Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Some Fun Stuff at the End of 2006
12/30/2006 - James White
A Quick Note on Dan Corner
12/29/2006 - James WhiteIf you listened to Gene Cook's attempted interview/discussion with Dan Corner today, you know it came to a halt when Corner began accusing Gene of editing the mp3 of the previous program. I have looked around Corner's web-page and have not found the promised documentation of these changes (that website seriously needs help), but the one he played on the program is enough to make you question Corner's ultimate stability. Why? He alleged that, after allowing Corner to use the term "obedience" dozens and dozens of times throughout the program, he cut out half of the word right at the end of an exchange. To what possible end? What an absurdity, especially in the light of a rather simple fact. Did you catch Gene's call to The Dividing Line on Thursday? Did you note something about it? Yes, the quality of Gene's connection was not very good. We checked our system, but it wasn't on our end. So why was Gene dropping out, and certain words were not clear? Well, Gene mentioned the reason on his program today. His phone service for the program is VoIP, Voice over IP, specifically, Vonage! Go ahead and listen to the last call on the DL. What will you hear? You'll hear drop-outs, the common problem of all VoIP systems. And if the incoming calls are competing with Gene's outgoing webcast signal, the more calls he would be getting, the greater stress on his connection, resulting, obviously, in drop outs. And that is obviously what happened in the clip Corner played. I can't comment on any other of his allegations, since his website is such a mess you can't find anything, but the one example he gave borders on the absurd, to be sure.
In any case, let's remember: Dan Corner edited a recording he made of the phone call that took place at the St. Louis radio station in 2001, cutting my sentence so as to avoid admitting my real meaning. He has been challenged to post the unedited master of his recording ever since then. He has, of course, refused to do so. That's why I find it incredibly hypocritical of him to start accusing others of editing things when he is the one who has been shown to be less than honest in his use of sound files.
Oneness Pentecostalism Question
12/29/2006 - James White
I have some christian concerns. I see u state some strong opinions on Philips, Craig and Dean. On their doctinal stands. Yet u state they do not shove these beliefs in the face of Trinitarians. [Personal information on the writer's relationship to the UPC]. I can't see the Trinity or the oneness belief keeping anyone from the promise land. Why not focus on the war that is really raging against the church (You and I). Just stand up for the Christian belief of repentenace and sactification and redepmtion- Throgh Christ. The world is who we need to convince to be like all of us. Not Assembly of God, UPC or independants to become like each other. What we think we have converts when we win each other to our churches? Hang on to your hat. Because at 42 and sitting around for this long. I plan on coming out for restoration for relationship for all of us believers. I am not a UPC member. Spend your time looking for unity. I quote your website. Our role is to assist the church in giving an answer to those groups that would "distort" the gospel of the grace of God. Grace is leading someone to Christ, not fighting with a swordbrother against brother. Grace is a gift only God can give.Thanks for writing, N. My main problem with your thesis is expressed by John the Apostle in these words:
Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:23).John wrote these words in reference to those false teachers who had gone out from them (2:19). These men still confessed many true things about Jesus Christ, but, they had denied certain definitional truths, such as His true incarnation. John teaches that they do not have the Son, and hence do not have the Father either. Now, they could have easily argued that these differences are just not that important, and that John should have focused upon leading folks to Christ, "not fighting with a sword, brother against brother." I do not see any difference in this context, I really do not.
You see, when you speak of "redemption through Christ" and "leading someone to Christ," your statements demand some kind of definition. Both use the name "Christ." Who is He? Is He the Father? Who is the Son? Is the Son eternal? In Oneness teaching, the Son did not have actual existence until Bethlehem. He may have been "foreknown" as an idea, but the whole point is that the Son is not an eternal Person, sharing the very glory of the Father (John 17:5). So what Christ are you leading people to? When someone asks you, "Who is Christ that I should believe in Him?" what are you going to say in response, "Oh, don't worry about stuff like that! Just believe in Christ!" Surely not! So, I do not see how it is possible to ignore fundamental denials of central Christian doctrines simply as a basis for creating a "unity" in "leading people to Christ." Leading? How? For what purpose? Why do they need to come to Christ? What has He done that they should believe in Him? All of these are theological questions that go back to the very issues you have decided should no longer divide us. And the end result? You have no meaningful message to proclaim in the first place. That is why we must follow the apostolic example and let inspired Scripture determine for us what is definitional and what is not.
A Thought on John 15
12/29/2006 - Colin SmithOne of the dangers of studying and practicing exegesis is getting so caught up in the minutiae of grammar and vocabulary that you don't see the forest for the trees. In other words, it is easy to become so consumed with eliciting the meaning of words and phrases that you can forget to place these words and phrases within their context and allow the context supreme authority over meaning. This morning I was reading John 15 (particularly verses 1-8), and I am convinced that this passage has suffered in the hands of some because of contextual neglect.
In the passage, Jesus refers to Himself as the true vine, and the Father as the farmer, the one who has responsibility over the vine (a picture, by the way, of the functional subordination of the Son to the Father). Every branch in the farmer's vine has to bear fruit; if it doesn't, it is cut off. The only way for a branch to bear fruit is to remain in the vine.
For some, this either demonstrates that one can be saved and then lose one's salvation because of a lack of fruit (i.e., backsliding into one's former ways), or it shows that one can be a member of God's covenant people (through infant baptism, perhaps) and then lose that standing later in life because of a failure to live up to one's covenant obligations.
However, if you read this passage in its entire context and see the overarching point Jesus is trying to make, it is clear that it was not His intention to teach any such thing. Jesus knew His disciples were about to face a test of their faith like they have not had to face before. They were about to see their Lord and Master, the One they had proclaimed as Messiah and Son of God, strung up on a cross and left for dead. He knew that the three days after Calvary were going to be a trying time for them, and they needed hope, reassurance, and comfort. Further, it is not unreasonable to consider that Jesus looked beyond the immediate context, knowing that those who would later come to faith as a result of the testimony of the disciples (those He prays for in John 17) would have the added difficulty of never having seen Him face-to-face, and suffer ridicule and persecution as a result.
If we now place the words of John 15 into this context, we see them as an appeal from Jesus to His people to remain in Him. The only way they could hope to bear fruit is to stay attached to the vine. Branches that don't bear fruit are recognized for what they are: worthless to the Father and good only for the fire. In farming terms, such branches are cut off for their lack of fruit and bundled together for burning. Certainly there are those in churches today that would claim to be attached to the vine, but their fruit, or lack thereof, will bear them out. When times of trial come and the faith of the saints is tested, it will be evident who are truly attached to the vine, and who are not.
Primarily, however, this is not a message for the baptized infant, or for the backslidden. In fact, I see Jesus' words in John 15-17 as being among His most "pastoral" in the Gospels: His heart's concern is for the faith and life of His people. He is not trying to teach them covenant theology; He is exhorting them to stay the course and remain true, to remain in Him, to remain in His love, and not to worry about the world and its hatred of them.
This passage is for the faithful believer desirous to be effective for the Kingdom: if you want to be fruitful, if you want to be of benefit to the Kingdom of God, if you want your life to glorify God, then remain in Christ. Without Him, you can do nothing. As far as addressing the issues of infant baptism and eternal security, I would suggest looking elsewhere for passages that are far more relevant to those discussions.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
12/29/2006 - James WhiteHad "dad duty" right after the DL yesterday (for my fellow dads who have almost 18 year old daughters---how many parts on a 1994 Probe can you replace before it qualifies as a new car?) so I forgot to get the link up once I got back to the office. Started off thanking Gene Cook for his plug of our cruise on The Narrow Mind and before we could get back to the George Bryson presentation the phones started ringing off the hook with great callers with great questions. Last call we took was Gene Cook himself, and we chatted about his interview with Dan Corner, and the second part of the interview coming up Friday morning on The Narrow Mind. Here's the program (free/high quality).
12/27/2006 - James WhiteI just learned that the insanely low costs for the October cruise on the Mercury will go up on 1/1/07, but, still, you can sign up with nothing more than a $50 fully refundable deposit before then! It's time to move! I have talked to literally dozens of folks who have expressed interest in coming with us for The Cross: Historicity and Theology, but I fear the fact that October 2007 sounds like it is a long way away keeps folks from acting now, not only when it is most affordable, but when we can make the best arrangements for the trip as well. I.e., the more folks we have in our group, the more we can do in so many ways. So now is the time to move! If you've been putting it off, make it your New Year's resolution to jump on it now!
Dan Corner: Purveyor of a Savior-less Gospel
12/27/2006 - James White
Gene Cook did the first part of an interview with Dan Corner on his program yesterday. Here's a link. I listened to it while riding today. It was a tremendous example of the massive contrast between viewing the gospel as a divine act, focused upon God, done to His glory, and being man-centered in your outlook. Dan Corner may be a former Roman Catholic, but his view of that issue is dead on with Rome. He is just as man-centered as he ever was before his "conversion." But to get a taste of just how man-centered he is, check out this one minute clip (I assume Gene won't mind my posting this to illustrate the point) of Corner dismissing the relevance of the intercessory work of Christ to the topic of "eternal security." You see, for Corner, Christ only makes salvation a possibility. Christ's work is irrelevant, in the final analysis, to whether someone will be saved or not, because Christ's work just makes salvation a possibility. The rest is up to us. So whether Christ is interceding for those who will end up in hell or not just doesn't matter to him, because he has a "gospel" that is focused upon what man does, what man accomplishes, and it lacks a true and perfect Savior. This is why Corner will not debate me on the gospel: as anyone can tell from listening to this interview, he has a very narrow spectrum of expertise, and as soon as you start to point out the connections that exist between his one topic and so many other topics (God's nature, man's sinfulness, God's purposes, atonement, justification, imputation, etc.), Corner starts sweating. That is why he tried to get me to sign a contract prior to doing a radio program with him back in 2001, where I would have had to have avoided discussing any of the other four points of Calvinism! He well knows he is incapable of dealing with the biblical witness to God's sovereignty, man's depravity, unconditional election, particular atonement, irresistible grace, etc., and so he does all he can, including engaging in simple dishonesty (as documented here), to avoid having to do so. Gene was completely correct to conclude this program by saying Dan Corner is a false teacher (Corner had started by identifying anyone who believes Jesus Christ saves perfectly as a false teacher anyway)---he is not a brother in Christ, he is promoting a form of legalism and a false gospel. No question about it.
Now, in case anyone has forgotten, Dan Corner has had a standing challenge to debate the real issues against me for many years now, and, of course, he continues to avoid that challenge, all the while claiming everyone is afraid to debate him on "eternal security." Maybe someone will mention that to him on Friday when he does Part II of the program with Gene, 9am PST here. I know I'll be listening!
Odds and Ends
12/27/2006 - James WhiteI just ordered a copy of J.R. Miller's Come Ye Apart from Solid Ground. They are having a year end sale and this devotional in hard-back was only $7.50. Check out what they have available.
Last, last, last chance to be a part of the apologetics class at Golden Gate in the Phoenix area starting next Tuesday evening.
Also, for those up Massachusetts way, I'm teaching a Bibliology class for the Bible Institute at Bethlehem Bible Church, starting January 18th. I will be in Massachusetts in March for the lecture portion of the class. Follow the link for registration information.
January 19-21 I'll be at Trinity Fellowship Church in Toms River, New Jersey.
Today on The Dividing Line
12/26/2006 - James WhiteStarted with some brief comments on The Blasphemy Challenge, Brian Flemming, The God Who Wasn't There, etc., and then went to an eight minute clip of Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel responding to a phone call on the subject of "Calvinism." A truly horrific example of complete straw-man argumentation. Then Pierre called in and we once again had to go over why it makes perfect sense for a Mormon, who lacks a self-sufficient, eternal God, cannot make heads or tails of the Bible's teaching on election and predestination. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Think on What Is Pure
12/26/2006 - James White"Whatever is pure." Here we enter into a portion of the secret to Christian contentment that could profitably be addressed by a book-length treatise. We live in a day where we literally wallow in impurity. You cannot drive down a street without seeing billboards that are filthy and impure. You check the distance to the car in front of you and it has a profane and disgusting bumper sticker. You turn on the radio to get news and you are assaulted by impure words and concepts. We are surrounded by that which is unholy and impure.
And yet we are called to purity ourselves. John told us, "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). Purity speaks to us of remaining unspotted by the world, holiness helps us to consider the separation, the "differentness" that should be ours. Even the objects of our love should be different, for to love the world is to be the enemy of the Father. "But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior" 1 Peter 1:15). Holiness and purity are extensive, speaking to the broad range of our lives, behavior, thoughts, and speech.
We wish to be like Christ, and as He is pure, we too desire purity. Or...do we? Truly this is one of the most convicting portions of this text, for to be able to focus upon what is pure, what is holy, and to think upon these things, we must know experientially purity and holiness. And yet, in a day when the church is trying to look as much as possible like the world, where we dress like the world, talk like the world, are entertained by the world, how can we even begin to fulfill this command? For many in church-ianity today, the very idea of being holy, separate, and pure, is counter to the real goal of "reaching the world." But where do you get the idea from Scripture that you reach the world by capitulating to it and becoming its mirror image? When Paul said he became all things to all people he was not even contemplating the idea of becoming worldly in thought or behavior, speech or dress.
To think upon that which is pure requires us to have a passion for purity, a desire for holiness. And that desire, that passion, has to come from the Holy Spirit Himself. We must pray that He will enlighten our minds to see how the Word defines holiness, and how vital it is to our contentment and peace. We cannot expect the Holy Spirit to not be grieved by our lifestyle when we purposefully choose to revel in that which is unholy.
So as we approach a new year, will it be a year where we will strive to be holy, as He is holy, and seek to think upon those things that are pure, to the benefit of our sanctification? Will be we able to look back a year from now and see progress here? Let us put forth serious effort to focus our minds upon what is true, honest, just, holy and pure. Will we be in danger of looking very unlike the world around us? Yes, and what a blessed danger it is!
Some Christmas Thoughts
12/24/2006 - James WhiteA number of times I have had students and staff from Liberty ask me a question something along the lines of, "So, why worry about this Calvinism stuff? Does it really matter?" Aside from the issues we addressed in our gift to the students at Liberty (found here), there is another example to be offered in answer to the question.
Here you find an audio recording of the Sunday morning service at McGregor Baptist Church December 10th, 2006. The speaker is Ergun Caner. The title of the "sermon" is "Dealing with Morons." It ends with "Merry Christmas." It received a lot of applause and laughter. It is not Reformed. In any sense. Any way.
Here you will find my Christmas Eve sermons from the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. The morning sermon (streaming/save) is about the Incarnation from Matthew 1, Isaiah 7, 9, and 11. The evening sermon (streaming/save) was from Isaiah 53.
I would like to concede a number of points to Dr. Caner. He got a lot of laughs. He got a lot of applause. He even admitted that he preached once while so blasted on some liquid in a mason jar that he doesn't even remember what he said. I can't compete with any of that. And that's the point, actually.
Next, I happened to notice this article over on the Crossed the Tiber blog:
We celebrate Jesus coming into the world as Lord and Savior. We prepare him room in our hearts during Advent with prayers, fasting and giving. As Catholics, we continue to receive him, soul, body and divinity through the gift of the Eucharist as often as we take the Blessed Sacrament. That miracle that occurred 2000 years ago continues to occur on altars throughout the world as Christ gives us His flesh in an ongoing re-presentation of his sacrifice once for all.
We have the opportunity to receive Jesus today in Mass as well as tomorrow or tonite in Midnight vigil Mass. Not an obligation, a holy privilege!
I am so thankful that I have a finished sacrifice that does not need to be "re-presented" on an altar. I am so thankful that the death of Christ perfects. What a tragedy that so many will be going to Mass, thinking they are approaching a "re-presentation" of the Cross, but will go away once again imperfect, without lasting peace, for they have no finished work, no imputed righteousness, upon which to stand. May God be pleased to continue to free men and women from slavery to such a treadmill of sacramentalism and bring them into the glorious truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Finally, this morning when I read the Scriptures in our services, I decided to do something unusual. I strung together four texts that speak of the pre-incarnate Son, to help provide a bit of a balance to the normally chosen texts. I share them with you all with wishes that you will have a blessed celebration of the coming of the Lord of Glory!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
You must have the same mindset among yourselves that was in Christ Jesus,
Who, although He eternally existed in the very form of God,
Did not consider that equality He had with God the Father something to be held on to at all costs,
But instead He made Himself nothing,
By taking on the very form of a slave,
By being made in human likeness.
And having entered into human existence,
He humbled Himself
By becoming obedient to the point of death,
Even the death one dies on a cross!
Because of this, God the Father exalted Him to the highest place,
And bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
So that at the mention of the exalted name of Jesus
Everyone who is in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,
Bows the knee,
And every tongue confesses:
"Jesus Christ is Lord!"
All to the glory of God the Father!
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire." 8 But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions." 10 And, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end." 13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
Paul Owen, Once Again
12/23/2006 - James WhitePaul Owen, former Mormon, former evangelical, former Presbyterian, etc., has added his kind, level-headed, fair commentary to the discussion of Acts 2 over at the oxymoronic website. Before I point out the many problems in this retort (it surely gives an insight into how nonreformed Owen ever was, let alone is), do you note something about the attitude and mind-set of these "Reformed Catholics"? Yes, of course, they are always critical of their former associations and beliefs and always welcoming of Rome's, but that's just part of what it means to be an apostate: you always find ways of justifying your apostasy by attacking your former beliefs. But I'm referring to the incapacity of these folks to even begin to maintain some level of decorum in restraining their unfettered disdain for those who do not embrace their views, and who would dare to believe otherwise! Look at Johnson's post, then Owen's. These men are their own private Popes, determining the universal mind of "the Church," dismissing entire biblical arguments with the wave of a hand and the standardized "absurd" dismissal. The only reason they have not become fully Roman Catholic is that Rome already has a Pope, and there are no current vacancies for them to fill. They have abandoned the intention, spirit, and meaning of the solas, their mockery of the sufficiency of Scripture is splashed across their pages, and yet they lack the integrity to finish the job they have started, jump in the boat, and cross the Tiber. It seems they are simply too much in love with their own self-proclaimed pontificate to give it up to Ratzinger.
Now, Owen says my exposition of Acts 2 is "absurd." That is very nice, but to back up such a claim he would have to provide some examples. Does he do this? No. In fact, he can't seem to recognize the difference between the exposition of the text and the application I made in reference to answering the question, "Does the Bible provide a clear apostolic mandate regarding the objects of Christian baptism?" and "Is Acts 2:38ff directly relevant to determining the answer to the previous question?" He writes, "What an astonishing naivete is displayed by thinking that noting this obvious point is going to take the argument anywhere forward!" Actually, the naivete here is Owen's, who obviously is so filled with hatred of Baptists that he will not even consider taking the time to read serious material presenting a covenantal Baptist perspective on...anything, basically. He is completely blind to the actual arguments, which is why this retort is without merit. He has not listened to the arguments, and thinks so highly of himself, and so little of "Baptists," that he pontificates on the subject anyway. The argument is drawn from a concept Owen no longer believes, but which was believed by my forefathers and many others: that definitional aspects of the church, such as the ordinances thereof, require a higher standard of proof than lesser entities. We have no specific examples of infant baptism in the New Testament. Acts 2:38ff provides us with the first instance of specifically Christian baptism, and we are able to discern that those baptized all shared a common trait: they had heard the Word and believed. This theme will continue throughout Acts, in fact, as I have argued recently elsewhere (see the sermons for June 25th and July 2nd, 2006, here). And so at the very inception of the ordinance it is inseparably linked with the proclamation of the Word, the promise of the Spirit, faith and repentance. This was the point of my examination of the text, and Owen's ignorance of Reformed Baptist polemics is no excuse for his condescending arrogance and hence irrelevant commentary. ...
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On the Dividing Line Yesterday
12/22/2006 - James WhiteSorry, had to run right after the DL yesterday, so I never got the link blogged. We continued with George Bryson and his anti-Calvinist materials, and took a couple of calls. Also played a bit of my cross-examination of Bryson in our debate. Here it is: free/high quality.
Another Quick Note
12/22/2006 - James WhiteWhat a wintery day here in Phoenix! A storm snuck up on us (the weather forecasters were talking about sunshine and a high of 61 right up to when the storm hit!). It's a drizzly 44! But I love it.
Anyway, two quick notes. First, there is a religion forum co-hosted by the Washington Post and Newsweek, and here you can read the thoughts of Zaid Shakir, an Islamic scholar. And what will you encounter immediately? The very problem I spoke of at the beginning of my debate seven years ago now with Hamza Abdul Malik: the Islamic insistence upon anachronistically reading errant Qur'anic understandings into the Christian Scriptures and the Christian faith. Note his words:
Jesus is Not the Son of God"Taking a son." That is not, of course, what Christians believe today, nor is it what Christians believed in the first decades of the seventh century when Mohammed encountered second-hand Christianity during his travels. If you listen to The Dividing Line you have heard men like Ahmed Deedat repeatedly misrepresent the Christian faith on this point, thinking that "Son of God" is to be taken in human terms, rather than recognizing the eternal relationship that has existed between the Father and the Son. Here you have a leading Islamic scholar repeating this error rather than dealing with the reality of what Christians believe, but, again, we must realize why. The Qur'an is their final authority, therefore, if it misrepresents the Christian faith, the Muslim will follow the error rather than believing our own testimonies!
Muslims do not view Jesus as the “Son of God.” We feel that God’s taking a son would be unbecoming His incomparable nature and grandeur. The Qur’an states, There is nothing like unto Him (42:11); and, He begets not, nor was he begotten (112:3).
Secondly, very quickly a response---no, not a response, that is being far too kind to it---a retort of sorts to the article on Acts 2 and Patrick Madrid's argument regarding infant baptism appeared on the oxymoronic website. You will note that no attempt is made to deal with what I actually said; nothing exegetical is offered in response to my simple observation that the text in Acts 2 is clear and plain in its teaching, and, if it is definitional of the objects of baptism (which I did not bother to attempt to argue at that point), then those who follow sola scriptura will find its teachings highly relevant and important. Nor is there any recognition that I am dealing with a horrifically flawed argument, where Madrid draws a completely invalid parallel to Paul's words to the Thessalonians about busybodies who were unwilling to work. Instead, as is the case with the folks at the oxymoronic website, it is sufficient to dismiss such argumentation with the wave of the Hand O' Tradition, along with the ever-popular "Anabaptist Blast." The fact that our author is clueless about Particular Baptist history is a given, but it does make his Anabaptist argument humorous. But unlike this author, I will gladly interact, and even publicly disagree with, the great John Calvin and his comments. The only folks who will be surprised are those who have never read the LBCF or who believe that if you follow Calvin on one point, you must follow him slavishly on all. Such is not the case. Let's look at the citation from the Institutes offered:
They now come down to the custom and practice of the apostolic age, alleging that there is no instance of any one having been admitted to baptism without a previous profession of faith and repentance. For when Peter is asked by his hearers, who were pricked in their heart, “What shall we do?” his advise is, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37, 38). In like manner, when Philip was asked by the eunuch to baptise him, he answered, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Hence they think they can make out that baptism cannot be lawfully given to any one without previous faith and repentance. If we yield to this argument, the former passage, in which there is no mention of faith, will prove that repentance alone is sufficient, and the latter, which makes no requirement of repentance, that there is need only of faith. They will object, I presume, that the one passage helps the other, and that both, therefore, are to be connected. I, in my turn, maintain that these two must be compared with other passages which contribute somewhat to the solution of this difficulty. There are many passages of Scripture whose meaning depends on their peculiar position. Of this we have an example in the present instance. Those to whom these things are said by Peter and Philip are of an age fit to aim at repentance, and receive faith. We strenuously insist that such men are not to be baptised unless their conversion and faith are discerned, at least in as far as human judgment can ascertain it. But it is perfectly clear that infants must be placed in a different class. [Institutes, vol. 4, ch. 16, paragraph 23]First, in light of the textual variant, I will leave the reference to Acts 8:37 out of the discussion. The argument, from a Reformed Baptist perspective, is simple: the ordinances of the church require direct establishment in Scripture. Just as the Reformers argued against the multiplicity of Rome's sacraments by claiming such would require clear biblical basis, so we apply the same standard here. When we see the first instance of distinctly Christian baptism, the text reveals that, in this instance, those baptized were able to hear and receive the message preached. There truly is no question of this, is there? The issue truly is not what this text says, but the basis upon which Christian baptism is to be practiced in the first place.
Now, I have often said, when working through the Institutes in various contexts, that I see a difference in form and argumentation in sections of book IV than in the previous portions. I do not believe Calvin's argument in this instance has much merit to it. There is no question, of course, that the Bible as a whole addresses the issue of the relationship of faith and repentance. How is that relevant to asking the question, "Do the Scriptures give us clear and compelling evidence as to the nature of baptism and those who are to receive it?" If there were other texts that directly speak of infant baptism, then a parallel would exist. But, of course, there are not. So the parallel does not, in fact, exist. Now, again, Calvin is responding to Anabaptists who, in general, due to their persecution by both Catholic and Protestant, hardly had the time to develop the kind of material you would read in the introduction to the London Baptist Confession. So he may not have been responding to the most articulate form or argumentation, so, that means those who follow him on this topic must formulate a sound biblical response to a more accurate, consistent, articulate presentation. Which, of course, is why we continue to discuss this issue today. That is why you can find tremendous articles closely examining these topics, including Calvin's works, in such sources as The Reformed Baptist Theological Review, for example. It is likewise why I engaged Pastor Bill Shishko in debate on this very topic only a matter of weeks ago.
So while our erstwhile theologian is content to dismiss the discussion with the disdain of assigning yours truly to the "Flat Earth Credobaptist Society," serious minded individuals might look past their traditional glasses and consider the issue in light of their profession of the sufficiency of Scripture. Of course, we realize, those at the oxymoronic website abandoned that belief a very long time ago which, of course, explains why they are driven about by every wind of doctrine.
A Quick Note to Friends/Correspondents
12/22/2006 - James WhiteI noticed this morning that I have fallen a good bit behind in personal electronic correspondence. There are a number of e-mails I fully intend to get to, but have not as yet, so please, if you are waiting, do not be offended. Other than my wife, everyone else has to wait in line! Normally, friends and associates get the lower level priorities, as I want to try to respond to unbelievers as quickly as time can allow. In any case, it is good to have much to do! I have six tabs open in FireFox with items for the blog, sermons to preach Sunday, and exciting projects lined up for 2007. The challenges are many, God's grace more than sufficient!
Horrific Argumentation Illustration #5498
12/22/2006 - James WhiteThe following argumentation appears in Patrick Madrid's Does the Bible Really Say That? under the topic of...infant baptism.
Some argue that the command to repent in Acts 2 means that repentance, something only someone above the age of reason can do (i.e., not an infant), is a prerequisite for baptism. Since infants lack the capacity to repent, they argue, infants can't be baptized. This is a faulty argument however.
Let's apply the same logic to 2 Thessalonians 3:10, where Saint Paul says that if someone does not work he shouldn't be allowed to eat. Of course, infants cannot work. So does it follow therefore that infants should not eat? Of course not! (p. 114).
Now, having engaged the infant baptism issue in debate not too long ago, I admit it a little hard to shift from the meaningful arguments of my Presbyterian brothers to this kind of argument. We are truly in another world when we move from an intramural debate based upon the sufficiency of God's Word to the Roman Catholic realm, where we always must keep in mind that the conflict between sola ecclesia and sola scriptura defines the battle lines.
I would surely make the argument presented by Madrid. The text is clear and compelling:
Acts 2:37-41 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.Let us consider the text (something that we do not find Madrid doing in his book). Let us ask basic questions: who is the audience? What does the audience do? If this text is important in establishing the objects of Christian baptism, what conclusions can we draw from it? Having first allowed Acts 2 to speak for itself, we can then turn to Madrid's attempted parallel to 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
First, the audience to which Peter speaks in v. 38 heard his preaching, v. 37. They respond to what they hear for they are "pierced to the heart." That is, they heard, and they heard with understanding. They respond to what they hear and the conviction it brings by asking what they should do as a result of the proclamation they have heard and, evidently, believed. These are Jews gathered at Pentecost, and they have just heard their entire nation charged with the betrayal and crucifixion of none other than the Messiah Himself!
Peter's response is direct. They are to do two things. They are to repent, an action that surely follows upon the previous indications of the capacities and abilities of Peter's audience. And they, individually ("each of you"), are to be baptized, but not just any baptism, a uniquely Christian baptism, in the very name of the Messiah crucified, Jesus Christ. It is their repentance that brings the forgiveness of sins (1 Peter 3:21), and upon which grounds they are baptized. The first part of the promise is repentance brings forgiveness of sins; the second follows hard on it, they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The promise of the Holy Spirit brings to mind the promises of God regarding the New Covenant, and Peter says that the promise is for you (his immediate audience), "your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." Some interpret "your children" to refer to those who would have been present at the Pentecost celebration, referring to children who have not gained the age of maturity, but not to infants. I prefer a less complicated reading, where "to you and to your children" refers to the Jews, "those who are afar off" to the Gentiles. In any case, there is a delimiter present in the text: "as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." Some see a general call here, but that would make the entire phrase extraneous, for if the "as many as" has reference to a universal group, no limitation or definition is being expressed. Instead, we have here the call of God unto salvation, for this is directly related to the promise of the Holy Spirit, who brings salvation to God's people. So the promise is for Jews and Gentiles, for all the elect of God, or to borrow John's later phraseology, "men from every tribe, tongue, people and nation." But the promise is to those who are called.
We note that after this commandment Peter did not stop testifying and exhorting, again, actions aimed at those capable of understanding. Note as well the fact that "those who had received his word were baptized" (41). Reception of the word indicates cognition, understanding, and acceptance. For those who look to the Scriptures as their rule of faith, there is little question as to who was baptized by Apostolic command here at the very beginning of the New Testament era. A great deal of extraneous argumentation must be mustered to find infant baptism when the text is clear: those who received the word were baptized.
Now, is the argument from this text as simplistic as Madrid represented it? Surely not. In fact, the text taken as a whole is compelling. And, it is that full examination of the text that shows just how shallow Madrid's attempted parallel is to 2 Thessalonians 3:10:
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.See how Madrid created his own parallel that is not even in the text? Madrid has "if someone does not work he shouldn't be allowed to eat." The text actually says, "if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." This is in the context of undisciplined people "acting like busybodies" in contradiction of the apostolic command to "work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread." This is a discussion of adults who are busybodies and unwilling to work. The entire connection drawn by Madrid is missing since Paul is talking about busybodies, people unwilling to work. Even attempting to draw the parallel demonstrates a cavalier mishandling of the text.
But, of course, the text of Scripture, since it is not the final authority in Roman Catholic teaching, can be used in any fashion the Roman apologist wishes: contextual considerations and care in handling the Word as a consistent revelation is overthrown by the exaltation of Roman tradition and teaching. This kind of argumentation is common in Roman Catholic works, all across the spectrum of issues where Rome's tradition has violated Scriptural norms.
12/21/2006 - James WhiteIn light of Colin's article on the Qur'an and Christmas, the following is quite interesting. David Ould dropped me a note about a conversation over on the White Horse Inn site about a toy set for sale. Here's the cover.
Notice anything...odd? Out of place? Look at the skyline of Bethlehem. What's that? Yeah, a minaret. A minaret in first century Bethlehem? Well, if you accept the idea that Jesus was a Muslim, why not? Of course, in all probability, the skyline came from a completely historically clueless graphics designer surfing the web, but then again, maybe not. But it is interesting to note nonetheless.
Christmas in the Qur'an
12/21/2006 - Colin SmithAs a rule, while Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not celebrate Christmas, mostly because they recognize it is a distinctly Christian festival espousing a particularly Christian belief (the Incarnation) that is blasphemy to Muslims. While some Muslims might put up lights and Christmas trees in response to the cultural celebration, even this is regarded as dangerous since it can lead to making a special occasion out of a non-Muslim holy day which might cause confusion, especially in the eyes of Muslim children.
Muslim apologists prefer to regard Christmas as an opportunity to show Christians how much there is in common between the two faiths, and how Muslims can respect the season without participating in it. "After all," the Muslim might say to his Christian co-worker, "we worship the same God, and we both give honor to Jesus. Hey, we even believe in the Virgin Birth, just like you!" Of course, attitudes like this are capitalized on by secular society to the extent of using similar argumentation to promote some kind of "why can't we all just get along" attitude.
In light of this, I thought it might be interesting to look at exactly how the Qur'an deals with Christ's birth, and how this reflects Islamic belief with regard to Jesus' mission. I would also like to examine how this contrasts with what the Bible teaches, and the significance of this difference. For the purpose of the blog, I will keep the study brief; however, there are plenty of online resources (including The Qur'an) for you to pursue more in-depth study.
The Gospel According to Muhammad
The account of Christ's birth in the Qur'an is found in Sura 19. Each Sura of the Qur'an has been given a heading that reflects either the main point or character of the Sura, or identifies a distinctive element of the Sura as a memory aid. For example, the Sura titled "The Bee" is not about a bee, but a bee features in part of the Sura which makes this Sura distinctive. Sura 19 has been given the title "Maryam," or "Mary" because Mary is a prominent figure in the Sura. The general message of the Sura seems to be Allah's grace and mercy to those who are faithful to him, and warnings to those who are not. This is not unique to the Qur'an; a similar synopsis could be provided for other Suras. This one in particular, however, starts with the birth of John the Baptist, recalling the story of his father, Zacharias, and how he pleaded for a child to be given to his barren wife. In the Qur'an we are told that after Allah said He would answer Zacharias' prayer, He struck Zacharias dumb in response to his request for a sign. Zacharias then, by means of sign language, commanded the people to praise Allah. Allah then, according to the Qur'an, gave John "wisdom, piety, purity," and he was "devout, kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious" (19:12-14). ...
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Odd Odds and Ends
12/20/2006 - James WhiteDon't take your Bible to Saudi Arabia, noted by Tim Challies.
Great post by TQuid on the always popular, but highly doubtful, "Council of Rome" claim.
While you can't take the Bible to Saudi Arabia, whatever you do, don't talk about Mohammed in Pakistan. They'll ban your book.
I check out the ID weblog of Dembski etc. fairly regularly, and his current post once again gives an interesting insight into the mindset of the world's most fundamentalist atheist scholar, Richard Dawkins.
Here is a wild one, not for the faint of heart. So nice to know Rome doesn't condone this. Like anyone would ever bother to ask a Reformed Baptist if they condoned such behavior.
On The Dividing Line
12/20/2006 - James WhiteYesterday I was sent a link to the...talk Ergun Caner gave at a church Sunday, December 10th. I just can't bring myself to calling this string of jokes and stories a sermon, I'm sorry. I've heard real sermons, and this isn't one of them. In any case, I played just a few minutes of that, and then answered various e-mail questions that have been sent in. After the break we took two excellent phone calls. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Think on...What is Righteous
12/20/2006 - James Whiteo[sa di,kaia. Think on what is true, what is honorable, what is...just, righteous. What could be more natural, it might seem, than for the redeemed man or woman to think upon that which is righteous, that which is just, given that our entire peace with God is based upon having been declared righteous, justified, in God's sight by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)? Is it not the natural bent of the soul of the redeemed sinner to reflect often upon our standing with God, our being debtors to grace, forgiven, and declared right in God's sight because of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord in our place? Should it not be our daily practice to thank God for what He has done for us in redeeming us? Then dwelling upon what is just and righteous is surely most natural.
This is not so much, however, a command to think upon righteousness, considered as the forensic declaration of the Father based upon the work of the Son. It is descriptive, "that which is just," "that which is righteous." It speaks to that which is in right relationship to God, and hence that which is right and just amongst godly men as well.
I have noted as I have grown older that I find myself concerned about what is right and just more and more as time passes. I am so thankful that I believe that there will be a day in which perfect justice and righteousness will be vindicated, where wrongs will be righted. Our God never works unrighteousness. Justice will be done in the punishment of sin, either in the finished work of Christ in behalf of His people, or in the perfect application of God's law to those who remain rebels and who love their sin.
Do we revel in considering what is right and just, or do we join in the world in congratulating the unjust man who "gets away with it"? Do we in our own lives seek to reflect true righteousness in our personal dealings and in our views of the world, law, ethics? Or is there an inconsistency here as well?
And Hello to You, Envoy Forum!
12/19/2006 - Colin SmithI was informed today that my appearance on this blog has not gone unnoticed by our friends on the Envoy forum. Don't worry, I know it's not about me; it's about Dr. White, of course. You see, because I happen to agree with Dr. White, and even chose to study for a Master of Theology degree (note that, not a "Master's of Religious Studies"), at an unaccredited school in order to have Dr. White as my academic mentor, I am tarred and feathered with the same brush. Sorry, Dr. Sippo, but if that makes me a lazy lightweight, then so be it. I really, quite honestly, don't care what you think of me, and I am, in fact, honored to be tarred with that brush. If you choose to ignore every word out of my mouth simply because you don't like CES, or James White, or both, then that's up to you. It so happens that in the course of my "lightweight" studies, I do actually have to read books--lots of them, and I don't always agree with the books I read (some of which are written by some quite objectionable people). But my mentor encourages me to read them because it is possible I might learn something.
Now, since I only have a B.A. in Theology with Honors from an English University, I don't have a lot of experience with American institutions and categories of learning, but doing lots of reading, writing papers, and being guided in one's studies by someone whose work you admire and whose scholarship you trust sounds to me very much like a Research Degree. In fact, had I chosen to do an M.A. at my alma mater, I would have done much the same kind of thing except I would have been assigned a supervisor; I wouldn't have had the luxury of choosing someone with whom I hold sympathetic theological views (and it would have cost me a whole lot more).
Having said all of that, I don't expect anyone on the Envoy board to change their minds about me, Dr. White, CES, or Alpha and Omega Ministries. I only hope that some of you can see past these frail vessels and look to the wonderful message we proclaim. Have a nice Christmas! :-)
A Note on the Strobel Thing
12/18/2006 - James WhiteA friend wrote and gently rebuked me for noting the less-than-orthodox caption on the Lee Strobel video page. My point was that given the presence of so much bad stuff about Christ this time of year ("baby Jesus no crying He makes..." blah! Gnosticism!), we don't need this kind of sloppy theology. I was told I needed to watch the video, which I did. And I was more bothered by the video than I was by the errant statement, not because Strobel himself said something less orthodox than the caption. Instead, I winced repeatedly, not because what he was saying was, in and of itself, untrue, but it was being presented in such a fashion that it would leave anyone who took it out and tried to use it in the real world of apologetics completely defenseless against rather simplistic and easy refutations. For example, he presents the use of ego eimi by Jesus in Mark 6:50 as an evidence of the deity of Christ. Well, possibly, but surely, you cannot prove from the Markan text what you can, in fact, prove from the Johannine usages. If Mark 6:50 is relevant (it may be, but I have never placed weight upon it since it can be fairly argued that it is merely an emphasized statement of self-identification, it is me!, and, without the contextual usage by the author of the same phrase in relevant texts, you don't have a lot of ground upon which to stand) it is only as an echo of the Johannine usage. Go to the solid texts; explain the string of 8:24/8:58/13:19/18:5-6; make the connection to ani hu in Isaiah, and then, if you feel the need, go to Mark 6 as an echo of what has already been solidly established elsewhere. But sending these folks out with just Mark 6 leaves them in a bad way: as many, they might make the all-too-common long-leap to Exodus 3:14 (without making the necessary stop in Isaiah---Strobel made this very error in the video clip) and, if they run into a serious unitarian apologist, they will have a hard time defending their position.
Likewise, at one point Strobel says that if you look at "the original Greek" of John 10:30, when Jesus says He and the Father are "one," the term in Greek means "one in essence." Again, very common, and, just as next to impossible to defend as a primary statement. One means...one, and the concept of oneness of essence is an extended conclusion based upon sound exegetical conclusions drawn from the text, not from the word itself. A sharp critic of the faith would shred such a statement, and rightly so. The oneness of John 10:30 is, in context, a oneness in the salvation of God's people. Can you reason from there, in light of other texts, to a oneness of essence or being? Yes, but the process by which that would take place was not being offered in the presentation I watched.
Is there a lot of surface-level stuff on the deity of Christ out there today? Yes, sure is. Commonly happens when those using the arguments have little experience in applying them against sharp critics.
However, I noted that there was nothing in the presentation that would have corrected the misapprehension created by the mis-stated caption, either. In fact, I didn't hear anything in the way of explanation of the incarnation at all. If anything, it sounded like Strobel was emptying "Son of Man" of any incarnational relevance in regards to His humanity---but again, this section is all about the deity of Christ, which might explain the lack of balance. But in any case, I remain concerned.
Sola Ecclesia Illustrated
12/18/2006 - James WhiteIn between launching ad-hominems and generally avoiding ever touching the text of Scripture, Art Sippo, medical doctor and sometimes Roman Catholic apologist has been holding forth on the errors of Calvinism. He didn't get very far, and it looks like he sort of ran out of steam, but at least in his conclusion we have another glorious example of what sola ecclesia looks like:
What is ultimately wrong with Calvinism is that it is not Catholicism. It was not founded by God as the Catholic Church was, but rather by mere men in rebellion against the Successors of the Apostles.This is also why folks like Art Sippo are not much of a threat, since they do not realize that this kind of argumentation, for the one who honors and believes the Word of God found in Scripture, falls far short of reaching the status of "compelling." We have already seen what happens when Art tries his hand at exegesis.
Who needs Calvinism? It has no authority to teach. It has no power to save. And all it does is puff men up in their pride and autonomy and encourage them to sit in judgment on the God and His Church.
We Catholics have everything we need and more. Our religion is embarrassingly rich and diverse and under God's direct superintendence. No one needs anything more than that.
Muslim Cleric Ill | Theological Accuracy Would Be Nice | Islamic Apologists
12/18/2006 - James WhiteOmar Abdel-Rahman, the "blind Sheik," imprisoned years ago for his role in a plot to blow up New York City landmarks, has left instructions to "extract the most violent revenge" should he die in prison. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Quaida's second in command, has said, "I call on every Muslim to make use of every opportunity afforded him to take revenge on America for its imprisonment of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman." Abdel-Rahman's health is failing fast, so another example of the nature of militant Islam will undoubtedly be headed our direction in the not too distant future.
As of today, the caption on one of the pictures of Lee Strobel here says, "Christmas celebrates the birth of God, not a man." Excuse me? Now, I really hope Mr. Strobel did not say that, or, if he did, it was only in the context of "Jesus is not just a man," but the fact remains that the statement is simply sloppy and misleading. Jesus was the God-man, fully God, fully man. Sadly, many Christmas stories present more of a gnostic view of Jesus than a biblical one, and comments like this do not help much. I'm sure Lee Strobel believes Jesus was the God-man. So let's try watching our statements and applying a certain level of care to them! (ht: TC).
Finally, David Wood recently bashed his head forcibly against a stone wall; that is, he engaged in debate with Nadir Ahmed, the Peter Ruckman of Islamic apologists. Here you can read his comments on Islamic apologists, and hear his encounter with Nadir. I found the following paragraph most interesting:
Amazingly, throughout his career, Shabir’s methodology has raised few concerns. Only recently, in his debate with James White, has Shabir’s inconsistency been fully addressed. White challenged Shabir to provide a consistent method whereby Muslims may reject the New Testament (i.e. an argument against the New Testament that wouldn’t also refute the Qur’an), yet Shabir failed to provide such a method. It seems, then, that the Achilles Heel of Muslim apologetics has been found, and that a new age of Muslim debate must soon emerge.
Thinking on What is Honorable
12/16/2006 - James White"Whatever is honorable...dwell on these things" (Phil. 4:8). Honorable, worthy of respect, dignified, serious, above reproach, even holy. These are terms used to translate the single Greek term Paul uses here. We see here the value of interpretation in context, because the use of this term in conjunction with others helps us to identify Paul's intention (to use technical terminology, which area of the term's semantic domain is identified by the flow of the text). True...honorable...right/just/righteous...pure/holy. This is not what is respected by the world, it is that which is respectable, honorable, and worthy, in God's eyes. It will be in accord with truth and justice, and its honor will be unfading.
How completely unlike the objects of adoration in our world. Let's be honest. How often do we slip into the crowd in admiring the arrogant athlete with the super-sized mouth, the starlet with her perfect body (but utter lack of common sense and decency), the movie star whose world-view and ethics should make us cry out in righteous indignation? Do we admire them, even imitate them? We surely should not.
Finding that which is honorable, worthy of respect, dignified, and serious, may be a task these days. Our world revels in the debauched, the trivial, the undignified. Think about it. Amusement comes from a + muse (to think). Amuse = to stop thinking! Consider the films produced by Hollywood. If they make you think, they are almost always ungodly in their promotion of an anti-Christian worldview. If they don't, they engage in every kind of debased humor, profanity, and basic human degradation. So, the Christian mind, seeking what is honorable, will have to look first and foremost into history, both Scriptural and ecclesiastical, as well as within the body of Christ today. We have great examples of men and women who lived godly, dignified, honorable lives in the Bible and in sacred history. And we have many examples of things that are honorable as well, such as marriage, the church and her offices, the preaching of the Word, etc.
But once again, the point of the text brings us to the need to exercise discipline in our thinking, focusing upon what is true, what is honorable, and resisting dwelling upon falsehood, and upon that which, from the eternal perspective, is without honor.
A Few Quick Odds and Ends
12/15/2006 - James WhiteFirst, I know you all have already gotten this book, and I apologize for it taking so long for us to finally start carrying it, but I would recommend to your reading Reinventing Jesus by Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace. You may even disagree with a few perspectives taken in the book, but will benefit greatly nonetheless simply because the authors tackle so many extremely difficult (and common) questions. In other words, they really make you think about things, and that helps when you are attempting to communicate those thoughts to others. We now carry it in our bookstore.
I could not help but notice this paragraph from Jimmy Akin about the Pope praying at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque:
But it wasn't something that I thought totally out of character for him. He has articulated principles in the past that would allow him to do something like this, and I could see him saying to himself, "Like Jews and Christians, Muslims do worship God, and in view of the grave world crisis we are presently in and my own obligation as the Vicar of Christ not to inflame it, I should go as far as I possibly can to settle the situation down."Personally, it is almost painful to watch Roman Catholic apologists struggling with modern Rome, and especially what has come out of Vatican II regarding Islam. But, they are stuck with it, so let the spin continue! Let's remember, the Allah of Islam is far removed from His creation, could never enter into His creation, and is unitarian in nature. One has to wonder if, on the basis of consistency, we will be told that Jehovah's Witnesses worship God as well? In any case, we should hardly be surprised at the current Pope's actions in light of this infamous picture of his predecessor. I've heard every excuse under the sun for what JPII did here, including the idea he thought it was a Bible. I suppose that's possible, though, it's painfully obvious to anyone who knows anything at all about Islam that it is the Qur'an. My Arabic Qur'an has the same embossed symbol, as seen here. Let's remember what this book says:
They surely disbelieve who say : Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said : O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden Paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evildoers there will be no helpers. They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how we make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! (Surah 5:72-75).Kiss a book like that? I'll let you decide.
Finally, I got a response, sort of, from the fellow who wrote to me about the "professor of a major Catholic university" and how he was tearing my book apart, etc. I am completely lost as to what it means, but here it is:
So scared aren't you.Finally, a quick reminder to those in the Phoenix area: time is almost here for the apologetics class through GGBTS starting 1/2/07. If you have any interest in participating, you need to get hold of Dottie at the Arizona Regional Campus soon!
You call yourself a Christian? ..... I'm not.... It's people like you that turn me off from religion in general, especially you superficial Protestants. You failed my test, and sunk to my level... Pathetic.
The Message of Matthew 1:21
12/15/2006 - Colin Smith"And she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins."
This angelic proclamation to Joseph is possibly one of the most culturally incorrect statements within the Gospel birth narratives. In this one sentence, the angel sent from God delivers to Joseph a message that runs contrary to most popular Christmas messages you are likely to hear on TV, radio, and from many pulpits. It also runs contrary to the worldly understanding of the message of Christmas, and what the birth of Christ means for the world.
She Will Bear a Son
The angel informed Joseph that his betrothed was to become supernaturally pregnant. In verse 23, Matthew says that this startling revelation is a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy (Is. 7:14). It has never ceased to amaze me how some try to wiggle around the idea that this was, indeed, a real virgin birth. Yes, the Greek term parthenos can be used to refer to a young maiden. However, in the context of the passage, the Lord was encouraging Ahaz to ask for a sign, something remarkable that would indicate to him God's hand at work. "Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep," God says to Ahaz; but Ahaz does not want to be presumptuous, so the Lord offers the sign in 7:14. If all the Lord meant was "a young maiden will become pregnant and bear a son," that hardly seems a remarkable sign. Many young maidens became pregnant. Where is the "deep sign" demonstrating an act of God?
Furthermore, this child was to be a son (huios), not a divine principle: a real, tangible, human being. But not just a mere human being. This was to be Emmanuel, "God with us." Was he just supposed to be a symbol of God's presence among His people, like the ancient Tabernacle? Not according to the gospel accounts. The angel spoke of a real child; Mary carried true flesh and blood in her womb for nine months. But this flesh and blood was more than merely a man. He was born "of a virgin" by supernatural intervention. This child was was God with us--literally. The baby that lay in the manger was fully man and fully God: God incarnate.
He Shall Save His People from Their Sins
Now the angel tells Joseph the purpose of God becoming incarnate. The child's name was to be Jesus, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yeshua meaning "God saves." Who is God going to save? According to the angel, "His people." For those interested in textual variants, there is a variant at this point. The Curetonian Syriac text actually reads ton kosmon here, making the angel say that Jesus will save "the world." There are two things to note about this. First, this is the only text that says this; all other manuscripts, including the Byzantine manuscripts read ton laon autou, "His people." Second, this maverick reading in the Curetonian Syriac more than likely came about due to scribal error since the Syriac for "people" (`ama), is very similar to the Syriac word for "world" (`alma). (If you want to see this for yourself, take a look at this blog entry in Evangelical Textual Criticism. I am indebted to this entry by P. J. Williams for this information.) Christ did not come into the world to save every man. If He did, then you can be assured that everyone, from the most pious saint to the worst reprobate will be in Heaven when they die. Whatever God plans to do comes to pass (Psalm 33:11), so if God planned to save every person in the world, He surely would. Yet, we know He hasn't (John 6:44; Acts 13:48).
So, God is coming into the world as a man to save a particular group of people that He will call His own. But what is God going to save them from? Sickness? Famine? Disease? Oppression and poverty? Every year, we are told by the secular media that the point of Christmas is peace, and that the birth of Jesus symbolizes God's love, so we need to share that love and peace in order to end all the evils to which we are subjected every day. That's what Christmas is all about, we are told. But that is not what the angel says. The angel says that Jesus Christ came into the world with one objective in mind: to save His people from their sins. If Christ came to do anything other than this, then there is no hope for us. The evil in the world is not caused by wrong thinking, mismanagement, poverty, abuse by authority, or bad upbringing. Evil exists in the hearts of men because man is at enmity with God. Until sin is dealt with, man can never be at peace with God. And men cannot hope to have true, lasting peace with one another without first having peace with God. World peace does not begin at the UN; it begins with proclamation of the Gospel: "You shall call his name Jesus; for He will save His people from their sins."
God has made provision for the sins of men. Peace on earth is now possible, because Christ has come to reconcile God and man. God's perfect justice that demands payment for sin has been satisfied in Christ on behalf of His people.
This is the message of Matthew 1:21, and the true message of Christmas. As our world becomes increasingly secular, and the images of Christmas--and even the word "Christmas"--become replaced with warm feelings and empty platitudes, it becomes more important for us not to forget this. May the Lord be pleased to ignite our hearts with love and gratitude to Him for His awesome grace!
On the Dividing Line Today
12/14/2006 - James WhiteStarted off reading the following letter on the air, and inviting its Roman Catholic author to call in.
Dear Mr. White, I just want you to know that a professor of a major Catholic university has required all students to buy your book SCRIPTURE ALONE with the purpose of thrashing it to pieces. He is working in conjuction [sic] with Catholic Answers, the largest Catholic apologetics organization in the United States. He gives lectures taking your book piece by piece and explaining the illogical argumentation of it. He also has found blatant lies and stretching of truth. I'm compiling these into notes and I'll be sending them to you in the future. I've read a good portion of your book, and I must say, I am truly amazed at how desperate Protestants are in their argumentation. Really amazed. I told the professor that the Catholic Church is so ABOVE your low-level, amature [sic] theology and argumentation that by doing this project we are validating your work. He responded by saying that we are doing the project not for him (you) but for the ignorant masses that he desperately needs to feed his family and insecure ego. Anyway... there you go.I pointed out that my initial response to him was, "And who is this brilliant professor, and when would he like to debate in front of his classes? :-)" Unfortunately, the author never called.
Then we moved on to George Bryson's anti-Calvinism talk to Calvary Chapel pastors from 2003, examining the mind-set that goes into this internal movement in the CCs. Here's the program (free/high quality).
E-Mail Odds and Ends
12/14/2006 - James WhiteSteve Hays forwarded me an argument from an Orthodox apologist charging Thomism (and by extension, all of Romanism) with monothelitism (monenergism). I see it suffers from the same kind of "make a conclusion in this field of theology, transport it over here and use it as a club to beat someone over the head" fallacy as Prejean's does, but it is ironic to see his own falsehoods being turned against his own position. Sophists just never learn. In case you missed it, after I addressed the Envoy Magazine forum issues a few days ago, Prejean posted this long diatribe of next-to-unintelligible drivel that evidently only he could possibly follow or find compelling, but ol' Art Sippo, clearly just as completely lost about what on earth Prejean was pretending to say as anyone else, had to give a cheer for the home team. He opined, "It seems that He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named has deigned to regale us with his ravings from his little Mecca in Phoenix. He barks and toots like the braying of the Little Horn form Revelation. Crimson has skewered his hash nicely and there is no need to go over the same ground twice." Ah, isn't the consistency of the ever insulting Dr. Sippo refreshing? In a world where change is the norm, his constancy is comforting! Ironically, Sippo has started another thread where he is discussing...Van Til, of all things. I read his first installment, and then could not help but find a couple of the comments that followed humorous, especially our old friend Jerry-Jet, who added,
No presuppositions = RETARDEDNESS!Well, that just blessed my socks off.
Hate for presuppositions because man is depraved ends up in fiascos such as Sola Scriptura--in other words since man is so bad he has to be programmed by a sovereign and providential God.
That is why Calvinism is a pure crock!
Man isn't as DEPRAVED as what they say and God can also infuse us with transformative saving grace WITHOUT beating us down with it.
Moving on to other equally---odd things, I was forwarded a lengthy quote from David Cloud today where he is doing the "Attack Calvin by hoping your audience is completely ignorant of history and bigoted enough to believe what you have to say without considering the anachronisms you are introducing to the topic" thing (just like Dave Hunt). Evidently, the belief is that if you can attack Calvin, and someone is dull enough to think that "Calvinism" is more than a historical artifact (as if the discussion began with Calvin) and that Calvin and Calvinism stand or fall together, you can "win" the argument without actually engaging the biblical text at the level of exegesis. When are these folks going to realize that their surface-level argumentation and historical chicanery is hurting, not helping, them? Sure they will keep the one who is not concerned about consistency and is happy with a "what I've got is good enough" attitude from looking any further, but are those the ones who would be looking and considering anyway? The more they demonstrate that they have nothing of substance to say the more they will lose their next generation of leaders. It's truly amazing. ...
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Dwell on These Things
12/14/2006 - James Whitetau/ta logi,zesqe. Dwell on these things. Think about these things. Meditate on these things. This is the apostolic command in Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." We would be completely missing his point if we took this to mean "once in a while, maybe on Sunday morning, consider these things." "Think on something nice and godly once in a while. You'll feel warm and fuzzy, but otherwise, think like the world." No, clearly, the Christian who desires the peace of God (notice the appearance of the phrase before, and after, this text) is to be (here's a bad word, make sure children are not present!), disciplined in regularly seeking to control his or her thought life. This isn't once in a while. It is descriptive of the Christian life as a whole. And for the person pursuing peace, it is the only God-ordained path.
Whatever is true. God values truth. He has revealed truth, and promised that the Spirit of truth would be with us. Can you imagine how important truth must be to God when He applies the term as a description of His Spirit? We are to think on truth, ponder it, focus our attention upon it, value it as the precious gift it is. How many walk about each day in utter darkness and deception, while we walk in the light of the truth? Should this not cause us to rejoice in it, to never take it for granted, to desire to know it better every day? Look at how the world hates the clarity of God's truth and does all it can to mock it, deride it, and obscure it. What the world hates we should love and honor and consider most precious. Yet is this the attitude we see in the church in general today? Do we see a concern for truth, a concern that we handle it aright, proclaim it clearly, without mixture or confusion, and pass it on as the precious heritage that it is? Think on the truth. Consider today some element of God's truth and let its light shine upon your life. Think of the cross, the resurrection, the eternal nature of God. Pray that God will help you to fully appreciate its glory and its worth. And enjoy the peace of God that comes from realizing that there is nothing the world can do to take away from you His glorious truth.
The Secret to Christian Contentment
12/13/2006 - James White
Colossians 3:12-17 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Ask yourself a question...no comparing yourself to others, no hiding behind the "well, I'm doing better than Bill at church" or "I know I am ahead of Sandra in my sanctification" excuse...is your life substantively, clearly, fundamentally, different than those of the world? Can you honestly say you know a peace they do not know? Does the question bother you greatly?
It is an honest question, and it is one I ask myself. I read these texts and I am reminded over and over again of how easy it is to slip into a worldly mindset, a worldly pattern of behavior. Oh, surely, from an external perspective I look different than most, but I know my mind, I know my heart. Do I worry? Am I truly content? Do I experience a supernatural, "this can't be explained by natural causes" kind of peace, deep, soul-grounding, spirit-lifting, impervious to the world's sharpest attacks? These questions force me to the every-day question, "To what do I expose my mind, willingly? Am I dwelling upon God's Word, abiding in Christ, taking delight in His law?" Do I experience conviction when I read Psalm 119? Do I walk as the Psalmist here?
Psalm 1:1-2I want the peace of God that passes all understanding. But how much do I want it? Do I want it enough to be disciplined, to pursue it? I pursue many things in life. I am putting out a tremendous amount of physical energy pursuing an exercise challenge right now. Soon I will do my annual triple-trek up South Mountain, riding 44 miles and climbing 4400 feet in "celebration" of turning 44. Talk about pursuing something with all your capacity, the final push up the steepest portion of the climb at the top the third time up will require every ounce of my bodily power. But, can I look at myself and say, "I expend that kind of energy in the pursuit of godliness, the pursuit of holiness, the pursuit of the peace of God"?
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
For most of us, this is a season of giving to others and experiencing the truth of Jesus' words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Yet we will be receiving as well, and we may well have answered the question, "What do you wish this year?" Where does the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension stand on your wish list? I would like to invest some portion of our considerations here on this vital topic, for it has wide ramifications, positively and negatively. Positively, so many of us are missing out on the truly spiritual life, settling for the crumbs of the world. Negatively, these texts contain commands, and woe be to us when we choose to neglect God's commandments for our lives.
My brother or sister in Christ, to what will you expose your mind this day? Will you purposefully dwell upon that which is not good, honest, just, pure, or lovely? Will you take the heart which was redeemed with such a great price and place it firmly in the control of the world, thinking upon that which is sexually immoral, violent, gruesome, ungodly, impure, ugly, or hateful? Will your tongue and your thoughts reflect this inner reality? Do you laugh when someone reminds you of the need of purity? The believer who is at home with the world in these areas simply cannot possess the peace of God in Christ, for these things are at war with what it means to be in this world, but not of it. Let's consider these texts and make sure our lives are in line with our profession of faith. A person who can dot all the i's and cross all the t's in theology but is not living in light of those truths is, of course, a hypocrite, and God has given us clear evidence of what He thinks about that (Matthew 23).
By Way of Introduction...Colin Smith
12/13/2006 - Colin SmithI would like to introduce a fine brother in the Lord and co-laborer in the work, Colin Smith, to the readers of this blog. I have asked Colin to join me in the work of making this waypoint in cyber-space useful and beneficial to the people of God. You may find some of Colin's materials linked elsewhere on our site. I am honored he has agreed to join in blessing the people of God here on Pros Apologian. ---JRW
I am one of those upon whom James has bestowed the honor of contributing to Pros Apologian, so this brief blog is by way of introduction. I am formerly a citizen of the UK, and have a bachelor's degree in Theology from the University of Hull, England. I am (and have been for some years now) a student of Dr. White's as part of a Master of Theology (Th.M.) program through CES (Columbia Evangelical Seminary). I have already written some papers for Dr. White that he has seen fit to include on this site, and I have also contributed a couple of blog articles. I am Reformed Baptist in my theology and attend a Reformed Baptist church. My main theological interest is Biblical Exegesis, though I dabble frequently in other areas according to the term paper I am currently working on, or where curiosity leads. I hope the contributions I make to this site have been, and will continue to be, of benefit to the saints, and most of all glorifying to the Lord.
Today on The Dividing Line
12/12/2006 - James WhiteStarted the program today playing a clip from Patrick Madrid on the nature of ecumenism. Oddly, agreed with pretty much all he had to say in the sense that we both agree that ecumenism, if it is "valid," should have as its goal conversion. We just disagree on what the conversion is about, or what it is to. Then we finished up the Jerry Vines sermon, lamented once again the use of template sermons, and then took a call on the meaning of the term "anthropomorphism" in reference to Greg Stafford's recent dialogue with Robert Morey in defense of the JW version of open theism (denying to God exhaustive divine knowledge of future events). Here's the program (free/high quality).
12/09/2006 - James WhiteOK, first and foremost, the cruise, the cruise, the cruise. Who needs that blazer and a tie? The cruise!
Next, as I can attest from watching Rich and Dave working very hard each day in the other part of the office, many of you are actually willing to give our DVDs and CDs and books and stuff, and we are doing our best to get them to you in a timely manner. Many thanks!
I have been noting the ministry of Don Kistler since our cruise because 1) he impressed us all so much with his presentation on buying the truth and not selling it, which was almost prophetic in light of the fact that 2) since the cruise he has been grossly mistreated by those who should know better, and I would like to see the people of God bless the man for his integrity and faithfulness in the face of undeserved adversity. So stop by and pick up some teaching CDs for yourself and others.
Now, I've mentioned before the fact that the folks at Renaissance Art have made me some great leather items. A few months ago they made me a new pouch for my tablet that has a pocket for my extra batteries (I've started carrying an extra wireless net card in it as well). I have been using it ever since, and it is just wonderful! Here's a picture of it. The leather is thick and soft and yet durable. If you are looking for a real unique gift, how about measuring someone's Bible that you know they like so much and getting a real nice cover for it? No, I don't get a kick back or anything...they've just done well by me, so I'm noting their good work.
Also, I have a few items that I've had engraved with Scriptural passages or terms in the original languages, both Greek and Hebrew. I've gotten great service from StickyJ Jewelry online. I know some of you would like a particularly meaningful text on a wristband, for example, and these folks do a good job with the engraving. Check them out!
Oh, and don't forget to give your favorite Liberty student, or staffer, sadly, the mp3 we have produced just for them, wherein we respond to the claims of Ergun and Emir Caner and set the record straight! In fact, you can make them really happy by putting it on a nice new jump drive, or, if you are really wishing to make a hit, a new iPod, and putting it in their stocking! They will love you for it...the sound theology, that is!
Finally, a couple of nights ago I was sitting on my front porch past 11 at night. It was...67 degrees. Yeah, it's been warm lately even while the rest of you have been freezing. That's warm even for us (getting up into the upper 70s during the day). I was looking across the street at the neighbor's house and I took this less-than-perfect picture with my cell phone. The reason I took it was to illustrate Christmas in the desert, because I remember how odd it looked the first time I saw it. The lights are strung on...cacti. Specifically, saguaro cacti (suh-WAHR-oh in case you are wondering). The "lawn" is made of...rock. Yup, that's Christmas in the desert! Now if we could just arrange a winter storm for the 24th or so. Nothing I dislike more than having to wear short sleeves to Christmas dinner because it is 74 outside.
A Quick Trip Down Apostasy Lane
12/09/2006 - James WhiteRight before I left for St. Charles a friend of mine sent me a URL to the Envoy Magazine web-board where medical doctor Art Sippo, one of the more famous folks on this blog (do a search if you really must), had begun a series on Calvinism. Now, remember, Art Sippo is the same non-exegete about whom I wrote in a multi-part series (starting here), documenting his many errors on the subject of Romans 9. His response? He's above even looking at the documentation, of course. So when I saw a thread beginning with Sippo setting his over-the-top, "ad-hominem is my middle name" style of rhetorical apologetics on Calvinism, I knew the result would be...typical Sippoism. But what made the thread more interesting was the soon arrival of one TGE, Timothy Enloe. Now, on September 18th of 2006 I had a brief "private message" conversation with Mr. Enloe in IRC. I challenged him to join me in not mentioning the other in public writings and conversations for an entire year. He agreed. That lasted less than three months, as I pretty much expected it would. The conversation very quickly deteriorated from any semi-serious criticism of Calvinism to a back and forth between Sippo and TGE, with Sippo doing his normal abrasive, in-your-face style of posting while, of course, complaining that everyone else is mean and nasty. Along the way our ol' friend Jerry-Jet would throw in a few bombs which most everyone else just sort of ignores (I include a few below just to add color to the citations).
Instead of you having to plow through the six current pages of posts, I did that work for you. Here are some of the real gems---mainly those with reference to the thought process of a formerly conservative apologist who has charted his own course...right over a theological cliff, and who cannot even engage in dialogue with someone as nasty as Art Sippo without lobbing grenades at Reformed folks who actually engage in biblical exegesis (gasp!).
For clarity's sake for others reading this thread, let me say that I don't really give two figs for defending Calvinism, and haven't for over 3 years now. I am a "de facto" Calvinist because my whole life situation right now is wrapped up in Calvinist circles. But, not only is the Calvinism in which I'm wrapped up nothing like the Calvinism you Catholics encounter all over the Internet (particularly in the apologetics "ministries"), but it's also not something I sit around obsessing over. I couldn't care less about the mechanics of predestination; I affirm it because Scripture talks about it, but how it works is of exactly zero interest to me. Ditto for fighting Arminians and using "the doctrines of grace" to separate myself from all who think differently about grace.
Why believe in Calvin when you can believe in Jesus?
All Calvinism is REALLY is just a worship of self. People who believe it are really just patting themselves on the back and are saying "I AM the predestined elect". why? Because they judge such to be true! why can they judge it? Because they said so!
Art Sippo 11/25:
Any one who denies the Mass is a sacrifice and sets himself up as more Catholic as the Doctors, Church Fathers, and the Popes has nothing to say to me that is worth hearing. As a Catholic I find nothing good in the "magisterial reformation."
Jerry Jet 11/26:
Mere talk about the truth is CHEAP! Jesus said "I came not to bring peace but a sword". The sword of truth necessitates a fight.
Mere talk is disingenuous. Satan only talked to Eve--Eve didn't fight!
When someone disagrees with the Catholic Church either they are liars or the Catholic Church are liars
There is no CARICATURE in that!
For the record, I am the sort of Protestant who believes that Protestantism can't survive without significantly reshaping its view of and relations with Catholicism. We need Catholicism, because in many ways we've lost our way. I am likewise the kind of Calvinist who, if I ever come to believe that Prejean is right that Calvinism is a kind of Monothelitism, I will chuck Calvinism so fast it will make everyone's heads spin. I am the kind of Reformed person who doesn't think there's much virtue in imagining that there is a stark dividing line in Church history called "pre-Reformation" and "Reformation" times. I think it's deeply spiritually unhealthy to live always looking back at some mythically perfect time of "purity" and trying to recapitulate it world without end. It's wrong to take one's whole approach to the Christian life from what once was not but has now become a pretty much entirely negative stance towards others, with the corresponding absurd assumption that we ourselves are so right and good that we don't need anyone else and are, as it were, God's Appointed Messengers to call everyone else to repentance....
Further for the record, I don't subscribe to the "Faith by scholarship" view that you impute to me. No doubt I don't have to lecture a Catholic in the fact that the best of the Christian tradition from earliest times has sought to harmonize Faith and Reason, not set them in opposition to each other. Just because much of Protestantism has surrendered to Enlightenment standards of rationality and vainly imagines such absurdities as that learning to parse all your Greek participles correctly leads to a Platonic Paradise of "pure biblical truth," and tries to collapse faith into "evidence" doesn't mean Protestants without exception are and must be this way.
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Getting to Know Jonathan Edwards
12/08/2006 - James WhiteWhen I was in seminary I had the wonderful opportunity of writing a paper on the theology of Jonathan Edwards on the sovereignty of God. It was one of the most exciting studies I did at that time. The "Edwards" field is huge, with many modern writers and speakers addressing the topic. But if you'd like to get an engaging, accurate, encouraging overview of Edwards which will give you a basis for doing further reading and study, you want to get hold of Don Kistler's 6-message series, Jonathan Edwards. And while you are there, take a look at the other things Don has to offer, and drop him a note of encouragement while you are at it!
Two Angry Calvinists
12/08/2006 - James WhiteLiberty University has a "Christmas Convocation" each year that, I'm told, can be quite humorous. This year, yours truly got to have a part. Oh, well, only by parody, but yes, I had a part. Evidently, they did a version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and for number two, they had "Two Angry Calvinists." Of course, if Dr. Ascol and I are angry, I truly wonder what "Calvinists are worse than Muslims" means? Anyway, according to an eye witness account sent to me this morning, two folks came out on stage during the "two angry Calvinists" portion; they were followed by someone shouting, "God loves you, but He doesn't love you."
Now, there are plenty of things one could look to over the past year about which to chuckle regarding Liberty and its anti-Calvinist crusade. John Gill a Presbyterian. There's one that should make you laugh as loudly as Bishop Spong not knowing who J.C. Ryle was. "Calvinists are worse than Muslims." There's one that will go down in history. "I'll be standing on my...hands...standing on my feet...standing on a stump" is another one. There are lots of them. But as the cover art Ergun Caner posted a while back demonstrates, for something to be funny, it has to have an element of truth in it. It simply isn't funny when it is based upon a lie, or willful and continual ignorance.
So I'm honored to have had a part in Liberty's celebration, however--I'm not an angry Calvinist. In fact, I think it is pretty obvious that when it comes to this topic, the anger and emotion is found in Ergun and Emir Caner. I would once again encourage any fair minded person to listen to the presentation made on this topic at our national conference in November and ask yourself a simple question: who is dependent upon emotion and rhetoric, and who seeks to present a biblical, cogent, consistent, truth-honoring theology?
Even at that, I would not be able to work "two angry synergists" into my rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I would have to come up with something along the lines of "an entire administration afraid of allowing for open and free academic debate on a biblical subject of tremendous importance" and I'm afraid getting that to fit and rhyme is way beyond me.
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
12/08/2006 - James WhiteFirst half hour I played, and interacted, with a clip from George Bryson's amazing presentation to the Calvary Chapel pastor's meeting sometime in late 2003 (it was prior to the BAM program with him and the release of his "read my book" book, The Dark Side of Calvinism. Gene Cook and the folks on The Narrow Mind began reviewing it, and I obtained the mp3 from Gene's website (thanks Gene!). If you see George over there, tell him "Darth says howdy."
Second half hour got back to a little of the Vines sermon and then took a call toward the end of the hour. Here's the program (freebie/high quality).
Getting to Know Islamic Vocabulary
12/06/2006 - James WhiteOur brothers and sisters, so often persecuted in Islamic lands, are supposed to be protected by Islamic authorities due to their status as dhimmis. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (2003),
Dhimmi Non-Musilm under the protection of Muslim law. A covenant of protection was made with conquered "Peoples of the Book," which included Jews, Christians, Sabaeans, and sometimes Zoroastrians and Hindus. Adult male dhimmis were required to pay a tax [the jizyah] on their income and sometimes on their land. Restrictions and regulations in dress, occupation, and residence were often applied. Islam offered dhimmis security of life and property, defense against enemies, communal self-government, and freedom of religious practice. (68)Of course, especially in lands such as Pakistan, or Indonesia, security of life is surely no longer offered in many locations. And, of course, "freedom of religious practice" does not include the conversion of a Muslim to your faith, as we have noted here many times. See Bat Ye'or's Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide for a study of the subject.
Acts 15 on the Dividing Line
12/05/2006 - James WhiteToday I started off with about half an hour or so on the subject of Acts 15, the "Jerusalem Council," issues relating to Peter's role, and to the relevance of the text to church government (i.e., Reformed Baptist/Presbyterian discussions, such as the one I had with Robert Reymond). Then we took calls. Here's the program. Check out the new higher quality format in our MP3 shopping cart!
More Monday Odds and Ends
12/04/2006 - James WhiteBefore heading back into the cold of St. Charles I looked back at the archives from last year, and had to chuckle to note that I had written an article while waiting for the return flight and had noted that they needed new carpet at gate A-16. Well, this time out, we sat on the tarmac for 35 minutes waiting to get into gate A-16, and then, once we got there, another 25 waiting for a gate agent to swing the jetway out to us! And no, the carpet is worse now than it was last year.
Sure was nice and cold back there! Snow all over, ice...I guess we Arizonans just aren't big on walking on ice, because it seemed everyone else could do it far better than I could. Of course, I probably walk in sand better than they do.
Once again had a great time with Van Lees and the folks at Covenant of Grace Church in St. Charles. Met lots of new folks too, and spoke on sola scriptura. It isn't official yet, but we have talked a bit about doing an Islam conference there next year. We'll let you know!
Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted by Muslims around the world. Note this article for an example.
I never got any time at all over the weekend to address the claims of "Tiber Jumper" regarding sola scriptura, the Qur'an, etc., posted on his blog. So I passed by there quickly this morning and ran into this article. And he did not even thank me for the massive spike in his traffic! What a shame! But let's note a few items in response to Mr. Tiber Jumper (shall I refer to him as Tiber? Or go with the last name of Jumper?)
First, Mr. Jumper needs to explain his prejudicial and bigoted use of the term "anti-Catholic." As often as this obvious ploy is used by Rome's apologists it still remains a glowing testimony to their willingness to use emotionally-laden terms to try to make up for the lack of substance in argumentation. Why am I an anti-Catholic but he is not an anti-Protestant? Given my work over the past few decades relating to Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam, etc., does that make me an anti-Catholic/Mormon/Witness/Muslim/Secular atheist? Or am I simply a Reformed Baptist apologist who consistently gives responses to the challenges presented by a wide range of contradictory religious beliefs? I would ask Tiber Jumper and his compatriots to stop using the term "anti-Catholic" for anyone but those who define themselves in that fashion: that is, if you encounter someone who does nothing else in their life but oppose the Roman Catholic Church, then fine, identify them by that moniker. But applying it to someone such as myself, who not only opposes a wide variety of falsehoods, but on the other hand has produced positive defenses of my faith, am regularly involved in teaching ministry in the local church, etc., is so obviously a lame attempt to fog the issues with emotions that it is rather self-defeating, isn't it?
Next, Mr. Jumper needs to go a little deeper both in his knowledge of the Qur'an and Islamic concepts of inspiration and then he needs to join that clearer understanding with a less biased view of sola scriptura and the comments that I made therein. Scanning over his "conversion testimony" I see that he took the Bob Sungenis route: a wide variety of off-the-wall non-Catholic experiences, including word-faith stuff and some Harold Camping (or so it sounded), followed by a leap into the United Methodist Church before heading back across the Tiber (the real question is, did he ever cross the Tiber in the first place? I mean, if he had no knowledge of Rome's teachings the first time across, was he ever on either side of the river in any meaningful sense?). What is on his spiritual resume there does not lead one to expect an overly in-depth understanding of the position he now critiques. This could lead to the mis-cue in attempting to transfer a single portion of a discussion of the Bible's inherent authority due to its nature as qeo,pneustoj revelation to the Qur'an as if this provided a valid argument against sola scriptura as a doctrine. Mr. Jumper also needs to realize that the paragraph he quoted from me was not even a definition to begin with---to treat it as if it were offered as a definition is to ignore its original context and usage.
Next, Tiber Jumper noted he was identified as an apostate by yours truly, and that is quite true. Is there something about this that is in error? His entire name, Tiber Jumper, seems to proclaim something about his rejection of his former beliefs, yes? And what term do you use of someone who proclaims they professed faith A, and then denies faith A? An apostate from faith A, yes? So it seems. But given that Mr. Jumper then seems to seek to garner some element of sympathy from his audience, I have to wonder just what he meant by noting the term and putting it in bold face?
Now, we are then told that all sorts of mean, nasty anti-Catholics visited his blog and sent him nasty e-mails or, possibly, left nasty comments. Now, I looked at the comments section, and found nothing nasty. I found one Roman Catholic doing an impersonation of Karl Keating (i.e., "How do you know Matthew wrote Matthew?" which always make me chuckle, since 1) the authorship of Matthew is not definitional of the Christian faith, and 2) Rome's own Pontifical Biblical Institute has made it known that they don't know who wrote Matthew either, and it is common in Roman Catholic scholarship to deny Matthean authorship of the canonical gospel, so the entire question is rather irrelevant) but other than that, I saw nothing at all. So, were these nasty comments that were deleted, perhaps? Personally sent in e-mail? We are not told. Instead, these uncited, un-described nastigrams are made the substance of his response and are, in fact, used as an apologetic argument that "my" side is "unloving." All of this only tells me that Mr. Jumper has a post-modern streak in him a mile wide, as least when it comes to being "religiously correct," as our day and age would put it. If someone says "you are ignorant of the system you now deny" that is probably interpreted as being mean-spirited and nasty---even if it happens to be true.
In any case, let's hope Mr. Jumper will drop the "professional anti-Catholic" silliness. His arguments would be much more compelling if they were not clothed in such emotionalism and sophistry.