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Archive for July, 2009

Wayne Grudem: A Prominent Calvinist Charismatic Theologian

Posted by Job on July 29, 2009

At least according to Wikipedia he is. Investigating this fellow, he seems to be a bit too much of an “avant garde” personality to suit my conservative tastes, reminding me of Mark Driscoll and some other members of the popular Reformed scene. He is also a bit of a “Protestant” ecumenist, working for unity among charismatic/Pentecostal, Reformed, and evangelical churches (where people like me acknowledge that such groups are apart for real and important doctrinal reasons that should not be glossed over).

Still, I wonder if his very popular systematic theology treatment is worth checking out …

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A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF PAEDOBAPTISM (INFANT BAPTISM)

Posted by Job on July 29, 2009

A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF PAEDOBAPTISM

by Greg Welty, Westminster Theological Seminary from founders.org

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New Covenant Theology: An Alternative For Reformed Christians Who Oppose Infant Baptism

Posted by Job on July 29, 2009

Please read article:

What is the Difference Between Covenant Theology, and New Covenant Theology?

by Tony Warren

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LAND, SEED, AND BLESSING IN THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT

Posted by Job on July 29, 2009

From Psalm 45. Hopefully they will not mind my wholesale appropriation.

The character of the promises first made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, and later reiterated and expanded in 12:7; 13:15-17; 15:1,4-21; 17:1-9,19; 21:12; and 22:16-18 has long been recognized, in some sense, as foundational to all of redemptive history subsequent to this epochal event. How we understand the precise nature of these promises, therefore, will largely shape our understanding of all of redemptive history from the call of Abraham to the eternal state. An understanding of these promises that concentrates predominantly on their physical aspect, and therefore sees an ongoing necessity for Middle Eastern geography to be reserved for the ethnic offspring of Abraham has several problems: first, it little accords with the understanding that the patriarch himself had of the covenant promises; second, it is in violation of clear fulfillment formulas found later in the Old Testament; and finally, it fails in its intent to understand literally the promise of eternal possession of the physical land by the physical offspring of Abraham. The discussion of the first of these points will be reserved for the main body of this article; but it will not be out of place here to touch briefly on the other two. As regards the former of these, we find stated in Joshua 21:43-45, in very specific terms, that God had fulfilled all that he swore to the fathers. Later, in I Kings 4:20,21 and II Chronicles 9:26, we see the precise geographical boundaries promised to Abraham in the actual possession of Solomon, at the height of Israel’s political history. Immediately subsequent to this complete fulfillment of the land promise in its physical aspect, its typical purpose then having been realized, Israel as a nation began to lose possession of the extreme portions of its geography, never again to recover them. Can this historical reality be consistent with the promise made to Abraham that “all the land which you see I will give to you, and to your seed forever”(Gen. 13:15)? Those who understand the permanence of the promise to mandate a renewed future possession of these boundaries by the nation of Israel have the same fundamental problem that they criticize in the interpretation which considers the physical aspect of the promise to be done away with upon its fulfillment under Solomon: namely, that this geographical possession will one day end; the one interpretation is no more consistent with an eternal fulfillment than the other. The old earth will one day melt with a fervent heat to make way for the new (II Pet. 3:10); and as soon as this dissolution of the old earth takes place, (including the geographical regions promised to Abraham), a literal fulfillment of the land promise becomes impossible. The nature of the promise made to Abraham is such that, any fulfillment which is not eternal does not do it justice. God’s promise to Abraham must extend to him and his seed for all eternity, including that portion of eternity in which the land of Palestine no longer exists. There must be a time, therefore, when the physical land promise is done away with, and only that aspect of the promise which was eternal remains. Whether this transition is placed immediately subsequent to the height of Israel’s glory or immediately prior to the dissolution of the earth has no bearing on the reality that what was promised to be for Abraham’s seed forever is actually not forever. The Abrahamic promise, then, could never be eternal unless something other than the physical land of Palestine is fundamentally intended by the promise. And if something other than the physical land isintended by the promise, then it would be vastly beneficial for us to ascertain the nature of this original intention, together with the ramifications that it has for our understanding of God’s unfolding plan of redemption. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the fundamental intention of the land, seed, and blessing aspects of the Abrahamic covenant was, respectively, (1) An eternal place of restored fellowship with God; (2) An eternal people enjoying a restored fellowship with God; and (3) A universalization of the promised blessings of this fellowship which is, at the same time, a specific localization of those blessings within Abraham. This understanding will be demonstrated, first, by an examination of the promises in connection with Abraham’s history; and second, by an examination of the promises from a New Testament perspective.

The “Land” Promise Intended an Eternal Place of Restored Fellowship with God

From the time of his first being called out by God and commanded to go to a land which Jehovah would show him, Abraham demonstrated an understanding of the nature of that land which transcended mere physical possession. Hence, the first thing we see of Abraham’s sojourn in the land of Canaan is an occurrence which eventually becomes a pattern: Abraham experiences a divinely-initiated encounter in which he enjoys personal fellowship with God. He immediately builds an altar at that place of fellowship; and, at later periods of his wandering, he returns to that specific place to call upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 12:7,8; 13:3,4). Eventually, we find Jehovah revealing himself and Abraham building altars and calling upon his name throughout the land of Canaan, which Jehovah had promised to him. We read that Abraham built altars or called upon the name of the Lord at Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, Beersheba, and Moriah, all places within the boundaries promised to him by Jehovah. And, although he traveled outside of those boundaries, for instance journeying twice to Egypt, we never read of him building altars or calling upon the name of the Lord except in the land which God had promised to him. From the beginning, then, we find a pattern linking the promised land to places of theophanies and personal encounters with Jehovah, and places where Abraham was led to respond to those theophanic experiences in worship and personal fellowship.

Furthermore, Abraham never truly possessed the land which Jehovah had promised to him. And, although he was rich and powerful, he never sought to take possession of the land by wealth or force, excepting the single incident of his buying a burial plot for his wife. In fact, at times when he might have gained some of the land or its wealth, as when he defeated the coalition of kings and was offered compensation for it, he adamantly refused, fearing that his possessions might then be construed as coming from human hands (Gen 14:22-24). In rejecting this portion from the king of Sodom, Abraham demonstrated an understanding of the nature of his promised blessings as transcending the mere physical. He had ample opportunities to seize the city of earthly foundations; but he already possessed the conviction that the land which was promised to him was a city of spiritual foundations, a city in which the redeemed might enjoy everlasting fellowship with God. In the circumstance of God’s bountifully providing personal encounters of fellowship with Abraham in the land of promise, while at the same time denying him the physical possession of that land, we perceive a divine safeguard against a crassly physical hope which longed for a city of bricks and stones as the pinnacle of the land promise made to Abraham. Abraham demonstrated a lively faith which steadfastly embraced the eternal hope which glowed alluringly beyond the hills and valleys of Canaan and found satisfaction only in an inheritance of unending personal fellowship with Jehovah at the place where he would choose to set his name. Tragically, many of his descendants, lacking his spiritual perception, failed to look beyond a physical land in which God’s presence was nowhere to be found except as mediated through a cumbersomely wrought cult of ritual approach.

The “Seed” Promise Intended an Eternal People Enjoying a Restored Fellowship with God

One of the most striking statements Abraham had of the true nature of the blessings promised to him comes, appropriately, at the occurrence of the official inauguration of the covenant, in which God swears by himself that he will give Abraham a seed and a land (Gen. 15). Although God had promised Abraham several specific things falling into the general categories of land, seed, and blessing, when he sums up all those blessings at once, he declares, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield and your exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). At the heart of the covenant, then, God himself is the intended fulfillment of the promise. Therefore, every true understanding of the promised blessings must be able to be subsumed under that head. The land promised to Abraham was only included in the promise because it was integral, in some way, to the reality of having God as his portion. This point is vital for understanding the nature of the promises as they relate to Abraham and his seed. Yes, the Lord made Abraham the father of many nations: Israelites, Edomites, and twelve Arab nations all sprang from his loins. But the ultimate fulfillment of his being made a father to a great people, or to many nations, could only come by his being a father to those whose exceeding great reward was Jehovah. Hence, when we find the original promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 repeated and developed in Genesis 17, we find the very essence of the covenant promise made manifestly clear. In verse 4-8 of the latter chapter we read,

As for Me, behold! My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham. For I have made you a father of many nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, greatly so, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your seed after you. And I will give the land to you in which you are a stranger, and to your seed after you, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. And I will be their God.

At the heart of this reiterated covenant promise is the reality that Abraham’s true seed would be those whose God would be Jehovah. This promise, “I will be their God,” is given twice, once in connection with the seed that Abraham would father, and once in connection with the land that God would give to them. It is readily apparent from these verses that the Immanuel principle — the principle of God being the God of a certain people and dwelling with them alone of all the nations of the earth — is a vital principle for understanding the promise made to Abraham. At the heart of the seed and land promises, and in fact what constitutes the very essence of those promises, is the reality that Jehovah will be their God. This “Immanuel principle” is the substance of all later redemptive history, and the precise content of the Abrahamic covenant.

In safeguarding against a literalistic/physical misunderstanding of the “seed” aspect of the promise, God found it expedient to go to considerable lengths. Hence, he closed Sarah’s womb, making her barren for the entire fruitful period of her life; then, he awaited the fulfillment of the promised seed until Abraham himself was beyond the age of reproductive virility; and additionally, beyond the age of Sarah’s natural fertility even if she had been capable of bearing children in her youth. Finally, he brought about a seed to Abraham through purely physical means (i.e. Ishmael) simply to declare that this physical seed was not the fulfillment of the seed promise(Genesis 16). In these circumstances we see that a purely physical seed could never meet the criteria for being the seed of which Abraham was promised an innumerable multitude. Instead, a seed to whom Jehovah sovereignly gave life out of death was to be the nation which fulfilled the promise given. It would have benefitted the later descendants of Abraham who presumed upon the favor of God by virtue of their genealogy to have considered well this point.

The “Blessing” Promise Intended a Universalization of the Blessings of Fellowship Which Is, at the Same Time, a Specific Localization of Those Blessings Within Abraham

In the phrase we have recorded for us in Genesis 12:3, “In you shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” we ascertain the striking circumstance of Abraham’s blessing being at once universalized, so that all the families of the earth come to share in its riches; and at the same time localized, so that the fountain of this world-encompassing blessing is in some sense within Abraham. That Abraham is seen as the source or location from which the blessings comes, and not merely a dispenser or mediator through whom it would be disseminated, is the natural reading of the inseparable bethpreposition in the original. This relationship of Abraham’s blessing to himself and to the world, so that he would be, on the one hand, blessed himself, and on the other hand, the location from which the blessing would spring, is vital for understanding the promises made to him. The precise manner in which the blessing was said to be both for Abraham and in Abraham must have been initially somewhat obscure: but by the end of his life, Abraham would have understood that the promised blessing was to come through a person, the one seed to whom the promises were ultimately referring. When God favored Abraham through encounters of personal fellowship, he connected those events with reiterated promises that he would give the land in which fellowship with God was made possible to his seed (Genesis12:7; 13:15; 17:8). Hence, Abraham would have learned to connect in some organic sense the place of fellowship with God to the advent of the seed promised to him. This connection would have led to an intensification of his desire for the promised seed to come. And as he remained frustrated in his continued expectation, and utterly failed in his own attempt to produce it through other means, he must have come to understand in a fuller sense how vastly significance this promise was, that it could only be accomplished by the all-powerful God performing that which is impossible. The first instance in which we are forced to recognize, to a large degree, this mature understanding in Abraham is when the Lord appeared to him and gave the promise, “He that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). It is in this context that the statement is made that Abraham believed in the Lord, and he counted it for righteousness. What was it that Abraham believed that was sufficient to stand as the grounds of his justification? It could not have been simply that God would give Abraham a child of his own. This indeed happened when Abraham fathered Ishmael, and yet it was not the fulfillment of the promise that God had made. The only fulfillment consonant with what Abraham had come to expect was a seed who would bless the nations, a seed who would provide fellowship with God, a seed who would possess the land where God dwells with man, and a seed who could only be brought about through the accomplishment of the impossible. In other words, what Abraham believed was that God would supernaturally send a seed who would be the ground of blessing and fellowship with God. All of this becomes more manifest when Sarah commands Ishmael to be cast out, having rejected the thought that the son of the bondwoman should inherit with her own son. In God’s response to Abraham’s initial displeasure at this idea, we find that Sarah was essentially right. When God came to reinforce to Abraham the decision that Sarah had made, he reiterated the principle that it was through a specific seed in the future that the blessing would come. Sarah’s desire was indeed appropriate because, “In Isaac shall a Seed be called to you.” In adducing this promise, God was indicating that Ishmael by all rights should be cast out because he had no part in bringing in the promised blessing; instead, the Seed who would bring Abraham the blessing was in Isaac. It is significant that Isaac is not said to be that seed, but rather that the Seed who would be called to Abraham, the Seed who would be the grounds for every blessing given to him, was in Isaac — again, the natural reading of the bethpreposition.

This consideration of Abraham’s history compels us to credit him with a much greater understanding of the Messianic hope than some interpreters have given him. It is not some raw, blind faith without content (or with a content of which the full extent is the birth of a child essentially the same as any other child) that justifies a man. It is only faith in the promised Christ and his victorious work of redemption that justifies. This was the content of the belief that Abraham had, and for which he was counted righteous. The essential correctness of this assertion is borne out later by the nature of the test to which God put Abraham’s faith. When God put Abraham’s faith to the ultimate test, he did not ask for some task that was entirely unconnected to the content of his faith. Instead, he gave a command to Abraham that was so constructed that his response to the command would indicate precisely what it was he believed about the promises of God. God had already revealed that the Seed who would come to bless all the families of the world was in Isaac. When God commanded Abraham to put Isaac to death, and Abraham obeyed without hesitation, he demonstrated that he believed in a coming Seed who could be put to death and yet be brought to life through the power of God. Abraham’s faith had grown so that even the death of the one in whom the promised Seed still resided could not overcome his belief in the triumphant life of that Seed. Abraham had grown to trust in the resurrection power of God by which he would make the promised Seed victorious even over death. By the end of Abraham’s life, therefore, we must conclude that he understood that the blessing which would come to all the families of the earth was in him before it came to be in Isaac, by virtue of the fact that he was in the genealogical line of the Messiah that was prophesied from the time of Adam. In this respect, the blessings which Abraham hoped for, blessings of a people of God enjoying a place of fellowship with God were to be universalized so that they touched the whole earth; and at the same time localized so that they were in Abraham.

Further Support Adduced from the New Testament

In examining the teaching of the New Testament as it touches the topic at hand, we find our conclusions largely corroborated and made explicit. We concluded that the land promise made to Abraham could be ultimately fulfilled only by a place in which fellowship with God is possible. In light of this conclusion, it is striking that the place of rest with God for saints who have fallen asleep in the time of Jesus is a place which Christ refers to as “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). More interesting yet is the observation made of Abraham’s life, concerning which he was said to have possessed that faith by which one draws close to God, that, “He looked for a city which has foundations, of which the Builder and Maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham’s faith did not consist in looking to the ownership of Middle Eastern geography; he looked instead to the land which Canaan could only symbolize, a city which God alone would build. That this city intended a place of fellowship with God is made clear throughout the New Testament. InGalatians 4, Paul declares that believers in Christ are inhabitants of the Jerusalem which is from above, which he sets in opposition to the physical city of Jerusalem. In Hebrews 13, the author declares that we who worship have come to the spiritual Zion. The apostle John looks to a New Jerusalem, one whose chief characteristic would be the presence of God and his dwelling with men (Rev. 21:2,3). In all of these instances we find certain confirmation both of our conclusion that physical Palestine served as the type of a place of restored fellowship with God; and of our conclusion that this was precisely what Abraham understood and believed and awaited.

The second assertion we made, that the seed promise intended a people enjoying restored fellowship with God, is also corroborated by New Testament teaching. In the fourth chapter of Romans Paul makes evident that Abraham was justified through faith in the one who justifies the ungodly. In virtue of this reality, Paul goes on to assert that Abraham, by virtue of his faith, became the father of all those who believe, whether uncircumcised and believing (as Abraham himself was when he believed) or circumcised and believing. The ultimate fulfillment of the promise that he would be the father of many nations came when people from every tribe, tongue kindred, and nation believed, and so demonstrated that believing Abraham was their father. And this teaching is not isolated to Romans alone. In the third chapter of Galatians, Paul explains that, “Those who are of faith, these are the children of Abraham” (verse 7); and again, “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations through faith, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all nations be blessed.” So then those of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (verses 8,9). How was it the nations were blessed in Abraham? By virtue of the fact they were in Abraham, who fathered them all as the patriarch of the family of faith; and, being in Abraham who believed unto justification, they received likewise the blessings of justification through faith. As Paul sums up later in the chapter, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (verse 29).

The final conclusion we made was that the blessing promise intended a universalization of the blessings of fellowship which is, at the same time, a specific localization of those blessings within Abraham. In demonstrating this, we observed that the promised blessing was to come to Abraham and all those who believe, through his promised Seed; this promised Seed is the long-awaited Christ; and therefore, it is only in Christ, the true Seed of Abraham, that we are blessed together with him. This conclusion is borne out by the New Testament teaching that those who believe are in Christ. Faith brings justification, but only because faith establishes one in a relationship in which he is said to be “in Christ”. Hence we are blessed because we are in Abraham, the spiritual father of us all, as we observed in Galatians 3:7-9; but more specifically, we are in Abraham because we are in Abraham’s seed, Christ. Later in the chapter, Paul clarifies just how it is that those of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…so that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Christ Jesus“ (verses 13,14). The blessing of Abraham comes to the nations because they are in Christ; Christ is the seed of Abraham; therefore, if we are in Christ, we too are the seed of Abraham by virtue of our relationship in Christ. We, not ethnic Jews or Arabs, are Abraham’s true children and heirs.

That we alone are Abraham’s heirs, as his children through faith, is demonstrated by a grammatical feature of our text in Genesis that Paul brings to light in his letter to the Galatians. Ethnic Jews could never claim to be the heirs of Abraham, and therefore the rightful owners of Palestine, for the simple reason that the promise was never made to all of Abraham’s offspring. Paul recognizes this truth in Romans 9, where he observes that, “not because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children. But, “In Isaac shall your Seed be called” (Romans 9:7). In other words, mere ethnic descent was never sufficient to make one a true child of Abraham. The promises were never given to all Abraham’s offspring — as Paul goes on to clarify later in the chapter that Isaac was chosen and not Ishmael, Jacob and not Esau, and so on. This basic point Paul reiterates in Galatians 3, when he observes that the promises were originally made not to Abraham and his children, but to Abraham and his seed, which is singular. This one seed of Abraham, to whom the promises must be fulfilled, was Christ alone (Galatians 3:16). If Christ is the only seed of Abraham to whom the promises must be fulfilled, then those who are in Christ, not those who are ethnically descended from Abraham, are the heirs of the promises. Hence, Paul tells us that we have all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3); that all the promises of God find their “yea” and “amen” in Christ (II Cor. 1:20); and that the nations are fellow heirs and of the same body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ (Ephesians 3:6). Only to Christ were the Abrahamic promises fulfilled; and therefore only by virtue of being in Christ are we Abraham’s children and heirs.

Conclusion

The interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant which sees the promises necessitating the possession of physical Palestine by ethnic Jews fails to do justice to the spiritual understanding of the promises that Abraham himself had. As Christ told the Jews of his day, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and He saw and was glad” (John 8:56). Abraham looked beyond the merely physical and placed his hope in the coming Messiah, and in God who would raise him from the dead. This assessment is borne out by a careful study of Abraham’s life. And that this understanding that Abraham had of the promise is essentially correct is made clear by New Testament teaching on the topic. Any interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant that misunderstands the scriptural teaching of what the promises signified, to whom they were made, and who could claim them as Abraham’s true children and heirs is not only wrong, but positively harmful. An interpretation that insists on claiming physical benefits for Israel on the basis of their ethnicity obscures the vast spiritual riches of the Abrahamic promises as fulfilled to Christ and to us who are in Christ; it minimizes the place of Christ as the one true Seed of Abraham and the one in whom are all promised blessings; and it conditions us to be looking for a crassly physical, not to mention false, eschatological hope in the coming of an ethnically Jewish millennial kingdom, instead of understanding and awaiting that blessed hope of all redemptive history, the great proclamation, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). This is the hope of Abraham and all his true children, and the goal of all redemptive history.

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Some Challenges To Dispensationalism

Posted by Job on July 29, 2009

HT PJ Miller.

My Journey Out of Dispensationalism

My friends have often heard me say, “The more I read my Bible the less dispensational I become.” This statement comes from someone who was spiritually nurtured in churches with dispensational theology, who graduated from a Christian university steeped in dispensational theology, who received his first graduate degree from a dispensational seminary, and who—for twelve years—preached sermons that reflected dispensational theology. For the first sixteen years of my Christian life, I rarely questioned the fundamental distinctions of dispensational theology. What are those distinctions? In his discussion of what he called the “sine qua non of dispensationalism,” Ryrie asserted:

A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the Church distinct …  This is probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a man is a dispensationalist, and it is undoubtedly the most practical and conclusive (Ryrie 44-45).

Later he concluded, “the essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the Church” (Ryrie 47).

As a dispensationalist I studied my Bible with the understanding that God had dual and separate plans for Israel and the church. I understood this “church age” to be somewhat parenthetical until God resumed His plan with the nation of Israel. I believed that the Abrahamic covenant and all the other Old Testament covenants were essentially for national Israel, and that only the soteriological benefits of the covenants belonged to the church.

As I continued to pastor and preach, I realized that my training in the Old Testament was weak. I decided to pursue a Master of Theology in Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. My dispensational comrades in ministry assured me that Westminster would ruin my theology. I suppose many of them believe that has happened. Nevertheless, I was drawn to Westminster primarily because Bruce Waltke was teaching there. I had read books and articles by Dr. Waltke and had profited immensely from them.

While at Westminster I had the privilege of learning from Vern Poythress, Tremper Longman, and Raymond Dillard, along with Bruce Waltke. At first I listened as an antagonist, but I was soon won over by their personal graciousness and their commitment to Scripture. I began to experience discomfort as I realized that my commitment to dispensationalism was often unyielding, even when contradicted by the results of exegesis. These words from the introduction to my Th.M thesis summarize my response at that time:

Exegesis often eviscerates one’s theological presuppositions. When a theological bulwark withstands the penetration of biblical exegesis, its tenets remain secure. However, if its walls crumble beneath the weight of incisive and precise exegesis, then one must abandon the fortress and construct a better one (Davis, 1990, 1).

During the course of my study at Westminster, Bruce Waltke was my faculty advisor. I was privileged to have a number of personal discussions with him regarding the uneasiness I felt in questioning dispensationalism. As I considered what to research for my Th.M thesis, he suggested a topic that would be beneficial to me on my journey and helpful to others. I wrote “A Critical Evaluation of the Use of the Abrahamic Covenant in Dispensationalism.” The writing of that thesis opened a door and gave me a gentle push toward my eventual departure from dispensationalism. Rest of the article continued (click here)

Now for article two.

Dispensationalism and the Eclipse of Christ (An Open Correspondence)

As many of you are no doubt aware, I was raised a Dispensationalist. When I first became convinced that the teachings of Dispensationalism are not supported by an honest assessment of scriptures, I determined to change my thinking on the topic, and so be done with the issue summarily. Such were my intentions, but I found, much to my surprise, that the roots of Dispensationalism are so deep, and they affect so profoundly one’s way of thinking about virtually every theological issue, that the task of rejecting one’s own Dispensationally-flavored way of viewing the Bible is no simple task. It is a monumental struggle that requires years of deep, intense, Spirit-reliant searching of the scriptures. As I embarked on this long process, I slowly became aware of a vast array of manners in which a thorough grounding in the Dispensational ideal tends to influence one’s beliefs and emphases. This in itself was shocking to me; but what came as the severest shock of all was the reflection that virtually every one of these Dispensationally-derived misunderstandings tended in some way towards the eclipse of Christ as the sum and substance of every redemptive promise and reality, the One for whom, to whom, and by whom are all things, the One who sums up all of reality, brings all things under his feet, and is in himself all the fullness of the Godhead. Let me be clear here: I have no doubt that many, if not all Dispensationalists would affirm in theory the Christo-centrism of all reality; nevertheless, the fact remains that in practice they deny the explicit Christ-centeredness of many times, persons, and realities in history – and not just minor, inconsequential persons and things, but those that stand out as epoch-defining and historically-pivotal.
I am indeed grateful for the many resources available today which demonstrate scripturally that Dispensationalism is in error. I think that our current need is not so much to argue that Dispensationalism is wrong – although such efforts will certainly continue to be helpful – as it is to show just how grave and far-reaching the errors really are. In contribution to this latter goal, I have reproduced a portion of an interaction that I had some time ago with one of my Dispensational friends. My hope is that the preceding comments and following correspondence will not be unduly inflammatory or derogatory in nature, but that they will be used by God “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ, until we all attain, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man…” (Ephesians 4:12-13). We all retain errors of some sort in our striving after the full knowledge of Christ and his great work: God grant that such dialogues between fellow-believers in Christ may be useful in the doctrinal maturation of each one of us!

Read rest of article (click here)

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Roman Catholics Deny That Jesus Christ Died In Our Place!

Posted by Job on July 27, 2009

Apparently, the idea of the vicarious or substitutionary atonement is inconvenient to Catholic sacramentalist doctrines, including the idea that Christ’s first sacrifice was not enough and that He must be sacrificed over and over and over again. Protestants who have a tendency to defend Catholics because they profess to be Christians and belief in certain vital doctrines and because many of them are very fervent, faithful and dedicated to their beliefs (and also Protestants who follow in the ecumenical path blazed by such figures as John Wesley and Billy Graham) at some point need to confront the issue of what Roman Catholics actually believe. It is more than just the fact that they worship dead people (Mary and “saints”) and angels (and don’t give me this “they don’t worship them, it is merely veneration lie, Biblical Christianity has always held that the object of prayer is also the object of worship, plus only God alone is worthy of worship AND veneration, no creature is worthy of being venerated) although the idolatry certainly is bad enough. It is also their position on core doctrines concerning Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder that so many leading evangelicals like the aforementioned Graham and prominent theologian Clark Pinnock went from promoting and supporting ecumenical (or to be honest INTERFAITH as Roman Catholicism is a separate and distinct religion from Christianity) ties with Roman Catholics to promoting “many paths to heaven” religious pluralism, or “inclusivism.” Incidentally, according to Wikipedia people who support “inclusivism” include:

Supporters of inclusivism include C. S. Lewis, John Wesley, Clark Pinnock, Karl Rahner, John E. Sanders, Terrance L. Tiessen (Reformed) and Robert Brush (contributor to the Arminian Magazine). While Billy Graham faithfully preached “salvation by faith in Christ alone” throughout his 60 year ministry as an evangelist, he has recently made controversial comments that border on inclusivism (but he does not like to refer to it by the term, because he is concerned that many people mean universalism when they refer to inclusivism)This doctrine is held by Roman Catholics and Seventh-day Adventists.

All the more reason why Christians should not defile themselves with things concerning Rome (or for that matter with Eastern Orthodox or other flavors of “Catholicism”).

From Theories of the Atonement

Doctrine of the Atonement Catholic Information

The word atonement, which is almost the only theological term of English origin, has a curious history. The verb “atone”, from the adverbial phrase “at one” (M.E. at oon), at first meant to reconcile, or make “at one”; from this it came to denote the action by which such reconciliation was effected, e.g. satisfaction for all offense or an injury. Hence, in Catholic theology, the Atonement is the Satisfaction of Christ, whereby God and the world are reconciled or made to be at one. “For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Catholic doctrine on this subject is set forth in the sixth Session of the Council of Trent, chapter ii. Having shown the insufficiency of Nature, and of Mosaic Law the Council continues:

Whence it came to pass, that the Heavenly Father, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1, 3), when that blessed fullness of the time was come (Galatians 4:4) sent unto men Jesus Christ, His own Son who had been, both before the Law and during the time of the Law, to many of the holy fathers announced and promised, that He might both redeem the Jews, who were under the Law and that the Gentiles who followed not after justice might attain to justice and that all men might receive the adoption of sons. Him God had proposed as a propitiator, through faith in His blood (Romans 3:25), for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world (I John ii, 2).

More than twelve centuries before this, the same dogma was proclaimed in the words of the Nicene Creed, “who for us men and for our salvation, came down, took flesh, was made man; and suffered. “And all that is thus taught in the decrees of the councils may be read in the pages of the New Testament. For instance, in the words of Our Lord, “even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a redemption for many” (Matthew 20:28); or of St. Paul, “Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.” (Colossians 1:19-20). The great doctrine thus laid down in the beginning was further unfolded and brought out into clearer light by the work of the Fathers and theologians. And it may be noted that in this instance the development is chiefly due to Catholic speculation on the mystery, and not, as in the case of other doctrines, to controversy with heretics. At first we have the central fact made known in the Apostolic preaching, that mankind was fallen and was raised up and redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ. But it remained for the pious speculation of Fathers and theologians to enter into the meaning of this great truth, to inquire into the state of fallen man, and to ask how Christ accomplished His work of Redemption. By whatever names or figures it may be described, that work is the reversal of the Fall, the blotting out of sin, the deliverance from bondage, the reconciliation of mankind with God. And it is brought to pass by the Incarnation, by the life, the sufferings, and the death of the Divine Redeemer. All this may be summed up in the word Atonement. This, is so to say, the starting point. And herein all are indeed at one. But, when it was attempted to give a more precise account of the nature of the Redemption and the manner of its accomplishment, theological speculation took different courses, some of which were suggested by the various names and figures under which this ineffable mystery is adumbrated in Holy Scripture. Without pretending to give a full history of the discussions, we may briefly indicate some of the main lines on which the doctrine was developed, and touch on the more important theories put forward in explanation of the Atonement.

(a) In any view, the Atonement is founded on the Divine Incarnation. By this great mystery, the Eternal Word took to Himself the nature of man and, being both God and man, became the Mediator between God and men. From this, we have one of the first and most profound forms of theological speculation on the Atonement, the theory which is sometimes described as Mystical Redemption. Instead of seeking a solution in legal figures, some of the great Greek Fathers were content to dwell on the fundamental fact of the Divine Incarnation. By the union of the Eternal Word with the nature of man all mankind was lifted up and, so to say, deified. “He was made man”, says St. Athanasius, “that we might be made gods” (De Incarnatione Verbi, 54). “His flesh was saved, and made free the first of all, being made the body of the Word, then we, being concorporeal therewith, are saved by the same (Orat., II, Contra Arianos, lxi). And again, “For the presence of the Saviour in the flesh was the price of death and the saving of the whole creation (Ep. ad Adelphium, vi). In like manner St. Gregory of Nazianzus proves the integrity of the Sacred Humanity by the argument, “That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved” (to gar aproslepton, atherapeuton ho de henotai to theu, touto kai sozetai). This speculation of the Greek Fathers undoubtedly contains a profound truth which is sometimes forgotten by later authors who are more intent on framing juridical theories of ransom and satisfaction. But it is obvious that this account of the matter is imperfect, and leaves much to be explained. It must be remembered, moreover, that the Fathers themselves do not put this forward as a full explanation. For while many of their utterances might seem to imply that the Redemption was actually accomplished by the union of a Divine Person with the human nature, it is clear from other passages that they do not lose sight of the atoning sacrifice. The Incarnation is, indeed, the source and the foundation of the Atonement, and these profound thinkers have, so to say, grasped the cause and its effects as one vast whole. Hence they look on to the result before staying to consider the means by which it was accomplished.

(b) But something more on this matter had already been taught in the preaching of the Apostles and in the pages of the New Testament. The restoration of fallen man was the work of the Incarnate Word. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). But the peace of that reconciliation was accomplished by the death of the Divine Redeemer, “making peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). This redemption by death is another mystery, and some of the Fathers in the first ages are led to speculate on its meaning, and to construct a theory in explanation. Here the words and figures used in Holy Scripture help to guide the current of theological thought. Sin is represented as a state of bondage or servitude, and fallen man is delivered by being redeemed, or bought with a price. “For you are bought with a great price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed to God, in thy blood” (Revelation 5:9). Looked at in this light, the Atonement appears as the deliverance from captivity by the payment of a ransom. This view is already developed in the second century. “The mighty Word and true Man reasonably redeeming us by His blood, gave Himself a ransom for those who had been brought into bondage. And since the Apostasy unjustly ruled over us, and, whereas we belonged by nature to God Almighty, alienated us against nature and made us his own disciples, the Word of God, being mighty in all things, and failing not in His justice, dealt justly even with the Apostasy itself, buying back from it the things which were His own” (Irenaeus Aversus Haereses V, i). And St. Augustine says in well-known words: “Men were held captive under the devil and served the demons, but they were redeemed from captivity. For they could sell themselves. The Redeemer came, and gave the price; He poured forth his blood and bought the whole world. Do you ask what He bought? See what He gave, and find what He bought. The blood of Christ is the price. How much is it worth? What but the whole world? What but all nations?” (Enarratio in Psalm xcv, n. 5).

It cannot be questioned that this theory also contains a true principle. For it is founded on the express words of Scripture, and is supported by many of the greatest of the early Fathers and later theologians. But unfortunately, at first, and for a long period of theological history, this truth was somewhat obscured by a strange confusion, which would seem to have arisen from the natural tendency to take a figure too literally, and to apply it in details which were not contemplated by those who first made use of it. It must not be forgotten that the account of our deliverance from sin is set forth in figures. Conquest, captivity, and ransom are familiar facts of human history. Man, having yielded to the temptations of Satan, was like to one overcome in battle. Sin, again, is fitly likened to a state of slavery. And when man was set free by the shedding of Christ’s precious Blood, this deliverance would naturally recall (even if it had not been so described in Scripture) the redemption of a captive by the payment of a ransom.

But however useful and illuminating in their proper place, figures of this kind are perilous in the hands of those who press them too far, and forget that they are figures. This is what happened here. When a captive is ransomed the price is naturally paid to the conqueror by whom he is held in bondage. Hence, if this figure were taken and interpreted literally in all its details, it would seem that the price of man’s ransom must be paid to Satan. The notion is certainly startling, if not revolting. Even if brave reasons pointed in this direction, we might well shrink from drawing the concluslon. And this is in fact so far from being the case that it seems hard to find any rational explanation of such a payment, or any right on which it could be founded. Yet, strange to say, the bold flight of theological speculation was not checked by these misgivings. In the above-cited passage of St. Irenæus, we read that the Word of God “dealt justly even with the Apostasy itself [i.e. Satan], buying back from it the things which were His own.” This curious notion, apparently first mooted by St. Irenæus, was taken up by Origen in the next century, and for about a thousand years it played a conspicuous part in the history of theology. In the hands of some of the later Fathers and medieval writers, it takes various forms, and some of its more repulsive features are softened or modified. But the strange notion of some right, or claim, on the part of Satan is still present. A protest was raised by St. Gregory of Nazianzus in the fourth century, as might be expected from that most accurate of the patristic theologians. But it was not till St. Anselm and Abelard had met it with unanswerable arguments that its power was finally broken. It makes a belated appearance in the pages of Peter Lombard. (c) But it is not only in connection with the theory of ransom that we meet with this notion of “rights” on the part of Satan. Some of the Fathers set the matter in a different aspect. Fallen man, it was said, was justly under the dominion of the devil, in punishment for sin. But when Satan brought suffering and death on the sinless Saviour, he abused his power and exceeded his right, so that he was now justly deprived of his dominion over the captives. This explanation is found especially in the sermons of St. Leo and the “Morals” of St. Gregory the Great. Closely allied to this explanation is the singular “mouse-trap” metaphor of St. Augustine. In this daring figure of speech, the Cross is regarded as the trap in which the bait is set and the enemy is caught. “The Redeemer came and the deceiver was overcome. What did our Redeemer do to our Captor? In payment for us He set the trap, His Cross, with His blood for bait. He [Satan] could indeed shed that blood; but he deserved not to drink it. By shedding the blood of One who was not his debtor, he was forced to release his debtors” (Serm. cxxx, part 2).

(d) These ideas retained their force well into the Middle Ages. But the appearance of St. Anselm’s “Cur Deus Homo?” made a new epoch in the theology of the Atonement. It may be said, indeed, that this book marks an epoch in theological literature and doctrinal development. There are not many works, even among those of the greatest teachers, that can compare in this respect with the treatise of St. Anselm. And, with few exceptions, the books that have done as much to influence and guide the growth of theology are the outcome of some great struggle with heresy; while others, again, only summarize the theological learning of the age. But this little book is at once purely pacific and eminently original. Nor could any dogmatic treatise well be more simple and unpretending than this luminous dialogue between the great archbishop and his disciple Boso. There is no parade of learning, and but little in the way of appeal to authorities. The disciple asks and the master answers; and both alike face the great problem before them fearlessly, but at the same time with all due reverence and modesty. Anselm says at the outset that he will not so much show his disciple the truth he needs, as seek it along with him; and that when he says anything that is not confirmed by higher authority, it must be taken as tentative, and provisional. He adds that, though he may in some measure meet the question, one who is wiser could do it better; and that, whatever man may know or say on this subject, there will always remain deeper reasons that are beyond him. In the same spirit he concludes the whole treatise by submitting it to reasonable correction at the hands of others.

It may be safely said that this is precisely what has come to pass. For the theory put forward by Anselm has been modified by the work of later theologians, and confirmed by the testimony of truth. In contrast to some of the other views already noticed, this theory is remarkably clear and symmetrical. And it is certainly more agreeable to reason than the “mouse-trap” metaphor, or the notion of purchase money paid to Satan. Anselm’s answer to the question is simply the need of satisfaction of sin. No sin, as he views the matter, can be forgiven without satisfaction. A debt to Divine justice has been incurred; and that debt must needs be paid. But man could not make this satisfaction for himself; the debt is something far greater than he can pay; and, moreover, all the service that he can offer to God is already due on other titles. The suggestion that some innocent man, or angel, might possibly pay the debt incurred by sinners is rejected, on the ground that in any case this would put the sinner under obligation to his deliverer, and he would thus become the servant of a mere creature. The only way in which the satisfaction could be made, and men could be set free from sin, was by the coming of a Redeemer who is both God and man. His death makes full satisfaction to the Divine Justice, for it is something greater than all the sins of all mankind. Many side questions are incidentally treated in the dialogue between Anselm and Boso. But this is the substance of the answer given to the great question, “Cur Deus Homo?”. Some modern writers have suggested that this notion of deliverance by means of satisfaction may have a German origin. For in old Teutonic laws a criminal might pay the wergild instead of undergoing punishment. But this custom was not peculiar or to the Germans, as we may see from the Celtic eirig, and, as Riviere has pointed out, there is no need to have recourse to this explanation. For the notion of satisfaction for sin was already present in the whole system of ecclesiastical penance, though it had been left for Anselm to use it in illustration of the doctrine of the Atonement. It may be added that the same idea underlies the old Jewish “sin-offerings” as well as the similar rites that are found in many ancient religions. It is specially prominent in the rites and prayers used on the Day of Atonement. And this, it may be added, is now the ordinary acceptance of the word; to “atone” is to give satisfaction, or make amends, for an offense or an injury.

(e) Whatever may be the reason, it is clear that this doctrine was attracting special attention in the age of St. Anselm. His own work bears witness that it was undertaken at the urgent request of others who wished to have some new light on this mystery. To some extent, the solution offered by Anselm seems to have satisfied these desires, though, in the course of further discussion, an important part of his theory, the absolute necessity of Redemption and of satisfaction for sin, was discarded by later theologians, and found few defenders. But meanwhile, within a few years of the appearance of the “Cur Deus Homo?” another theory on the subject had been advanced by Abelard. In common with St. Anselm, Abelard utterly rejected the old and then still prevailing, notion that the devil had some sort of right over fallen man, who could only be justly delivered by means of a ransom paid to his captor. Against this he very rightly urges, with Anselm, that Satan was clearly guilty of injustice in the matter and could have no right to anything but punishment. But, on the other hand, Abelard was unable to accept Anselm’s view that an equivalent satisfaction for sin was necessary, and that this debt could only be paid by the death of the Divine Redeemer. He insists that God could have pardoned us without requiring satisfaction. And, in his view, the reason for the Incarnation and the death of Christ was the pure love of God. By no other means could men be so effectually turned from sin and moved to love God. Abelard’s teaching on this point, as on others, was vehemently attacked by St. Bernard. But it should be borne in mind that some of the arguments urged in condemnation of Abelard would affect the position of St. Anselm also, not to speak of later Catholic theology.

In St. Bernard’s eyes it seemed that Abelard, in denying the rights of Satan, denied the “Sacrament of Redemption” and regarded the teaching and example of Christ as the sole benefit of the Incarnation. “But”, as Mr. Oxenham observes,

he had not said so, and he distinctly asserts in his “Apology” that “the Son of God was incarnate to deliver us from the bondage of sin and yoke of the Devil and to open to us by His death the gate of eternal life.” And St. Bernard himself, in this very Epistle, distinctly denies any absolute necessity for the method of redemption chosen, and suggests a reason for it not so very unlike Abelard’s. “Perhaps that method is the best, whereby in a land of forgetfulness and sloth we might be more powerfully as vividly reminded of our fall, through the so great and so manifold sufferings of Him who repaired it.” Elsewhere when not speaking controversially, he says still more plainly: “Could not the Creator have restored His work without that difficulty? He could, but He preferred to do it at his own cost, lest any further occasion should be given for that worst and most odious vice of ingratitude in man” (Bern., Serm. xi, in Cant.). What is this but to say, with Abelard that “He chose the Incarnation as the most effectual method for eliciting His creature’s love?” (The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement, 85, 86).

(f) Although the high authority of St. Bernard was thus against them, the views of St. Anselm and Abelard, the two men who in different ways were the fathers of Scholasticism, shaped the course of later medieval theology. The strange notion of the rights of Satan, against which they had both protested, now disappears from the pages of our theologians. For the rest, the view which ultimately prevailed may be regarded as a combination of the opinions of Anselm and Abelard. In spite of the objections urged by the latter writer, Anselm’s doctrine of Satisfaction was adopted as the basis. But St. Thomas and the other medieval masters agree with Abelard in rejecting the notion that this full Satisfaction for sin was absolutely necessary. At the most, they are willing to admit a hypothetical or conditional necessity for the Redemption by the death of Christ. The restoration of fallen man was a work of God’s free mercy and benevolence. And, even on the hypothesis that the loss was to be repaired, this might have been brought about in many and various ways. The sin might have been remitted freely, without any satisfaction at all, or some lesser satisfaction, however imperfect in itself, might have been accepted as sufficient. But on the hypothesis that God as chosen to restore mankind, and at the same time, to require full satisfaction as a condition of pardon and deliverance, nothing less than the Atonement made by one who was God as well as man could suffice as satisfaction for the offense against the Divine Majesty. And in this case Anselm’s argument will hold good. Mankind cannot be restored unless God becomes man to save them.

In reference to many points of detail the Schoolmen, here as elsewhere, adopted divergent views. One of the chief questions at issue was the intrinsic adequacy of the satisfaction offered by Christ. On this point the majority, with St. Thomas at their head, maintained that, by reason of the infinite dignity of the Divine Person, the least action or suffering of Christ had an infinite value, so that in itself it would suffice as an adequate satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Scotus and his school, on the other hand, disputed this intrinsic infinitude, and ascribed the all-sufficiency of the satisfaction to the Divine acceptation. As this acceptation was grounded on the infinite dignity of the Divine Person, the difference was not so great as might appear at first sight. But, on this point at any rate the simpler teaching of St. Thomas is more generally accepted by later theologians. Apart from this question, the divergent views of the two schools on the primary motive of the Incarnation naturally have some effect on the Thomist and Scotist theology of the Atonement. On looking back at the various theories noticed so far, it will be seen that they are not, for the most part, mutually exclusive, but may be combined and harmonized. It may be said, indeed, that they all help to bring out different aspects of that great doctrine which cannot find adequate expression in any human theory. And in point of fact it will generally be found that the chief Fathers and Schoolmen, though they may at times lay more stress on some favourite theory of their own, do not lose sight of the other explanations.

Thus the Greek Fathers, who delight in speculating on the Mystical Redemption by the Incarnation, do not omit to speak also of our salvation by the shedding of blood. Origen, who lays most stress on the deliverance by payment of a ransom, does not forget to dwell on the need of a sacrifice for sin. St. Anselm again, in his “Meditations”, supplements the teaching set forth in his “Cur Deus Homo?” Abelard, who might seem to make the Atonement consist in nothing more than the constraining example of Divine Love has spoken also of our salvation by the Sacrifice of the Cross, in passages to which his critics do not attach sufficient importance. And, as we have seen his great opponent, St. Bernard, teaches all that is really true and valuable in the theory which he condemned. Most, if not all, of these theories had perils of their own, if they were isolated and exaggerated. But in the Catholic Church there was ever a safeguard against these dangers of distortion. As Mr. Oxenham says very finely,

The perpetual priesthood of Christ in heaven, which occupies a prominent place in nearly all the writings we have examined, is even more emphatically insisted upon by Origen. And this deserves to be remembered, because it is a part of the doctrine which has been almost or altogether dropped out of many Protestant expositions of the Atonement, whereas those most inclining among Catholics to a merely juridical view of the subject have never been able to forget the present and living reality of a sacrifice constantly kept before their eyes, as it were, in the worship which reflects on earth the unfailing liturgy of heaven. (p. 38)

The reality of these dangers and the importance of this safeguard may be seen in the history of this doctrine since the age of Reformation. As we have seen, its earlier development owed comparatively little to the stress of controversy with the heretics. And the revolution of the sixteenth century was no exception to the rule. For the atonement was not one of the subjects directly disputed between the Reformers and their Catholic opponents. But from its close connection with the cardinal question of Justification, this doctrine assumed a very special prominence and importance in Protestant theology and practical preaching. Mark Pattison tells us in his “Memoirs” that he came to Oxford with his “home Puritan religion almost narrowed to two points, fear of God’s wrath and faith in the doctrine of the Atonement”. And his case was possibly no exception among Protestant religionists. In their general conception on the atonement the Reformers and their followers happily preserved the Catholic doctrine, at least in its main lines. And in their explanation of the merit of Christ’s sufferings and death we may see the influence of St. Thomas and the other great Schoolmen. But, as might be expected from the isolation of the doctrine and the loss of other portions of Catholic teaching, the truth thus preserved was sometimes insensibly obscured or distorted. It will be enough to note here the presence of two mistaken tendencies.

The first is indicated in the above words of Pattison in which the Atonement is specially connected with the thought of the wrath of God. It is true of course that sin incurs the anger of the Just Judge, and that this is averted when the debt due to Divine Justice is paid by satisfaction. But it must not be thought that God is only moved to mercy and reconciled to us as a result of this satisfaction. This false conception of the Reconciliation is expressly rejected by St. Augustine (In Joannem, Tract. cx, section 6). God’s merciful love is the cause, not the result of that satisfaction.

The second mistake is the tendency to treat the Passion of Christ as being literally a case of vicarious punishment. This is at best a distorted view of the truth that His Atoning Sacrifice took the place of our punishment, and that He took upon Himself the sufferings and death that were due to our sins.

This view of the Atonement naturally provoked a reaction. Thus the Socinians were led to reject the notion of vicarious suffering and satisfaction as inconsistent with God’s justice and mercy. And in their eyes the work of Christ consisted simply in His teaching by word and example. Similar objections to the juridical conception of the Atonement led to like results in the later system of Swedenborg. More recently Albrecht Ritschl, who has paid special attention to this subject, has formulated a new theory on somewhat similar lines. His conception of the Atonement is moral and spiritual, rather than juridical and his system is distinguished by the fact that he lays stress on the relation of Christ to the whole Christian community. We cannot stay to examine these new systems in detail. But it may be observed that the truth which they contain is already found in the Catholic theology of the Atonement. That great doctrine has been faintly set forth in figures taken from man’s laws and customs. It is represented as the payment of a price, or a ransom, or as the offering of satisfaction for a debt. But we can never rest in these material figures as though they were literal and adequate. As both Abelard and Bernard remind us, the Atonement is the work of love. It is essentially a sacrifice, the one supreme sacrifice of which the rest were but types and figures. And, as St. Augustine teaches us, the outward rite of Sacrifice is the sacrament, or sacred sign, of the invisible sacrifice of the heart. It was by this inward sacrifice of obedience unto death, by this perfect love with which He laid down his life for His friends, that Christ paid the debt to justice, and taught us by His example, and drew all things to Himself; it was by this that He wrought our Atonement and Reconciliation with God, “making peace through the blood of His Cross”.

Publication information Written by W.H. Kent. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

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A Book On Spiritual Warfare From A Ministry That I Like

Posted by Job on July 26, 2009

Written by a pastor who adhered to amillennialism, but I won’t hold that against him.

DELIVERED FROM DEMONS

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How Sharp the Edge

Posted by Job on July 26, 2009

“How Sharp the Edge” « Sola Dei Gloria

The words of God can certainly bring us comfort. But they can also include what I call ‘hard sayings’. Some of these cut like a finely honed sword, others, can stop me in my tracks with Godly fear as I ponder upon the warning included.

Thinking about this today, three in particular came to mind. For you there may be different words, which after reading them, caused you to experience such a solemn warning in your spirit that you’ve never forgotten them.

The (3):

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Hebrews 12:15-17

Esau’s example of one who later looked to repent and could not, is frightening. It says he even wept in hope of being able to repent! But could find no place. I may not understand that theologically, but I sure get the warning: its the Holy Spirit which is even involved in our being able to repent. Without him drawing us to repentance, we too will ‘find no place’. Something to think about when we unwittingly grieve or offend him. (see: Ephesians 4:30 and Matthew 12:31)

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:12-19

Bottom line, unbelief could keep us from entering into our rest also. Its not enough to begin well, but its important to continue to ‘remain’ in faith; “we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end“. Satan battles constantly to take us into doubt and unbelief, causing us to question God. I believe its one of his most used tools on the believer.Those who came out of Egypt (a type of the world) and fell into unbelief are a ‘deadly’ serious example for us, not to do the same.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23

Is there anyone who has not stopped to ponder those words of our Lord? The idea that one can cast out demons, prophecy, and do many wonderful (good) works, and still be told ‘I never knew you’ is frightening. Jesus doesn’t say these people prophesied, cast out devils, or did good works by another spirit–in fact he says they did them all in his name. So what does Jesus mean? In the following verses (24-27) he continues:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Prior to this warning Jesus had been teaching the people about the Kingdom of God in what we call The Sermon on the Mount, (chapter 5 and 6). I think this is what he is talking about: that its not enough to prophecy, cast out devils or do good works in his name, that we must obey the teachings of Jesus, in order to be ‘known’ by him and to belong to him.

Using only one of the many things Jesus taught in chapters 5 and 6 as an example:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” 5:43-46

And looking again to his words of warning, (I never knew you) its evident that ‘if’ we don’t love our enemies, etc; even though we cast out devils, do good works (all in his name) it plain doesn’t matter! We can do all kinds of ’spiritual works’, but if we are not abiding by the teachings of Jesus in our daily lives, (read chapters 5 and 6 in Matthew) they will be for naught.

Only by laying up in store a good foundation for the time when storms come, floods arise and winds blow, beating against our ‘house’ (verse 27) will we stand. And that foundation is Christ and his teachings.

just a simple Sunday musing..

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Mark Bubeck: The Best Writer On Spiritual Warfare And Deliverance That I Have Encountered So Far

Posted by Job on July 26, 2009

Regrettably, Bubeck is not Reformed or Calvinistic. Still waiting to identify a spiritual warfare teacher with Calvinist tendencies. However, Bubeck does talk a lot more about the sovereignty of God, the total depravity of man, and eternal security than any spiritual warfare writer than I have encountered so far.

The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity

Overcoming the Adversary: Warfare Praying Against Demon Activity

Preparing for Battle: A Spiritual Warfare Workbook

Spiritual Warfare Prayers

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Proof That Ordaining Women Leads To Endorsing Homosexuality And Other Forms Of Theological Liberalism

Posted by Job on July 26, 2009

See link below. The issue is not attacking women with spiritual gifts, but fidelity and obedience to scripture and its authority.

What Women Preachers Inevitably Leads To

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Does Calvinism Lead To Contemporary Christian Music And Worship Styles?

Posted by Job on July 25, 2009

Are Calvinism and CCM Connected? | Religious Affections Ministries

Posted in Jesus Christ | Leave a Comment »

North Korea Executes Christian Woman Ri Hyon-ok for Distributing Bibles And Imprisons Her Family

Posted by Job on July 25, 2009

North Korea Executes Christian Woman for Distributing Bibles | Christianpost.com

North Korea has publicly executed a Christian woman accused of distributing Bibles and “spying” for foreign countries, South Korean activists said Friday.

  • (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)
    North Korea’s flag and letters are projected by anti-North Korean activists during a press conference denouncing North Korea’s policy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, July 24, 2009. North Korea publicly executed a Christian woman last month for allegedly distributing the Bible, which is banned in the communist nation, South Korean activists said Friday.

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A mother of three, Ri Hyon-ok, 33, was accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and organizing dissidents, The Associated Press reported. She was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon bordering China on June 16, according to a report from the Investigative Commission on Crimes against Humanity published Friday.

Her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her execution, the report states.

The report’s claims could not be verified.

But it follows testimonies by North Korean defectors and reports from human rights groups that have increasingly exposed the religious persecution and rights abuses in the communist country.

Last month, the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) was warned through an anonymous fax apparently by the North Korean embassy for Finland that “something very bad will happen” to VOM workers if the organization continues its project in sharing the Gospel.

The warning was in response to VOM obtaining fax numbers inside North Korea and sending faxes containing Christian messages and Scripture passages.

North Korea has been ranked the worst persecutor of Christians for seven years in a row in the annual Open Doors Watch List 2009.

North Koreans are forced to worship a personality cult that includes Kim Jong-Il and his deceased father. Any other religion, especially Christianity, is banned.

If someone is found to be a Christian or possesses a Bible, they are sent to the gulags (government administered labor camps) or face public execution.

It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps, according to Open Doors. The regime is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world.

There are a few churches in the capital, Pyongyang, but they are mainly for show. It is unclear if these churches are only open when foreigners visit or are used only by expatriates. Either way, the handful of churches are not for North Korean citizens, according to defectors.

The Investigative Commission on Crimes against Humanity, a coalition of 50 activist groups, is calling for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to be charged with crimes against humanity.

Posted in Christian Persecution, Christianity, church state, north korea, persecution | 2 Comments »

Christian Men Being The Head Means Listening To Your Wife

Posted by Job on July 7, 2009

First for those who haven’t, I encourage you to listen to Paul Washer: Biblical Headship as it is a great and challenging teaching.

Second, I want to point out something to help Christian men who are trying to work through being Godly husbands and the heads of the marriage and the family. Many men have a problem with the authority that comes with being the head, but this is primarily due to having a corrupt view of what authority, or headship means. Because of our exposure to fallen sinful worldly culture, we see authority in the terms negatively described by Jesus Christ in Matthew 20:25 and Mark 10:42, where the Gentile rulers “lord it over” their subjects, meaning that they exercised their authority in a manner that does not reflect God’s plan or nature. It can be said that Gentile – or sinful and fallen – lordship is authority exercised for the sole benefit of the people in power and not for mutual benefit or the common good. The person under authority exists only to fulfill the whims and prerogatives of the person in power, and as such the person under authority has no rights, a status lower than that of a slave under the Jewish law. Sadly, this is precisely the status that women have had in marriage in many times and cultures throughout history.

However, let us revisit what Jesus Christ said about authority illegitimately exercised in Matthew 20:25-28.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

To this let us add that just as the man is the head of the marriage and the household, Jesus Christ is the head of the church. (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23). Also, the husband is to love His wife as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25) Therefore the authority that man exercises over his wife should be described by Matthew 20:25-28, not the sinful ways of the world that Romans 12:1-2 tells us to renew our minds from by being transformed by the Word of God.

An example of this: husbands should listen to their wives and be responsive to their input. A lot of men mistake “being the head” and “being in authority” with being an autocrat. The truth is that human authority as described in Biblical terms does not mean knowing everything and refusing to listen. Instead, authority, headship consists of being the one who makes the final ruling and being accountable for it. Refusing to listen to the opinions of the wife, who is his help-meet and his equal and is made in the image of God, indwelt with the Holy Spirit and is a recipient and beneficiary of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, gifts and fruits, is not a legitimate Biblical exercise of the authority given to a husband. Instead, it is sinful foolishness.

Consider the example of kings in Old Testament Israel. Of course, the king was the human sovereign ruler of the land, free to do as he pleased. But there were also prophets and also the priests. Now it was the prophets who received the Word from God directly. Further, the priests also knew God’s Word from their study of the law and scriptures. Consider the case of a king who simply did everything that the legitimate prophets and Godly priests told him to do. Would that have made him a puppet ruler, a weak king? Of course not. We know this from 2 Kings 22 (and also 2 Chronicles 34), as this was precisely the case of King Josiah, who took the throne at the age of 8, did exactly what Hilkiah, Huldah and the other priests and prophets told him to do, and was regarded as a great and wise king for doing so.

It is not solely because listening to God (as in the case of Josiah) is wisdom, though it clearly is. Rather, it is that even though one in authority is following the advice of others, the decisions are still his. Because consider this: the prophets had the ability to hear from God, the priests knew and had the ability to interpret and apply scripture. That was their office and their job. But the prophets and priests did not have the power or authority to make decisions. They could only give advice. It was the prerogative of the king, based on the virtue of his office and the power and authority vested in it, to make the decision. The exercise of authority is not in the origination of an idea or opinion, it is in making the decision. So just as a prophet or priest was not a threat to the authority or headship of a king, a wife who is wise, Godly talented and capable is no threat to the authority of a husband. The husband is still free to use his authority to make his own decision. The only question is whether the husband will make his decision wisely. If the husband defers to his wife on a matter where she exhibits more knowledge, more experience, more maturity, or has a Word from the Lord, he is exercising his God given authority wisely and thereby pleasing God. But if he for whatever reason forbears, then He is misusing his God given authority is thereby sinning against God.

After all, what is decision-making authority? According to the Bible, accountability for the decision is almost as important as the decision itself. Consider the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s decision, his exercise of authority was passive, but God was active in holding Adam fully accountable, and refused to allow God to shift the blame to Eve or to Himself (as Adam, in a scurrilous manner that revealed his sin nature, attempted to do both). Again, remember what Jesus Christ said: Biblical leadership is not a lordship role but a servant role. The man in his headship is a servant, and the way that he serves is by being accountable before God for his house. This is not the way that it is in the sinful world where truthfully there is no practical accountability for the ruler before anyone. The ruler does as he pleases with no consequences.

That is not the way that anyone in Biblical authority, whether it be a husband or a pastor (and yes church pastors are to be male only) should be. Instead of thinking about “the benefits of being in charge”, the minds given Biblical headship should be renewed with the idea “service through accountability.” This means that before God, whether the decision that I made was the result of an idea that came from me or my wife (or another) the biblical head (in a marriage the husband) takes full responsibility for the decision and its consequences. The person who has this mentality, of course, will be more than glad to take any good idea wherever he can get it with no concerns about ego or “being my own man” or “doing it my way” because such a person is going to be primarily concerned with avoiding the negative consequences of bad decisions before God. Such a person will not be motivated by fear, mind you, but wisdom, and what is the beginning of wisdom but the fear of God (Proverb 15:33, Proverb 1:7, Proverb 9:10, Psalm 111:10)? The hard headed stiff necked male who insists on being his own man and doing it his way is merely someone who is not accountable for the consequences of his bad decisions. He might think that he is accountable, but truthfully it is only in an earthly sense. In a spiritual sense before God, such a man is merely writing checks that his heart cannot cash!

The wise Biblical head knows that all good things, including good ideas, come from God (James 1:17 and also see James 3:17). So if an idea comes to him from his wife and he acts on it and it succeeds, the man in his authority gives the credit first to God for giving the idea to his wife and then his wife for having the wisdom to share the idea with him. And if the husband himself is the origin of the idea, the man in authority gives the credit first to God for the idea, second to God for prospering the idea and leaves it right there.

And if the idea is from the husband and it fails? The husband takes the blame acting outside of God’s will and accepts the consequences before God and in his marriage. If the idea is from the wife and fails? The same. In either case, the husband is the one who makes the final decision. That is what being in authority given by God means. God gets all the credit and glory for things that succeed. The person in authority – the husband in a marriage – gets the responsibility for not fervently effectively seeking God and then obeying Him in the case of failure.

So how can the husband, the pastor, or any other man in spiritual authority get glory? Well that is the rub, and the very meaning of Biblical servant authority. In sinful pagan lordship authority, the purpose of being in power is getting glory and other human benefits, the likes of which James 3:15 calls earthly, sensual, devilish. But in Biblical servant authority, the purpose of said authority is giving God the glory and getting God the glory! That is the beginning, the ending and the sum total of man’s duty. In contrast with, say, the word-faith movement and with dominionism theology where the purpose of man’s dominion is to empower, enrich and glorify himself, the true purpose of the Biblical dominion given to man was to use this dominion obey and glorify God. Consider, for instance, that no less than Jesus Christ, Himself being fully God and by Him were all things made, used His dominion over creation to glorify God the Father! So how much more should us as mere men, husbands, use our authority over our wives and children (not to mention the stewardship over our possessions) to do the same? And yes, the same is true of pastors as well.

So how does man benefit from his servant authority?

1) Obedience to God is benefit enough. Fearing God and keeping  His commands are the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Any other attitude is not of God, but of fallen rebellion against God similar to that of Satan who desiring to receive the glory and praise of God decided that he could be like the most high. In that day was iniquity found in him and there was no place for him in heaven any more. 2) Your reward will come in heaven. Your servant authority on earth is a spiritual thing, and by sowing it in this life, you will reap a bountiful harvest for eternity in the world to come. This is in contrast with the sinful lordship authority where the harvest is not only meager but does not go from this world to the next, and is instead consumed like straw in a fire. 3) I am not an adherent of the prosperity doctrine, but there is ample New Testament new covenant scriptural support for the idea that the man who behaves this way will receive the benefits of grace and blessings by the sovereign God upon his house and marriage as a reward for his obedience. How is this not the prosperity doctrine? Because God will determine the manner of the grace and blessings! It will be prosperity, but prosperity according to God’s eyes and not man’s.

So Christian men, do not fear, do not forbear, do not halt or falter. Go forth and fulfill the charge that you have been given to keep concerning your Biblical headship. It will not be easy, but be encouraged: you have none other than Jesus Christ present with you in the form of His emissary the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) to guide and carry you along the way. May the blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you always. Praise be to the one and only true God whose Son is Jesus Christ. Enter into His courts with thanksgiving and praise for He is worthy. Our God is holy and righteous, and His love, power and grace endure from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and amen!

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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