Now That The Frivolities are Over… L.A., Part 3

We can get back to more serious matters (j/k honey, honestly ;))…

Going back to looking at Limited Atonement I want in this post to focus on the logical implications of accepting an unlimited atonement. In other words for the Reformed Christian what would be the problems associated with taking an understanding of the cross and its efficacious manner for all of humanity in light of how us Reformed folk hermeneutically read the Scripture’s structure and overall composition.

1) Unlimited Atonement denies Unconditional Election

This is a pretty big statement if I might say so myself so I better figure out a way to defend it. So here we go.

As election is understood as God’s unconditional selection (John 6:65) of certain human beings to be glorified through Christ’s righteousness and death it cannot be that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection could be both efficient and sufficient for all people and then God only elect a few of the righteous to be saved. So if this last clause be true then there must be something we need more than Christ’s imputation and therefore another way we come to salvation outside of Christ’s own righteousness. This means for the Christian man or woman that we must add something to Christ’s work to be saved. This is an untenable position for anyone outside of Rome, Constantinople, and Arminius (and therefore Biblical Christians) to hold. Unconditional Election means what it says, that we bring nothing to the table insofar as our own righteousness is concerned. In other words we bring a peanut to a gun fight and can add nothing to the work Christ has accomplished and applied on or behalf to satisfy the justice that God the Father seeks for our rightful condemnation under the inheritance we receive as being sons and daughters of Adam. Unconditional Election, as John Calvin notes in the Institutes of Christian Religion, 3.21.7:

Although it is now sufficiently plain that God by his secret counsel chooses whom he will while he rejects others, his gratuitous election has only been partially explained until we come to the case of single individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but so assigns it, that the certainty of the result remains not dubious or suspended…We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment. In regard to the elect, we regard calling as the evidence of election, and justification as another symbol of its manifestation, until it is fully accomplished by the attainment of glory. But as the Lord seals his elect by calling and justification, so by excluding the reprobate either from the knowledge of his name or the sanctification of his Spirit, he by these marks in a manner discloses the judgment which awaits them.

Here we see Calvin marking the distinction that for whom Christ died God has elected through no effort or previous worth of the individual but only through the free and unconditional grace of God.

2) Unlimited Atonement denies Justification by Faith Alone

We touched on this a little bit in the previous section but I want to draw it out a little bit more. First to define Justification by Faith Alone we’ll let the originator, God, speak for himself in Romans 10:9, “That if you shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” O.K., seems plain enough. But for clarification lets take a look at Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” One more for good measure, Galatians 2:21 “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” So we see that we are saved not by works or any addition upon Christ’s work that can possibly come from us. Therefore how can we say that that Christ’s work on the cross is not enough to separate the sheep from the goats? If we say that Christ died for all yet only some are saved that Christ’s righteousness is not enough for salvation.

3) Unlimited Atonement implies Universal Salvation

In other words unlimited atonement logically implies universal salvation. Again if one believes in Justification by Faith Alone then one must believe that nothing can be added to Christ’s imputed righteousness that can lead to our protection from God’s righteous wrath against those who hate his law and mock his Son therefore being condemned themselves by their works to Hell except for Christ’s atoning death. It cannot be stated and restated enough in my opinion. Unlimited Atonement implies and logically must mean Universal Salvation if one holds to an orthodox understanding of Justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the elect.

Chapter XI. Of Justification — Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)

I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 6

(I had a much better and longer post but I somehow deleted it so this is the cliff notes version as I do not have time to rewrite the 1500 words I had finished)

We have moved from the 16th to 17th to the 19th centuries and have watched how the unanimous voices of Reformed orthodoxy in the past have spoken against the construction (or injection-molding, chipb) of images of the entire Godhead. In this part we will look at the modern effects on how we view not just the Decalogue but the Mosaic Law in general. How is it that now one cannot go 10 feet without seeing the Scandinavian-“Jesus” plastered on everything from T-shirts to Billboards? Well Greg Bahnsen in his work on Post-Millennialism entitled Victory in Jesus (published post-mortem) has a very good short section on the three things plaguing not just the rampant violation of the second commandment but other problems encroaching on orthodox Reformed Christianity in the West. While his focus is presenting a case for Post-Millennialism and why it has fallen out of favor he is correct in identifying the three major issues confronting orthodoxy in general. Two of these three movements would not even consider the Second commandments words on imagery binding today but it is their influence in the minds of those who may that bring them into this discussion.

Bahnsen begins by identifying firstly Liberalism. By Liberalism Bahnsen means to direct his words to the movement that began under the influence of men like Hermann Samuel Reimarus and Heinrich Paulus who were the forerunners of and greatly influenced 19th century Historical Jesus research. Also understood in this section is the work by Immanuel Kant whose philosophy continues to undergird nearly all persons in the West. Included in this is the work of higher critics like Julius Wellhausen and David Strauss. However for Americans the greatest influence was brought forth by Friedrich Schleiermacher whose thoughts and ideas are still taught in every mainline seminary. The effect these men had on the subject of this essay is in the way we now approach the Scriptures in the West. Out of all of their criticisms of the Biblical text the most divisive has been the hatchet job done on the Pentateuch especially on the Mosaic Law. If the law was not received by Moses in toto (as Scripture testifies it did, Ex. 20-23) then what bearing does it have on us today? How can a collection of separate instructions hold any weight for today’s Christian? These are serious questions that cannot be answered by simply dismissing these ungodly men and their followers away by wrote. They must be challenged and confronted in a manner that does not cause their descendants to shun orthodoxy.

The Second influence recognized by Bahnsen is the work of Evolutionary Progressivism. One may look at the title and wonder “How does that differ from Liberalism?” Well to answer the question a person needs to understand that their is a difference between what most people refer to in contemporary times as Liberalism and what academically should be referred to as Liberalism. This second part is what we would identify with the modern usage of the word. This movement led by men such as Charles Darwin and Walter Rauschenbusch delivered a focus that moved Christianity away from its foundation in the Older Testament to a purely New Testament focus, a recurrence of Marcionism. Also another thing that distinguishes it from Liberalism as defined above is its belief that man is is generally good and has evolved past the Mosaic prohibitions to a new era of life that looks not upon the strictures but upon the liberty brought by Christ. Hence the term “Evolutionary”. In other words Christianity no longer needs to worry about offending God by their actions as long as they do so with a kind heart and a loving mind. Therefore in regards to the Second Commandment the Evolutionary Progressivist has moved on from the old covenant completely and any attempt to use it in discussion is Pharisaical.

Thirdly in Bahnsen’s hypothesis is the effect of Dispensationalism on the mind of today’s Evangelical. Mostly brought to the forefront of Christianity in America by the work of Cyrus Scofield and his reference Bible and the writings of John Nelson Darby. The greatest effect Dispensationalism has had for this discussion is its emphasis on the distinctions between the New Testament Church and ancient Israel of the Old Testament. Scofield believed that between creation and the final judgment there were seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with man and that these eras were a framework around which the message of the Bible could be explained. Therefore the words of the second commandment can be properly explained as belonging to a prior dispensation and no longer applicable in there literal sense to today’s Christian.

Cumulatively these three positions have effected the way in which most in the Reformed camp come to the Decalogue and the Case Law of Moses imparticular. With a Hermeneutic of Suspicion the Second commandment (and its spiritual brother, the 4th commandment as we saw here in J.C. Ryle’s thought) is cast in a light of a “Canon within a Canon” as it passed over, with rest of the first table, in our times for all the reasons the three positions of Liberalism, Evolutionary Progressivism, and Dispensationalism have provided.

In the final part of this 7 part series on the Second Commandment I will present a Biblical and Systematic argument showing why it is not only unlawful according to the Older Testament but also in the New Covenant to picture the Godhead in physical form.

Continuing my Walk

For the second installment of my walk of discernment I would like to highlight two past posts I have made on “Adam”. They are not that old so some of you have already read them, but they serve our purpose well.


I thought a nice meaty topic would be in order so I want to discuss an issue that is bearing its head among colleagues and friends here at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. That issue, as one can tell from the title, is whether or not Adam and Eve were actual beings, the Garden ever actually existed, and does “Original Sin” necessitate an “Original Sinner”? These are of course not new topics and though at first glance may seem to be third order worries I however take the position that without an actual Adam there would be no need for an actual Christ. So one could say that I hold this argument to be much more than a simple third order concern.

Why may you ask are people even doubting Adam’s reality? Does not Paul in Romans 5:12 say that all sin came into the world through one man? Jesus himself refers to Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:4,5 not to mention Luke 3 records Adam as being in his geneology. Calvin in his commentary on the Pentateuch recalls that:

So God created man The reiterated mention of the image of God is not a vain repetition. For it is a remarkable instance of the Divine goodness which can never be sufficiently proclaimed. And, at the same time, he admonishes us from what excellence we have fallen, that he may excite in us the desire of its recovery.*

Or Abraham Kuyper:

Like Job, we ought to feel and to acknowledge that in Adam you and I are created; when God created Adam He created us; in Adam’s nature He called forth the nature wherein we now live. Gen. i. and ii. is not the record of aliens, but of ourselves—concerning the flesh and blood which we carry with us, the human nature in which we sit down to read the Word of God.

Or A.W. Pink:

Now, strictly speaking, there are only two men who have ever walked this earth which were endowed with full and unimpaired responsibility, and they were the first and last Adam’s. The responsibility of each of the rational descendants of Adam, while real, and sufficient to establish them accountable to their Creator is, nevertheless, limited in degree, limited because impaired through the effects of the Fall.

Or Charles Hodge:

We are inherently depraved, and therefore we are involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin.

So here we have Scripture, greats of the Reformation, and contemporary scholars all pointing to a real Adam. So why do Orthodox people seem inclined to accept that Adam was a real being but we of 2007 seem not to think it either necessary or true? Is it because these old white men did not have access to “knowledge” that we have today and if they just knew about textual criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism, grammatical criticism, and J, E, P, and D then they would also see the “mythical” properties of the creation text? Well would Calvin change his mind on the necessity of Adam’s fall for the reality of Christ’s death if he knew of the Yahwist? The easy answer is to say that proponents of the allegory hypothesis are so taken by accommodation with the sciences that their theistic evolutionary stance forces them to concede that no “Adam” ever existed, regardless of what this position does to their theology, because science has proved Homo Sapiens developed independently. But is this answer sufficient? Is it just simple to say that those who hold there is no Adam because of the supposed inconsistencies in the Hebrew and the alleged “two creations” are “wrong” without delving deeper into the questions behind this stance?

What do you think? Does a Christ automatically support an Adam? Or do we think that the story of Creation, without an actual Adam, is a proper myth that helps us and the early Israelites, Jesus, and the Apostles understand our current predicament and that an actual Adam is not required for the Cross?

*-All quotes taken from http://www.ccel.org

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To continue the conversation about a literal Adam a little further let us examine how not having a “real” Adam destroys the need for an actual Christ. Those of you who do not believe in a physical Adam as expressed in the beginning chapters of Genesis need to reconcile how Christ, who Paul explicitly says in 1st Corinthians 15:42-49 is the second Adam, can be the so-called second of something that did not previously exist? Or put in other words how Adam being a metaphor calls for a Christ to die for a fake rebellion.

I think those of you who deny Adam’s reality do not truly comprehend how much the idea of there being no Adam affects the rest of Scripture. It would be like taking away the opening chapter of a novel and expecting to be able to understand the rest of the story. Someone who describes the creation text as myth or folklore must analyze what this does not only to the history of God’s relationship to Israel but to their Christology. Because not only does the non-existence of Adam necessitate that God created the world sinful and evil but it requires that Jesus’ death on the cross is an action that resolves God’s mistake in making an already fallen creation to himself. Not that Jesus was reconciling us, who share in Adam’s rebellion, to God but that God was reconciling his own blunder with himself. Michal Horton in his work Putting Amazing Back Into Grace quotes John Calvin who says,”The depravity and malice both of men and of the devil, or the sins that arise therefrom, do not spring from nature, but rather from the corruption of nature.” In other words it is not that nature itself was created evil but that nature had to of its own accord fall from the perfection in which it was formed to begin with. This has to mean that at some point in the past an “Adam” was given the free will to sin or as the Second Chapter of the Scots Confession defines it:

“We confess and acknowledge that our God has created man, i.e., our first father, Adam, after his own image and likeness, to whom he gave wisdom, lordship, justice, free will, and self-consciousness, so that in the whole nature of man no imperfection could be found. From this dignity and perfection man and woman both fell; the woman being deceived by the serpent and man obeying the voice of the woman, both conspiring against the sovereign majesty of God, who in clear words had previously threatened death if they presumed to eat of the forbidden tree.”

For Jesus’ death on the cross to be as Scripture says it to be necessitates a literal Adam who fell from God’s grace. A fake Adam creates a Christ who has failed and is a liar. For what need do we have of a Savior that saves us from a death that was his fault to begin with? What do we say when we know that Christ did not die because of our own rebellion but because of his own mistake? How can we say that the literally hundreds of times Adam’s sin is called upon by the writers of the Old Testament to show forth the sin of Israel is mere allegory? How can we say Christ died for an allegory or a metaphor and be taken seriously? Adam’s reality is VITAL for the gospel to be real. Without an actual Adam our faith is in vain because Christ’s atonement is nothing more than a big “sorry about that”. This is not the message of the gospel.

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)
C)Lying
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

Was Adam Real?

After a little frivolity that is the beginning of the Soccer season in Europe (an event I look forward to with almost as much passion as the dawn of American Football, College as much as Pro, Go Marshall!!!) I thought a nice meaty topic would be in order so I want to discuss an issue that is bearing its head among colleagues and friends here at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. That issue, as one can tell from the title, is whether or not Adam and Eve were actual beings, the Garden ever actually existed, and does “Original Sin” necessitate an “Original Sinner”? These are of course not new topics and though at first glance may seem to be third order worries I however take the position that without an actual Adam there would be no need for an actual Christ. So one could say that I hold this argument to be much more than a simple third order concern.

Why may you ask are people even doubting Adam’s reality? Does not Paul in Romans 5:12 say that all sin came into the world through one man? Jesus himself refers to Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:4,5 not to mention Luke 3 records Adam as being in his geneology. Calvin in his commentary on the Pentateuch recalls that:

So God created man The reiterated mention of the image of God is not a vain repetition. For it is a remarkable instance of the Divine goodness which can never be sufficiently proclaimed. And, at the same time, he admonishes us from what excellence we have fallen, that he may excite in us the desire of its recovery.*

Or Abraham Kuyper:

Like Job, we ought to feel and to acknowledge that in Adam you and I are created; when God created Adam He created us; in Adam’s nature He called forth the nature wherein we now live. Gen. i. and ii. is not the record of aliens, but of ourselves—concerning the flesh and blood which we carry with us, the human nature in which we sit down to read the Word of God.

Or A.W. Pink:

Now, strictly speaking, there are only two men who have ever walked this earth which were endowed with full and unimpaired responsibility, and they were the first and last Adam’s. The responsibility of each of the rational descendants of Adam, while real, and sufficient to establish them accountable to their Creator is, nevertheless, limited in degree, limited because impaired through the effects of the Fall.

Or Charles Hodge:

We are inherently depraved, and therefore we are involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin.

So here we have Scripture, greats of the Reformation, and contemporary scholars all pointing to a real Adam. So why do Orthodox people seem inclined to accept that Adam was a real being but we of 2007 seem not to think it either necessary or true? Is it because these old white men did not have access to “knowledge” that we have today and if they just knew about textual criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism, grammatical criticism, and J, E, P, and D then they would also see the “mythical” properties of the creation text? Well would Calvin change his mind on the necessity of Adam’s fall for the reality of Christ’s death if he knew of the Yahwist? The easy answer is to say that proponents of the allegory hypothesis are so taken by accommodation with the sciences that their theistic evolutionary stance forces them to concede that no “Adam” ever existed, regardless of what this position does to their theology, because science has proved Homo Sapiens developed independently. But is this answer sufficient? Is it just simple to say that those who hold there is no Adam because of the supposed inconsistencies in the Hebrew and the alleged “two creations” are “wrong” without delving deeper into the questions behind this stance?

What do you think? Does a Christ automatically support an Adam? Or do we think that the story of Creation, without an actual Adam, is a proper myth that helps us and the early Israelites, Jesus, and the Apostles understand our current predicament and that an actual Adam is not required for the Cross?

*-All quotes taken from http://www.ccel.org

What Kind of Judge is the Father?

My most recent issue of Modern Reformation magazine-if you do not subscribe to this thought-provoking magazine you should-had an essay written by Korey Maas (who is an assistant professor of theology and church history at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif.) that dealt with an issue that is at the forefront of a discussion going on at Classical Presbyterian’s blog-which you can access from this website-dealing with who gets to be married at a Christian Church. One side of the argument says that there must be standards and those standards should be enforced. The other challenges with the viewpoint that if we tell the sinful couple no that they will driven away from the church and that we should accept them into the church and hope that they see the error of their ways by being in the body. As is with most arguments it stems from two basic premises:

1) What is Holy Scripture and how authoritative is it?
2) What kind of judge is the Father?

The First question-I believe-can be answered by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and can be found here:
http://www.reformed.org/documents/icbi.html

The Second question is answered by Korey Maas and can be found here:
http://www.modernreformation.org/km06judge.htm