Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we bessech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, September 14, 2014

One Point: Van Tilian Political Correctness, Logic, and the Priesthood of Believers

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said,`You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NKJ)

For a heads up, I want to let my readers know that this article will be an editorial opinion and not necessarily exegetical or systematic theology.  That being said from the get go, I want to issue a complaint against ivory towers of Van Tilianism, neo-legalism, and various other miscreant theological aberrations within the general umbrella of what is generally known as Calvinism.  

First of all, I want to admit up front that I am not omniscient nor have I ever claimed to be omniscient.  I operate within my own limitations as an individual person who thinks propositionally.  In fact, my thinking is often subject to mistakes and logical errors.  I have never been trained formally in logic or philosophy other than a few classes in college and seminary.  So I do make mistakes.  I am often forgetful and lose a train of thought.

But since all men are subject to these noetic effects of sin, even theologians whose professional occupation is teaching and writing theology and biblical exegesis are in the same situation.  This is why I wonder why people like R. Scott Clark and Mike Horton think that their opinion trumps the priesthood of believers.  The last I checked the Protestant Reformation does not teach the Anabaptist principle of subjective leadings to an ever changing truth.  The Reformers also did not teach lone ranger views of the priesthood of believers.  They outright rejected solipsism or any view of the liberty of conscience that made the individual the center of authority in matters of biblical interpretation.  Solo scriptura is therefore out. 

But where does that leave us?  Sola scriptura rejects the church as an infallible magisterium or interpreter of Scripture; thus the papist view that the pope and the church have an equal authority with Scripture is out.  The Protestant Reformers certainly believed in scholarship.  The Reformation did not begin as a grass roots movement.  It began with humanist scholars who began to read the biblical texts for themselves.  Using logic and consistently critical methods they saw that Rome's views on doctrinal issue were not biblical but had been derived instead from human traditions.  The Latin Vulgate was show to be an unreliable translation from the original Greek and Hebrew majority texts available to the Reformers.

The Reformers were out to educate the public.  The first thing they did was to translate the Bible into the vernacular languages of the people.  That's because the Reformers believed that even a common man, a plow boy could read the Bible for himself and see that Rome's traditions were wrong.  That's because the Bible is a logical revelation and logical propositions can be logically arranged to fit into a logic system that fits together into a whole system of theology (John 10:35).  The Scriptures cannot be broken.  Out of that grew the conviction that the system of theology in the Bible should be summarized into an extended credal statement.  The Westminster divines were so committed to this principle that Scripture is persicuous, plain, and logical that a culmination of that effort was the Westminster Assembly and the the documents we know as the Westminster Standards (Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechism).  But notice carefully that the Westminster Assembly of 1647 did not reject the priesthood of believers.  Their goal was to put the Bible in the hands of the common man.  The Bible alone is the Word of God in their view.  (2 Timothy 3:16).

What is amazing to me today, however, is that modern Reformed scholars in the Van Tilian camp are now directly challenging the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, that Scripture is so plain that even a child can read and understand the essential and plain passages of the text and be saved (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  Instead, the Van Tilians claim that all Scripture is apparently contradictory.  This is nothing more than neo-orthodoxy, of course.  The Bible is not really the word of God because at no single point does the Christian know anything that God knows.  This, of course, begs the question:  why would God reveal anything at all if it is impossible to know anything God knows?  The Van Tilian out for this question is analogical knowledge.  We don't know anything God knows except analogically.  So God didn't really reveal logical and propositional truth.  He only revealed glimmerings of irrational truths that don't make sense in the human mind.  To try to understand God's Word is really just a form of Arminian rationalism, according to the Van Tilians.  So why have seminaries or train men to think if it is all just rationalism to try to understand God's Word logically?  Without logic there can be no communication whatsoever.  That's because the law of contradiction is absolutely necessary for communication and understanding.   Van Tilians know this because they are always contradicting the views of the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  However, an analogy is not a logical proposition.  Dr. Clark rightly pointed out that unless an analogy or metaphor has a logical proposition behind it, then it is conveys nothing meaningful or understandable.

Van Til's views are therefore a direct repudiation of the inerrancy, infallibility, perspicuity, and reliability of Scripture.  In its place, Van Til places the authority of church synods that have a higher authority than Scripture.  After all, without the minister the lay man cannot read and understand the Bible.  For Van Til and his followers the priesthood of believers is subject to Van Til's final authority.  In short, disagree with the papal authority of Van Til and you are politically incorrect and black listed.  The name of Gordon H. Clark is anathema in the Reformed world today.  Dare to disagree with R. Scott Clark and you will be permanently banned from commenting on his blog or elsewhere. Dare to disagree with Westminster Seminary East or West or any other Reformed seminary promoting Van Tilian paradox and you are immediately unemployable as a minister in any of those churches.  In fact, I wonder why any orthodox Reformed minister would want to be ordained in a denomination where the theology of irrationalism prevails?

I am not rejecting confessional theology.  Obviously, Dr. Clark did not do that either.  He held that the Westminster Confession of Faith is the best summary of the propositional revelation in the bible that has ever been produced.  But I am saying that even a lowly lay person can study and read the Bible and use the Westminster Standards as a guide to understanding the system of theology that has been expositionally and exegetically drawn from the clear warrant of the Holy Scriptures.

In short, the Van Tilians have no authority over classical Calvinists.  The Bible is the final authority, not R. Scott Clark or Mike Horton.  They will ridicule and use the abusive ad hominem fallacy, of course.   They falsely accused Dr. Clark of hyper-Calvinism, rationalism and other things.  The bottom line, however, is that Scripture alone is the Word of God.  When a theological tradition bases its theology on an axiom other than Scripture, namely the Van Tilian axiom that "all Scripture is apparently paradoxical," the end result is skepticism, neo-orthodoxy, theonomy, the Federal Vision, the Auburn Avenue error, etc.  Most of this originated with Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Gerhardus Vos, and other Reformed theologians whose theology logically culminated in the Auburn Affirmation, which ironically led to the formation of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the first place.

Sean Gerety asked a question his book, Can the Presbyterian Church in America Be Saved?  He pointed out the conflict between logical contradictions and the Van Tilian view that all Scripture is apparently contradictory.  This leaves the Van Tilians free to read the equivocations of the Federal Visionists with charity.  Lane Keister of the Green Baggins blog could not bring himself to say that Doug Wilson is an enemy of the Gospel.  The same thing is true of R. Scott Clark and Mike Horton.  Their commitment to irrationalism is so great that even though they disagree with the neo-legalism of Richard Gaffin, Jr. and the Federal Visionists, their commitment to a false charity given to false teachers is greater than their commitment to the Bible.  Furthermore, since neither Horton nor R. S. Clark actually believes the Bible is unequivocally and univocally the very words of God, they leave themselves open to skepticism.   To Horton the Bible is an inspired myth that is factual and R. S. Clark says that to say Scripture is the very words of God and univocally God's logical and propositional is to promote a quest for an illegitimate intellectual certainty (QIRI).  (See:  Religious Uncertainty: Recovering the Reformed Confession and A Critical Review of Pilgrims on the Way).  In short, truth is subsumed under the rubris of loyalty to a seminary or a denomination rather than loyalty to the system of theology revealed in Holy Scripture. 

According to R. Scott Clark, the temptation of Adam and Eve was not about believing God's logical command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was about a quest to know things just as God knows them:
QIRC is an acronym: Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty. It has at least two aspects. The first is the ancient, sinful desire to know what God knows, the way he knows it. That is what the Evil One offered to us in the garden (Gen 3). He suggested to us that our kind, holy, and righteous Creator God was was afraid of us, that, if we would only trust him, the devil, we could know what God knows the way he knows it. As you may know, that sale went horribly wrong because it was horribly wrong from the beginning. It was a lie and when we signed that contract with our own blood.   (From: The QIRC-er Must Be Right, by R. Scott Clark.

The problem with R.S. Clark's premise is that it is flat wrong.  The problem is not a quest for illegitimate knowledge.  Did Adam know God's command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  Or was the command somehow apparently contradictory?   Did God issue a command in the form of logic that would require the law of contradiction to be properly understood?  And did Adam know God's words just as God understood these words?

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said,`You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NKJ)

The problem is not that the serpent was tempting Eve with knowledge.  He tempted her to reject the plain teaching of God's Word.  The Word was not yet written but it was nevertheless the very words of God told her by Adam.  And it is even likely that God Himself instructed Eve since both Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8).  Of course, the promise that you can be like God is a continuing problem in the cults.  But that is certainly not what the Westminster Confession teaches, contra R. Scott Clark.  (See:  Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6).

Furthermore, is it an illegitimate quest for knowledge to believe that the Bible is univocally the same words God knows?  Of course, we only know what is revealed (Deuteronomy 29:29; Romans 16:25-26).  But is it illegitimate to know God's special revelation in Scripture?  According to R. Scott Clark, it is illegitimate to know anything God knows, therefore ruling out special revelation.  We can only analogically guess what God knows--even in when God reveals His thoughts in the Bible.  By Van Tilian reasoning it is illegitimate to question anyone's interpretation of the text.  So Scott Clark is the one agreeing with the devil, not the Scripturalist.  The Scripturalist agrees with the commands of God because those commands are univocally the same commands in the mind of God and in the mind of the man who hears or reads God's revelation in spoken words:

Chapter I

Of the Holy Scripture

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;[1] yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.[2] Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;[3] and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;[4] which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary;[5] those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.[6]

Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.1.

In light of these compromises regarding the authority, inspiration and authority of Scripture, I would like to ask Dr. R. Scott Clark how he can with a straight face oppose the Federal Vision if it is not a logical contradiction to the system of theology logically and univocally revealed in Scripture and summarized on a warrant from Scripture in the Reformed confessions we know as the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, and the Anglican Formularies?  After all, Scripture is inherently and apparently paradoxical, according to R.S. Clark.  These apparent contradictions are only resolved in God's mind and it is a violation of the creature/Creator distinction to say that Doug Wilson is a false teacher or that Richard Gaffin, Jr. or Norman Shepherd have contradicted the Gospel in any way whatsoever, right?

Just asking.


Saturday, September 06, 2014

Gordon H. Clark: Quote of the Day

Dr. Gordon H. Clark laments that Lutherans today do not accept the doctrine of double predestination or the immutable foreknowledge God or the sovereignty of God in salvation:

"A Calvinist can only regret that the Lutheran churches retained the one doctrine on which Luther disagreed with Zwingli and Calvin, and discarded, under the influence of Melanchthon, the many doctrines on which there was complete or almost complete agreement at the beginning."

Dr. Gordon H. Clark. Philippians. (Hobbs: Trinity Foundation, 1996), p. 62.

Post script:  Dr. Clark is of course referring to the sacrament of the Lord's supper as the doctrine where Calvinists and Lutherans disagree.  It's a bit more complicated than that, of course.  The communication of the divine attributes to the human nature of Christ would end up in the monophysite error.  But the point of Dr. Clark's comment is that Luther did not disagree with the Calvinists and Zwinglians on predestination of the elect and the reprobate.  Modern Lutherans are irrationalists at best and mostly agree with the Arminians on many things.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's Wrong with the Federal Vision?

The following is an excerpt from an excellent Reformed critique of the Federal Vision error.  There are numerous websites out there that claims that the Federal Vision is difficult to understand.  They muddy the waters by saying not all the FV proponents teach the same things and that it is not the same thing as the New Perspective on Paul, etc.  But none of that is true.  Although there are divergences and varieties of the FV, they are all in disagreement with the Reformed view as taught by the Scriptures and the Reformed confessional standards.   --  Charlie

First, the clear emphasis of the Federal Vision is on covenant—not on Christ. The Federal Vision teaches that we are saved by the covenant, whereas the Reformed faith (in line with the Bible) teaches that we are saved by Christ. The Federal Vision teaches that the covenant itself conveys a relationship of peace and favour with God; the Reformed faith (again, in line with the Bible) teaches that Christ is the only Mediator, the only Redeemer of God’s elect, and that the covenant offers salvation only by faith in Him. Richard D. Phillips observes,

“The most stunning feature of the Federal Vision writings is the way Jesus Christ, in His person and work, recedes into the background. I am astonished that in the great mass of Federal Vision material dealing with God’s covenant and salvation, our Savior is almost completely ignored” (The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision, p. 84).
The Federal Vision
A New Perspective—an Old Heresy
By Rev. T. Aicken

Frank Turek Affirms Free Will and Uses Rationalist Arguments to Prove God's Existence

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture . . .  Westminster Confession of Faith

Frank Turek, the avid "Calvinist" Baptist, is up to his old tricks again. Some people wonder why I think the word "Baptist" and "Reformed" do not go together. This is why.  In the past Frank Turek has been an open supporter of Doug Wilson, the Federal Vision heretic.   In this video, Turek affirms free will, which in the Calvinist theology does not exist.  Even Martin Luther denied libertarian free will because if God knows the future then there are no contingencies in God's mind.  Whatsoever God foreknows is absolutely certain to happen.  Therefore, free will did not exist even before the fall of Adam.  That's because the fall was foreordained and predetermined to happen.

Secondly, Turek does not think Scripture is the source of all knowledge or the foundation for a Christian epistemology.  When the atheist student asks questions to do with the design of God's being or aseity, Turek completely misses the point and goes off into a rationalistic justification of God's existence.  This is normally called the cosmological argument.  It's based on Aristotle's prime mover or uncaused first cause.  One problem with this approach is that David Hume totally devastated the idea that there is an infinite regress of cause and effect that would go back to a first cause.   This is because such a regress is not empirically observable.  This poses a problem for empirical science as well as for the Christian rationalist. 

The problem for the empiricist is that sensation does not produce knowledge.  Without a mind the sensations are impressed on a blank.  Further, the senses can be fooled and the mind can perceive things that are not necessarily true.  Another problem is induction.  Just because we can observe one cause and effect does not mean this is a universal law.  Induction cannot produce universal laws precisely because it would require omniscience to know that there are no exceptions to the law in question.

The problem for Turek, however, is that even if the cosmological argument or the teleological argument could prove the existence of a god, which god would it be?  Without Scripture there can be no knowledge of God.  However, the cosmological, teleological, and ontological arguments all fail miserably.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark pointed out that all branches of human knowledge begin with indemonstrable axioms that cannot be proven by empirical science.  Even geometry begins with axioms that are then demonstrated to be logically consistent through theorems.   Why then would the atheist or the rationalist object to the Christian axiom of Scripture.  According to Dr. Clark, all knowledge is deduced from Scripture.  Logic is embedded in Scripture and God is Logic (John 1:1, 9). 

Frank Turek's approach is the same approach that could have been taken by any Arminian.  Yet, Turek "professes" to be a Calvinist.  Turek's arguments in this video are not Scriptural nor are they Calvinist or Reformed arguments.  The Scriptures alone are the Word of God and God's Word alone is the basis for all knowledge or a sound and absolute epistemology.  Absolute truth is revealed through Scripture alone.   (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Isaiah 8:20).

Even more disappointing is Turek's approval of the Arminian view that irresistible grace is somehow God's forcing people to believe.  Free will cannot be true because there are no undetermined choices.  God's effectual call does not violate man's will or force man to choose God or reject God.  Yet God causes both election and reprobation.  The Bible teaches this (Proverbs 21:1).

CHAPTER III—Of God’s Eternal Decree

  1.      God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: (Eph. 1:11, Rom. 11:33, Heb. 6:17, Rom. 9:15,18) yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, (James 1:13,17, 1 John 1:5) nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (Acts 2:23, Matt. 17:12, Acts 4:27–28, John 19:11, Prov. 16:33)
  2.      Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, (Acts 15:18, 1 Sam. 23:11–12, Matt. 11:21, 23) yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. (Rom. 9:11, 13, 16, 18)
  3.      By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels (1 Tim. 5:21, Matt. 25:41) are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. (Rom. 9:22–23, Eph. 1:5–6, Prov. 16:4)
  4.      These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. (2 Tim. 2:19, John 13:18)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

All knowledge is deduced from Scripture:

6.      The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

 See also Dr. Gordon H. Clark's rebuttal to free will as a solution to the problem of evil:

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