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.

Let’s Talk About the Christological Hermeneutic

emmausI want to discuss a Twitter exchange I had with some Reformish acquaintances concerning the so-called Christological Hermeneutic (CH for our purposes here).

My exchange began when I had tweeted out a link to Matt Waymeyer’s blog article entitled, Luke 24 and the Christological Hermeneutic.

In his article, Waymeyer explains how the CH is a manner of interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures that seeks to find references to Christ on almost every page. “In this way, truths revealed about the Messiah in the New Testament are seen as the key to discovering the real meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures.” Proponents claim Luke 24, that tells the story of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, is a proof-text that demonstrates the interpretative priority of the NT when reading the OT. Jesus and the Apostles, then, interpreted the OT according to the CH and set a model for the Christian church to follow.

Waymeyer then lays out three reasons why Luke 24 is not presenting for us an interpretive filter through which to read the OT,

  • There is no record of which OT texts Jesus cited when speaking to the two disciples. Advocates of the CH then wrongly assume that Jesus is referencing OT passages that do not explicitly mention Him as the true Messiah of Israel.
  • When Luke writes that, “He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” it is believed that “all the Scriptures” means that all the Scripture of the OT must speak of Jesus in some fashion. The words, “all the Scriptures,” however, are better understood as the entirety of the OT Scriptures entailing the three main divisions: The 5 books of Moses, the writings, and the prophets. In fact, Luke 24:44 even suggests this is what Jesus did when he stated, “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”
  • Luke 24:27 specifically says that Jesus spoke about “things that pertain to himself,” meaning he directed the disciple’s attention to those clear, undeniable passages that spoke of Him. Jesus was not presenting an interpretive grid that grants permission for Christians to adopt a typological and Christological hermeneutic that finds Jesus in the pages of every portion of the OT.

In response to my tweeting out that article, I had a number of fine men leave me some challenging objections. I thought I would offer a fuller response here at my blog.

– Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 10

The first couple of objectors raised 1 Corinthians 10:4 where Paul talks about Christ being the spiritual rock that followed Israel through the desert. Because he uses the word “spiritual” at least 3 times in the opening verses, it is only clear that Paul is modeling the CH for the readers of the NT.

Some thoughts in response. First, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12 is in the middle of a section of Paul’s letter in which he is telling the church at Corinth to get out of the pagan temples and to leave off attending their idol feasts. As he lays out his case as to why they should abandon the pagan festivals at Corinth, Paul explains that one of the main reasons is idolatry destroyed the people of Israel. That is his point here in chapter 10.

Next, because Paul is warning the Corinthians about their idolatry when participation in the pagan feasts and temple ceremonies, he draws their attention to the history of Israel and how their flirtation with idolatry led to their physical and spiritual demise. In the same way Israel’s idolatry ruined them, the idolatry the Corinthian Christians were engaging in at the temple festivals will ultimately bring them to ruin.

Last, the word “spiritual” does not mean Paul is spiritualizing the historical events that happened to the people of Israel. The point he is making is simply that Israel’s provision came from a spiritual source, that being God. He provided the water, the food, and the protection, pictured as a rock, and yet the children of Israel left off trusting in his provision and committed idolatry against Him.

Because Jesus is God, and in the same way He was there among the Children of Israel present in the rock that protected them, He is also among the Christians at Corinth. Paul exhorts them to recognize that truth, see the example that Israel was for them in their sin, and to flee from following their ways into idolatry.

– Romans 5:14 and Christ as a type of Adam

Another challenger pointed me to Romans 5 and Paul’s discussion about the imputation of Adam’s sin and Christ’s righteousness. Specifically I was asked a series of questions pertaining to Romans 5, “Did all die in Adam? If so when? How do we know? Was it true before Paul wrote? was Adam a type of Christ? Did he become such only at the very moment Paul penned Rom?” Let me provide a couple of responses to them.

Did all die in Adam? If so when? How do we know? Was it true before Paul wrote? – I’ll cover the first four questions quickly because they are all related to the extent of Adam’s sin. I have to confess that I am not quite sure how my inquisitor believes those question demonstrates the CH and a typological approach to reading the OT through the lens of the NT.

At any rate, we know all men died in Adam because that is what God said to Adam in the garden if he were to eat of the fruit, “In the day that you shall surely eat of it, you will die,” Genesis 2:17. Certainly my challenger does not believe the OT is vague or unclear about the extent of Adam’s sin? Paul even explains as much in Romans 5:12 when he writes how physical death is a stark indicator of the extent of Adam’s sin. The whole OT bears out that theological truth throughout its pages.

Was Adam a type of Christ? Did he become such only at the very moment Paul penned Rom? – I believe he is referencing Romans 5:14 which states, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”

The key question I have in response is, what does Paul mean when he says Adam is a type of Him who was to come? Is he modeling for us an overarching principle of the interpretative priority of the NT over the OT? I don’t think so; certainly not in the manner the CH requires. The word “type” just means “example” or “pattern,” and in the context here of Romans 5 and Paul’s teaching on imputation, he is saying that Adam imputed his sin to those who were his people, i.e. all humanity, in the same way that Jesus imputed His righteousness to those who are His people, i.e. all who believe in faith.

– All heroes in the OT were shadows of Christ. Matthew 12:40

Still another objector chimed into the conversation by tweeting out that he believed all heroes in the OT were shadows of Christ. He referenced Matthew 12:40 where Jesus states, “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Three thoughts,

First, I don’t necessarily disagree with that idea. I even noted in a previous article that I believe types of Christ exist in the OT. But those types that foreshadow the coming of Christ and the work of redemption He will accomplish are generally rather clear with a discernible anti-type in the NT. For instance, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and David, can all be consider true types of Christ and we draw that conclusion because events in their lives clearly depict Christ’s ministry. So put another way, a student doesn’t have to go on a type hunt in order to determine if some OT person is a type of Christ.

That said, however, are all OT heroes types of Christ? Not necessarily. Gideon could be labelled a hero, but I would not necessarily call him a type of Christ. I would say the same thing regarding such individuals as Samson, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah for instance. And Jonah wasn’t really heroic. God had to make him go to Nineveh and while he eventually went, he grumbled all through his ministry to the people there. The only real connection to Christ is God sending a massive fish to swallow Jonah. In the same way God delivered him from his watery tomb, so too will God deliver Christ from His.

Lastly, recognizing OT types, however, is far different from a typological hermeneutic that results in the CH and the principle that gives interpretive priority to the NT over the OT. Just because we can recognize an event or person from the OT as foreshadowing the life of Christ does not mean we are to depart from a normal, historical-grammatical approach to a CH approach to the Bible that allows the NT to reinterpret and spiritualize what is recorded in the OT.

– Are We Required to Preach Christ When Preaching the OT?

One final challenger asked about preaching Christ when we preach from the OT. In other words, shouldn’t we be faithfully pointing people to the Jesus of the NT when we preach the OT? Personally, I don’t think so. Of course we should proclaim Christ when the OT passage under consideration warrants it, but that won’t be all the time. One would be hard pressed to faithfully present Christ from the story of Abimelech in Judges 9.

Now that doesn’t mean there are no spiritual truths to be found in such passages, just that it is not about Jesus. Now I understand that is like dragging nails against a chalk board in the ears of my Reformished friends because they have been fed this idea that ALL sermons, even ones from an OT narrative, must have a Christ-Gospel focus when a preacher preaches. But really? The plan of redemption is certainly an important component to the plans of God, but if the passage directs our attention to God’s sovereignty, or his justice, or His dealings with man’s sin, it would be amiss to downplay those truths just to pull together some fanciful interpretation that is supposedly Christ focused when such is not the case at all.

As a Christian, I am much more concerned about handling accurately the Word of God. I believe a Christian is gravely mishandling the Scripture when we manufacture types and shadows that don’t really exist. We not only dishonor the Lord who gave us the Bible, but we do a great disservice to those who hear us preach.

Lame Arguments Liberty Drinkers Should Avoid

I originally wrote this post back in 2011 after John MacArthur stirred the dander of the 30-something pastor set who love to play like they are sophisticated metropolitans or who want to “take dominion over and reform drinking booze.” He wrote an article basically telling them to put down their beer steins and wake up to the fact that there is more to Christian liberty than the unshackled, William Wallace shout of freedom with drinking micro-booze.

When I engaged the critics of John’s article, I quickly discovered they made some of the lamest arguments for liberty drinking I had ever encountered. I wrote up a response to each of their key talking points. Since then, new arguments have been put forth, and seeing that this is an issue that is still a problem in local churches, I wanted to update my initial post.

——

Allow me to start off by affirming to my readers that I am not a teetotaler. I would never advocate for being a teetotaler. I probably have just as much disdain, if not more, for the legalistic social mores binding undiscerning Christians to classic American fundamentalists.

In fact, I like a good wine. I may have a glass if I am on vacation with my wife and we have opportunity to stay at one of those fancy Pacifica hotels dotting the coast of California. Recently, I have started taking a Coke Zero and rum in the evening, which I find delicious. When Costco has a case of that fruity, alcoholic beer-malt liquor stuff on sale, we’ll pick one up. And during the holidays we splurge a little and buy a bottle of Bailey’s.

However, I am also aware of the fact that alcohol in any form is viewed by the majority of American Christians as being “sinful.” Yes, I realize they are mistaken about that, but reality is reality, and that attitude is not changing anytime soon, in spite of anyone’s efforts to the contrary.

As long as beer and wine is perceived as a terrible vice used by party people on spring break, rowdy tailgaters at a football game, and tavern brawlers whose mugshots appear on the Smoking Gun website, it is not a wise idea for Christian ministers to foster alcohol consumption among their people. My life is lived in front of many folks, and it is to those people I am responsible for ministering Christ. Making it a habit of obnoxiously flaunting my liberty with alcohol consumption is not helpful for them, and will only generate more confusion than is necessary.

Now, with that being stated, there are individuals who insist Christians should not only express their liberty with drinking, they have anointed drinking as a spiritual virtue. Anyone who opposes their outlook is mercilessly ridiculed and condemned. The arguments they put forth, however, are not well thought through. So, let’s look at the lame arguments I have encountered defending Christian liberty drinking.

Martin Luther and/or the Reformers and/or the Puritans brewed beer and consumed wine.

That is generally the immediate response to my position of cautious moderation. “Well, Martin Luther and/or the Reformers drank beer, so why can’t we?”

Keep in mind that Martin Luther lived 500 YEARS AGO!

While we certainly applaud Luther and express our heart-felt Christianly thanks for him defending the timeless truths of the Gospel, that does not mean we are to automatically emulate him, or any other Reformer for that matter, and his various social convictions.

Think about it. What is more important? That we reform ourselves according to biblical standards or historical standards? What was a normal part of society in Germany 500 years ago may had been acceptable, but was it necessarily biblical? Even if it is just American Christians who have weird hang-ups with alcohol because of the old prohibition days still doesn’t mean we need to be like German Christians today. It may not be the best use of liberty for them either just because they live in Europe and have no connection to our prohibition past.

The same can be said about the other Reformers as well. Do we adopt all the social conventions of the Reformers and the Puritans just because they did them? Several Reformers practiced astrology, like Phillip Melanchthon. That’s not to say everything Melanchthon wrote stinks of new age mysticism. He was just as much a complex sinner as the rest of us. But his belief in astrology does reflect a common, historic practice among many Protestants during his time. So, who is ready to reclaim and take dominion of horoscopes from the Fundies and reform them for the glory of God?

jeane

The more bizarre use of the “Luther drank beer” argument is the appeal to Puritans, who supposedly were quite the bar flies, or at least one would think according to their beer drinking defenders. But we’re talking about the Puritans. Those were the guys who thought wedding rings were popish and outlawed Christmas during Cromwell’s Protectorate. Will we “reform” according to those convictions?

And just a closing word about the absurd claim that a brewery was the first building the Pilgrims built upon arriving in the new world. That is an urban legend. If you and your people are sick and dying and winter is coming on in a strange land, do you waste time building a brewery? Or will it be basic shelter?

obesity

Food is abused by way too many people, but you don’t hear Christians crying out about gluttony. Yet there are more people in churches who overeat than there are alcoholics and drunkards. No one rebukes those gluttonous Christians for their reckless overindulgence in food.

The biggest (no pun intended) problem with this argument is that gluttony is not just overeating. It is especially NOT overeating in the sense of a guy eating an entire large pizza in one sitting or scarfing down Chili’s 3,200 calorie “Freakin’ Onion” appetizer all by himself.

Gluttony is always tied to drinking in the Scriptures. What we know to be a drunken, debauched lifestyle. One may say overeating is a part of the debauched lifestyle, but it is the idea of out-of-control, riotous living that makes “gluttony” sinful. This is not super-sizing your McDonald’s order.

Consider Deuteronomy 21:20: And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’

If you look at the entire context, you have parents – PARENTS MIND YOU!; you know, mama and daddy – bringing their son before the elders to be judged because he is basically a thick-headed good for nothing who spends his time and money (family’s money) on riotous living. The word “glutton” has the idea of a vile, worthless person.

Notice what happens with this son. He is brought before the elders of the town so they can pass judgment upon him and if they judge against him, he is stoned to death. That’s the death penalty, folks. He is not executed for being 60 pounds overweight and having lunch at Jack in the Box every other day. (See my further study HERE).

scooterThe Health Consequences associated with eating recklessly is no joke. Just ask anyone with diabetes. Overeating should be treated just as seriously as alcoholism.

Related to the “gluttony” argument is the “obesity is just as bad if not worse than alcoholism” argument. This one is usually put forth in the combox after a teetotaler lists a bunch of statistics telling how many people die from alcohol related deaths, or how many women and children are abused by alcoholic husbands or parents. As a rebuttal, it’s dogmatically proclaimed that obesity is just as bad if not worse of an epidemic and social problem as alcohol.

That is a profoundly ridiculous comparison. The societal impact of alcoholism and obesity is incomparable. That is because alcoholism has the greatest potential to destroy innocent lives.

Many. innocent. lives.

In fact, alcohol has destroyed those lives unmercifully. There are no Mother’s Against Obese Driving organizations advocating against 350 pound people driving automobiles. There are no laws against driving under the influence of fried chicken. A cop won’t stop a guy and ask him if he has been eating, and then give him a breathalyzer to test his blood-gravy level. And there is a good reason for this: Obesity only hurts one person. No man, after leaving the Macaroni Grill has ever gotten into his SUV, and under the influence of the Mama Mia! chicken Alfredo platter he consumed 30 minutes before, crossed into on-coming lane and killed a family.

Now, just so I am clear. I am not saying obesity is a good thing. Being overweight does have considerable health problems for the individual. AND I would say Christians should make eating healthy a part of their spiritual lives. My point here is to merely show that obesity is no where near being the societal problem associated with the consumption of alcohol. No where in the ball park. Obesity is a result of bad lifestyle choices. Much like smoking, another vice liberty drinkers tend to encourage.

ed youngSex is abused just like alcohol. Are we going to forbid sex as well?

That objection falls flat because Christians are not equating the flaunting of liberty drinking with drunkenness and alcoholism, the common idea when one speaks of  “abusing alcohol.”  Christians who are troubled by those who flagrantly parade their liberty drinking from the pulpits, and among others at church, are simply saying that such behavior is profoundly immature and wildly inappropriate.

Married couples are certainly at liberty to make out with a bit of PDA if they so choose. They are also free to touch one another in an arousing fashion that would lead to sex. Not one person is forbidding them from partaking in the act of sexual relations.

But I think we can all agree that it would be grossly unseemly, not to mention a bit icky, if that couple were to have one of their big PDA make out sessions at church in front of the single folks. I think we would all say the same about them sharing explicit and graphic details about their sexual experiences at a Bible study fellowship.

grass

Why do we want to be so legalistic about alcohol when it is such a blessing to mankind? God created wine for us to enjoy the bounty of His earth. The prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption.

Again, no one is condemning the consumption of distilled spirits. We are all on the same page with the prohibition against drunkenness, not consumption.

The faulty logic of this claim suggests that because wine is processed from grapes, and alcohol is a natural derivative of fermented grapes, that places alcohol in a special category of blessing. Additionally, it is argued that passages like Deuteronomy 14:26 and Psalm 104:15 proves that God not only blesses the consumption of alcohol, but commands it.

Of course, that line of argumentation ignores the overwhelming multitude of biblical passages that warn against the consumption of alcohol. Certainly the prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption, but seeing that the Bible speaks so pointedly against the dangers of drinking alcohol, why would God’s pastor want to use a pub as a setting for a men’s Bible study?

Moreover, that is the exact same argument I have heard from Christians who seriously think God has blessed the smoking of pot. I kid you not. I once had one fellow, with a stern conviction in his voice and passion in his eyes, explain to me that God gave ALL the grass and green herb of the field for man to use, and that means cannabis. I reckon, by extension it would also include opium and the coca plant. And before anyone tries to “rebut” me by saying “but the grass and herbs were meant to be for FOOD, not SMOKING, duh,” keep in mind that pot can be baked in brownies.

Lookit

I realize a lot of the liberty drinkers were saved in one of those smothering, fundamentalist Baptist churches who regulated every behavior and activity with an iron fist of legalism like a draconian-driven HOA board of directors. I mean, a person couldn’t even wear short pants in the church building, let alone dream about drinking a beer. I sympathize with those folks. I really do. But honestly, is drinking beer really THAT important?

When the in-laws were in town for the holidays, there were times we would go to Sunday brunch at some fancy restaurant. My wife had a niece who would only eat macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. She had an entire buffet laid out before her, and she obsessed on the mac N’ cheese. I remember telling her, “You have this wonderful banquet of food and all you are eating is mac N’ cheese? You know, there is much more to life than mac N’ cheese.”

Likewise, there is much more to Christian liberty than sitting in pubs drinking micro-brews.

Dispensationalism, Hal Lindsey, and Typology

mark

Shortly after I posted my article exploring the facepalming misuse of Scripture by many in the Reformed camp with the overuse of a typological hermeneutic, I had a dear pastor friend of mine leave a blistering comment on Facebook. He wrote,

There is rich irony in being lectured about typology by dispensationalists who regularly see Apache helicopters in the book of Revelation… Not saying you do, but lets be careful not to over-generalize. Both sides have their fair share of abuses in regard to typology.

Additionally, another commenter wrote,

It’s true that many who over-spiritualize are from the Reformed camp, and A.W. Pink is a good example of that. But I still see it as a problem of certain individuals and their tendencies, and not limited to only people from a Reformed background. On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen (from Arminian Dispensationalists) those who give similar bizarre treatment to various Old Testament passages or New Testament parables, in order to ‘prove’ the pre-trib rapture of the church.

Both of them make a good point. In fact I had other folks tell me that their Independent, Fundamentalist Baptist pastors pulled out all kinds of fancy conclusions from stories in the OT. IFB pastors tend to swim in the Dispensational waters.

I certainly agree that I have heard my fair share of crazy eisogesis. I recall once hearing a pastor spiritualize the events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. The Titanic is like the person who will not heed God’s warning to steer clear of danger, etc., you get the picture.

But is it accurate identifying those imaginative interpretations regarding the parables, or helicopters, or even the Titanic, with a typological hermeneutic? I don’t believe so.

It may be helpful, then, if I define the terms. What exactly is typology and a typological hermeneutic?

Probably the clearest definition for the concept of biblical types is given by Donald K. Campbell in his old BibSac article, The Interpretation of Types. His working definition defines them as, “…an Old Testament institution, event, person, object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in the Biblical history, but which also by divine design foreshadows something yet to be revealed.”

There are several instances I would imagine most readers can think of off the top of their heads, like the passover lamb, the mercy seat in the tabernacle, and the great high priest all pointing to the work Jesus Christ did on the cross. Abraham sacrificing his only son, Issac, pictures the crucifixion of Jesus, whereas the lamb caught in the thicket next to them, the substitution Christ made on behalf of His people, and Jonah in the fish for three days picturing the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus.

With each type, however, there will be the “fulfillment” with what is called an antitype. Generally, the antitype is clearly stated and obvious in the NT. In other words, the reader of Scripture doesn’t have to engage a Bible study with a clever imagination and an interpretative treasure hunt of “Let’s Find the Type!” in order to see the type.

Additionally, types need to be distinguished from symbols. A symbol will be a graphic representation of an actual event, or person, or object, or even a biblical truth. For example, a lion symbolic of strength, or a sword symbolic of the Word of God, or a dragon symbolic of Satan, or a mother bird covering her chicks symbolic of God protecting His people. There can also be symbolic acts performed by the prophets. For instance, Ezekiel cooking with cow dung or Zechariah making crowns of silver and gold for Joshua the high priest.

It is also important to keep in mind that types are divinely orchestrated, apart from the one who is the type, whereas a symbol is not. In other words, Abraham did not think to himself, “I am a type, picturing the Father’s giving of his son for the salvation of the world,” when he offered Issac like God told him. Only the Lord knew what he was to picture which was yet to be revealed as revelation progressively unfolded into the future. However, when Isaiah prophesied about the work of substitution by Christ, he intentionally spoke of a lamb, an animal all Jews would immediately recognize, as symbolic of the person of Jesus and the work He would do.

While it is certainly true preachers can be given over to describing ridiculous comparisons that are pure imagination and totally miss the point of the passage they may be preaching, that is not the application of a typological hermeneutic.

Consider my pastor friend’s complaint about Dispensationalists seeing Apache helicopters in the book of Revelation. That happens to be a favorite example I hear from Amillennialists any time I defend a literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic when reading prophetic books of Scripture. It is taken from prophecy guru, Hal Lindsey, who was the first theologian of sorts who turned a significant profit from the various pot-boilers he wrote on Revelation and other related prophetic themes.

While I am certainly not a fan of Hal Lindsey’s sensationalized approach to biblical prophecy and the book of Revelation, his non-Dispensationalist, Reformed critics, unfairly pillory his work. It is not nearly as crazy as they make it out to be. Plus, he definitely presents material that is much more doctrinally sound, actually taught in biblical context, and is overall saturated with Scripture compared to really goofy current-day writers allegedly in the same vein as Lindsey, like Jonathan Cahn or John Hagee.

The idea of Apache helicopters comes from Lindsey’s brief paperback overview on the book of Revelation called, There’s a New World Coming, published originally in 1973. He walks through the book of Revelation, obviously as a Dispensationalist interpreting the text, and he intentionally adjusts his commentary to a general, post-Jesus People era audience who would be new to studying the Bible, particularly biblical prophecy.

The comment about helicopters is taken from his commentary on Revelation chapter 9 regarding the locust coming out of the pit with stingers in their tails and their ability to torment men. Lindsey gives the standard commentary about the locust but then concludes by writing,

There are diverse opinions among Bible teaches as to whether these creatures are actually going to be a supernatural, mutant locust especially created for this judgment or whether they symbolize some modern device of warfare.

I have a Christian friend who was a Green Beret in Vietnam. When he first read this chapter he said, “I know what those are. I’ve seen hundreds of them in Vietnam. They’re Cobra helicopters!”

That may just be conjecture, but it does give you something to think about! A Cobra helicopter does fit the composite description very well. They also make the sound of “many chariots.” My friend believes that the means of torment will be a kind of nerve gas sprayed from its tail. [138-139].

Notice that Lindsey says that the Cobra helicopter idea may just be conjecture, but most importantly, given what we outlined above regarding types and symbols, he didn’t even come close to a typological interpretation. He is just conjecturing, not claiming the locust are Cobra helicopters!

As much as non-Dispensational haters wish it were so, Lindsey’s amusing anecdote about Cobra helicopters is not the employment of a typological hermeneutic that is so prevalent in Reformed camps. It certainly is not the one I am particularly alarmed about.

As I noted in my first article, the problem with the the Reformed hermeneutic’s use of typology has to do with reinterpreting the OT narrative to make practically every event, person, or situation, a type of Christ. Again, the entire book of Song of Solomon is supposed to be a picture of the love Jesus has for the church, or the nation of Israel being the OT church or the Church the NT Israel.

Reformed proponents have often argued that there are key, overarching theological themes that override the details of the exegesis and the natural reading of the text in question. But is that how we are to read and study Scripture? The absolute worst instance currently with so-called theological themes overriding the details of exegesis is the trend to reimagine the creation account of Genesis.

John Walton, for example, in his, The Lost World, sees the creation as a picture telling theological truths about mankind, the world, and ultimately redemption. God is not telling us how he formed the world as he is providing a picture, or type, of how the narrative is to function theologically in the remainder of Scripture. G.K. Beale in his book, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, likens the garden of Eden to a cosmological temple that is patterned in the tabernacle in Exodus, another illustration of how theology trumps the details of the text.

While it may come across looking pious and sounding really, really spiritually deep to emphasis the theological types over the plain reading of the text, in taking that approach, the intended meaning is stripped from the text and misses the point the original author intended to convey.

“But God is the ultimate author of Scripture!,” is the usual response to my objection, “so that is what he intended to convey to begin with.” But the LORD used a human author who wrote down what He wanted to say and the original audience did not read it in that gobbledygook fashion. That only puts a person committed to a typological/theological hermeneutic in perilous danger of calling God a lying deceiver when He originally revealed those portions of Scripture.

Jesus and Wine Theology and the Reformed Hermeneutic

Jesus Drank ReislingTheology that is really cool and fun and stuff

At the risk of receiving a severe wedgie from a number of my Reformed acquaintances who run around my game circle, I wanted to respond to a discussion that took place at the ReformCom 2016 with the guys of Apologia radio, N.D. Wilson, and Darren Doane.

I specifically want to focus in upon the bizarre ramblings from Doane regarding what I call his “Jesus is wine theology.” Doane’s “theology,” if we can even call it that, perfectly highlights the horrendous abuse the historical Reformed, typological hermeneutic rains down upon the Bible when a person studies it.

I’ll begin with a bit of background.

Doane is a commercial video director, as well as a filmmaker.  He is known for religiously themed work such as Unstoppable, a movie addressing the problem of evil with Kirk Cameron, Collision Course, a documentary that follows around Doug Wilson and the late Christopher Hitchens as they debate in various venues, and Saving Christmas, that carries a 0% at Rotten Tomatoes and has the honor of being the winner of the 2015 Razzie award for worst picture.

So much for taking dominion, but I digress.

I tussled once with Doane on Twitter in the months before his award winning Saving Christmas was released. I even stated that I thought the trailer looked fun when I was defending Kirk’s promotion of the movie on a Catholic radio program against some finger-wagging discernment folks. I wrote about that HERE.

Where I took exception with Saving Christmas was with Doane’s excessive overuse of typology. For instance, in our Twitter exchange, he insisted that Christmas trees are talked about in the Bible because God was the first one to bring a tree into His house. He likened the lamp stand in the tabernacle with us putting Christmas trees in our homes. I wrote about out exchange HERE for those interested.

Doane has since moved from spiritualizing Christmas trees to now spiritualizing wine. At the ReformCon2016, he participated on a live podcast interview for Apologia Radio where he enthusiastically discussed the topic of wine and Jesus and drinking for the Christian. The audio can be heard HERE. His comments begin at the 56:06 mark. Or watch the Youtube portion HERE.

I’ve written out a loose transcript of the relevant portions I wish to address. Keep in mind that I have slightly edited his remarks removing the “…and ums,” along with smoothing out the excitable effervescence that bubbles from his talk.

When I became a Christian I didn’t drink, which is even better because I was double-holy. I not only became a Christian, but I was like super moral. Like double-anointed portion.  I don’t drink. This is fantastic, I was the sober guy.

When I became a Christian, the last thing I even thought about was alcohol. I mean, I just received salvation. My sins were forgiven. My interest for the word ignited. I dug into the Scriptures because I wanted to nail down what the Bible taught on important points of doctrine. I couldn’t have cared less about determining the limits of my Christian liberty with drinking a beer or scotch. There were deeper, more profound truths that occupied my heart.

And who was he hanging with as a new Christian? He gives the impression all his friends from church were a bunch of frat party drunks and he was the designated driver taking them home from a Sunday night fellowship.

Skipping to the end, as he wraps up his musings about Jesus and wine, he explains that even after he had studied out wine from the Bible, he still did not drink. That was until an acquaintance asked him why and then remarked, “Whose gonna teach your daughter to drink?” implying, “how is she gonna learn to drink?”

When I heard that, I thought, “Eh?” Christian parents are obligated to teach their kids how to drink? Your kids have to be taught how to drink? What exactly does that entail? Them watching you regularly down a rum and coke? Spirited dinner table discussion of the state drinking age limit? Or what is the best way to age whiskey? Honestly? What is the bizarre fixation with neo-Reformed folks and drinking booze? I’ve never understood it. It’s like a little kid who is now potty trained and has to tell everyone he is wearing big boy pants.whatwouldjesusbrewBut let me move along to what I wish to address specifically and will get me into trouble,

Years later, because I love theology, every year I would sort of pick something to dive into. One year I picked wine. Jesus did say “I’m Wine;” so I thought I would dig into the Bible on “wine.” So I spent almost a whole year going through the Bible, looking at how wine was used.

Jesus said “I’m wine?” Searching my Bible Works, I can’t find any where in the Gospels when Jesus said such a thing. Maybe he has in mind John 15, where Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches?” While it is true that wine comes from grapes that do grow on vines, that is not the same as Jesus saying “I’m wine.” Or it could be when Jesus talked about putting new wine into old wine skins, and he assumes the “new wine” is Jesus. Who knows?

Moving along,

When you start digging into something it gets super fascinating. Like when did wine first appear? When did fruit first appear? In fact in creation it’s at the end of day three and that ties into end of day three of Jesus’ Resurrection, there some cool stuff going on there. What is wine? With wine, you actually have to take grapes and kill them and you have to smash them and you have to kill it, you have to bury it. And put it into somewhere dark then after time it comes out. It’s totally new. It’s glorified. You have this Jesus-picture thing going on. It’s like in theology this is getting really cool and fun and you’re going through this stuff.

And then something hits me about communion, and that’s what theology does, it does everything, it rolls, it starts going, it starts paradigm shifting, all because of theology, right? … And then all of the sudden it hit me that wine burns. [pause here for dramatic effect]. You take grape juice. It’s sweet, it’s fun. My kids love it. But you take wine, Wooo. It burns. It’s fire. God is a consuming fire. Oh Darren’s on the skinny branch right now, he’s just reaching. But you go back and look at fire in the Bible [another dramatic pause] That’s. What. Theology. Does.

I can imagine the scruffy-bearded young folk in the audience listening to that nonsense for the first time thinking to themselves, “Oooohhhh, That’s so deep. I never thought about all those connection between Jesus and wine before.” Well yeah. No one else has either. What he presents is borderline neo-orthodoxy gobbledygook. (I chuckle when he says wine burns and is like fire and you need to go back and look at fire in the Bible. Someone has. It doesn’t mean what you think).

Let’s break down that theology:

God created the seed-bearing plants on day three.
Grapes are seed-bearing plants.
You have to crush and squeeze and essentially “kill” grapes to make wine.
Jesus said he was the vine and we are the branches.
Jesus was crushed and squeezed and killed.
But was raised to life three days later.

See? God creates plants day 3+grapes being crushed=Jesus in the tomb 3 days! Wine! THEOLOGY!

brewing companyDoane’s theology is no more theological as that tongue speaking 13-year old girl telling everyone God says in the Bible that he wants them to be a funnel to receive His blessing. The only difference is that Doane gets a pass from the folks at RefCon because he hangs with Doug Wilson and says he is Reformed and Calviney and of course, drinks wine.

Now I can hear my detractors complain, “Fred, that is Doane’s views, and he is a little whimsical when he reads the Bible.” In fact, during the Facebook comment discussion when I reviewed Saving Christmas, even R.C. Sproul Jr. chimed in telling me that Doane’s imaginative interpretations are unique to a small number of individuals in the theonomy camp like James B. Jordan (who is no longer a theonomist as I understand it). That sounds like a reasonable clarification. It’s inaccurate to impugn a majority of individuals based upon the weird ramblings of a few.

I believe that objection is problematic, however.

Here is where my observations will stir up with my Reformed acquaintances the kind of excitement generated when one throws a live squirrel into a gymnasium filled with 250 yellow labs: The tendency to spiritualize and abuse Scripture with heavy doses of typology is endemic to the Reformed hermeneutic.

The Reformed hermeneutic claims that because Jesus is the fullest revelation from God, the Apostles, as they wrote the New Testament, were led by the Holy Spirit to spiritualize the Old Testament. They would, for instance, redefine the recipients of the OT prophecies that were originally given to the people of Israel, as now pertaining to the Church. The Reformed hermeneutic teaches that the NT has interpretative priority over the OT. Thus, Reformed interpreters believe they are at liberty to utilize a typological/spiritualized hermeneutic when reading the Bible.

The degree to which typology adversely effects the meaning of Scripture will vary from person to person, but it is certainly there among the Reformed. One need merely to look over the few Reformed commentaries on the Song of Solomon to see what I mean. Guys like John Gill and John Collinges, wrote massive, encyclopedic works on Song of Solomon simply to say it is a book about Jesus loving the Church. A.W. Pink, who has always been a favorite of mine, was also notorious for his heavy typological emphasis in his various gleaning series, and even the 1689 Federalism Baptists emphasize typology almost to the exclusion of other hermeneutical elements necessary to the reading and understanding of Scripture. The worst is with folks like John Walton, who turns the creation account of Genesis into some theological picture about the temple of God or whatever.

I certainly believe God presents pictures and types in the OT that are fulfilled with an anti-type in the NT, but the writer of Scripture tells us what is going on. He doesn’t leave it to us to creatively find the type/anti-type connection. A good example would be marriage originally intending to picture Christ’s love for the church and the church loving Christ. The thing is, however, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that marriage was meant to be that picture.

Types become a problem when enthusiastic Christians begin seeing types when none really exist. One that just drives me crazy and is often appealed to by Reformed folks is 1 Samuel 17 when David defeated Goliath. I listened to one Lutheran pirate, who will remain unnamed, spiritualize that entire story as a type of Jesus defeating Satan. David was Jesus, Goliath Satan. He went so far as to claim the five smooth stones David gathered from the brook before he met Goliath in battle were the 5 wounds of Jesus on the cross, the nail prints in his hands, his feet, and the spear wound in his side.

facepalmI’m Sorry. That deserves a Jesus facepalm

Though it sounds all pious and spiritually insightful, it misses the entire point of what 1 Samuel is trying to convey. It’s merely contrived fancy to say it is all a big story about Jesus defeating Satan.

Where types don’t really exist, any that are discovered become subject to the interpreter’s imagination and it ultimately strips the real authorial intent from the meaning of Scripture. Bible study is turned into a free-for-all, and the true understanding of the text is lost. If you take that approach to reading the Bible you will always be out bobbing around out on the skinny branch with Doane.

Brother’s Keeper

gallantWhat I am about to state here is raw and blunt. I am placing myself at great risk of receiving severe wedgies from a variety of antagonists. Friends may reprove me for stirring up unnecessary strife. But this has been on my heart for a few weeks now, and I believe the subject is of such vital importance, I’m willing to take the risks. We need to address the proverbial elephant in the room.

Would the finger-wagging scolds on social media please stop with their insistence that I embrace theonomists as brothers? Their rebukes are both patronizing and phony.

Let’s face reality, shall we? Ever since the big debate on theonomy, when JD Hall exposed their tender underbellies, theonomists on various social media platforms have been gripped with raging paroxysms that froth contempt against their detractors. The ones I have tussled with are arrogant, condescending, and ridiculing of anyone who thought JD brought to light serious problems within the theonomic camp.

In fact, I have yet to hear or read any self-reflecting theonomist willingly admit, “You know; JD raised some excellent points. We may want to give them a serious think.”

Now maybe some exist and I just haven’t encountered them, but if they are out there, they are either being ignored or shouted down by their compatriots within their own camp.

Whatever the case, how exactly can I even attempt to be brotherly to a group of folks who have such scornful disdain for me and other like-minded individuals who share similar criticisms and concerns?

Just so I am clear.

I am not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that those men who hold to theonomy are unsaved or not Christian.

Again, I AM NOT SAYING THEONOMISTS ARE UNSAVED.

Let me state it one more time, in bold, navy blue font: I AM NOT SAYING THEONOMISTS ARE UNSAVED! (I even added an exclamation point for emphasis).

I will further add that not ALL theonomists are alike with the dishing out of the scornful disdain against me and like-minded critics; but it is the majority perspective I see displayed where I have encountered them.

With those clarifications in mind, let me state up front that I believe theonomy is significant enough of an error, and has become such a major point of division among believers, that I would be hard pressed to lay brotherly, affirming hands upon theonomists and their respective ministries.

Certainly, as I just noted above, I understand there are fine, outstanding men who embrace theonomic principles. In fact, I have personally benefited from a few. But I put theonomy into the same category of sub-biblical error such as hyper-Calvinism, hyper-Dispensationalism, old earth creationism, Messianic Jewish believers, Amish asceticism, and King James Onlyism.

While I will not say that John Brine, Hugh Ross, or David Cloud are unsaved, the pet views they espouse so drastically depart from standard Christian doctrine and practice that I cannot affirm them in any positive manner. That one odd-ball view defines the trajectory of their ministries and overrides everything otherwise helpful about them. The same goes for the bulk of theonomists.

goofusNow folks will say, “But Fred, the theonomists are Reformed, and Calvinistic, and presuppositional! Some of them are awesome preachers. I’ve heard them at conferences and on internet podcasts. How can you NOT call them brothers and cooperate with them? How cruel, unkind, divisive, and sad!”

Okay. Let’s lay out an all too real hypothetical. Let’s say some friends and I go out for a bit of campus evangelism, and joining us are some acquaintances who just so happen to be theonomists and attend a theonomic oriented church.  And let’s say that a young sophomore responds to our Gospel message and is gloriously saved. Where do I send him to church now? Let’s also say that the closest church, which is a short, 10 minute walk from campus, is the theonomic church. That would be the logical choice to send the new believer, correct? I mean, the theonomist acquaintances were with us when he came to Christ.

While it is true the church will more than likely have a high view of God, teach the whole Bible, and the preaching will be fairly decent, I also know that shortly after the new convert begins attending, he will be taught what I think to be a warped view of God’s law as it relates to the Christian life and practice. How can I be expected to recommend that he join a fellowship where I believe he will be taught a deficient understanding of the OT/NT distinctions and quite possibly have his spiritual growth stunted as he becomes consumed by this abnormal view of God’s law?

It’s why I believe a theonomist’s theonomy isn’t the same as say a Presbyterian’s baby sprinkling. As a baptist, I recognize our theological disagreements, but I have no problem being in league with someone like Sinclair Ferguson or Carl Trueman because I know the areas that separate our camps will not overshadow those things that unite us like a high view of God, infallibility of Scripture, Calvinism, etc.

Not so with theonomists. They’re like gluten-free advocates. As soon as they arrive at the party they immediately ask if any of the dishes have gluten and are passionately explaining to everyone around them how gluten gives them explosive diarrhea. In the same way, theonomy overwhelms everything about our fellowship and eventually becomes a massive point of contention. And that is a contention that begins with the theonomists and has nothing to do with me refusing to embrace them as brothers.

So can we put a stop to the rhetoric demanding I take a coexist, “let’s all try to get along” attitude, when in reality there is a massive chasm of disagreement between average Joe evangelical Christian and theonomists? To ignore that disagreement is willfully myopic only for the sake of manufacturing an imaginary unity that will never truly exist.

Beyond Fabrication: Putting the Vision into Revision

Most of the folks in my orbit of friends, acquaintances, and blog readers, are quite aware of the debate on theonomy that pastor JD Hall had with Joel McDurmon of American Revision, I mean Vision, ministries. Lots of drama swirled around in the lead up to the debate and certainly afterward.

Much has already been said on podcasts, written in blog articles, and posted on social media regarding who it was that won the debate. It isn’t my desire to add my analysis on top of the already growing pile of opinions. The debate and the Q&A are online so people can watch both and draw their own conclusions. All I will say is that I think the theonomists crowd, who typically like to pride themselves as being big, bad debaters, were unprepared for JD’s presentation and how their champion advocate stumbled over it.

While I will leave the more detailed postmortems to other more capable commenters, I wanted to address one thing Joel mentioned at the finality of his presentation that caused me to do a double-take. He concluded by citing a handful of gotcha quotes from non-theonomists he claims ultimately agree with his views regarding the death penalty set forth in the Mosaic civil law.

He begins this one final citation starting at the 2 hour and 22 minute mark. He states how two men, when discussing homosexuality, say that if the American judicial system were to apply God’s punishment for homosexuals, they would be executed. One of the men, Joel’s explains, continues to say how the punishment would equally apply to adulterers and rebellious children. And then comes the big reveal when Joel says how John MacArthur and Phil Johnson agree with the theonomist’s view of civil punishment, not JD Hall and the non-theonomists.

Dunn, Dunn, Duuuuuunnnn!

trollLeaving aside Joel mistakenly identifying Phil and John as “Reformed Baptists,” the problem with those scare quotes is that Joel conveniently left off telling his audience where he found them, because if anyone would read the transcript, he will see that John’s comments were surgically revised. He was not promoting some form of inconsistent or even stealth theonomy on the part of Phil and John.

Those quotes came from a couple of interviews Phil Johnson did with John MacArthur on homosexuality called, Answering Key Questions About Homosexuality originally released in 2004.

Immediately before Joel’s particular citations, John talks about the three fold division of the Mosaic law into moral, civil, and ceremonial. He makes a clear distinction between the three and explains how the moral law, which reflects God’s eternal, moral character, transcends the civil and ceremonial divisions of the law in both the OT and the NT.

He then states,

…[R]emember, Israel was a theocratic kingdom, it wasn’t a democracy, it wasn’t a dictatorship, it was theocratic … The structure of the Kingdom, that is the law of the Kingdom, the constitution of theocratic kingdom was the Law of God. And so naturally whoever it was that enforced the Law of God would be the government, the authority. And it would be the priests who knew the Law of God and represented the Law of God who therefore were the officers of the theocratic kingdom … So in this theocratic kingdom, God established penalties for violations of His moral law. And this was a model of a perfect environment, a theocratic kingdom … Thirty-five different moral violations were punishable by death. One of them was homosexuality. Just to spread that a little bit, another one was disobeying your parents.

Following that paragraph comes the comment Joel cites from Phil about how execution for disobeying our parents would certainly cut down on the number of delinquents. But then Joel cites John as saying that if we were to do what was right in America, we would execute homosexuals, and he turns that comment into John unwittingly agreeing with his theonomic visions.

John, however, specified his comment. He states,

The tragedy is, however, the theocratic kingdom which God originally established began to disintegrate very early, didn’t it? I mean, it didn’t take very long. When God established His law, it wasn’t long until the people began to fall into sin, they made all kinds of promises that they didn’t keep. They disobeyed the Ten Commandments all over the place … And what you had then was an unwillingness on the part of those who were responsible for the theocratic kingdom to enact the civil punishments. And because there were no punishments for these kinds of sins, they flourished everywhere, adultery, fornication, immorality, homosexuality, baby sacrifice, offering your children to Molech, etc., etc., etc.

And since God then removed Himself from the nation Israel, there has never been another theocratic kingdom. Okay? And that’s why today the kingdoms of this world, and Jesus said the kingdoms of this world are different than My kingdom, do not punish sin the way God prescribed it. And so the question might be asked, “If we did what was right in America, what would happen to homosexuals?” And the answer is, they would be executed. But before you rush to make that law, that would also happen to adulterers and juvenile delinquents, those who disobeyed their parents. And if that had been the case for the last 50 years, this room would be a lot emptier than it is now. But that doesn’t change God’s standard. And in the end, folks, God gives a reprieve here and God doesn’t give every sinner what he deserves when he deserves it…

Note my emphasis. John wasn’t saying the punishment of death was unjust. Not even JD was saying that in the debate. The punishment meted out by civil magistrates, however, is applicable in a theocratic kingdom ruled by God. And seeing that a physical, national, theocratic kingdom currently does not exist yet because Christ has yet to come to establish it for a 1,000 years, we don’t execute people for the sin of homosexuality. At this time and place, during this *GASP* dispensation, there is a reprieve that God grants. But every person who violates God’s moral law will eventually get what he deserves in the end. That’s the key.

In fact, John goes on to say,

So it’s not a pretty sight when men try to turn an earthly government into some kind of reflection of the divine kingdom. There will be that kingdom and when will that come? When Jesus returns and establishes His earthly kingdom. And that is promised in the Bible. The kingdom will come and the Lord will rule with what kind of rod? A rod of iron, He says, and at that point sin will be punished the way God has always deemed that it should be punished, swiftly and on the spot. And those sins which are worthy of that kind of punishment will receive it, no matter what the sin is, whether it’s homosexuality, or anything else, from the very outset God has provided forgiveness, salvation and the hope of eternal life to those who repent and embrace the gospel.

And he closes out by saying,

I just want to say that 1 Corinthians 6 says, “Such were some of you.” You were homosexuals, you were effeminate, you were adulterers, you were liars, it goes on and on, but you were washed and you were cleansed. And that’s what the Lord Jesus offers. We’re not trying to bring damnation on the head of homosexuals, we’re trying to bring conviction so that they can turn from that sin and embrace the only hope of forgiveness and salvation for all of us sinners, and that’s through faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus, contrary to McDurmon’s assertion that John and Phil inadvertently support his theonomic view of the civil, judicial punishments prescribed in the Mosaic law, He does no such thing. Though he affirms the death penalty for sinners violating God’s moral law, John recognizes that the civil magistrates executing someone for violating that law isn’t the norm for human governments at this time. That is a radical departure from theonomy.

What Dispensationalists Believe

Helping My Reformed Covenant Bros. Move Beyond the 1950s

I recently watched a spirited exchange take place among a group Reformed covenant folks on Facebook in response to a quackish, hamfisted, anti-Calvinist documentary that accuses the Reformation of Antisemitism. For the record, I agree with the Reformed folks over and against the documentary.

At any rate, during the course of that exchange, those of the Dispensational persuasion, like myself, were accused of denying the Gospel, being idolaters, following a false prophet (J.N. Darby), being in a cult akin to Mormonism, and denying the Scriptures.  I didn’t see all the comments, but I imagine Dispensationalists were also accused of shotgun blasting baby ducks in a pond and punching babies.

A lot of that rhetoric comes from former Dispensationalists; Reformed covenant converts who write vigorously against their Dispensationlist past. Honestly, I doubt any of them seriously adhered to Dispensationalism. They were merely exposed to it because they were saved in either a red state evangelical/Calvary Chapel-style church that was Dispensational by default, or perhaps given a John Hagee book to read as a new Christian. But they were no more a serious “Dispensationalist” as Ergun Caner was a “serious” Muslim.

Usually what happens is those folks come to embrace Calvinism, because that’s what the Bible teaches. Yet, because all their Calvinist heroes adhere to Covenant Theology and are either amillennial or postmillennial with their eschatological views, they also abandon Dispensationalism and premillennialism.  At some point they are moved by zeal to publicly confess how they were embarrassed by their Dispensational past and ridicule those they left behind (pun somewhat intended).  To their determent, they are often woefully misinformed with their criticisms. That is largely due to their exposure to only secondary, critical sources of Dispensationalism that are extremely dated or poorly argued. When I have engaged individuals like this and challenged them as to their sloppy research, they become agitated for some reason.

So, in order to pull my Reformed covenant friends out of the 1950s and show them that Dispensationalism is more than the fanciful diagrams of Clarence Larkin and is not a Gospel denying cult, I thought I would help clear up a misconception or two and then compile some resources for them.

First, the Reformed, internet masses tend to get Dispensationalism confused with eschatology. If you mention the word Dispensationalism, in no time someone is blasting away at the pre-tribulational rapture and complaining how the doctrine was developed by a crazy, charismatic girl.

While it is certainly true pre-tribulationists are Dispensationalists, Dispensationalism is not eschatology. Eschatology is a sub-set of theology proper, and Dispensationalism is a theological framework that distinguishes the outworking of God’s redemptive purposes through Scripture. Sure there are important nuances, say for instance the key distinction between Israel and the NT Church and the understanding that the redemptive purposes of God entail a restoration of Israel in a future, millennial kingdom. That would be a part of the eschatology of Dispensationalism.

Also, a lot of the modern Reformed folks are surprised to learn that Dispensationalism started among Presbyterians in the 1800s. The early founders of Dallas Theological Seminary were five point, Presbyterian ministers, and they founded the seminary primarily as a Presbyterian school. As Todd Magnum points out in his study of the history between the adherence of Dispensational and Covenant Theology, The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift (See his paper summarizing his larger dissertation: HERE), Dispensationalism was a perfectly acceptable position within the Reformed, Presbyterian circles. It wasn’t until polarizing personalities among a few Covenantalists raised unnecessary charges against their Dispensationalists brothers that a rift formed and has sadly remained ever since.

For basic, available resources on the subject, one of the better places to begin is with Dr. Michael Vlach’s list of, 40 Recommended Resources for Understanding Dispensationalism (Click link for the PDF attachment with this article)

The list is mostly book length studies that one will have to find on Amazon or in a library. Highlighting just a few of those items he lists, I would recommend John Feinberg’s article on systems of discontinuity found in the compilation book, Continuity and Discontinuity. The entire book is worth the read, but that article lays down the essential points defining Dispensationalism.

Next would be Alva McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom which is a comprehensive study of the Kingdom of God and probably one of the best works on the subject in print. I personally think non-dispensationalists would benefit greatly from this work.

I would also point folks to the theological writings of Paul Henebury, Dr. Reluctant, who shares his concerns and recommendations for refining Dispensationalism. Take a look at his Telos Theological Ministries where you will find a lot of good material, especially his article on Biblical Covenantalism and Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism.

Now, the biggest difference between the covenant theologian and the dispensationalist is the application of hermeneutics.  The way one interprets the Bible, particularly prophetic texts, is going to have a major impact on how one sees the progress of Divine revelation from the OT to the NT. Additionally, how one sees the OT fulfilled in the NT. Some helpful articles regarding hermeneutics:

Michael Vlach’s article, New Covenant Theology Compared with Covenantalism has an extended section detailing the matter of hermeneutics. In fact, the Master’s Seminary faculty devoted the entire fall 2007 journal to discussing New Covenant Theology and because NCT shares similar theological views with Covenant Theology, there are some helpful discussions. The issue is Volume 18, Number 2, Fall 2007.

For a couple of book length study, see Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classic Evangelical Hermeneutics and James White’s Scripture Alone. Ironically, James is a Reformed Baptist who would have nothing to do with Dispensationalism, but he provides a study of hermeneutics and exegesis I find well done and when applied consistently, only confirmed my understanding of Dispensational principles.

Moving to some more readily available sources on the web,

The on-line teaching of S. Lewis Johnson is all excellent, but noting a couple of of his series,

The Divine Purpose of History and Prophecy

The Future of Ethnic Israel

also, this article from the TMS journal highlighting a specific passage in Galatians 6:19,
Paul and the “Israel of God” an Exegetical Case Study

Dan Phillips, Twenty-five Stupid Reasons for Dissing Dispensationalism

R. Bruce Compton, Dispensationalism, The Church, and The New Covenant

These are some good places to start. If folks have additional recommendations, note them in the comments and I’ll add them to the main list here.

Now:

To be balanced, I can point to some good works defending the Covenantal Reformed perspective.

I can think of the classic work (but a brutal read), The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius available online HERE.

And then the two work by O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants and The Israel of God. His lectures on Covenant Theology can be downloaded HERE.

And then one final work that I am told is an outstanding treatment from a Reformed Baptist perspective is Greg Nichols, Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptist Perspective on God.

Christmas in the Hands of Reconstructionists

christmasSo for the last few weeks, I have been tussling off and on with some strong critics of Kirk Cameron regarding an interview he gave to a Catholic radio program and the assertion that he is sliding into a slough of ecumenism. You can get the background to those sparring matches with this POST.

I highlighted in that post how Kirk has a movie coming out on the subject of our Christmas traditions called Saving Christmas. As you would expect, lot of the same folks who didn’t like Kirk’s Catholic show interview also have problems with his forthcoming film.

If you have seen the trailer, it tells about a guy who is all down on Christmas because he has been told by glum legalists that it was originally a pagan holiday that has become heavily commercialized and dishonoring to baby Jesus. Kirk plays the long suffering friend who walks the fellow through the true meaning of Christmas by evaluating each of the treasured Christmas traditions, like Christmas trees, why Christmas is on December 25th, and even Santa Claus. Just from the trailer, the movie does look like it will be fun.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Kirk speak at my home church for an Institute for Creation Research conference. To be honest, I thought the bulk of his talk was disjointed and awkward. He seemed like he was only half-way prepared, as if he threw together some stuff at the last minute. It may be that he wasn’t on his game that night, so I don’t fault him too much.

At any rate, his session got a bit better as he moved into talking about the Gospel and Christ’s redemption of men and the world. That is when he spoke a bit on Saving Christmas. He did a great riff poking at folks who think Christmas is pagan and none of the Christmas traditions should be utilized in any serious fashion by Christians as a way to explain the Gospel.

He then moved into addressing Christmas trees and showed a clip from Saving Christmas that talked about how they represent the Second Adam, Christ, putting Himself on the tree of Calvary to pay for our sins. The lights somehow represented the light of the Spirit and the fact that Christmas is celebrated in December, during winter, which typifies death, adds emphasis to what Christ did when He died for sinners on the cross.

Afterwards, my friends and I were left scratching our heads. Did we just see what we saw? Basically a contrived allegorized reintepretation of Christmas trees as figures for Jesus on the cross? We were all like,  “That. was. Interesting.”

Fast-forward to a few days later. I’m looking through my twitter feed when someone retweeted a tweet by a guy named Darren Doane who was responding to a Kirk Cameron dissenter who had tweeted him. He had this to say,

SC1aI was familiar with the dissenter because I had interacted with the person at a previous time. However, when I checked Doane’s profile, it said he was THE filmmaker who made the last few Kirk Cameron movies/documentaries and the guy who wrote and directed Saving Christmas.  He also plays the character in the film who is all down on Christmas. I thought, “Okay, here’s my chance to ask him, the writer/actor, about the contrived Christmas tree=cross idea Kirk presented.” And this is what our exchange looked like:

SC2SC3SC4SC5SC6SC7Wowzers.

The tendency of Reformed oriented guys these days is to “Christianize” culture or connect it to the Bible in some fashion so as to “Redeem it for Jesus.” They argue that Christ is Lord of all things and because He is Lord over all things, Christians can reclaim everything (though the primary focus is generally booze and movies or other forms of entertainment) by “redeeming” it. That is accomplished by redefining whatever it is you want to redeem according to some fanciful Reformed hermeneutic, which is okay to do because Jesus is sovereign over everything, so it’s His anyways. See how that works?

ccmI encountered that Reformed, “Jesus is Sovereign” hermeneutic once with a SBC pastor named Jared Moore. Pastor Moore, who is, by the way, a terrific fellow and all around good guy just so that you folks won’t get any wrong ideas about the man, wrote a book I reviewed called The Harry Potter Bible Study.

You can check out my review, along with my rejoinder to a critical response he gave of my review to get more details, but in a nutshell, Pastor Moore claimed that the Harry Potter stories can teach us how to properly apply discernment with engaging our culture for Christ and the Gospel. He did that by drawing his readers to consider all of the spiritual “truths” found specifically in the last four Harry Potter films. Like they are the Chronicles of Narnia or something. And in case you need to know where I stand on the matter, I don’t believe there are spiritual “truths” to be gleaned from Harry Potter.

It is exactly what I see Doane suggesting with his tweets. Looking over his profile and considering the company he and Kirk are keeping these days, he is advocating his hermeneutic from a reconstructionist, postmillennial, theonomic perspective. The postmillenial reconstructionist vision believes God has appointed the Church to triumphantly spread the Gospel over all the earth. But it is much more than what is read in Matthew 28.

Accomplishing that victory entails subjecting all human authorities and institutions under the Lordship of Christ. One of the key strategies employed for completing that goal is reconstructing the culture according to God’s law as revealed in Scripture. In turn, that reconstructing of culture may include redefining our societal norms and reality along the lines of reconstructionist terminology, or in this case, hermeneutic.

So, take our Christmas tree for example:  God assigned certain trees in Scripture with typological significance; i.e., Tree of Life, lampstand in the holy place, cross of Christ (called a “tree” by Peter in Acts 5:30). Hence, it is perfectly fine to utilize God’s typological hermeneutic regarding trees in the Bible in order to pour new meaning onto the Christmas tree, along with presents, the decorations, the lights, and even Santa Claus. In doing so, Christians are redeeming culture for the sake of Christ’s Lordship.

I have three problems with the reconstruction typological hermeneutic used in that manner:

1) God doesn’t desire to redeem things, like culture, or movies, or holidays. God redeems people. He desires to call men unto Himself, delivering them from His just wrath and fellowship with them forever. He accomplished that by Christ’s death on the cross.

Now certainly cultures will be impacted by redeemed people living in society. If a strip club owner gets saved, he shuts down the strip club. The same happens with any other element in society. But that is God changing people who then live godly among their neighbors. Think of John the Baptist’s words to his hearers in Luke 3:10-14.

2) I’ll develop this next point a little more when I do a fuller review of the film, but there is something dishonest with telling people the real meaning of Christmas trees, along with all the other festive trappings of Christmas, is now redefined according to this contrive hermeneutic. It is especially dishonest when you suggest to people that the new, imaginative meanings are biblical, derived from God’s Word, when in point of fact they are not. That is where a person begins to wander into David Barton territory claiming Thomas Jefferson was a Christian. Doane can argue all day long that God gave trees this meaning, but again that is dishonest because it doesn’t reflect the truth regarding the real history of Christmas trees.  It also misleads those who hear his and Kirk’s promotion of this movie as having a biblical basis. God most certainly did not intend for us to make a type out of Christmas trees so as to “redeem culture.”

3) This reconstructionist hermeneutic does a great disservice to God’s Holy Word and borders on undermining the authority of Scripture. If a person feels, according to his eschatological outlook on the world, that he can play fast and loose with the types of Scripture, giving them newer meaning for the sake of “redeeming culture” that goes way beyond what God intended to convey, the floodgates are opened to the introduction of all sorts of theological error.  It’s the same stuff we saw with neo-orthodoxy mangling the Bible.

Look it: I disagree with my detractors who insist Kirk was putting his arms around Catholics in his interview on Busted Halo. I really have no problem with him, or even Doane, plugging their movie on various radio venues whether they be Christian or secular.

I do, however, have a serious problem with their reconstructionist revisionism that I am seeing played out, because this is where I see the crux of their debate with their critics. Those critics, I believe, have yet to identify the problem of their hermeneutic and if they are serious about engaging them accurately, they’ll sharpen their focus upon it.

Words for Young, SBC Calvinist Firebrands

calvinDear young, SBC Calvinist firebrand,

Even though I don’t consider myself a Southern Baptist at this point in my life, God was pleased to save me in a SBC church.  I then joined as a member of that SBC church, and became a regular participant in my campus BSU.  I even seriously thought about enrolling in a SBC seminary in Memphis. So I can gel with where you all are coming from.

I’ve been reading the last couple of weeks about your all’s trials. Having run in your all’s circles when I was a college punk, it is regrettable that various leaders, pastors, and Bible college administrator types are so vehemently opposed to your Calvinistic convictions. It truly is sad, really.

I can say with gratitude that when my Calvinist fervor began to ignite in my heart, I didn’t experience opposition from the leadership at my church. In fact, rather than extinguishing my newly kindled theological passion, my college pastor, a former linebacker for the Chicago Bears (before Refrigerator Perry and the 85 Super Bowl),  was the person who loaned me his copies of Lorraine Boettner’s “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” and Thomas and Steele’s little primer defending Calvinism. Where I felt any noticeable push back was from my fellow pew-sitting laymen who thought I had gone off the rails as one who was “way too serious about “doctrine.”

Still; that’s nothing like having a Bible college president causing a St. Bartholomew’s Day-like expulsion to rid the school of Huguenots.

Even so, I was once a young, SBC Calvinist firebrand like yourselves, though that was 20 years ago now.  I know how you all like blog posts that “lists” things, like “13 ways to become an effective church planter” or whatever, so I wanted to offers up a “list” of exhortations for your consideration.

1) Keep some perspective. You need to face a couple of hard facts:

A) People are misinformed about your new found beliefs. As a result they have cultivated ignorant, bigoted opinions about what it is you believe. Those opinions may run the spectrum of thinking you are just “going through a phase” to perceiving you as a viable threat to their church.  You already have a difficult road to travel with them. Telling them they are ignorant and bigoted doesn’t help.

B) The spiritual condition and overall health of the SBC does not rest on your shoulders. Remember that it is Christ who builds HIS church.  Be happy you don’t have to carry that burden and relax. Maybe even smile.

2) Don’t throw books at your detractors. If a person is challenging your Calvinism, the last thing he needs to hear is “well, if you’d just read thus and such book, you’d be convinced of my position.” While it may be true there are a handful of recommended sources on that subject that could be helpful, it’s better to recommend them to more serious inquirers who genuinely want to learn.  Throwing out unsolicited book recommendations after a heated conversation at the men’s breakfast only serves to make the head of the deacon committee think you believe he’s an illiterate rube.

3) Do talk with the folks about the Bible. That is the core of your beliefs anyways. Make any disagreement be with the text of Scripture, not your personality or even “Calvinism.” I always like to ask people, “what does Ephesians 1:1-4 still tell us about election if Calvin had never existed?”

4) Don’t run leadership down. If the leadership at your church or college is your primary antagonists, in spite of their resistance, you need to honor them. That means you aren’t running them down among your friends and other congregants. Also, you aren’t leading an underground “secret Reformed Bible study” behind their backs. And whatever you do, don’t start a blog detailing how unbiblical, man-centered Arminians have overrun your church.  Such attitudes are factious and plays into their erroneous misconceptions that Calvinists split churches.

5) Do support your leadership. By praying for them, respecting their decisions, and avoid being a troublemaker. Serve them in whatever capacity you can find. Be the first one to show up and the last one to leave.

6) Support any evangelistic efforts. Springing from the previous point, one of the ways you as a young, firebrand Calvinist can support your leadership is by being involved with any community outreach opportunities. By exhorting you in this regard, and knowing SBC churches these days, I completely understand “outreach” may be trite, seeker-sensitive oriented endeavors. Regardless of that, put your back into helping out as best you can as long as you are not compromising Scriptural principles.

Look at it this way: Calvinist have the reputation of being anti-evangelistic. All you Calvinists care about is your ivory tower and theology. What better way to dispel that myth than by supporting the biannual “revival” service, youth pizza bashes, or harvest festivals at Halloween. Besides, you’ve probably read a hundred books about the “Gospel”® written by all the TGC authors or John Piper®. It’s high time you put the theoretical knowledge into practice.

7) Don’t turn every college/home Bible study into a lecture on Calvinism.  I’ve been there; I’ve done that as a young Calvinist firebrand.  You’re so excited about your newly discovered theology that you want to tell everyone without exception. It’s like being born-again, again.

This may come as a shock to you, but everyone else isn’t where you are (See #1). In fact, SBCtNpthey probably think you are an obnoxious obsessive compulsive because every conversation – I. mean. “every. conversation.” – with you is turned into a dissertation about total depravity or limited atonement. The last thing you want happening is people avoiding you at church and fellowship because they see you coming and they don’t want to hear about Calvinism for the umpteenth time.

8) Realize that Church History didn’t start in 1517.  I realize there is a famine among the rank&file SBC church goer regarding the subject of church history. That is a crying shame to be sure, and it needs to be remedied. However, at the same time, please understand that church history didn’t start and end with the Reformation.  There was 1500 years before that and there has been 500 years after.  And, when you do a talk on the Reformation do so accurately and with balance, warts and all. Don’t white-wash our Calvinist/Puritan heroes. They were fallen men like us and at times it showed.

9) Covenant Theology is not necessary to be a Calvinist. A lot of the books and websites you are probably reading from these days on Calvinism are written by guys who adhere to covenant theology. The authors probably write in such a way so as to suggest that if you are a serious “Calvinist” and want to be “theological consistent” and whatnot, you’ll abandoned any premillennialism and Dispensational leanings you were taught at your SBC church and become a full on amillennial/postmillennial supersessionist (and even baby-dipping) covenant theologian. The folks at your church who are the most resistant to Calvinism are reacting toward those virulent ideas of covenant theology.  They think you want them to become wet Presbyterians, and they’re not into that.

Remember that Calvinism is derived from the exegesis of the relevant texts of Scripture, not a system of theology. You do not need to embrace Covenant Theology and a strict adherence to the LBC1689 in order to be a consistent Calvinist. Put those ideas out of your head now.

10) Don’t ever play the “That’s just your tradition” card. When you young Calvinist firebrands get into a verbal tussle with a group of stodgy, life-long SBCers about the doctrines of Grace, there is a temptation to repeat what James White (I know a lot of you are listening to James White!) wrote in an open letter to Dave Hunt and accuse your detractors of being blinded by their “SBC traditions.”

Listen: I know what you mean, and there is a hint of truth to that accusation. However, Calvinists have traditions, too. You need to recognize them and be prepared to defend them; but in the meantime, it is just better to stay away from playing that card.

11) Leave graciously and without animosity. After exhausting all your efforts to maintain a good relationship with your SBC church, or even college, there may come a time when you may need to bow out and leave. That is understandable. However, such a move should be done ONLY as a last resort after all avenues of reconciliation have been weighed and considered, but have ended.

When that happens, you need to leave with graciousness, without leaving a stink. Even though you no longer share the same perspective of ministry, more than likely, you are leaving the church where you were either saved or that got you headed in the right direction as a new believer. They are your extended “family.” Burning the bridge behind you is not only foolish, but unloving. There is no need for it.

And most importantly, before you pull that trigger and leave, you want to make sure you are leaving TO a good church that reflects the convictions you insist are so foundational you’d be willing to go nuclear on your current church. If not, then you seriously need to re-evaluate why you are leaving.