21 September 2005

How far did Spurgeon's liberality go?

Spurgeon"There is no bigotry in the world equal to the bigotry of modern liberalism. Sectarianism may be bitter, but latitudinarianism is wormwood and gall."—C. H. Spurgeon, from "Ourselves and the Annexationists", in The Sword and the Trowel




A time to embrace

In the comments section of yesterday's post, someone posted a portion of one of my favorite quotes from Spurgeon. The full paragraph it was extracted from is a tad long, but the additional context is well worth reading:

It has been the desire of the true Calvinist,—not of the hyper-Calvinists, I cannot defend them—to feel that if he has received has received more light than another man, it is due to God's grace, and not to his merits. Therefore charity is inculcated, while boasting is excluded. We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians,—not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of this world. A man may be evidently of God's chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold that there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We set not their fallacies down to any wilful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think as mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus, even though as yet the ministering spirit has not led all of us into all the lengths and breadths of the truth—C. H. Spurgeon, "Effects of Sound Doctrine," a sermon delivered on Sunday evening April 22nd, 1860.

Alongside that excerpt, this quote from "A Defense of Calvinism" was also posted in a comment yesterday. It's a commonly-cited section, but this one is also worth hearing again. Here it is, with a little additional context:

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one "of whom the world was not worthy." I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

By the way, that second quotation is taken from the same article in which Spurgeon made another famous statement—one of his most controversial statements about Calvinism ever:
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.

Some very narrow Calvinists love to cite that third quote apart from its context as if it proved Spurgeon rejected all Arminians as infidels. Clearly, that is not what he meant.

In fact, the context of the full article makes clear precisely what Spurgeon did mean in that third quotation: He was simply saying that the central principle of Calvinism is the very gist of the gospel: Salvation is God's work; it is not something the sinner can do for himself. Plainly, he was not insisting that the only authentic Christians are Calvinists. The first and second quotations above make his position on that issue quite clear.

I agree with all three of those statements, of course. I also agree with the use Spurgeon made of the principle he was defending. Although he had no sympathy whatsoever for Arminian theology, he was charitable toward Christians who struggled to understand the doctrines of grace. Even though he regarded Arminianism as a serious error and a system fraught with all kinds of theological mischief, he did not automatically write off all Arminians as non-Christians.

Spurgeon held this position precisely because he did not believe Arminian opinions about free-will, unconditional election, or the extent of the atonement were tantamount to a denial of any fundamental, inviolable point of gospel truth. Which is to say that while Spurgeon clearly regarded the central idea of Calvinism as a truth that embodied the very essence of the gospel, he obviously did not regard every aspect of the doctrines of grace as essential gospel truth.

In other words, Spurgeon taught that the principle of grace per se is a primary and essential truth. But when it came to some of the more technical aspects of Calvinistic doctrine, including the doctrines of perseverance and effectual calling, he regarded them as secondary, and he allowed that a genuine believer in Christ might—through confusion or ignorance—reject those truths. He embraced people who made such a profession of faith as authentic brothers and sisters in Christ.

A time to refrain from embracing

On other issues, however, Spurgeon was unwilling to grant such latitude. He made it perfectly clear that he regarded the principles of substitutionary atonement and justification by faith as absolute essentials—and he steadfastly refused to embrace or give encouragement to the purveyors of alternative opinions on those points:

The largest charity towards those who are loyal to the Lord Jesus, and yet do not see with us on secondary matters, is the duty of all true Christians. But how are we to act towards those who deny his vicarious sacrifice, and ridicule the great truth of justification by his righteousness? These are not mistaken friends, but enemies of the cross of Christ. There is no use in employing circumlocutions and polite terms of expression:—where Christ is not received as to the cleansing power of his blood and the justifying merit of his righteousness, he is not received at all.—Spurgeon, "A Fragment Upon the Down-Grade Controversy."

Spurgeon steadfastly refused to admit anyone who denied any essential doctrines of Christianity into the circle of his fellowship, and he regarded all attempts to seek Christian fellowship with such false teachers as sinful:

It used to be generally accepted in the Christian Church that the line of Christian communion was drawn hard and fast, at the Deity of our Lord; but even this would appear to be altered now. In various ways the chasm has been bridged, and during the past few years several ministers have crossed into Unitarianism, and have declared that they perceived little or no difference in the two sides of the gulf. In all probability there was no difference to perceive in the regions where they abode. It is our solemn conviction that where there can be no real spiritual communion there should be no pretense of fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin. Those who know and love the truth of God cannot have fellowship with that which is diametrically opposed thereto, and there can be no reason why they should pretend that they have such fellowship.—Ibid.

The whole of the article is well worth reading.

So Spurgeon was no latitudinarian, and he had no patience whatsoever for the convoluted "liberality" the modernists of his day were peddling (and postmodernists today are likewise attempting to foist on well-meaning Christians):

I should like to ask modern broad churchmen whether there is any doctrine of any sort for which it would be worth a man's while to burn or to lie in prison. I do not believe they could give me an answer, for if their latitudinarianism be correct, the martyrs were fools of the first magnitude. From what I see of their writings and their teachings, it appears to me that the modern thinkers treat the whole compass of revealed truth with entire indifference; and, though perhaps they may feel sorry that wilder spirits should go too far in free thinking, and though they had rather they would be more moderate, yet, upon the whole, so large is their liberality that they are not sure enough of anything to be able to condemn the reverse of it as a deadly error. To them black and white are terms which may be applied to the same colour, as you view it from different standpoints. Yea and nay are equally true in their esteem. Their theology shifts like the Goodwin Sands, and they regard all firmness as so much bigotry. Errors and truths are equally comprehensible within the circle of their charity. It was not in this way that the apostles regarded error. They did not prescribe large-hearted charity towards falsehood, or hold up the errorist as a man of deep thought, whose views were "refreshingly original"; far less did they utter some wicked nonsense about the probability of there living more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds. They did not believe in justification by doubting, as our neologians do; they set about the conversion of the erring brother; they treated him as a person who needed conversion; and viewed him as a man who, if he were not converted, would suffer the death of his soul, and be covered with a multitude of sins. They were not such easygoing people as our cultured friends of the school of "modern thought", who have learned at last that the Deity of Christ may be denied, the work of the Holy Spirit ignored, the inspiration of Scripture rejected, the atonement disbelieved, and regeneration dispensed with, and yet the man who does all this may be as good a Christian as the most devout believer! O God, deliver us from this deceitful infidelity, which, while it does damage to the erring man, and often prevents his being reclaimed, does yet more mischief to our own hearts by teaching us that truth is unimportant, and falsehood a trifle, and so destroys our allegiance to the God of truth, and makes us traitors instead of loyal subjects to the King of kings!

I could quote dozens of similar comments from Spurgeon. The last years of his life were spent fighting against the kind of "liberality" that insists every type of religion that goes by the name "Christian" deserves to be embraced as such.

Unfortunately, Spurgeon's life was shortened by that battle, and he died before he wrote anything carefully outlining his views on how to distinguish essential doctrines from secondary ones. But it is absolutely clear that he made such a distinction, and that it defined his views on when to separate and when to seek fellowship with others who profess to be Christians.



A postscript about Packer's remarks

Yesterday's comments also included this quotation from J. I. Packer's explanation of why he supports the ecumenical Juggernaut of "Evangelicals and Catholics Together":

Fundamentalists . . . are unlikely to join us in this, for it is the way of fundamentalists to follow the path of contentious orthodoxism, as if the mercy of God in Christ automatically rests on the persons who are notionally correct and is just as automatically withheld from those who fall short of notional correctness on any point of substance.

I agree that it's possible in a more or less passive sense for an ignorant, untaught, or immature (albeit authentic) believer to hold a deficient ("notionally incorrect") understanding of justification by faith, the doctrine of the Trinity, or any number of essential Christian doctrines. But would any genuine Christian deliberately, actively, and with full knowledge reject such essential doctrines and teach the contrary errors? That is what I deny, on the authority of dozens of texts of Scripture, such as John 10:4, 27; 1 John 2:27; 2 John 2, 7-11; and many others.

Christians are those who "believe and know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:3). There must be some minimal degree of "notional correctness" in what we affirm and teach, or else we would fall under the condemnation of Galatians 1:8-9. Packer as a Calvinist certainly ought to understand that God sovereignly opens the heart and understanding of believers (1 John 5:20).

Packer is simply wrong to show such contempt for fundamentalists' concern for "notional correctness"—which is, after all, nothing but a nickname for sound doctrine.

So we've come full circle to the issue that began this series of posts last week: Which truths must be affirmed with some degree of "notional correctness," and how (i.e., by what biblical principles) do we assign relative importance to this or that doctrine? There is no way for any Christian to dodge this question ultimately, and how we answer it has massive practical ramifications. Cynically dismissing fundamentalists because of their concern for "notional correctness" frankly doesn't make the difficulty go away, but it does open the door for all kinds of evil doctrine.

Phil's signature

63 comments:

Graham said...

Phil, I don't know what your blog does for the majority of your readers, but I want you to know that material like this for me is a wonderful blessing and encouragement. It's the goodness of God that he has equipped you in the way he has.

Thank you.

Graham (London)

goodnightsafehome said...

I really enjoy your posts every morning. These ones about Spurgeon are mighty. Some years ago, I went through my Spurgeon CD Rom and indexed all his references to "Calvin/Calvinism/Calvinist" Hard work but very blessed and useful. At the risk of being thought as advertising, this index is available on:

www.geocities.com/cfpchurch/chscalvinsm

Keep up the good work.
Colin (Cork)

Steve said...

This latest post does a fabulous job of bringing your thoughts full circle...and on an incredibly high and encouraging note at that. What a nice touch to have Spurgeon weigh in with his fervent concern for upholding the essential doctrines of the faith.

It's difficult to understand Packer's contempt for "notional correctness" (as you say, another term for sound doctrine) in light of 2 Timothy 1:13-14: "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. GUARD the good deposit that was entrusted to you--GUARD it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us" (emphasis added).

And finally, I can't help but wonder: You were very careful to cite Spurgeon's views in lengthy quotes in order to provide proper and adequate context, and you even provided linkage to more material for even greater context. But you're still probably going to be taken to task by some who misread Spurgeon's words in order to accommodate the particular theological bent they prescribe to, and be accused of having misrepresenting him.

Carla said...

Phil - thank you for the time you've spent on this. I believe it's quite possibly the most important, foundational issue of Christianity, requiring our attention today.

SDG,
Carla

Dan said...

Thanks Phil. It's been an interesting series of posts.

You said: "But would any genuine Christian deliberately, actively, and with full knowledge reject such essential doctrines and teach the contrary errors? That is what I deny, on the authority of dozens of texts of Scripture, such as John 10:4, 27; 1 John 2:27; 2 John 2, 7-11; and many others."

I hope this doesn't sound harsh, but I think you've got an fairly superficial view of dissension and dissenting scholarship, on a number of different levels. It's as if you're saying that someone can be mistaken as long as they're immediately willing to believe they're mistaken. Is it realistic to expect that men who hold to the authority of Scripture yet yield differing convictions will think their own positions as unbiblical? If not, won't persuading them involve something more than flipping to a passage and sketching an alternative interpretation? Obviously some academic dialogue would have to be in play, and this is the sort of thing that takes time and careful consideration, with no small degree of "pushing back" and mutual criticism of competing views. The Scriptures you mentioned are nebulous -- they speak of those who are opposed or antagonistic to Jesus, not those who desire to submit to Him, are seeking to understand His teaching, and who submit the ethical and doxological dimensions of their lives to Him. The idea that one can't be mistaken if he's "heard the other view" and is likely an unbeliever if he continues to teach a contrary (and what he believes to be biblical) view leaves off the ardous nature in which one arrives to his views in a conscientious way.

On another level, it also oversimplifies questions of how philosophical and methodological foundations influence the way people arrive at their views. Ultimately what gets freighted along with particular positions, and ultimately serve as "essential Christianity", are presuppositions that the Bible could never support or disprove. Epistemological foundationalism, the correspondence theory of truth (or coherence, or semantic or deflationary theories -- choose your poison), positivism, critical realism -- all of these complex issues of prolegomena that most people have no clue how to even defend (much less what the competing views are) stand behind various doctrinal inclinations. Add to this the complexity of hermeneutical models (circle? Spiral?), the nature of doctrine itself (does doctrine properly serve a propositional, experiential expressivist or narratival/linguistic-grammatical function?) and the variables introduced for informed dissent grows. These questions don't just concern those who think about the issues - they also concern those who think they're just giving the "obvious" interpretation or the "plain meaning" of the text. Everyone is influenced by, and even carries some default (although often uncritical) assumptions about these starting points. You can write it off as "the philosophy of the world" that Christians ought to stay away from, but you can't avoid the fact that you may be a foundationalist even if you can't defend it or know what that word means. You may have an experiential expressive view of doctrine even if to you "it's just common sense". The issue is whether you hold to these things critically, through reflection, or uncritically through a default position.

And at some level people in the academic world recognize this - so while in the church the standards for "who's in" becomes a doctrinal statement, the academy uses questions of method which may lead people to adopt a particular view as a criteria for barring people from the kingdom. Whether someone believes in a "Q" document, believe in literary dependence in the Gospels, the way they construe authorial intention, the criteria for determining whether a passage has abiding significance or is time-bound, etc. all become tests of orthodoxy. Yet these methodological considerations can't be supported from Scripture without actually first assuming that they are the proper way to come at Scripture. Is that what Jesus meant when he said, "My sheep hear my voice"? Is that the "annointing" that John said would teach us the truth? Does the Holy Spirit guide us into a true knowledge of Gospel composition, foundationalist theories of epistemic justification and positivistic linguistic theory?

And all of this, of course, relates to the issue at hand very simply - it's easy to roll one's eyes or sneer at a particular position to which someone has arrived, saying, "That's CLEARLY not what the Bible teaches . . ." without ever discussing these methodological issues. Presenting your alternative explanation without reference to the mountains under the water that support one's conclusions isn't very helpful. And the real problem is that there are people who love and follow Jesus that believe in the two-source theory of Gospel composition. When all of this complexity gets downplayed, because we don't have time to talk about HOW a sincere person that is seeking Christ ACTUALLY CAME to their views, deciding who'd in and who's out becomes a matter of personal politics and convenience rather than deep reflection.

Dan said...

By the way, my previous comment strikes at the heart of what Packer was getting at - where "notional correctness" becomes the standard for fellowship, the objectivity of regeneration and the relational dimension of the faith which Jesus requires is diminished.

That is to say, wholeheartedly trusting Jesus Christ, and submitting to Him (and therefore His Word) in a dependent love is what God results in new birth; and that is what should be required for Christian fellowship - no more. Let Church Discipline test a person's confession; don't make your standards for inclusion into the body of Christ higher than God's standards for being united with Christ.

What Packer is trying to refute, I think, is the idea that you not only have to invest your all in following Jesus, and recieve the forgiveness of sins in repentance, but you have to understand the mechanisms of penal substitionary atonement. That is, in order to benefit from what God has done, you have to understand HOW He did it. That's what most doctrinal forumlations are - explanations of how things "work". When a person comes to Christ with nothing in hand, acknowledges His utter helplessness and depravity, and begs God for mercy in repentence and recieving Christ's forgiveness in faith while comitting to follow Him, he is justified (counted as righteous) before God on the basis of Christ's death and resurrection. But he is NOT justified by believing in justification, he's justified by believing in Christ. So why would we bar him from fellowship if he still believes what he did at the moment of salvation (i.e. he still acknowledges His utter helplessness and depravity, and begs God for mercy in repentence and recieving Christ's forgiveness in faith while comitting to follow Him), but he doesn't articulate justification by faith according to the London Baptist Confession?

puritanicoal said...

"I should like to ask modern broad churchmen whether there is any doctrine of any sort for which it would be worth a man's while to burn or to lie in prison."

Isn't this really the ultimate question? Doesn't this really separate the "men from the boys" (or the the homeschool moms from the moms) when it comes to defining primary v. secondary issues? We are blogging about it in a clinical, detached way. Yet, the "problem" is that we live in a society in which people no longer die for causes unless they are by choice overseas somewhere, and it is those we relegate to a "different level."

What if our very lives depended on this issue? What would we then list? I bet our primary list would be much shorter.

Rom. 8:17

puritanicoal said...

Phil,

Thanks for putting so much time and thought into this. I appreciate your steadfastness.

David said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post Phil - put this one up on your list of favorites or best posts or whatever.

I grow weary of folks accusing us of being divisive when we identify ourselves as Calvinists and these quotes from Spurgeon show the heart of a true Calvinist. Yes, we embrace the doctrines that go by this name, but no we don't worship Calvin, we worship Christ. It is possible to hold firmly to our convictions in these matters while embracing brothers of other persuasions. When we debate Calvinism-Arminianism it is a family debate and not exclusionary. It is when we address those who would deny the deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement and the like that we become (rightly) exclusionary.
Thanks again
David Wayne, aka Jollyblogger

Dan said...

As usual, I'd echo Puritanicoal here. Hope I didn't come off as too stern or pendantic, Phil. Appreciate your time on the matter (your blog is more active than any other I've been to!).

Habitans in Sicco said...

Dan, it needs to be noted that Phil was explicitly talking about "ignorant, untaught, or immature" people who "in a more or less passive sense" are confused or incomplete in their understanding of the gospel, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, or whatever.

In that light, your comments about "academic dialogue" with "dissenting scholarship" subtly but completely evade the point. Again.

Phil was pretty clearly implying that (unlike merely untaught or immature Christians) the so-called "scholars" who deny cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith should NOT be embraced as fellow Christians or engaged in "dialogue" as if our differences with them were merely brotherly and academic differences of opinion.

Your arguments make me wonder if you would EVER think it appropriate to bust out the h-word, plainly call the heretic what he is, and warn impressionable sheep about his influence. In other words, (and I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, but) your philosophy sounds suspiciously like the "hireling" philosophy of shepherding Jesus condemned in John 10:12-13.

Your comments are a perfect example of postmodern squishiness. Your facile dismissal of epistemological foundationalism (not to mention all those other nasty and complex issues of prolegomena) are a perfect parroting of so much shopworn postmodern rhetoric. It may be a sign that you have read too much of McLaren and not enough of Spurgeon.

Buried in all your pomo jargon is the very point of view Phil rightly opposes. I hope no one misses that fact.

Steve said...

Dan: I know your remarks are directed to Phil, but I cannot help but make a very brief comment in response to your posts. You're accusing Phil of holding to a superficial view of dissension largely on account of not taking into consideration "philosophical and methodological foundations [that] influence the way people arrive at their views."

I fear you're complicating matters far more than is necessary. We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to 1) be diligent to examine and interpret God's Word as clearly and accurately as possible, and 2) to use Scripture itself as the "plumb line" by which we distinguish between truth and error.

If someone has arrived at an erroneous view of an essential doctrine, our responsibility is to demonstrate the error by holding it up to the light of Scripture itself. Ultimately, while it's the philosophical or methodological "mountains under the water" that led to the error in the first place, we are still faced with the fact that error is error, no matter which path was taken to arrive at that destination. And there's no better antidote to error than the truth of Scripture. Taking on the responsibility of discerning truth from error, of course, demands that we be meticulous in our examination, interpretation, and application of God's Word and to work hard at not letting our knowledge of God's truth become tainted by faulty presuppositions or worldviews.

Some will say that's such a simplistic answer. But there's nothing simplistic or superficial at all about "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). It's an enormous responsibility, and unfortunately, a skill terribly lacking in today's pulpits.

Dan said...

habitans,

Wow. Okay. Firstly, I'm not a spineless inclusivistic liberal who's afraid to use the word heretic. We've disciplined heretics out of our local church. Secondly, I have no idea where you picked up my "facile dismissal of epistemological foundationalism" -- I haven't dismissed it. I haven't even argued against it. Believe it or not, Reformed analytical philosophers like Greg Bahnsen and Alvin Plantinga happen reject it in its classical form, and maitain their orthodoxy quite nicely. I've never read McLaren, and I think many of D.A. Carson's critiques are spot on. I don't believe we're in a "postmodern" era, and I reject its relativistic trajectories. Your response illustrates my concern - you have no idea where I'm coming from, you haven't thought about the issues I'm raising or interacted with them - you're simply label me, dismiss anything I have to say as "pomo jargon" (I don't even know what that is), and associate me with boogeymen that Christians should obviously oppose. Meanwhile, all of the factors that make this issue HARD and something to wrestle with get shoved under the table and replaced with crowd-pleasing sound bytes, like a state of the union address. We're honestly on the same side here, habitans.

Doug said...

GREAT POST! I love Spurgeon's take on how to handle opposition with Arminianism. I deal with that constantly, being a newly reformed Arminian trying to persuade current Arminians in my church. I have to have "charity" while also holding to the truth.

BTW, Colin (Cork) your link came up "not found." It's a shame, because it would save me a lot of work.

Doug

Dan said...

Thanks for your comments steve. I appreciate the fact that Scripture is our plumb line, and I totally agree with the fact that we don't have to study the philosophies behind false teaching to know the truth; but when Christians disagree with one another about biblical issues it does seem to complicate things. The point that I was getting at was it's not just those in error who have differing philosophical and methodological assumptions; everyone does, even believers. Sometimes these conflict with one another among believers and accounts for differing views on biblical issues. These philosophical and methodological assumptions can't be supported from the Bible because they're the lenses through which we read the Bible (and we'd be inconsitent to come at the bible some other way than our assumptions dictate). I think that adds a real level of complexity that is often ignored, likely dismissed, but always operative whether people like it or not, know it or not.

Dan said...

I just realized from my comment to habitans that I never told you where I actually AM coming from: I subscribe to the London Baptist Confession, I'm a dispensational premilennialist, I believe in the inerrancy, infallibility, sufficiency and efficacy of God's Word, and I'm so conservative that I've nearly fallen off the flat earth. I don't believe in Markan priority, I don't belive such a thing as Q exists, I believe in presuppositional apologetics, I'm not gay, nor have I ever been to a democratic national convention.

LeeC said...

I don't know Dan, perhaps I am way over my head in commenting amongst so many more leared than I, but what Packer considers "notional correctness" I see as a love forthe lost, and greater love for the Gospel and Gods glory.

The fact of the matter in that topic is that the Vatican teaches a completely different gospel than the one found in Scripture. And just as surely as there are those who call themselves Catholics, but do have a saving faith through our Lord and Saviour in spite of the teachings of thier church there are many more who believe that they are saved and are not due to that churches teaching.

People are dying both physicaly and spirtually over that teaching and to condone it through something like ECT still boggles my mind. I love the people of the Catholic faith to much to give the a false assurance of salvation by condoning the teachings of the Vatican.

I don't presume to speak for Phil, but I don't think that with the exception of the nebulous coment he would disagree with your statement:
"The Scriptures you mentioned are nebulous -- they speak of those who are opposed or antagonistic to Jesus, not those who desire to submit to Him, are seeking to understand His teaching, and who submit the ethical and doxological dimensions of their lives to Him. The idea that one can't be mistaken if he's "heard the other view" and is likely an unbeliever if he continues to teach a contrary (and what he believes to be biblical) view leaves off the ardous nature in which one arrives to his views in a conscientious way."

I cite John MacArthurs friendship with R.C. Sproul for instance, but when it comes to the Gospel there is no middle ground. Salvation and Christs sacrifce are far too precious to trifle with.

The desire to submit to Him is the very issue is it not? If we earnestly do this and the Holy Spirit is indweling us then He will enlighten us in His time, and untill we see the Lord in glory we will never fully attain unity in this regard because we are all at different stages in our walks and sanctification.

One thing is certain though, if we teach a truly different gospel then all this is mute because we are not saved, the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us, and thus we cannot be enlightened by Him.

I was raised in a Conservative Baptist church where the Bible was taught, but application was weak. In fact my most common memory of this 3000+ church was being picked on by the youth leadership, getting beat up, robbed and taught how to smoke and pick up on girls.
All this bothered me, but it was where my parents attended and Idd not know what else was out there. To me this was the church and that is just how we live our lives.

My parents stopped attending church when I was 14, right when I had repented and made the commtiment to follow Christ. Not a kid, nor an adult, I lived out my faith as I saw it acted out around me...once saved always saved. But I didn't feel right about it. I worried and prayed often asking for assurace. I fell into some very sinfull times as I grew older. And every time I met someone who said they were a Christian I ran to them, and shared my concern, but most often I was told not to worry about it, after all I can't fall from grace.

A few times during that period of my life people came alongside me and rebuked me for some sin or another and I felt chastened and repented of whatever the issue was whn they did, but that was the exception not the rule.

Eventually my lifestyle led me to being unemployed and sleeping on friends couches...and I was about to lose my last couch. When I met a girl. She and I hit it off, mainly because I was not a "Bible thumper" but every time she voiced a misconception about Christianity I would correct her (I did have a lot of head knowledge).

Eventually, she became less hostile to the Bible and Christianity, but she also started having panic attacks. I finaly told her that psychology or drugs couldn't help her, only Christ. She admitted she realized that and asked for forgiveness from Christ, and repented of her sins.
The panic attacks stopped.

We married, and I knew I could not equip her the way she needed so we started looking for churches (theres a great story of Gods providence in that but this is too long already)We wound up at a church pastored by Brian Shealy (whose now Dean of Education at the Cornerstone Seminary of Vallejo). Right off the bat he asked me if I was saved and I told him I was due to Christ free gift of frogiveness and salvation. But I struggled still. I saw many peope get baptised who said " made y first profession of faith at the age of xx, but I recently realized that I was not saved at that time." Was this the case for me?

I looked back on my life, read Scripture prayed a lot, and asked godly men for counsel for some time. My conclusion was that I was saved at that time at my parents church.

Why? Because when I was in sin and was confronted with it I not only felt conviction, but I acted upon it. I desiredto please the Lord and submit to Him. The floundering of my early I am ashamed of and fully culpable for, but at the sae time I like to think He used it to bring my wife to Him.

My point being, just because I was blind to some areas of Gods truth does not mae me an unbeliever. The fact that I looked back on my life and saw that I loved Him, and desired to obey Him, and my heart was pricked by His Word I had fruit, albiet tiny weak and often withered fruit it was fruit, and wholly His work, not mine and by it I know that I was saved.

I a certain that I have many errors in my uderstanding of the Lord and His ways still, some of which I may have til I die.
But He is my Lord,and He will grow me as He wills.
I know I am His because to the best of my ability I obey Him.

So this probably makes little to no sense in light of the discussion, but it is the burden of my heart that comes to mind when I read all of this. Feel free to delete it if it is not germain to the discussion Phil, no offense will be taken.

May the Lord bless and keep you all Brethren,

Dan said...

Thanks leec - praise God for your testimony! I share your misgivings with the ECT project.

LeeC said...

Gah...I should never be allowed to write using this laptop without a proofreader.
Heh.

Ephraim said...

Dan,

You're not JD in disguise are you?

Kidding....really.

This is good:

"The idea that one can't be mistaken if he's "heard the other view" and is likely an unbeliever if he continues to teach a contrary (and what he believes to be biblical) view leaves off the ardous nature in which one arrives to his views in a conscientious way."

Yeah buddy. There are many whose travels have been hard, their refreshments few, and their battles long. Their faith is either forged by the Master's Hand, or it is not faith at all.

"When a person comes to Christ with nothing in hand, acknowledges His utter helplessness and depravity, and begs God for mercy in repentence and recieving Christ's forgiveness in faith while comitting to follow Him, he is justified (counted as righteous) before God on the basis of Christ's death and resurrection. But he is NOT justified by believing in justification, he's justified by believing in Christ."

You got that right. If I had to suddenly trust in my doctrines for eternal life, it would be at that moment that I would have no life at all.

Shalom

Ephraim said...

Now you see here?

Dan said:

"I subscribe to the London Baptist Confession, I'm a dispensational premilennialist, I believe in the inerrancy, infallibility, sufficiency and efficacy of God's Word, and I'm so conservative that I've nearly fallen off the flat earth."

That dispensational premilennialist thing, I don't subscribe to that at all. Not even close. But I have found truth in what Dan has said on other topics. And isn't that what all of Elohim's children are, a mixture of truth and other stuff.

I am 100% sure that I could toss out a doctrinal position that would send most of you reaching for your bible just to prove me wrong.

And I am just as sure that I could put forward a doctrinal position that would cause an equal number to say, Amen!

But can we fellowship together? As puritanicoal said, if our lives were on the line, you bet.
At a casual meeting over lunch, maybe not.

I suppose that would be a call to have our house in order before the hammer falls.

Shalom

Ephraim said...

Leec,

Great big hug brother.

I'm hearin' ya with both ears.

Shalom to you and your family. May YHWH bless you with the reality of His eternal love.
B'shem Yeshua

Dan said...

Thanks so much for those posts, Ephraim. Made my day. One of the reasons that this issue is so difficult is that a person's attitude plays a huge part in how they choose to handle the particulars, and we've seen the gamut of attitudes toward separation and disfellowship in these discussions. I think yours, Ephraim, is one I struggle against carnality to maintain.

farmboy said...

Is the study of theology and the training of theologians best left to the church or is there any harm if the academy assumes these tasks?

There are consequences to how one answers this question. Dan acknowledges this in his first comment to the current post as follows:

"And at some level people in the academic world recognize this - so while in the church the standards for "who's in" becomes a doctrinal statement, the academy uses questions of method which may lead people to adopt a particular view as a criteria for barring people from the kingdom."

Steve Camp weighs in on this issue with his article "It's the Church...Stupid!" found at his Audience One website as follows:

"The evangelical church today is being hijacked by the religious scholars, intellectuals, and academics. These are the ones who live to make a name for themselves by coming up with new twists and takes on orthodox biblical Christianity for the sake of “getting published” and working the personal appearance circuit. Though highly learned, these scholastics are educated way beyond their intelligence. They have left the careful study of Scripture which they now “wrest to their own destruction.” Peter goes on to warn, “You therefore beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:16b-17). These are the erudite elite who pride themselves on their diminutive dexterity to debate, dispute and deduce. They contemplate their navel and call it wisdom; they wax eloquent philosophically and condescend to those who confine their thoughts biblically; they rewrite and reinterpret Scripture and call it editorial license or illuminating historical insight. The diagnosis is apparent: what they are suffering from is a severe case of A.D.D. (Aberrant Doctrinal Disorder)."

Both Dan and Mr. Camp acknowledge that the church is (or should be) less tolerant of doctrinal diversity, while the academy is more tolerant. Mr. Camp goes on to note the problems that arise when the church relies on the academy to study theology and train theologians.

I'm with Mr. Camp on this one. My two decades as a member of the academy leave me with sufficient evidence to conclude that the academy seldom, if ever, can bring itself to say anything definitive about anything. (This definitive statement, then, brands me as an academic oddity.) The church does not have this luxury, as from an eternal perspective the church is playing for keeps.

Basing policy on a wrong economic theory may result in reduced economic growth. While suboptimal economic growth is not a desired outcome, it is an outcome of no eternal significance. In contrast, basing one's relationship with God on wrong doctrine can have tragic eternal consequences.

In this regard Ephraim notes as follows:

"You got that right. If I had to suddenly trust in my doctrines for eternal life, it would be at that moment that I would have no life at all."

It would be a tragic mistake to trust in doctrines for eternal life. Instead, right doctrine instructs us that we are to trust in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is the basis of our justification. We only know this because Scripture clearly teaches this essential, foundational, nonnegotiable truth. Fortunately, none of this depends on one's methodological approach or underlying presuppositions. Equally fortunately, none of this depends on passing academic fads such as open theism or the new prespective on Paul.

Maybe this church-academy dichotomy can add a useful perspective on J. I. Packer's signing of ECT. Long before ECT David Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Dr. Packer parted ways over Dr. Packer's continuing membership in the Church of England as the Church of England continued in doctrinal drift. Dr. Lloyd-Jones was a pastor while Dr. Packer was an academic. (For more on this see the second volume of Iain Murray's biography of Dr. Lloyd-Jones.)

LeeC said...

Just to be clear, my point is that I was NOT living as someone who loves Christ and is submitting to Him should. The fact that the Lord used that for His glory in spite of my sinful habits does not mitigate my culpability.

In my heart of hearts even though I could not articulate it what I both desired, and needed was a brother to love me enough to come alongside me and say "I cannot say whether you are saved or not, but you are not ACTING like a saved person, and so you should be fearful of your salvation."

And of course if I was truly obeying my Lord I would have been a member of a local body so that if I did not obey then he could have come with two or more to challenge me again, and then with the elders, and then yes even to excomunicate me if I did not obey. Not to punish, but in the sincere hope of restoration. Since if I did not act like a fruit tree after repeated opportunities then they should treat me as an evangelism opportunity rather than a brother...because they love me, and salvation is too dear to sweep unrepentant disobedience under the rug.

Whether I was saved then or not is kind of irrelevant as I know that I am saved now, but I am assured that I was then also because I am certain that at that time idea of someone confronting me like that would have changed my life. I kow my flesh is decietful ad that God has put other godly men here to help me to "calibrate" when I go off the mark.

Iron sharpening iron is a painful experience, as is working out our salvation with fear and trembling and removing the evil person from among you is extraodinarily painfull. but it is neccesarry. Both for that person to know his need of true salvation, and the purity of the Church.

But as to when to act in such a way I have trouble being succinct, but I do think often we are more in agreement than we think on such issues but for terminology. Again as I posted in the other thread I think this article sums it up nicely:

http://www.dividetheword.org/aticles/pastoral/hills.html

Peace be with you all!

Jerry Wragg said...

Dan -
You said "it's not just those in error who have differing philosophical and methodological assumptions; everyone does, even believers. Sometimes these conflict with one another among believers and accounts for differing views on biblical issues. These philosophical and methodological assumptions can't be supported from the Bible because they're the lenses through which we read the Bible (and we'd be inconsitent to come at the bible some other way than our assumptions dictate)."

My question for you is, did you arrive at this conclusion free and clear of your assumptions about people? I mean after all, if we'd be "inconsistent" to approach the scripture (or any human communication) "some other way than our assumptions dictate", haven't you simply admitted to the same assumptions when you make an assertion about how "everyone [has]...philosophical and methodological assumptions"? I agree that such assumptions can exist and serve to complicate the pursuit of objective meaning, but its as though you are claiming to have definitively discovered that everyone approaches the text with "assumptions" they can never shed, however, you were able to shed them when drawing your absolute conclusion about everyone else's assumptions. It reminds me of the naturalist many years ago who had discovered that we all evolved from primordial clams...however, he himself did not come from a clam.
Where will you ever be able to make a definitive statement about anything with any kind of authority if philosophical and methodological assumptions pervade everything you bring to meaning? Having raised four grown children, I can tell you that, at least for our meager attempt to honor the Lord with our family life, we would have confused the kids most of the time and left them in a dilemma on many moral fronts. In fact, the idea that objective truth can be reached by treating scripture as God commands, namely via searching, pondering, examining, submissive praying, rightly dividing, etc. gives hope to the human heart continually bombarded with its own twisted deceptions. On the other hand, if all moral propositions are merely inevitable, biased assertions derived through a grid of assumptions which themselves can never be objectively quantified, then why pursue meaning at all? I grant you that one will have to choose how one will go about "rightly dividing" the Bible, but under your universal assumption concept one can't ever "rightly divide" any passage without admitting that his/her final conclusions are a hybrid of potential truth and various philosophical assumptions (to have to constantly qualify my conclusions like this would add serious minutes to my already long sermons) which should never be taken as representative of what God actually may have meant.

Joe Fleener said...

As for Packer's endorsement of ECT, his 1997 Biography by Alister McGrath is worth reading.

It is actually a great read for many reasons.

After reading it, I more understand why from Packer's perspective he signed, even though I still completely disagree with him.

Dan said...

jerryw,

You're confused. I didn't say that these fundamental assumptions we have about methodology (and linguistics, and epistemeology) preclude us from saying anything meaningful. The whole enterprise of learning is the process of continually criticizing our own assumptions holding them up to others for criticism as we continually reevaluate the data. You might call it "mutual edification".

Bringing these assumptions to light and talking about the merits of them isn't to make them "authoritative". To not do this and assume we're right about our own while refusing to examine them is to make them "authoritative". I didn't say that "all moral propositions are merely inevitable, biased assertions derived through a grid of assumptions which themselves can never be objectively quantified" -- I'm saying you shouldn't be so quick to think that you've arrived at them that you don't have time to try and understand what someone else is saying, engage them in dialogue about it, and seek to arrive at a greater understanding. Sometimes this will result in total rejection of what another person is saying, sometimes it will result in partial rejection, and sometimes it will result in self-reformation. But if a person is predisposed to just slam the door in the other guy's face because of his self-appointed gate-keeping mentality, none of that takes place. I also don't think that one's uncritical assumptions preclude him/her from 'rightly dividing' the word of truth. I'm saying that what it means for the Bible to be authorititative is that we're not always so smugly certain that we're always right about it. Through this teachable dialogue and self-criticism we're open to the possibility that the Bible may have something to say that we've missed, that we've got wrong, or that we haven't yet submitted to. The fact that this is how humble submission to the Bible works is the reason I'm not a Catholic. I think a lot of evangelicals love the idea of papal authority -- they just like being able to choose who their popes are.

Dan said...

I should also add that the contrary attitude to the one I just described is the reason emergent exists. The refusal to talk through tough issues patiently, allow others room to figure things out, the lack of the Spirit's fruit in handling those who disagree (even brethren) continue to marginalize and exclude those brothers who are lambasted through our self-righteous and self-confident rhetoric. We don't deal with the issues concerning these people graciously and honestly, and then when they leave churches (mostly fundamental and conservative evangelical churches), we finally notice them enough to blast them on the way out. The fact is that their very existence is an indictment on us, because we have failed to patiently disciple, instruct and search the Scriptures anew to deal with what these mostly 20&30-somethings are struggling with. Instead, we ignore, condemn and wrangle until they become a "movement" and then pat ourselves on the back for "discerning" another aberrant movement that threatens the truth. The self-triumphant attitude and the utter vacuuum of humility about doctrine that characterizes (and divides) most conservative evangelicals finally arrived at a sickeningly fever pitch to these 20&30-somethings, and they left conservative churches knowing the response they'd get.

Just to be clear, I'm not emergent, I see the problems with it, and I'm a conservative evangelical.

Jerry Wragg said...

Dan -
Again, you continue to miss the special pleading of your argument. While you press the virtues of the "process of continually criticizing our own assumptions", you do not offer up your own notable assumption (that everyone must admit to jading everything with their own assumptions) to the same process. Here are just a few of your other assumptions which you don't seem to see:
(1) You assume that the process and benefits of learning as you've defined them are the path to "mutual edification". Therefore, anyone who does not participate (presumably to your satisfaction) is said to be making their assumptions "authoritative".
Well, I believe in a process of learning, Dan...but from the beginning of all these postings the discussion has not been about the virtues of self-criticism and mutual dialogue over philosophical questions. The issue Phil raised was one of how, if possible, do we distinguish between primary and secondary doctrines, and the degree to which we might legitimately break fellowship over them. You've turned the matter into a "let's-all-admit-we-bring-unshakeable-assumptions-to-every-conviction" forum and then pronounce (apparently untainted by the above assumptions) that anyone sounding remotely authoritative is biased. What, and you're not?
(2) You assume that "to try and understand what someone else is saying, engage them in dialogue about it, and seek to arrive at a greater understanding" is the essence of mutual edification. No it isn't! Mutual edification is only accomplished by grace through the application of truth. No one is truly edified in the faith by the process of dialogue alone. Truth must be sought, and that objectively (a goal you don't seem to believe reachable). When disagreeing parties consult the mind of God together they are sharpened by objective truth. Where they differ on passages of scripture the pursuit of truth persists until the Spirit brings clarity. I'm all for dialogue, but not in a vacuum. You seem to value the dialogue itself more than allowing anyone to be definitive. Once you sense the claim of objectivity is in the vicinity you begin to "assume" that such a claim is a "[predisposition] to...slam the door" on other views because of a "self-appointed gate-keeping mentality". Am I not allowed to the table of discussion just because I believe we can skillfully apply hermeneutical principles to the scripture and arrive at definitive answers? To be sure, there are many "new" ideas about the hermeneutical method and whether modern linguistic disciplines ought to weigh in heavily upon biblical and textual scholarship. Whatever my method, however, should you be assuming that I'm not open simply because I believe that my exegetical conclusions for a given text are careful, thorough, and worthy of my most ardent commitment and passionate expression? Even if you think I'm wrong and can show me where you think the textual evidence weighs more heavily on your side, is this not a far more biblical and edifying dialogue than a gathering of people seeking "self-reformation" through the kind of "teachable dialogue" that eliminates anyone with strong convictions?
(3) You assume that self-criticism is equal to always being "open to the possibility that the Bible may have something to say that we've missed". Should I be "open" to that possibility on, say, the doctrine of Justification by faith alone? I need the shaping and sharpening of greater textual work than my own, and I must continually hone the herneneutical skills which yield the greatest clarity, but how can I ever preach with authority on such a central truth if I'm always second-guessing conclusions in the spirit of "teachable dialogue"?

I appreciate hearing your thoughts, but I think you're the one whose confused. I'm never "quick to think that [I've] arrived" objectively at any conclusions. But if being definitive earns me the reputation of one who "assumes [he's] right", well, then I hope you'll afford me the freedom to assume you're wrong about me.

Steve said...

Dan said:

"I'm saying that what it means for the Bible to be authorititative is that we're not always so smugly certain that we're always right about it. Through this teachable dialogue and self-criticism we're open to the possibility that the Bible may have something to say that we've missed, that we've got wrong, or that we haven't yet submitted to."

I rather doubt you'll ever admit it, Dan, but it's obvious from your trains of thought, and these words in particular, that you're expressing skepticism it's ever possible to get a pretty solid grip on the teachings of the Bible and, at the same time, work hard at eliminating any faulty presuppositions or inclinations that would contaminate our understanding of Scripture. You seem to hold to an ever-evolving understanding of Scriptural truths that would require us to never have even a reasonable level of confidence that we've got a decently good handle on any of the Bible's teachings.

While I agree none of us can ever attain to perfect knowledge, significant portions of Scripture's teachings ARE clear enough that, with diligent study, it IS possible for us to have a fairly high level of confidence that we understand what the Bible is saying.

Sure, there will always be areas of disagreement. People will always come to the Scriptures with certain presuppositions. Others will be anxious to place tradition alongside Scripture. Our humanness does get in the way. But again, the Bible is quite clear on enough subjects and points that, even when we test ourselves via self-criticism, we will still find ourselves coming back to certain conclusions again and again...because those conclusions have already been established on a foundation of careful, meticulous, humble study of the Word. In regard to the essential doctrines, large enough numbers of Bible students and scholars through the centuries have reached the same conclusions again and again--such that we can we can place a pretty high level of confidence that, in regard to those doctrines, we have a pretty clear understanding of them.

Your statement, whether or not you're willing to admit it, essentially implies we can never really come to the point where we have confidence that we've reached a pretty accurate understanding of certain teachings from the Bible. Note I said certain teachings, because of course some items in Scripture aren't developed to the extent we can be as dogmatic about them.

Finally, you say, "The whole enterprise of learning is the process of continually criticizing our own assumptions holding them up to others for criticism as we continually reevaluate the data."

Are you saying there will NEVER come a point where we can stop reevaluating the data (and have a high level of confidence) in, for example, telling the lost that salvation is by grace and not works? That the resurrection really occurred? That we can have our sins forgiven? Your statement seems to imply that's the case.

Given your outlook, a pastor or Christian worker would forever be second-guessing themselves, and fear placing any kind of conviction at all behind their proclamation of the Word to others.

Jerry Wragg said...

Dan -
Having read your most recent post, I think you proved my original point. Instead of "[allowing me] room to figure things out" you've relegated me to the fraternity of "lambasters" who "marginalize and exclude...brothers" in "self-righteous...rhetoric". Your penchant for defending people who want to avoid time-tested truth in order to "search the scriptures anew" is betraying the real burden of your heart. You've come to believe that 20 & 30-somethings are leaving evangelical churches because their ideas have not been patiently corrected, but rather condemned and ignored. In the spirit of teachable dialogue, Dan, could it be possible that this mass exodus resulted from other causes. For example, you're correct that evangelical churches are beset with sinful behavior (enough to make the average pagan sick), but this didn't happen suddenly. The church has been awash in a sea of compromise for years---the pursuit of cultural relevance has fostered the rise of superficial "preaching" (more like inspirational short-talks) so as to attract the entertainment-driven masses; Immorality at the leadership level is rampant, leaving a trail of undisciplined interns in its wake; Consequently, the church has slowly filled up with marginal, untaught believers and a host of newly "churched" pagans with some attraction to the conservative community. Perhaps the emergent crowd isn't largely a group of well-meaning "brothers" searching for God's truth after all. Could it be that they are unbelievers who've come to a culturally attractive, "new and improved" church, bringing their worldly ideals with them and asking the evangelical community to validate these ideals in the spirit of having "humility about doctrine"? I've met many "emergents", and I haven't found one who can articulate the gospel, or even point to a single passage on the issue. MaClaren notwithstanding (though he reasons in a circle), emergents are what they are by their own disregard for the word of God! And yes, the church stands indicted, but not for failing to "patiently disciple" the 20 & 30 somethings---The church has failed to preach the word "in season and out of season", failed to guard her purity, failed to feed and lead the sheep, and failed to submit to Christ as her Lord and Master.

Habitans in Sicco said...

Well, "Wow" to you, too, Dan. The clues that that you were a 1689 guy were just a bit too thin for me to notice. I took a second look at all your comments, and it still seems to me that you are overflowing with the latest Emergent catch-phrases and canned postmodern rhetoric. You argue in favor of meeting false teachers with dialogue instead of dogmatism. You wave aside a string of several clear statements from Scripture as "nebulous." You have to admit; that's an unconventional tack for someone who subscribes to the London Baptist Confession.

When you say you've "never read McLaren," did you mean Brian or Alexander McLaren? Because elsewhere you seem to be giving a big thumbs-up to the "Generous Orthodoxy Thinktank" and Scot McKnight's blog. And here you're employing a lot of hairsplitting word games to express your dissent without really seeming to affirm much of substance.

I'm not trying to "label" you, but I am trying to understand where you are coming from. Forgive me, but I'm having a hard time connecting what you claim to stand for with what you have actually argued for.

Christopher Trottier said...

I think the route to take with Catholics is to unite with them in all manners we agree with them upon, depard with them upon all manners we disagree with them upon. An evangelical and a Catholic can definitely stand with each other in condemning the heresy of atheism. However, upon matters of salvation, the evangelical must say to the Catholic, "You are wrong".

Dan said...

Jerry, either you don't understand what the fallacy of "special pleading" is, or you've completely misunderstood my argument. I haven't exempted myself from philosphical starting points, and I am in fact arguing that they (including my own) should be exposed, not minimized and uncritically held. And all of this is for the purpose of trying to figure out how to sort through differences among professing believers.

You said: "The issue Phil raised was one of how, if possible, do we distinguish between primary and secondary doctrines, and the degree to which we might legitimately break fellowship over them. You've turned the matter into a "let's-all-admit-we-bring-unshakeable-assumptions-to-every-conviction" forum and then pronounce (apparently untainted by the above assumptions) that anyone sounding remotely authoritative is biased. What, and you're not?"

Jerry, let's be clear -- I'm saying that uncovering and discussing presuppositions we all have is important to determining how primary and secondary differneces should be handled. I'm suggesting that the way this intersects with biblical authority can be complicated. I'm advocating for really understanding a person's position before you criticize it, which entails doing what I've mentioned. That seems pretty relevant to me. I'm NOT saying "I'm not biased" or that we should never make the determination - I'm trying to highlight the subtelties of the process one makes those determinations. Stop making my arguments for me. You're mischaraterizing what I've said. I'm not a closet postmodern or emergent groupie. I'm not a Derrida loving Rorty hugging literary liberal. Understanding the truth, though not exhaustively is not only possible but necessary to saving faith. I'm not also not a communist.

You said, "You assume that "to try and understand what someone else is saying, engage them in dialogue about it, and seek to arrive at a greater understanding" is the essence of mutual edification. No it isn't! Mutual edification is only accomplished by grace through the application of truth."

Huh? Is that your definition of mutual edification? We are saved by grace through the application of the truth. Does that mean regeneration is actually "mutual edification"? I'm trying to spell out how mutual edification actually takes place. And if the argument among professing believers is about the truth of a given doctrine (say, premillennialism), how do they proceed through "applying the truth"? That's the issue at hand, isn't it? What I've described is the process by which "the pursuit of truth persists until the Spirit brings clarity."

You said: "You seem to value the dialogue itself more than allowing anyone to be definitive." I don't see how anything I've said precludes "being definitive" -- discussing disagreements intelligently in trying to understand them more fully before ending the fellowship and declaring "heretic" doesn't mean "not being definitive".

You said: "I believe that my exegetical conclusions for a given text are careful, thorough, and worthy of my most ardent commitment and passionate expression? Even if you think I'm wrong and can show me where you think the textual evidence weighs more heavily on your side, is this not a far more biblical and edifying dialogue than a gathering of people seeking "self-reformation" through the kind of "teachable dialogue" that eliminates anyone with strong convictions?" Firstly, seeking to understand and debate the methodological and philosophical presuppositions for the purpose of mutual edification makes exegetical discussions more meaingful, because exegesis is driven by hermeneutics, which is driven by these issues I've been talking about. Secondly, the exegetical and textual interaction you're talking about is part of what I'm advocating. Thirdly, I presume that listening to someone else argue from the text that "you've got that wrong" is more than just a hoop you jump through to find a death knell to their argument so that you can continue to maintain your view. I'm presuming that its also a process by which you hope to learn something you may have not already known or considred. If that's the case, it's a self-reforming teachable dialogue. If it's not the case, listening to other arguments from the text is nothing more than a formality to make one look reasonable when in fact he/she is not.

You said: "but how can I ever preach with authority on such a central truth if I'm always second-guessing conclusions in the spirit of "teachable dialogue"?" I don't know, but I'm still teachable on that score. Provisonally, I'd probably say that there are levels of certainty about different things (infant baptism and resurrection are vastly different issues - I'm willing to die for the latter but not the former); but the way people decide what its okay to be uncertain about is often inconsistent (padeocommunion vs. paedobaptism). This needs some conceptual shoring up, and people need to be driven to the Scriptures in our preaching, not given to parroting our conclusions mindlessly (I'm not saying that's what you're advocating).

Look, I'm not trying to start a testosterone war here. I love God, I love His Word, and I love His church. I'm broken hearted at the needless division and I'm wary of paper unity. But sometimes what it sounds like fundamentalists are advocating is simply "not listening to anyone who disagrees about anything." The examples I gave in a prior post to MacArthur's excerpt still is true -I haven't heard anyone give principle differences between the way people handled the blood for atonement issue and how we should handle our disagreements. I know that the way MacArthur is spoken about in those circles is wrong - but I can't figure out why it's wrong in his case, but not in the case of others.

It's probably too late to apologize for coming off combatively, but I'm honestly trying to work out this doctrine of separation in deferrence to Scripture, and I just think it's more complicated than these last few posts make it sound.

I'll briefly respond to habitans and then take my leave to let y'all do whatever you want with me. I hope I still get to be in the kingdom!

Cheers,

Dan



And

Dan said...

Habitans,

It seems you doubt my doctrinal stances based on the way I've been talking about trying to work out a biblical doctrine of separation. That's sort of my point. I think that's really the point of departure that's got you convinced I must have a McLaren tattoo and be a card carrying SBL member.

But I'm don't, and I'm not. I didn't mean to say that the passages of Scripture Phil mentioned were nebulous, but his use of them for this issue aren't as helpful on this issue as made them out to be.

And again, I've not given a "big thumbs up" to all of the content on the Generous Orthodoxy ThinkTank or Scot McKnight's blog. I said that Phil's post didn't characterize these blogs accurately. That's not to say that I agree with the sentiments expressed there. It's not to say that I'm for what they're trying to do. It's about showing fundamentals of Christian virtue in how you handle those you disagree with. You're concerned when they've been wronged. You're concerned that they are understood accurately before being refuted or dismissed. You're not willing to engage in under-the-breath-whisperings of "Raca". The attitude behind it is called loving your enemies and the concern in doing it is to honor the truth (the truth capital 'T', the truth about your opponents, and the truth of a fairly representative critique). If your concern is more political, in wishing to appear orthodox, especially by your associations, than it could be a bad move. But if your desire is to uphold Chrisitan conduct even in the face of those whom you oppose and disagree with, it's a no-brainer.

Hope that wasn't too heavy handed, but given your cheeky reply, you sound like the kind of guy who can take it. As mentioned before, feel free to have at me. If I happen to be in a worship service with you in the future, I hope it'll be safe to introduce myself.

Cheers,

Dan

Steve said...

Dan said: "I haven't exempted myself from philosphical starting points, and I am in fact arguing that they (including my own) should be exposed, not minimized and uncritically held. And all of this is for the purpose of trying to figure out how to sort through differences among professing believers."

You know, Dan, all this "sorting through differences" would be a lot less laborous if the focus of your discussions with others asked the question, "What does God's Word itself say?" rather than asking the question, "What philosophical and methodological presuppositions are you bringing to the table as you attempt to interpret God's Word?"

As Christians, we're called to be Word-centered rather than human reason-centered. It's the Word we're to use to teach, correct, and rebuke. We're called to rightly divide the Word of truth, to let the Word of Christ dwell within us richly, and to guard the Word that has been entrusted to us. All of that can be done in a humble, patient, thoughtful, and loving manner that answers to people's very real needs, including the needs of postmoderns. While an understanding of people's presuppositions can help us to dialogue with them more clearly about God's truth, that isn't to be our primary preoccupation. I just don't see any encouragement in Scripture for us to devote our attention to analyzing one another's presuppositions in the hopes of attaining a greater understanding of one another. You're shining the spotlight on understanding the underlying cause of people's assumptions and perceptions as opposed to shining it on understanding Scripture itself.

Remember, when in Athens, the apostle Paul acknowledged what his listeners believed, but he didn't reason with them about their presuppositions. He lovingly and firmly proclaimed the truth, which itself has the power to convict people of their need for God and salvation.

Jerry Wragg said...

Steve -
Well said!

Dan-
No harm, no foul...

Chris Pixley said...

Dan, You stated in your response to Habitans:

"It's not to say that I'm for what they're trying to do. It's about showing fundamentals of Christian virtue in how you handle those you disagree with. You're concerned when they've been wronged. You're concerned that they are understood accurately before being refuted or dismissed. You're not willing to engage in under-the-breath-whisperings of "Raca". The attitude behind it is called loving your enemies and the concern in doing it is to honor the truth..."

It appears to me you're making some rather sweeping assumptions here:
(1)You've assumed that to come to a definitive position regarding the Scripture is done so to the neglect of trying to understand the position of one's opponent. I'm not certain I've heard anyone in this comment chain advocating such an approach. Why then do you assume this must be the case?
(2)In that same vein, you assume that those who hold to definitve positions have no concern for whether or not their opponents have been misunderstood. But as I read Carson's critique of emergents, for example, I see him showing tremendous patience and compassion toward his opponents in trying to understand their arguments and at the same time arriving at some very definitive assessments regarding their orthodoxy. At least in that instance (and I suspect many more) your assumption proves false.
(3)You assume that your approach to dialogue with opponents shows an "attiude" of "loving your enemies" and "concern...to honor the truth." Why is it that you assume those asserting a definitive view of the truth are unloving or lacking in concern for the truth? On what authority do you base your assumption? Was Jesus being unloving when He spoke definitively to and about the Pharisees? Was His concern for the truth lacking?

This is the kind of "special pleading" that others have tried to alert you to that you seem unable (or perhaps unwilling) to acknowledge.

Dan said...

Steve, jerry and Chris:

I think the impasse here that seems to keep coming up is that the perspective represented here doesn't seem to get the point that when the problems are fundamentally hermeneutical and epistemological "just going to Scripture" is high-handed question begging. I've been giving arguments. Not only have you not actually responded to them, you've been uttering the theological equivalent of bumper stickers and campaign speeches instead . You're unable to step outside your own perspective or suspend criticism long enough to understand any other point of view, and ironically it's under the banner of "objectivity".

Chris, I haven't "assumed" that this is true. I've stated it. I'm claiming that it is often true. I've given examples of how this is often the case. It's happening in this dialogue, in fact. I'm making an argument. Saying that it's "an assumption" isn't a response.

Again, regarding Carson, he's actually a POSITIVE EXAMPLE I've already cited favorably. I'm not saying "nobody does this". My consternation was about Phil's post, not Carson's book. I haven't "assumed" that people in your circles (I'm in the same circles) often mischaracterize and lambast other positions with a vengeance - I'm ARGUING THAT THIS IS THE CASE. I've read notes from TMS classes. I've been in the seminary lounge. Guys like Karl Barth, Rudolph Bultmann, and a hundred other guys I'd have strong disagreements with are routinely mischaracterized and summarily dismissed before anything approaching understanding is reached. Even guys like F.F. Bruce, Harold Hohener, Grant Osbourne, and Darrel Bock (men who hold the same doctrinal stance, but who differ in methodological issues) are routinely demonized. Self confident bravado prevails over careful reasoning or detailed mastery over thier positions in any conversation about liberals. I've experienced the above firsthand rather regularly, and continue to experience it. You can argue that this is an anomaly in my case, but if the notes from your theology courses at TMS reflect both the discussion about these men and depth of personal study of them, no one even has the right to make an argument about Karl Barth's positions (assuming one has to understand a position before he criticizes it). Again, I'm not a sympathizer of these men's positions, but it illustrates the argument I'm making.

You said that I'm saying "asserting a definitive view of the truth are unloving or lacking in concern for the truth". This is an example of what I'm talking about, Chris. Have you read my other posts? Do I have to sky-write it? I believe that the truth can be definitively stated. We're talking about how to resolve differences in primary and secondary doctrinal issues. The truth of a particular issue is in question. How to resolve the problem? You seem to be saying: "State your position again and again and again and again and again and again until the person runs away screaming." I'm saying, FIRST LISTEN carefully to understand, then ASSESS what the differences actually are, and the degree to which philosophical and methodological considerations are actually driving the exegetical differences, engage in debate, recieve appropriate criticism for your views, give appropriate criticism of other views, achieve some synthesis, and THEN MAKE THE DETERMINATION of what must be done in regard to the possibility of fellowship with that purpose. The amazing thing is that the fact that this seems impossible has been demonstrated by the way you, Jerry and habitans and others have actually carried on the discussion. You seem unable to engage in argument or debate unless defeating the opponent can be done in one step by dismissing everything they have to say by finding some inconsistency - so you hunt around the other guy's words to find a pattern that fits one of the refutations you've got in the bag of "arguments against liberals" someone's given you, and you try different tools until one seems to fit so that you're justified in dismissing everything that person has to say. I say that's not how people learn or grow theologically, and that's how you say you're remaining "faithful" to everything you already know. That's great. It's fine with me. But don't call it "dialogue" or "edification" or even "debate". It's not -- it's sloganeering, and its putting yourself beyond criticism unless the person criticizing you is in the club you're already belong to. And as I said before, such is the legacy of fundamentalism. The only difference between this stance and Rick Miesel's ministry are the targets of criticism. The methodology, mindset and scholarship are otherwise exactly the same.

If I didn't find myself with the same doctrinal loves you share I wouldn't visit this blog. It isn't exactly the place where liberals feel deep sympathies. The difference has to do with the views of separation being expressed here, and that issue alone. The fact that I've been accused of being an emergent "pomo" for having these differences illustrate both why I have the views on separation I do and why I'm characterizing you the way I have.

Again, these aren't assumptions and I hope its not taken as mere "passionate emoting". I've made arguments. You haven't dealt with them. And while that's a bit frustrating, it isn't as though there isn't ANYBODY in the evangelical world who both hasn't embraced emergent or liberalism and at the same time is open to critique and theological edification (from both inside and outside the club). Some here have displayed that attitude, and many others I've met, even at TMS, have as well.

Steve said...

Dan: I agree we've reached an impasse, and really, there's no further need for discussion. I can't speak for Jerry or habitans, but I do want to make just final comment in response to the opening statement of your last post:

"...the perspective represented here doesn't seem to get the point that when the problems are fundamentally hermeneutical and epistemological "just going to Scripture" is high-handed question begging."

But isn't Scripture what ought to shape our epistemology in the first place? And what's wrong with factually and lovingly asking someone to consider their epistemology in the light of the epistemology offered in Scripture?

Scripture alone is the ONLY truly objective resource we have at our disposal for dealing with people's so-very-subjective faulty assumptions and presuppositions, so for you to say, "You're unable to step outside your own perspective or suspend criticism long enough to understand any other point of view, and ironically it's under the banner of 'objectivity'" is actually a compliment.

Dan said...

Sorry, about the deleted post -- realized I missed what you said. I agree with you. Scripture is our only objective resource for understanding. But if were that easy to get at it, and these differing presuppositions with which we approach the text don't really matter, why are there different views, even among those who agree hermeneutically?

If that last statement were a compliment, you should be a Catholic, because that was the problem with those who Luther faced in fighting Catholic assumptions about the text of Scripture. Thier interpretations were just objectively true, and Luther's strange interpretations (which didn't agree with the church's consensus) were because he couldn't accept the plain truth of Scripture and the consensus interpretations of it.

We have to submit our everything to Scripture - no one's disputing that. But actually doing that means we have to admit the possibility that we've been coming at it blindly or wrongly with the assumptions we've freighted into the text. Luther recognized that with justification by faith. We marvel that those who don't agree with us can't see their assumptions by which they misread the text. And we assume that we don't have the same problem. It's foolish.

Phil Johnson said...

Doug Wilson makes a poignant observation about the way the postmodernist "conversation" always seems to get back to the issue of epistemology and the supposed impossibility of knowing anything for sure.

Dan said...

That Wilson post was excellent. The idea that "the problem of epistemology" precludes any knowledge is ridiculous.

Dan said...

It should be noted, by the way, that Wilson's post says a lot more than that - he says: "we frequently neglect to address the more fundamental issue, which is the nature of the knowers." That's right on.

Incidentally, is Doug Wilson worthy of fellowship or not? I disagree with him on a lot of issues, but he seems like a wonderful believing guy.

Chris Pixley said...

Dan said:

"We marvel that those who don't agree with us can't see their assumptions by which they misread the text. And we assume that we don't have the same problem. It's foolish."

Or, Dan, you assume that we assume we don't have the same problem. Right?

Seriously, Dan. I've read and re-read your posts (as well as those of other contributors to this discussion) and one problem seems rather glaring in all that you've said. You just don't play by the same rules that you're calling for. Case in point--your sweeping accusations about TMS and the routine "demoniz[ing]" of many scholoars that takes place there. This, by your own admission, has been ascertained by you from hanging around the seminary lounge and reading some of the theology syllabi. However, in my experience (which I suspect is a bit broader than yours), I cannot recall ever once hearing any of the men you mentioned "demonized." Their conclusiions, methodologies, etc. questioned, yes; but summarily dismissed without any meaningful dialogue with their positions, no. But, Dan, have you honestly applied your own standard of dialogue in this particular instance? How many hours of meaningful debate, interchange, and seeking of understanding have you engaged in with some of those TMS men who may be on record as questioning the methodoligies of men like Barth, Bock, Osbourne, or whoever else you'd like to mention? Have you really sought to understand their position and how they arrived at it and how that informs their evaluation of others' teaching.

Furthermore, Dan, contrary to your claims, you haven't asserted actual arguments. You've put forth your experience and used that as a basis for making sweeping assumptions about other people's viewpoints, assuming your experience to be argument enough. Why can't you see that, Dan?

Dan said...

Chris, the reason I could say: "Some here have displayed that attitude, and many others I've met, even at TMS, have as well" is precisely because I've spent "hours of meaningful debate, interchange, and seeking of understanding have you engaged in with some of those TMS men who may be on record as questioning the methodoligies of men like Barth, Bock, Osbourne" - some have more reasonable and measured responses than others. And the arguments were made elsewhere; the experiences I mentioned illustrated them.

And just for fun, I'll add: 'Or, Chris, you assume that I assume that we assume we don't have the same problem.' You're right. This IS better than logic.

If you checked out Phil's link to Wilson's blog, you probably shouldn't miss this either.

Dan said...

While we're at it, wow, this is a good one too. Last one, I promise. I this why Armstrong is in the "worrisome" category? Why isn't Wilson in there with him? Not being cheeky there, just wondering.

Jerry Wragg said...

Dan -
That's right, it's me again...thought I'd at least briefly check in.
I read your latest post...I can see the point your trying to make...I understand your many stated frustrations...I simply don't agree. And in every post that has tried to "argue" with one or two of your points you do indeed dismiss them as closed and high-handed. Is this what you call good debate? We found what we believe to be inconsistencies in your arguments, and when we noted it you called it an attempt to "defeat" our opponents "in one step" with a bag of arguments against liberals "someone's given [us]". Wow! That's some pretty fance debating technique Dan. If I didn't know better, it seems what really upsets you is that anyone would dare suggest about you what you have so effortlessly declared about others (TMS, me, Chris, Steve, etc). Please spare us the affectations of martyrdom. I'm sure you're better than that in person (although I wouldn't want to assume...I'm open to dialogue on that one). In any case, the interchange has been challenging and helpful for me. Thanks for taking the time...

Chris Pixley said...

Dan,

I didn't assume anything. You actually said, "we assume that we don't have the same problem."

But to set the record straight, I concur with your assertion that we all come to the text of Scripture with presuppositions. I'm not running from that reality (If memory serves, JerryW made a similar statement in one of his earlier posts). In fact, I was taught that principle of hermeneutics at TMS--quite persuasively, I might add. So I agree--these assumptions are fair game in our debate. The issue, however, is whether or not these assumptions are consistent with the Bible's claims about its own nature. I know that you'll now respond by citing the obvious circularity of my argumentation. But I will respond by claiming that you are arguing in an equally circular fashion, albeit on the basis of your assumptions. But I'm assuming the truthfulness, authority, inspiration, perspicuity, objectivity, etc. of the Scriptures, not my ability to sit in judgment of the Scriptures concerning those matters. It really all comes back to the question of authority--is it me, or God, as He reveals Himself in His Word.

Dan said...

Jerry, I've responded to your counter-arguments, and instead of modifying your response to take my counter-arguments into account, you simply restate them. That's not fancy at all. Chris, if you read carefully you'd note that I enthusiastically affirm the truthfulness, authority, inspiration, perspicuity, and objectivity, of the Scriptures. I don't always affirm the truthfulness, authority, inspiration, perspicuity, and objectivity of your reading of it, and I assume you don't assume mine, either. Hence the problem.

I'm not sure where I cried martyrdom, but if I did, I didn't intend to. At this point in the "conversation" suicide seems preferable to martyrdom. As far as what I'm like in person, I'm short, crudely handsome, and I like long walks on the beach. My favorite color is magenta and fish makes my throat itch. I look fat in culottes.

Ephraim said...

wow. circles passing in the night.

you guys should get together for lunch. and dinner. in fact, spend a week at the coast (not the Gulf right now, wouldn't be wise) with families, pets and all.

if, afterwards, you can all still circle each other in the same fashion as in this blog, then my hope for the reformed community will surely be shaken.

just an outsider's take on things.

Shalom to each and all

Dan said...

Ha! Probably some wise advice, Ephraim. Much easier to depersonalize in these settings.

Phil Johnson said...

Dan: I this why Armstrong is in the "worrisome" category? Why isn't Wilson in there with him? Not being cheeky there, just wondering.

If you'll read the blog awhile, the answers to those questions should be pretty clear. A Google site search for "Doug Wilson" will get you started. You'll even find that I've already seen and interacted with the posts you linked to at his site.

I haven't said anything specific on the blog about John Armstrong, but if you read much of what he has written lately, you have surely noticed his oft-expressed discomfort with the idea of moral, doctrinal, and epistemological certainty. Compare that with what I have been saying, and the reason I find his drift so "worrisome" should be obvious.

I've thought of interacting with one of John's recent blogposts, and/or one of his pivotal newsletter articles, and I may do that one of these days. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here's the bottom line: despite the obvious (Presbyterian vs. Baptist) covenantal and sacramental issues on which I would strongly differ with Doug Wilson (not to mention my concerns about certain aspects of the Auburn Avenue theology), at least Doug is warning people against the dangers of paddling in the postmodern riptide. John Armstrong, on the other hand, appears to be caught in the undertow.

There, now—isn't clarity better than adumbration?

By the way, who are you? I'm not trying to be cheeky or anything. Just wondering. Since you're being so provocative, and you evidently have some of the same friends I do, it would be nice to know whom I'm dealing with.

Dan said...

I doubt we have any of the same friends, and I'm certain that you don't know me. But thanks for the google tip. This last week or so was my introduction to "Reformed blogging" and I think I've done enough to last a few weeks. My face hurts at the changing expressions I've had in reading the posts here, so I'm done for awhile.

Chris Pixley said...

Dan, to Phil:

"I doubt we have any of the same friends, and I'm certain that you don't know me."

Yet you've spent numerous hours dialoguing with TMS folks, even in the seminary lounge. Mysterious indeed!

farmboy said...

It's been awhile since I taught a research methods class, but 1) if assumptions are the starting point for a theory, and 2) a theory starts with assumptions to arrive at a prediction, then 3) the prediction of the theory can be compared with objective reality to evaluate the validity of the theory. At the end of the day, then, the validity of a theory depends on the extent to which the predictions of the theory correspond with the objective empirical evidence.

In this regard, Dan notes that "the perspective represented here doesn't seem to get the point that when the problems are fundamentally hermeneutical and epistemological 'just going to Scripture' is high-handed question begging." Yet, different hermeneutical and epistemological approaches yield different outcomes. How can these different approaches be evaluated? By comparing their outcomes to the objective standard of Scripture. How is referring to Scripture in this manner a form of "high-handed question begging"?

Continuing with this topic Dan also notes "I agree with you. Scripture is our only objective resource for understanding. But if [it] were that easy to get at it, and these differing presuppositions with which we approach the text don't really matter, why are there different views, even among those who agree hermeneutically?"

Earlier posts and comments on this theme noted that while Scripture speaks with great clarity on some issues, it speaks with lesser clarity on other issues. As an example, Scripture reveals with great clarity that Jesus Christ will return a second time. As for the exact details of that second coming, Scripture speaks with lesser clarity. So the same hermeneutical approach (theory) applied to different presuppositions (assumptions)
could result in different predictions concerning the details of the second coming while also resulting in uniformity of predictions concerning the fact that Jesus will return a second time.

As for those issues to which Scripture speaks with crystal clear clarity, there are still those who refuse to acknowledge the reality of what Scripture clearly reveals. For example, Scripture clearly reveals that an essential part of a person's justification is the imputation of Christ's perfect righteousness to that person. Yet many who subscribe to the new perspective on Paul deny this objective fact. In a case like this what more can a person do than simply state his position again and again and.... Yet, Dan questions this approach as follows: "The truth of a particular issue is in question. How to resolve the problem? You seem to be saying: ‘State your position again and again and again and again and again and again until the person runs away screaming.'" If the person runs away screaming, it is possibly because he/she doesn't want to accept the truth?

As with theories, the validity of any statement depends on the extent to which the evidence is consistent with the content of the statement. In this regard, Dan makes the following statement "You're unable to step outside your own perspective or suspend criticism long enough to understand any other point of view…I haven't 'assumed' that this is true. I've stated it. I'm claiming that it is often true. I've given examples of how this is often the case." Yet, I've carefully reread all of Dan's posts twice (not something that one does in a few minutes), and I fail to find evidence in support of his statement. Here, broad generalizations don't qualify as evidence. Where are the specific examples of conservative evangelicals unfairly presenting the positions of members of the evangelical left (to use Millard Erickson's term)? I'm sure such examples exist, but none are cited in the relevant posts.

In all of the above, neither Dan nor I really matter. Instead, it is the ideas that we advance in a public forum that matter. Our times on earth are relatively brief, but truth lasts forever. This is a point that James White has made on his blog several times. Regarding blog activity, Ephraim notes that it is "Much easier to depersonalize in these settings." Given the relative unimportance of personalities, that is a good thing. As Allen Guelzo observed, Jonathan Edwards was "an utter partisan of Calvinist orthodoxy with the brains and inclination to confront the most abstruse intellectual challenges to that orthodoxy, a man of the most solemn integrity who would rather be broken by the storm than bend to the self-serving wishes of his own times and his own congregation, a man of ideas for whom personalities come in a distant second." May God raise up more men to follow the example of Edwards and Spurgeon.

Chris Pixley said...

Farmboy-

Bravo! Well stated.

ResponsiveReader said...

Reminds me of DML-J's chapter on unity. Owen, Baxter & the boys said evanglical unity consisted in:
1 – That the Holy Scripture is that rule of knowing God and living unto Him which whoso does not believe cannot be saved.
2 – That there is a God who is the Creator, Governor and Judge of the world, which is to be received by faith, and every other way of knowledge of Him is insufficient.
3 – That this God who is the blessed Creator is eternally distinct from all creatures in His Being and Blessedness.
4 – That this God is One in Three Persons or subsistences.
5 – That Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and Man without the knowledge of whom there is no salvation.
6 – That this Jesus Christ is the true God.
7 – That this Jesus Christ is also true man.
8 – That this Jesus Christ is God and Man in one Person.
9 – That this Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, who by paying a ransom and bearing our sins has made satisfaction for them.
10 – That this same Lord Jesus Christ is He that was Crucified at Jerusalem, and rose again and ascended into Heaven.
11 – That this same Jesus Christ being the only God and Man in One Person remains forever a distinct Person from all saints and angels notwithstanding their union and communion with Him.
12 – That all men by nature were dead in sins and trespasses, and no man can be saved unless he be born again, repent and believe.
13 – That we are justified and saved by grace and faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.
14 – That to continue in any known sin upon what pretence or principle soever is damnable.
15 – That God is to be worshipped according to His own will, and whosoever shall forsake and despise all the duties of His worship cannot be saved.
16 – That the dead shall rise, and that there is a day of judgement wherein all shall appear, some to go into everlasting life and some into everlasting condemnation.

ResponsiveReader said...

Reminds me of what DML-J wrote about unity under Cromwell. Seems Cromwell got Owen, Baxter and a few more of the boys to define what we CAN say makes for unity - and what true unity excludes. Here's their 16 principles.


1 – That the Holy Scripture is that rule of knowing God and living unto Him which whoso does not believe cannot be saved.
2 – That there is a God who is the Creator, Governor and Judge of the world, which is to be received by faith, and every other way of knowledge of Him is insufficient.
3 – That this God who is the blessed Creator is eternally distinct from all creatures in His Being and Blessedness.
4 – That this God is One in Three Persons or subsistences.
5 – That Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and Man without the knowledge of whom there is no salvation.
6 – That this Jesus Christ is the true God.
7 – That this Jesus Christ is also true man.
8 – That this Jesus Christ is God and Man in one Person.
9 – That this Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, who by paying a ransom and bearing our sins has made satisfaction for them.
10 – That this same Lord Jesus Christ is He that was Crucified at Jerusalem, and rose again and ascended into Heaven.
11 – That this same Jesus Christ being the only God and Man in One Person remains forever a distinct Person from all saints and angels notwithstanding their union and communion with Him.
12 – That all men by nature were dead in sins and trespasses, and no man can be saved unless he be born again, repent and believe.
13 – That we are justified and saved by grace and faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.
14 – That to continue in any known sin upon what pretence or principle soever is damnable.
15 – That God is to be worshipped according to His own will, and whosoever shall forsake and despise all the duties of His worship cannot be saved.
16 – That the dead shall rise, and that there is a day of judgement wherein all shall appear, some to go into everlasting life and some into everlasting condemnation.

Tim said...

I think after reading many of the comments, the really, really distressing thing that I find is that we are ultimately speaking about those who are teachers. Teachers are held to a higher standard. As one myself, I understand that. I am, as some of you know, open for my faith to be criticized and investigated. I do not run from those who question or those who don't understand. I do believe Christ leads His people. Remember those disciples? They didn't seem to get it too much even after 3 1/2 years with the Master. Yet He did lead them in the truth.

The point is, when those who are teachers in the church give the impression that they are waffling and embracing an entire system as Christian, when in fact it is not (ECT), then there is a point in which they must be called out publicly. The Scripture commands us to do so.

Yet we must all recognize that men come to Christ with different "head knowlege". Some know creeds and confessions inside and out and some only know they are incapable of saving themselves and know their only hope is in Christ who died in their place. There are all those in between. I know most of you believe this, but let's not take an extreme. Let's hold to doctrinal soundness, and let's also express charity to true brothers and sisters.

As for the comments Dan made: I do find something in them, that I too have seen. We often don't understand how people came to the conclusions they came to. Therefore, in my opinion, we need to be able to come alongside some of them, understand where they are coming from and how they got there, so that we might be able to guide them to a proper understanding. This is love for them brothers. Remember that love is supreme. Proper understanding of truth is nothing if it is not grounded in love, and I don't mean a touchy feely love, but a love for God and man. May God grant us a gracious and humble spirit to those who need to be corrected and may He keep us submisssive to His Word.

Tim said...

I think after reading many of the comments, the really, really distressing thing that I find is that we are ultimately speaking about those who are teachers. Teachers are held to a higher standard. As one myself, I understand that. I am, as some of you know, open for my faith to be criticized and investigated. I do not run from those who question or those who don't understand. I do believe Christ leads His people. Remember those disciples? They didn't seem to get it too much even after 3 1/2 years with the Master. Yet He did lead them in the truth.

The point is, when those who are teachers in the church give the impression that they are waffling and embracing an entire system as Christian, when in fact it is not (ECT), then there is a point in which they must be called out publicly. The Scripture commands us to do so.

Yet we must all recognize that men come to Christ with different "head knowlege". Some know creeds and confessions inside and out and some only know they are incapable of saving themselves and know their only hope is in Christ who died in their place. There are all those in between. I know most of you believe this, but let's not take an extreme. Let's hold to doctrinal soundness, and let's also express charity to true brothers and sisters.

As for the comments Dan made: I do find something in them, that I too have seen. We often don't understand how people came to the conclusions they came to. Therefore, in my opinion, we need to be able to come alongside some of them, understand where they are coming from and how they got there, so that we might be able to guide them to a proper understanding. This is love for them brothers. Remember that love is supreme. Proper understanding of truth is nothing if it is not grounded in love, and I don't mean a touchy feely love, but a love for God and man. May God grant us a gracious and humble spirit to those who need to be corrected and may He keep us submisssive to His Word.

TheBlueRaja said...

Right on, Tim.