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.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

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.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Hyper-Calvinism, Common Grace, Libertarianism and the Simplicity of God (Part 1)

“. . . Do you believe that He foreknows against His will, or that He wills in ignorance? If then, He foreknows, willing, His will is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so: and, if He wills, foreknowing, His knowledge is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so.

From which it follows unalterably, that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet, in reality, done necessarily and immutably, with respect to the will of God.  . . .”  Dr. Martin Luther, 16th century father of the Protestant Reformation.

Hyper-Calvinism, Common Grace, Libertarianism and the Simplicity of God  (Part 1).

I know this seems to be a shotgun post meant to cover many topics.  But honestly the attacks on Calvinism as a system of propositional truths deduced from the Bible are coming from many points in the Evangelical world, and surprisingly that would even include some who consider themselves Clarkian Scripturalists.  Amazingly many of those who identify as Clarkian Scripturalists and associate themselves with the Trinity Foundation site are actually pushing the views of the late Dr. John Robbins, who by the way was not a trained theologian or Christian philosopher.  Robbins’s doctorate was earned in economics, not philosophy or Christian theology.  I am and will be forever grateful for the work that the Trinity Foundation has done in publishing Dr. Clark’s books and papers but that does not remove the fact that the ministry of the Trinity Foundation has had some significant departures from Dr. Gordon H. Clark’s theological and philosophical positions, including the idea that Clark was somehow in agreement with the foundationalism of Dr. Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame.  But I will come back to this later.  For now let me cover a few of my issues with the semi-Arminians.


Since in the title I initially mentioned hyper-Calvinism, let me address that one first.  The popular misrepresentation of classical Calvinism as somehow part of a conspiracy called hyper-Calvinism and which started somehow with theologians like John Gill is so pervasive that it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion of the classical position with the vast majority of semi-Arminian Calvinists and neo-Calvinists today.  The most popular website eschewing hyper-Calvinism is one that has been run by Phil Johnson of the Grace to You ministry titled, “A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism,” originally posted in 1998.  Unfortunately, to prove his point, Johnson uses several straw man fallacies and sophistry to achieve his intended rebuttal.  Let’s take a look at that page and give a point by point rebuttal to Johnson’s rebuttal.

In his introduction Johnson misses the point completely by quoting Ezekiel 33:11.  The verse says that God does not desire the death of the wicked in any universal sense.  But what Johnson, the Arminians, and the semi-Arminian Calvinists fail to point out is that the verse is directed to the Old Testament nation of Israel, not to the other pagan nations.  The phrase “house of Israel” is mentioned 146 times in the entire Bible and of those occurrences over 82 of them are in the book of Ezekiel and not once does the term refer to all nations in general but only to the nation of Israel.  Most tellingly the term occurs in the very verse that Johnson contends is a universal “offer” to all the world rather than a specific address to the Old Testament church.  The Old Testament nation of Israel is a type of the visible church and so the promises and the threats addressed to the members of the visible church of the Old Testament do not apply to the pagan nations.  Of all the nations in the Old Testament, Israel alone received the covenant of grace and the promises warranted by that covenant as an outward sign.  (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).  The Bible over and over again demonstrates clearly that God does desire the death of the wicked in particular cases.  This would seem to refute the hypothetical universalism of common grace and the well meant offer advocates.  (1 Samuel 1:3; 2:25; 1 Kings 14:11; 2 Kings 9:10; 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:11-13).  Therefore, Ezekiel 33:11 is not a universal declaration that covers both the elect and the reprobate individuals in every nation.  Of course the promises given to Abram in Genesis 15 and 17 do extend the promises to the Gentile nations but with few exceptions that is not fulfilled until the Apostle Paul comes on the scene.  (Romans 11:13; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11).  This does not mean that today we do not give a general call of the Gospel to anyone who will listen even though in the Old Testament dispensation of the eternal covenant of grace there was no general call of the Gospel given to the pagan nations.  (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).  There are of course individual exceptions like Rahab the harlot and perhaps Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, Ruth the Moabitess and others.  (See:  Joshua 6:17, 23, 25;  Exodus 18:1-12; Ruth 4:13-22). 

Johnson defines hyper-Calvinism as “ . . . a doctrine that emphasizes divine sovereignty to the exclusion of human responsibility.”  (Primer).  As his starting premise this probably does apply to certain of the Primitive Baptist groups and New Covenant theology groups which advocate an antinomian view that the Christian is under grace but not the moral law.  But it certainly does not apply to either Dr. Gordon H. Clark or those who consistently follow his Scripturalist views on dogmatic theology, though I think maybe John Robbins and certain of the Trinity Foundation advocates tend toward antinomianism.  Clark himself stood for the entire Westminster Confession of Faith as a system of propositional truth that could be harmonized as a whole system, not isolating any of the chapters from the rest of the system.  This is where even seminary educated Clarkians sometimes misunderstand Clark’s position or unintentionally misrepresent Clark.  The best example of this is Doug Douma’s article asking whether or not Clark thought Arminians were outright heretics.  (Clark and the Salvation of Arminians). Of course, in the interest of holding Evangelicals together as Protestants Clark would not condemn Arminians as guilty of adhering to a false religion or being part of a synagogue of Satan.  Although I disagree with Clark on this point, it is understandable that he would want to preserve at least some common ground with other Protestants.  But at the same time Clark did not say that there was a list of essential doctrines--like confessing that Jesus is Lord--which are necessarily salvific.  But Clark was also an outspoken critic of both Arminianism and semi-Arminianism.  In fact, he was so hated by the Arminians and dispensationalists at Wheaton College that he was fired or forced to resign because of it.  Ironically, the main opponent Clark faced at Wheaton was Dr. Henry Thiessen, a dispensationalist who later taught at Dallas Theological Seminary.  Another dispensationalist who was also a Reformed Episcopalian, W. H. Griffith Thomas, helped found Dallas Theological Seminary.   (See:  The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark, by Doug Douma).

Even more ironically, a Baptist, namely Phil Johnson, quotes an article by a high church Anglo-Catholic cleric, Peter Toon, to define hyper-Calvinism.  It is amazing how quickly baptistic Calvinists fall prey to those who want to draw Protestants back into communion with the Roman Catholic Church.  Peter Toon was part of the Continuing Anglican Movement, which is a modern spinoff of the Oxford Movement or high church Tractarian movement of the 19th century.  The best evidence that Peter Toon was an Anglo-Catholic was his membership in the Prayer Book Society and his support of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which is favored by conservative Anglo-Catholics.  The 1928 BCP has prayers for the dead among other things.

Another so-called Calvinist, Dr. J. I. Packer, has an agenda to compromise with Rome as well and has signed the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document, emphasizing sophistry and double talk in order to bring about a false compromise with the Roman Catholic Church.  Packer is also advocating compromise with high church Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Church in NorthAmerica and their redefinition of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, which are clearly Protestant and Calvinist.  But following the Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholicism of John Henry Newman, Edward Pusey and others, Packer thinks that the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion can be interpreted as Roman Catholic and Protestant as a via media.  But that was never Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s intention whatsoever.  Cranmer advocated the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation, absolute predestination, and a Zwinglian view of the two Gospel sacraments.  (See: Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Article 17.  Also see my blog post on Packer’s visit to Orlando, Florida on his last crusade:  Packer’s Last Crusade.)

This connection between self-identifying Calvinistic Baptists and dispensationalists with the Federal Vision movement is apparent especially between John Piper and James White, both of whom do not denounce Douglas Wilson as a heretic for promoting the objective covenant of grace, baptismal regeneration, conditional regeneration, and other doctrines of the Federal Vision heresy.  Piper even invited Wilson to promote his views at Piper’s Desiring God conference a  few years ago.  The connection between the Federal Vision and the Oxford Movement may not be immediately obvious but the emphasis on the visible church, visible signs as actually conveying grace, and the conditional and objective covenant are all in collusion with the papist view, the Tractarian and Ango-Catholic view, and other departures from the Bible and the Reformed confessional standards.  While Johnson may not be officially connected to Piper or White, his writings and public appearances affirm that he is more comfortable with the Arminians, the Federal Visionists, and even the Anglo-Catholics than with fellow Calvinists who uphold the Protestant Reformation and the system of propositional truth in the Bible.  This is a telling indictment of the compromises that many in the Reformed Baptist circles are willing to make.

Rather than go point by point refuting Johnson’s infamous attack on classical Calvinism, I will only briefly consider his objections and point the reader to a more substantial rebuttal written by a minister in the Covenant Reformed Churches in Ireland, Rev. Martyn McGeowen.  McGeown rejects Johnson’s first two points as irrelevant since the classical Calvinists do not reject duty faith or the obligation to believe the command to repent and believe the Gospel.  The first point of Johnson’s five points of hyper-Calvinism is vague and unclear.  

Before Johnson gives his own definition of hyper-Calvinism—a five-point definition, which, if true, would make the PRC and BRF three-point hyper-Calvinists—he quotes a dictionary. Apparently, whoever writes the theological dictionaries rules the theological landscape! However, theological dictionaries do not determine theology. The creeds do! They—not theological dictionaries—were officially adopted by the church.  (An Answer to Phil Johnson's "Primer on Hyper-Calvinism", by Rev. Martyn McGeown.)

McGeown is here absolutely right.  The Reformed standards are not determined by a single person who also happened to be a high church Anglo-Catholic, namely the late Peter Toon.  In fact there is not one shred of evidence that any of the Reformed creeds, confessions, or symbols made the well meant offer a binding doctrine and the same can be said for the free offer of the Gospel and the three points of common grace.  Through a clever bit of sophistry the semi-Arminians claim that the classical Calvinists in the PRCA, the British Reformed Fellowship, and the Covenant Reformed Churches in Ireland all reject the general call of the Gospel.  That is an absolute falsehood and the opponents on the other side should be ashamed of themselves for violating the ninth commandment and bearing false witness.  What is at issue is how the general call is issued and what is the theological language used in such a presentation?  It is wrong to tell an unconverted person that Jesus loves them and died for them on the cross for this can only be said if you are an Arminian or a semi-Pelagian.  Christ died only for the sheep.  Now after conversion it can be said that God loves that person and that Christ died on the cross for them and even then it could be wrong since there is always from a  human point of view the possibility of apostasy.  (1 John 2:19;  Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-29).  Since God’s perspective is eternal and timeless it is and was never possible that Judas Iscariot would be saved.  This offends those who reject the doctrine of double predestination and the necessity that God’s foreknowledge and predestination are one and the same thing.  In other words, equal ultimacy and double predestination are one and the same thing.  Further, the doctrine of libertarian free will does not get God off the hook since God would still be the cause of the fall by giving Adam the option to rebel and bring God’s curse on mankind.  Martin Luther’s book, The Bondage of the Will, does not affirm that sin is the cause of man’s loss of free will.  In fact, Luther argues just the opposite.  He said that God’s foreknowledge proves that the fall of Adam was of necessity and that this dashes the doctrine of libertarian free will on the rocks:

Sect. 9.—THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, "Free-will" is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert "Free-will," must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them. But, however, before I establish this point by any arguments of my own, and by the authority of Scripture, I will first set it forth in your words.

Are you not then the person, friend Erasmus, who just now asserted, that God is by nature just, and by nature most merciful? If this be true, does it not follow that He is immutably just and merciful? That, as His nature is not changed to all eternity, so neither His justice nor His mercy? And what is said concerning His justice and His mercy, must be said also concerning His knowledge, His wisdom, His goodness, His will, and His other Attributes. If therefore these things are asserted religiously, piously, and wholesomely concerning God, as you say yourself, what has come to you, that, contrary to your own self, you now assert, that it is irreligious, curious, and vain, to say, that God foreknows of necessity? You openly declare that the immutable will of God is to be known, but you forbid the knowledge of His immutable prescience. Do you believe that He foreknows against His will, or that He wills in ignorance? If then, He foreknows, willing, His will is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so: and, if He wills, foreknowing, His knowledge is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so.

From which it follows unalterably, that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet, in reality, done necessarily and immutably, with respect to the will of God. For the will of God is effective and cannot be hindered; because the very power of God is natural to Him, and His wisdom is such that He cannot be deceived. And as His will cannot be hindered, the work itself cannot be hindered from being done in the place, at the time, in the measure, and by whom He foresees and wills. If the will of God were such, that, when the work was done, the work remained but the will ceased, (as is the case with the will of men, which, when the house is built which they wished to build, ceases to will, as though it ended by death) then, indeed, it might be said, that things are done by contingency and mutability. But here, the case is the contrary; the work ceases, and the will remains. So far is it from possibility, that the doing of the work or its remaining, can be said to be from contingency or mutability. But, (that we may not be deceived in terms) being done by contingency, does not, in the Latin language, signify that the work itself which is done is contingent, but that it is done according to a contingent and mutable will—such a will as is not to be found in God! Moreover, a work cannot be called contingent, unless it be done by us unawares, by contingency, and, as it were, by chance; that is, by our will or hand catching at it, as presented by chance, we thinking nothing of it, nor willing any thing about it before.   

(The Bondage of the Will.   Section 9, The Sovereignty of God.  By Martin Luther).

This is at first a confusing piece to read.  But to put it simply let me say that our knowledge from a human perspective is limited to what we can know from one second to the next in the passing of one thought to the next in the mind.  Time is perceived because we have the passing of thoughts discursively in our minds.  But with God who is timeless there is no passing of thoughts from one thought to the next because God is eternally omniscient.  He foreknows the future not as an endless consideration of multiple contingencies and counterfactuals of which He must continually adjust in time.  On the contrary, God is eternally timeless and eternally omniscient because He knows all things at once in a direct and intuitive perspective.  He knows your entire life from beginning to end and whatever happens in your life is foreknown by God because He initiated it all when He created the universe on day one of creation.  As Dr. Gordon H. Clark once said, the first verse in the Bible that alludes to predestination is Genesis 1:1.  In fact, the crowd laughed when he said this in one of his lectures.  God is not subject to contingencies.  So even though God knows all possible outcomes, counterfactuals, and whatever else could influence an outcome of the actions of moral agents or even acts of nature, the one outcome that actualizes in providential time is the only possible outcome from God’s point of view because He eternally foreordained it.  Not only so but even the Westminster Confession of Faith says that in providence God governs all things so that the events that come to pass in time are in accordance with God’s one will and one eternal decree.

  1.      God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, (Heb. 1:3) direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, (Dan. 4:34–35, Ps. 135:6, Acts 17:25–26,28) from the greatest even to the least, (Matt. 10:29–31) by His most wise and holy providence, (Prov. 15:3, Ps. 104:24, Ps. 145:17) according to His infallible foreknowledge, (Acts 15:18, Ps. 94:8–11) and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, (Eph. 1:11) to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. (Isa. 63:14, Eph. 3:10, Rom. 9:17, Gen. 45:7, Ps. 145:7)

  2.      Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; (Acts 2:23) yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. (Gen. 8:22, Jer. 31:35, Exod. 21:13, Deut. 19:5, I Kings 22:28, 34, Isa. 10:6–7)

  3.      God, in His ordinary providence, maketh use of means, (Acts 27:31, 44, Isa. 55:10–11) yet is free to work without, (Hos. 1:7, Matt. 4:4, Job 34:10) above, (Rom. 9:19–21) and against them, (2 Kings 6:6, Dan. 3:27) at His pleasure.

  4.      The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; (Rom. 11:32–34, 2 Sam. 24:1, 1 Chron. 21:1, 1 Kings 22:22–23, 1 Chron. 10:4, 13–14, 2 Sam. 16:10, Acts 2:23) and that not by a bare permission, (Acts 14:16) but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, (Ps. 76:10, 2 Kings 19:28) and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; (Gen. 50:20, Isa. 10:6–7, 12) yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. (James 1:13–14, 17, 1 John 2:16, Ps. 50:21) . . . .  (Chapter 4, Of Providence.  The Westminster Confession of Faith. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Print.

Notice that in section 4 that God’s power ensures that whatever He has foreordained happens not by bare permission but that it happens exactly as God planned.  His plan is “joined with” almighty power so that “a most wise and powerful bounding, . . . and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation to His own holy ends; . . .” so that whatever God wills comes to pass just as He intended.  In other words God’s teleological purposes cannot be thwarted because He knows all that will happen from beginning to end and He has predetermined all the secondary causes and contingencies and means to accomplish His eternal plan, purpose and will.  (See Isaiah 14:24; 46:9-11; Deuteronomy 29:29; Job 23:13; Acts 4:28; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 21:30; Daniel 4:35).  Those who reject equal ultimacy in the name of preserving human freedom, i.e. libertarian free will as opposed to human volition as a free moral agent, are in fact in opposition to Scripture and the Westminster Confession.  No man’s will is free from sin after the fall and even more to the point, no man’s will is free from God’s eternal will and providence.  God alone has a will free from any determinative contingencies outside Himself.  God is not the author of man’s sins because it is man who sins, not God.  But that does not mean that God is not the remote and ultimate cause of everything.  The Arminian and the Open Theist try to escape the implication that evil is ultimately part of God’s eternal plan and that moral evil by moral agents and natural disasters are both brought to pass by God’s providential governance of every single detail that happens in time.  If God foreordains the movement of the atoms and the most minute workings of nature to even the grandest scale of solar systems and galaxies, it surely is not beyond God’s power to cause Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate to bring about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.   (Acts 4:27-28).

Here ends the first installment.  Look for part 2 in a couple of days.  In the next installment I will delve into the issue of common grace and how that conflicts with special revelation and the doctrine of propositional revelation, plenary verbal inspiration and the doctrine of the absolute infallibility and inerrancy of Holy Scripture.  Also, in reference to these doctrines I will compare and contrast the doctrine of libertarian free will with the political philosophy of libertarian governmental policies and how that cannot be in agreement with Reformed theology as deduced from Scripture and outlined by the Reformed confessions.

Also in future posts to this topic I will consider how the Trinity Foundation and the late Dr. John Robbins significantly differ from Dr. Gordon H. Clark on libertarian politics and on Plantinga's foundationalism.  Clark would have never agreed with foundationalism and in future posts I will compare and contrast Plantinga's views with Clark's view of Scripture as the beginning axiom of Christianity.

Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

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