All That Is In God

Warning – Scholastic Theological Material Ahead… it could easily make your brain hurt. It is posted in order to reference the current discussion taking place.

James E. Dolezal is Assistant Professor of Theology in the School of Divinity at Cairn University, Langhorne, Pennsylvania. He has written a new book entitled: All That Is in God (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017).

Product Description – Unknown to many, increasing numbers of conservative evangelicals are denying basic tenets of classical Christian teaching about God, with departures occurring even among those of the Calvinistic persuasion. James E. Dolezal’s All That Is in God provides an exposition of the historic Christian position while engaging with these contemporary deviations. His convincing critique of the newer position he styles “theistic mutualism” is philosophically robust, systematically nuanced, and biblically based. It demonstrates the need to maintain the traditional viewpoint, particularly on divine simplicity, and spotlights the unfortunate implications for other important Christian doctrines—such as divine eternality and the Trinity—if it were to be abandoned. Arguing carefully and cogently that “all that is in God is God Himself,” the work is sure to stimulate debate on the issue in years to come.

John Frame has objected strenuously to many of the things written in this book:

Scholasticism for Evangelicals: Thoughts on All That Is In God by James Dolezal

Frame’s article here needs to be read for the rest of this to make any sense.

Others are now writing, and it seems clear that Frame is not on the side of orthodoxy.

Mark Jones:

Mike Riccardi (on facebook) writes:

So, I’ve been writing out a long response, which, as I was tending to the screaming kids, my phone ate. I’ll do my best to reproduce it.

1. It’s an extremely serious, as well as facile and naive, charge to say that anyone who holds to the historic Christian doctrine of divine simplicity is either (a) uncritically imbibing Aquinas, or, since there is a host of theologians and thinkers who embraced divine simplicity before Aquinas, (b) are uncritically imbibing Aristotle. Before you continue to parrot the objection that simplicity is simply Thomistic or Aristotelian, I would challenge you to demonstrate that Augustine, Athanasius, and the Cappadocian Fathers (all of whom were significant formulators and defenders of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, and who explicitly employed the traditional doctrine of simplicity to maintain and defend Trinitarianism from heretical opposition) — I would challenge you to demonstrate that those men were either literarily or philosphically *dependent* on Aristotle for their thinking. That case simply can’t be made. They may have used categories that overlapped with certain of Aristotle’s (or other philosopher’s) ideas, but that doesn’t make the Trinity Aristotelian!

2. What bugs me about the contemporary evangelical / theistic mutualist/mutablist hunt for the Scholastic boogeyman (that is, to suppose that identifying an idea as “scholastic” or “Thomistic” or “Aristotelian” is sufficient refutation of that idea; it’s not; just because Thomas or Aristotle taught something doesn’t make it automatically unbiblical) is that we all stand on the shoulders of the so-called “scholastics” any time we use language like “person” and “essence” or “nature” to speak about the Trinity — or, to use an example that is more close to home for you, Scott, any time we use language like efficient or proximate cause to describe biblical compatibilism. The fathers didn’t wholesale imbibe the metaphysics of Greek philosophy, but they certainly spoke in those categories — ousia, phusis, hupostasis (and persona, substantia, essentia in the Latin fathers), etc. Again, there was significant revision of those metaphysical categories to reflect biblical truth (even using nonbiblical words like homoousios!), but there wasn’t this fear that to even use the same categories that the philosophers used would be a necessary subjugation of biblical authority to philosophy. Similarly, whenever we use the formula of proximate and efficient causation, we could be legitimately charged with employing an “Aristotelian” theory of causation. But simply because Aristotle might have helpfully observed that there are different kinds of causes and different levels of causation, it doesn’t mean that those categories are off limits when we see those concepts emerging from Scripture as well (e.g., in Acts 2:23). That brings me to #3. Continue reading

TULIP and The Doctrines of Grace

Article by Dr. Steve Lawson (original source here)

The central truth of God’s saving grace is succinctly stated in the assertion, “Salvation is of the Lord.” This strong declaration means that every aspect of man’s salvation is from God and is entirely dependent upon God. The only contribution that we make is the sin that was laid upon Jesus Christ at the cross. The Apostle Paul affirmed this when he wrote, “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). This is to say, salvation is God determined, God purchased, God applied, and God secured. From start to finish, salvation is of the Lord alone.

This truth is best summarized in the doctrines of grace, which are total depravity, unconditional election, definite atonement, effectual calling, and preserving grace. These truths present the triune God as the author of our salvation from beginning to end. Each member of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit—has a part to play in redemption, and they work together as one God to rescue those perishing under divine wrath. In perfect unity, the three divine persons do the work that hellbound sinners, utterly unable to save themselves, cannot do.


The first man, Adam, sinned, and his transgression and guilt were immediately imputed to all mankind (Christ excepted). By this one act of disobedience, he became morally polluted in every part of his being—mind, affections, body, and will. By this sin, death entered the world, and Adam’s fellowship with God was broken.

Adam’s guilt and corruption were transmitted to his natural offspring at the moment of conception. In turn, each of his children’s children inherited this same radical fallenness. Subsequently, it has been passed down to each generation to the present day. Adam’s perverse nature has spread to the whole of every person. Apart from grace, our minds are darkened by sin, unable to understand the truth. Our hearts are defiled, unable to love the truth. Our bodies are dying, progressing to physical death. Our wills are dead, unable to choose the good. Moral inability to please God plagues every person from their entrance into the world. In their unregenerate state, no one seeks after God. No one is capable of doing good. All are under the curse of the law, which is eternal death.


Long before Adam sinned, God had already decreed and determined salvation for sinners. In eternity past, the Father chose a people in Christ who would be saved. Before time began, God elected many from among mankind whom He purposed to save from His wrath. This selection was not based upon any foreseen faith in those whom He chose. Nor was it prompted by their inherent goodness. Instead, according to His infinite love and inscrutable wisdom, God set His affection upon His elect.

The Father gave the elect to His Son to be His bride. Each one chosen was predestined by the Father to be conformed to the image of His Son and to sing His praises forever. The Father commissioned His Son to enter this world and lay down His life to save these same chosen ones. Likewise, the Father commissioned the Spirit to bring these same elect ones to faith in Christ. The Son and the Spirit freely concurred in all these decisions, making salvation the undivided work of the triune God.


In the fullness of time, God the Father sent His Son to enter this fallen world on a mission to redeem His people. He was born of a virgin, without a sin nature, to live a sinless life. Jesus was born under the divine law so that He would fully obey it on behalf of disobedient sinners who have repeatedly broken it. This active obedience of Christ fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law. By keeping the law, the Son of God achieved a perfect righteousness, which is reckoned to believing sinners so that they are declared righteous, or justified, before God.

This sinless life of Jesus further qualified Him to go to the cross and die in the place of guilty, hellbound sinners. On the cross, Jesus bore the unmitigated wrath of the Father for the sins of His people. In this vicarious death, the Father transferred to His Son all the sins of all those who would ever believe in Him. As a sin-bearing sacrifice, Jesus died a substitutionary death in the place of God’s elect. On the cross, He propitiated the righteous anger of God toward the elect. By the blood of the cross, Jesus reconciled the holy God to sinful man, establishing peace between the two parties. In His redeeming death, He purchased His bride—His elect people—out of bondage to sin and set her free.

Jesus’ death did not merely make all mankind potentially savable. Nor did His death simply achieve a hypothetical benefit that may or may not be accepted. Neither did His death merely make all mankind redeemable. Instead, Jesus actually redeemed a specific people through His death, securing and guaranteeing their salvation. Not a drop of Jesus’ blood was shed in vain. He truly saved all for whom He died. This doctrine of definite atonement is sometimes called limited atonement.


With oneness of purpose, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit into the world to apply this salvation to those chosen and redeemed. The Spirit came to convict the elect of sin, righteousness, and judgment and to turn to the Son all whom the Father gave to Him. At the divinely appointed time, the Spirit removes from each elect person his unbelieving heart of stone, hardened and dead in sin, and replaces it with a believing heart of flesh, responsive and alive unto God. The Spirit implants eternal life within the spiritually dead soul. He grants the chosen men and women the gifts of repentance and faith, enabling them to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Suddenly, all things are made new. New life from the Spirit produces new love for God. New desires to obey the Word of God produce a new pursuit of holiness. There is a new life direction, lived with new passion for God. These born-again ones give evidence of their election with the fruit of righteousness This call from the Spirit is effectual, meaning the elect will certainly respond when it is given. They will not finally resist it. Thus, the doctrine of effectual calling is sometimes called the doctrine of irresistible grace.


Once converted, every believer is kept eternally secure by all three persons of the Trinity. All whom God foreknew and predestined in eternity past, He will glorify in eternity future. No believer will drop out or fall away. Every believer is firmly held by the sovereign hands of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, never to be lost. None of Jesus’ sheep for whom He laid down His life will perish. The Holy Spirit permanently seals in Christ all whom He draws to faith. Once born again, none can ever be unborn. Once a believer, none can ever become an unbeliever. Once saved, none will ever be-come unsaved. God will preserve them in faith forever, and they will persevere until the end. Thus, the doctrine of preserving grace is often called the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

From beginning to end, salvation is of the Lord. In reality, these five doctrines of grace form one comprehensive body of truth concerning salvation. They are inseparably connected and therefore stand or fall together. To embrace any one of the five necessitates embracing all five. To deny one is to deny the others and fracture the Trinity, setting the three persons at odds with one another. These doctrines speak together with one voice in giving the greatest glory to God. Such high theology produces high doxology. When it is rightly understood that God alone—Father, Son, and Spirit—saves sinners, then all glory goes to Him.

“The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Truman – A Review

Article by Tom Hicks – original source here.

With Christianity on the wane in Western culture, some leaders have urged Christians to deemphasize secondary doctrines in order to stand united on gospel essentials. Our numbers are too small, they say, for Christians to continue nit picking at each other on long disputed matters of theology. Let me suggest, however, that doctrinal minimalism is the wrong approach, especially at this time. While all true Christians should stand united for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and against the rising specter of secularism, this is not the time to sideline secondary doctrines of the faith. Now, more than ever, we need robust, thoroughly biblical expressions of Christianity. We need an encyclopedically confessional faith.

Consider briefly three reasons this is true. First, when Christianity was small and under pressure in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote the church of Rome a detailed theological letter that included carefully articulated secondary doctrines. Paul believed that rich theology is needed for healthy Christians and churches during troubled times. Second, because the culture continues to assault the gospel, we need the Bible’s whole theological support structure, if the gospel is to remain intact. Secondary doctrines provide the necessary intellectual and ecclesiastical supports of the gospel. Third, when the surrounding culture is most decidedly opposed to the faith, evangelism and disciple making must be theologically robust, if conversions are to be sound, since converts will be coming from worldviews that are radically different from that of Scripture. These converts will also need well-developed theologies to think and live Christianly in our post-Christian society.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I offer the following review of Carl Trueman’s book, the Creedal Imperative. Trueman’s work summons the churches, particularly the churches of the Protestant and Reformed tradition, to embrace thoroughgoing creedalism. This delightful volume is well-written, witty, historically precise, and deeply applicable to our contemporary situation. While Trueman’s book is full of cultural commentary, historical perspective and theological discussion, here are some of his arguments for creedalism that I found most helpful.

1. Creedalism confronts our culture’s suspicion about words. We live in a culture in which pictures, feelings, and sound bites are often believed to convey more meaning than carefully crafted words. Our postmodern age doubts whether words can carry objective meaning. But God chose to reveal Himself by the inscripturated words of the Bible. Like the Bible, confessions of faith convey God’s truth through words. Creeds insist that words are suitable vehicles for the communication of objective truth.

2. Creedalism confronts our culture’s anti-historical bent. Because Western culture is so deeply influenced by evolution, it’s reluctant to value the wisdom of ages past. Westerners believe that new ideas are better than old ones. But creedalism asserts that true wisdom is as old as God’s own mind and that the sages of the past have more to offer than the innovators of the present. Another reason for Western culture’s anti-historicism has to do with the fact that Westerners don’t view human nature as constant across time. What does someone in the 17th Century have in common with me? But Scripture teaches that human beings have the same fallen nature across time and that the same old gospel reconciles us to God.

3. Creedalism confronts our culture’s anti-institutionalism. Western society is basically anti-authoritarian and therefore distrusts all institutions, including the institution of the church. Our society tends to trust, not those who are actually skilled and knowledgable to speak to important issues, but those who are young and popular, like Lady Gaga. But the Bible clearly declares that the church is a “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15), and that it supports the truth by way of confession: “great indeed we confess is the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16). God calls pastors and churches to teach the whole counsel of God and enforce orthodoxy by way of their God given authority under Christ and His Word.

4. Creedalism is required by the Bible. In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul says, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Commenting on these verses, Carl Trueman writes, “Conspicuously, Paul does not simply say to Timothy, ‘Memorize the Old Testament or the Gospels or my Letters’ any more than he ever defines preaching as the reading of the same. The form [pattern] of sound words is something more [that is: a pattern of words that explains the content of Scripture, as in creeds]. Anyone who claims to take the Bible seriously must take the words of Paul to Timothy on this matter seriously. To claim to have no creed but the Bible, then, is problematic: the Bible itself seems to demand that we have forms of sound words, and that’s what creeds are” (75-76).

5. Creedalism prevents innovative and inferior theological formulations. Some pastors and teachers, who call themselves “biblicists,” approach the Bible independently and innovatively without consulting the careful work of historical theology. They do this, even though teachers and pastors have been hard at work formulating doctrine, throughout the history of the church, so that the full meaning of Scripture is clear while errors are avoided and excluded. Trueman wisely warns the “biblicist” pastor, “Do not precipitately abandon creedal formulations which have been tried and tested over the centuries by churches all over the world in favor of your own ideas. On the whole, those who reinvent the wheel invest a lot of time either to come up with something that looks identical to the old design or something that is actually inferior to it. This is not to demand capitulation before church tradition or a rejection of the notion of Scripture alone. Rather, it is to suggest an attitude of humility toward the church’s past which simply looks both at the good that the ancient creeds have done and also the fact that they seem to make better sense of the testimony of Scripture than any of the alternatives” (107).

6. Creedalism alone allows for the most open critique of theology. Those who claim to have “no creed but the Bible” actually do have a creed. They have an opinion about what the Bible teaches on doctrines such as predestination, the will of man, assurance, baptism, the nature of the church, etc. The only difference between someone who claims “no creed but the Bible” and a “creedalist” is that the creedalist writes his creed down so that it can be examined and critiqued by Scripture. Trueman writes, “What he [the non-creedalist] really should have said was: I have a creed but I am not going to write it down, so you cannot critique it; and I am going to identify my creed so closely with the Bible that I am not going to be able to critique it either” (160).

7. Creedalism avoids authoritarianism. According to Trueman, non-creedalist “biblicists” are actually “more authoritarian than the papacy” (161). Since non-creedalist pastors and teachers will not write down what they believe so that their beliefs can be critiqued, they may teach their churches whatever they personally come to believe the Bible says even if that changes over time. For non-creedal teachers, primary authority is located in their own personal interpretation, rather than in the church’s written and agreed upon creedal interpretation, which is open to public scrutiny.

8. Creedalism is in the best position to guard the supreme authority of Scripture. Orthodox creeds assert the Scripture’s supreme authority, which protects the church from elevating a creed to the level of Scripture. Anyone who attempted to give the creed more authority than Scripture could be corrected both by the Scripture and by the creed itself. Moreover, “once the creed or confession is in the public domain, mechanisms can be put in place to allow for it to function in a subordinate role to Scripture” (161).

9. Creedalism is a biblical basis of congregational worship. Because creeds are concise and careful summaries of biblical teaching, they are foundational to worship. A church must be accurately instructed about the nature of God and His works in order to praise Him properly. Trueman writes, “The identity of God has priority over the content of Christian praise” (143). A congregation that knows an orthodox creed is well-equipped for praise. Creeds may also be recited and sung in corporate worship services.

Why I Call Myself a Reformed Baptist

Excerpt from an article by Keith Throop responding to R. Scott Clark who does not allow for Reformed Baptists to call themselves “Reformed.” I’m with Keith on this:

…I especially do not agree with his (R. Scott Clark’s) criticism of Reformed Baptists for their use of the term Reformed as a reference to themselves. Here are the specific comments with which I take exception:

Calling a Baptist “Reformed” is like calling Presbyterians “Baptist” because they believe in believer’s baptism. The Reformed churches do practice the baptism of unbaptized believers but they also baptize the infants of believers. No self-respecting, confessional Baptist should accept me as “Baptist” and Reformed folk should resist labeling anyone who rejects most of Reformed theology as “Reformed.”

There are several points to be made in response to these comments, but before I list them I want to make something clear, namely that I do not pretend to speak for all who would call themselves Reformed Baptists. I have entitled this post, “Why I Call Myself a Reformed Baptist,” and I hope that I may give a good, brief accounting for this in this post. But it must be said that I do not see myself as a leader of the movement, let alone one of its primary spokesmen. In fact, the movement is diverse enough not to claim any one person as the most appropriate spokesman. For example, back in 2007-2008 I conducted a poll on this blog that revealed some significant diversity among those who would call themselves Reformed Baptists.

With these caveats in mind, I will now address the above comments made by Clark. First, I do not agree at all with his assertion that “calling a Baptist ‘Reformed’ is like calling Presbyterians ‘Baptist’ because they believe in believer’s baptism.” I am, frankly, surprised that Clark would make use of such an analogy when he must know that what makes the Baptist position distinctive is not that we advocate the baptism of believers (which we certainly do) but rather that we advocate the baptism of believers only. When a Presbyterian begins to assert that position, then I will accept his calling himself a “Presbyterian Baptist,” even if he doesn’t hold to other historically distinctive Baptist positions, such as our view of church government, which asserts the autonomy of the local church in matters of governance. But, then, the term Presbyterian so used would clearly indicate this difference, wouldn’t it? And this is really no different than the way the term Baptist qualifies my use of the term Reformed.

Second, Clark’s comments seem to assume the idea that there is a monolithic historical understanding of the meaning of the English word reformed. But this is simply not true. There are broader and more narrow senses in which the word may be used, and not all of these require the specific understanding to which he apparently wishes to restrict usage of the term. In addition, I see no reason why a modifier cannot be attached to the word that in effect alters and qualifies its meaning so as to rule out the kind of misunderstanding that Clark is apparently concerned about. One such modifier – as I have already noted – is the term baptist, which immediately communicates a distinctive use of the word reformed.

Perhaps it would be helpful to discuss at least three senses in which I believe the term Reformed has been used, all of which have application to my own usage of the term when I call myself a Reformed Baptist. I will list three ways in which I believe I have seen the term used, beginning with the most broad sense and moving to the most narrow sense.

First, the term Reformed can be used in a broad sense to describe that which is changed for the better, and in our discussion it refers to the changes that were made by Protestants in their efforts to reform the Roman Catholic Church in accordance with Scripture. In this sense it could refer to any person or group that seeks to be consistent in reforming the church in this way. I believe John Quincy Adams had in mind this usage of the term in his famous little book Baptists: The Only Thorough Religious Reformers, and this is one sense in which I intend the word to be taken when I describe myself as a Reformed Baptist. It communicates my commitment to the principle indicated by the slogan semper reformanda (“always reforming”), and it declares my conviction that it is the Particular Baptists who have been more faithful reformers than their Presbyterian brothers, especially with regard to the issues of church government and baptism, as indicated above. Indeed, in this sense I think we have more right to use the term than they do.

Second, the term reformed can refer to the broader Protestant tradition characterized by principles held by most of the early Reformers, and not just those in Geneva, for example. These principles may be summed up by the five Reformation precepts often referred to as “the solas.” These include the principle of sola scriptura (that Scripture alone is our ultimate authority), the principle of solus Christus (that we are saved by Christ alone), sola gratia (that we are saved by God’s grace alone), sola fide (that we are saved through faith alone), and soli Deo gloria (that all is to the glory of God alone). Thus when I call myself a Reformed Baptist I mean to indicate that I wholeheartedly embrace these distinctive principles of the Reformation.

Third, I agree that there is a more narrow use of the term as Clark affirms, namely to refer to those who follow the traditions that have come particularly from Calvin’s reforming work in Geneva. This would include not only the Swiss Reformed, but also the Scottish and Dutch Reformed and the numerous Presbyterian groups that have followed from each of these traditions. I also agree with Clark that we do not want to confuse Baptists with these Reformed groups. However, this is precisely why I call myself a Reformed Baptist.

The term Baptist clearly qualifies my use of the term Reformed. And when I use the terms together this way, I do not think I am doing anything essentially different than did those English Baptists who based the Baptist Confession of 1689 largely upon the Westminster Confession of Faith. They clearly wanted to identify themselves as in the mainstream of the Reformed tradition in one sense (particularly with regard to Calvinist soteriology and Covenant Theology), while at the same time distinguishing themselves in ways that demonstrated how they had reformed more thoroughly than had their Presbyterian brethren. This – together with the reasons already listed – is precisely why I call myself a Reformed Baptist.

I hope this post has helped to briefly clarify and defend my usage of the appellation Reformed Baptist to describe myself, and, despite Clark’s objections, I believe I have every right to use this description.

Why Community Isn’t Enough

Adriel Sanchez is the pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church (PCA) in San Diego, California. He has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Here’s an article he wrote entitled, “A Pastor’s Letter to His Young Self: Why Community Isn’t Enough” (original source here)

I have a confession. When I was in college, even though I was studying to become a pastor, I didn’t have any real affiliation with a particular church. Sure, I went to church every Sunday, but I wasn’t a member of any one church. Church was something I enjoyed, and I would visit different churches, depending on how I was feeling on a given Sunday. My real commitment was not to a church but to a close group of friends that I had made at my Christian college. This friendship community was great, because we could have long talks about theology, culture, and politics, without disagreeing too much. In my mind, this close group of friends was my church community, so joining a church didn’t make much sense to me.

Fast forward almost a decade later, and my opinion about church and community has significantly changed. Now, having been a pastor for a few years, there are three ways I would challenge the “college me” and any other people today who have a similar outlook.
So, without further ado, here is a letter to my college self about the differences between a “friendship community” and a “gospel community,” which is a local church:

Dear Adriel in college:

First, your friendship community doesn’t display the power of the gospel like an actual church community would. In your friendship community, the community is created out of shared interests. Your friendship community looks a lot like you and likes all the same things you like. That’s normal and natural (we all gravitate toward people who are like us), but the community that God creates is supernatural. God gets to pick your brothers and sisters, and he often brings people into the family who don’t look—or think—like you do. Friendship communities will dissolve when some of the friends within the community enter a new stage of life or change personally. Gospel communities aren’t based on life stages or personal preference but on a common Savior. When this Savior brings people together who are very different and unites them in love, it displays the power of the gospel in a way that your friendship community doesn’t. Continue reading

Biblical Citations in the 1689 London Baptist Confession

Question: Are the implicit interpretations of the bible citations provided in the Confession mandatory for confessionalists? Why? Why not?

Answer: From the Preface: We have also taken care to affix texts of Scripture at the bottom, for the confirmation of each article in our Confession; in which work we have studiously endeavored to select such as are most clear and pertinent for the proof of what is asserted by us; and our earnest desire is that all into whose hands this may come would follow that (never enough commended) example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily that they might find out whether the things preached to them were so or not.

“From a straight forward reading of this paragraph they thought the Scripture citations confirmed the content of the paragraph.” – Rick Fernandez

“Our unity is not based on our interpretation of the individual texts of the Bible, but on our unity regarding the doctrine taught by the Bible. So the implicit meaning assigned to those texts by the Confession to the proof texts it cites is not necessarily as authoritative as the confesssional statements themselves. On the other hand, a careful consideration of those proofs may shed light on how the meaning of the Confession and conversely on the meaning of those texts.” – Dr. Sam Waldron

Three False Teachings about Jesus

Article by Adriel Sanchez (Original source here)

Because the incarnation is so marvelously mysterious, there were groups in the early church that sought to explain its message in ways that undermined it. Here are three false teachings about Jesus that the early church had to reject:

1. Jesus only appeared to be human (Docetism).

Early in the church, there were those who argued that the incarnate God only appeared to be human. After all, how could God possibly take human flesh to himself? The idea seemed absurd to them because they couldn’t fathom God being hungry, tired, or in pain.

Therefore, they denied that Jesus had any human experiences. This teaching was known as Docetism. It undermines Christianity, because if Jesus didn’t really embrace our suffering in the incarnation, then he didn’t bear our sin and cannot relate to our pain.

2. Jesus was subordinate to his Father in power and glory (Arianism).

Unlike the Docetists, another group believed Jesus was truly a man, but not equal with God the Father in power and glory. This group attacked Jesus’s divine status. After all, how could God himself have such immediate contact with mankind? In order to deal with this perceived problem, this group attempted to strip Jesus of his eternal nature, and they were known as Arians. Arianism undermines the Bible’s teaching on God being one in essence and three in persons, because only God himself could rescue people from their sin.

3. Jesus’ humanity and divinity existed separately from each other (Nestorianism).

A third group tried to explain the mystery of the incarnation by splitting apart the divinity and humanity of Jesus. After all, how could divinity and humanity exist so perfectly in one Person? This group separated the divine actions of Jesus (such as healing) from his human experiences (suffering) and taught that there were two subjects in the incarnation instead of one divine Person. This teaching is known as Nestorianism. It undermines the believer’s hope in Christ, because if the divine Second Person of the Trinity didn’t truly unite humanity to himself, there’s no hope that we can be made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4).

These three explanations of the incarnation were rejected by the Christian church. In the final analysis, none of them went far enough in their description of how marvelous the Incarnation was.

The eternal Son of God took to himself true humanity and bore our pain in that humanity to redeem us. The early church father Gregory of Nazianzus explained the importance of rightly understanding the incarnation with the famous dictum taken from his letter “To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinaris”:

“For that which he [Jesus] has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved.” He continued, “If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole. (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Vol 2, #7, p. 648, at )

Thankfully, God shared in the whole of our fallen humanity so that through his death he might make us partakers of the life found only in him.

The Myth Perpetuated by Advocates of King James Version Only

The King James Version of the Bible is an excellent translation. There is so much about it to be commended. It was the first Bible I ever had and I am indeed glad for that. However, it is not the only version one should ever use. We have learned much about the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible since the 17th century and these insights have shaped many of the modern translations, helping us understand the original words God inspired. Just saying this is anathema to some people caught up in what is called ‘King James Only’.

I very much appreciate Pastor Tim Conway’s teaching here (below). This is a controversy that has caused untold damage and division in so many friendships and families and very sadly, has even split entire churches. He addresses this vital issue in terms that hopefully all can follow.

Grace Community Church’s website ( reads: “Many adamantly hold to the ‘KJV Only’ as being the only translation of the Bible to use. It seems that constantly new believers are running into this question and wrestling with the evidence of whether it is a valid argument or not. In this Bible Study Tim seeks to put forward the evidence that convinced him that the ‘KJV Only’ position is not a stance that is being faithful to the evidence.

It is because of emails that we have received, like the following, that it was apparent there was a need to put something up on the KJV Only controversy. For example, at the beginning of 2012 someone emailed in saying:

“Exactly what part of “ANYONE WHO ADDS OR TAKES AWAY FROM THIS BOOK” DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND? IT IS INDEED NO different than “WHICH PART OF THE WORD “NO” DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND???? I was at a loss as to why almost everyone was reading from every other so called new and improved versions of the bible. All Reading from any and every other version EXCEPT the true Old King James……Why Why why would you want to change God’s word to suit the brethren. It ought to be rather, The brethren adapting to the grand language of the Old King James not all changing the word to suit the brethren !!!! The old King James Version has the SALT. All the rest are simply put…without SALT. I am just shocked though I know Our King of King’s Christ Jesus says I should think it strange. Go ahead brethren. GO ON… explain away. Many others will be led astray by you and yours. I am grateful to God evermore I remain wide awake.”

Two years later this same person emailed back saying:

“I have repented to God & have ceased from my ridiculous King James only attitude. I greatly appreciate your sermons & wish to apologize for my previous high minded opinionated foolishness. I hope you can graciously forgive me for lashing out the way I did.”

Our desire, as Tim says at the start of the study, is not to take away from God’s Word, but to see people, like the person above, come to recognize that the evidence does not support the KJV 1611 as being the only translation we should use.”

The One Genuine Cure for Legalism and Antinomianism

Article: The One Genuine Cure for Legalism and Antinomianism, by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson – (original source here)

Antinomianism takes various forms. People do not always fit neatly into our categorizations, nor do they necessarily hold all the logical implications of their presuppositions. Here we are using “antinomianism” in the theological sense: rejecting the obligatory (“binding on the conscience”) nature of the Decalogue for those who are in Christ. Antinomianism, it was widely assumed in the eighteenth century, is essentially a failure to understand and appreciate the place of the law of God in the Christian life. But just as there is more to legalism than first meets the eye, the same is true of antinomianism.

Opposites Attract?

Perhaps the greatest misstep in thinking about antinomianism is to think of it simpliciter as the opposite of legalism.

It would be an interesting experiment for a budding doctoral student in psychology to create a word-association test for Christians. It might include:

Old Testament: Anticipated answer → New Testament
Sin: Anticipated answer → Grace
David: Anticipated answer → Goliath
Jerusalem: Anticipated answer → Babylon
Antinomianism: Anticipated answer → ?

Would it be fair to assume that the instinctive response there at the end would be “Legalism”?

Is the “correct answer” really “Legalism”? It might be the right answer at the level of common usage, but it would be unsatisfactory from the standpoint of theology, for antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both.

This is an observation of major significance, for some of the most influential antinomians in church history acknowledged they were on a flight from the discovery of their own legalism. Continue reading

The Deity of Christ in the Early Church

Article: Did the Early Church Believe in the Deity of Christ? by Nathan Busenitz (original source here)

Ask your average Muslim, Unitarian, Jehovah’s Witness, or just about any non-Christian skeptic who has read (or watched) The Da Vinci Code, and they’ll try to convince you the answer is no. From such sources we are told that the deity of Christ was a doctrine invented centuries after Jesus’ death — a result of pagan influences on the church in the fourth century when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion.

Emperor Constantine, in particular, is blamed for being the guy who promoted Jesus to the level of deity, a feat of cosmic proportions that he managed to pull off at the Council of Nicaea in 325. As Dan Brown put it (through the lips of one of his literary characters): “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea. . . . By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable” (The Da Vinci Code, 253).

So how can believers answer such allegations?

The best response, obviously, is to demonstrate from Scripture that Jesus is God. We can be confident that the early church affirmed Christ’s deity (and that we should do the same) because the New Testament clearly teaches that truth. The biblical case can be made from many places. Without going into detail in this post, here is a small sampling of texts that teach the deity of Christ: Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 1:24; 2 Cor. 4:4; Php. 2:6; Col. 1:15–16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20.

But what about church history outside of the New Testament? Did the early church fathers affirm the deity of Jesus Christ? Or was it only after the fourth century (and the Council of Nicaea) that Christian leaders began to articulate their belief in God the Son?

Though it’s not an exhaustive list, here are 25 quotations from a number of ante-Nicene church fathers demonstrating their belief in the deity of Jesus Christ (with portions underlined for emphasis). These early Christian theologians all lived before the time of Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. As such, they provide incontrovertible proof (from post-New Testament history) that Constantine was not the first person in church history to affirm this doctrine. Rather, the early church embraced the truth that Jesus is God from the time of the apostles on.

1. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50–117): For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit. (Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, 18.2. Translation from Michael Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 197)

2. Ignatius (again): Consequently all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life. (Ibid., 19.3. Holmes, AF, 199)

3. Ignatius (again): For our God Jesus Christ is more visible now that he is in the Father. (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, 3.3. Holmes, AF, 229)

4. Ignatius (again): I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise, for I observed that you are established in an unshakable faith, having been nailed, as it were, to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 1.1. Holmes, AF, 249) Continue reading