Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mormons are not Christians

One would think that the title of this post would be wholly unnecessary. It's more or less what 90% of the Mormon "missionaries" that have approached me over the years have acknowledged. It's clear that they deny they doctrine of the Trinity, whereas it is clear that the Trinity is accepted by all Christians.

Mormons have a new and different gospel, and a new and different prophet. They are no more Christians than Muslims are Christians.

Yet, for some reasons, perhaps for political reasons - they now wish to be called "Christians." Some misguided person has even started a blog (one post so far) called "Mormons are Christian" (link - not recommended).

Their distinctiveness from Christianity is even to be seen in the self-title that they prefer for themselves, the "Church of Jesus Christ of the the Latter-Day Saints" in contradistinction from the historical Church of our (Christians) Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

They refuse to accept the truth of this verse:

John 10:30 I and my Father are one.

Others, such as James White, have done much more thorough responses to Mormonism, and I'm not going to reduplicate their efforts here. Here's a link to the Alpha & Omega Ministries Articles on Mormonism, for more detailed reading. If all you've seen is "The Godmakers," your knowledge of Mormonism is probably out of date. There's a lot of material to be read. If you're interested, get started (link).


Did Calvin Hold to the Doctrine of Limited Atonement?

Dr. Roger Nicole (link to theopedia entry) explains that Calvin did in this interesting article (link). He's a visiting professor Reformed Theological Seminary. He's identified as an expert (and his work recommend) on Amyraut by Prof. John Frame (link).


Animal Training - Choice in Lower Creatures Illustrated

Here's an amazing video of a man who has trained a turtle to obey his commands. The tricks would not be amazing if we were dealing with a dog, but they are rather impressive for a turtle.

I'm not sure that too many of my readers have ever tried obtaining turtilian(FN1) compliance with commands, but it is not easy. Turtles are not super-compliant animals.

But I think it is fair to point out that the result shown is not simply "turtle instinct," but instead is the result of man directing the exercise of a lower creature's will.




Footnote 1: Do not confuse with Tertullian.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Repost of Followup Questions

1) Is Christ's taking away "the legal claims of the law" of any ultimate benefit to the reprobate? If so, what?

2) Ransom is deliverance language, true, but it specifically is deliverance by payment (in English, anyhow - cf. Proverbs 6:35 or 13:8 or Psalm 49:7 or Job 36:18). Is your claim that this is a mistranslation (or just weak translation) or that it has become a weak translation (because English used to mean something else) or what?Is "delivered ... out of the Law of death" exactly equal to having the "legal claims of the law" removed, or are you trying to say something different here?

3) Was Christ the federal head of mankind (exhaustively) only with respect to the "legal claims of the law"? (or with respect to other aspects of salvation, assuming there are other aspects)

4) Does the Father also desire those to come whom the Son desires to come? If so, why does not the Father draw all men universally to himself? If not, why does the Son differ in his desire from the Father?

Those are the previous questions that I asked on your blog, and to which - as far as I can tell - you never responded.

To those, I add:

5) If the sin of the reprobate has been "wiped away" - on what legal basis are they judged?


Open Question to Seth on the Atonement Debate

After reflecting on our debate, it has occurred to me that perhaps our original resolution(s) was(were) not very well defined:

You posted this statement of the resolution:

*** QUOTE ***

Resolved: Christ's sacrifice has saved or will save each person upon whose behalf it was offered.

I will be denying that [assertion] and affirming that Christ died universally for the whole world, especially the elect.

*** END OF QUOTE ***


In the debate, I tried to ask you whether you were intending to take the position that Christ died with the intent that the benefits of his death would be applied to the reprobate.

Specifically I asked:

Did Christ die intending to save the reprobate?

You gave the following answer:

Christ died to pay for the sins of the world with the intention to save the elect. God's salvific will is purposed for only the elect, but his desire is for all to come to salvation. This is the famous "two-wills of God" theory, which I hold to. So this is where the multiple intentions comes in the discussion. Christ died for the whole of mankind, but his special love for the elect was the "joy set before him" and that is why he "endured the cross."

Try as I might, I cannot be sure whether that is supposed to be an affirmative or negative answer to the question.

If you are simply saying that Christ's death was of sufficient value to save the reprobate, we have no debate.
If you are simply saying that Christ's death would save the reprobate, if the reprobate man turned in faith to Christ, we have no debate.

I asked you follow-up questions in the comments section of your post, but I don't see any response, so I'm left wondering whether your intended disagreement with my position is anything more than a semantic disagreement.

After all, some of the folks on your side have suggested that they are merely holding to the teachings of Hodge and Shedd.

Yet Shedd clearly taught limited redemption (while semantically differentiating that from "unlimited" [that is to say, unlimited in intrinsic value] atonement):

(Dogmatic Theology, p. 471)

So the question remains for you, what is it that you believe Christ intended on the cross as far as the salvation of the reprobate go? Was Christ offering his infinitely valuable sacrifice with the intent to save others than those whom he actually will save?

If you do not believe that Christ intended on the cross to save the reprobate, I'm not sure how you can reasonably say that you disagree with my assertion: "Christ's sacrifice has saved or will save each person upon whose behalf it was offered." - at least, as far as I intended it.

And if you are only disagreeing with it in a sense in which I did not intend it, perhaps we ought to call off the debate, as fundamentally (though not semantically) in agreement with each other.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Summary of Two Economies of the Covenant of Grace

The real Turretin's comments on the covenant of grace in its two-fold economy are summarized by Nathan Lewis, here(link).


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Response to Federal Vision Error

The following is taken from the Joint Statement on the Federal Vision (this is the statement to which many [Doug Wilson says "all" I think] of the leaders of the FV have subscribed):
We affirm that apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians. All who are baptized into the triune Name are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace. The branches that are cut away from Christ are genuinely cut away from someone, cut out of a living covenant body. The connection that an apostate has to Christ is not merely external.
We deny that any person who is chosen by God for final salvation before the foundation of the world can fall away and be finally lost. The decretally elect cannot apostatize.
(emphases omitted)
This statement is erroneous and objectionable for several reasons:

A) "Final Salvation"

Salvation is binary. There are different kinds of salvation to be sure, but salvation from hell is an either/or proposition. Christ saves "to the uttermost" not just for a time. To distinguish the salvation of one's soul into "final" and "something else" is to confuse salvation. Salvation is deliverance. There remains no condemnation to anyone who is justified, who has put on Christ's righteousness.

B) "The connection that an apostate has to Christ is not merely external."

1) Yes, it is merely external. The church is an external body. Union with the body of Christ via baptism provides external union: baptism of the Spirit (regeneration) is necessary for more than merely external union. They went out from us, because they were not of us. The apostate were only ever part of Christ outwardly and formally, not inwardly and really. Thus, apostacy is demonstration of a lack of real union with Christ.

2) Additionally, the verb tense is surely wrong. It should state "had."

In other words, surely the writers of the FV JS made a typographic error in stating that apostates presently have a connection to Christ. Even according only to the remainder of the paragraph, it should be clear that the connection that they had was cut off.

C) "Indeed falling from grace"

This terminology "fallen from grace" appears to be taken from:

Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

There it is used to convey the effect that those who seek justification from works are out of God's favor (grace), and Christ is of no use to such a person:

Galatians 5:2-3
2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

It seems, however, that the FVists have misunderstood Galatians 5:4 as suggesting some sort of fall from a state of saving (or perhaps prevenient?) grace.

D) "Apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians"

The term "baptized Christians" is one loaded with potential for error. A Christian is one that is one inwardly, and the baptism that matters is of the heart. Apostasy may be a legitimate concern for a weak Christian struggling with sin, but it is not a "terrifying reality." Christians (true Christians) do not apostatize, and just because someone is baptized does not make him a Christian.

The present author has been enjoying Hoeksema's "Righteous by Faith Alone" (link). His commentary on Romans 2 applies marvellously to defeat the FV error with respect to the effect of baptism.

To paraphrase Romans 2:

Romans 2:26-29 (modified to substitute baptism for circumcision)
26Therefore if the [unbaptized man] keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his [lack of baptism] be counted for [baptism]? 27And shall not [lack of baptism] which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and [baptism] dost transgress the law? 28For he is not a [Christian], which is one outwardly; neither is that [baptism], which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a [Christian], which is one inwardly; and [baptism] is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant. My Baptist brethren err by denying that sign to unregenerate children of believers, while my FV brethren err by asserting that the sign ipse actually provides grace to the children (though whether that is alleged to be the grace of regeneration, I cannot discern from the FV's joint statement).


It's good that the FVists affirm that "The decretally elect cannot apostatize." Wonderful. Nevertheless, it is only the elect who are properly and inwardly Christians, whether or not they are baptized. Baptism is a sign and imprimatur of the covenant, but it is not the covenant itself. A man will be saved by faith in Christ without baptism, and no one will be saved who is baptized and does not have faith.

Is there any benefit to baptism? Certainly! The baptized are outwardly part of the church, they receive the benefit of the preaching of the word, the instruction and discipline of the elders, and so forth.

As it was with the church in the Old Testament:

Romans 3:1-2
1What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 2Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

These are advantages that accrued to the congregation (ekklesia) of the children of Israel in the Old Testament and to the church of the New Testament. Your baptized children receive this blessing that they have the word of God preached to them. They are under the ministry of the word, both - we hope - at home and among the congregation of the people of God.

This is a blessing of God, and it is - one might say - favor. It is, however, not the equivalent of saving grace. It is the outward and ordinary means, not the inward and effectual means, of salvation. It is valuable, and it is important - but it is as much overplayed by the FVists as it is underplayed by the Reformed Baptists.

I note that Andy Webb has posted some similar comments today on the Green Baggins(es) web site (link). I haven't read all that AW has posted yet, so there may be substantial overlap between our posts. I apologize for any unnecessary duplication.


Important Catholic Doctrinal Resource

If you are interested in what the doctrines of Rome are, this new web site (link) by the so-called "Congregation for the Clergy" is a valuable resource. Obviously, as man have pointed out, it's usefulness is really quite limited in many circumstances, due to the lack of any infallible interpretation.

Still, the web site provides a handy piece of software (Biblia Clerus - warning, that's the executable install file I linked to - total installed size, without locked modules, is between 150 - 200 MB) the content of which is mostly free, with some content requiring a password (presumably those are portions that are either (a) under copyright or (b) we will not speculate openly the alternative reason).


Turretin in the Top Ten?

I don't read much of the language of Indonesia, but this list (link) of theologians places Turretin in the top 10 (with Augustine taking the top spot). I doubt Turretin would approve of his own inclusion in the list, but would certainly approve of Augustine and Calvin taking positions higher than him in the list. If any of readers known Indonesian, I'd love to know whether the list is really a top theologians list, and if so - what is the criteria on which they're ordered.


Encouragement to Women

Pastor Wes White has provided an interesting exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:15, intended to encourage woman (link), while explaining the difficult phrase "she shall be saved in childbearing."

I'm not fully persuaded by Brother White's exegesis, mostly because it seems to create dicontinuity with "εαν μεινωσιν εν πιστει και αγαπη και αγιασμω μετα σωφροσυνης" at the end of the verse.

I'm inclined to think of the verse as providing something of a "reasons annexed to the commandments." That is to say, preservation in the dangerous (for most of human history) and painful time of childbirth is one of the temporal blessings that God may (at his discretion) provide to a woman of faith, love, and sober holiness.

Thus, I'm inclined to view "saved" in a temporal sense, rather than with respect to salvation from hell. Nevertheless, I'm unwilling to be dogmatic about my own exegesis.

For one thing, it is not clear to me whether the "they" in "if they continue ..." should refer to the women, to their children, to the husbands and wives together, or possibly to the men in verse 1 of chapter 3.

In other words, the exegetical challenges on 1 Timothy 2:15 are many.

The reason I currently favor the interpretation I note above is the seeming possible reference to:

Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.


P.S. UPDATE 17 Dec. 2007: R. Scott Clark seems to have come out essentially agreeing with Brother White in this recent (as of my updating this) post (link).

Edible Calvin

This chocolate is apparently sweet in the mouth but bitter in the belly (link).

Calvin would not approve, as the disclaimer on the web site indicates:

These items were not produced, nor are they collected to venerate a man, but rather, to commemorate the life of one whom God used mightily to bring the light of the Gospel out of the darkness that entombed Europe at that time. We should be thankful to God that He saw fit to raise up faithful men to proclam the truth of His word. Even the briefest study of Calvin’s life reveals that we owe a great debt to the man who brought reform to the Church in the 16th century.

I must also add that the irony that Calvin would most assuredly despise the collecting of items bearing his image is not lost on us!



Monday, December 10, 2007

Murder Update: An Overlooked Detail

I'm sure most of my readers already know that at least two professing Christian groups in Colorado were targeted by a shooter (perhaps the same guy), resulting the deaths of several people.

I was surprised to learn the detail that did not show up in many of the news articles, but is provided by Vox Populi (link). I'm not familiar with that much of what VP writes, but the point he makes (that it is a good thing that the church had someone there with a gun) is a valid point (and seems to be repeated here).

God uses means to protect the innocent. Don't forget about that.


Update: Here's Carla's very different take on the subject (link).
Further Update: The guard turns out to be a heroine (link).
Yet more: TheoJunkie weighs in on the matter (link) (and in the combox of this post), as has Ben Witherington (link).

Part of the New Calvinist Revolution

This interesting news article (link) states that it may soon be that a celbration of TULIP (or at least of a tulip) will soon grace (ha!) the North Sea.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Reading Ideas

I found this list of reading ideas (general Bible Studies - not some particular topic) from Reformed Musings (link), to be helpful. Enjoy!


Empty Mansions Theology

Jesus said:

John 14:1-3
1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Some folks would suggest that unless Jesus died for each and every person, then our gospel call to each and every person is somehow improper. One wonders if this can validly be extended to the full package of heaven.

If it is bad to offer salvation to those for whom Christ did not die, then it would also seem odd to offer salvation to those for whom no heavenly mansion is prepared.

So then, is heaven going to be a ghost town?

Has Jesus gone to prepare mansions for everyone absolutely?

This would certainly seem odd. God is omniscient. There is no particular reason to build mansions for those who are not going to come. God knows who will come. Therefore, it would make more sense to suppose that every mansion in heaven will be occupied.

Heaven will not be ghost town, a tribute to a failed attempt to convert each and every man.

Surely this is not particularly objectionable, even to Arminians and Amyraldians.

But then, again, if the mansions can built only for those who actually will come, then what need was there for Christ even to die in the place of those who will not come, in order for the offer to be sincere? After all, the same logic applies:

God is omniscient. There is no particular reason to die in the place of those who will not come. God knows who will come. Therefore, it would make more sense to suppose that every one for whom Christ died will be saved.

Crucifixion day was not mostly in vain, and Judgment Day will not be a tribute to a failed attempt to convert each and every man.

Instead, Christ died in the place of a particular people. Those for whom Christ died will be raised to glory. For each of them, there is a mansion prepared with their name on it. It is for them that Christ came.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Yet they are saved through the gospel, through faith in the author and finisher of their salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Praise be to the Lord!


For those interested in the "Real Turretin" ...

Here is an interesting review of his major work: "Institutes of Elenctic Theology," (link - you have to scroll down a little bit to get to the actual review), and
Here is some portion of said Institutes, dealing with the issue of original sin and imputation (link), which is a continuation from last week's quotation (link).


Are Holy Water Sprinkling Superstitions a Thing of the Past?

The answer, I was saddened to learn, is no. In this recent post, a Catholic describes his own abject fear of the devil and his appeal to:
- repetitious prayers (to Mary);
- use of an idol (purporting to be of Our Lord during his crucifixion); and
- the sprinkling/daubing of "Holy Water" in the sign of a cross.

One positive thing: the person realized that the devil needs to be opposed.

The negatives? If we trust in God alone, we have no need to be afraid of the devil and his angels. How do we avert his attacks? By reference not to holy water, idolatry, and repetitious prayers to creatures, but by the Word of God and prayer to Him!

Please keep the author of this post in your prayers, that he may be set free from the bondage of papist superstition by the light of the gospel!

Here's the key paragraphs in the author's own words:
So, I get the holy water, I’m still saying Hail Mary’s, and I’m putting just little bits on my finger and I’m making the sign of the Cross on every entry point that the devil could try to make in my life, into my room, into my space. So, I put the holy water on the top of the door panel and along the side, and a huge cross on my window. I know, maybe it sounds silly, but I really felt like it was necessary to do the Cross on my monitor, on my computer, on my television, above my bead. I sprinkled it across my bead and on the headboard of my bed, just everywhere because I know that holy water, holy things, the devil cannot stand holy things. So I was just trying to protect myself as much as I could with the holy water.

Then I just layed [sic] in bed. I was still fearful, I’m not gonna lie. Even after everything that I did, I was still afraid. So, I just kept it up: caressing the crucifix, saying the Hail Mary prayer over and over again. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Over and over again, the most repetitions I’ve ever made of the Hail Mary prayer. Eventually I fell asleep.

May God give us courage to spread the light of the gospel to those in darkness,