Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

Creeds and Confessions Keep us on the Right Path

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all, (2Pe 3:16): yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them, (Psa 119:105; Psa 119:130).

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter One

What this means is that the things in Scripture that are necessary to be known for salvation are plain but there are other points that are not so plain.

To be clear, there are people who do not have the capacity to understand any part of Scripture because they do not have the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14) but they are not the concern of this post.

Anyway, I like the picture above because confessions and creeds keep people, especially laypeople who read the Bible on their own, Christians who sit under poor teaching, and those who are not discipled, from inadvertently veering off into heresy.

Granted, they are not inspired therefore not ultimately authoritative but they have significant value.

“Historically speaking, they are the final crystallization of the elements of evangelical religion, after the conflicts of sixteen hundred years; scientifically speaking, they are the richest and most precise and best-guarded statement ever penned of all that enters into evangelical religion and of all that must be safeguarded if evangelical religion is to persist in the world; and religiously speaking, they are a notable monument of spiritual religion”

B. B. Warfield on the Westminster Standards

There are pastors and those who consider themselves theologians however, that don’t have as high a view of the confessions and creeds as I do because, ironically…

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly, (2Pe 1:21-22; Act 15:15-16).

WCF Chapter One

I said their view is ironic because the very standards they claim Christians should not be so reliant on say exactly the same thing they are saying about interpretation almost word for word.

Further, diminishing the confessions and creeds, stating that they are deficient in some respect, or saying a better practice is relying on one’s own exegesis is dangerous. However well meaning they may be I don’t think there are many things in Christendom worse than someone with a “just me and my Bible” teaching or learning philosophy. I, personally, would not even allow such a person to teach a Sunday School class.

OK, a pastor telling every pastor everywhere that they should never use a Greek word in a sermon unless they speak Greek fluently is worse but, I digress.

Also, I would hate to have to defend the position that the theologians that penned works that have stood up to scrutiny for over 375 years were not guided by the Spirit and did not interpret Scripture as accurately as I can. Where, I would ask a person who throws shade on the confessions and creeds, does your theology differ from, say WCF?

Is exegesis better now? Has theology changed? Why are you right and the WCF wrong?

I am reminded of a conversation I had a while back with a Christian anarchist whose constant refrain was that I need to “let go of my traditions” so I could embrace his conclusions which, I think, is how cults get people to believe then fully embrace the unbelievable.

Whenever I have heard that I need to let go of my traditions over the years it has been from someone who is teaching false doctrine, it never fails. Here is an example from the Christian Left.

Certainly there are religions that claim to be Christian that rely more heavily on tradition than what the Bible clearly teaches, I would never argue against that. But when someone tells a reformed Christian to question, set aside, or disregard their traditions, what they really mean is that they believe they have achieved some higher state of enlightenment than widely respected church fathers and that at least some of their doctrine is bad.

So, are the confessions and creeds divinely inspired and infallible? No, absolutely not. But, here’s the thing, nothing except for the Bible itself is. Not one single sermon, commentary, web page, book, Facebook post, podcast…is.

But knowing the confessions and creeds will serve you well and do exactly what the picture describes.

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

Arminians Are On a Road to Rome

I read this [emphasis mine] earlier on a faithful brother’s blog and I have a few thoughts.

“Faith was not something that your use of (as an evangelical or gospel obedience) pulled the trigger on God justifying you. Justification in the catechism is defined as a declarative act on God’s part, so not God’s reaction to my use of faith. This was an issue then and now that some believe in “prevenient grace” the concept that God via Christ destroyed the work of Satan, and sin, and as such returned mankind to a type of neutral spiritual estate, whereby in this life, everyone has been granted faith, but now you just have to use it. This is counter to everything the scripture and the confession has and will say, as there is no mention of a middle or neutral grace of God in scripture. This is an Arminian invention and assumption based on the idea that if man is responsible to choose God, then man “must” have the freedom and ability to do so (add that they have a great distaste for election/reprobation, which is in scripture). This concept, as shown in prior posts, is adamantly fought for at the expense of denying much of what scripture plainly says. The Calvinist does not deny man’s responsibility, and greatly affirms the free offer of the Gospel and even man’s freedom of choice. But the Calvinist also understands the full and true nature of sin in the Bible, and so acknowledges that man’s will in sin, does not and will not have the desire to choose salvation on his own (Romans 3:9-12).”

I mentioned in a comment to Dr. Leonard, this not only resonated with me, it reminded me of my early walk with Christ and where I, even though I was well meaning, went wrong. 

I came to faith 25 or so years ago when the internet was not nearly what it is today. What I mean to say is that I did not have commentaries, confessions, catechisms, and sound teaching readily available at my fingertips, to be accessed whenever I needed them. Literally all I had was faith, a desire to learn, a Bible, and a friend and fellow church member who was just as clueless as I was. No mentors or disciples to speak of either but that is a topic for another post.

Long story short, we jumped right in to the deep end of theology and began to grapple with what is commonly known as Calvinism.   

And. It. Didn’t. Make. Sense. 

There is no way, my young friend and I thought, that God could foreordain some and not others unto salvation. 

Faith must be a free gift that is available to all and we must have the free will to decide if we want it or not, we thought.

What I now realize that this was an assumption and an invention based not on what Scripture plainly teaches but on our own internal sense of right, wrong, and fairness.

But if one is to understand Total Depravity properly, then one’s theology must change from what they think fair to what the Bible teaches. 

The total depravity of man is seen throughout the Bible. Man’s heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The Bible also teaches us that man is born dead in transgression and sin (Psalm 51:5Psalm 58:3Ephesians 2:1-5). The Bible teaches that because unregenerate man is “dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5), he is held captive by a love for sin (John 3:19John 8:34) so that he will not seek God (Romans 3:10-11) because he loves the darkness (John 3:19) and does not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore, men suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and continue to willfully live in sin. Because they are totally depraved, this sinful lifestyle seems right to men (Proverbs 14:12) so they reject the gospel of Christ as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and their mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7). 

If that is the proper understanding of total depravity, and I think it is, then how would someone in their natural sate chose salvation when we naturally don’t want anything to do with God? 

Yes, we do decide and some do reject the Gospel of Christ as foolishness, but this choice is not made from neutral ground nor from a fictional state of “prevenient grace” as many, including the younger me, believe. We choose what we want, and that choice is consistent with our character so we have free-will in a sense. But we cannot choose to have faith in Christ unto salvation unless we are justified by God first.

And this justification is in concert with an effectual calling, which is described in John 6:44.

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” 

The Greek word translated “draw” is helkuo which literally means “to drag” which is clearly a one-sided arrangement.   

I heard a sermon on this by R.C. Sproul the other day in which he recalled a debate he had with an Arminian who said that same Greek word was used in a First Century poem to describe drawing water out of a well, so it does not necessarily always mean “drag.” Fair point on the usage of the word but Dr. Sproul rightly noted that we don’t get water out of a well by calling to it or offering it a choice but, instead, we lower a bucket into the well and scoop the water up. And, ironically to the person who made the point, scooping water out of a well is an apt way of describing effectual calling

I know most people consider Calvinism vs. Arminianism to be a secondary point in Christianity and we can, in spite of our differences, enjoy fellowship together and I believe that. I love my Arminian brothers and sisters and I do not, in any way, think they are not saved.

However, it is important to note that The Westminster Confession of Faith, as well as other confessions and creeds are not in agreement with Arminianism and that both sides where once militarized, and one was tried and convicted as heresy.

So, my dear Arminian brothers and sisters. You may indeed be saved but you are no less on a road to Rome, and you need to adjust your course.

I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees. I said to him, “I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures.”

Spurgeon’s best sermon on the doctrine’s of grace.

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

Q1. What is the chief and highest end of man?

A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God,1 and fully to enjoy him forever.2

Romans 11:36: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. 1 Corinthians 10:31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

2 Psalm 73:24-28: You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. John 17:21-23: that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

From The Westminster Larger Catechism

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

This Guy is a Clown, Not a Pastor

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a video of a megachurch “pastor” who was shirtless while his wife spread hair removal cream…no point in posting the video here or continuing to describe it, I couldn’t even get through more than a few seconds, and I’m sure you all get the idea.

If it were a video of an ordinary husband and wife just messing around I would have thought it was childish and absurd.  Maybe it’s because I am old and uncool, but I don’t get the appeal of people making videos of themselves doing dumb things for attention. But this is a pastor and his wife so it’s downright nauseating and blatantly unbiblical

First Timothy 3:1–7 contains the biblical qualifications for a pastor: “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

We also find the biblical qualifications for a pastor in Titus 1:5–9: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” 

Granted, above reproach, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined can mean different things to different people so some latitude and grace should be afforded.  But the video in question is beyond the pale and in no way acceptable behavior for a pastor by any reasonable standard. 

That being said, and as shocking as it is, it should come as absolutely no surprise to those us who know God’s Word.   

Not only did God, His prophets, His Son Jesus Christ, and Christ’s apostles warn the church that heresy and false teaching will enter the church, but the Scriptures demonstrate that such teaching will have success among a great many people. 2 Chronicles 18:21 is a very interesting passage that not only gives the indication that a demonic lying spirit would go out and deceive the king and his false prophets, but that God allowed this by saying the lying spirit would succeed in its task of deception, “So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’” Christ states the same when he says in Matthew 24:11, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” The Apostle Paul follows suit and states, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, (1 Tim. 4:1),” and “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13 ).” It is the duty of the Christian to be so thoroughly acquainted with the work of God and His redemptive plan through Jesus Christ that when deceivers come, the Christian may be able to defend his own mind against vain philosophy, heretical doctrine, and false teaching. As James exhorts in James 1:16, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” 

While it is not surprising a pastor like this exists because God’s Word clearly states that him and those like him will, he only exists because God knew there would be many who would be more than willing to follow him. And that is collectively our, meaning the faithful big C church’s, fault.

As stated above, it is our duty to be alert and aware so we are not deceived. 

Further, it is the duty of faithful, godly, reformed men to teach and disciple those within our spheres of influence so they are less likely to be deceived into following immature clowns posing as pastors of a cliff.

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

One Covenant of Grace for All Time

This is concerning the covenant of grace as it has been manifest in both the old and new dispensations.

Note: Dispensation below is not to be confused with dispensationalism.

1. The Covenant administered has from the beginning remained in all essential respects the same, in spite of all outward changes in its mode and administration. (1) Christ was the Savior of men before his advent, and he saved them on the same principles then as now. He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” (Rev. 13:8); “a propitiation for the sins that are past,” (Rom. 3:25Heb. 9:15). He was promised to Adam and to Abraham as the Savior of the world. (Gen. 3:1517:7); 22:18. He was symbolically exhibited and typically prophesied by all the ceremonial and especially by the sacrificial system of the temple. (Col. 2:17Heb. 10:1-10.) He was especially witnessed to as the Savior from sin by all the prophets. (Acts 10:43.) (2) Faith was the condition of salvation under the old dispensation in the same sense it is now. (Heb. 2:4Ps. 2:12.) The Old Testament believers are set up for an example to those who are called to exercise faith under the New Testament. (Rom. 4:; Heb. 11🙂 (3) The same gracious promises of spiritual grace and eternal blessedness were administered then as now. (Compare Gen. 17:7 with Matt. 22:32; and Gen. 22:18 with Gal. 3:16. See, also, Isa. 43:25Ps. 16:; 51:; 73:24-26; Ezek. 36:27Job 19:25-27Dan. 12:2,3.) 

2. Under the old dispensation the covenant of grace was administered chiefly by types and symbolic ordinances, signifying beforehand the coming of Christ, and thus administration was almost exclusively confined to the Jewish nation with constantly increasing fullness and clearness- (1) From Adam to Abraham, in the promise to the woman (Gen. 3:15); the institution of bloody sacrifices; and the constant visible appearance and audible converse of Jehovah with his people. (2) From Abraham to Moses, the more definite promise given to Abraham (Gen. 17:722:18), in the Church separated from the world, embraced in a special covenant, and sealed with the sacrament of Circumcision. (3) From Moses to Christ, the simple primitive rite of sacrifice developed into the elaborate ceremonial and significant symbolism of the temple service, the covenant enriched with new promises, the Church separated from the world by new barriers, and sealed with the additional sacrament of the Passover. 

3. The present dispensation of the covenant is superior to the former one-(1) Because while it was formerly administered by Moses, a servant, it is now administered visibly and immediately by Christ, a son in his own house. Heb. 3:5,6. (2) The truth was then partly hid, partly revealed, in the types and symbols; now it is revealed in clear history and didactic teaching. (3) That revelation has been vastly increased, as well as rendered more clear, by the incarnation of Christ and the mission of the Holy Ghost. (4) That dispensation was so encumbered with ceremonies as to be comparatively carnal; the present dispensation is spiritual. (5) 59 That was confined to one people: the present dispensation, disembarrassed from all national organizations, embraces the whole Earth. (6) That method of administration was preparatory: the present is final, as far as the present order of the world is concerned. It will give way only to that eternal administration of the covenant which shall be executed by the Lamb in the new heavens and the new earth, when there shall “be gathered together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.” (Eph. 1:10.) More than this is not yet made known.

Posted in Christian Faith, Reformed Theology

Does Arminianism Teach the God of the Bible?

Really good teaching on Arminiansim and why it should be rejected here

What does Arminianism teach? Is the “god” of Arminianism the God of the Bible? No. Arminius did not plagiarize the bible; instead, he fabricated a brand new deity, or idol, for men to worship. The “god” of Arminianism is not the God of the Bible. For Arminius’ “god” loves everyone equally, and sent his “Son” to die for all men equally. This “god” did not decree the salvation of anyone in particular, and “the christ” of Arminianism did not die for anyone in particular. Instead Arminius’ “god” decreed and his “christ” died for making a “way” of salvation. The Bible, in refuting this, teaches quite a different God. God has predestined only the elect to salvation. These are those for who He “so loved” and “gave” in His beloved Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). The Bible depicts Christ as the one who fulfills the works of the Covenant of Redemption and bestows, unilaterally, this effectual work in the Covenant of Grace through the power of the Holy Sprit only to those for whom He died. This is the basic Old Testament concept of sacrifice and atonement. Sacrifice and atonement are given on behalf of a particular person, or for the nation of Israel. It did not extend beyond those bounds. Jesus Christ died for His people, the elect. These are those that the Father has elected before the foundation of the world, and those He has predestined to everlasting life. As the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “These …men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. (John 10:14-16, 27-28; 13:18; 17:2, 6, 9-12; 2 Tim. 2:19).” God is the ever powerful God who not only plans out the redemption of men, but actually secures that redemption through ordained means. The Westminster Confession of Faith continues when it says, “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:4, 9, 11; Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rom. 9:11, 13, 15-16; see Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; 2:8-9; Eph. 1:6, 12). The “god” of Arminianism is impotent and unable to save anyone. Instead, the “god” of Arminianism “hopes” that some will come to Him, and “hopes” that some will be saved through His Son. In this way, Arminianism teaches that it is theologically and hypothetically possible that no one would come, and no one would be saved. Here, Arminius’ “god” relies on man to come to Him, and find salvation. The Bible speaks differently: Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.” Psalm 7:11, “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.” Psalm 11:5, “The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” Matthew 11:27, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” John 17:9-10, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.” Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 13:48, “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Romans 9:10-13, “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” Romans 9:21-24, “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” Ephesians 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Arminius also taught that his “god” can be frustrated by the will of man because men choose their own destiny and that “god” allows them to do what they want to do without interfering. Not only is this “god” later to be deemed the “god of deism”, but it demonstrates that Arminius’ “god” plans salvation in a way that may not be effectuated. This “god” has offered salvation, but cannot actually bring about the happiness of the creature since man is autonomous and has, as Arminius taught, “a free will.” This means that man’s neutrality (denying total depravity) in “willing anything” is based on a choice that is never inclined toward good or evil. Arminius though is very wrong not only about how salvation works, but the nature of man as well. This “neutrality” is actually a smokescreen. Not only is everyone born under the fall of Adam totally depraved and sinful, but their wills are never neutral. Men only have sinful inclinations (Gen. 6:5). They are not neutral in any choice they ever make. Neutrality would mean they have an aversion to good or evil, but the Bible teaches men are inherently evil as a result of Adam’s fall and disobedience. Romans 5:12 emphatically states, “…just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” Arminius taught that there was an island of righteousness in every man which was unaffected by the fall and thus able to do “good.” Grace, then, is a help, but as Pelagius also taught, not completely necessary since “god” has given all men “prevenient grace that aids them” in making a good decision to follow this “god” who does not interfere with their choice. The “god” of Arminius “offers salvation” to every sinner, and “he” does everything “he” can to aid them in “finding” salvation, but “he” will never convert them unless they desire to be converted. Thus, Arminius’ “god” is the ever-frustrated “god” that “hopes” men will come to “him” and heed “his” aid. It is easy to see that “his” offer of salvation and all the work “he” does in helping men with prevenient grace are frustrated at every turn since many people, in fact most people, refuse “his help”.

The Bible paints a very different picture of God in His work to save men.