“The Christian View of Man”

A quick word before I hit the hay tonight. I just finished Machen’s The Christian View of Man and outside of his waffling on 6/24 Creation he provides many great words defending and confirming the place of the Law of God in the lives of believers and unbelievers . In his chapter on the “Majesty of the Law of God” (#16) he lays out a number of arguments supporting the Law as being the only rule for all mankind, Christians and non-Christians alike. For example he says this on page 192:

What then is the remedy for the threatened disruption of society and for the rapidly progressing decay of liberty? There is only one remedy. It is the rediscovery of the Law of God.

I highly recommend picking this book up and reading it. It is a printing of several radio addresses Machen gave for laymen over local Philadelphia radio back in the mid-1930’s. There are many eerie predictions that Machen makes about the future of mankind (especially concerning the Atomic Bomb) that will really keep you fascinated. It is 245 pages and is a quick read.

Loose, Good-Faith, or Strict Subscription?

How does your ecclesiastical tradition hold to your standards? How should they? Is loose subscription just a surefire way to allow liberalism into the church? Is Strict Subscription “mean”? These are some questions I would like to look at in following posts.

Here is a couple of snippets from an article by J. Gresham Machen citing Charles Hodge:

The question put to every candidate for ordination in our Church, is in these words:  “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?”  It is plain that a very serious responsibility before God and man is assumed by those who return an affirmative answer to that question.  It is something more than ordinary falsehood, if our inward convictions do not correspond with a profession made in presence of the Church, and as the condition of our receiving authority to preach the Gospel.  In such a case we lie not only unto man, but unto God; because such professions are of the nature of a vow, that is, a promise or profession made to God…

The Principle of Creed-Subscription

It is no less plain that the candidate has no right to put his own sense upon the words propounded to him.  He has no right to select from all possible meanings which the words may bear, that particular sense which suits his purpose, or which, he thinks, will save his conscience.  It is well known that this course has been openly advocated, not only by the Jesuits, but by men of this generation, in this country and in Europe.  The “chemistry of thought,” it is said, can make all creeds alike.  Men have boasted that they could sign any creed.  To a man in a balloon the earth appears a plane, all inequalities on its surface being lost in the distance.  And here is a philosophic elevation from which all forms of human belief look alike.  They are sublimed into general formulas, which include them all and distinguish none.  Professor Newman, just before his open apostasy, published a tract in which he defended his right to be in the English Church while holding the doctrines of the Church of Rome.  He claimed for himself the Thirty-nine articles in a “non-natural sense”; that is, in the sense which he chose to put upon the words.  This shocks the common sense and the common honesty of men.  There is no need to argue the matter.  The turpitude of such a principle is much more clearly seen intuitively than discursively.  The two principles which, by the common consent of all honest men, determine the interpretation of oaths and professions of faith, are, first, the plain, historical meaning of the words; and secondly, the animus imponentis, that is, the intention of the party imposing the oath or requiring the profession.  The words, therefore, “system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,” are to be taken in their plain, historical sense.  A man is not a liberty to understand the words “Holy Scriptures,” to mean all books written by holy men, because although that interpretation might consist with the signification of the words, it is inconsistent with the historical meaning of the phrase.  Nor can he understand them, as they would be understood by Romanists, as including the Apocrypha, because the words being used by a Protestant Church, must be taken in a Protestant sense.  Neither can the candidate say, that he means by “system of doctrine” Christianity as opposed to Mohammedanism, or Protestantism, as opposed to Romanism, or evangelical Christianity, as distinguished from the theology of the Reformed (i.e., Calvinistic) Churches, because the words being used by a Reformed Church, must be understood in the sense which that Church is know to attach to them.  If a man professes to receive the doctrine of the Trinity, the word must be taken in its Christian sense, the candidate cannot substitute for that sense the Sabellian idea of a modal Trinity, nor the philosophical trichotomy of Pantheism.  And so of all other expressions which have a fixed historical meaning.  Again, by the animus imponentis in the case contemplated, is to be understood not the mind or intention of the ordaining bishop in the Episcopal Church, or of the ordaining presbytery in the Presbyterian Church.  It is the mind or intention of the Church, of which the bishop or the presbytery is the organ or agent.  Should a Romanizing bishop in the Church of England give “a non-natural” sense to the Thirty-nine articles, that would not acquit the priest, who should sign them in that sense, of the crime of moral perjury; or should a presbytery give an entirely erroneous interpretation to the Westminster Confession, that would not justify a candidate for ordination in adopting it in that sense.  The Confession must be adopted in the sense of the Church, into the service of which the minister, in virtue of that adoption, is received.  These are simple principles of honesty, and we presume they are universally admitted, at least so far as our Church is concerned.

The question however is, What is the true sense of the phrase, “system of doctrine? or, What does the Church understand the candidate to profess, when he says that he “receives and adopts the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures”?

There are three ways in which these words have been, and still are, interpreted.  First, some understand them to mean that every proposition contained in the Confession of Faith is included in the profession made at ordination.  Secondly, others say that they mean just what the words import.  What is adopted is the “system of doctrine.”  The system of the Reformed Churches is a known and admitted scheme of doctrine, and that scheme, nothing more or less, we profess to adopt.  The third view of the subject is, that by the system of doctrine contained in the Confession is meant the essential doctrines of Christianity and nothing more…

The First View:  “Every Proposition of the Confession”

As to the first of these interpretations it is enough to say:  1.  That it is not the meaning of the words.  There are many propositions contained in the Westminster Confession which do not belong to the integrity of the Augustinian, or Reformed system.  A man may be a true Augustinian or Calvinist, and not believe that the Pope is the Antichrist predicted by St. Paul; or that the 18th chapter of Leviticus is still binding.  2.  Such a rule of interpretation can never be practically carried out, without dividing the Church into innumerable fragments.  It is impossible that a body of several thousand ministers and elders should think alike on all the topics embraced in such an extended and minute formula of belief.  3.  Such has never been the rule adopted in our Church.  Individuals have held it, but the Church as a body never has.  No prosecution for doctrinal error has ever been attempted or sanctioned, except for errors which were regarded as involving the rejection, not of explanations of doctrines, but of the doctrines themselves…

The Second View:  The Doctrines of the “System” Enumerated

The same strain of remark might be made in reference to the other great doctrines which constitute the Augustinian system.  Enough, however, has been said to illustrate the principle of interpretation for which Old-school men contend.  We do not expect that our ministers should adopt every proposition contained in our standards.  This they are not required to do.  But they are required to adopt the system; and that system consists of certain doctrines, no one of which can be omitted without destroying its identity…

The Third View:  “Substance of Doctrine”

There has, however, always been a party in the Church which adopted the third method of understanding the words “system of doctrine,” in the ordination service, viz., that they mean nothing more than the essential doctrines of religion or of Christianity….

It is said by some, that in adopting the “system of doctrine,” the candidate is understood to adopt it, not in the form or manner in which it is presented in the Confession, but only for “substance of doctrine.”…

This system has been tried, and found to produce the greatest disorder and contention.  Men acting on the principle of receiving the Confession for substance of doctrine, have entered the ministry in our Church, who denied the doctrine of imputation, whether of Adam’s sin or of Christ’s righteousness; the doctrine of the derivation of a sinful depravity of nature from our first parents; of inability; of efficacious grace; of a definite atonement; that is, of an atonement have any such special reference to the elect, as to render their salvation certain.  In short, while professing to receive “the system of doctrine” contained in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms they have rejected almost every doctrine which gives that system its distinctive character.

What Hath God Said?

The Serpent as he spoke to Eve in the Garden says these words, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” Eve responds, “The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And thus was born the first instance in human history (quite literally) when the veracity of the Word of God was questioned. Today in the church it has become fashionable to abandon 2,000 years of trust in the sanctity and genuine nature of the words of Scripture in order to acquiesce to the wisdom of this age which denies innerency and therefore infallibility. Some will say that they can be at the same time against Innerency but think the Bible to infallible. However, I believe it is logically unsustainable to say that Scripture is at one space infallible and another in error. To bely this point further I beseech you to read this section from J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism:

[Plenary Inspiration] is denied not only by liberal opponents of Christianity, but also by many true Christian men. There are many Christian men in the modern Church who find in the origin of Christianity no mere product of evolution but a real entrance of the creative power of God, who depend for their salvation, not at all upon their own efforts to lead the Christ life, but upon the atoning blood of Christ–there are many men in the modern Church who thus accept the central message of the Bible and yet believe that the message has come to us merely on the authority of trustworthy witnesses unaided in their literary work by any supernatural guidance of the Spirit of God. There are many who believe that the Bible is right at the central point, in its account of the redeeming work of Christ, and yet believe that it contains many errors. Such men are not really liberals, but Christians; because they have accepted as true the message upon which Christianity depends. A great gulf separates them from those who reject the supernatural act of God with which Christianity stands or falls. It is another question, however, whether the mediating view of the Bible which is thus maintained is logically tenable, the trouble being that our Lord Himself seems to have held the high view of the Bible which is here being rejected. Certainly it is another question–and a question which the present writer would answer with an emphatic negative–whether the panic about the Bible, which gives rise to such concessions, is at all justified by the facts. If the Christian make full use of his Christian privileges, he finds the seat of authority in the whole Bible, which he regards as no mere word of man but as the very Word of God.

Machen makes the profound statement that “our Lord himself seems to have held the high view of the Bible which is here being rejected.” So what does it mean to say Christ held to innerency? Well the first attacks made by those who deny the innerency of Scripture are upon what they see as the most outlandish of the stories of the Old Testament. Now what may those be? In earlier posts I have mentioned Adam whom I believe Scripture reveals as an actual being and one of the key alliances between Adam and Christ is the mention of Adam in Luke’s geneology of Christ. So to be logical if it be that Adam is not an historical figure therefore one must conclude that Luke is either lying or as I. Howard Marshall says in his commentary, “It is only right therefore to admit that the problem caused by the existence of the two genealogies is insoluble with the evidence presently at our disposal” and some also will say at this point, “Hey Matthew and Luke’s genealogies are different!!!” In his commentary on Luke Matthew Henry explains:

He goes no higher than Abraham, but Luke brings it as high as Adam. Matthew designed to show that Christ was the son of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth are blessed, and that he was heir to the throne of David; and therefore he begins with Abraham, and brings the genealogy down to Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, and heir-male of the house of David: but Luke, designing to show that Christ was the seed of the woman, that should break the serpent’s head, traces his pedigree upward as high as Adam, and begins it with Ei, or Heli, who was the father, not of Joseph, but of the virgin Mary.

This is of course just one explanation of the two genealogies. Unfortunately the medium of blogging does not allow for too much more so to see others I recommend John Piper, CARM, and the OPC’s Official Statement.

For second let us look at Jonah. To be sure Jonah being eaten by a fish is probably the most disbelieved story next to Adam in the whole of the Old Testament. But what does Christ say about Jonah? In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees, For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” So here we have Christ referencing an historical event as an example for the historical event of his time in Hell. Could Christ be just using metaphor to explain his real spell in the belly of the earth? Well the Pharisees who certainly held to a literal interpretation of the law most assuredly would not have understood Jonah as being a metaphor. So that explanation is quite weak. So one now has to ask was Christ either:

A)Ignorant of the Truth
B)Subjecting himself to the ignorance of the age to make a point (knowing Jonah to be false)
D)Relating an actual story so they would understand an actual event was to take place
E)Jesus in emptying himself knew not the truth of Jonah

Well looking upon the actual text of Matthew 12:40 and its context I do not know anyone who still holds Christ to be Christ that would still think A or C would be true. B and E are held in various strengths by colleagues of all of ours but fail “the smell test” or as Machen said earlier, “whether the mediating view of the Bible which is thus maintained is logically tenable”. Or in other words that one could believe that Christ could, knowingly or unknowingly, not tell the truth and still be a full sacrificial atonement.

In closing one must ask themselves a serious question, “Do I believe the Scriptures as found in the 66 Books to be the Word of God or not?” If you do hold Gen 1:1-Revelation 22:21 is the full revelation of God to his people and that it contains all the infallible rules of faith and practice then one must if they still believe themselves to be reasonable and logical beings, believers in the Biblical Doctrine of Innerency.

Here is a great link from A.A. Hodge, in an almost catechistic fashion, lays forth another argument for innerency.

The Innerency of the Bible by A.A. Hodge

Tolerance of Charismatic Gifts

2) Tolerance of Charismatic Gifts

This is the second part of a 5-part essay on why I will not be (and you should not be either) joining the Evangelical Presbyterian Church any time soon.

Now this critique certainly places me in a precarious theological position with my more evangelical colleagues. I find myself becoming more and more “Orthodox” in my Reformed theology and have come to be in full agreement with the early Church fathers: John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Origen (even if our Roman Catholic friends think he is a heretic), and Justin Martyr as well as the Princeton School of Theologians including Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen among others who claim that the miraculous works of the Spirit have ceased. In other words I believe that Scripture testifies that the works of the Spirit including prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues ceased with the Apostles and the finishing of the canon of Scripture. I am certainly not saying that miraculous events cannot happen (I would never handcuff the Sovereignty of the Father) but that these gifts of the Holy Spirit no longer manifest themselves outside of the Apostolic Age (cf: Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor 13:8-10; Hebr. 2:3-4; Gal 1:8; Rev. 22:19).

In the Reformed confessions (especially Westminster since it is the only Confession of the EPC) there is not to be found one mention of the continuation of the Spiritual gifts listed above. The confessions fail at one spot to give any credence to the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 for example are to be continued to this day. In fact when mentioning the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church neither the Scots, the Second Helvetic, Heidelberg, or Westminster mention any of the aforementioned gifts to be normative or even available to the believer.

The EPC’s official position seems to be seeking some type of middle ground between the Orthodox Reformed view laid out above and those of Pentecostals and Charismatics. The EPC says:

Some would require that Christians manifest a particular gift, such as speaking in tongues, as evidence of a deeper work of the Spirit within. Others would have us believe such a gift is no longer available or acceptable. As a Reformed denomination, we adhere strongly to our belief in the sovereignty of God, a belief that does not allow us either to require a certain gift or to restrict the Spirit in how He will work. Rather, we call upon all Christians to open their lives unto God’s Spirit to fill, empower, and “gift” as He sees fit.

While the EPC claims to not “require the manifestation of a particular gift” the paragraph prior to the quote above seems to do just that when it says, “Regardless of what term is used, we recognize this deepening work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer as being both valid and necessary, producing evidences of His presence in the process.” The official position lists as “examples of these gifts” the gifts of healing, speaking in tongues and prophecy (as spoken in I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and I Peter 4.) which the Reformed and Ante-Nicene flatly deny as being works outside the Apostolic tradition.

This tolerance of Charismatic gifts in light of Scripture and the Reformed confessional witness I believe is outside the bounds of Reformed Orthodoxy. Though the EPC’s claim to be “reformed” will be examined in another article I can honestly say the broadness of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s views on the Charismatic gifts is out-of-step with Westminster and the rest of the Reformed faith.

See here for the full text of the EPC’s position paper on the Charismata