When We Should Not Answer the Heretics

While I no longer am a member of the PC(USA) many of my friends, relatives, and colleagues still reside there so I from time to time check into the latest news concerning my former denomination. Recently I came across an article that notes a recent lecture series given at Union Theological Seminary and PSCE in Richmond, VA that tries to say that the …”use of the cross to symbolize God’s love was a latecomer to church history.” Claiming instead that the breast of the Virgin Mary (whom I presume the lecturer does not believe was actually a virgin but that is another discussion for another time) was “…An earlier and presumably more persuasive symbol of God’s love”. Now I cannot imagine that this is true and with a .24-second search on Google one can find it is not true and the only people who do hold to this view are radical Feminist theologians at urban or suburban seminaries. Now this in and of itself does not discredit the theory but what does is basic biblical research. The Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 15 squarely places the cross and love in communion with each other. Now the radical Feminists will say Paul hates women. So next we go to the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:14-39 and surprisingly enough Peter makes the same argument. Though the radical Feminists will say all I am doing is quoting men and of course men would say violent acts are loving. So I guess we’ll go to Anna in Luke 2:36-38. Looks like she is saying the same thing as Paul and Peter. Well I guess Anna must have been brainwashed by Phanuel. So I guess then we’ll go to Jesus in John 15:13. How soon do I forget though that John 15:13 is disputed by the Jesus Seminar. So I guess if we do away with all of that I guess the author of the original article may have a point.

That is of course unless you discount nearly all of the early Church.

All this is to ask the question should we be actively concerned when unbelievers act like unbelievers? When unbelievers are not even average scholars and not even really worthy of sharing the name “heretic” with giants of heretical faith like Pelagius, Marcion, Arius, Schleiermacher, Spinoza, etc…? Do we give them too much credence and legitimacy by confronting them and giving them a larger audience for their views? Dealing with this kind of lousy scholarship and rabid unbelief and giving far too much energy (emotional and physical) personally to engaging with them in seminary I have found it quite relaxing to dealing with authors like this much in the same way I deal with people who clamor like Anti-Government anarchists or like those who claim that Elvis lives with Jim Morrison and John Kennedy on a tropical island in the South Pacific. Prov. 10:7-10 speaks quite clearly and succinctly about what I think concerning this.

Pray for them? Of course. Share with them about the Gospel? Absolutely.

Pay any attention to their ideas and give them any sense of respectability among serious scholarship?

No Thanks.

Tale of Two Calvins

This is my obligatory Calvin 500th birthday post

The occasion of Calvin’s 500th Birthday has led to competing “celebrations” of Calvin’s life and work in Geneva over the last week. One led by WARC, WCC, and other “mainline” organizations that featured such speakers as  Clifton Kirkpatrick, former Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) (read some his thoughts on Calvin here ) and Setri Nyomi, Pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana (He is quoted as saying Calvin would have been for furthering Marxist ideals in society). The other is being backed by NAPARC and other more “conservative” Reformed and Presbyterian Groups (see their website here). So much so that they were required to “share” venues in Calvin’s adopted town. One celebrates the Calvin read through the eyes of Modern Liberalism and Neo-Orthodoxy (read here: Liberation Theology and Karl Barth) and the other allows the John Calvin of 16th-Century Geneva speak for himself (no bias here).  It makes one wonder if both sides are celebrating the same man or each have developed, to paraphrase Albert Schweitzer’s quip about the 19th-Century “Quest for the Historical Jesus”, a Calvin that looks, breathes, and thinks like a reincarnated version of themselves.


As an example here is a Calvin article on a doctrine John Calvin vigorously defended that the Neo-Orthodox and Liberationists would have to and do deal gymnastically with:

On Limited Atonement:

Dr. Roger Nicole Deftly and Carefully Turns Away the Thoughts of R.T. Kendall on Calvin’s Thoughts on the Extent of the Atonement.

For those unaware R.T. Kendall wrote one of the oft quoted books concerning the “Calvin vs. the Calvinists” discussion. In other words it is Kendall’s these that specifically the Westminster Divines (and their Confession of Faith) “bastardized” John Calvin and made him out to believe things he never believed. Dr. Nicole here takes apart Kendell’s thesis. (Also be sure to check out Paul Helm’s two books (Find them here and here) and Richard Muller’s book on the same subject here) that also show Kendall to be quite incorrect in his thoughts concerning Calvin and Westminster)

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.

Getting Tagged

Zagreb Will tagged me to do this, but it will die here:

Well since I am no longer a PC(USA)er I feel kind of dirty in posting this, but hey why not.

What is your earliest memory of being distinctly Presbyterian?

Well my Methodist Youth Leader telling the other Methodists why I said “debtors” and not “sinners” in the Lord’s Prayer

On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend LESS energy and time?

Secular Politics

On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend MORE energy and time?

Jesus Christ, and HIS Gospel

If you could have the PC(USA) focus on one passage of scripture for an entire year, what would it be?

Deuteronomy 6:17-19

If the PC(USA) were an animal what would it be and why?

A Three-Toed Sloth

Why? An animal that is too slow to recognize it is being eaten by a serpent

Extra Credit: Jesus shows up at General Assembly this year, what does he say to the Presbyterian Church (USA)?

Well that means the Eschaton has come and Jesus separates the Goats and the Sheep (which should not take that long)…

Remember Thy Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy

Of the many Reformed doctrines that have been forgotten, argued out of existence, or just downright ignored by Confessional and liberal Presbyterians since the death of Princeton (The Hodges’, Warfield, etc…) and Southern theology (Robert Lewis Dabney, James Henley Thornwell, etc…) at the turn of the 20th century none is probably more widespread then the slipping away of the observance of the Sabbath day. Now I do not want to discuss Blue Laws or any such civil matter in this discussion but want to focus exclusively on the Sabbath observance of the New Testament Christian. There are two key passages for us to look at when discussing this issue. The first is Colossians 2:15-17

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of
them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as
your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon
or a Sabbath day things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the
substance belongs to Christ.

and the second is Hebrews 4:9

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

At first glance it would seem to look like these two verse contradict each other. One says that no one is to command you as to whether you should or should not observe the Sabbath because the Sabbath is but a shadow of things to come. The other says the Sabbath remains in effect for the people of God. Well in my posting this week I’ll expand more on these verses and others to show why I believe we are still to hold to a strict Sabbath observence in the New Testament Church.

PC (USA) Ordains Non-Celibate Homosexual to Ministry

Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area ‘Fidelity/chastity’ ordination standard not an essential of Reformed faith and polity, commissioners decide

By Craig M. KiblerStaff Writer
The Layman Online
Monday, January 28, 2008

EDINA, Minn. – Scripture and the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) both took a beating Jan. 26 when the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area overwhelmingly voted that the “fidelity/chastity” ordination standard in the Book of Order is not an essential of Reformed faith and polity. With several inches of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering in the high teens, more than 350 people were in the sanctuary of Christ Presbyterian Church as commissioners voted on a declared scruple to that clause by Paul Capetz, an openly gay former minister in the PCUSA. Later, the presbytery also voted overwhelmingly to restore Capetz to the exercise of the ordained office of minister of Word and sacrament, as well as validating his service as an associate professor at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minn.Commissioners voted on the following motion: “The Committee on Ministry recommends that Dr. Capetz’s declared departure from G-6.0106b be not found to constitute a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity under G-6.0108 of the Book of Order.” Of the 283 votes cast by written ballot, 197 commissioners voted in favor of permitting the scruple; 84 voted against; and there were two abstentions. In a statement, Interim Executive Presbyter Sarai Schnucker said, “We are overwhelmed by the grace and love that this presbytery exhibited today. The members of the presbytery have conducted themselves with respect and restraint, even while handling such a controversial issue. As a presbytery, we listened to each other and heard each other. In the midst of this time of debate and discernment, there was true worship by the Body of Christ as we sang songs and broke bread together.” “We are unaware of what might take place as a result of today,” she said, “but we have come together as the Body of Christ and we are grateful for the presence of the Spirit with us. Thanks be to God.” Second declared scruple It was the second time in 10 days that a presbytery had approved a declared scruple regarding the denomination’s “fidelity/chastity” ordination standard. On Jan. 15, San Francisco Presbytery approved a scruple in the case of Lisa Larges, a lesbian who is seeking to take the first steps in the ordination process. The three votes in Edina came in response to a request by Capetz that he be restored to ordained ministry. In April 2000, he had requested, and the presbytery agreed, that he be released from the exercise of ordained ministry because of clause G-6.0106b in the denomination’s Book of Order.That “fidelity/chastity” clause, approved by a majority of the PCUSA’s 173 presbyteries in 1997, requires those called to office in the denomination to “lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church,” including living “either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.” At the time, Capetz said in a document provided to the presbytery for the Jan. 26 meeting, he was “unable to construe that amendment to the constitution as implying anything other than commitment to a life of permanent celibacy on the part of homosexually-oriented persons who serve as ordained officers in the church.”

PUP report

In June 2006, the 217th General Assembly approved the report of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity that included an authoritative interpretation that allows individual church sessions and presbyteries to declare whether G-6.0106b is essential. The authoritative interpretation focuses on the “conscience” clause (G-6.0108) and states that the judgment of ordaining bodies cannot be bound by any rule that they deem non-essential.In August 2007, Capetz cited the PUP report in making a request for restoration as a minister to the presbytery’s committee on ministry. At that time, he said he was “grateful for this new authoritative interpretation of section G-6.0108 in our Book of Order that makes it possible for me to request reinstatement as a minister with a good conscience and for this presbytery to have the authority to determine my fitness for holding this office once again.” According to a November letter provided to commissioners by Stated Clerk Nancy E. Grittman, at the time he was released from ordained office, Capetz “was a member in good standing of the presbytery. … There were no charges pending against Paul, nor was there reason to believe that there might be. As Paul says in his letter, he acted in good conscience following the passage of Book of Order G-6.0106b. …” “Following the passage by the denomination of the Peace, Unity and Purity report and the authoritative interpretation,” Grittman wrote, “Paul has asked to be restored to the ordained office of minister of the Word and sacrament.” The presbytery’s committee on ministry voted 11-3 that same month to approve Capetz’s request, saying that his declared scruple to the “fidelity/chastity” clause did not constitute a failure to adhere to an essential of Reformed faith. A Dec. 1 special meeting to consider the issue was postponed, however, after presbytery commissioners at their November meeting directed the committee to provide the presbytery with “a clear statement of what the departure from the constitution is and what was the rationale of the committee on ministry to recommend his reinstatement.” That material was provided to commissioners for the Jan. 26 meeting.