This message by Timothy Brindle1 wrecked me. It absolutely knocked me off my feet and rolled me in the dirt. In American Gospel, the true Christ-centered application of David and Goliath is briefly hinted at. This sermon fleshes that out in full detail. I listen to a lot of audio; this 45 minute sermon is something I recommend putting at the very top of the list.
Two things about this Pulpit and Pen article. First, because Steve Anderson calls orthodoxy heresy, I don’t consider him an ally. Second though, the enemy of your enemy is not your friend. If the totalitarians are doing this to the Steve Andersons of the world today, they’re going to be doing it to orthodox Christians tomorrow. The stormy winds are picking up.
Last fall, James White teamed up with Michael Brown to take the negative side in this debate against Deweyne Robinson and Ruth Jensen-Forbell. Even if you think you’re very familiar with what the New Testament has to say on this subject, I still highly recommend watching this debate. There are a lot of useful things that came out of it.
Throughout the entire debate though, it’s confusing whether the affirmative side is admitting that homosexuality is sinful or not. Half the time they talk about how humans are imperfect and that the whole point of the gospel is that “there is therefore no condemnation,” and the fact that Jesus forgave the woman in Luke 7 but didn’t say, “Go sin no more,” leaving the door open apparently for a continuation in her forgiven sin.1 All of this belies an admission that we are indeed dealing with sin here.2 But then the other half of the time, the affirmative side argues that committed stable same-sex relationships aren’t what Paul had in mind in his writings (a claim that’s demonstrably disprovable by pointing out that committed same-sex couples were very much a reality in Paul’s day and that he would’ve known that by categorically condemning this perversion in general, he was leaving no room for that group), and that Jesus never condemned it either.3
I’m walking away from this debate not actually understanding the affirmative’s stance on the subject. They seem confused. Half of their contention is incompatible with the other half. There’s no point in talking about Jesus’ forgiveness and love and the fact that nobody’s perfect if what you’re talking about is ok in the first place. You don’t need Jesus’ forgiveness if you’re already righteous. It makes no sense.
Approaching this from a proper Biblical perspective, I think the answer is sadly obvious: they know they’re wrong. It’s written in their conscience and they’re without excuse. So they’re grasping at whatever inconsistent lines of argumentation they can to justify their sin. It’s incoherent babblings compared to the meaningful, consistent exegesis of scripture as demonstrated by the negative side.
- There would be no other reason for Ruth to point out the fact that we don’t have a record of Jesus telling the woman to stop sinning. ↩︎
- If both sides agree that this is a sin and the disagreement is merely over whether Jesus loves us as his ostensible children despite our habitual non-remorseful practice of our sin, then the main tenant of the debate is actually over. In other words, the affirmative side would have to admit, “No, homosexuality is not consistent with New Testament obedience, but that’s ok, because Jesus loves us despite our imperfections, and there’s therefore now no condemnation.” ↩︎
- As the negative side aptly points out, Jesus never condemned child molesting either, so by this line of argumentation, that lifestyle is ok with Jesus too. This approach ignores the fact that Jesus clearly taught he had come to fulfill the law, not to abolish it, and the fact that the Old Testament law is black and white on this issue. Since homosexuality was illegal in Israel, Jesus didn’t need to talk about it because nobody was openly practicing it, and everyone understood it to be wrong. Why talk about gluten in a gluten-free cookbook when there are much more practical things to talk about? Jesus focused on the sin at hand in his day. Had homosexuality been rampant in Israel, he would’ve most certainly talked about it, as Paul and the other apostles did once the gospel went to the Gentiles. See how the negative side has a much more consistent view of the whole of scripture than the affirmative side ever possibly can? ↩︎
At first, the project was simple: search for insults to keep reading Luther interesting. He’s spectacular at times, and other times he’s theologically dense, as all theologians are from time to time. And you really had to read Luther to find his better insults; they didn’t just pop off the page. So I read Luther and highlighted every insult I found. Of course, that means someday someone’s going to inherit the volumes of Luther’s Works that I own, and they’re going to find every insult throughout the books highlighted. Nothing else; just the insults.
Here’s the full compilation on one page.
R. Scott Clark:
I think there is a difference between real, professional scholarship and that of the amateur variety. Frankly, most pastors are amateur scholars. By this I don’t mean to be demeaning, but it’s a fact.
This whole thought piece is very useful. Clark refutes the notion that seminary was a product of the enlightenment, and that a lack of seminary-level training was historically normative in the preparation of ministers.
At first, I was thankful that they pointed me to my church leaders, but then I clicked on the link to True Freedom Trust, 4 which they “heartily recommend.” The first article that caught my attention was one that dealt with loneliness and physical isolation for those experiencing same-sex attraction but still desired to remain celibate. Here is what I found when I read that article:
“Over many years of providing pastoral support at TFT, we’ve heard same-sex attracted Christians suggest a number of ways of meeting their longings for intimacy:
- Hugs with a same-sex friend
- Visiting naturist beaches5
- Visiting gay bars or nightclubs without the intention of sexual intimacy
- Using an online chatroom or a dating website/app to meet other same-sex attracted people just for friendship
- Sharing a house or going on holiday with another person of the same sex
- Solemnising a particular same-sex friendship
It’s unbelievable that people who call themselves Christians are giving out this kind of advice. The lines of orthodoxy versus the untenable abandonment of scripture are forming.
I was fighting back tears watching this last night. Nabeel Qureshi, who I won’t meet in this life but who holds a special place in my heart, is in it, as well as a whole host of others who explain the essence of gospel in sharp contrast to the American Gospel, which is a denial of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Plan to watch this more than once.
I’ve already responded to WM 120 in a couple different ways the past couple of days, each one from a different angle. The first was about the danger of exchanging truth for certainty and then about the importance of not confusing methodology with philosophy.
Now I want to demonstrate how relative some of the core arguments that Jeff is making truly are. Close to the end of WM 120 we have this sound bite:
Erasmus was important in the providence of God but really the definitive Textus Receptas came when Godly men like the Calvins and the Stefanuses and the Bezas embraced this text and printed it and it became the basis for the Protestant translations of the Bible into the various vernacular languages.
What he’s saying here is that we can know that the TR has God’s blessing on it as the confessional text because some great men (who had no printed alternative) happened to use it. Taken at face value, what Jeff is saying is that if Erasmus’ text had simply remained an obscured entity, it wouldn’t need to be taken as seriously. We know it is the definitive “received” text, the argument goes, because of the host of people who jumped on board with it at a specific time in church history. Here’s the problem with that argument: you can use this exact same argument for the critical text too. To demonstrate this, I’m going to switch up the quote a bit.
Eustathius of Antioch was important in the providence of God but really the definitive Alexandrian text came when Godly men like Athanasius of Alexandria embraced this text and quoted it and it became the basis for expelling the heretical teachings of Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia who happened to be using a corrupted Byzantine text.
See how relative this is? Jeff is using the 16th century and I’m using the 4th century. Or how about a more modern example:
Wescott and Hort were important in the providence of God but really the definitive Critical Text came when Godly men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper embraced this text and quoted it and it became the basis for the majority reading of millions of Christians in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Two can play this game. One is as persuasive as the other. Something becomes quickly clear in all of this: the criteria for defending a text must be more than merely, “I think this is the canonical text because these people were using it at this particular time in history and they seemed to have God’s blessing on them.” If that’s your argument, you’re defending an ecclesiastical tradition and in so doing you’re rejecting other equally noble ecclesiastical traditions. This is why true textual criticism must be employed. True textual criticism says, “I acknowledge that varied texts were employed at various times in church history. That’s all very fine and good. But what did the original autographs say?” That is the question, after all, isn’t it? TR-onlyists like Jeff are, by their own words, rejecting this approach, and instead going with a relative buffet of historical anecdotes from which to cherry-pick a preferred favorite, hoping against all odds that they hit the jackpot, despite demonstrable evidence to the contrary.1
Moving a minute later into the audio, we encounter this:
When James White and others attack Erasmus you should understand that sometimes that is a diversion from the real attack, which is on the Textus Receptas. Our embrace of the Textus Receptas does not depend on the piety or the scholarly erudition of Erasmus.
Once again, I’m going to change the names on this and spin the quote. Here we go:
When Robert Truelove and others attack Wescott and Hort, you should understand that sometimes that is a diversion from the real attack, which is on the Critical Text. Our embrace of the Critical Text does not depend on the piety or the scholarly erudition of Wescott and Hort.
If you want to use Jeff’s argument to defend the TR, be consistent and never again criticize the piety of Wescott and Hort. I don’t want to hear it.
When Martin Luther responded to Desiderius Erasmus in his On the Bondage of the Will in 1525, he argued among other things about the basis of justification. Erasmus did not believe in Martin’s concept of sola fide. The business about how man becomes right with God is a gospel issue, core to the faith. If you’re going to say anything against the theology of Wescott and Hort and not say anything against the theology of Erasmus, you’re being inconsistent.2
In his notes for WM 120, Jeff wrote that “[James White] does not seem to be making much effort or progress toward attempting to understand or represent our position.” Candidly, I think James White understands Jeff’s position quite well, actually. Perhaps better than Jeff himself understands it. There are these very blatant holes in the TR-onlyist line of argumentation that hinder me from connecting with any of it. The more I study it, the more its contradictions glare, and the more it makes no sense.
- The fact that Athanasius used an Alexandrian text to defeat Arianism is not the reason I subscribe to the Critical Text, but if that were my reason, it would have equal footing to Jeff’s reason for using the Textus Receptas. It would be amusing in a debate to watch the inevitable impasse that would occur if Jeff’s opponent used Athanasius as their Erasmus. Stalemate! ↩︎
- Critical Text advocates will point out that the number of doctrinally sound people who have arrived upon the textual criticism scene subsequent to Wescott and Hort nullifies any DNA fallacy that TR-onlyists try to bring up regarding these two men. I get that. I’m simply raising this accusation of inconsistency to demonstrate that you don’t even have to be familiar with how much has happened in textual criticism in the past 100+ years in order to be able to expose the fallacy of whining about “modern liberal scholars” when your own TR was put together by a guy who disputed with Martin Luther about the basis of salvation. ↩︎
Listening to WM 120 has made something crystal clear to me in a way that I had not seen before today.
There’s the methodology to textual criticism and there’s the philosophical underpinnings behind it.
- The methodology is whether you use textual criticism to derive your text, or if you simply defend an ecclesiastical tradition.
- The philosophy is whether you believe in the tenacity and preservation of the text, or if you think we no longer have the words of the original autographs.
These are two separate things. They’re related, but they’re distinct, and when you combine their total possible combinations, they represent 4 different quadrants. Now let’s use these two concepts to look at the characters in our story:
- Desiderius Erasmus mostly had the right philosophy and the right methodology — he was just extremely limited in the number of manuscripts that he had available.
- Jeff Riddle has the right philosophy but the wrong methodology.1
- Bart Erhman has wrong philosophy but the right methodology.
- James White has the right philosophy and the right methodology.
- Gene Kim has the wrong philosophy and the wrong methodology.2
It’s important to note that if two contemporary3 people’s philosophy disagrees but their methodology agrees, then they will be arrive at the same conclusions generally speaking about what the New Testament should look like. In contrast, if their philosophy agrees but their methodology disagrees, then they will not arrive at the same conclusions about what the New Testament should look like. This is why James White can reference the book Beyond What Is Written. He disagrees with the philosophy but he agrees with the methodology.
Thus in terms of output, philosophy has much less bearing and influence than methodology. That said, in terms of theology, it’s more important to be correct about the philosophy than the methodology. If forced to choose, I would rather be a Jeff Riddle than a Bart Erhman.
But I would really rather not be forced to make that choice. It’s nice to be right about both.
- Jeff’s mistake is in thinking that because he agrees with Erasmus’ philosophy, and because he and Erasmus both use Erasmus’ text, therefore Jeff’s methodology is of necessity the same as Erasmus’. It’s not. Erasmus’ methodology was very different because he himself didn’t have an ecclesiastical tradition to follow. He was forging new territory in putting together a printed text. If he were living today, he’d have a very different body of evidence from which to draw. As a result, his New Testament today would look different than what he put together then (e.g. Rev 2:2). Beyond What Is Written makes this contention indisputable. ↩︎
- This is a new actor that I’m pulling out of the hat simply to fill out the 4th quadrant. No serious person gets both of these aspects wrong like this. Gene believes that the King James Version is the final standard (ecclesiastical tradition = wrong methodology) and he believes that the Greek is garbage (denial of manuscript tenacity = wrong philosophy). ↩︎
- The key here is that they both have access to the same body of manuscript and historical evidence. ↩︎
My good friend Joe asked this on Facebook tonight:
A friend challenged me yesterday. Do you believe every word in the Old and/or New Testament is infallible? Do you believe the each author is infallible? If not, he concluded, “you’re basically agnostic.” If you’re willing, I’m interested in your thoughts.
I created a Facebook account just so I could interact with the answers. We had quite an interesting thread. Because of the importance of the subject, it’s worth a read. I started out with this as my reply:
We have 5,800 Greek manuscripts (nearly all of them partial fragments) pre-Gutenberg of the New Testament, and many thousands more of translations into other languages (e.g. Latin). The “witness” of the New Testament is unparalleled to any other historic book, and we’re still discovering new manuscripts. The amount of agreement between them is truly astonishing given the amount of human error that inevitably does occur when you are manually copying a document. It’s true that there are textual variants, as there are with any historical document, but none of them alter any doctrine or teaching. There’s a consistency across the different lines of transmission. Christianity spread so rapidly because of how many (slightly imperfect) copies were made in the early centuries. In short, if you want to argue that people made up things along the way the past 2,000 years, to be consistent you must also call into question a thousandfold anything we know Alexander the Great, Homer, etc. A high confidence in the accuracy and consistency of the manuscript tradition of the New Testament does not require faith. Belief in the actual contents does require faith.
After several episodes of James White’s Diving Line criticism of the Textus Receptus, Jeff Riddle posted a rebuttal yesterday. I plan to listen to the episode tomorrow but I had some feedback on the blog post itself first.
I’ve been listening to every single Diving Line episode lately and I can tell you that James White’s use of Beyond What Is Written has been twofold:
- He quotes Erasmus in his own words.
- He shares historic facts about Erasmus and his work.
Jeff spends a lot of time in his blog post talking about how James is not consistent in his use of this book. But there’s no conceivable line of argumentation that could make those two uses illogical on the grounds of inconsistency. It’s just letting the facts speak for themselves.
Most of this blog post was “agree to disagree” territory for me1 until the final paragraph:
For now, suffice to say that I believe there are many good reasons to believe that the entire back-translation of the final verses of Revelation does not rest on solid foundations but was likely promoted beginning in the nineteenth century, like other anti-Erasmus anecdotes, in order to undermine the reliability of the TR in favor of the then-emerging critical text. That study, however, will have to wait for another day….
This part floored me when I read it this morning. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Jeff Riddle has exchanged truth for certainty. He has to feel certain that his Scrivener TR is the infallible Word of God, and he must defend that at all costs, even if that paints him into a ridiculously narrow corner. I look forward to hearing this defense of the contention that Erasmus did not back-translate the last 6 versus of Revelation. There are only two ways I can see him going with this. First, he could try to argue that when Erasmus said he’d back-translated, he was somehow mistaken.2 Or he could try to argue that we’ve been misquoting Erasmus and that Erasmus never actually said he back-translated. As I’ve quoted earlier, Erasmus said, “I added [Rev 22:15-21], following the Latin codices.” Jeff would have to prove that this letter as well as the annotations are fake news and added later; that they were never actually written by Erasmus. If that’s not exchanging truth for certainty, I don’t know what is.
Good luck with that.
- For example, let’s say that Erasmus actually did have a Greek manuscript for his reading of Revelation 16:5. I think I speak for both James White and myself in saying that this knowledge would increase the chances of Erasmus’ reading being the correct one from 0% to, say, 5%. It wouldn’t be even close to enough evidence to persuade us to change the text. The mere knowledge that a solitary text existed — and was then lost to time — is not enough to trump the rich body of proof against it. Jeff only is concerned with proving that Erasmus could have had a Greek text backing up his emendation. A true textual critic who isn’t mired in ecclesiastical tradition would be concerned with not only proving that there is support for Erasmus’ reading, but that this must be the correct reading — that there’s sufficient proof across the full body of evidence to warrant this reading usurping the other. Whether Jeff realizes it or not, this is a first class example of the difference between someone who simply follows an ecclesiastical tradition versus someone who applies consistent textual criticism. The burden of proof is completely different. The traditionalist is only interested in proving a reading could be correct, however miniscule that likelihood. The textual critic is interested in proving a reading must be correct, given the currently known evidence. These are two completely different standards and criteria, and it’s no wonder James and Jeff constantly seem like they’re talking past each other. ↩︎
- This would be a contradiction in argumentation of Jeff’s rejection of the much-more-plausible argument that Jan Krans makes that Erasmus was mistaken in thinking his Rev 16:5 conjectural emendation came from a Greek text. It’s much easier to believe that Erasmus mistakenly thought he had a corroborating text but didn’t than it is to think that Erasmus mistakenly thought he had to back-translate Rev 22:16-21 but didn’t. ↩︎
I want to share with you my story about how the Archdiocese of Louisville’s LGBTQ discrimination affected me personally.
Last May, my 11-year school counseling career with the Archdiocese of Louisville was forcibly ended because I admitted to being married to my same-sex partner of 15 years.
I have a serious question for my Catholic friends who are embracing the moral revolution:2 where do you stand on this issue? You either must agree with the Archdiocese of Louisville’s decision to terminate Allison’s employment, and in so doing accept the fact that you’re living a lie when you indicate in general society that you’re in support of the moral revolution. Or else you must disagree with the decision, and thereby reject a major tenant of your faith in terms of its moral outworkings, and acknowledge that you’re making a major departure from your spiritual forefathers, one about which they made very grave statements. If the latter, what other things might they have been wrong about?3 What other parts of your faith are you willing to part with when it becomes socially expedient? Where do you get your truth, really?
Make no mistake: at some point, you’re forced to choose between your faith and your new moral values. They’re mutually exclusive and incompatible. Headlines like this one from the Courier Journal make that abundantly clear.
- As usual, Albert Mohler’s thoughts on this issue cut to the quick. ↩︎
- That includes just about every one of my Catholic friends. ↩︎
- This business of what your forefathers might’ve been wrong about should be especially worrisome to you as a Catholic, since unlike the Reformers, you do not believe in the objectivity of Sola Scriptura, and instead rely heavily — yea, primarily — on the traditions of the fathers. ↩︎
In South Africa and every part of the world today, social justice doesn’t fight racism, it fosters it. It doesn’t oppose sexism, it supports it. It doesn’t protect presumption of innocence, it protests it. It doesn’t defend rights, it destroys it. It conflates disparities with discrimination. It suggests people are guilty before proven innocent. It believes in the rule of leftism, not the rule of law. It believes in feelings, not facts.
This article appeared in issue 52 of The Sovereign Grace Messenger and the whole thing is so good.
I had the privilege of preaching from Genesis 19 last Lord’s day at my church. Gave a Bible-based proof that God’s judgement of Sodom is still applicable in the New Testament era. Then discussed modern similarities to life in Sodom, and gave a summons to evangelize. Here’s the recording of that.
There were numerous times where Erasmus actually translated from Latin into Greek. Not just the last 6 verses. There are other places in Revelation where he filled in by translating from Latin into Greek and created readings that are still in the TR today that have never been found in a Greek manuscript anywhere in the world. So if you are a TR-only guy, you believe that God re-inspired the Bible in 1516. You can’t get around it.1
A TR-only argument I hear is this: “Sure, maybe there’s a word we can change here or there, but overall, it’s still much more accurate that that corrupted Critical Text.”
Here’s the problem with that: once you’re ok with saying that there are parts of the TR that are wrong, however small, then you have to ask the question, what methodology do we use to fix them? What’s the standard? This forces you to do textual criticism. And if you want to apply consistent textual criticism, you’re going to have to reject a lot of the inconsistent weirdisms and eclectic readings of the TR.
Here’s what this looks like in practical terms. The majority of the arguments I’ve seen in favor of the Comma are defended based on the fact that it did make its way into the TR and because it was accepted for a few hundreds years thereafter. But the moment you’re willing to accept the fact that there are parts of the TR that are wrong, you’re admitting that Erasmus, Stefanus, Beza, Scrivener, and 300 years of church tradition can be wrong. If they can be wrong about a verse in Revelation, they can be wrong about a verse in I John. So you have to throw out all that line of argumentation and instead you have to focus on the merit of the arguments prior to Erasmus and his TR. And at that point, if you’re still trying to defend the Comma, you’re bringing a knife to a gun fight.
I think it’s a recognition of this that makes modern TR-only advocates so hesitant to change one jot or tittle of the TR. They know that the moment they do that, they’ll be forced to stop using traditionalism and be forced to deal with the real arguments in favor or against these hotly debated passages. And they know that the cards are all against them in a fair fight. So they capitulate to holding up Erasmus and his work to a pedestal he never intended, as clearly demonstrated by his own writings.
- James then proceeds to give Revelation 2:2 as an example of where, to this day, the TR has a reading that came from Latin and has zero support in Greek. ↩︎
Here’s a guy that actually rejects the notion that Erasmus back translated Revelation 22:16-21.
After quoting Erasmus where Erasmus literally said that he did this, Chris Thomas says this:
Looking at these quotes it seems pretty convincing that Erasmus back translated from the Latin Vulgate and put that in his printed editions.
Pretty convincing isn’t strong enough. To reject that Erasmus did indeed do this, as Chris speculates, is to outright deny what Erasmus said that he did. There’s zero room for ambiguous interpretation here in Erasmus’ writing. Chris goes on:
But here’s the problem. If Erasmus truly printed a back translation of the Latin Vulgate in his editions, then how do we explain the following:
At the end of the Apocalypse, the manuscript I used (I had only one, for the book is rarely found in Greek) was lacking one or two lines. I added them, following the Latin codices. They were of the kind that could be restored out of the preceding text. Thus, when I sent the revised copy to Basel, I wrote to my friends to restore the place out of the Aldine edition; for I had not yet bought that work. They did as I instructed them. What, I ask you, do I owe to Lee in this case? Did he himself restore what was missing? But he had no text except mine. Ah, but he warned me! As if I had not stated in the annotations of the first edition what I had done and what was missing.
So much for the supposed admission of back translation in his Annotations. The Greek for the last few verses (or just v 19 depending upon whom you read) was provided from the Greek manuscripts of the Aldine printers. The idea that Erasmus would emend his Greek text from the Latin Vulgate was contrary to the very thing he was producing: a fresh Latin translation! It is the height of absurdity to claim that he back translated from the Vulgate into Greek and then retranslated his Latinized Greek back into Latin.
This line of argumentation from Chris Thomas is truly bizarre. Let’s set the record straight. First, Erasmus explicitly admitted that he back-translated from the Volgate to acquire his first and second editions of his TR. Then, when he sent his 3rd edition to the city of Basel for printing, he requested that they fix Revelation 22:16-21 by using the Aldine edition, because he knew his had fallen short, but he didn’t actually care enough to do the legwork himself to fix it. The problem was that the Aldine edition was based on Erasmus’ original work. In other words, there was nothing to change in the 3rd edition for Rev 22:16-21 when incorporating the Aldine edition into Erasmus’ text. Erasmus wasn’t bothered by this, because he had a low view of the importance of Revelation (he elsewhere stated that we can’t know who its author is). Moreover, he wasn’t bothered by this because he knew he’d made this situation very clear in his annotations. He assumed you’d be reading his annotations alongside his text.
It’s bizarre how Chris Thomas is capable of missing this very clear writing on the part of Erasmus. Everything Erasmus wrote here undermines what Chris is trying to argue for.
For some reason Wednesday’s Q and A is the only session of the conference, which, as I write this, has been removed.
I was wondering how James White was playing video on his show from this panel session. I’d been googling around like crazy trying to find it. Well, that’s why. They pulled down the most important part of the conference. 🤔
It’ll be interesting to see how long any religious entity stays relevant that openly embraces the LGBT agenda. You can’t have any meaningful belief in the Bible so long as you’re playing these kinds of games.
But as the final protections of the vestiges of Constitutional government in the United States are either compromised through international agreements or just done away with internally by corrupt judges and legislatures, the technology we now possess will be used to shut down *all* dissent. It is how totalitarianism works.
I would be less inclined to agree with his aggressive timeline, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re seeing how quickly things are moving, and we saw how quickly things developed in Germany in the 1930s.1 Things are about to get real very soon for professing Christians who actually believe what they say they believe. For those who live in countries like Canada, the storm has already broke.
- See The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. ↩︎
This 1985 debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein on the existence of God does not disappoint.
Does evil exist? Most everyone says it does. What is evil? Stein has to conceded that it’s a subjective standard set by the majority at the time. This is far from satisfactory.1 Bahnsen’s use of the transcendental argument makes it clear that God must exist because the alternative is an impossibility. The presuppositions necessary to disprove the existence of God are dependent upon his very existence in the first place. Without God there is no objective logic. Atheists must think in categories that presuppose God’s existence.
If God is all powerful and all good, then how can evil exist in the world? Bahnsen does a great job of refuting this question too. In the atheistic worldview, evil is subjective; there’s no such thing as objective evil. So when an atheist accuses God of being unjust, the atheist is using a subjective, and therefore irrelevant, standard. Once again, in order to accuse God of injustice, the atheist must first implicitly presuppose that there is such a thing as a moral standard that can be known and by which things can be judged, and that this moral standard is inflexible and universal. That requires belief in a God. The atheist is left with a self-refuting argument that rather serves to testify to God’s existence.
- When the majority of people in the United States agreed that homosexuality was evil a few decades ago, in the atheist worldview, did that make it evil? And if the majority of people agree that homosexuality is good today, in the atheist worldview, does that make it good? And if so, what might be deemed good or evil today that will be considered opposite tomorrow? This kind of relativity is absurd, but it’s the only moral code that the atheist is left with if he’s consistent. There is no right and wrong. There is only what’s popular today. ↩︎
Both these things as possible: that we can know with full confidence that we are God’s elect, and that we can take the warnings of Hebrews seriously and as being applicable to us.
We can know, without a shadow of a doubt, right now, that based on the work of Christ, our experience of that work, and our walk with him, that we are his elect. To the extent that we have this confidence, we can say with equal confidence that we are his elect, with full assurance.
With that said, our full confidence that we are God’s elect wanes with our confidence of our salvation. Our actual election does not waver, but our knowledge of it can.
Michael Brown’s mistake is to assume that, if we could achieve a full confidence today that we are God’s elect, that confidence could not wane, and that the warnings of Hebrews would become meaningless to us. In reality, our election status is immutable, but our knowledge of it is mutable.1 This fluid nature of our certainty in our election does not cast doubt on the certainty that God’s elect will be saved; rather it is a reflection that our knowledge of whether we are elect or not can ebb and flow. This is a very important distinction.
Our knowledge of who is elect is not based on a revelation of God’s secret will. If we had that, this entire conversation would be very different, and the warnings of Hebrews would indeed be void. God withholds this knowledge for a reason. If we had the original autographs of scripture, textual criticism would be unnecessary. Likewise, if we had a list of God’s elect, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling would be unnecessary. In both cases, God deliberately gives us work to do. It’s necessary, and it’s for our good. We would not want it any other way. God appoints the ends as well as the means.
We get into trouble when we go from knowing with confidence that we are elect to then later on wandering away from an active life of obedience to God under the glib assurance that we previously attained a perfect knowledge of our election and that therefore we’re immune to falling away. We can only be certain of our election to the extent that today, right now, we are trusting in Christ, which demonstrates itself in a practical life of obedience in love to him. Therefore, the warnings of Hebrews apply to us every day of our lives in parallel to our experience of a full assurance of our election. These two things are not at odds with one another. The day we stop “giving the more earnest heed” (Hebrews 2:1) is the day our confidence in our election wanes and we become in grave danger of the warnings of Hebrews.
Knowing with full confidence right now that we are God’s elect does not mean that we can lay the matter to rest and no longer worry about the state of our souls. The doctrine of election does not preclude our ongoing effort. The guarding of our souls against the powers of darkness is an ongoing battle until the end of the world.
The scriptures clearly teach the doctrine of election, the inability for the elect to lose their salvation, our ability to know with confidence we are elect, and our ability to fall away.2 Many people think those things are at odds with each other and therefore the scripture must be teaching something else when it talks about election. But that requires doing injustice to the texts. In actuality, these truths are not at odds with each other. They are all shown to be in harmony with each other in the explanation above.
- The same can be said in regards to textual criticism. The word of God is immutable, but our knowledge of it is mutable. ↩︎
- Again, the imperfect parallel to textual criticism is fascinating. We believe in the inspiration of the original autographs, the inability to lose the Bible throughout the ages, our ability to know with confidence that we have the word of God, and our ability to make mistakes in transmission. If this can be so with the Bible itself, why can it not also be true with the doctrine of election? ↩︎
Today’s The Briefing by Al Mohler is on fire. I listened to it during my trainer ride this morning. It’s a sad indictment of the United States that the Methodist bishops abroad are the ones holding the line, whilst the ones here are wanting to throw out everything the Bible has to say about ἀρσενοκοίταις.
I’m reading The Unexpected Adventure: Taking Everyday Risks to Talk with People about Jesus1 and it mentions in pp. 121-125 this 1993 debate that William Lane Craig had with Frank Zindler. This by part of Zindler’s really struck me:2
The most devastating that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people, the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve, there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin, there is no need of salvation. And if there is no need of salvation, there is no need of a Savior, and I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.
I have several Christian friends who don’t hold to a literal 6-day creation and a young earth. They admit in their view, death occurred before sin. This is a direct contradiction of Romans 5:12, and it creates a huge theological problem. It’s a shame when you have to agree with an atheist over Christians, but the fact remains: evolution is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Zindler sees the problem, and he’s right.
Alexander Lawrie, writing for Edinburgh News:
“Your children should grow up understanding gender differences and would be ashamed at your behaviour that comes from a different era and has no place in today’s society.”
Sheriff Fife told Spiers to pay the woman £500 in compensation and also fined him £500.
That’s a total of $1,306.70 that a man must pay for mocking what God explicitly forbad in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 22:5, AV:
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.
People change. Man’s laws change. God never changes.
This debate needs to take place. Whether it does or doesn’t, I will continue to critique Textual Traditionalism as a dangerous retreat on the part of the Reformed community.
Agreed that this debate needs to take place. I’m hopeful something can be worked out.