Saturday, November 10, 2007

Response to TJP's Comments on Particular Redemption

TJP wrote:

If Christ did not die for all men, then...

(1) there never was a possibility that all could be saved and hope was limited only to some;

(2) obviously some cannot avoid damnation;

(3) we must feel the insincerity of inviting all to be saved;

(4) unbelief is no longer a sin, especially for those who have no cross to believe on;

(5) it would be a sin for those for whom Christ did not die to believe on Him, because they would be believing a lie, a false hope;

(6) those who preach the gospel to every creature SIN because they preach good tidings to all men when in fact there aren't good tidings for all men in the cross;

(7) God would be insincere in commanding all men to repent, seeing if they did repent, they'd have no provision in the cross;

(8) why does He say He's not willing that any should perish?

(9) all for whom He did not die come into the world with the irrevocable sentence of damnation upon them;

(10) why should the Devil do anything, seeing God will hand over to him the largest portion of humanity without his lifting a finger?

I respond:

1) From God's perspective, yes, "there never was a possibility that all could be saved and hope was limited only to some," and further that was not just "hope" but "certainty." God is omniscient, which means that there can be no mere possibilities with him.
2) From God's perspective, yes, "obviously some cannot avoid damnation," and furthermore, not even one person can avoid damnation, except for the saving grace of God.
3) No, the statement "we must feel the insincerity of inviting all to be saved," is not the case, because we only proclaim salvation to all who believe, that is to say, we do not tell anyone that they will be saved apart from believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
4) No, the statement "unbelief is no longer a sin, especially for those who have no cross to believe on," is not the case, because faith was never "believing that Jesus died for my sins," but rather repenting from sin, and casting oneself on the mercy of God.
5) No, the statement "it would be a sin for those for whom Christ did not die to believe on Him, because they would be believing a lie, a false hope," is not the case, because it paradoxical: Christ died for all the believers.
6) No, the statement "those who preach the gospel to every creature SIN because they preach good tidings to all men when in fact there aren't good tidings for all men in the cross," is not the case, because the gospel is not "Jesus died for you," but rather "Repent and Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!" There are good tidings for those who believe.
7) No, the statement "God would be insincere in commanding all men to repent, seeing if they did repent, they'd have no provision in the cross," is not the case, at least because God is not taking any chances, since He is omniscient.
8) The answer to "why does He say He's not willing that any should perish" is that the verse is referring to classes of people, such as - especially - politicians/rulers. The gospel is not just for the poor of this world.
9) While it is true that "all for whom He did not die come into the world with the irrevocable sentence of damnation upon them," that is the result and reward of sin, and consequently it is a just sentence.
10) The answer to "why should the Devil do anything, seeing God will hand over to him the largest portion of humanity without his lifting a finger?" is the same as the question: "why did the Devil tempt Christ if Christ is God?" The answer is that the devil hates God and God's creation, especially mankind. The devil doesn't have to do anything to receive the company of the reprobate, and the devil cannot do anything that will prevent the elect from obtaining heaven. Nevertheless, the devil does seek to do what he can to hinder the gospel, ruin the happiness of Christians, and so forth. Even so, he is under God's control, as the Book of Job illustrates.


Particular Redemption - Christ Died for the Elect Alone

Limited Atonement

I. Definition

The doctrine of limited atonement states that Christ died for the elect in contrast to the reprobate. Sometimes this doctrine is also called particular redemption.

II. Point of Controversy

Aside from Muslims and Jews, no one has much of a problem with the first half of the equation, it’s the second half that makes some people uneasy. It’s also the case that the second half is less clearly revealed in Scripture.

In general, anyone who denies that Christ died for the elect is a non-Christian. The question is, did Christ also die for the non-elect. We deny, the Amyraldians, Arminians, and many others affirm.

III. Burden of Proof

The opponents of the doctrine of limited atonement seem to want to place the burden of proof on the Reformed to prove that Christ did not die for the reprobate. This seems odd. Normally, the advocates of the positive doctrine have the burden of proof. Now, we could draft a resolution to try to place the burden on the Reformed theologian, but the ordinary rules of reasoning suggest the opposite.

Because this doctrine is negative, and the burden is really on the proponent of alleged universality of the atonement, the main arguments “for” the doctrine will be presented as objections to universality.

IV. Grounds of Objection

1. Grammatical Objections

The word atonement is essentially synonymous with reconciliation. If the atonement is universal, the reconciliation between God and man is also universal. Reconciliation is bringing together things that were separated. We were separated from God by sin. Those who are reconciled to God are those whose sins are removed. Those whose sins are removed cannot be condemned, and consequently are – or will be – saved. The Word of God, however, is clear that not all men will be saved.

Likewise, the word “redeem” from which we get the word “redemption” has to do with purchase. If something is purchased, it is owned. If a debt is paid, the debtor is free of the debt. If Christ paid for the sins of the world, then God cannot condemn men to hell for their sins.

2. Exegetical Objections

There are a number of verses that specify the purpose of Christ’s work, namely to die for the elect (those who will believe).

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Luke 1:68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 6:38-39

38For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

Because of these verses, we can see that Christ died for a specific group of people: and from other verses we can see that the group of people is not limited to a specific race or ethnicity.

3. Logical Objections

If one accepts the other petals of TULIP (namely, total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints), it makes little sense to insist that Christ died for those people whom he left in total depravity, did not elect, and did not apply irresistible grace towards. In other words, the “L” of TULIP is logically and intuitively connected as part of the whole.

4. Typological Objections

Christ’s atoning sacrifice was typified by the Old Testament sacrifices. Those sacrifices brought (outwardly) forgiveness for those for whom they were offered.

Leviticus 4:20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.

Leviticus 4:26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 4:31 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 4:35 And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 5:10 And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 5:13 And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest's, as a meat offering.

Leviticus 5:16 And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 5:18 And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 6:7 And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.

Leviticus 19:22 And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.

Numbers 15:25 And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their ignorance:

Numbers 15:28 And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.

Likewise, the atonement ceremonially cleansed (since ceremonial uncleanness points to sin):

Leviticus 12:7 Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.

Leviticus 12:8 And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.

Leviticus 14:19 And the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed from his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt offering:

Leviticus 14:20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the meat offering upon the altar: and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

Leviticus 14:31 Even such as he is able to get, the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, with the meat offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed before the LORD.

Numbers 8:21 And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them.

In short, the work of the atonement is to make clean the unclean, to purify, and to make holy:

Numbers 6:11 And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.

So then, Christ’s sacrifice has a better effect: it accomplishes what the old sacrifices only pictured. Christ’s sacrifice actually brings about the forgiveness of sins, actually brings about justification, actually brings about sanctification, and ultimately brings about glorification. If Christ atoned for the sins of each and every person, then all will be forgiven, cleansed, etc. by analogy.

It’s also interesting to note that the atonement sacrifice was offered for the elect nations, not for all the nations. That may to be a trivial thing, but if the blood of bulls and goats ceremonially cleansed the entire nation and only the nation, then the blood of Christ actually cleansed the entire church invisible and only the church invisible, namely the elect of all generations.

5. Theological Objections

The Nature of God must be considered, and a limitless atonement would seem to be contrary to the nature of God.

a) God’s Omnipotence

Most explanations of a reason for believing that the atonement includes those who are not ultimately saved, are based on the idea that God would like to save them, but he simply cannot. This tends to deny the omnipotence of God. God is God, he can do what he wants, and no one can stop him. If he wants to save, he will.

So, what was God’s intent? Was it to save everyone? If so, why did He fail? And if he failed, how can he be viewed as omnipotent?

b) The Perfection of God

If Christ died for the reprobate, it would seem that he died in vain for them, that his work on their behalf was a waste, which would seem to attack the perfection of God. What was inadequate in Christ’s work, that it did not accomplish its objective (assuming its objective was universal salvation)? Can God really be frustrated and thwarted in his attempts? Surely not.

c) God’s Love

Some explanations respond to objection 4(a) (about God’s omnipotence) by asserting that God restrains himself from acting on his desire to save everyone. This then calls into question the depth of God’s love for those people. Particular atonement makes God love deeper, by suggesting that God’s love is the motive for his saving those he saves, which is a much greater blessing than simply leaving folks without an excuse.

d) God’s Simplicity

There is no contradiction in God. Many explanations of universal atonement, however, end up creating a conflict in God: God really wants to save people, but he is conflicted, because He also wants to avoid interfering with their “free will.” Thus, such explanations challenge the simplicity of God.

e) God’s Omniscience

God knows everything that will happen. While few explanations of universal atonement would explicitly deny that God knows the future, the idea of making salvation “possible” (typically used to explain universal atonement) makes no sense if one is omniscient with respect to the future. If one knows the future with certainty, then one cannot hold to “possibility” or “probability” in the normal sense of the words. From God’s point of view, the future is certain: the events in the future are not simply possible future events, but definite, concrete events that will occur as he has foreseen. Accordingly, from God’s point of view Christ’s death does not make anyone’s salvation “possible,” because God does not think in mere possibilities.

f) God’s Wisdom

Rather than deny God’s omniscience, some explanations of universal atonement will simply assert that God sent Jesus to make salvation possible from our perspective. Of course, this reason is starting to support limited atonement as well as it does universal atonement, because if we do not know who the elect are, then salvation is possible from our perspective. Nevertheless, such an explanation coupled with universal atonement calls God’s wisdom into question. Wouldn’t an all-wise God recognize that Jesus dying for the elect would be sufficient to make salvation possible for all mankind from our perspective?

g) God’s Sovereignty

Normally, explanations of universal atonement rely on a theory that Jesus died for all mankind, but that only man can decide whether to accept or not the atonement. This explanation takes away from the sovereignty of God, since it suggests that God’s will is not decisive in the matter. Obviously, there is significant overlap with (a), (b), and (d) here.

6. Practical Objections

a) The Love of God

Practically, knowing that Christ’s death was intended specifically for a person strengthens one’s appreciation of the love of God, particularly when one recognizes that this is special favor (grace) that was not given to everyone. It must, of course, be coupled with a recognition that one in no way deserved the special favor. But, properly understood, it heightens and strengthens one’s love of God.

b) Assurance of Salvation

If one recognizes that Christ died for the purpose of accomplishing the salvation of his flock, one’s assurance of salvation based on the sacrifice is enhanced. That’s much of the reason for the explanation provided in the Epistle to the Hebrews, particularly around the eighth chapter. It’s because Christ is our sacrifice that we can be sure we will be saved. But if some will be lost for whom Christ died, then our assurance would be weakened.

V. Arguments from Universal Atonement Folks

Normally this is the section where “objections” would be placed, but the proponents of universal atonement are the ones making a positive assertion, and consequently are the ones with the burden of proof.

1) There is no place where Scripture specifically says: “Christ died only for the elect.”

We agree, but Scripture sometimes reveals things inferentially.

2) There is no place where Scripture specifically says about anyone that “Christ did not die for them” or to anyone that “Christ did not die for you.”

We agree, but Scripture was written for the elect, not for the reprobate. Scripture was written to encourage and lift up, not to tear down. Again, though, see the comment regarding (1).

3) Scripture seems to state that some for whom Christ died will not be saved.

Of course, as a matter of logic, this falls short of establishing universal atonement. In other words, if we could find an example from Scripture of someone being damned for whom Christ died, we would only have shown that the elect plus one were the intended beneficiaries of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

Nevertheless, this argument seems to be the strongest (or second strongest) argument that universal folks have, because it would seem to strike at many the objections to universal atonement.

4) There are some verses that, standing alone, seem to suggest that Christ died for everyone.

This would seem to be the other strongest argument, namely that there are a few verses that – standing alone – and read with universal atonement on the brain might seem to suggest that Christ died for each and every person.

The double-whammy (if you will) is to try to couple this argument with argument (3) above.

5) Limited atonement lessens the love of God because it reduces the breadth of that love.

This argument is rather easily refuted. Loving more people is not necessarily better (or more loving) than loving fewer people. To make an easy illustration of this fact: From a wife’s perspective, a husband loving many women in the same way he loves his wife is worse, not better.

As for (3) and (4), the present author has previously addressed all of the verses that have been alleged to support those arguments, and has concluded that they cannot support the argument. Nevertheless, perhaps those who have previously provided proof texts for universal atonement have done a poor job of locating the best verses, or have done a poor job of explaining them, or perhaps the present author simply has not yet received the forthcoming rebuttal.

Nevertheless, I stand ready to give a defense of the dogma that Christ died for the elect, and only for the elect.

Questions for Micah

Dear Micah,

It seems we may be talking past each other. Let's see if we can agree (or not) on a few basic things.

1. It seems you try to distinguish between the Old and New Covenants on the basis that everyone in the New Covenant is saved. Is that a fair statement or not?

(If the answer is "no," please explain.)

2. In Hebrews 8-9 are any of the advantages of the new covenant over the old covenant related to the blessings extending (or not) to the children of believers, or the recipients of the sign of the covenant?

(If the answer is "yes," please identify.)

3. Do you agree that baptism is the sign of membership in the new covenant, just as circumcision was the sign of membership in the old covenant?

(If the answer is "no," please explain.)

4. Was circumcision a picture of regeneration by the Holy Spirit?

(If the answer is "no," please explain.)

5. Was circumcision given to Abraham on account of his faith?

(If the answer is "no," please explain.)

6. Does Peter say that Baptism is the like figure unto circumcision?

(If the answer is "no," please explain.)

7. Do you agree that not everyone who receives Baptism is regenerate, just as not everyone who received circumcision was regenerate.

(If the answer is "no," please explain.)


Friday, November 09, 2007

Works of Necessity and Mercy Permitted on the Lord's Day

Jesus explained it this way:

John 7:21-23
21Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. 22Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

Notice Jesus' contrast: they are willing to chop off part of a person's body on the Sabbath, but they did not want Jesus restoring a man's body on the same day (recall that Jesus healed on the Sabbath day in John 5). That's counterintuitive: if they are willing to do harm to flesh on the Lord's Day because it was necessary to obey the Mosaic law, why should they be opposed to Jesus restoring flesh on the same day?


Thoughts on Yesterday's Baptism Debate

I had the pleasure of listening to most of Yesterday's Baptism between Dr. White and Mr. Strawbridge.

Some thoughts:

1) I don't think that Dr. White was consistent in his exegetical method. Dr. White (it seemed to me) insisted that we have to read the New Testament first, and then go back and read the Old Testament. Normally, however, Dr. White would encourage people to read the writings in the order they were written. Dr. White himself set the bar that if he uses different methods on this doctrine than other doctrines, he is imposing tradition on the text. With respect, I think he may have fallen afoul of his own standard in this case. Possibly, though, I simply misunderstood the argument he was trying to make.

2) Dr. White made much of the fact that the new covenant is "not like" the old covenant, and that the new covenant is better than the old covenant. Dr. White seemed to suggest that this difference was faith, with the implication - not always made explicit - being that only those with faith (evidence of regeneration) should be given the sign of the new covenant.

This argument has several flaws.

a) The difference between the old and new covenant is in the priesthood and sacrifices in the context of the passages upon which Dr. White relies;

b) Faith is not the difference: for Abraham was circumcised after faith, just like first generation believers under the new covenant, and just like old covenant proselytes; and

c) Circumcision and Baptism picture the same thing, the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, but the recipients of circumcision were not necessarily regenerate; nevertheless they were given the sign of the covenant.

I listened with a number of sola-credo-baptists (or anti-paedo-baptists - or simply "baptists"), who seemed to think that Dr. White's point about "not like" the old covenant was a very good and very strong argument. I didn't really see why they thought it was strong. In fact, I'm going to listen to the debate a few more times to see if I missed something, because it seemed quite weak to me.

3) Mr. Strawbridge started well, but did not really seem to be able to concentrate and make good use of his time during the debate. Unfortunately, he got distracted by his cell phone going off mid-debate, and lost track of his allotted time. He made a few good points, but as far as debating ability goes, I really feel he was outgunned by Dr. White. Dr. White spoke significantly faster, and focused much better.

Also, it was suggested to me (by the folks I was listening with) that Mr. Strawbridge may be part of the "Federal Vision" (FV) movement. If so, of course, that would be a reason for me to distance myself from Mr. Strawbridge's presentation, as the FV movement has some questionable views when it comes to the issues connected with the sacraments.


Warning: Limited Atonement Ahead

Interestingly, a few (apparently three) or so folks have agreed to discuss the doctrine of what is sometimes referred to as "Limited Atonement" with me. One would like to see my strongest argument first, one would like to see my strongest proof text first, and one would like me to show the doctrine clearly from Scripture. I'll be providing a first response shortly, D.V. within the next week.

Meanwhile, I'm finishing up my conclusion to the Sola Scriptura vs. Eastern Orthodoxy debate over at the debate blog. Once I've posted my conclusion, that debate will finally be over, and I can turn to these two/three.

Considering that Dave Armstrong continues to falsely assert that I have declined to debate his topic, I plan on treating Dave's misrepresentation as a constructive withdrawal of the offer from his side. No further comment is needed at this time.

The Monergism debate is currently on hold, because the other participant has temporarily become too busy. Hopefully, that debate will continue to progress before the end of the year.

Additionally, GodIsMyJudge has offered to debate on Romans 9, and I hope to take up that offer in the new year, once I have responded to Paul and KoD, as well as a few other readers on a few other things.

To God be the glory!


The following will occur to no one else ...

... no one but the present author will see this photo as somehow related to the crusades, and certainly no radical Muslims will react in such a way (especially in view of the clarifying comments in the post, that compare the photo to Iwo Jima) (link).

Ok, enough sarcasm.

Maybe the symbol of the cross offends some Muslims, but it is not principally the symbol of the cross, but the reality of the cross that offends them.

Islam denies that Christ was God, and that Christ died on the cross.

The idea that a person of the godhead could suffer and die is unimaginable to the Koranic mindset: it is offensive.

But a building ornament: that's trivial, even if it is superstitiously venerated by Christians.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Would it make a difference?

Suppose I can show you that Scripture teaches some particular doctrine (for example, that Jesus died only for the elect, that it is wrong to make images of God, or that we should not try to communicate with the dead). Would it make a difference? Would you be willing to submit to God's word on that issue? Would your church's opinion matter if Scripture was clear?

If the answer is "yes," to the first question great. If the answer is "no," please let me know what your answers to the other questions are.


Compare These Two Bad Web Sites

Compare this site, by Mormons: (link)

With this site, by a non-Mormon: (link).

Notice something in common? Both attempt to use labels to discredit (in at least one case - to discredit the same person).

The problem is this: Reformation Theology is opposed to every false gospel, whether that be the false gospel of Salt Lake City, or the false gospel of Rome.


YEC Challenge

Open Challenge on the topic of YEC.


Resolved, that Scripture conveys that the Earth was created in week, less than 10,000 years ago.

UPDATE: I get to AFFIRM the resolution.

Anyone wish to deny the resolution?


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Evidence for Young Earth Creationism

There is no need for further evidence for Young Earth Creationism (YEC), since Scripture speaks clearly via the Creation account (one week) and the Old Testament genealogies. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see evidence of YEC, such as this article and especially the photograph contained therein (link).

What does this demonstrate? It demonstrates that parallel divergence within a kind is part of the inherent genetic (and genomic) flexibility God created animals to have. The remarkable difference in size (about a factor of ten in the single dimension of height, and much greater of consider the true three-dimensional difference) is attributable to dogs having very flexible genetics.

Ah well, the problem with evidence is that one needs a framework in which to view it.

The best framework is inspired revelation, namely (for us, living in these last days) Scripture.


Wilson on Wilkins

I was rather disappointed by this parody (link).

The issue of whether Wilkins has erred on the issue of election and whether his local presbytery has not properly applied church discipline on the issue, are both serious issues.
While making Monty Python jokes may be all in good fun, the topic is a serious one, and this blogger would exhort Wilson to take the matter more seriously.

Charges of heresy are serious charges, as are charges that a presbytery has failed to address heresy in its midst. Comparing the matter to the ridiculous - or suggesting that the charges are an attempt to change reality - may please Wilkins' supporters, and may amuse those who are unfamiliar with the issues, but such a comparison is fundamentally inappropriate in this situation.

Wilkins, his presbytery, and his supporters need to take the matter seriously. A better response would be a simple statement from Wilkins (and/or Wilson) negating each of the alleged positions.


Persecution or Sound Judgment

The motivation behind this investigation (link) is unclear. I'd like to think that it is a proper recognition that those under investigation are not true ministers of the gospel, but I'm concerned that it may be an attempt to go after what is perceived to be Christianity.

What think ye?


Justification by Works

1. The Christ (for there is only one for the whole world) was justified in God's sight by works, because He perfectly obeyed the law.

It seems odd that Jonathan Prejean would think otherwise. See this post (link) and the comments following including those from "Crimson Catholic" (i.e. Mr. Prejean).

2. No one else can be justified in God's sight by works, for all have sinned (yes, that includes the Christokos) and come short of the glory of God, for there is only one God-man, Christ Jesus.

3. Because of (2), the only way to be justified is by the substition of the clean white garment of (1) for one's filthy rags. That is to say, the only way to be justified in God's sight is by faith in Christ.

4. True and saving faith evidences itself, however, in works. Thus, we may be justified in our own and our brethren's sight by works, though in God's sight only by Christ's righteousness.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Response to an Anonymous Criticism of Psalmody

An anonymous commenter provided essentially five interrelated criticisms of Psalmody, which are produced (with added numbering and italic face) below. My response is in plain face.

1. "Recall what Jesus told James and John when they wanted to call down fire from heaven like Elijah? "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." I think he would say the same to those singing most of the Psalms, seeing they call for vengeance against enemies and beating them small as the dust and so on."

Respectfully, I'm not sure how familiar the commenter is with the Psalms. Surely there are some Psalms that call for God's victory over his enemies. Likewise, I think that the commenter is assuming that Christ's ministry brought a shift rather than a fuller revelation of what was already known by faith in Old Testament times. The Psalms are balanced, and divinely so.

2. "Not only that, but the Psalms also speak of animal sacrifice as still accepted by God (because it was when they were written).

I haven't done an exhaustive survey, but surely the Psalms mention animal sacrifices, but also mention their insufficiency, for example:

Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.


a) "Not only that, but Paul says that Christians are to speak the gospel boldly, "not as Moses, which put a veil over his fac[e]" and does that not also apply to singing?"

2 Corinthians 3:12-15
12Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.

This argument is actually interesting, and it is the first time I've heard it made. Still, the way that we can readily take away that veil is by - in addition to the singing - read from and preach the New Testament.

God could have inspired a new or expanded Psalter, but he did not. Furthermore, in many cases the Psalms speak the Gospel more clearly than the Law does.

b) "Should we sing in shadows and figures or in reality?"

Well, when we sing Psalm 23's "The Lord is my Shepherd," we certainly know that this psalm speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. We may not use the name Jesus, but from the remainder of the sermon, the type does testify to the antetype.

4. "I have seen also a very good argument against exclusive Psalmody based on Col 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." in which it is asked if perhaps it should be read thus "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing..." Isn't he commanding them to use their wisdom to compose songs that can teach the message of the gospel?"

That's a very orginal argument, but I wouldn't call it strong.
As you should be aware, there is a parallel instruction in Ephesisans:

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

That passage would be more helpful to this particular argument in some ways, because the parallelism in Colossians 3:16 is between "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;" on the one hand and "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." One might even argue that the verse has been incorrectly punctuated, but we need not reach that issue, because no one would suggest that "word of Christ" is something that we compose, as compared with Scripture.

It's interesting to note that the parallel includes the "wisdom" component, but also includes another component that is perhaps unexpected:

Ephesians 5:17-23
17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Colosians 3:16-19
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. 18Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

What are the parallels:

1. Be wise;
2. Sing the Psalter (its historic divisions were the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, as Michael Bushell adequately proved in Songs of Zion) as your way of exhorting one another;
3. Give thanks to God in prayer through Christ's mediation;
4. Wives submit to their husbands; and
5. Husbands love their wives.

When you look at the parallels, the point of the passage almost immediately pops out! It's a recipe for Christian unity. How can we argue when we are singing the Psalms? How can we seek the preeminence we acknowledge one mediator betweeen God and man? Surely, there is some hierarchy (after all, wives submit to their husbands - which lends itself to peace as well), but there is also to be charity (for husbands are to love their wives - which also lends itself to peace).

In short, the passage is a recipe for peace. And look at the preceding context in each case:

Ephesians 5:1-2 & and 15-16
1Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. ...
15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

and likewise:

Colossians 3:12-15
12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

So, that ought to make it clear that the point of the passages is that we should join in the fellowship of unified Psalm-singing corporate prayer and mutual submission/love, rather than ceaseless strivings and contentions.

There is a place for debate, but there is more to life than debate.


Monday, November 05, 2007

A Brief Argument in Favor of Exclusive Psalmody

Read this brief quotation hosted by (link).

Note especially the headline, that hymns are an effective way of transmitting Christian doctrine.

Then consider that they are also - for the same reasons - an effective way of perpetuating heresy.

Finally, admit that singing all and only the Psalter is a way of transmitting Christian doctrine taught therein, while minimizing the perpetuation of unscriptural heresy.


The Results of Forbidding to Marry

I note that while Roman Catholic readers may be scandalized by the content of this link (link), it is worth noting that there is nothing inherently wrong in romantic attraction between a single man (even a man serving God) and a widow. In fact, Paul commanded young widows to marry, and ordained that bishops be husbands of one wife.

Now, presumably there is something darker hinted-at behind what is written, but I think that consistent Roman Catholics would be dissatisfied by "Fr." Francis Mary on account of merely what is written, and not what is hinted-at. It is the logical result of the heresy of forbidding men who purportedly serve God from marrying.


Join me in Celebrating Guy Fawkes Day

Everyone who has been reading is probably aware that I'm not a big fan of Halloween. On the other hand, Guy Fawkes Day is a great chance to commemorate the defeat of a treacherous Roman Catholic plot to kill King James and much of Parliament.

Proposed mode of celebration:

1) The traditional fireworks in mockery of the papist explosive and incendiary plot;

2) Masquerade parties in mockery of the deceit of the traitors; and

3) The giving and receiving of candy, in joy for God's providential preservation of King James and the reformation in England.

4) Non-mandatory in nature: no one is required to stop working for this holiday, and no one is to be condemned who chooses to "profane" the day by failing to observe it, yet those who do so, do so by giving glory to God.

As an added bonus, if we celebrated this holiday along the lines discussed above, Christian non-participation in Halloween would serve as an even greater distinction between Christian and non-Christian and an added reason to discuss with our neighbors our reasons for celebrating the triumph of good over evil, rather than a commercialized version of an ancient celebration of evil.

What think ye?