Tuesday, October 23, 2007
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
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
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
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 Amazon.co.uk. We obtained our copy direct from Grace to You's mailing list, which usually sends out very worthwhile products.)
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
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
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.