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!