Dr. Adam Harwood preached a sermon against Reformed theology at Emir Caner’s Truett-McConnell College. In response, Dr. James White shares some of his concerns with its simplistic approach.
I was interviewed this morning (April 15, 2014) on the “Knowing the Truth” radio broadcast with Kevin Boling as we talked about the doctrine of election, reprobation, Christ and the Cross, responding to a new book by Austin Fischer “Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed.” The 55 minute program is available to hear/download here.
Dr. James White: A quick discussion of a verb you will be asked to reject and disbelieve in the course of the coming week—if you are a Christian, that is.
From an article entitled, “Should we vote in church?” by Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr.
Ask RC: Should we vote in church?
Types of Church Government
There are, at base, three forms of government. The first is rule by one. The second is rule by a few, the third rule by all. In civil government this would essentially be monarchy, republic and democracy, broadly speaking. In church government it would be episcopacy, presbyterianism, and congregationalism, broadly speaking. Rightly understood then the church, whatever denomination, if it is indeed a part of the church, is an episcopacy. Just as Jesus reigns over the nations, so He reigns over the church. His vicar, however, is not the bishop of Rome, but the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has given us the Word of God. That Word, true in all that it teaches, does not come equipped with a Book of Church Order. Good men, good Reformed men, over the course of church history have argued that under Christ’s reign the church should function as an episcopacy. Other good Reformed men argue for presbyterianism, and finally good Reformed men have spoken in defense of congregationalism.
The Rule of Elders
This Reformed man, while acknowledging that this isn’t the clearest thing in the Bible, sides with the presbyterians. The church should be ruled by a plurality of elders. Even if I am right, however, this doesn’t settle fully the question of whether or not we should vote in church. It does, however, set some boundaries.
First, if the church is to be ruled by elders it cannot simultaneously be ruled by the congregation. Congregational votes at the very least cannot overrule the will of the session, at least without devolving down to congregationalism. This still, however, doesn’t outlaw all votes by the congregation. One might, for instance, take a poll of the congregation. Insofar as such a poll would be non-binding, it is no denial of Presbyterian church government. Suppose the elders are curious to know how many of its member families would be interested in a mid-week Bible study, or even if Tuesday or Wednesday would be a better evening for such a study. By all means take a poll. The elders, however, would have to decide.
Congregational Voting on Elders
Second, there is value in having the congregation “vote” on who should be their elders. Here again I would argue we have to be careful not to let the congregation wrest rule for the session. That is, I don’t believe the congregation can impose an elder on the session. I argue that the approval of elders should be two-fold. Certainly the session needs to approve potential session members. But when the congregation votes on potential elders they are doing something other than ruling in the church. They are acknowledging the rule over them. That is, they are agreeing to have the elders be in authority over them.
Typically these issues do not become difficult in themselves. That is, it is rare for a church to find itself in trouble, or in battle mode, over competing classes of members. That said, there are often subtle dangers in not thinking through these issues well. To say, for instance, that the elders rule in the church is not to suggest that the members are just spectators, that they are not full members of the body. Much less should it communicate differing levels of spiritual standing. Elders are sinners saved by grace. Laymen are sinners saved by grace. We are all called to do the work of the ministry. On the other side of the coin, when congregations do vote, or even meet together in discussion, it is important to not import the wrong categories into the meeting. The church is not a business, and the members are not stockholders. And it most certainly is not a democracy.
Sin & Church Rule
There is no church government that will eliminate sin. Things go wrong in all kinds of churches. It is tempting in the midst of dealing with sin to think the grass must be greener on the other side. It is especially tempting to believe, “Things would be so much better if only I had more power to bring it to pass.” But we all bring sin with us wherever we go. One man ruling is dangerous. All men ruling is dangerous. A few men ruling is dangerous, but, I would argue, less dangerous than the first two. Which is why God gives us elders and gives elders the authority to rule in the church.
This post was first published on: rcsprouljr.com.
“Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned much later of the discovery of soft and pliable blood vessels still contained in a Tyrannosaurus rex femur bone. Blood vessels are not minerals. They are made of proteins that do not last millions of years. This was the first of many instances of original tissue fossil discoveries that challenged the most basic tenets that I thought I knew about dinosaur fossils.” – Brian Thomas, ICR Science Writer
“What a wonder is it, that two natures infinitely distant, should be more intimately united than anything in the world; and yet without any confusion! That the same person should have both a glory and a grief; an infinite joy in the Deity, and an inexpressible sorrow in the humanity! That a God upon a throne should be an infant in a cradle; the thundering Creator be a weeping babe and a suffering man, are such expressions of mighty power, as well as condescending love, that they astonish men upon earth, and angels in heaven.” – Thomas Goodwin
“In this union between the two natures there is the greatest distance involved. The creator is identified with a creature. In the union of the two natures one sees eternity and temporality, eternal blessedness and temporal sorrow, Almightiness and weakness, omniscience and ignorance, unchangeableness and changeableness, infinity and finitude. All of these disparate attributes come together in the person of Jesus Christ.” – Mark Jones
“Unbelief is like gravity, it’s always pulling down on the authority of Scripture.” – Mark Dever
“We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God – which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but His descent to us. Without God’s descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in His grace.” – Os Guinness, Long Journey Home
“We are cosmic traitors. We must recognize this problem within ourselves if we are to grasp the necessity of the cross.” – R.C. Sproul
“The great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence, with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me.” – Samuel Rutherford
“Reformed theology so far transcends the mere five points of Calvinism that it is an entire life and world view.” – R.C. Sproul
“Faith and repentance are as much benefits of the covenant of grace as justification . . . . faith and repentance themselves . . . . are components of the gospel, not the workings or fruits of the law.” – Herman Bavinck
“God gives the grace of forgiveness in order to receive the glory of worship.” – Rhett Dodson
“People fall in private, long before they fall in public.” – J.C. Ryle
“He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.” – Matthew Henry
“Did Christ finish His work for us? Then there can be no doubt but He will also finish His work in us.” – John Flavel
“Truth is never determined by majority opinion, but by divine revelation.” – Steve Lawson
“If the cross is not foolishness to the lost world then we have misrepresented the cross.” – Steven Lawson
“Preaching on unity doesn’t unify a church. Preaching Jesus unifies a church.” – Steve Dighton
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely the little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at any point.” – Martin Luther
“They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?” – Martin Luther
“…even acts of civic kindness done by an unbeliever fail to meet the requirement of God’s law—namely, that all our actions must be done with a view to glorifying God.” – Derek Thomas
“At the end of the day, the biggest obstacle to evangelism is Christians who don’t share the gospel.” – Albert Mohler
“Ho, Ho, Sir Surgeon. You are too delicate to tell the man that he is ill. You hope to heal the sick without their knowing it. You therefore flatter them. And what happens? They laugh at you. They dance upon their own graves and at last they die. Your delicacy is cruelty, your flatteries are poisons, you are a murderer… Shall we keep men in a fool’s paradise? Shall we lull them into soft slumber from which they will awake in hell? Are we to become helpers of their damnation by our smooth speeches? In the name of God we will not.” – C. H. Spurgeon
“I used to say ‘he needs a radical conversion.’ Now I say, ‘a true conversion is radical.’” – Linda Samson
“The Epistle to the Romans has sat around in the church since the first century like a bomb ticking away the death of religion; and every time it’s been picked up, the ear-splitting freedom in it has gone off with a roar. The only sad thing is that the church as an institution has spent most of its time playing bomb squad and trying to defuse it. For your comfort, though, it can’t be done. Your freedom remains as close to your life as Jesus and as available to your understanding as the nearest copy. Like Augustine, therefore, take and read–and then hold onto your hat. Compared to that explosion, the clap of doom sounds like a cap pistol.” – Robert Capon
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” – C. S. Lewis
David Murray writes:
I’ve lost count of the number of times some tragedy has occurred – a mass shooting, a terrorist attack, a drunk driving death – and the victims or their relatives, usually Christians, start “forgiving” the offenders within hours or days of the crime.
I understand the motive, and also the desire to present an attractive witness about Christian forgiveness to the world. But it’s not a faithful witness to God. It does not reflect how God forgives, which is to be our pattern and model. Here’s why:
God does not forgive those who do not want forgiveness.
Here’s how God forgives:
1. God is willing, ready, and eager to forgive everyone: That’s His beautiful nature, His compassionate character, and His constant desire.
2. God offers forgiveness to everyone: God offers to release those who have offended Him from their deserved punishment and alienation from Him. There’s a big difference between offering it and giving it. Offering it is unconditional; giving it is conditional.
3. God does not forgive everyone regardless of their response to His offer: Although He offers forgiveness to all, not all respond. Some don’t even think they’ve done anything needing forgiveness.
4. God’s forgiveness is conditional upon repentance (Luke 13:3; 17:3; Acts 2:38): God’s forgiveness is conditional upon the offender wanting forgiveness and wanting to turn from His offending ways.
5. Forgiveness through repentance produce reconciliation on both sides: Offering forgiveness reduces the temperature of the conflict; but only the giving of forgiveness, in response to repentance, ends it.
Having seen how God forgives, let’s remind ourselves of the basic biblical principle:
Our forgiveness is to be patterned upon God’s forgiveness (Eph. 4:32; Matt. 6:12, 14-15).
1. We must be willing, ready, and eager to forgive everyone: This is not easy and usually requires Gospel work to be done in our own hearts as we realize how much God has forgiven us.
2. We must offer forgiveness to everyone: This step and the previous step together are a kind of lesser forgiveness, sometimes called positional forgiveness. We are in a position where we are ready to forgive and we offer it freely. If this is what people are talking about when they say, “I forgive the person who raped and murdered my daughter,” then that’s fine. It’s more than fine; it’s amazing grace and can only be given by God. However, it’s not forgiveness in the fullest biblical sense and must not be confused with it.
3. We must not forgive everyone regardless of their response to our offer: Forgiving someone before they repent is un-godlike, avoids dealing with serious issues, and while it might offer some temporary and superficial relief, does not produce long-term satisfaction to the conscience nor reconciliation.
4. We must forgive upon the condition of repentance: According to Matthew 18:15-17, if a person sins we must reprove them. If they do not respond with repentance, we must take it to another level. If they repent at any stage, we must forgive them, even if it’s the 490th time they’ve done it (Matt. 18:22)
5. Forgiveness through repentance produces reconciliation on both sides.
Full forgiveness, sometimes called transactional forgiveness, is when all five steps occur, resulting in deep and lasting reconciliation. This is the kind of forgiveness that most glorifies God, most benefits the offender, and most satisfies the offended.
However, I don’t want to minimize the releasing power of steps 1 and 2. Some people say, “I can never forgive until Jim repents.” If so, you are going to carry around a huge and growing load of resentment as you pile up unresolved conflicts in your life.
But, if by God’s grace you are enabled to take these first two steps, to work through positional forgiveness, you will experience wonderful load-lightening relief. Here’s a sample prayer if you’re in this situation:
“Lord, Jim has done me great wrong, but won’t confess it or ask for forgiveness.
I can’t therefore forgive him without misrepresenting you or damaging his spiritual welfare.
However, I’m not going to carry this pain around to burden and burn my mind and heart for years. I’m handing this over to you, because you said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’
Lord, you know I don’t want your vengeance executed on Jim, but with this prayer I’m promising no more vengeance on my part. I hand that entirely over to you.
I promise to not dwell upon this incident, but rather I transfer it all over to you, and trust you to put right in your own time and way. You know I am ready to forgive Jim fully, freely, and forever, should it ever be asked for.
Please help Jim to understand your view of sin and to seek your forgiveness and mine. Amen”
Professional accent and dialect coach Andrew Jack seamlessly switches between some of the various accents that are scattered across the United Kingdom. Missing is the famous ‘Geordie’ accent of Newcastle, the ‘Brum’ accent of Birmingham, the Mancunian accent of Manchester as well as a number of others, but a good deal is covered in less than 90 seconds. Enjoy!
Scott Lanser is director at Associates for Biblical Research, a ministry whose purpose is to inform the public on the latest archaeological finds along with each discovery’s biblical perspective. He is also the senior pastor of New Hope Bible Fellowship.
Archaeologists once boasted that the Bible was full of errors, but a slew of discoveries has put a damper on their boasting. Here’s an article by Scott Lanser outlining compelling evidences of the accuracy of the Biblical text.
1. The Tel Dan Stele (900–850 BC) that the United Monarchy under King David existed in history and flatly contradicts the long-held opinions of skeptics who denied that David ever existed.
2. The Meesha Stele (846 BC) – popularly known as the Moabite Stone, it records the revolt of Meesha, King of Moab, against Israel. This incredible stele mentions Omri, King of Israel, and David of the United Monarchy. It even refers to Yahweh, the unique name of the God of Israel!
3. The Nabonidus Cylinder (550 BC). King Nabonidus of Babylonia left a magnificent cuneiform cylinder (wedge-shaped letters inscribed on a clay cylinder) mentioning his elder son, Belshazzar by name. Critics of the Bible had claimed for many years that the account in the book of Daniel was wrong; they said Belshazzar was never a king in Babylon and that Nabonidus was not his father. The discovery of this cylinder clearly showed that these scholars were dead wrong. Indeed, we can now understand the meaning of Daniel 5:16 more precisely where it says, “Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom” (italics added for emphasis).
This text now makes perfect sense because Nabonidus was in a coregency with his son Belshazzar, who was the crown prince of Babylon. So that would make Daniel the “third ruler in the kingdom.”
4. Caiaphas Ossuary. An ossuary was a box constructed to hold the bones of the dead after decomposition. In 1990 a startling discovery was made that shook biblical scholars and archaeologists alike. In the Peace Forest section of Jerusalem was discovered a burial cave containing twelve ossuaries, one of them being none other than that of Caiaphas, the high priest who presided at the trial of Jesus.
5. Pilate Dedication Stone. In June 1961 an inscription on a limestone block, found at a Roman amphitheater in Caesarea Maritima, rocked the scholarly world. The block, which was once used as a dedication stone of a nearby temple and now reused for seating at the local amphitheater, had an extraordinary inscription. It read: “Tiberieum, (Pon)tius Pilatus, (Praef)ectus Iuda(eae).” Those scholars who questioned Pilate’s existence (and the gospel accounts generally) were silenced with this amazing discovery!
Once again, the full article is here.
In this excerpt from his message at the 2012 Ligonier West Coast Conference, Dr. R.C. Sproul explains why it’s imperative to hold fast to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
If an angel comes in here and says, “Wait a minute. You can’t get to heaven by trusting Christ and Christ alone, and having the imputation of His merit. And the angel came here and said, “For you to really be justified you have to have inherent righteousness. You have to add works to faith, merit to grace, you to Christ.” If an angel from heaven came in here and said that this afternoon, I would take him by the seat of his celestial pants and kick him out of here!
Paul said that if anybody teaches you any other gospel, even if it’s an angel from heaven, let him be anathema. Let him be anathema; let him be damned.
If the Pope, the Bishop, the priest, your preacher, teaches any other gospel than that which you have received, let him be anathema; because there is no other gospel.
And now I’m interested, because I can remember when I got involved in this debate back at the time of ECT and was loosing friends faster than I could shake a stick at them, and people say you’re dividing the church, and all that—same kind of thing they said to John MacArthur.
And I was alone one night and I went in the church and I opened this passage in Galatians. And I had always stopped at verse 9, “As we said before so I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than that which you have received let him be accursed”—I would stop there. This time I went to verse 10.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a slave of Jesus Christ.”
Here’s where, when the gospel is at stake, as Luther said in His great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” in the last verse, Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. If we have to let go of our family, let go of our friends, let go of our church, let go of our lives, so be it. Otherwise, we seek to please men rather than to please God. And God has saved us with a gospel that is really a magnificent gospel, a marvelous gospel. And if I trade that in, or negotiate it, and say to people who affirm the council of Trent—this other gospel—that I have a unity of faith in the gospel with them, what have I done!
I’ll give up my relationship to any leader in Christendom over this doctrine; I’ll split my family over this doctrine; I’ll split the church over this doctrine. This is the gospel! If the Lord marks iniquity, who shall stand? Well, guess what? He does mark iniquity. And blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin.
From the Garden of Eden, the first way justification entered the world was how God saved Adam and Eve by covering their nakedness; by hiding their sin. The whole system of atonement in the Old Testament when the blood came into the holy of holies and was sprinkled on the mercy seat, it was to cover the sin of the people. That’s what the cloak of the righteousness of Christ does for all who put their trust in Him. His righteousness is my covering. And that’s how I can stand before a holy God.
Again, if I have to wait until, through the machinations of the church, and the sacraments, and all the rest, and purgatory, to make me pure before I can be justified, I’m going to sleep in tomorrow morning. Because without sola Fide, you’re without the gospel. And without the gospel, you’re without hope. But thanks be to God who gives us the glorious gospel of justification through trusting in the work of Jesus and the work of Jesus alone, who alone is not only able, but willing to save all who put their faith in Him.
Dr. Brian Mattson writes:
In Darren Aronofsky’s new star-gilt silver screen epic, Noah, Adam and Eve are luminescent and fleshless, right up until the moment they eat the forbidden fruit.
Such a notion isn’t found in the Bible, of course. This, among the multitude of Aronofsky’s other imaginative details like giant Lava Monsters, has caused many a reviewer’s head to be scratched. Conservative-minded evangelicals write off the film because of the “liberties” taken with the text of Genesis, while a more liberal-minded group stands in favor of cutting the director some slack. After all, we shouldn’t expect a professed atheist to have the same ideas of “respecting” sacred texts the way a Bible-believer would.
Both groups have missed the mark entirely. Aronofsky hasn’t “taken liberties” with anything.
The Bible is not his text.
In his defense, I suppose, the film wasn’t advertised as such. Nowhere is it said that this movie is an adaptation of Genesis. It was never advertised as “The Bible’s Noah,” or “The Biblical Story of Noah.” In our day and age we are so living in the leftover atmosphere of Christendom that when somebody says they want to do “Noah,” everybody assumes they mean a rendition of the Bible story. That isn’t what Aronofsky had in mind at all. I’m sure he was only too happy to let his studio go right on assuming that, since if they knew what he was really up to they never would have allowed him to make the movie.
Let’s go back to our luminescent first parents. I recognized the motif instantly as one common to the ancient religion of Gnosticism. Here’s a 2nd century A.D. description about what a sect called the Ophites believed:
“Adam and Eve formerly had light, luminous, and so to speak spiritual bodies, as they had been fashioned. But when they came here, the bodies became dark, fat, and idle.” –Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, I, 30.9
It occurred to me that a mystical tradition more closely related to Judaism, called Kabbalah (which the singer Madonna made popular a decade ago or so), surely would have held a similar view, since it is essentially a form of Jewish Gnosticism. I dusted off (No, really: I had to dust it) my copy of Adolphe Franck’s 19th century work, The Kabbalah, and quickly confirmed my suspicions:
“Before they were beguiled by the subtleness of the serpent, Adam and Eve were not only exempt from the need of a body, but did not even have a body—that is to say, they were not of the earth.”
Franck quotes from the Zohar, one of Kabbalah’s sacred texts:
“When our forefather Adam inhabited the Garden of Eden, he was clothed, as all are in heaven, with a garment made of the higher light. When he was driven from the Garden of Eden and was compelled to submit to the needs of this world, what happened? God, the Scriptures tell us, made Adam and his wife tunics of skin and clothed them; for before this they had tunics of light, of that higher light used in Eden…”
Obscure stuff, I know. But curiosity overtook me and I dove right down the rabbit hole.
I discovered what Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film was: Pi. Want to know its subject matter? Do you? Are you sure?
If you think that’s a coincidence, you may want a loved one to schedule you a brain scan.
Have I got your attention? Good.
The world of Aronofsky’s Noah is a thoroughly Gnostic one: a graded universe of “higher” and “lower.” The “spiritual” is good, and way, way, way “up there” where the ineffable, unspeaking god dwells, and the “material” is bad, and way, way down here where our spirits are encased in material flesh. This is not only true of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, but of fallen angels, who are explicitly depicted as being spirits trapped inside a material “body” of cooled molten lava. Continue reading