Monday, November 12, 2007

Nelson Price and Fisher Humphreys Proved to be Erroneous - IV

Continuing our response to Nelson Price, who still refuses to reply to our e-mails, or to correct that which he now knows to be falsehood.

"Southern Baptists in general believe that to hold the Calvinistic view would result in their loss of evangelism and soul winning missions efforts."

Our response: Funny, then, that William Carey, the faither of Baptist missions, was a Calvinist, and that John Calvin himself sent out missionaries to Catholic Europe (and even to Brazil). Historically the Particular Baptists have done far more for missions than the General Baptists ever have. We would also note that, with the exception of the Wesleys and their organisation, all of the leaders of the 18th century revivals were Calvinists. It was the Calvinistic Methodists that, under God, transformed Wales from a barren semi-heathen land into the 'garden of the Lord'. We are frankly tired of this old canard that 'Calvinism would destroy missions'. The facts say otherwise.
Of course, if you define Evangelism in a narrow, free-will fashion, then Calvinism IS destructive of such human inventions as the 'Altar Call', decision card, high-pressure evangelism, etc. But 'Evangelism' means just the preaching of the Gospel, and Calvinists have always believed in that. Look at Spurgeon, for example. A Calvinist, a Baptist, and an evangelist. We would argue that Calvinism is the only logical underpinning for the sort of sustained local church-based work that C.H. Spurgeon engaged in. Free-willism, on the other hand, has given us a crusade evangelism that works by spasmodic excitements and tries to 'get up' revivals rather than pray them down. We would contend that in fact this sort of reliance on periodic excitements and emotional manipulation is FAR more destructive of evangelism in the long run than Calvinistic teaching.
Think of it this way. William Carey went into India and faithfully preached for years before seeing any converts. Now the Calvinist says 'God is sovereign, He is the one who opens hearts' and keeps on working and faithfully preaching. The Free-willer, on the other hand, says 'I am not doing the right thing', and is more easily tempted to illicit means to gain supposed converts. Free-will methods, which are largely driven by numbers, tend to produce 'converts' who quickly fall away and bring disgrace on the Church. Charles Grandison Finney, the darling of American Free-willers, admitted this fact himself in later life. Indeed it was the disgraceful behaviour of some of his converts that led him into the strange perfectionist teachings that characterised his later life.
What of John Wesley? Well, for all his free-will teaching, Wesley depended on the power of God, not the persuasive power of his preaching. Reading Wesley's sermons we find no rhetoric, but rather Christ Crucified.
We would further add that consistent Free-willers, who believe in the possibility of the truly saved falling from grace, have a better motive for discipling converts than those like Price who believe in 'once saved always saved'. That is, if 'saved' simply means 'come forward'.

God willing, next time we shall have something to say about Limited Atonement and Penal Substitution.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nelson Price and Fisher Humphreys Proved to be Erroneous - III

"In general Baptists believe God chose to save those who would of their own free will put their faith in Christ. They do not believe God in His sovereignty arbitrarily decided who would be saved and who damned. They believe God wants all people to be saved but will not override their free will given them by God."

The term 'Free Will', so beloved of those we call Free-willers (as Free Will is their great Diana of the Ephesians), is never used in Scripture in the manner that Nelson Price uses it here. The philosophical concept of free will as a freedom of indifference (or the freedom of contrary choice) is simply not Biblical at all, but a creation of man's imagination. Now, if free will is defined simply as the freedom to choose according to our own wills, we affirm it. If it is used to mean that we make real choices, again, we have no problem with it. It is this great idol of free-will that is exalted above God and made sovereign in the universe that we abhor. We know this is strong langauge, but feel it to be justified when this figment of 'Free Will has bound the very hands of the Omnipotent God Himself, so that man's 'own free will' is sovereign in salvation. That every man is able of his own free will to choose Christ we utterly deny, and would point our readers to Psalm 14 and Romans 3 for Scriptural confirmation.
Note that it is not the TERM free will that we reprobate, but the concept inserted into it by the Free-willers. The Rev. John Brown of Haddington notes: "Freedom of will is either NATURAL, when we are not invincibly determined in our choise towards this or that particular thing; or EXTERNAL, when no forcible restraint put on our body or mind hinders our choice; or PHILOSOPHICAL, when we have a prevalent disposition to act according to the dictates of our reason; or MORAL, when no superior, by his forbidding or commanding authority, interferes in the regulation of our acts." (Systematic Theology, P. 4). Freedom of choice we affirm, freedom to choose contrary to our nature, we deny, particularly as GOD HIMSELF cannot act contrary to His own nature.

So much for the great Diana of the Free-willers. Now to their figment of Prescient election, neatly defined by Dr. Price himself above. This false doctrine is based on such texts as 1 Peter 1.2 'Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father', and Romans 8.29, 'Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate.'
The relevant Greek words here are 'Proginosko' and 'Prognosis'. The Romans 8 passage is Proginosko and the I Peter 1 passage Prognosis. These two words occur only seven times in the New Testament, Proginosko five times and Prognosis twice (information Courtesy of Moulton and Geden's 'Concordance to the Greek New Testament', Third Edition [Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1926] P. 851). The first occurence of Proginosko is in Acts 26.5, where it is translated 'knew from the beginning'. Paul is speaking of his friends and close acquaintances in Jerusalem who would be able to testify that he had lived 'after the most straitest sect of our religion.' The second occurance is in the Romans 8.29 passage, the third in Romans 11.2, 'God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew." Next we have I Peter 1.20, 'Who [Christ] was verily foreordained before the foundation of the world.', and finally 2 Peter 3.17, where it is simply rendered 'seeing ye know'.
Prognosis is found only in Acts 2.23 and 1 Peter 1.2. We have already given the 1 Peter 1.2 quotation. Acts 2.23 reads 'Him [Christ] being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and with wicked hands have crucified and slain.'
The Acts 26.5 and 2 Peter 3.17 passages refer to the knowledge of men, of course, and we should not construct a theory of God's knowledge based on ours. Some Free-willers have, and we call them open theists and heretics who have denied the faith.
That leaves us with, in addition to the two disputed passages, three (!!!) passages in which eith Proginosko or Prognosis is used. Acts 2.23 and 1 Peter 1.20 are most instructive in this connection. Surely the Free-willers do not say that the Father merely knew in advance that the Son would go to the cross? No, as the Open Theistic heretics have rightly realised, God's foreknowledge is never simply passive. In all of it there is an element of foreordination! God did not just passively know that Christ would be crucified, but He ordained that it would be so.
So yes, God's election is based on foreknowledge. But no-where is that foreknowledge said to be foreseen faith, rather 'WHOM He did foreknow, He also did predestinate.' It was the person He foreknew, not actions of that person.

Thus we see that Nelson Price's Arminian doctrine is not based on an unstable fondation, but on no foundation at all! General Baptists may believe such nonsense, but Particular Baptists do not and cannot.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Nelson Price and Fisher Humphreys Proved to be Erroneous - II

Continuing our point-by-point answer to a particularly silly post by Nelson Price, who will not respond to our e-mails informing him that he is in error.

"The five Canons of Dort are summarized by the acronym TULIP standing for:"

Our Comment: The synod of Dort was called to ANSWER the Arminians, so that its five points are simply a mirror-image of the five points of Arminianism. If Nelson Price disagrees with four of the five points of Calvinism, then he is an ARMINIAN, whether he likes it or not.

"Total depravity
Unconditional grace
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace and the
Preservation of the saints.

The last of these is the primary one with which the original Baptists agreed as do most present day Baptists. The other four tenants are held by a vocal minority of Baptists."

Our comment: More begging the question. In fact the majority of the old Anabaptists and General Baptists were far more coherent in their theology and reasoned that as free will was so important a man should be able to damn himself by his free will as well as be saved by his free will choice, so they held that true saints could nevertheless finally fall away. The modern belief in an 'eternal security' unrelated to God's unconditional election or efficacious saving grace would be ridiculed, and rightly so, by these Arminians. As we have noted, some of the Anabaptists opposed the doctrine of salvation by grace alone as antinomian. They would say that the modern doctrine of once saved, always saved is an evil, antinomian doctrine. As indeed it is.
We assume 'Tenants' to be simply a mis-print for 'Tenets'.

"Calvinists point out various Christian leaders who adhered to their beliefs. A far larger number can be noted who disagree with them. It is not a matter of who believes what but the validity of what is believed that matters. These held by an articulate minority of Baptists are presented with viable objectivity."

Our response: Not hardly. We find presented here nothing but the same stale objections we read in Wesley and Adam Clarke. Only Wesley and Adam Clarke were more consistent. Of course numbers are not important, but truth is very often in a minority. The question is not, how many people in Church history agree with this teaching, but, is it Biblical?


This is a sweet truth of the Word, for if God had not unconditionally elected some, then all would have perished in their sins.

"Calvinists believe in what is known as “double predestination,” that is God predestined how people would respond to Him and foreknew they would respond. Baptists cannot reconcile this idea with such texts as II Peter 3:9 “the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…” and I Timothy 2:4 stating God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”"

Our Comment: We note that Price falsely claims that his views are 'Baptist'. In fact historically most Baptists would have rejected his interpretation of these texts and affirmed that which he says Baptists cannot accept. We would point him to 1 Thessalonians 5.9: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." From this text we see (and no Arminian Bible commentator that we have consulted disagrees) that God has appointed some to wrath and some to obtain salvation. Now what is this but double predestination, in the Word of God? Furthermore, in verse 10 we read of those who are appointed to obtain salvation that Jesus died for THEM. So there is Limited Atonement as well. And in the ninth chapter of Romans we see the sovereign freedom of God set out in all its glory. Now Dr. Price will say that Jacob and Esau refer to nations, but will he please tell us where the chapter switches from individuals to nations and back again?
Dr. Price has his 'Arminian texts', he thinks. What he fails to realise is that there are no Arminian texts in the Bible. Take 2 Peter 3.9. Dr. Price quotes it as “the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…”, but in fact it reads, "“the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Now who are the 'us' here? They are those to whom Peter was writing, namely 'them that have obtained like precious faith with us', that is, to Christians. To those, as he says in his first letter, 'Elect according to the foreknowledge of God'. Now we see that this verse actually speaks of God's love to the elect, that He is not willing that any of the elect should perish.

"In general Baptists believe God chose to save those who would of their own free will put their faith in Christ. They do not believe God in His sovereignty arbitrarily decided who would be saved and who damned. They believe God wants all people to be saved but will not override their free will given them by God."

Our comment: This belief is directly contrary to the Biblical declaration that God is no respecter of persons. It exalts the will of the creature above the will of the creator and declares that those who were saved can thank themselves for it. No Free-willer can sing 'Amazing Grace' consistently. The Scripture says that we love Him because He first loved us, but the Free-willer says that He loved us because He first saw that we would love Him. This figment of prescient election is based on a highly dubious interpretation of the term 'foreknowledge' as applied to God. Now is not the time for a detailed study of the term in Scripture, but we commend such a study to our readers. God willing, next time we shall look into the meaning of this word in the Bible, and see that Nelson Price and his free-will brethren are guilty of textual abuse.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nelson Price and Fisher Humphreys Proved to be Erroneous - I

This is a delayed follow-up to a post on Nelson Price's ignorance of historic Baptist teaching. We give Dr. Price's words, then our response.

"The Way We Were is a well researched work by Dr. Fisher Humphreys on trends in Southern Baptist theology through the years. This is a review of the portion of the book dealing with “Calvinistic Belief,” a current hot topic among Southern Baptists."

Our comment: If what Dr. Price has given is representative, this book is not as well researched as it ought to be. In fact, Fisher Humphreys is a raving free-willer who ought not to have been published by anyone. Historians MUST be held to a high level of research and accuracy.
There are, broadly speaking, three streams of belief on Baptist origins. The first is the Landmarkist or Baptist Successionist view. This is as superstitious as the Roman Catholic idea of Apostolic succession, and just as impossible to prove. Second is the 'Anabaptist origin' theory, which gives prominence to the role of the European Anabaptists. This is preferred by free-will and General Baptists because the Anabaptists shared their emphasis on a free will theology, also by some liberals, as many of the Anabaptists were what William Huntington calls 'erroneous men. The third view, while recognising that the Bristish General Baptist movement was shaped by the Anabaptists, sees the Particular Baptists (historically the largest Baptist grouping) as emerging from the English Puritan and Separatist tradition. English General Baptists quickly became heretical, and had little if any impact on the early American Baptists.

"He dates the initial encounter between the emerging Baptists movement and the synod of Dort in the Netherlands (1618-1619) and the five articles crafted there. From the beginning the Baptist made it clear they opposed the confessions adopted there by the Dutch church."

Our comment: Note the confusion here of the Dutch Anabaptists with the Baptists, despite the undeniable fact that the Southern Baptists come from an English Particular Baptist background. The Anabaptists were free-willers almost to a man, and many of them opposed Justification by faith. Most ironically, these free-willers consistently opposed the teaching of final perseverence, recognising that if a free-will decision makes men Christians, men can also make themselves unbelievers again by their free-will. The five articles of the Synod of Dort (in passing we wonder if Dr. Price or Fisher umphreys have ever READ the Canons and Decrees of Dort) were in response to the five Remonstrant articles, commonly called the five points of Arminianism. We could easily prove Dr. Price to be an Arminian, but we are content to call him a free-willer, since he dislikes the term Arminian.

God willing, we shall continue to refute Dr. Price's erroneous representation of history next time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Leicester, John 15 and Psalm 37

Late last night I returned from Leicester, where I had the immense privilege of preaching in Grey Hazelrigg's pulpit at Zion Chapel, Leicester. Grey Hazelrigg was a man who knew what it meant to suffer for Christ. While his sermons were not published as those of many of his contemporaries were, after his death a volume of notes of his sermons, entitled 'Fragments that Remain' was published. Mr. Hazelrigg often referred to his own experiences in preaching, and this imparts a very personal and autobiographical feel to his preaching.
My texts were John 15.16 'Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you', and Psalm 37.39.

The sermon on John 15.16 was entitled 'A Whip for Free-willers', establishing that it is Christ who chooses sinners, not sinners who choose Christ. Those who read this blog will know that I am what is called a Calvinist (though Calvinism is simply Biblical Christianity). Free-willers were roundly whipped and revealed to exalt man more than Christ, while the Bible exalts Christ and lays man in the dust where he belongs. It was shown that man does not seek the true God, but a god of his own invention. The Bah'ai were referred to as worshipping a god who was neither Jehovah, Allah, Brahma or Krishna, but a monsterous chimera composed of the parts of all of those deities that the Bah'ai like. If the Bah'ai want to avoid such remarks they shouldn't have put their book depot in Oakham by the railway where I could see it on the way to Leicester.

The afternoon sermon was entitled 'Salvation and Strength', and incidentally demolished the Prosperity heresy. Read Psalm 37 and ask youself, who had the better life now, the righteous or the wicked? No prizes for guessing the patently obvious! Of course the wicked have their best life now! And Joel Osteen is reavealed by the Bible to be what Mr. Huntington called 'an erroneous man' (phrase taken from the title of the work 'The Mystery of Godliness Established in a letter to an Erroneous Man'). Prosperity teaching makes those sad whom Christ has not made sad.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sarcastic hymn by Charles Wesley

Sarcasm is Biblical. The prophets, inspired by God, used sarcasm to show the folly of their opponents. Charles Wesley used these prophetic examples in a hymn describing 'formal religion' to show the bankruptcy of formalism. He then follows this biting word with a prayer that even such would be converted.

The men who slight Thy faithful word,
In their own lies confide,
These are the Temple of the Lord,
And Heathens all beside!

The Temple of the Lord are these,
The only Church and true,
Who live in pomp, and wealth, and ease,
And Jesus never knew.

O wouldst Thou, Lord, reveal their sins,
And turn their joy to grief;
The world, the Christian world, convince
Of damning unbelief!

The formalists confound, convert,
And to Thy people join;
And break, and fill the broken heart
With confidence divine!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 7.

Dr John MacArthur's new book 'Because the Time is Near' is definitely the weakest of his books that we have read. In our opinion it ought not to have been written. To put it bluntly, the book is a mess, bending Biblical interpretation with a tradition for which Dr. MacArthur has no exegetical defence. Most glaringly, he assumes a pre-tribulation rapture and then brings in irrelevant passages to 'prove' it. So, on P. 287, Dr. MacArthur accuses those who hold a Biblical position (and we have already demonstrated in parts 2 and 3 of this series that his position is not Biblical) of 'Trivializing' the rapture. No, sir, we 'trivialize' a mere human tradition. We refuse to be bound by such things. We are Baptists, and our consciences are captive to the Word of God.

It is a Dispensational tradition that every Dispensation ends in failure, even the Millenium, when Christ is ruling personally in Jerusalem, and glorified saints are walking the earth. We would venture to say that there is no Biblical basis whatsoever for this teaching. It reduces all of God's dealings with men to some form of law that must be obeyed, although the content of the law changes.
We have a number of notable objections, beyond this, to the Dispensational view of the Millenium, which are also applicable to all Premillenial views. First of all, it defeats the argument of Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians that all the saints will be equal, and that none of Christ's people will lose out in the second coming. Unless you take the position that no-one will be converted in the Millenium, and that Christ will reign over a kingdom made up entirely of hypocrites (!!!), then you must teach that saints in mortal, 'natural' bodies will co-exist with saints in glorified bodies for centuries! That there will indeed be two classes of believers after the Second Advent (here no doubt the Dispensationalist will point to his unbiblical teaching of an earthly people and a heavenly. We will simply point him to Romans 11 and the ONE olive tree).
Second, we are expected to believe that Our Lord Jesus, in a glorified body, with His deity shining through, will come down from His heavenly throne and take a demotion to rule on the earth! He is reigning NOW, all power is His NOW!
Thirdly, Dr. MacArthur says: "Amazingly, a vast part of the population, born of the believers who alone entered the kingdom, will in that perfect environment love their sin and reject the King" (P. 298). WHICH believers? Answer, the second-class citizens still in natural bodies, still fighting with sin, still groaning for the redemption of their bodies! And the righteousness of the millenial age, Dr. MacArthur tells us, will be for the most part a hypocritical, feigned righteousness. 'Every Dispensation ends in failure', the Dispensationalist will say. Yes, but whose failure? Surely Christ's, in this case!

His description of the future age is even more confusing. MacArthur continues his bewildering mixture of wooden literalism and recognition of symbolic language. 'And there was no more sea' (21.1) is understood as describing future geography (P. 315), but 'and the kings of the earth do bring their glory into it,' is taken symbolically, not as implying that there will be kings on earth in the new creation. Dispensationalism's last gasps are heard when MacArthur writes of the Bride of Christ: "[The occupants of the New Jerusalem] consist of the bride of the Lamb, a title originally given to the church (19.7) but now enlarged to encompass all the redeemed of all ages" (P.320). We are glad Dr. MacArthur has grasped this much, but wish that he would cast this hermeneutic backwards over the rest of the Bible and see that God's people are one in EVERY age.

We cannot recommend this book. Despite the Dispensational claim to be consistently literal, Dr. MacArthur is neither consistent nor literal in this book. It is, we repeat, a book that ought not to have been written. We can only think that Dr. MacArthur wrote it to show his Dispensational critics that he is one of them. He ought not to be! Every view of Revelation has its problems. It is time the Dispensationalists admitted this, rather than accusing the rest of us of being 'replacement theologians', 'spiritualizers', 'inconsistent Calvinists', etc.
John MacArthur has said that every self-respecting Calvinist ought to be a premillenialist, and that the reason for this is that the same hermeneutic that gives us Calvinism gives us Premillenialism. Well, if this book is a worked example of Dr. MacArthur's hermeneutic, I would have to disagree! Not that Dr. MacArthur's hermeneutic in Revelation would, if applied to the rest of the Bible, cause a man to go astray. No, since it is 'interpret literally except where that would conflict with an already-held tradition', it would leave a man exactly where he was before. But actually the problem is that Dr. MacArthur seems to equate Premillenialism with some sort of Dispensational theology, the tatters of which he is trying desperately to hang on to. Dr. MacArthur, let them go, and THEN you will be a consistent Calvinist!!!

So no, Dr. MacArthur, because we are self-respecting Calvinists and committed to seeking to interpret Scripture with Scripture, we are NOT Pre-mil.

('Because the Time is Near' is published by Moody Publishers, and costs $15.99 direct from them, or $11.00 from Grace to You. In the UK it can be purchased for £ 6.59 from We obtained our copy direct from Grace to You's mailing list, which usually sends out very worthwhile products.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 6.

We have spent this effort on answering Dr. MacArthur for a good reason - he is a well respected Bible scholar and generally admired. We have ourselves found his books exceedingly helpful. Therefore we feel a responsibility to deal with the many problems of his recent book 'Because the Time is Near (Moody, 2007). The book is a bizarre mix of wooden literalism and sensible exegesis, of unbiblical tradition and Biblical exegesis. sometimes symbolic language is recognised, at other times it is not. The 'Mark of the Beast', for example (P. 225) is understood literally, but the description of the Dragon is taken to be symbolic.

We found Dr. MacArthur's treatment of Babylon to be bizarre. On P.233, interpreting Revelation 14.8, Dr. MacArthur tells us that 'Babylon, in this passage, refers not just to the city, but to Antichrist's worldwide political, economic, and religious empire." On P. 262 he recognises (and has to do so) that the description of the harlot Babylon is symbolic, that the 'many waters' on which she sits do not identify it with the city on the Euphrates, and yet on P. 266 he insists that it must be the rebuilt city of Babylon. Why? "The Angel quite clearly and repeatedly refers to Babylon on the Euphrates throughout chapters 17-18," Dr. MacArthur says confidently. Really? Babylon today is an empty ruin, totally destroyed as was predicted in the Old Testament. Just as Jerusalem is called Sodom in 11.8, why could it not be called Babylon?
We note that in Chapter 18 there is a list of the merchandise of Babylon, of this list Dr. MacArthur says: "These items were common commodities in the ancient world and were the source of immense financial gain. They are only representative of the great wealth of Antchrist's future commercial empire" (P. 278). Again we see that, for all his claims of a literal and consistent hermeneutic, Dr. MacArthur cannot make his hermeneutic work without making 'literal' a very flexible word! We are reminded of the Dispensationalists who make the ancient weapons of Ezekiel 38-9 into jet planes, missiles and atomic weapons, then claim they are being literal. It will not wash for people who use such hermeneutics to accuse others of using a hermeneutic in Revelation that, if applied to the rest of the Bible would lead to damnable heresy.

Note that this is NOT allegorizing. It is interpreting Revelation as even Dr. MacArthur must admit it demands to be interpreted - symbolically. The sooner Dr. MacArthur discards the mistaken woodenly literal interpretation that he has inherited from J.N. Darby and C.I. Scofield, the sooner he will be able to be consistent in his interpretation of Revelation.
If our readers wish to see what illegitimate allegorizing looks like, they are directed to Pages 92 to 94 of Dr. MacArthur's book.

There is much more that we could say, but God willing, we shall wrap up this review next time.

[our illustration is someone's idea of the End Times Temple)

Monday, October 1, 2007

'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 5.

We have been forced to be fairly negative about this book by Dr. MacArthur. We do not like to do so, but feel that in all fairness we must. Yet there are good elements to it. We have already noted his recognition of the symbolic in places and his acceptance that the seven Churches are just that, seven first-century Churches. We are also very glad that he has avoided the well-known pitfall of interpreting Revelation by the newspaper. Gone are attempts to find Russia in the text, locusts turned into helicopters, and microchips implanted in the forehead. He does, however, cling to the tradition of a future rebuilt temple where faithful Jews will worship God. In other words, he expects a return to the types and shadows of the ceremonial law. We do not. The blood of Christ has been shed, and all the sacrifices of the Old Testament done away with. When Our Lord cried out 'It is Finished!' the Temple economy was ended for ever. There will never be another High Priest after the order of Aaron.
We know that Dispensationalists like to point to the description of the Man of Sin in 2 Thessalonisns 2.4, sitting in 'the Temple of God' as a proof text that the temple will be rebuilt. However Paul uses the word 'Temple' to describe the Church elsewhere in his writings, not the Jerusalem temple. Thus the Man of Sin is seen sitting in the Church of God, usurping God's position.

We should be more sympathetic if the Dispensationalists said that this temple was built by unbelieving Jews. After all, those who do not believe that Jesus Christ made an end to the sacrifices of the old dispensation by His death (see the book of Hebrews), are at the moment in an awful position, with no temple, no sacrifice, and therefore no remission of sins (for without the shedding of blood there is no remission). But for the sacrifices of bulls and of rams to be restored by those whose sins have been forgiven by the once-for-all sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus is preposterous.
We would note that most of the references to the Temple in Revelation are to the heavenly temple (Rev. 3.12, 11.19, 14.15, 15.5, 15.8, 16.1), and the refrence in 11.1 is ambiguous. Is it the heavenly Temple? Or is it a Temple that was still standing in Jerusalerm, as the Preterist writers say? It is hard to tell. Certainly Dr. MacArthur's description of the Tribulation Temple on P. 180 has little connection to the text. Once again, it seems to us that Dr. MacArthur is operating on the basis of an unbiblical tradition here, not on the basis of the Word of God. We have read the Bible through several times and cannot find in it any sign that the types and shadows of the ceremonial law will ever be revived.

As for the idea that the Temple of Ezekiel's vision will ever stasnd upon the earth, the deimensions of this structure are so enormous that it would occupy far more of the land of Israel than even the most fevered end-times speculator is willing to grant.
We should thank God that He will not put us back under the yoke of the Law, but has brought in freedom in Christ.

Friday, September 21, 2007

'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 4.

We continue our review of Dr. MacArthur's attempt to explain the book of Revelation from the viewpoint of his dispensational theology. Those who know us will bear witness that we have never said a bad word about Dr. MacArthur apart from on this subject. This is no personal attack, but the faithful words of a friend.

First, a word on a popular Dispensational canard. Dr. MacArthur has never said this, to his credit, nor do we think he believes it, but some whose eschatology agrees with his do. They say that dispensationalism sees God's purpose as his own glory and Covenant theology does not. We beg to differ, we also see God's purpose as His own glory. We are thankful that Dr. MacArthur has never said this nonsensical misrepresentation.

As a Dispensationalist, Dr. MacArthur believes God has, in a sense, two peoples. On P. 112 he says that the twenty-four elders cannot represent Israel and the Church, since they are one unified group, not two groups. Yet Romans 11 tells us that there is ONE olive tree, not two. We do not hold, as some have charged, to a replacement theology but to an ENLARGEMENT theology. God has only one people. In the Old Testament it was largely confined to national Israel (and then not all of the nation). Now it has expanded to include believers out of every nation, 'grafted in' to the Olive Tree, while Israel, to a great measure, has been cast out. However, the natural branches shall, at some future date, be grafted back in to their own olive tree. NOT that the gentiles will then be cast out! There will, however, be a time when 'all Israel shasll be saved' (Israel in this passage always refers to national Israel, not to the Church), and it shall be as 'life from the dead' to the gentiles. Yet, as Israel is called 'the Church in the desert', and as the very name of the Church, ekklesia, is the word used in the Septugint (ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) the congregation of Israel, there is ONE people of God, not two.

We have referred to the word 'signified' (Greek: esemanen) in Revelation 1.1 before. It means literally to show by symbols. It is a red flag right at the beginning of the book of Revelation telling us this is a symbolic book. This does NOT mean (contrary to a common Dispensational misrepresentation) that we do not take the book literally, on the contrary, we are the consistent literalists, for we take the book of Revelation as it was intended to be taken. And practically all expositors agree that the visions of Revelation are symbolic. Dr. MacArthur does not expect his 'Tribulation Saints' to look up in the sky and see a woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet. No, he recognises that this is symbolic language (and we are glad that he does). Yet in Revelation 6.12-14 he attempts to interpret the stars falling to earth literally as meteors and asteroids hitting the earth (P.136). Yet we are then confidently told (since MacArthur takes the progression in Revelation as strictly chronological) that human society will fully recover from this literally earth-shattering catastrophe. But in Revelation 8.7 he takes the 'blood' in the 'hail and fire mised with blood' as non-literal, but as most probably flaming lava (p.156). Then, in the very next verse, he tells us confidently that the sea will literally become blood, and that the star called wormwood is another asteroid.
The aforementioned woman clothed with the sun is rightly recognised to be figurative, but the two witnesses, we are told, have to be two literal people, Moses and Elijah (Pp. 181-2). Why? Why can they not represent the Church, as some sensible expositors have said? The very fact that we are told they are 'the two olive trees and the two lampstands' (11.4) would support such an interpretation. Both images are used for churches elsewhere in the Bible, so why not here? If a woman can represent the Church in one aspect, why cannot two preachers reprsent it in another? If it is objected that their deaths can surely not represent the Church, we would reply that it is possible for persecution to all but extinguish the Church and to totally snuff out its public testimony.

This was one of the most frustrating aspects of this book, Dr. MacArthur gives a clumsy mix of woodenly literal interpretations and passages where he recognises the figurative language of the prophetic visions. We felt that this book ought not to have been written. Dr. MacArthur is clearly in a period of transition from the Dispensational traditions that he has inherited to a more Bible-based eschatology.

God willing, next time we shall continue this review.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 3.

We have seen that Revelation 3.10 gives no real basis for the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture and is best read literally. Not every faithful Church has been kept from great tribulation. We think of the Waldensians, the Huguenots and the Scottish Covenanters. The promise to Philadelphia is not universal. THEY were kept from the great empire-wide persecutions. That does not mean that no faithful Church will suffer hardship. Certainly this text gives us no reason to sit around confident that everyone else will have to go through the tribulation, but we will not. Yet Dr. MacArthur says:

"The rapture is the subject of three passages in the New Testament (John 14.1-4; 1 Corinthians 15.51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4.13-17), none of which speak of judgement but rather of the church being taken up to heaven. There are three views of the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation: that it comes at the end of the tribulation (posttribulationism), in the middle of the tribulation (midtribulationism), and the view that seems to be supported by this text, that the rapture takes place before the tribulation (pretribulationism)" (P. 93).

We may be accused by some of denying the rapture. Not at all, we hold that, at the second coming, all believers then remaining alive will be caught up to meet Christ in the air. What we deny is the unbiblical tradition that this rapture will happen before seven years of tribulation after which Christ will return in glory to usher in a personal millenial reign upon this present earth. We have already seen that Dr. MacArthur's key text in Revelation 3.10 cannot possibly hold the burden he places on it. Now we shall see that none of his other text support a pre-tribulation rapture either. If this is the case, the doctrine of the pretibulation rapture is dead in the water.

First let us consider John 14.1-14. Dr. MacArthur says that this text does not speak of Judgement, but of the Church being taken up to heaven. Now, the first part of this is true, but the problem is that the text is very narrowly focused. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and recieve you unto myself," is the only part of this text that refers to the rapture. It is an assurance that Christ will recieve His people to Himself, a great and precious promise, but it is too narrowly focused to convey the sort of information MacArthur says it should to contradict his position.

The second text is 1 Corinthians 15.51-54. This great passage is foucused on the resurrection of the dead. What Paul is dealing with here is the fact of the resurrection and the nature of the resurrection body. These verses are to reassure us that those Christians alive at the Second Coming will not be second-class citizens of heaven, but will also recieve resurrection bodies. Again, the focus here is not on the chronology of the Second Advent. The same is true of 1 Thessalonians 13-17. This chapter was written to reassure bdelievers that those who had died in the faith would not lose out, but that all off us would meet Christ in the air. Indeed, this passage says, "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven swith a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God," hardly language describing a secret rapture!
1 Thessalonians must be interpreted at least in light of 2 Thessalonians, which seems to have been written to correct Thessalonian misunderstandings of 1 Thessalonians, and there we read that the Second Coming follows the rise of the Man of Sin (2 Thess. 2), "whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming."

Without the extremely doubtful support of Revelation 3.10 and 2 Thessalonians 2.7 (understood by classical Dispensationalists to refer to the Holy Spirit. They reason that the only way the Holy Spirit could be taken out of the way is for the Church to be raptured. But then there could be no 'Tribulation Saints' unless man is able to save himself, something Dr. MacArthur does not believe), the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture is based only on silence. Thus it is shown to be an unbiblical tradition of men that ought to be discarded. We have in our hands a popular Plymouth Brethren commentary of the past, 'An Outline of the Revelation' by C.A.C. This work takes the Seven Churches as representing seven epochs of Church History. The Brethren writers comments on Philadelphia, "It shews that the Lord intends to have under his eye at the close of the Church's history on earth something quite different from the corruptions of Popery, or the lifeless formalism of Protestantism" (P.49). C.A.C. (the old Brethren writers liked to hide behind their initials) could say this, Dr. MacArthur cannot and will not. Yet both use this verse in the same way! Why? Because Dr. MacArthur is, we are afraid, still fettered by the remains of an unbiblical hermeneutic. Despite protests to the contrary, he is not consistently literal!

God willing, having demolished this teaching, we shall continue with this review. We would once again point out that we have nothing personally against Dr. MacArthur. Indeed, we have always found his books very helpful and have just ordered his 'Why One Way'. Nevertheless, since he has accused those who disagree with him on eschatology of inconsistency, we feel we ought to make some effort to rebut this charge.

[Note. We have been given reason to investigate further the date of the book of Revelation and may, if satisfied, adopt the Preterist reading in future.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 2.

We are glad that Dr. MacArthur takes the Seven Churches of the Revelation literally, as seven real Churches. Of course there are and will always be Churches like them as long as this present age continues. Thus these letters, like the epistles of Paul and Peter and James and Jude and John, are still relevant to us today. They are not a prophetic map concealed under the figure of letters to seven Churches!!!
We agree that illegitimate spiritualization has been the bane of the Church at least since Origen. The question is not whether or not it is, but what constitues it! For example, we find Dr. MacArthur's reference to the fact that the name Smyrna can mean myrrh, "Like myrrh, produced by crushing a fragrant plant, the Church at Smyrna, crushed by persecution, gave off a fragrant aroma of faithfulness to God" (P. 57). This is quite legitimate, and we have no problem with it, but it is certainly a form of spiritualizing the text!
In his exposition of the letter to the Church at Philadelphia, however, we have a passage that seems to be a left-over relic from a non-literal dispensational interpretation (eisegesis) of the text. We give it in full:

"Because the believers in Philadelphia had successfully passed so many tests, Jesus promised to spare them from the ultimate test. The sweeping nature of that promise extends far beyond the Philadelphia congregation to encompass all faithful churches throughout history. This verse promises that the Church will be delivered from the tribulation, thus supporting a pretribulation rapture" (P. 92).

Now, we would ask, was the Church of Philadelphia raptured? Certainly not! Where in the text is this idea that theis promise refers to some future great tribulation? No-where! If this text supports the doctrine of the pre-tribulational rapture, then that doctrine is, like the earth, hung on nothing. This is illegitimate spiritualization with a vengeance! As we have said, it seems to us a relic of a tradition Dr. MacArthur is in the process of discarding. He goes on:

"The rapture is the subject of three passages in the New Testament (John 14.1-4; 1 Corinthians 15.51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4.13-17), none of which speak of judgement but rather of the church being taken up to heaven. There are three views of the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation: that it comes at the end of the tribulation (posttribulationism), in the middle of the tribulation (midtribulationism), and the view that seems to be supported by this text, that the rapture takes place before the tribulation (pretribulationism)" (P. 93).

This text is a very weak support indeed for the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture. MacArthur says that "the test is still for the future." We would ask him why? The fact that it was still future when Revelation was written does not mean that it is still future today. History tells us there were several major persecutions in the Roman empire up to the fourth century. MacArthur says that it will be worldwide in scope, but this does not necessarily follow. There are two words in Scripture translated 'world' in our Bibles. The first and more common is Kosmos (as in John 3.16). The second is 'Oikoumene'. This second word often has the meaning of the known world, and in two places it is used, as it is here, with 'Holos' (whole) to refer to the whole Roman Empire. In Luke 2.1 we read that "There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." The same word, 'Oikoumene' is used in this text as is used in Revelation 3.10. In Acts 11.28 we read of a famine that was to affect 'the whole world'. Once again the phrase here is best understood as referring to the Roman Empire. Indeed, eventually, in post-Biblical times oikomene became a technical term FOR the Roman Empire, thus the patriarch of Constantinople is called the Ecumenical Patriarch today because he is the patriarch of the imperial city.

Just as it meant the whole Roman Empire in Luke 2 and Acts 11, the phrase 'whole world' could hold the same meaning here, and indeed that is the most likely understanding of the text in its context as referring to a local first century Church in the Roman Empire.
So the natural reading of this text is that it refers to a local Church in Philadelphia that would be, by the grace of God, kept from the great persecutions in the Roman Empire. It does NOT refer to their being kept from an event that was still in the far future when Revelation was written, an event that would not affect them because, as Dr. MacArthur correctly tells us, the Church of Philadelphia ceased to exist in the fourteenth century! To refer this to the rapture is forced and unnecessary. This being the case, Dr. MacArthur's key passage to support a pre-tribulational rapture in fact does nothing of the sort!

God willing, next time we shall continue with this review.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 1.

Our views on eschatology are well known enough for readers to know that we are unikely to agree with Dr. John MacArthur. Nevertheless, we read this book expecting to find the strongest possible case made for Dr. MacArthur's own particular brand of Dispensationalism. We appreciate the fact that Dr. MacArthur avoids most of the extravanancies of older Dispensational writers. He understands the seven Churches to be seven literal Churches in Asia Minor, not symbols of seven sub-sets of the Church Age (we have remarked that some of the older Dispensationalists manage the remarkable feat of interpreting the most obviously literal part of the Revelation symbolically, and the most symbolic part of the Revelation literally!). We are aware that presently Dispensationalism is a theology in transition, as it attempts to correct the eccentricities of J. N. Darby and his followers, and we applaud those who seek to do this.
We are afraid that we found this the weakest of Dr. MacArthur's books that we have read. We applaud his work in the conflict against the antinomian so-called 'Free Grace' movement, and we find his writings on the state of the Church today timely and rewarding. 'Because the Time is Near' shows plainly that it comes out of theology in transition - some of the arguments are, like the earth, hung upon nothing because the original basis, being in bad exegesis, has thankfully been given up.
John MacArthur is always a joy to read, and we were hooked by this book. It is well written and easy to understand without oversimplifying.

HOWEVER, Dr. MacArthur at several points appears to mistake the meaning of the word 'Near'. We have always felt it to be one of the strongest arguments the Preterists have. They hold out for an early date for Revelation and insist that the time was indeed near in the first century. On Pages 12 and 13 Dr. MacArthur chides the Preterists for holding a position that "Views Rervelation not as future prophecy, but as a historical record of events in the first-century Roman Empire. The Preterist view ignores the book's own claim to be a prophecy." We beg your pardon, Dr. MacArthur, but it does not, for the preterist agrees that it was a prophecy when it was written, as Isaiah 53 was a prophecy when it was writtten. Now, if the Preterist's dating of Revelation is wrong and the traditional dating correct, THEN the Preterist must be wrong, but it is unfair to claim that he does not hold Revelation to be prophetic.
The Idealist interpretation of Revelation is accused of reducing the book to "a collection of myths designed to convey spiritual truth." Again, we would beg to differ. We see the book of Revelation rather as a series of symbolic visions conveying information about the time between the giving of the visions and Our Lord's Second Advent. We base this upon the Greek of Revelation 1.1, where we are told that Christ 'signified' (AV) the things which must soon take place to John. The Greek means to communicate by signs, as the best commentators have noted.

Now, it is a primary principle of Biblical interpretation that the reader of the Scriptures must always have in mind to whom what he is reading was addressed. Even the so-called Catholic Epistles were written to believers in specific situations. So the Revelation was not primarily written to us now in the 21st century, but to first-century Christians living in Asia Minor. Therefore the book has revelance to them, not just to a group of Christians living in the end times. It is profitable to us now just as it was profitable to them then. Profitable for doctrine, for instruction in righteousness, NOT for the writing of adventure novels, works of imaginative speculation, or for prophetic conferences!

God willing, next time we shall continue this review

Updated note: The wannabe cult-leader calling himself 'Secret Rapture' is warned not to post here again. Any future versions of his bizarre post advertising his insane ramblings will be deleted and will result in his being banned.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Christopher Hitchens Doesn't understand the Atonement

It is our contention that atheists have no right to attempt to critique Christian theology. They are stuck, as it were, at the door. Denying the first principle, they then necessarily get everything else wrong. This section of Christopher Hitchens is an example of this at its worst.

"The idea of a vicarious atonement, of the sort that so much troubled even C.S. Lewis, is a further refinement of the ancient superstition [of atoning sacrifice]. Once again we have a father demonstrating love by subjecting a son to death by torture, but this time the father is not trying to impress god. He is god, and he is trying to impress humans."

And what Hitchens is ACTUALLY criticising here is not the doctrine of vicarious or substitutionary atonement, it is the MORAL INFLUENCE theory of Abelard and the liberals. It has itself been roudly criticised by the Reformed. Thomas Jackson Crawford said this in the 1870s:

Suppose - if it be possible to suppose anything so unnatural - that an earthly king should seek to conciliate his disaffected subjects by taking his beloved son, and depriving him of life before them, for no other reason than the avowed purpose of assuring the rebel multitude that his heart is full of clemency and kindness towards them - how would they be affected by such a spectacle? Can we imagine that it would have the intended effect? Even if the child were ever so willing a victim - cheerfully placing his life at his father's disposal - we cannot concieve that the taking away of that life, if no public benefit otherwise unattainable directly issued from the sacrifice, could, as an alleged proof of love towards the rebels, have the slightest tendency to bring them back to their allegiance. Rather we might suppose it to have a tendency to confirm them in their alienationfrom a sovereign whose treatment of his own son was as far as possible from being indicative of a kindly and conciliatory disposition towards his subjects. In like manner I am utterly at a loss to see how the humiliation and sufferings of the Son of God should be held to manifest or commend His Father's love to us, if they were not the procuring cause of our deliverance from forfeitures and penalties which could not otherwise have been averted."

"Ask yourself the question: how moral is the following? I am told of a human sacrifice that took place two thousand years ago, without my wishing it and in circumstances so ghastly that, had I been present and in possession of any influence, I would have been duty-bound to try and stop it. In consequence of this murder, my own manifold sins are forgiven me, and I may hope to enjoy everlasting life."

No mention, of course, of substitution. We quite agree (so does Crawford) that the so-called moral influence theory is not moral. If ALL the cross is is a demonstration of God's love, then Hitchens is right. If, however, it is a demonstration of the love of God BECAUSE it is Christ willingly taking the punishment that I deserve for my sins and suffering IN MY PLACE, then Hitchens' objection is shorn of all its force. This is why atheists should not do theology - they invariably mangle it. The Moral Influence theory is NOT vicarious atonement, it is a substitute for it. James Denney said:

"There is something irrational in saying that the death of Christ is a great proof of love to the sinful, unless there is shown at the same time a rational connection between that death and the responsibilities which sin involves, and the responsibilities which sin involves, and from which that death delivers. Perhaps one should beg pardon for using so simple an illustration, but the point is a vital one, and it is necessary to be clear. If I were sitting on the end of a pier, on a summer day, enjoying the sunshine and the air, and some one came along and jumped into the water and got drowned 'to prove his love for me,' I should find it quite unintelligible. I might be much in need of love, but an act in no rational relation to any of my necessities could not prove it. But if I had fallen over the pier and were drowning, and some one sprang into the water, and at the cost of making my peril, or what but for him would be my fate, his own, saved me from death, then I should say, 'Greater love hath no man than this.' I should say it intelligibly, because there would be an intellibible relation between the sacrifice which love made and the necessity from which it redeemed."

Were further proof needed that Mr. Hitchens does not know what he is talking about, we should read the succeeding paragraph:

"Let us just for now overlook all the contradictions between the tellers of the original story and assume that it is basically true. What are the further implications? They are not as reassuring as they look at first sight. For a start, and in order to gain the benefit of this wondrous offer, I have to accept that I am responsible for the flogging and mocking and crucifixion, in which I had no say and no part, and agree that every time I decline this responsibility, or that I sin in word or deed, I am intensifying the agony of it."

Only if you hold to a crassly commercial view of Christ's sufferings as being in direct proportion to the number of sins of those for whom he suffered, something no Christian we are aware of has ever taught."

"Furthermore, I am required to believe that the agony was necessary in order to compensate for an earlier crime in which I had no part, the sin of Adam. It is useless to object that Adam seems to have been created with insatiable discontent and curiosity and then forbidden to slake it: all this was settled long before even Jesus himself was born. Thus my own guilt in the matter is deemed “original” and inescapable."

No mention, note, of his owen sin. And how could there be? As to what an atheist scoffer thinks 'seems' to be the case,
Blind unbelief is bound to err
And scan His works in vain.
Yes, and His WORDS as well.

"However, I am granted free will with which to reject the offer of vicarious redemption. Should I exercise this choice, however, I face an eternity of torture much more awful than anything endured at Calvary, or anything threatened to those who first heard the Ten Commandments."

First of all, we cannot tell what Our Lord suffered spiritually at Calvary. Note that Hitchens has no idea of sin as demanding punishment. How could he? He's an atheist and does not believe in God. He does not believe in a creator, therefore to his twisted system, any 'god' is an intruder into a universe that does not need Him, not the sovereign ruler of the skies, the maker of all things and the judge of all men. And UNTIL Hitchens sees this, the cross will remain 'foolishness' to him.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Results of Eschatology quiz

You scored as Amillenialist, Amillenialism believes that the 1000 year reign is not literal but figurative, and that Christ began to reign at his ascension. People take some prophetic scripture far too literally in your view.







Moltmannian Eschatology






Left Behind


What's your eschatology?
created with

On balance, we are quite satisfied with this. It points to a rather optimistic amillenialist position, and Jurgen Moltmann is hardly the sort of bloke we want to agree with more than 65%! Having just read Dr. MacArthur's new book 'Because the Time is Near' (a book we believe to be the weakest Dr. MacArthur has ever written), we are painfully aware of the difficulties of the Dispensational position. Unlike Dr. MacArthur, the quiz did not assume Dispensationalism and Premillenialism to be identical, a point for which we are glad.

We may write our thoughts on Dr. MacArthur's book here at some later date.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lies Arminians tell. 1. 'Calvinism makes God a Respecter of Persons'

We begin a series with a startling title. Our aim is to deal with a few Arminian misrepresentations of Calvinism. First we shall deal with one that is a great favourite:

"Calvinism makes God a Respecter of Persons."

How many times have you heard this? More times than you care to remember, we suspect, if you're a Calvinist! It has been an Arminian favourite for centuries and is still used today by free-willers who refuse the title of the Dutch theologian. I am sure that Arminius would agree with their refusing the name, however - he was a theologian, after all!!!

And yet the answer to this objection is that the Arminian has things completely backwards! HE makes God a respecter of persons!

The Biblical basis is Acts 10.34, in which Peter confesses that "God is no respecter of persons". The Arminian then ASSUMES that unconditional election equals respect of persons (because someone told him it does), and armed with this text he faces the Calvinist.
The well-read and Biblically literate Calvinist (we know some who are not, alas), will instantly turn up James chapter 2, "My brethren, have not the faith of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, with respect of persons..."
How was James afraid these Christians would have 'respect of persons'? By treating a rich man differently from a poor man! In other words, to have respect of persons is to treat one man differently from another because of something in the two men - in the case of James' example, wealth. The heading in our Cruden explains 'respect of persons' as "Favour or partiality toward the rich or powerful".
Now the Free-willer says that God saves those whom he sees will exercise faith. So, the Calvinist presses home his argument, in fact because YOU say that God saves some men because they believe and damns others because they do not, have YOU not made God a respecter of persons? While WE say that God UNCONDITIONALLY chooses sinners out of 'the one lump' of corrupt and sinful humanity, purely by His own will. So that we can say, Biblically, that God is no respecter of persons, and does not save based on what we do. The Free-willer, with his conditional election, is revealed to be the one who makes God a respecter of persons.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Neonomianism, Huntington and the Church today

We have just finished reading George Ella's excellent biography of William Huntington (Evangelical Press, 1994, still in print). Huntington was a remarkable man, a one-time coalheaver and day labourer who became one of the best known ministers of his day. Born illegitimately as the result of his mother's adultery, Huntington had perhaps the worst start in life possible. He fell into terrible sin before his conversion, and for years afterwards his whole life was a struggle to keep alive.
William Huntington would have been the first man to say that he was a sinner and imperfect. Unlike John Wesley (who interestingly never claimed perfection himself), Huntington was no perfectionist. Nor was he, as has often been claimed, an antinomian, although he was often called that.

The word 'antinomian' is a difficult one. With the exception of doctrinal legalists and Judaizers, all Christians must be in some sense 'antinomian', since the word simply means 'against law'. The true Christian is opposed to the law as a method of Justification, and in that sense might be called an antinomian. John Wesley treated 'antinomian' as synonymous with 'Calvinist' in his writings. Generally, however, the word has been used to describe a teaching that makes light of sin and declares that a man may live in sin and still be a real Christian (so we hold the 'non-lordship' teaching to be antinomian). William Huntington did no such thing. He insisted that someoned who claims to be a Christian ought to live a godly life. Indeed, when accused of saying that a Christian could live as he pleased he replied that he wished he could - because then he would not sin!
So why was Huntington accused of antinomianism? Part of the answer Ella gives is that many of his accusers held, consciously or unconsciously, to a form of Neonomianism. This is the teaching popularised by Richard Baxter (he was a great pastor, but some of his theology is rather odd) that Christ died partly to secure a new law (hence neonomian, fron the Greek) under which the Christian was. This new law was less strict than the law of Moses, and could therefore be kept. Huntington could not find this teaching in the Bible, and therefore taught that the law convicted of sin, could not be kept by sinful man, and that salvation was only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Neonomianism, on the other hand, tended to preach a universal atonement to sinners and a truncated law to Christians. While Huntington preached the law as condemning sinners, the neonomians preached it to Christians.

Is this not a danger today? When services are full of lifestyle advice, how to live a better life, and the Gospel is treated as something for unbelievers. Is not this 'neonomianism lite'? We have evangelicals today who think that the death of Christ is only to be preached to those outside the Church. Inside the Church preaching is on morality. Worse, this neonomianism encourages Christians to believe that they have overcome their problems with sin. And then they are off guard and fall into it. William Huntington understood that the warfare with indwelling sin continues as long as there is life.

Huntington did not just preach the law to condemn sinners. He understood that the natural man hates God's law. He liked to use the example of David and Judas. Conviction of sin led David to repent, it led Judas to kill himself. Only the Gospel, presented to the heart by the Holy Spirit, saves. Those who come to Christ come because the Father draws them.
We need that sort of preaching today. Let the neonomians preach their watered-down law, 'But we preach Christ crucified.'

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Hint on Bible Reading

"This epistle [to the Philippians], like all the other epistles in the New Testament, was written to believers in Christ; it was not addressed to the world at large, to the masses of the human race, to unbelieving Jew or unbelieving Gentile, but was specially addressed to saints and servants of the living God... No truth can be more simple than this; but how grossly it has been overlooked or perverted by applying to the world at large the doctrines and declarations, the promises and precepts, which are the peculiar inheritance of the believing Church of God. When, then, we read this epistle from this point of view, and see how all the promises and all the precepts, all the unstruction, reproof, or admonition contained in it belong exclusively to the church of Christ, then we at once percieve how every word falls into its place. To read the epistles otherwise is something like looking through the wrong end of a telescope; one seeing one's face in water with a ripple over the surface; or taking a view of our features in a broken mirror, or one which represents them upside down. In a similar way, if we read the Epistles as if they were written to all the world, all is distorted; we fall into the grossest mistakes, and completely misuderstand the meaning of the Spirit."

- J.C. Philpot, 'The Gospel Pulpit' Vol. III, Pp. 467-8. From a sermon entitled 'The Abounding of Love in Knowledge and Experience' (No. 68 in the Gospel Pulpit series) Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, on October 11 1863. Our illustration is North Street Chapel today.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Organising a Library

Following Tim Challies' post on this subject, we intended to post a comment on the question at his blog. However, our browser refused to co-operate, so it ended up here.

We have several categories. First. Baptist Books, organised by location, date and denomination (For example William Gadsby's Sermons would be in England, 19th century, Gospel Standard)Particular and General Baptists are placed separately (we would not like the put J.C. Philpot with Dr. John Clifford). C.H. Spurgeon has a separate section all his own, with about a dozen biographies and biographical studies. Also included with C.H. Spurgeon are his wife (obviously) and his son and successor at the Tabernacle, Thomas Spurgeon. John Gill, with his commentary, Body of Divinity and other writings also warrants his own section.
Scottish Church history and therology. Organised by date and denomination (usually the denomination a man was most identified with. For example a Disruption minister will be under Free Church, even if he spent most of his career in the undivided pre-Disruption Church of Scotland). The Cunningham Lectures exist in a separate section. We find that the early Cunningham Lectures are often the best books available on their subjects, and it is helpful to have these doctrinal works together in one place. The writings of Theologians such as William Cunningham, James Denney, Thomas Halyburton and Principal Rainy are located together within the sections in which they belong.
Irish Church history is a related but separate section. It includes books on the 1859 revival and is dominated by Irish Presbyterianism. There is also a separate Welsh section, including the various Welsh Revivals and of course Christmas Evans.
General Church History begins with books that deal with, well, general Church history, then the Church Fathers, organised by date, and a few books on the Medieval Church The Reformation comes next, organised by date and location (Hus and Wycliffe come first, of course). Calvin and Luther have separate sections for their writings and biography.
The Puritans come next, headed up by John Owen's writings, including the commentary on Hebrews. Included in this section are histories and biographies of individual Puritans.
Then comes the Eighteenth Century. Although many of the books are histories, there are also the works of such greats as William Huntington, John Newton, Augustus Toplady and William Romaine. Wesleyan Methodism, from the 18th century to the present, is in an entirely separate section, so the 18th century section is almost entirely Calvinistic.
The 19th century in England is more sparsely represented in terms of biography, although there are a few good works dealing with men like Thomas Binney. The 20th century is represented by a number of Evangelical biographies, and Lloyd-Jones has a section of his own. Anglicanism, like Methodism, has a separate section.

Then there is American Church History, broadly divided between Northern and Southern theologians, with Princeton as a subset of the Northern theologians. The writings of the Princeton Theologians are located in their own section, dominated by Warfield.
Next come Commentaries, arranged in order of the books of the Bible, with Matthew Henry in his own section with his biography and other writings.
Apologetics comes next, arranged by topic. Creationism, the Roman Catholic Controversy, Modernism, Postmodernism, Cults and other Religions, etc. Within this section Cornelius Van Til and James White have their own sub-sections.

Certain writers have their own sections, such as J.C. Ryle, John Eadie and J.I. Packer. Systematic Theologies and works on Creeds and Confessions (with special emphasis on the Reformed Confessions) are located together, and there is a whole section of hymnbooks, most of which have actually been used in churches.
Then there are a number of other sections arraged by subject, mostly doctrinal. Books on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit are all together, as are books on eschatology and a number of other doctrines.

There is certainly a simpler way of arranging books, but this has one great advantage: most of the books on a given subject will be close to one another. Some of this order has, however, been sacrificed to the more practical consideration of shelf-space. Two thousand volumes takes up a lot of space!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why 'Particular'?

'Particular' is another word that sounds strange to the modern ear. What does it mean to see a Church called 'Particular Baptist'? Does it mean fussy? Or does it mean 'peculiar', as some have put it? No, it means neither of those things. Simply put, it refers to doctrine. The word has its origins in the great controvery over the Doctrines of Grace - also known as Calvinism. 'Particular Baptist' as a title points to the distinction that existed in English Baptist circles from the 17th century onwards. On the one hand there were the 'General Baptists', with Anabaptist links, who believed in a 'general' redemption, that Christ had died for all men in general, and then there were the 'Particular Baptists', who held that Christ had died only for the Elect in Particular.
The Particular Baptists arose from Puritanism. They are a development of the spirit of Biblical inquiry that led to the early Puritans abandoning the hierarchical structure of the Church of England for the parity of ministers, then to the Congregationalists recognising that each Christian congregation is sufficient in itself for government. But although the Particular Baptists modified their doctrine of the Church, they never abandoned the great doctrines of the Reformation concerning salvation by grace.
In short, then, 'Particular' means Reformed or Calvinistic in modern language. Particular Baptists have avoided the term 'Calvinistic' as giving the false impression that we follow a man. We care nothing for any man except insofar as he teaches the Word of God. Some General Baptist writers have indeed twitted us with the fact that Calvin taught infant Baptism. We would reply that Arminius did the same.
'Particular' points to the great divide, the question 'for whom did Christ die?' We answer 'for His own people whom the Father had given Him'. The General Baptist replies that he thinks Christ died for many people who will never be saved. In fact (though he will not admit it), he thinks Christ died for millions who were already in Hell when He died. According to the General Baptist, Christ's death is insufficient to save many, probably most, of those for whom He died.
It is no accident, then, that General Baptists have usually abandoned the doctrione of Substitution, preferring a 'Rectoral' or 'Governmental' view of the Atonement. Only the one who believes in Particular Redemption can consistently believe that Christ died in the place of anyone at all.
We shall develop this argument in future posts, God willing. At the moment our main concern is to state what the word 'Paticular' means in 'Strict and Particular'.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Favourite Hymn

This is probably my favourite hymn. I like the way it sets out the Gospel so clearly in such a small compass. We open with the glory of God's holiness, then the dilemma of my own sinfulness. God is great and holy, I am a sinner. Surely I cannot approach this God? I am lost, undone in myself.
Then comes hope. Not because of something I can do, but because of God's gracious provision of Christ dying in the place of sinners, 'an offering and a sacrifice'. So we MAY have fellowship with God "Through the Eternal Love".

It was written by Thomas Binney, a famous preacher who was pastor of the King's Weigh House Congregational Church in London from 1829-69.

Eternal Light! eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live, and look on Thee!

The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.

O how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my naked spirit bear
That uncreated beam?

There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode:
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
An Advocate with God.

These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above;
The sons of ignorance and night,
May dwell in the eternal Light,
Through the eternal Love.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Experimental Christianity. 1. A Bibliography

'Experimental Christianity' is nothing more or less than the study of Christian experience. Of course it first presupposes that there is such a thing as Christian experience. The Christian who is one in name only has no experience because his faith is a mere notion, not a real movement of the heart. It is a work of man, not of God. Joseph Hart wrote:

Vain is all our best devotion,
If on false foundations built;
True religion's more than notion;
Something must be known and felt.
(Hymn 237 in Gadsby's, first part)

It is for this reason that we write this article, being fully persuaded that the Bible teaches that true Christians have an experience. Not a stereotyped experience, as some suppose, for God leads each of us by a particular way. In the 107th Psalm we read of the experiences of "the redeemed of the LORD." The Psalm opens, "O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." (verses 1, 2). We read then of the experiences of the redeemed of the LORD, first (verses 4-7) we read of those who were wanderers in the wilderness, then in verses 10-14 we read of those who sat in darkness. In verses 17 to 20 we read of those who were in afflictions, near to death. In verses 23 to 30 we read of those that go down to the sea in ships. Plainly it would be foolish for those who wandered in the wilderness to find fault with the experience of those who went down to the sea in ships simply because they did not wander in the wilderness. Christian experience is diverse, and one man's experienc e is unlike another man's. Yet all true Christians join in the refrain of the Psalm, "Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men." Yes, the wanderer in the desert must say to the man who went down to the sea, 'your experience is not mine', but he glorifies God in the experience of the other as he does in his own.

But I promised a bibliography of experimental Christianity. Frankly it might include every good Christian biography, and especially Christian autobiography, that was ever published. This is not exhaustive. It is not even comprehensive.

1. The Bible. The Bible is full of Christian experience. The historical books, Job, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, the Prophets... but to go on would just be to summarize the Bible's contents.

2. Good hymn-books. Throw out all the liberal hymnals, ignore those that are full of Keswick 'Victorious Christian Life' teaching or Victorian sentimentalism. They are worthless. No, take something like 'Christian Hymns' if you want a modern book. Or better still, go back earlier. Get Gadsby's Selection. It is published by Gospel Standard Publications, and a hardcover is very reasonably priced. You will find in it about 1150 hymns brimming over, not with turgid sentimentalism or cant phrases, but real Christian experience. You will find hymns forged in the crucible of suffering. Hymns by the invalid Isaac Watts, by the converted unbeliever turned suffering pastor Joseph Hart, by Cowper, who almost lost his mind, by the suffering invalid Augustus Toplady. Hymns you will be afraid to read because they are so full of true Christianity. Hymns for miserable Christians, for trials, for tempations.

3. Christian biography. Again, not the little digests of a person's life that tell you where they were at such-and-such a time, but those that are full of letters, of diaries, of the men or women themselves. Get autobiographies of men tried in all manner of afflictions. Samuel Rutherford. Robert Murray M'Cheyne. Books like John Warburton's 'The Mercies of a Covenant God'. It tells the story of a man who suffered in body and soul, a man God brought through trials and afflections that would have killed most modern Western believers. Think of it, having to live and work in a damp cellar because you cannot afford anything else, and not really being able to afford the cellar either. No welfare system, a young family (and a large one), and no apparent way to live. That was Warburton's experience, and God brough him through it all. "Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men."
Or John Bunyan's 'Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners'. Or Thomas Boston's 'Memoirs'. And we would mention in this connection the 'Bank of Faith' and 'Kingdom of God taken by prayer' of William Huntington, 'the Coalheaver'. Huntington was also brought through great suffering and God caused him to tell of it so that "men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men."

4. Other books. Again, these are legion. Samuel Rutherford's 'Letters' is chief among them. "Hold off the Bible, such a book... the world never saw," Richard Baxter said. "For the last two hundred years have these powerful letters been as goads to stir up living souls to tgake the Kingdom of heavedn by violence," J. C. Philpot wrote in the 19th century. We could increase our commendations of the book by the thousands, but we will let John Wesley sum them all up: "Generally admired by all the children of God."
The Puritans knew true religion, and their works are full of experimental Christianity. Thomas Goodwin's works drip with it, for example.
Good sermons by godly men of the past will teach a lot about Christian experience. Spurgeon is full of it. So is Lloyd-Jones in his own way. J.C. Philpot, William Gadsby, John Kershaw, J.K. Popham and other Strict Baptist preachers overflow with Christian experience. Philpot's sermons on 'The Heir of Heaven Walking in Darkness', and 'Winter Afore Harvest' are particularly noted in this respect.

We do not know when we shall write on this subject again, but if the Lord will, we shall.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nelson Price does not know what Calvinists believe concerning perseverence

The following is a complete refutation of a passage in the review article : 'A Review of Calvinism and Southern Baptists' by Nelson Price

In this article Nelson Price makes the following remarks:


Southern Baptists are in general agreement on the concept of the security of the believer known as “once saved always saved” or preservation of the saints.

There is a slight semantic difference in what Calvinists believe on this topic. They believe in the perseverance of the saints.

(The following two paragraphs are a sidebar to the book review.)

Put side by side the difference becomes clear.

Preservation of the saints Perseverance of the saints
God does it Man does it
It is based on God’s promises It is based on man’s performance
It is absolute It is relative

Contrary to the concept of “it is all about grace” this last point actually means the Calvinists position on the subject is works based. This leaves some Calvinists hoping they have done enough good work. Baptist know for sure God has done a perfect work."

Nothing could be further from the truth than this disingenuous statement. The Calvinist does NOT believe that his salvation is conditional on his works. Let us see what official Calvinist documents have to say on the matter. We shall also look at two high Calvinists who no-one will accuse of Arminian tendencies.

First of all, let us see what the Westminster Confession, a document Dr. Price elsewhere regards as authoritative on the definition of Calvinistic belief, has to say:
"II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof" (article 17, identical to chapter 17 of the 1689 Baptist Confession)

The Synod of Dort, generally regarded as THE standard of Calvinism, reads: "Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end." (Fifth main Point of Doctrine, article 3) Article 8 says: "So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God's undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out." The synod condemns those, "Who teach that God does provide the believer with sufficient strength to persevere and is ready to preserve this strength in him if he performs his duty, but that even with all those things in place which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God is pleased to use to preserve faith, it still always depends on the choice of man's will whether or not he perseveres." (second error rejected under the fifth head of doctrine)

Article 11 of the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833 reads: "We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare;60 and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

Article 4 of the Sandy Creek Association reads: "We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ's righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost."

The First London Baptist Confession of 1644 reads: "Those that have this precious faith wrought in them by the Spirit, can never finally nor totally fall away; and though many storms and floods do arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon, but shall be kept by the power of God to salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being formerly engraven upon the palms of God's hands." (Article 22)

William Huntington, a rather eccentric preacher accused by some of hyper-Calvinism, wrote in his personal Confession in 1745: "I believe, that wherever the Spirit of God begins a work of grace, the carries it on. What God doth, it is done for ever, all his work is perfect; the Spirit is a well of living water in the believer, that springs up into everlasting life; the Comforter abides for ever, he shall never depart from the chosen seed, world without end."

William Gadsby, in his Catechism, writes of believers: "they shall never perish; but, in spite of sin, Satan, the world and the flesh, shall have everlasting life; for their life is hid with Christ in God, and because He lives, they shall live also." (answer to Question 92)

Dr. John Gill, in his reply to John Wesley (who DID believe that our continuance in gace is conditional on our works) writes: "Blessed be God, we have a better foundation for joy and comfort than all this; the true believer, though he lives by faith, does not live upon it... a believer lives not on his faith, but upon Christ, and the grace of Christ, faith brings nigh unto him. He has better things than uncertain precarious frames to live upon and recieve his comforts from; even the unchangable love of God; the unalterable covenant of grace; the faithfulness of God, who, though 'we believe not, yet He abideth faithful' (II Timothy 2.13); absolute and unconditional promises; Jesus Christ, the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever; His precious blood, perfect righteousness, atoning sacrifice, and that fulness of grace which is in Him.
"To conclude: if a man may be confident of one thing in this world, he may be 'confident of this very thing', that in whomsoever, whether in himself or in any other, God 'hath begun a good work,' he 'will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ' (Phil 1.9); and that 'all' the true 'Israel' of God 'shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation' (Isa 45.17); and that not one of them shall eternally perish." ('Sermons and Tracts by the late Reverend and Learned John Gill, D.D.' (London, H. Lyon, 1815) Pp. 99-100).
The Carter Lane Declaration of Faith and Practice, drawn up by Dr. Gill, says: "We believe, That all those who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly persevere, so that not one of them shall ever perish but shall have everlasting life." (article 9. Found On. P. 560 of the volume just referred to
If any Baptist may be said to have been a Calvinist, it is John Gill. In fact, Gill has been accused of being hyper-Calvinist. Yet Gill reprobated the very belief Price attributes to Calvinists as Arminian.

We see, then, that nine witnesses (and we could call dozens more) contradict Dr. Price. Seven of these are official statements of dorctine admitted by churches and two very high Calvinists. So why is Dr. Price so wrong? I can only assume that Dr. Price has not researched what Calvinists actually believe on this matter, but has accepted on second hand a bad criticism of the Calvinistic position. What Dr. Price has done is perpetuated a straw man. He has taken the word 'perseverence' and given it, not the meaning that Calvinists give it, but a definition devised by an unscrupulous anti-Calvinist in the past. This is a mean-spirited and just plain nasty way of dealing with someone you disagree with, and I am sorry that Dr. Price has been taken in by the word-games of the spiteful man who came up with this piece of nastiness. His criticism strikes at the Arminians, but it totally misses every Calvinist who ever lived.

I have already written to Dr. Price to make him aware of my concerns, and I have asked him to amend the article accordingly. If he does not do so, it evidences a refusal to be taught.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tolerance and that sort of stuff

What is 'tolerance'? It used to mean putting up with what you did not like. I 'tolerate' the neighbour's irritating outside telephone buzzer, for example. But a new meaning has been introduced by 'postmodern' types. Now 'tolerance' means accepting evyone as equally valid. And there's a catch. According to this new definition of tolerance, such 'tolerance' is only to be extended to the 'tolerant'. Eveyone else is 'intolerant' and therefore not worthy of tolerance.
A clever wheeze, this. It's a classic case of newspeak (for which see George Orwell's 1984). Just as in 1984 the Ministry of Peace dealt with war, so this 'tolerance' is really intolerance given a new name. The old concept meant that, as Christians, we allowed other religions to exist, though we disagreed with them and sought to evangelize their adherents who are going to hell. In new-style 'tolerance' that is 'intolerant'. No, the 'tolerant' thing to do is say they are all going to heaven. And that is why so many Churches have stopped talking about the Wrath of God, about Hell and judgement. Well, not on my watch. If that's 'intolerant', then I'm intolerant. But I'm not looking to persecute anyone. Some of my forefathers were refugees who fled to England because of religious persecution in France. Others were Primitive Methodists who were stoned and assaulted in the streets because they were not Church of England. THERE is real religious intolerance.

And finally, those Catholics who chased my forefathers out of France, those self-righteous Churchmen who wrecked the chapel where my Primitive Methodist ancestors worshipped, they tolerated those who agreed with them. There's nothing surprising about that. Any man can love a man who agrees with him. It's loving your enemies that is Christian.