that are satanically blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4), minds that indulged the desires of the flesh (Ephesians 2:3), and minds hostile to God that engage in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21). Additionally, Paul describes spiritual warfare as destroying speculations and those lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4,5). In other words, areas of the mind that are fed by our senses.

Further, salvation brings renewal of mind (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10). That means a fallen man, while he may have a general understanding of reality with his senses, is most certainly deceived, and operates in a state of hostility toward God causing his five senses to serve his fundamental rebellion against God. Sinners need regeneration in order to accurately interact with God’s world so that his sense carry him to the correct conclusions about reality. For if our minds were untainted by sin, then there would be no need for the call to “renew our minds.”

Fourth, the relegation of Scripture to a secondary importance. A truly frustrating area with Adam’s article was the dismissive approach to the use of Scripture as the primary means in apologetic engagement. This has been a sticking point when I have exchanged responses with him on apologetic matters in the past. One thing that can be said about Ken Ham is that he consistently appeals to the authority of Scripture when he reasons with unbelievers and defends the faith. He doesn’t try to prove the reliability of Scripture first, but just presents it as truth whether or not the person believes it or not. Though I am sure Adam, and others who utilize the SES apologetic, maintain a high view of Scripture, the tone presented in his article leaves the reader wondering if that is really the case.

For instance, one reason he states as to why we can never start with God’s Word is because there are so many various interpretations of the Bible. Why is Ken Ham so certain HIS interpretation is the right one? Adam points out how open theist heretics like Greg Boyd read the Bible but see passages that talk about God changing His mind and so conclude that God doesn’t know the future. And other cultic groups read passages that speak of God having eyes, or arms, and even wings and conclude God is made up of physical parts. Even passages that tell of the “four corners of the earth” imply the earth is square or flat. So because of all those confusing views on Scripture, no one can genuinely start with the Bible because we don’t know which view is the right one.

That sort of petty reasoning, however, generates as much skepticism as Adam accuses Ken Ham of causing. He is essentially saying that understanding the Bible is a big toss up because there are so many possible interpretations no one person can really say he has the correct view. Why even bother using the Bible to begin with if it has such potential for confusion.

Again, no one is saying we can’t use teachers or learn from the expertise of the translators of biblical languages. However, when God gave the Scriptures, He did so with the intent of being understood. He made Revelation clear. Of course there are metaphors, types, analogy, and all the other areas of grammar all human language utilizes found in the Bible. Moreover, a consistent and careful study of Scripture, empowered by an unction from the Holy Spirit, is definitely necessary to cut the meaning of Scripture straight (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

However, the fact that God made man in his image and in his likeness means He created man to communicate not only with Him, but with each other. Human language, logic, grammar, and the rules of hermeneutics (interpreting written material secular or religious) was hardwired into humanity at man’s creation, and that ability exists in all people today. It had to be or men couldn’t even begin to communicate with each other, reason with each other, understand even how to make sense of what it is their senses sense.

How Exactly Do Men Know Stuff?

What is missing in Adam’s critique is what we do know about reality. That being, lost, fallen men, even though many of them may be smart and leading experts in various fields of study, are by nature cut off from their Creator because they are born in sin. That is what Scripture proclaims AND it is what we see played out in everyday society. Their fallenness has a debilitating effect upon their rational faculties, particularly when they draw conclusion about the reality they are exploring.

Take for instance genetic researchers discovering that  humans share Neanderthal DNA. The fallen man, using his autonomous reasoning and starting with his anti-supernatural worldview, boldly shouts that this is proof men share common evolutionary traits with Neanderthals. Evolutionary theory is proven. Biologos and other theistic evolutionary “ministries,” insist the evidence is overwhelming and Christians must reinterpret the Bible so as to take this evidence into consideration. Christians run the risk of creating stumbling blocks before unbelievers if they don’t, even if it means overturning preciously held traditions like inerrancy and biblical creationism in 6 days like Answers in Genesis teaches. The Christian, on the other hand, like Ken Ham, allows what Scripture says about creation to inform his reasoning. He takes the same evidence and draws the conclusion that rather than Neanderthals being some lost evolutionary link in humanity’s past, insist that evidence only proves Neanderthals were humans. [By the way, I wrote an article for Creation Ministries addressing the very issue how such compromise is a disaster for apologetic ministries – SEE HERE].

Fallen men draw those conclusions about various areas of reality apart from God’s Revelation, apart from the power of the Gospel to set men’s minds to think rightly. And while people, both saved and fallen, may derive benefit from their work due in part to a shared general grace everyone experiences from one degree to another because they live in God’s world, that work is often times mistaken and directs us in the wrong way to think about the reality. As Christians, we do want to think correctly about reality, but that only comes in it’s purest form from a mind set free from sin, who filters what he gathers with his senses through the starting point of God’s Word and our ultimate authority.

Can We Redeem Queer Culture?

I tussled with a few of the folks from Revoice right before Easter weekend, particularly Nate Collins. He was bothered by a tweet I posted. I wrote,

The Hunky Jesus and Foxy Mary pageant, along with the Folsom street fair, drag queen library story time, and a number of other similar homoerotic, fetish themed events that take place around the world, is the core of what defines queer culture. Any individuals attempting to normalize same-sex attraction and queer culture within the Christian church may not like that reality, but it is the truth.

The one breakout session that Nate kept insisting I hear is the lecture called, Redeeming Queer Culture: An Adventure.  Leading up to their first conference in the summer of 2018, that was the most controversial workshop advertised because the original description stated that queer treasure will be brought into the new heavens and earth. It was described as,

For the sexual minority seeking to submit his or her life fully to Christ and to the historic Christian sexual ethic, queer culture presents a bit of a dilemma; rather than combing through and analyzing to find which parts are to be rejected, to be redeemed, or to be received with joy (Acts 17:16-34), Christians have often discarded the virtues of queer culture along with the vices, which leaves culturally connected Christian sexual minorities torn between two cultures, two histories, and two communities. So questions that have until now been largely unanswered remain: what does queer culture (and specifically, queer literature and theory) have to offer us who follow Christ? What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time (Revelation 21:24-26)?

My detractors implied that after hearing the talk and thoughtful reflection, I would not have made such an incendiary remark suggesting that Revoice leadership is bringing sexual perversion into the church. I took up the request and gave the session a listen. Are there virtues within “queer culture?” Is “queer culture” even a legitimate description? I wanted to provide my review for others to consider.

Disappointingly, the overall presentation was untethered from Scripture. I guess that should be expected, though. Sure, a few passages were mentioned here and there. For instance, Acts 17 and Paul’s confrontation with the philosophers on Mars Hill receives the most examination. In the same way Paul cited a couple of secular, Greek poets in his sermon, so too can Christian utilize positive elements of so-called queer culture.  But what God’s Word clearly says about homosexuality, relationships, marriage, and sins of the heart, was not even expounded upon. Instead, the presentation’s trajectory is set early on with affirming the secular definition of orientation as defined by the American Psychological Association.

After the introductory pleasantries, the bulk of the talk is a hagiographical retelling of the gay struggle in the United States. Gays are identified as “sexual minorities,” an Orwellian-style description that has floated throughout the vernacular of Revoice advocates and their Living Out counterparts in the UK for a while now.

Similarly to how other cultural minorities were mistreated and marginalized in early 20th century America, so too were homosexuals who had to remain closeted for fear of losing jobs, friends, and even family. The heavy promiscuity within the homosexual community is blamed on society forcing gays to live in the shadows. Gay literature, like The Price of Salt and Angels in America, is recommended to the audience as having helpful insight with understanding the gay experience. Christians can gain sympathy for the personal trials homosexuals have had to silently endure, often times alone.

Moreover, the history of homosexuality in America is white-washed and the sexual deviancy of the various activists groups and individuals within the movement is played down or dismissed altogether. Take for instance the Stonewall riot. The traditional gay narrative of oppressed homosexuals standing against bigoted police brutality is advanced, while ignoring the fact that the police were not raiding the establishment for violating sodomy laws, but because illegal drugs and alcohol was sold. Additionally, there is no mention of radical homosexual activists groups like GLSEN aggressively working to introduce homosexuality and other perversions within public school curriculum, nor the various explicit versions of gay manifestos posted online. Instead, what is defined as “gay culture” is the expressions of writers and artists and fashion designers. That is the queer treasure that should be filtered out and brought into the New Heavens and New Earth.

The talk concludes with exhorting churches and straight Christians to recognize the struggles of Christian sexual minorities. Rather than speaking about biological families and the importance of marriage, Christians need to think in terms of biblical families, those who have left biological families, fathers, mothers, and siblings, to find spiritual kinship within a chosen family that is following Christ. What Jesus told the disciples in Mark 10:28-30.

After listening to that presentation, I must confess that I am even more troubled by what is being brought into the church.

Reflecting on the talk I think what bothered me the most was the unspoken assumption that there is a legitimate group called “sexual minorities” and that Christians may identify with them. It’s just an unspoken given that individuals who struggle with the inordinate affections of homosexuality are “born that way” and must accept the reality that they may never change. And as a sexual minority Christian, a person must resign to the fact that he or she will remain celibate, only finding intimacy among the companionship of friends within the so-called shared community.

On top of that, friends, family, and parents also must accept them as they are, never assuming that change in desire can happen and certainly never pressuring them to change. Instead, loved ones need to involve themselves in their struggle, realizing that these sexual minorities have unique needs and produce their own special culture. Instead of looking to change them to like girls or boys, Christian friends should seek to understand and embrace the best of what queer culture has to offer, like creativity, interior decorating, and sharp clothing.

However, the problem with the notion that the best of what queer culture has to offer is vibrant creativity that will provide wonderful treasure for the kingdom of God is that it’s a stereotypical myth that gays own the market on creativity. Artistic expression has never been exclusively a gay culture thing. Bach, for example, is one of the greatest composers the world has known and he wasn’t gay. The same can be said about hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals throughout history.

It truly is a despairing outlook that was presented. I would even go so far as saying Christless. Jesus doesn’t genuinely save souls and redeem lives. There isn’t any newness of life, freedom from sin, or a new heart that is promised in the New Covenant. There is no hope that a man or woman can obtain healthy, natural sexual desires for someone of the opposite sex. Instead of putting off sinful habits and desires and putting on the new man in Christ that is robed in holiness, those struggling with homosexual desire should muck through the sewer that is “queer culture” attempting to redeem various facets and adapting them to Christian living.

Tragically, I believe we are witnessing a similar pattern emerging in the church that happened with Israel in the book of Judges. Rather than casting out the Canaanites from among them, Israel began to befriend them, eventually giving their sons and daughters to them in marriage. Those serious compromises became a snare for Israel. It led them to idolatry and covenant unfaithfulness and eventually to God’s judgment. The more the Christians adopt worldly thinking regarding sexual sin, the quicker we move to having Christ write Ichabod across the doors of our churches.

Are Evangelical Continuationists The Same As Mormon Continuationists?

The leadership of the Mormon church recently changed their policy regarding parents of gay children.

Children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may now be blessed as infants and baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without First Presidency approval, President Dallin H. Oaks announced Thursday morning, April 4.

In addition, the Church will no longer characterize same-gender marriage by a Church member as “apostasy” for purposes of Church discipline, although it is still considered “a serious transgression.”

The policy was changed by a divine revelation as God supposedly guided the leadership,

the changes reflect the continuing revelation that has been a part of the modern Church since the Restoration.

“These policy changes come after an extended period of counseling with our brethren in the Quorum the Twelve Apostles after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord,” wrote President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, in the statement.

Note the words, continuing revelation. Al Mohler then discussed that policy change on his Briefing podcast and stated in a tweet,

Mohler is dead wrong about that difference. While certainly the polytheistic pseudo-Christianity of the Mormon church is radically different from historic, orthodox Christianity, when it comes to continuationism, the leadership of the Mormon church receiving direct, divine revelation is really no different than evangelicals claiming they receive direct, personal revelations. In response to Mohler’s tweet, I stated,

Unsurprisingly, there were a number of naysayers who sternly disagreed with my comment. One individual wrote in response that it is absolutely untrue that any continuationist would equate his or her gift of prophecy with Scripture. Another opined that every SBC pastor he has known insists God spoke to them by “calling” them to the ministry. Still another person echoed that every pastor received a divine revelation from God to pastor the church where he currently serves. One guy was upset that I would slander the good name and reputation of Beth Moore who regularly shares in her sermons how God tells her stuff.

The common misconception among average Christians is that the gift of prophesy is very much active in today’s church. The gift is meant to be a divinely encouraging word to other believers, rather than some new divinely given revelation. Usually it is equated with preaching by a pastor or a teacher. Additionally, any stirring or prompting of believers to some spiritual duty is God “speaking” to them, but that speaking is never equated to new revelation.

But that misconception demonstrates a profound ignorance of theological categories and a sloppy application of biblical terminology. It really stems from a deficient understanding of what prophesy was in the Old and New Testaments and the role prophets and apostles played when exercising the use of the gift of prophesy.

New Testament professor, F. David Farnell, provides a basic working understanding of the gift of prophesying. He writes,

In general terms, prophesying in the Old and New Testament may be defined as
the supernatural, Spirit-given communication of God’s will and word to God’s people. The prophetic gift is always a supernatural gift. It is not merely heightened human insight, nor can it be equated with today’s preaching in the pulpit. TMS Journal, Fall 2014.

There are a couple of important highlights from that citation. First, the gift of prophesy must be distinguished from preaching. One of my more persistent Twitter detractors was vehement that prophesy is the same as preaching from a pulpit. But throughout Scripture, preaching is proclaiming the Word of God already revealed through prophets and apostles who wrote it down and is now available for all to read.

A second highlight is that prophesy is a divine, supernatural, Spirit-given communication of God’s will and word to His people. Again, throughout Scripture, both the OT and NT, those individuals anointed with the prophetic utterance were granted a divine revelation. That revelation was either inscripturated into the 66 books of our Bible or spoken to God’s redeemed people as a word of exhortation or direction. Never was prophesy meant to convey vague, whimsical musing that grant some person the ability to ascertain God’s otherwise secretive will his or her personal life.

As much as Christians will swear that their Spirit induced declarations are not direct, authoritative revelation from God, certainly not the kind that the Mormon leadership would receive, they most definitely speak as if they are. Regardless of what Al Mohler may think, the “God told me” or the “Spirit led me” rhetoric is found in practically every corner of evangelicalism. From ultra-fundamentalist Chick tracts (see for example his Reverend Wonderful tract in which the bold Christian receives divine direction to evangelize a celebrity ecumenist preacher) to the daily nonsensical superstitious soothsaying peddled at the Charisma Mag and Elijah List websites as spirit-filled Christianity. An even more recent illustration comes from Mike Lindell, the My Pillow salesman, who spoke at CPAC 2019 about how he knew God had miraculously appointed Donald Trump to be president. In fact, the first words out of his mouth was him telling the audience that God had given him the speech he was about to deliver at three in the morning. 

This continuationist view of prophecy is not contained merely among fringe internet ministries or charismatic denominations like the Assemblies of God or the New Apostolic Reformation, but also among traditionally non-charismatic groups like the Southern Baptists. The members of the SBC have been indoctrinated to think in the way of the Mormon prophets by such teachers like Henry Blackaby and his Experience God books. Blackaby teaches that Christians should expect the same divine direction that the Old and New Testament people experienced. The only way Christians can have a genuine relationship (experience) with God is if He is allowed to direct our everyday lives with specific details that are not particularly revealed in Scripture. In other words, by divine, personal revelations. An excellent review of Blackaby’s experiencing God view was written up by Dan Phillips and can be found here, Part 1 and here, Part 2.

Lifeway-made celebrity, Beth Moore, is probably the most prominent public example of an SBC personality who claims to have a direct conduit to God who channels divine revelation to her on a frequent basis. She is notorious for her infamous “hair brush” story, in which she claims God told her to brush the hair of a disheveled stranger as she waited for a plane at an airport. In the preface of her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, Moore writes the following,

Moore is clearly saying that the book was a message given to her directly by God, for if she had not obeyed and written it down, the rocks in her yard would have cried out. Now, she does give herself an out in the following paragraph when she writes that she is not saying her book is divine revelation. But if the message was assigned to her by God, even delivering it to her while she sat bug-eyed at what she read, and if she had not written it down the rocks would have cried out, how can that book be anything else BUT a divinely given revelation?

Contrary to what Al Mohler tweeted regarding Mormons and Evangelicals, while they may be divergent religions, both groups are identical when it comes to their acceptance of the gift of prophesy and continuing revelation. Evangelicals may soften the severity of what they are believing by tacking on the disclaimer, “I’m not saying my message is on the level with Scripture,” but if they are saying God is revealing a special message or some aspect of His will to a person, how could it not be of the same authority as Scripture? Either the message is infallibly coming from God or it is not. That there are great swaths of pew sitting Christians who can’t tell the difference is troubling. Even more concerning are those who believe those personal revelations are valid and blast against anyone who would question their legitimacy.