>

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, August 10, 2022

Doug Douma: 85th General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church

Check out Doug Douma's post on the Bible Presbyterian Church general synod of 2022:  85th General Synod.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Quote of the Day: Lorraine Boettner: The Inspiration and Authority of Holy Scripture

 

The answer that we are to give to the question, “What is Christianity?” depends quite largely on the view we take of Scripture. If we believe that the Bible is the very word of God and infallible, we will develop one conception of Christianity. If we believe that it is only a collection of human writings, perhaps considerably above the average in its spiritual and moral teachings but nevertheless containing many errors, we will develop a radically different conception of Christianity, if, indeed, what we then have can legitimately be called Christianity. Hence we can hardly over-estimate the importance of a correct doctrine concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures. 
 
In all matters of controversy between Christians the Scriptures are accepted as the highest court of appeal. Historically they have been the common authority of Christendom. We believe that they contain one harmonious and sufficiently complete system of doctrine; that all of their parts are consistent with each other; and that it is our duty to trace out this consistency by a careful investigation of the meaning of particular passages. We have committed ourselves to this Book without reserve, and have based our creeds upon it. We have not made our appeal to an infallible Church, nor to a scholastic hierarchy, but to a trustworthy Bible, and have maintained that it is the word of God, that by His providential care it has been kept pure in all ages, and that it is the only inspired, infallible rule of faith and practice.

Boettner, Loraine. Studies in Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. Print.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Fact Checking Preachers: Your Christian Duty?

 

Acts 17:11

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

King James Version (KJV)

 

I am frequently on the road so I often listen to church services while I am driving.  Since I live in the Columbia, South Carolina area I frequently attend First Presbyterian Church in downtown Columbia.  I have lived here for around four years so I have visited many of the local Presbyterian churches in hopes of finding the most conservative one in my area.  Of course anyone to the right of moderate Evangelicalism is decried as an ignorant fundamentalist.  But as I recall that is the same label once applied to the lions of Princeton like B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and Charles Hodge.  In more recent times the fake Evangelical leaders in moderate Calvinist circles have labeled the late Carl F. H. Henry and Gordon H. Clark as pesky fundamentalists.  Cornelius Van Til, however, attacked Henry and Clark as "neo-Evangelicals."  It becomes difficult to sort out all the disputes within the Evangelical Calvinist camp and sometimes I have to wonder if a few of them have gone outright heterodox or even heretical.

I personally do not like controversy.  However, when ministers in the pulpit make controversial remarks I am compelled to respond in some way.  Ministers after all are more accountable because they are the theological and moral influencers of the Evangelical movement in general and the Calvinist movement in particular.  

Since I attend mostly Calvinist worship services this one was particularly relevant.  (See:  James 3:1 KJV).  The KJV uses the term masters in verse 1.  A more accurate translation is teachers.  Those who preach and teach the word of God from the pulpit are subject to a greater examination and a greater condemnation from both the Lord and those who hold ministers accountable in the congregation.

A couple of weeks ago or so I was listening to the Sunday evening service of First Presbyterian Church when a newly ordained minister of counseling was delivering the sermon.  The denomination of First Presbyterian is Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and the young minister's name is Joshua Squires.  His delivery style is pleasant and easy to hear.  However, I have a major objection to what he said in the sermon.  I cannot remember off hand which of the Gospels he was expositing from the pulpit but it was probably Matthew 4:1ff.  The minister insisted that Jesus must have took other sustenance during the forty days and forty nights that He fasted prior to His temptation in the wilderness or desert.

As God's providence would have it, I was able to attend the morning worship service on January the second, 2022.  Also by God's providence I happened to unwittingly sit in the pew just behind Josh Squires.  The lady sitting behind me knew that I do not attend weekly and insisted that Josh welcome me.  I then recognized him as one of the ordained teaching elders of the session.  So I waited until after the worship service ended and asked him about his remarks during the sermon in question.  I should probably mention that I was not dressed in formal attire since I am a blue collar worker.  

At any rate, the first response of Rev. Squire was animated and defensive.  I do not recall making any accusatory remarks as I was simply asking him what his rationale was for his remark about the possibility that Jesus took other sustenance rather than fasting completely without any food for forty days and forty nights.  I think I pointed out that the text does not say that Jesus took other sustenance.  He immediately got loud and insistent that the text did say so.  Unfortunately for him, this is not only an argument from silence but it could also be called "eisogesis" or reading into the text what is not there.  When I pointed this out to him he doubled down and became even more insistent that the text does say that Jesus took other sustenance.  

So I pressed the point even harder.  I asked him how he knew that the text said this since the plain reading of the text says no such thing?  He then defended his position by appealing to syntax and etymology, which I presume he got from either a commentary or a lexicon or a grammar of the Greek New Testament.  I then pointed out to him that only the Bible is the inspired and inerrant and infallible word of God.  (2 Timothy 3:16; John 10:35; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  I also pointed out that commentaries, lexicons, and grammars are not the inspired and inerrant and infallible word of God.  In other words, the men who write those books can err.   They are fallible and some of them can be and were unregenerate liberal theologians, especially so in some of the more technical lexical and grammatical works.

But here the young minister doubled down even more.  He insisted that the text does say that Jesus took other sustenance.  But the text plainly only says:

Matthew 4:2

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.”

King James Version (KJV)

I later consulted the basic lexicon definition and the lexicon nowhere intimates or suggests that fasting allowed for the taking of basic sustenance.  Mr. Squires insisted that he would not want Jesus to be able to do anything he could not do himself since Jesus was obviously fully human.  But in the Old Testament Moses fasted from both food and water for forty days and forty nights.  (Exodus 34:27-28).  When I pointed this out to Squires he had no response.  I also asked him if he could walk on the water, heal the sick or feed the multitudes?  To his credit Squires said no.  The point I was making that no matter how hard you try, you cannot bring Jesus down to our level theologically.  Unfortunately this minister thought that appealing to authorities outside the Bible was a legitimate way to argue one's case.  Instead such an appeal is a logical fallacy called appealing to authority because when I confronted him that the text did not plainly say that Jesus took other sustenance he insisted that the text did say so and that many scholars agreed with him.  On the contrary, Luke says that Jesus ate nothing during His fast.  (Luke 4:1-2.  See also:  Was Jesus' Time in the Desert Literal?).

Although it is true that Jesus was fully human, that he was born a helpless baby, ate and drank real food and water, and had to learn new things just as human children do as they grow up, it cannot be denied that Jesus was also the divine Logos incarnate who learned nothing new, was not limited in location, being ubiquitous and omnipotent just as the other two Persons of the Trinity are.  God is one in nature or essence and three in subsisting Persons.  (Deuternomy 6:4; 1 Timothy 3:16; John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 28:19; Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 9:35; John 1:32-33).

I guess the point here is that even if you insist that Jesus sustained Himself during His fast by eating small amounts of food rather than being supernaturally sustained by the Holy Spirit, you have a problem because we are not incarnate gods and Jesus was God incarnate!  I once debated a Free Methodist pastor who insisted that Jesus was susceptible to fall into sin during His temptation.  I insist otherwise.  The Arminians wish to emphasize the real humanity of Jesus to the extreme because they want to show that we have a natural ability to overcome sin; because Arminians believe in common or prevenient grace which neuters total depravity, they insist that libertarian free will makes it possible that anyone can become a Christian apart from God's sovereign and irresistible grace.  But mere possibility also makes it possible that no one will believe.  The temptation of Jesus could be a real temptation even if it were impossible for Him to fail.  

There are several reasons that it would be impossible for Jesus to fail.  The first one is that even if He were not God incarnate the providence of God is the carrying out of God's eternal decrees.  If God planned the end from the beginning, then it was never possible that Jesus would fail the test in the wilderness.  (Isaiah 46:9-11; Isaiah 14:24-27; Ephesians 1:11).  Also, since Jesus is the hypostatic union of two natures, divine and human, it logically follows that God cannot sin.  Now this gets into the two persons view of Gordon H. Clark.  If Jesus is truly a human person, then His temptation in the wilderness was very real.  On the other hand, if the divine Person of the Logos is incarnate in the hypostatic union between the human nature and human personality of Jesus, then the human nature and human person of Christ must be infallibly preserved by the divine Person and the divine nature of the Logos and, by implication, the entire Trinity.  That's because the divine nature cannot be divided into three separate gods or three separate Persons.  Each of the three Persons is a distinct subsistence within the one divine nature or Godhead.  (Colossians 1:19; 2:9).  

But one could ask, "How is the temptation real if Jesus had advantages that we do not have?"  This question ignores the fact that not only was Jesus God incarnate but He was also conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin's womb and He was born without any original sin.  Not only this but Jesus was sinless from birth and never once committed any willful sins in thought, word or deed.  (1 Peter 2:21-23; Isaiah 53:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5; John 8:46; Hebrews 7:26).  Jesus was in all points tempted as we are.  (Hebrews 4:15).  But this does not mean that Jesus was tempted with every possible sin that humans have committed since the fall but that He was tempted with the same kinds of general sins.

However, I digress into a theological discussion of the implications of the young Presybterian minister's remarks.  Frankly, I was disappointed that he became so defensive and aggressive toward me.  I am obviously much older than him.  He did not respect me as an elder--although I am not an ordained elder--even if he mistakenly thought I was an ignorant layman, which I am not.  I told him that I had seminary education and that I thought his position was a slippery slope to deny the other miracles in the Bible.  He said that I was entitled to my opinion.  And since he had very disrespectfully laid down the gauntlet I did not relent.  I retorted that he was entitled to his opinion as well and that his opinion was just an opinion because only Scripture is the infallible and inerrant and inspired word of God.  Sermons and ministers are not infallible, inspired or inerrant and I remarked that he himself was not an infallible pope.

A further controversy occurred in the worship service that day.  The senior pastor, Derek Thomas, conducted an ordination of many male deacons and at least one female "deaconess."  He remarked that the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church allows for individual sessions or churches to ordain female deaconesses.  He also remarked that the Presbyterian Church in America does not ordain female deaconesses.  Then he remarked that the ARP does not ordain homosexuals, alluding to the fact that the PCA now ordains male homosexual teaching elders who profess to be both celibate and born with an unchangeable homosexual orientation.  (1 Corinthians 6:9).  Thomas justified the ARP position by stating that there appears to be ambiguity in the text of the qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1ff.  His insistence that there is ambiguity in the text is based on the fact that there are no qualifications for the wives of teaching elders (1Timothy 3:1-7) while there are qualifications for the wives of deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-11).  He also said that the word for wives of deacons implies that they are deaconesses.  But in verse 11 the word for wives just means a married woman.  Thomas used the appeal to the ordination of women deaconesses on the same exegesis of other questionable and ambiguous texts such as Priscilla and Junia.  But these are ambiguous since the text could also be Junian, the masculine Greek word.  (See Romans 16:7 KJV).  Be that as it may, the plain text of 1 Timothy 3:12 says that the deacons are to be the husbands of one wife.  I fail to see how that is ambiguous at all unless you think that women can be the husband of a wife?

Derek Thomas does not support the ordination of women as teaching elders.  But he is inconsistent in doing so since it logically follows that his arguments for the ordination of deaconesses could also apply to the positions of ruling and teaching elders.  I might also point out that denominations that base their theology on ambiguity rather than the perspicuity of Scripture are on a trajectory toward the acceptance of homosexuality as well.  I rather think that logical propositions make it possible to logically deduce from the text what the logical implications of a proposition are.  If there were only male deacons ordained in the book of Acts, doesn't that imply that there were no female deacons?  If Jesus and all of His apostles were men, does that not imply logically that male leadership is the biblical norm and not just a cultural preference?  (Acts 6:1-6).

I will not be joining any denomination that allows for the ordination of women as deaconesses because the plain teaching of Scripture never prescribes it or mandates it, as even Derek Thomas acknowledged.  The Bible alone is the word of God.  (2 Timothy 3:16).  Basing morality and norms on ambiguity opens the door to all sorts of theological and moral compromises, including the two which I mention above, namely undermining biblical miracles, the deity and divinity of Jesus Christ as the Logos incarnate (1 Timothy 3:16), and making allowances which not only feminize the church but also contradict the command that only men should have theological authority over men and women in the church (1 Timothy 2:12).  Women should not be visiting the sick at home or any other such male duty since it calls for prayers and exercising authority over men in those households.  (James 5:14).  The word in James 5:14 is presbuteros, not the same thing as a deacon; but in practice the deacons of most churches fulfill this duty in the place of the elders when there are too many sick persons for the elders to visit them all.  (Acts 6:1-6).

This brings me back to the main point of this article, namely that laypersons are to hold their ministers accountable to the Bible, which is the only inspired and infallible and inerrant rule for faith and practice:

WCF 1.9  The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one) , it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.1

WCF 1.10  The supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.1
 (WCF 1:9-10 WCS)  Westminster Confession of Faith

While laypersons often do not have the benefits of a seminary education, they can read the plain text of Scripture and compare Scripture with Scripture.  When general assemblies appeal more to their own books of order rather than to the final authority of Holy Scripture to justify their moral and theological compromises it is usually an indication that relativism and cultural accommodation is more important to them than doctrinal orthodoxy and purity.  We as Christians must search the Scriptures to see if what our ministers are telling us is true or false.  Any time a minister bases his arguments on ambiguities and the silence of the text it is an indication that he does not uphold the perspicuity of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture to interpret itself.  When a denomination allows for unbiblical ordinations in order to prevent church splits it is an indication that truth is secondary to a denomination.  The denominational associations of churches and presbyteries should only be unified by the word of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:9-10) and a strict adherence to a detailed Reformed confession of faith such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, Edinburgh edition, 1647.  Dr. Gordon H. Clark referred to the WCF as the most detailed summary of the system of propositional truths revealed in the Bible which has ever been produced.

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.