Saturday, December 03, 2011

Cheung and Olson

Daniel has posted an interesting response to Roger Olson's attempted use of material from Vincent Cheung.  On this topic of God being the "author of sin," the one positive point that Cheung has brought to the table is that he makes (or ought to make) folks like Olson stop and try to explain why it is wrong to call God the "author of sin."

For example, if by "author of sin," you mean that God permits sin to happen for some higher reason, then how would that be a wrong view?  Of course, that's not the objection.  The objection is typically raised against a view that God decrees sin to occur.

But is such a view equivalent to making God the author of sin?  Again, it depends how you define that term.  If you define it to mean that God has moral culpability for the sin, then no - Calvinists don't believe that, Calvinism doesn't teach that, and Calvinistic views don't imply that.

Or is something else meant?  In any event, in these debates we need to force the opponents of Calvinism to explain their objections for the sake of clarity, rather than getting caught up with ambiguous or equivocally understood expressions.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Abuse of Power in a Broken Home

I read with sorrow the report of a four-year-old boy who was beaten to death.  It's sad because it is a small boy.  It's sad because it happened to be the boy's birthday.  It's sad because the mother of this child is apparently also going to be charged with a crime of concealing a homicide.

It is also sad because there is no mention of the boy's father.  Where was the boy's father?  The man who beat this child to death was the woman's "boyfriend," not her husband.  He's never described as the boy's father, and - in fact - one might think that the boy did not have a father.

Granted that the man who beat this child is portrayed as being "anti-social."  Still, would he have done this if he knew he would answer to the boy's father?  Bullies tend to be less eager to beat up on those 1/10th their size when they have to deal with someone their own size.

In fact, if the woman were with a husband, would this boyfriend even have been in the home?

Who knows what happened to the boy's father - why he was not in the picture.  My purpose in writing this is not to point the finger of blame at anyone other than the murderer.  It is only the murderer's fault, and the murderer should be executed.

This post, however, is a word of encouragement to fathers of children to stay with their wives - to stay involved in the lives of their children.  It is also a word of encouragement to women not to have children out of wedlock, and not to leave their husbands.  This sort of tragedy appears avoidable.

Let us not simply mourn the death of the boy, but let us learn from this tragedy.  Let us strive to follow the familial pattern laid out in Scripture.  Wait for marriage to have children, and then don't break up the marriage.  In this way, you will be there to protect your children.

God's law is good.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Images of Jesus - A Response to Hank Hanegraaff's Site

A friend recently directed me to a discussion of images of Jesus found at, which I understand to be the website of Hank Hanegraaff (the article itself is anonymous).

The article begins:
In the fourth-century AD Emperor Leo III ordered the abolition of icons (revered images or sculptures) of Jesus, Mary, angels, and saints. This sparked the great Iconoclastic controversy, so called because those who supported the eradication of icons, often on the grounds that they violated the second commandment’s prohibition of “graven images,” were known as iconoclasts or “image breakers.” The controversy sparked in the fourth century persists to this very day. Do images of Jesus really violate the second commandment?
Actually, Leo III (also known as Leo the Isaurian) was born in the 7th century and reigned exclusively in the 8th century.  Leo III did attempt to abolish (legislatively) the use of images, which had crept into use over time.  This met with some theological opposition, chiefly by John of Damascus (c. 645 or 676 – 4 December 749), who is sometimes referred to as the last of the church fathers.

More could be said, and perhaps ought to be said, but the long and short of it is that the use of icons, statues, and other images are corruptions of the apostolic faith, which ultimately lead to the iconoclastic controversy, as a minority attempted to maintain the purity of God's worship in the 8th century, at the very end of the patristic era.

Hanegraaff's page continued:

First, if the second commandment condemns images of Jesus, then it condemns making images of anything at all. Therefore, God would have been guilty of contradicting himself because he commanded the Israelites to adorn the ark of the covenant with the images of cherubim (Exodus 25:18–20).
This is a surprisingly common argument.  In fact, though, it merely forbids images of God.  Images of Jesus, the Father, or the Spirit - all are forbidden.  This false dichotomy/straw man is simply mistaken.  Indeed, the images of the cherubim demonstrate that the command is not broadly against all making of images, but only of those that purport to represent God or gods.
Furthermore, in context, the commandment is not an injunction against making “graven images,” but an injunction against worshiping them. As such, God warns, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4–5, emphasis added).
There are actually two commands there.  The second is about worshiping the idols.  The first is about making them.  It is amazing how someone can claim that the commandment is not an injunction against making graven images and then quote something that explicitly says just that.
The commandment is not an injunction against making “graven images,” but an injunction against using these carved images as objects of worship.

That is a false dichotomy.  Both are forbidden.
Finally, if viewing an image necessarily leads to idolatry, then the incarnation of Christ was the greatest temptation of all. Yet, Jesus thought it appropriate for people to look on him and worship him as God (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52). That worship, however, was to be directed to his person, not his appearance. Indeed, idolatry lies not in the making of images, but in the worship of manmade images in place of the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
a) Jesus wasn't a graven image.  He was both God and man in two distinct natures and one person.

b) Jesus was the image of the invisible God, but not by virtue of his appearance.  That "image of the invisible God" line is actually a powerful testimony to Jesus' divinity as my friend, Dr. White, recently pointed out in a debate against Patrick Navas.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Republication of the Covenant of Works

There is a sense in which the Mosaic law (or a portion thereof) is a republication of the covenant of works.  More could be said about that point, but it has recently come to my attention that there is an overture to create an OPC study committee (for a single presbytery, if I understand the overture) to study the issue of republication (link to page).  While I think it is a profitable study, and one that may help (when properly understood and explained) resolve the differences between Presbyterians and covenantal Reformed Baptists, I'm not sure whether the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest has sufficient manpower for the job.  I hope that others will rise to the occasion to assist in this task of studying this important issue.  Please pray that this study, if approved, will benefit both the particular presbytery but also the body of Christ at large.


Steve Ray Thinks Spurgeon was "Dillusional"

Yes, Steve Ray spelled it "Dillusional," though I suspect he meant "Delusional."  But what is the basis for Ray's complaint?  Ray quotes Spurgeon as saying:
It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.
Ray does not provide the context.  Here is the statement in its original context:
In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt.
(Commenting and Commentaries, Lecture I)

Ray tries to justify his claim with the following argument:
But isn’t it ironic that Spurgeon is guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting? The Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and early bishops and their writings and practices are easily accessible.
Even if that were true, it wouldn't justify calling the great evangelist "delusional."  In point of fact, though, Spurgeon is accusing others of neglecting the use of commentaries.  He himself did not neglect their use.  So, no - Spurgeon is not guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting.

Moreover, the way in which the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and other prophets (not "early bishops" in anything like the modern Roman sense of "bishops") is not what Spurgeon is talking about.  Spurgeon is not, for example, suggesting that modern day Charismatics have an insufficient respect for Scripture.  Instead, Spurgeon is talking about people who engage in "Solo Scriptura," and literally ignore what other exegetes have found in Scripture.

Ray has completely missed the mark with his usage of Spurgeon's quotation.

Ray then stated:
They practiced the primacy of Rome, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, new birth through water baptism, a church structure with bishops, priests and deacons.
They didn't "practice" papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the papacy.  The apostles themselves didn't provide a church structure of bishops, priests, and deacons.  Steve Ray is being awfully selective in his description of what things some of the fathers taught or practiced.

Moreover, it is one thing to "ignore" what the early fathers taught, and another to disagree with them.  What is interesting is that we can justify our departure from their teachings (where we depart from them), whereas Mr. Ray cannnot.  Why?  Because oral tradition is not one of our sources of authority.  We don't assume that important things - things necessary for salvation - were omitted from Scripture.

If, however, what the early fathers taught they taught because of oral tradition, why doesn't Mr. Ray agree with them on everything? The answer, of course, is that in reality and in practice the "magisterium" trumps both Scripture and tradition for a member of the Roman communion.  It doesn't matter that not one church father taught, held, believed, or practiced (for example) papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the bodily assumption of Mary.  It doesn't matter that Scripture doesn't teach those things.  Rome says it, they believe it, and that settles it.  Sola Ecclesia.

Ray continues:
The 2nd century “church service” was a perfect blueprint of the Mass today and does not even remotely resemble the “Baptist church” of today.
Quite the opposite.  While there would certainly be differences from what one might think of at a "Baptist church" (which one does Ray even have in mind), there would have been a complete absence of Roman missals from a second century church - and an absence of idols, as well.

Ray concludes:
Why does Spurgeon think so much of what he supposes the Holy Spirit showed him (a tradition unknown before the 16th century) while he ignores what the Holy Spirit universally revealed to the early Church and which has been taught and practiced in an unbroken line in the Catholic Church for 2,000 years?
In point of fact, of course, Spurgeon didn't ignore what Rome claims to teach.  Moreover, Rome's historical claims to teach what was revealed 2000 years ago are lies.  Ray knows very well that the early church didn't hold to papal infallibility, transubstantiation, prayers to Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary, and so forth.  That's why he words his claims in squirrely ways, as we saw above.

For example, he claims that they "practiced the primacy of Rome."  How exactly does he think they did that?  They didn't take that to mean that the bishop of Rome was infallible.  They were comfortable conducting large councils that were not called by - or even attended by - the bishop of Rome (councils like Nicaea).  They settled theological disputes by appealing to Scripture, not to some papal ruling.

Rome didn't even have a singular bishop in the beginning of the church at Rome.  Once Rome came to the point where it had only a single bishop, he may have received a lot of respect.  But that's hardly all Rome requires people to believe - nor does Rome deserve the respect it once did.  It no longer has the kind of track record it did when some of the early fathers praised it.

- TurretinFan