Friday, March 30, 2012

No Proofreader Necessary

One thing Baptists, and for that matter, all evangelicals, should agree on is the inerrancy of Scripture. To that end, The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was produced in 1978 by hundreds of evangelical scholars and leaders of various denominations. It affirms that the Bible is God's revelation and is infallible, without error or fault, and authoritative.

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 also states that the Bible is "without any mixture of error...totally true and trustworthy." The words of Scripture reveal God's communication to us with such reliable veracity that the apostle Peter referred to the Word as superior even to first-hand experience for teaching truth (2 Peter 1: 19).

The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is a vital presupposition for supporting spiritual and doctrinal truths. Those who attempt to defend a position which imagines an imperfect Scriptural thread containing both truth and error set up for themselves a process for being lured from the path of truth.  They deem themselves magnanimous in acknowledging the Bible contains God's word, while maintaining a facsimile of presumed enlightenment which insists that they can't expect it all to be inspired. And in the arbitrary process of deciding what is inspired truth and what is called into question, it seems those politically incorrect or culturally anachronistic verses always seem to be found unsupportable by the postmodern editor's adjudication.

But Scripture is not for us to judge; rather, it judges us. If someone decides they will merely exclude those sections of the Bible they find unpalatable, then they lose any foundational support for objective spiritual truth.

And that is a sure way to begin to sink.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It wasn't until he asked to "meet the flock" that Bill realized the men he met outside the country church were not from the Pastor Search Committee after all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sabbath Shadows

The New Testament grants considerable liberty where the Sabbath is concerned.  But in an article in Christianity Today it is not clear that Kevin Emmert appreciates that liberty.

It is difficult to determine whether  the focus of Emmert's piece is Sabbath observance or the concept of rest as a spiritual practice, because, while he moves back and forth between the two topics and clearly ties the concepts, he does not clarify their relationship to each other.

On the subject of "rest" he has many thoughful things to say, although I think his approach to spiritual rest is much more passive than Scripture intends. For example, he states, "Sanctification, we assume, involves work and effort on our part." Well, we assume it because, for example, in Philippians 2:12 believers are commanded to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Emmert correctly states "We can do nothing to earn our salvation", then makes the assertion that "most of us imagine we must play an active role in our sanctification..." But following the command of Scripture is not imagining, it is obeying. Yes, we rely on the grace of God and the power of God for our sanctification (Philippans 2: 13, 4:13), but we are also commanded to actively cooperate (Philippians 2:12, 1 Peter 1: 13). Salvation is a gift by grace through faith, while sanctification involves our outworking as we rely on God's grace working in us.

Then Emmert appears to equate Sabbath observance with spiritual rest and seems to be making the case that Sabbath observance = spiritual rest = means of sanctification. He states, "...the Sabbath may be the most important 'discipline'." In reference to the command in Exodus 31: 12-13 to Israel, concerning the keeping of the Sabbaths, he insists, "This is the most important one!" And he clearly means that in reference to applying the command to believers today.

But we know the most important commandment; it is stated by the Lord Himself in Matthew 22: 36-37. We also know the second greatest commandment, found in Matthew 22: 39. We also know a few things about the Old Testament commandment to the nation of Israel concerning Sabbath observance.  What we know, based on Romans 14: 5-6 and Colossians 2: 16 is that in the New Testament Christians are not required to keep the Old Testament Sabbath observance. In fact, Colssians 2: 17 explains the Old Testament Sabbath-keeping was a mere shadow-- by implication, of an eternal fulfillment. The fulfillment is God's eternal rest described in Hebrews 4: 1-11. Rather than impose an extra-Biblical requirement on saints today, it would be better to reiterate and follow the exhortation and commandment of Hebrews 4: 11 to "be diligent to enter that rest..." (NASB).

Emmert's article finishes with a confusing juxtaposition of encouraging "rest" on the one hand with a legalistic Sabbatarian regulatory mandate on the other. In the end the reader is unsure of exactly what is being said, except some sort of allusion to the notion that  keeping the Old Testament Sabbath requirements given to Israel is a condition binding on Christians today.

And that is not what the Bible says.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

...And am Persuaded That He is Able...

In the third part of a four-part series on eternal security, Dr. Steve Lemke continues with an excellent defense of the doctrine that a believer who has been genuinely born again will not utterly abandon his faith but will remain saved. The reason is because the protection of the believer's salvation does not depend upon the believer, but on God. Dr. Lemke states,
If salvation were put in our fallible human hands, we would inevitably lose it, ...(b)ut we can join with Peter in praising God that it is His omnipotent hand that protects our salvation. And no one can take away that which God holds and protects! Believing that we cannot lose our salvation is in no way confidence in ourselves or our own righteousness. It is based only in our confidence in God!
Dr. Lemke's thorough investigation of the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer contrasts in an interesting way with a post at the same blog a few days earlier in which Dr. Lemke offered a comment. What makes the contrast interesting is Dr. Lemke is essentially defending the "P" in TULIP, or doctrine of perseverance of the saints, and he is doing so in a manner consistent with historical Baptist teaching and with the Baptist Faith and Message.

 However, in some ways the Arminian who believes in eternal security must contradict his own reasoning in disagreeing with the "I" in TULIP, or irresistible grace. Consider a post by Matt O'Reilly, a United Methodist pastor,defending the Wesleyan Arminian view of prevenient grace over irresistible grace.  Dr. Lemke insists in the meta that Calvinists such as James White claim the doctrine of irresistible grace means the elect are drawn to Christ against their will. James White issued a corrective  response from his blog, while a very interesting discussion ensues in the comments of Matt O'Reilly's post. O'Reilly advocates for the Arminian position on the issue, contending that even if the Calvinist view is more accurately described as God changing the elect sinner's heart and making them want to come to Christ,  that is supposedly still just like forcing them to come against their will. After all, the argument goes, God imposed His own will on the sinner and changed their heart.


This line of reasoning creates a problem for those who would deny irresistible grace but defend eternal security. And the fact that the inconsistent argumentation of those holding these two views appears on the blogpost of a United Methodist pastor lends greater irony to the situation. While I am not familiar with Matt O'Reilly's personal view of the doctrine that the true believer cannot lose their salvation, if he holds to the traditional United Methodist/Wesleyan Arminian view, he does not hold to the doctrine of eternal security as detailed in Dr. Lemke's posts. Thus, when he argues against irresistible grace, his argument can also be applied to the Arminian view that claims it is possible to fall from grace. But Dr. Lemke would disagree that a true believer could fall from grace. Matt O'Reilly states in his own comment that,
It is difficult for Wesleyans to understand, though, how unilaterally overcoming a person's resistance is different from doing something against a person's will.
He can as easily use this same argument from his comments in the meta to oppose either the "P" in TULIP or the "I". The same holds true for a statement in the post itself:
It is difficult to conceive how an irresistible relationship, one that must be had against the will of one party, can be a relationship of mutual self-giving love. A relationship of love is one in which both parties freely desire to engage.
Stipulating as we have previously that Calvinists do not affirm that faith is exercised "against the will" but rather that the heart, and thus the will, is changed so that it comes to have faith, I would suggest, (and have done so before) that it is very difficult to apply this "not changing a person's will" logic to deny irresistible grace but ignore it when the subject of eternal security comes up. And it would not suprise me if O'Reilly agreed (although I don't know whether he would) even though he holds to an Arminian soteriology and I hold to a Calvinistic one.To claim that God does not overrule the sinner's proclivity and does not actually, "unilaterally" change their will in drawing them to Himself, but that on the other hand He does sovereignly impose His will on the believer's heart in causing the believer to remain in the faith is a course which brings us into non sequitur land.

Now many adherents of eternal security will argue, as Dr. Lemke has so effectively, that God has saved and God has justified and God sanctifies and God has willed and thus the believer will remain saved because it is up to God and not up to the believer. And what's more, the believer's heart has been changed so that they will ultimately want, will, desire, etc to remain saved. Because God has sovereignly acted upon the will of the believer so that the believer will continue in the faith. And I'm guessing the Weleyan Arminian then comes along and says "Well then what is the difference between God imposing His will on the believer to cause them to continue in the faith, and God imposing His will on the elect sinner in causing them to come to Christ?" And one who holds to the doctrine of irresistible grace simply responds:


But the one who says eternal security is up to God but conversion is up to man has a difficult argument to make.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Danger, Will Robinson

What is the biggest problem facing the SBC? Is it the threat of those who don't believe in the inerrancy of Scripture? The danger of a different gospel than the true gospel gaining acceptance? The potential for lethargy, distractions or fear causing Baptists not to evangelize like they should?

No, according to Bill Harrell, pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, Georgia, the biggest danger is.....CALVINISM! Says Pastor Harrell,

"For a number of years there has been a plan to raise up an 'army' of Calvinists in an effort to capture the SBC for the Reformed position."

Somebody warn Aunt Pittypat! Why, next thing you know those Calvinists will want to have some input! Gracious, one of them might even run for SBC President!

Wouldn't it be nice if the greatest "threat" the SBC faced was that some Baptists who shared the theology of C. H. Spurgeon might gain some influence in the convention? Maybe then our Arminian brothers would realize the Reformers have been there all along, and have even had influence all along. It's a big convention. There's plenty of room for those who hold to a Calvinistic soteriology.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

You Say "Stop," I Say "Go, go, go"

The publisher of the NIV took a mulligan on the release of the 2005 TNIV and came out with a do-over NIV revision in form of the NIV 2011. Said publisher's marketing folk astutely dropped the TNIV moniker and the less-than-stellar pub that went with it and retained the better NIV reputation of the 1984-named version.

But this isn't really about that. Sort of, but not really. This is more about SBC polity, with the NIV 2011 issue providing an example. Because the messengers at the last convention weren't too impressed with the do-over effort. I do have a partially-formed, but not yet fully formed opinion about the NIV 2011. I may even blog about it at some point.

But the SBC messengers knew what they thought, or at least enough of them did, to pass the resolution titled "On the Gender-Neutral 2011 New International Version". Certainly it is acceptable for delegates to the convention of a major Protestant denomination to weigh in on a recent Bible translation release. The resolution encourages pastors to "make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the 2011 NIV" and "respectfully request(s)" that LifeWay not sell the NIV 2011 in their bookstores.

And this is where ya gotta love SBC polity. Because LifeWay's response was to essentially say thanks but no thanks, they are still making the NIV 2011 available. A LifeWay article points out the resolution is non-binding and acknowledges it requests that LifeWay "consider not selling" the NIV 2011 in their stores, although that phrase contains a little spin. The resolution itself does not say anything about consider, it basically asks please don't do it guys (attn NIV 2011 translators: I'm using "guys" in the gender-neutral sense to include both genders. Now back to the blogpost). LifeWay did its own research and concluded that while they were not endorsing the NIV 2011, the issues raised did not warrant its removal from the shelves. Since none of the gender-neutral wording in the text was applied to the names of God, they felt okay to continue to offer the version. The trustee executive committee unanimously approved the decision of LifeWay to keep carrying the translation. For good measure LifeWay obtained the concurrence of SBC heavyweights Al Mohler, Jimmy Draper, Russell Moore, and others.

All of this, while perhaps confusing, is entirely within the realm of acceptable SBC procedure. The convention delegates can make their request known through the resolution process, but the resolution is not binding on LifeWay or on any SBC churches or their members. It appears LifeWay gave a respectful analysis of the concerns expressed in the resolution, appeared to agree with some of the concerns, but did not feel the translation's shortcomings reached a degree that required they not include the NIV 2011 among their available products. While they should show respect to the convention delegates, and it appears they did, the ultimate decision about LifeWay products rests with LifeWay and the trustee executive committee, not with the convention delegates. Still, it may be interesting to see if a response is issued at the upcoming SBC annual meeting.

Meanwhile, outside the SBC, it appears that John MacArthur has decided to release another MacArthur Study Bible , this time with the NIV 2011 text.

I wonder if it will be available in LifeWay bookstores.