Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Logical, Biblical, Theological, and Historical Problems with "Reformed" Libertarianism

“At this point we have an illustration of the utter falsity of the popular notion that philosophy has no practical effect upon the lives of the people, that it does not make any difference what a man believes in the sphere of ultimate reality.  For the whole tendency that we are fighting today has underlying it a definite theory.  Ultimately underlying it, I suppose, is the theory of the behaviorists—that . . . poetry and art and moral responsibility and freedom are delusions that mechanism rules all.  It is a mistake we are told to blame the criminal . . .”  --J. Gresham Machen

“That this country needs to replenish its moral resources seems too obvious to need saying, but so few people seem to care that it cannot be said enough.”  Dr. Gordon H. Clark

9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:9-12 KJV)

Logical, Biblical, Theological, and Historical Problems with “Reformed” Libertarianism
Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

In light of my many disagreements with certain self-avowed proponents of the apologetics of the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark I am compelled to write a response to the oxymoronic term "Reformed" libertarian.  It is my opinion that the term Reformed libertarian as defined by the advocates of that political philosophy misrepresent the actual positions of the late Dr. J. Gresham Machen and Dr. Gordon H. Clark by revisionist readings of what both of these men said and that such revisions are out of the historical context, cultural context, and the body of work of both men.  Moreover, libertarianism as a whole leaves out God and seeks only to emphasize individual freedom at the expense of the moral law of God.  The real issue is that the Bible does not emphasize libertarian free will at all and by implication the Bible does not emphasize libertarian political philosophy either.  Even more importantly, the Bible does not just deal with individual accountability but also corporate and governmental accountability.  Nations, denominations, and churches as well as individuals come under God’s judgment many times over in Holy Scripture.  (Revelation 19:15; Psalm 110:6; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Psalm 2:8; Daniel 7:14; Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 13:1-4).

Ironically, the page that defines Reformed libertarianism places a quote from the late Dr. John Robbins at the top of the page and then proceeds to contradict the quote in the body of the definition below the quote:

[One] misconception is that the Ten Commandments… apply only to private individuals and not to governments. This notion, which has absolutely no foundation in Scripture, illustrates how far we have gone toward deifying government, for it is attributing divine qualities to rulers to say that they in their official (or private) capacities are exempt from the law. –John Robbins  (What Is Reformed Libertarianism?)

The great error of so-called “Reformed” Libertarianism is that it teaches a form of antinomianism disguised by a false proposition of Christian liberty.  My first objection is that the Decalogue or Ten Commandments does not teach only justice on the human level.  That is, the Decalogue teaches two tables of the moral law, not just one table of the moral law.  The first four commandments relate to how man is to relate to God his Creator.  The definition given in the post on Reformed libertarianism only mentions doing no harm to other individuals and completely neglects the effects of individual sins and individual crimes on society as a whole.  When individual liberty emphasizes the right to commit sins without any legal ramification from the judicial law appointed in a nation the result is the undermining of Christianity and Christian liberty and in fact results in secular humanism and a totalitarian regime.  This is the point of limited government argued by J. Gresham Machen and Gordon H. Clark.  Neither of these men supported pornography or gambling, although it is true that Machen disagreed with the prohibition of alcohol laws.  But it does not follow that Machen would have agreed with making vices like gambling, prostitution, and pornography legal.  It seems strange to me that so-called Christians of any kind would agree with enslaving women in the sex trade, pornography, and other forms of degradation of the image of God.

It is true that theonomists have accused everyone who does not agree with them of being antinomian.  Perhaps this is a bit of an overstatement and the theonomist/reconstructionist movement has had its own problems—due more to the irrationalism of Cornelius Van Til, accommodation to culture, cobelligerence with Rome, common grace, conflating judicial and moral law, and a tendency to produce heresies like the Federal Vision than to the actual moral law itself.  But it seems that fake Clarkians have produced their share of heresies as well.  One Facebook “Clarkian” is now an advocate for hyper-preterism and denies the future bodily resurrection in the final judgment.  Another denies that the Westminster Confession of Faith calls for Christians to organize churches and denominations and to rightly administer the sacraments while rightly preaching the Gospel.  Add to this list the heresy of a political philosophy which endorses godless secularism, atheism, and moral relativism.  Any nation that does not uphold a Judeo-Christian worldview is asking for God’s judgment to fall upon it.  To be clear I am not a theonomist or a reconstructionist.  But I will say that both the Bible and the Westminster Standards uphold the moral law of God as the standard by which judicial laws will be judged and consequently so will the nations passing judicial legislation that promotes, subsidizes, and encourages the violation of God’s moral law—including both tables of the law.

J. Gresham Machen opposed the philosophy of relativism and in fact stated his objection to the immorality of the laws promoting sin, rebellion and crime in the following example:

“At this point we have an illustration of the utter falsity of the popular notion that philosophy has no practical effect upon the lives of the people, that it does not make any difference what a man believes in the sphere of ultimate reality.  For the whole tendency that we are fighting today has underlying it a definite theory.  Ultimately underlying it, I suppose, is the theory of the behaviorists—that the human race has at last found itself out, that it has succeeded in getting behind the scenes, that it has pulled off from human nature those tawdry trappings in which the actors formerly moved upon the human stage, that we have discovered that poetry and art and moral responsibility and freedom are delusions that mechanism rules all.  It is a mistake, we are told, to blame the criminal; the criminal is exactly what he is obliged to be, and good people are obliged to be exactly  what they are.  In other words, liberty is a delusion and human beings are just somewhat complicated machines.” 
[J. Gresham Machen.  3rd edition.  Education, Christianity, and the State.  (Trinity Foundation:  Unicoi, 2004).  Pp. 88-89.]

Machen’s opposition to the Department of Education was that the state would use such uniformity and conformity to institutionalize immorality and crime while using totalitarian laws to suppress Christianity:

Doctor Machen.  Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, there are two reasons why a man may be opposed to a bill which is introduced in Congress.  One reason is that he thinks that it will not accomplish its purpose.  The other reason is that he thinks that the purpose that it is intended to accomplish is an evil purpose.
For the latter reason that I am opposed to the bill which forms the subject of this hearing.  The purpose of the bill is made explicit in the revised form of it which has been offered by Senator Means, in which it is expressly said that the [proposed] Department of (public) Education—with the assistance of the advisory board to be created—shall attempt to develop a more uniform and efficient system of public common school education.  The Department of Education, according to that bill, is to promote uniformity in education.  That uniformity in education under central control, it seems to me, is the worst fate into which any country can fall.  That purpose I think is implicit also in the other form of the bill, and it is because that is the very purpose of the bill that I am opposed to it. 
[Ibid., J. Gresham Machen.  Pp. 99-100.]

In short, Machen is more concerned with freedom of thought in the education of the youth of the country rather than a government enforced uniformity of thought.  His remarks are prophetic in regards to the doctrine of common core and the Marxism now being taught in public schools, colleges and universities.  But this is because Machen favored classical education and the instruction in the classical languages like Greek, Latin, and Hebrew as well as learning foreign languages.  Another reason he gives for opposing public education is that there should be competition among schools rather than a socialistic emphasis on equality of outcomes.  For Machen idiosyncrasies are to be embraced rather than rejected. 

But this is a far cry from what libertarians want.  Their emphasis is moral relativism and anarchy in society with a false premise that what individuals do does no harm to society or to the community.  Is pornography really harmless to individuals or their families?  Does pornography lead to worse sins like prostitution?  And does not prostitution and pornography undermine the purpose of Christian marriage and the procreation which God commanded in the creation of Adam and Eve?  (Genesis 1:27; 2:18-25).  According to the article posted at the Reformed Libertarian site morality is optional when it comes to judicial laws so long as no harm is done to one’s neighbor.  But the article never defines what is considered harmful to one’s neighbor.  Is it harmful to your neighbor to allow laws that encourage and promote homosexuality, incest, bestiality, infanticide, and mutilation of the human body in order to change from one physical and biological sex to another and all subsidized by federal or state taxes?

Amazingly the political philosophy of the Reformed Libertarian not only opposes the teaching of Scripture but also the Westminster Standards.  The Scriptures clearly teach that nations are to obey God and the Westminster divines upheld the same principle or axiom because the Scriptures teach that axiom.  The  Reformed Libertarian has only one moral law:

The central proposition of our school of libertarian thought is this: “no person should violate the life and property of another human being unless that other human being has first violated the life and property of another,” and we define the libertarian as any person who assents to that proposition, and gives no exception to any individual, State, Congressional body, or corporation.  All are bound in the same way to this moral rule.

It is my contention that this axiom of Reformed libertarianism is not Reformed at all.  Instead it is a direct contradiction of both Scripture and the Westminster Confession.  The Confession clearly upholds the moral law of God as supreme over every nation and every person whether or not that person believes it or not.  That’s because Scripture leaves every nation and every person without excuse.  (Romans 1:18-32; Romans 3:1-23).  The WCF says:

CHAPTER XIX. Of the Law of God

GOD gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him, and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it.a

a.      Gen. 1:26,27; Gen. 2:17; Rom. 2:14,15; Rom. 10:5,12,19; Gal. 3:10,12; Eccl. 7:29; Job 28:28.

Westminster Assembly. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. Print.

It seems to me that the WCF says that all of Adam’s descendants are obligated to obey the moral law of God, expressed here as the covenant of works.  The law of God is written in man’s heart at creation and no one is excused by any claims to ignorance of said moral law.  (Romans 2:17).  Since nations are composed of individuals, the magistrates have a moral obligation to pass laws that uphold God’s moral law, including laws that allow for observation of the Christian Sabbath and laws that allow for religious freedom, not laws that suppress Christianity and promote immorality. 

CHAPTER XXIII.  Of the Civil Magistrate

III. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:e yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.f For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.g

Westminster Assembly. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. Print.

But the Reformed libertarian opposes the suppression of moral evil and says instead that evil should be tolerated and even encouraged by the government:

This serves to address the concern that, in allowing a variety of immoral deeds to go unpunished, we are in effect refusing to make it plain that these deeds are wrong. But in the same sense that most would agree that lying is both immoral yet should not be illegal, so there are many things which require “spiritual weaponry” and not the sword of the state. God will have his own vengeance in due time.  [What Is Reformed Libertarianism?]

The article also quotes a Baptist, Isaac Backus, who asks whether or not morality should be enforced by the sword?  But does not the Ten Commandments say that murder and thievery are immoral and are there not laws against murder and stealing?  If we follow Backus’s theory there should be no laws against anything.  But obviously Romans 13 contradicts Backus’s Anabaptist moral relativism in the civil realm.  Paul clearly says that the government can enforce morality.  And more to the point the Westminster divines thought that there was nothing wrong with having the civil magistrate enforce laws against immorality and even heresy.  If we say that the Westminster Confession teaches theonomy should we then reject what the Confession plainly says?  I think not.

Albeit it is next to impossible to overturn the Marxist laws in effect in the United States today unless God Himself should intervene, nevertheless the Christian has a moral obligation to participate in the legislative process so that Christianity will be promoted, not secular humanism, atheism, or Marxism.   The libertarian philosophy is anti-Christian and so are those who claim to be “Reformed” while opposing the Judeo-Christian worldview in the realm of civil government.

There are those who try to make the late Gordon H. Clark a moral relativist who opposed blue laws, laws against prostitution and pornography, etc.  I contend, however, that they are reading into Clark what is not there.  Clark was a teetoler and opposed the use of alcohol by seminarians but he was presumably in agreement with Machen on the issue of Prohibition.  The Bible nowhere says that social drinking is immoral in and of itself.  But the same cannot be said for homosexuality and fornication.  Clark would have opposed laws that promote prostitution, gambling, alcoholism, and pornography.  In fact, Clark attributed dereliction and homelessness to alcoholism.  It can be easily demonstrated that Clark was in favor of blue laws by anyone who reads his brief commentary on the Westminster Confession.  In debating a Seventh Day Adventist, who did in fact oppose blue laws or Sunday laws, Clark says:

Although the place of worship is immaterial, and although worship may be offered to God at any time, God has set apart a special time in which worship is obligatory.  From the creation of Adam the calendar has been arranged in seven-day weeks, and God commanded Adam to keep the seventh day holy in commemoration of God’s completion of his creative work.
With the resurrection of Christ the day of rest and worship was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week.  Who changed it?  The Roman church claims to have authorized the change; and the Seventh Day Adventists refuse to worship on the first day because the Roman church had no authority to change God’s command.
However, while some imperial edict of the fourth century may be cited as authorizing this change, the change was made not by any emperor or pope, but by the immediate disciples of Christ.  1 Corinthians 16:2 . . .  A Seventh Day Adventist told me that this did not indicate any offering at a service on the first day of the week, but on the contrary meant that on the first day each worshiper was to put aside what he intended to give the next seventh day.  But consider:  if a man is paid his wages at the end of the working week—Friday night—and then worships on Saturday, it seems strange to admonish him to put aside his offering on the next morning.

[Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  2nd edition.  (Trinity Foundation: Unicoi, 2001).   P. 199.]

Now if Dr. Clark was opposed to blue laws here would be a perfect place to express his disagreement.  Instead he points out that Christian workers in the New Testament apostolic era were not working on the first day of the week and that such practice was legally supported by an edict in the 4th century.  It is the Seventh Day Adventist who was opposed to making the first day of the week a day off for Christian worship, not Dr. Clark.  His objection was to changing the Sabbath back to the Jewish Sabbath, not the judicial edict allowing for Christian worship on the first day of the week. 

 In his follow up comment on WCF XXI:VIII.  Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day he says:

Another attack on the Christian Sabbath and on Christianity looms on the horizon.  The advocates of calendar reform propose to abolish the regular sequence of seven-day weeks.  Their recent proposal is to have every week begin on Monday and to put a Sunday at the end of the week.  This is just a nasty way of expressing contempt for the day of Resurrection, but by itself it would cause no religious hardship.  The anti-Christian part of the proposal is to insert a day at the end of each year, which would be neither a Sunday, a Monday, Tuesday, nor any other week day.  The result of such an arrangement would be as follows:  the year would end on a Sunday; then comes No-Day; then comes Monday.  Hence the following Sunday would be eight days after the previous Sunday, in stead of seven.  A Christian then would be required to worship on Saturdays that year, on Fridays the following year, and so on, with all the economic penalty and social hostility an atheistic nation would impose on this obedience to God.

Perhaps a more immediate danger lies in Senator Dirksen’s anti-Christian proposal to hold national elections on the Lord’s Day.  This would be an effective way of disenfranchising Christians.  Apparently the time of the antichrist is approaching.  [Clark, Ibid.  P. 201.]

I have been told that Dr. Clark’s son-in-law, Dwight Zeller, said that Dr. Clark was definitely opposed to blue laws.  Apparently, Mr. Zeller has not read What Do Presbyterians Believe?  Obviously, if the calendar were changed by legal decree or edict, Dr. Clark considers that an affront to Christianity.  But the Reformed libertarian position is that the law that does no harm to an individual is permissible.  Since laws against the Sabbath are not harmful to the individual, the law is desirable under the separation of church and state according to the Reformed libertarian position.  Secondly, if a law were passed making national elections on Sunday it would mean that Christians could not support magistrates who would pass laws in favor of the Judeo-Christian worldview and the Ten Commandments.  If Clark were a libertarian why does he associate such laws with the antichrist and not as something favorable to the libertarian view?  It is general knowledge that blue laws were not just in the southern Bible belt states but were in effect nationwide in the 20th century.  It is only toward the end of the 20th century do we begin to see the erosion of laws protecting Sunday as a day of rest and worship as well as a day when a family could be sure to have time together. 
Moreover, having church members work on Sunday undermines church attendance and the financial support of the local church.  It could cost a person their job to claim a religious reason to not work on Sunday or it could come a very definite financial cost even if the company recognizes the employees’ right to religious freedom.

The evidence that Clark believed that the government should enforce biblical morality is extensive.    Another example comes from his lecture on Puritan ethics in a section he calls "Contemporary Impuritans":

We need very much to replenish those reserves today. That this country needs to replenish its moral resources seems too obvious to need saying, but so few people seem to care that it cannot be said enough. The list of American deficiencies can begin with riots, the looting, the arson, and the murders in Detroit, Newark, and many, too many, other cities. These riots did not just happen spontaneously. They were prepared. Remember the plot uncovered in Philadelphia to put cyanide in the soldiers’, policemen’s, and firemen’s coffee. But while these riots were prepared for by Communists and pro-Communists, like Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and Martin Luther King, of sainted memory, there has been a much longer preparation of indifference to mounting crime. The government officials whose responsibility it is to protect life and property are dilatory, because for years the increase of violent crime has been encouraged by liberal theories of penology, a perverted judicial development that has hamstrung the police and prosecutors, and a general sympathy with the criminal instead of his victim.

In addition to the increase of unorganized crime, there is also the tremendous power of the Mafia. Not only does it deal in prostitution, narcotics, and gambling, but more recently it has infiltrated legitimate businesses to confiscate their assets, all of which entails the bribery and intimidation of government officials and a few murders when necessary.

Narcotics were just mentioned. Below the level of heroin there is LSD, glue, marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, barbiturates, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers. The halls of scholarship also, where claims to seek truth are proudly made, the halls of scholarship also are tainted with moral and intellectual decay. Professor Carl Van Doren, a few years ago, shamed us all on television by being able to answer a stupendous array of questions on all sorts of topics. Hailed into court, he denied under oath that he had been coached. He was then convicted of perjury. After his conviction, the students at Columbia voted to have him returned to the faculty. They shared their professor’s devotion to truth.

[Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  “The Puritans and Situation Ethics,” in The Trinity Review, January, February 1989.]

At the time that Dr. Clark was alive pornography was still illegal and so was gambling and prostitution.  Yet we have fake Christians and fake Calvinists today asserting that Clark would have agreed with their institutionalizing immorality in the judicial laws of our land under the rubric of the false dichotomy of Marxism that there is an absolute separation of church and state.  Need I remind the reader that Clark lectured on the topic of Christianity where he specifically says that Christianity is a philosophical and theological worldview and not a religion?  In fact, he even says that religion is a meaningless term since it could also be argued that godless religions such as Buddhism and communism exist.  Atheism and secular humanism also godless religions and appear to be very organized.  Thus the idea or proposition that the government should not enforce religion is self-contradictory!  Every nation promotes some form of religion, including the communist nations.  The difference is that in America until recent times religious pluralism was our official position where freedom of religion was the default position.  In modern times, however, Marxism has taken over and Christianity has become something to be suppressed and relegated to the privacy of one’s home.   State approved churches preach doctrines of LGBTQ and free sex while Christian churches are infiltrated by liberal reporters looking for an excuse to charge the pastor with bigotry and hate crimes.  The LGBTQ lobby has already begun to push for legislation making it mandatory that Christians refer to homosexuals as good people rather than perverts and for Christians to refer to transvestites and those who have undergone cosmetic sex change operations as the biological sex they have tried to impersonate artificially.  Not only is this anti-Christian but it violates both the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. 

Reformed libertarianism therefore is an enemy of true Christianity and supports the evil agenda of social Marxism and the legislation of laws that oppose freedom and liberty of conscience.  Those who support evil cannot be Christian.  Christians should support laws that uphold the Ten Commandments, religious freedom, and the Sabbath day.  Why should secular humanism, atheism or Marxism be the official dogmatic religion of the state?

13 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Rev. 13:15-17 KJV)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Gordon H. Clark Quote of the Day: Is Crime a Sickness or a Sin?

"Today . . . many people hold that crime is only a disease;  the criminal is not guilty, but sick;  and even his sickness is the result of a misguided society rather than of a depraved individual mind or will.

"Naturally:  Socialism is anti-Christian."

 Dr. Gordon H. Clark. 

Gordon H. Clark on the Atonement and Socialism:  Quote of the Day

It can be confusing to think logically at first.  That is because thinking logically requires some study of logic and the fallacious arguments used by opponents of Christianity.  The basic axiom for the Christian worldview is that the Bible is the starting point for all knowledge.  In light of that, Dr. Gordon H. Clark makes the following observations concerning the justice of God in regards to the atonement by quoting Jonathan Edwards and a couple of Edwards’ invalid arguments in regards to the moral government and the application of the moral law by moral agents.   Clark is an astute critic of invalid arguments since he was an expert in logic.  (John 1:9).

[ . . . that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Rom. 3:26 KJV)]

Romans 3:26:    . . . that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.   [NKJV?]

This verse says something about the justice of God, and the justice of God is a most important facet of the doctrine of the Atonement.  But at the moment we are interested only in the method used to defend divine justice.  Here is an example.

Jonathan Edwards wrote a thirty-five page article Concerning the Necessity and Reasonableness of the Christian Doctrine of Satisfaction for Sin (Works, Volume VIII, 1811).  He introduces his subject with the proposition, “Justice requires that sin be punished.”  He appeals to the universal belief that “some crimes are so horrid . . . that it is requisite they should not go unpunished unless . . . some measure [of compensation or repentance] at least balances the desert of punishment.”  In Edwards’ day hardly anyone would have disagreed, and thus Edwards could rely on the commonly held view as a sufficient introduction to his theology.  Today that is not the case.  Many people hold that crime is only a disease;  the criminal is not guilty, but sick;  and even his sickness is the result of a misguided society rather than of a depraved individual mind or will.  If then it be our business to maintain the truth of the Christian doctrine of Atonement, instead of merely explaining it, we must face a problem Edwards hardly dreamed of.  In view of the prevalent behaviorism and Freudian psychology, we cannot rely on common opinion and so-called human reason.  Yet if we rely on revelation alone, are we not begging the question and losing our audience?  Edwards could plausibly appeal to human reason because the human reason he was acquainted with was English reason already permeated with Christian ideas.  But this is no longer the case.  Edwards thought that crime excites “such an abhorrence and indignation that . . . by this all is granted that needs to be granted, to show that desert of punishment carries in it a requisiteness of the punishment deserved” (500).  But today the behaviorists (for example John Watson and B. F. Skinner) aim to remove the idea of punishment from the laws and from the mind of man.  Sweden, for example, has made it illegal for parents to spank their children or even to scold them.  Naturally:  Socialism is anti-Christian.

From the eighteenth-century Christian opinion that all crime demands punishment, unless there be something to balance it, Edwards infers that, since any sin against God is so great that nothing can balance it, God must punish it.  “If any ask, why God could not pardon the injury on repentance, without other satisfaction, without wrong to justice; I ask the same person why he could not also pardon the injury without repentance?”  To Edwards this is unthinkable, but few today would acknowledge that his argument is valid.  On the next page (502) he appeals not only to a Christian conscience, but also to the “consciences of heathen.”  Yet he must add the damaging proviso “unless conscience has been stupefied by frequent violations.”  On page 506 he also admits “all but Epicureans will own that all moral agents are subjects of God’s moral government.”  This is a false statement.  Others than Epicureans are also such exceptions.  Of course Jonathan Edwards antedated the modern Logical Positivists (who are far from being Epicureans) but in addition to Democritus, not even Aristotle satisfies Edwards’ assertion.  For that matter, even one exception to his norm destroys his position.  Yet from his inadequate observation he concludes that therefore God’s conscience must be like ours.  Hence Edwards’ argument fails on two counts.:  invalid inference and false premises.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  The Atonement.  Lois A. Zeller and Elizabeth Clark George.  1987.  (Trinity Foundation:  Hobbs, 1996).  Second edition.  Pp. 5-7.

[See also:  The Atonement.]

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hyper-Calvinism, Part 2

Hyper-Calvinism, Common Grace, Libertarianism and the Simplicity of God (Part 2)

[See:  Part 1]

Common Grace

The reader will have to forgive me if I take an ad hoc approach to my blog posts as my time is limited and I do work a full time job.  My posts are sometimes sporadic for that reason.  However, at this point I would like to consider the three points of common grace and why I think Herman Hoeksema, David Engelsma and other fine Protestant Reformed theologians have correctly assessed the problem with common grace and why it leads to skepticism and even liberalism.  For one thing, the doctrine of common grace presupposes that all men are basically good except that they are partially depraved due to Adam’s original sin.    Obviously, this undermines the view that humankind or mankind has been totally depraved or totally corrupted by the curse of sin since the rebellion of Adam as the federal head of the human race.  (Romans 5:12-21).  Whenever mankind has tried to use his knowledge it is usually to build idolatrous edifices to reach heaven and to assert his own sovereignty over creation apart from submission to Almighty God.  The biblical example is the tower of Babel but in modern times technology, empirical science, secular philosophy, and political science have all been used to usurp God’s sovereignty and to deny God’s very existence.  (Genesis 11:1-9 KJV; 1 Timothy 6:20 KJV; 2 Timothy 3:7 KJV).

For one thing, common grace undermines the doctrine of total depravity.  Total depravity does not refer to the degree of an individual’s wickedness but to the extent of the corruption of sin in the human nature.  The human nature or being includes the human body and the soul.  Within the soul there are the further distinctions between the volition or will and the intellect and the emotions.  However, the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark would say that the emotions are strictly a result of bodily sensations and would not include the emotions as part of the human soul.  Although I somewhat agree that the body produces emotional reactions and sensations, I do recognize that there is interaction between the soul or heart of man and the physical body and these emotional responses do affect the mind or soul.  Moreover, Clark further contended that since God is a spirit (John 4:24) it logically follows that man is a soul living in a body and that the soul is the image of God, not the human body.  Some have falsely accused Clark of Gnosticism on this account but that does not follow since it is the Bible which says that the soul lives on in a disembodied state after death until the resurrection for the final judgment of both the elect and the reprobate.  (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 KJV).  God does judge what we do in the body and the body is not the source of our sinful corruptions, rather the original sin of Adam brought the curse of total depravity or total inability on man’s soul and the curse of sin is passed on from the souls of Adam and Eve to all their posterity by way of natural generation.  Dr. Clark rejected the view that each soul is created with a sinful corruption by God but rather accepted the traducian view espoused by W. G. T. Shedd in his systematic theology.

. . . the theological argument strongly favors traducianism. The imputation of the first sin of Adam to all his posterity as a culpable act is best explained and defended upon the traducian basis. The Augustinian and Calvinistic anthropologies affirm that the act by which sin came into the world of mankind was a self-determined and guilty act and that it is justly chargeable upon every individual man equally and alike. But this requires that the posterity of Adam and Eve should, in some way or other, participate in it. Participation is the ground of merited imputation, though not of unmerited or gratuitous imputation (Shedd on Rom. 4:3, 8). The posterity could not participate in the first sin in the form of individuals, and hence they must have participated in it in the form of a race. This supposes that the race-form is prior to the individual form, that man first exists as a race or species and in this mode of existence commits a single and common sin. The individual, now a separate and distinct unit, was once a part of a greater whole. Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 16 asserts the commission of a common sin in the following terms: “All mankind, descending from Adam by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression.” The term mankind denotes here the human nature before it was individualized by propagation. This nature sinned. Human nature existing primarily as a unity in Adam and Eve and this same human nature as subsequently distributed and metamorphosed into the millions of individual men are two modes of the same thing.

Shedd, William G. Dogmatic Theology (Kindle Locations 13910-13921). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

It was also Clark’s contention that even the good that men do is sinful because unbelieving men do nothing they do in order to bring glory to God but to glorify themselves or some other idol.  (Proverbs 21:4).  Even the plowing of the wicked is sin.  This would mean that even the scientific advancements made during the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation period over against medieval scholasticism was only beneficial insofar as it protected God’s providential plans for the elect within the church and society.  For those who were reprobate God’s providence worked in the opposite direction.  A good example of that is given by Dr. Theodore Letis where he notes that Isaac Newton upon discovering the issues with lower textual criticism rejected trinitarianism and became a Socinian.  [Due to time constraints I neglected to note where the comment occurs but I am almost certain that Letis’s remark is in this video:  The Quest for the Historical Text, the ESV, and the Jesus Seminar.]

Another modern example would be Friedriech Nietzsche, the German philosopher of nihilism.  Nietzshe’s father was a Lutheran minister.  After a severe illness Nietzsche’s father died and the tragedy left Nietzsche questioning his faith.  Later when he decided to accept a call to ministry Nietzsche attended a Lutheran seminary where lower textual criticism was being taught.  The ultimate result was that the assumption of corruptions in the text and that the corruptions were made by those who wished to support orthodoxy led Nietzsche to reject his Christian faith and become an atheist.  From that point on Nietzsche attacked Christianity and Christian morality and ethics mercilessly until he actually went insane.  He could never find a consistent worldview and moral system to replace the apodictic ethical system of the moral law of God in the Holy Scriptures.  He was also the inspiration for Hitler’s eugenics and the extermination of the Jewish “vermin”.  After all, might makes right, according to Nietzsche.  [See:  Genius of the Modern World:  Friedriech Nietzsche.]

To make it more clear, I do not believe that modern scholarship should be accepted by Evangelicals uncritically.  It could be legitimately argued, as the Protestant Reformed brethren do, that common grace opened the door to liberal lower and higher criticism.  I have not read all of Theodore Letis’s book, The Ecclesiastical Text, but he makes a compelling argument that B. B. Warfield helped undermine Old Princeton by accepting the liberal axioms of Westcott and Hort’s science of textual criticism.  I would contend that this could be partly due to the Stone Lectures delivered by Abraham Kuyper at Princeton seminary in 1898.  [You can download a free ebook version in epub or mobi from monergism.com:  Stone Lectures.]  Although Kuyper himself was a presuppositionalist, his lectures lead evidentialists and the common sense philosophers of Princeton to adopt a rationalist and empiricist approach to defending the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.  The downside is that Warfield, as noted by Dr. Letis’s book, decided that corruptions had crept into the Bible and corrections needed to be made.  Warfield advocated removing huge portions of Scripture as not in the autographs, including the angel stirring the waters in the pool of Bethesda (John 5:3-4), the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), and the resurrection account of Mark’s gospel narrative (Mark 16:9-20).   Warfield reasoned that science alone could prove what was originally in the autographs and it is my opinion that his common sense philosophy, evidentialists apologetics, and his commitment to empiricism as a basis for knowledge predisposed Warfield to question the Scriptures.  Although Warfield set out to answer the more liberal text critics he failed to see that his wholesale adoption of liberal axioms in doing textual critical work would lead to the same skepticism of the radical liberal scholars.  Basically, the Westminster Confession of Faith presupposes that the copies made from the autographs are as fully inspired as the autographs themselves despite their being apographa which mediates the originals.  (See WCF chapter 1).

I am aware of a letter that Letis wrote to Dr. Clark in 1984 that is included in Doug Douma’s anthology of Clark’s letters.  But Clark died in 1985 and may not have answered Letis’s letter.  In that letter Letis acknowledges reading Dr. Clark’s article, “Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism,”  Trinity Review, January-August, 1984.  It’s not clear to me what Letis’s views were then but obviously he was in agreement with Clark that the eclectic critical approach was not based on the traditional and confessional view of Scripture.

Letis supported the Byzantine ecclesiastical text family of manuscripts but unfortunately did not agree that the autographs were inerrant and says that infallibility did not include inerrancy:

Prior to Warfield’s arrival at Princeton, no Princetonian had attained expert status in the young discipline of New Testament text criticism. Germany was the domain of these studies. It is interesting to note that in the absence of this, the founding professor at Princeton Seminary, Archibald Alexander, felt no compunction about admitting the autographs were not inerrant, noting that it is even possible that some of the autographs, if we had them, might not be altogether free from such errors as arise from the slip of the pen, as the apostles and and [“had”]. amanuensis[-es] who were not inspired. [11] Alexander could afford to admit this error, because for him, as it was for the scholastics to whom he was indebted, the primary locus of authority was the in-hand texts at his disposal. For him there was no radical discontinuity between the lost autographs and the text he had before him. Therefore, if the extant text manifested errors the likelihood was strong that they were there originally.

Letis, Theodore. The Ecclesiastical Text: Criticism, Biblical Authority & the Popular Mind (Kindle Locations 327-336). Just and Sinner Publications. Kindle Edition.

Although I agree with Letis’s critique of Warfield, I completely disagree that the autographs could have contained any errors whatsoever.  As Dr. Clark once said, God does not breathe out errors, mistakes, contradictions, myths, fables, or irrational statements.  The lower text critics start with the axiom that Scripture contains errors and irrational statements that the orthodox scribes tried to fix by harmonization and editing the autographs to make the readings more logical, orthodox, and smooth.  But is it so?  As Dr. Clark pointed out, it is just as likely that the scribes who disagreed with the orthodox position edited out orthodox statements that they viewed as either wrong or corrupt readings.  It could just as well be that the later majority text family preserves the original readings from the autographs and the earlier copies were lost.  The earliest dated manuscripts could just be corrupted and redacted manuscripts done by heretics.

The point I wish to make from the above discussion is that unless the Holy Scriptures are the plenary and verbally inspired or God-breathed words of God (Matthew 4:4) we have no basis for Christian theology as derived from the special revelation of God.  Language is propositional knowledge and God determined to give us knowledge of Himself in written language, not through empirical sensations.

Alvin Plantinga’s Foundationalism

Although I am no professional scholar, I have read widely.  One of the Christian philosophers I read in seminary was Alvin Plantinga.  I use the term Christian loosely here because although Plantinga came from a Christian Reformed Church background his theology is not actually Reformed any longer.  Plantinga taught at Notre Dame in the philosophy department for many years and after his retirement he returned to Calvin College to teach as a professor emeritus.  [See:  Biography:  Closer to Truth].  Admittedly, being a full time worker, I have not had the opportunity to read the extensive works of Plantinga so I will limit myself to what I have learned about his view that belief in God is foundational to human knowledge or properly basic to human knowledge.  This sounds a lot like he is saying that knowledge of God is innate in man as the image of God.  Of course, Plantinga does not consider himself to be an Evangelical Christian so he is free to moderate somewhere inbetween fundamentalism and liberalism—if there is any such thing as halfway between truth and error I suppose you could call it middle ground.  This also brings to mind the logical argument for an excluded middle.  However, knowing Plantinga’s exposure to the doctrine of common grace and the emphasis on the sciences as natural revelation, it should be no surprise that he takes a rationalistic view of epistemology.   Although Plantinga rejects the need for proving God’s existence, he also denies that special revelation in the Bible is the axiom or properly basic place to start in doing apologetics.  However, Plantinga’s view of properly basic beliefs does sound a lot like he holds to an axiomatic view of belief in God as the starting point for Christianity:

But foundationalists hold that some beliefs are not based upon other beliefs. (If you think about it for a second, you can see that this has to be true if we are going to avoid an infinite regress or circular belief sets.) Some beliefs are not based upon other beliefs. They are foundational beliefs, or, as Plantinga calls them, basic beliefs. They are not based on other beliefs.  Micah Cobb, Alvin Plantinga’s “The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology” (Summary).

Although this is not a primary source, I believe Cobb’s description of Plantinga’s position is accurate.  In contrast, Dr. Gordon H. Clark uses the Westminster Confession of Faith as the basis for his view that the beginning axiom of Christianity is Holy Scripture, not God.  Moreover God is a secondary axiom of the Christian faith, not the primary axiom and this is precisely because we could know nothing savingly about God without special revelation in the verbal and plenary inspired words in the Bible in grammatical and propositional form.  Clark would agree that the knowledge of God is innate in man because man is God’s image.  (Genesis 1:27; John 1:9). Clark deduces this from the Bible, however, since all knowledge of God begins with Scripture.  (Matthew 4:4; John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  According to Clark, man is the image of God:

The image of God in man is asserted but not precisely explained in Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6; I Cor. 11:7, and James 3:9. Something of an explanation comes in Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24, where one may infer that the image consists of knowledge or rationality and righteousness or holiness, from which proceeds dominion over the creatures. Romans 8:29 confirms this by describing salvation as a process of conforming the predestined saint to the image of Christ.  Dr. Gordon H. Clark, “Image of God“.

The problem with Plantinga’s view is that he never shows why the Christian belief in God is different from other religions which also have a belief in God or gods.  He also seems to commit the fallacy of induction since absolute truth could never be based on casuistic examples.  Gordon H. Clark, on the other hand, holds the view that knowledge is deductive, not inductive.  Although Clark was accused of neo-Platonic dualism or even gnostic tendencies, the fact is that Clark held to a philosophical view known as Augustinian realism.  That is, in contrast to Plato’s world of ideas, Clark agreed with Augustine’s view that all knowledge is based on logical propositions that are abstractions thought in the mind.  Knowledge must be real because God Himself thinks and is a non-material spiritual being who exists apart from His creation and prior to creation.  (John 4:24).  Man is able to think and do intellectual abstract thinking in logical form because man is the image of God.  Another problem with Plantinga is that he seems to think that contradictory religions all lead to God, which is the natural result of taking the common grace view and is a clear implication of saying that belief in God is properly basic.  If all men have a divine favor with God—albeit a non-saving one—that view ultimately leads to religious pluralism and religious relativism.  Although Plantinga says he is a religious exclusivist, he feels no need to critique the other world religions.  In practice, therefore, Plantinga is not all that exclusivist since he seems to have no problem with not evangelizing the lost and warning them about the judgment to come.  If belief in God is properly basic, which God is properly basic?  The Muslim Allah?  One of the Hindu gods?   How about the Mormon tri-theistic gods?  (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 13:14).  [See:  Pluralism:  A Defense of Religious Exclusivism].  Ironically, those who accuse classical Calvinists of hyper-Calvinism are in fact the very ones who do not reach out to evangelize, persuade, and confront those who have no saving knowledge of the Gospel. 

In the next post I will show that the oxymoron of “reformed” libertarianism is really based on common grace, not a biblical epistemology.  But due to the time restraints  I will return to the issue of foundationalism and reformed libertarianism in the next post.  Please be patient since it takes considerable time and thought to post coherent essays.

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