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

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Neo-Evangelicalism On the Rise?

In a recent blog post at Chaos and Old Night (click on the title to go there) one of the bloggers suggested that there's nothing wrong with neo-orthodoxy per se and that universalism wouldn't keep anyone out of heaven. My own view is that Evangelicals should not be so enamored with being accepted by the larger academic world that they compromise the faith once delivered to the saints. The trouble with most Evangelical seminaries these days is that there is no commitment to the principles of the Protestant Reformation and no emphasis on classical theology. The result is that even in supposedly "conservative" seminaries there is little commitment to orthodoxy and little willingness to challenge neo-orthodoxy and liberalism headon. It's really a shame that so-called Christians are selling out to the other side.

My response to those saying that Karl Barth was a genuine Christian is posted below:

Dear John and John,

I will not apologize. I think it is you who owe me an apology. When I see a public apology posted I will do the same.

First of all, I'm completely justified in my views on Barth both rationally and biblically. If you think my theology is unorthodox, then you should demonstrate such.

Secondly, your baptist presuppositions are glaringly apparent and your ignorance of the Protestant Reformation are even more glaring. Practically no Reformer I know of would have put any individual on the same level as catholic, universally accepted doctrine that has its foundation in both the Bible and in solid orthodox tradition. In fact, many of the Reformed camp would say that creeds are as authoritative as Scripture when they are indeed faithful to Scripture. Thus, while the creeds may err, the onus is on the person who says they are in error to prove where they are in error.

Moreover, my reaction is completely justified since you have ignored the general consensus of the majority of conservative Evangelical scholars on the issue of Barth and other modern theologians. I have merely used the same sort of arguments used by Luther and Calvin who spoke in inflammatory ways to provoke thought. As Scripture puts it, all our righteousness is as filthy rags. Thus, those theologians who denigrate the conservative and classical worldview of Christianity, no matter how far they came back from the other side, are still heretical.

I would the first to admit that Pannenberg, Brunner, Barth, Bultmann, etc., et. al. borrow heavily from classical theology and at times even "sound" orthodox. This in no way justifies proclaiming that you know they are saved or that you don't "doubt" their salvation. Such arrogance is not only offensive, it's just plain wrong.

I didn't appreciate the fact that John Fraiser attacked me personally in the main body of his article on skepticism, implying somehow that I'm a blind dogmatist and that I accept what I believe uncritically. That is just plain wrong. In fact, my skepticism of the stated position on Barth's theology is what sparked this whole debate. It is I who am skeptical so the whole point of the article is rather ironic.

What does trouble me is the pretended charity when all the while your words are harsh, deprecatory and vitriolic. Your comments here in private only prove that.

I don't believe that we should throw out everything modern theology has to say because I believe in common grace and that God grants such grace even to the non-elect and that they can in some fashion use their reason to produce great works of art, science, and even theology. However, this is not to give a blanket endorsement to them as persons on their way to heaven OR their theology as a whole. Wherever Barth agrees with Scripture I agree with Barth. But the same can be said for Evangelical and classical Protestant theologians. My problem with the entire discussion is that Barth seems to be elevated beyond reasonable measure.

Additionally, I notice that you didn't answer even one of the concerns I raised nor did anyone even attempt to answer the quote from Carl Henry. You can accuse me of being ignorant, but I hardly think that charge can be applied to Van Til or Roger Nicole. Nicole's remarks about Van Til having read Barth's entire Dogmatics in German with lots of notes in the margins clearly shows that Van Til did his homework.

I may not have read huge volumes of Barth's work, but I have read some articles from Barth's work. Additionally, I've read Pannenberg's, Jesus, God and Man, several of Paul Tillich's works, and journal articles and books by Jurgen Moltmann, etc. I've read Niehbur, John Bright, etc., etc. I've also read Von Rad and Eichrodt. It's just plain silly to accuse me of not having read modern theology. I also regularly read whatever I can find by way of modern theological journals online. However, from my firsthand reading of the primary sources, I've found terrible gaffs made by renowned theologians that you so admire. Pannenberg, for example, says in Jesus, God and Man, that John Calvin advocated the satisfaction theory of the atonement. However, when reading the Institutes, III.4.27ff we find that Calvin actually advocated the penal substitutionary view of the atonement, as practically any student of Reformed theology knows offhand.

I've run across this sort of tactic many times before with the pentecostal/charismatic circles. If you don't like someone else's opinions you subtly imply they are blindly dogmatic wackos. Your comments below only confirm my original susicions about the the connotations of your remarks which were essentially concealed and implied. Why not just state what you mean plainly as you did below?

If you do not publicly apologize, I will be forced to post your comment below on my blog and to make it public. This is from one Christian to another. Perhaps my tone isn't what you're used to or what you like, but your gross misrepresentation of conservative theology calls for radical response.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

----- Original Message -----
From: John & Annie Meade
To: Charlie Ray
Sent: Tuesday, August 08, 2006 12:11 PM
Subject: Re: Barth doesn't determine what is orthodox or univerally accepted doctrine.

Charlie, I can understand your disagreement with what I and others have said in these recent posts, but disagreement must be handled in a Christian manner. However, your tone and behaviour is really what is inexcusable with comments like these: "then Barth's own theology is just so much intellectual exercise and about as useful for toilet paper as anything else. In fact, I would love to use his handwritten version of Church Dogmatics for toilet paper." or comments like "dead wrong" and your work in the sources (Barth, Moltman or otherwise) is what has been irresponsible with comments like these:

"If we're going to accept them as "orthodox" Christians who are saved, we might as well open the door to Mormons and oneness Pentecostals and Moonies as well."

Or your most recent comment:

"I'm absolutely certain that I'm skeptical of your sincerity. Hiding behind ambiguity and pretending your opponents are blindly dogmatic is convenient but not very convincing.
I am the first to admit that faith is just that–faith. Faith can't be empirically proven or demonstrated. I suppose if your worldview is postmodern, Barth makes perfect sense. After all, the supernatural doesn't happen and there has to be some sort of alternative."

"However, selling out to existentialism and relativism isn't an option for those of us who "believe" that revelation IS possible. If you're going to accuse me of being certain my view is the correct one, then I can just as well accuse you of the same if you are "certain" that I'm wrong. It's a bit silly for relativists to accuse conservatives of being naive about believing in absolute truths and propositional truths in divine revelation when the relativist is making the same sort of absolute claim in opposing propositional truth or revelation in written form. It is a bit contradictory to appeal to the ineffable in words, don't you think?"

Charlie, the fallacies you have committed here are ineffable, but non sequitor and hasty generalization quickly come to mind. Historically, Barth is not the inventer of liberalism. He comes in at the tail end of it, trying to reclaim the Bible. We may not agree with all he says, but to argue the way you are creates more heat than light. Charlie, John and I value your input on the blog, but right now you are showing yourself to be the ignoramus you disavow yourself of. Please go back and do your homework in the sources. Show John and I and the others where we are mistaken. We invite valid criticisms of our point of view--not the rantings of orthodoxy's defender. Please consider this e-mail a rebuke from one Christian to the next. John and I wanted to handle this in a private e-mail, and not on the blog. Personally, I would like to see a public apology on the blog from you. You have completely misunderstood Fraiser's theology in all the posts if you think he leans postmodern and doubts the supernatural revelation in Scripture and Christ. Furthermore, your comments towards Richard are less than charitable. Please think and pray about this suggestion.


Charlie's Reponse to John's attack:

First of all, I never said Barth was "liberal." I said he was neo-orthodox. Secondly, I never said that your friend Frazier denies the supernatural. However, he has capitulated to those who DO deny the supernatural. Neo-orthodoxy redefines Scripture as "myth" precisely because it denies that the supernatural is possible because of its Kantian assumptions about reality and revelation. I consider it a grave departure from the faith to endorse views implicitly which in turn deny the faith. I can never accept Barth or his theology as orthodox in any manner other than where he agrees with Evangelical views.


On 8/7/06, Charlie Ray <mailto:guapoduck1959@cfl.rr.com> wrote:

Quote from John Meade:

"I think we work from "materials" when we use the language of Nicea and Chalcedon. We are not appealing directly to Scripture, but we are borrowing the "grammar" of these previous theologians to present the truth today. Is it possible to think about the theology of Barth in this way? Are there aspects of his theology that we can utilise (always assuming they meet the criterion of Scripture) for our own theologizing? I think this step should be one of the most important when doing historical theology. What do you think?"

I think you are dead wrong and that you have a completely wrong understanding of how orthodox doctrine was established and how the ecumenical councils worked. First of all, most of the Reformed "confessions" of faith, including the Anglican 39 Articles of Religion, acknowledge that "creeds and council" can and do err and must constantly be checked by and against Holy Scripture. Furthermore, the creeds and ecumenical councils, particularly the first four ecumenical councils, which most of the Protestant Reformers and Protestant churches accept as valid, summarize what we believe the Bible teaches as essential doctrine. Sola Scriptura does not mean that creeds and councils are unimportant or that they do not offer to us binding doctrine. Quite the opposite is true. The creeds summarize the universally accepted essentials of the Christian faith AND what the Holy Scriptures teach on these matters as well.

ALL churches have an interpretation of Scripture and a formal creed or confession of faith merely puts it out there in writing for everyone to see. Even the non-credal churches have an "oral tradition" that summarizes their confessions of faith and credal positions. The Church of Christ, for example is non-credal but has certain doctrinal views on baptism and church membership, etc., that make it distinct from Southern Baptists.

In addition, it is a blatant and gross misunderstanding of creeds and church councils to equate the work of one modern theologian (Barth or any other idiosyncratic theologian) with the catholic or universally accepted doctrines of the Christian faith as established by representatives from regions all over the world of that time. There is a reason that Southern Baptists are trinitarian and that they use a canon of Scripture that includes 66 books, 39 OT and 27 NT. The reason is that Christianity universally accepted both of these views. The trouble with modern Evangelicalism is that it operates as if the past never happened and everything in between the NT era and today just doesn't exist.

It's been implied that I'm a blindly dogmatic ignoramus because I dared to oppose Barth's theology without spending ten years reading his works. Well, Barth may be important to today's theological dialogues and discussions. But Barth doesn't come close to establishing orthodoxy or catholic Christianity. Comparing Barth to universally accepted Christian essentials like the deity and humanity of Christ, the holy trinity, and the canon of Scripture is just inexcusable. Not only that, but it is just irresponsible.



Post Script

Apparently the distinction between common grace and efficacious or effectual grace isn't one recognized by more "modernist" evangelicals. Most of the Protestant Reformers and those following in that tradition would recognize that common grace works with even the unregenerate. Thus, non-Christians often produce great works of art, great scientific contributions, music, and even philosophy and theology. However, this is worlds apart from saying that neo-orthodox or liberal theologians are genuine Christians and on their way to heaven, particularly when those theologians promote univeralism and theological pluralism/relativism. It is just this sort of compromise that has led to the quandary we find ourselves in today with the issues facing mainline denominations regarding homosexuality and a denial of the authority of Scripture. Increasingly we're seeing this same sort of postmodernism creeping into Evangelicalism through the back door by way of the charismatic movement and the church growth movement. A commitment to sound doctrine and dogmatic theology seems to be unpopular and just too controversial. Anyone willing to challenge anyone else on this is just dismissed and ignored. It reminds me of the prophets of the OT who were ignored until judgment fell. May God bring a revival to our churches and to our nation. May we repent of our godlessness.




xopher_mc said...

Hi Charlie,

Why do you think that you can set conditions for the salvation or damnation of individuals. You seem to think that orthodoxy is something you possess rather than point to.

Does not our salvation depend entirely on God and not a penny(or cent) on anything we do. Does it not rest entirely on the satisfaction that Christ has offered?

Richard McIntosh

Charlie said...

I point to the orthodoxy of the universal Christian faith as it is expressed in Holy Scripture, in the catholic creeds of the first four ecumenical councils, the Reformed confessions of faith, including the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and modern statements such as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the Cambridge Declaration, etc.

I have as much right to speak on behalf of the Christian faith as anyone else. I have made no secret about my theological commitments and my affinity with confessional, reformed, evangelical and Anglican theology. Of course, I deny that reformed theology and Anglo-Catholicism/tractarianism are compatible. I also deny that the latest tendencies of the neo-evangelical movement toward neo-orthodoxy are legitimate expressions of the Christian faith.

If we allow that those advocating universalism as truth are genuine Christians, then we are opening the door to theological pluralism and an "inclusivist" theology that would consider other religions as legimate. Quite frankly, I think this is a modern attempt to change what Christianity was from the beginning: an exclusivist religion that claimed to be the only correct one.

While it might appeal to those who have no commitment to truth, such religious pluralism is inherently impossible since most religions make competing truth claims. Thus, the very attempt is a contradiction in terms. I prefer to defend and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (see Jude 1:3).

xopher_mc said...

Of course you have as much right as anyone to speak. I am very delibrately not mentioning John and John as I dont' want to get involved in an argument that is not my own.

You haven't answered whether salvation depends on orthodoxy or the work of Christ.


Charlie said...

The short answer is yes and yes. The two cannot be divorced. The work of Christ is known only from the apostolic witness, the apostolic witness is only known from Holy Scripture, which is divine revelation in direct verbal-conceptual form. Orthdoxy or right belief assumes that the Christian faith is based on normative truth claims that are clearly established upon the authority of Holy Scripture primarily and secondarily upon the orthodox/catholic creeds and Reformed/Lutheran Protestant confessions resulting from a study of the same Scriptures. To divorce the person of Jesus Christ from Scripture is to cut off all objective knowledge of Him as both an historical person and as the Lord Jesus Christ of faith. This is essentially the problem with neo-orthodoxy--it has divorced truth from objective revelation in the written Word of God, which is how the historical person of Christ is known and how the Christ of faith is known. I would contend that orthodoxy and the work of Christ are one and the same and derive their source only from Holy Scripture. Even the traditions of the church that establish the orthodox doctrines of Christ's dual nature, the holy trinity, etc. are rooted and grounded upon the authority of Holy Scripture, even though the universal church decided in church councils to define these theological issues more precisely to protect the witness of Christ and his Apostles.

Regarding your friends, John and John, they have little intellectual honesty since they have jumped to all sorts of conclusions about my own theological commitments and about neo-orthodoxy in general. Apparently, Frazier cannot realize that allowing heretical views such as universalism is also a denial of the normative truth claims of the Scriptures. If Scripture claims that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and that only through a crisis of conversion and commitment to Christ is there a possibility of salvation, then we must go with Scripture. To endorse universalists as saved while they are at the same time denying the command of Christ which commands us to go into all the world and "make disciples" (see Matthew 28:18-20) is to deny the very Gospel itself.

Also, neo-orthodoxy, in similar fashion to cults like Mormonism, redefine traditional understanding of Scriptural concepts like the miracles and the exodus and give them spiritual or mythological interpretations. The resurrection could also be included here. Thus, to deny the resurrection is to deny the faith. Paul said if the resurrection is not true then our faith is in vain (see 1 Corinthians 15:13-17). So to say that the resurrection is merely a vision or a spiritual resurrection, when the Scriptures and orthodox tradition says that Jesus was really, literally, and physically raised from the dead in "flesh and bone" (Luke 24:39-40), is to deny the Christian faith.

Your comment is assuming that the Barthian divorce between Holy Scripture and divine revelation is an accurate one. It isn't.

xopher_mc said...

If you are making salvation depend on a persons commitment are you not making salvation depend on man's good work?

Charlie said...

Not at all. First of all, even our ability to believe is a result of God's efficactious or effectual grace. When Jesus said, "Ye must be born again," He wasn't telling us what need to do. On the contrary, what He was saying is that UNLESS we are born again (John 3:3), we will not see the kingdom of God. This is confirmed by verses 5-6 where Jesus says that we must be born of water AND the Spirit. Verse 8 tells us that we don't know where the Spirit comes from or where He goes. In other words, the Spirit regenerates whoever He will.

Secondly, when we are regenerated we naturally desire to learn the things of God and salvation is of the whole man. Thus, the mind is renewed and we accept the doctrines of God that the Apostles and Jesus taught. Salvation includes the whole man, mind, soul and body. Thus the renewed or regenerated man will accept sound doctrine and the essential doctrines of the Christian faith as they are revealed to us in Holy Scripture.

"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Acts 2:42 KJV.

Antinomianism is by no means permissible by any reading of the New Testament. Romans 6:1-2 says, "1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" KJV.

So salvation includes a change of the will, the intellect, and the heart. It is both an act of God in regeneration and effectual calling AND a conversion of the man into a new man by a change of the will. Thus, commitment is both a gift of God AND an act of the will by man. The will is renewed and empowered by grace to so that the man now wants to serve God instead of remaining in rebellion against God. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13. "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." 1 John 2:4.

If you want a more well-rounded explanation of the order of salvation and how grace and good works operate, I might suggest you read the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Confession of Faith.

However, the 39 Articles of Religion are fairly clear on this issue:

X. Of Free-Will
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.

XI. Of the Justification of Man
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

XII. Of Good Works

Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be evidently known as a tree is known by the fruit.

Also, I might mention that "faith" is not a work but a gift of God: "8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephsians 2:8-9.

Anonymous said...

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