Monday, December 22, 2008

THE PROPER DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL NECESSARY FOR LIFE

Evangelicalism and most Reformed churches nowadays give law to their sheep who need gospel, and gospel to their sheep who need law.

The following statements I thought were excellent, from A Summary of Christian Doctrine, by Edward W.A. Koehler:
_________________

"The Law is to be preached to all people but especially to unrepentant sinners."

"The Gospel is to be preached to sinners who are troubled in their minds because of their sins."

"The reason why both the Law and the Gospel are to be used in the life of Christians is that believers have a double nature. They are at the same time justified and a sinner. They have the old Adam who is under the Law and the new man who is under the Gospel. The difficulty in using both Law and Gospel properly lies in the fact that in actual life it is difficult to determine to what extent a given behavior of a Christian is the expression of the old Adam or of the new man. Yet the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is of utmost importance. The confusion or mixing of the two will make it impossible for anyone to become a Christian or to remain in the faith."
______________

All three statements above I think are some of the wisest words I have ever read. How ironic especially the last one, having struggled with assurance of salvation for 12 years.

Praise God for Luther's theology of the cross.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

MY PASTOR'S BOOK ON OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

Hello Readers,

I wanted to plug my pastor's excellent book on Christology. I highly recommend it!

Reformation Heritage Books is selling the book, God With Us: Knowing the Mystery of Who Jesus Is, for the rest of this week (until Friday 5pm) for only $5.00. This is 65% off the retail price of $14.00.

Here are the back cover quotes and the link to purchase the book is below:

"Why the God-Man?" Anselm’s' question frames the entire complex of Christian faith, piety, worship, and practice. With devotional warmth and doctrinal clarity, Pastor Hyde makes an excellent tour guide through the treasures that lie at the heart of history—indeed, at the heart of God himself. Whatever the stage in the Christian pilgrimage, God With Us will lead readers from meditation to doxology.
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

Danny Hyde has provided the church with an outstanding study explaining the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear, biblically faithful, and impressively comprehensive given its concise length. This book is guaranteed to provide all sorts of people in the church and outside the church with a better understanding of the Savior and of why understanding who he is so important. I highly recommend it.
David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, Westminster Seminary California

http://www.heritagebooks.org/bookstore/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=7930

Friday, November 21, 2008

NEVER??

We will *never* send our kids to public schools.

We will *never* teach at a public school.

We will *never* abandon Van Tillianism.

We will *never* have our children baptized before they profess faith.

We will *never* use birth control.

We will most certainly *never* get a vasectomy.

We will *never* embrace two kingdoms theology.

We will *never* see a psychiatrist.

We will *never* use psychology.

We will *never* abandon postmillennialism.

We will *never* embrace the law/gospel dichotomy hermeneutic.

We will *never* tell our children that God loves them until they profess faith (after 357 times and only after their profession is satisfactory to us).

We will *never*, no never, do any or all of these things.

NO. NOT US. NOT EVER.

NEVER??

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WHY I AM ANGRY WITH THE GAY MARRIAGE AGENDA

Thankfully, Proposition 8 passed, as you readers know. Not surprisingly, three lawsuits have been filed, one by the liberal ACLU, one by a lesbian couple, and one from city councils.

I don't understand the "arguments" of those who voted no on Prop 8.

"It's discrimination!" they say. Well, then I guess we should let an incestuous brother and sister marry. After all, to not let them do so would be to "discriminate" against them and it wouldn't protect their "rights" as "minorities." We could apply this equally to polygamists, someone who wishes to marry a consenting 12-year-old, etc., etc.

Some would say "no, you committed the slippery slope fallacy!" First of all, to respond to this, the slippery slope *can* be a fallacy; but there are some slippery slopes which are valid. I think the burden of proof is on those who advocate gay marriage to prove that it is not a slippery slope. What I did above was I took the criteria of their argumentation and applied it equally, and I think I showed how it is valid. Gay marriage advocates need to demonstrate why the slippery slope argument against them is *not* valid.

Furthermore, since the California State Supreme Court approved the ballot measure for Proposition 8, they need to be consistent and not overturn it now. Twice now the people have voted, and Californians still oppose gay marriage.

Homosexuals *know* that what they do is wrong. They know that homosexuality is wrong. The reason why it angers me so much is because they don't rest at allowing others to live their lives--they really want to push this on us. They want to justify their evil so they wish to look for acceptance of it.

Furthermore, homosexuals refuse to admit their evil. Recently, the gospel singer Ray Boltz came out of the closet. Even though this hurt his family and caused a divorce, he refuses to admit his evil against his wife and children.

Many homosexuals just "give in" and say that they must have been born that way or that they are normal. I think they give up trying to battle it. Well, many married men struggle with lusting after other women, but many married men battle this lust.

Imagine if I just got tired of battling lust one day and said "Well I must have been born to want to pursue many women, so this is who I am"?! (Don't you dare discriminate against me!)

And what angers me even more is, many homosexuals refuse to take responsibility for those they hurt because of their evil. It's like talking to a wall.

Romans 1 and 2.

Friday, October 31, 2008

HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!!!

Readers,

Happy Reformation Day!

Today, on October 31st, 1517 (491 years ago today), our brother Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg. This was not an uncommon thing; people did this all the time as a bulletin board or for academic debates. Dr. Luther had no idea what was about to happen.

The whole Western world would be changed.

The Pope commissioned John Tetzel to go around selling indulgences (which, although not as common, are still part of Roman Catholicism today). Indulgences were a way to pay to bring one's relative out of purgatory, or to buy time out of purgatory. It was said, "When money in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs."

The Pope needed the money to build St. Peter's Cathedral, so he made a special "plenary indulgence," one which said that one could completely skip purgatory and enter straight into heaven if they paid an indulgence.

Luther responded to this in his 95 Theses by saying, "If the Pope can empty purgatory, why wouldn't he just do it out of love, and not for money?".

Luther also stated in his 95 Theses, "the treasure of the church is not indulgences, but the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I almost tear up as I type this. Praise God for such a brother as Martin Luther! Praise God that someone stood up against the tyrrany of the Roman Catholic Church, that apostate whore of Babylon.

God in His providence had also ordained that the printing press would have been invented; before he knew it, copies of his 95 Theses had been formulated and circulated all over Germany.

And this is not even half of the wonderful history. God used Luther to translate the Bible into German. Now people could read the Bible for themselves and see how off the mark Rome's interpretations are.

And most of all, Luther (and Calvin) read their Bibles and saw that the good news of the gospel is that God justifies the wicked!

Today, this Reformation Day, may God be pleased to cause us to meditate on the riches of Christ Jesus our Savior.

In Jesus' precious Name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

HAVE YOU SEEN CHRIST?

The Lord Jesus Christ is on every page of Holy Scripture. But the gospel is so foreign to our law-oriented thinking, that it takes a miracle of sovereign grace to reveal the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you seen Jesus Christ? Have you seen Him with the eye of faith? Have you seen your own sinfulness with the eye of faith? Have you come to the point where you *know* that nothing within you, even with the help of God, can lead you to attain eternal salvation?

Have you come to the point where you know that God is holy and His standard is complete perfection? Have you seen that God cannot be holy if He were to grade on a curve?

Have you seen, with the eye of faith, that God has provided His perfect righteousness as a covering at the cross of Jesus Christ? Have you seen that it is God Who is *for* us if Christ is revealed to us?

Have you seen the friendly heart of Christ? Have you seen the Father revealed to us in the perfection of His Son?

O Christ, You are the perfect Lamb of God. You are the only One Who can save me. I confess that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are the only Way to the Father. Apart from You, I am nothing. I praise You, Lord Jesus, for Your perfect work. I praise You for Your perfect fulfillment of the Law. I praise You for taking my penalty on the cross. I praise You for suffering the wrath of the Father, for me. I praise You that Your perfect work was accepted by the Father, and that He proved that by raising You from the dead. I praise You that You reign and will return for me. I praise You for keeping me. I praise You for loving me, the chief of sinners.

Lord Jesus, You are beautiful beyond comparison. Forgive me for my sinfulness and my sins. Let me serve You, O Lord, forever.

Make me more and more Your slave.

In Your precious Name, Jesus, my Messiah, Savior, Defender, Redeemer, Lord, and Friend.

Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

GOOD DEFENSE OF LIMITED ATONEMENT

I found this online:

www.luthersstein.blogspot.com/2006/11/limited-atonement-for-whom-was-christ.html

Especially notice Piper's quote, which I think was helpful, and the blogger's defense of a Calvinist reading of Romans 5:17-19.

Great stuff!

Friday, September 26, 2008

THE BEAUTIFUL SIMPLICITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

This morning, I am thankful for the simplicity that is in Christ.

Gracious Lord, thank You for revealing Who the Father is to us in Christ Your Son. Thank You that He has fulfilled all the righteous and terrifying demands of the Law. Thank You for the simplicity of the gospel. Thank You, Lord Jesus, Son of God, friend of sinners, for taking away my sins and completing the Law for me. Thank You for giving me Your Body and Blood in Your precious Table. Thank You for coming to me in Your Word preached. Thank You for bringing me into union with You by Your precious Holy Spirit. Thank You for granting us a church body that knows and loves You and Your people. Thank You for providing all my needs, especially my need of atonement and redemption. Thank You, Father, for adopting me, justifying me, regenerating me, sanctifying me, keeping me, and ultimately in advance I thank You for preserving me in the most holy faith by Your Holy Spirit.

Most Holy God, may Christ be displayed more and more in my life. Use me, O Lord, to bring the good news of the gospel to my fellow sinners.

In Christ's Name, and all the glory is Yours. Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

ISAIAH CALVIN'S COVENANT BAPTISM: MOVED TO SEPTEMBER 28TH, 2008

Readers,

Please note that our fifth covenant child's baptism has been moved to September 28th, one week ahead of the original date.

The baptism will be taking place at the Oceanside United Reformed Church http://www.oceansideurc.org/ at the 11 AM service.

All are invited.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

V-DAY MOVED

Hello friends and family. Well we have moved V-day to September 19th because of some concerns in our family situation. At first I wanted the "no scalpel" one which was only available in October; but we decided it would be better to bear it out.

So, this is the time for the "last chances" as it were to give any counsel. I think the burden of proof is on those who would assert that birth control is sin because the Bible does not condemn it. I am open to any arguments any brothers or sisters on the other side have.

On all sides we would appreciate prayer.

Thank you brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

IT'S COMING . . .

V-day. October 24th, 2008. 4 PM.

Obviously, our views on a lot of things have changed. Included in this is our views on birth control. (You probably realize by now that "V-day" means "vasectomy day.") We now believe that birth control (as long as there is not an abortion involved of course) is a matter of Christian liberty. I haven't heard any good arguments that it is *not* a Christian liberty; I *have* heard good arguments that it *is* a matter of Christian liberty.

However, I wanted to place this up on my blog and seek final counsel. Most of our friends so far have said "your quiver is full." Most have said that wisdom is involved.

As far as our family situation, we believe that this may be the wisest course of action. We wish to home school our children, and pregnancies are very difficult on my wife. So, we realize that, if we truly wish to homeschool our children, we can't "have our cake and eat it too," so to speak. So, either we *don't* homeschool our children and put them in a full-time charter school (and that is difficult because there is a waiting list), and perhaps consider having more children, or we *do* homeschool our children, but we would have to be done having children. Angela wouldn't be able to homeschool while her hip is almost out of joint and she is constantly throwing up in the toilet. The morning sickness hits her really bad.

As far as methods, we are not comfortable with hormonal methods (it messes with the body and may lead to future miscarriages; there is a slim chance of a spontaneous abortion). The only methods we are comfortable with are barrier methods--but do we really want to do that for years and years? We are scared to get pregnant any time in the near, and even late, future, because of our situation.

Finally, we wanted this public so we wouldn't have any regrets. We want to exhaust all counsel, from all sides, on this issue, because we recognize that there is no turning back should we decide to go through with it.

We appreciate any counsel and prayers.

I would like to open up the comments section of this post for any and all comments and counsel our readers and friends and family have.

Monday, September 01, 2008

AN OPEN INVITATION TO ISAIAH CALVIN'S COVENANT BAPTISM

Readers,

You are all hereby invited to Isaiah Calvin's covenant baptism, which will be taking place at the Oceanside United Reformed Church (www.oceansideurc.org) on Sunday, the 21st of September, 2008.

Service is at 11 AM.

Celebration lunch at our house to follow.

Friday, August 29, 2008

ANNOUNCING THE BIRTH OF BABY ISAIAH CALVIN BRISBY!

Please join us in welcoming into the world and into God's gracious covenant our fifth covenant child, Isaiah Calvin Brisby, born last Tuesday, August 26th, 2008, at 7:09 PM, and weighing in at 7 lbs. 15 ozs.!

He is sooooo adorable! The Lord is good!

We will let you all know when the baptism will be. Probably in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, August 11, 2008

THINGS I STILL BELIEVE

Hello again readers. Sorry it's been a while--been busy.

As many of you know, in the past year(s) or so we have gone through several theological changes/transitions. As I reflect on these, I am thankful that the Lord has kept us.

In light of these, I look back on the past 12 years I have been in the Reformed faith. By God's grace, there are several things which I have remained unwavering in my commitment to. Yet, it is not I that has kept me here--it is God and His power and His sovereign Word. I wanted to discuss why I remain unswerving in my commitment to the following.
________________________
THINGS I STILL BELIEVE
______________________

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE.
In the past 12 years, the Lord has continued to show me my own sinfulness. It is by His grace that He has shown me the darkness of my heart. He has revealed to me Christ, hanging there, bleeding for me (yes, even me) on the cross. I know that my works can contribute nothing but sin to my salvation. Galatians is clear that the Law is not based on faith. I still vehemently oppose the Federal Vision and the New Perspectives on Paul as contrary to the gospel message. I am beginning to understand more and more the importance of the *dichotomy* between Law and Gospel, and the importance of recognizing whether a text is Law or Gospel. I have even lost friends over this glorious gospel.

I don't like losing friends, but here is where we *must* take our stand. We *must* draw lines in the sand here. Indeed, I still believe, and by God's grace always will believe, that justification by faith alone is indeed the article on which the church stands or falls. It is the door which swings open to the church and shuts out of the church. Anyone who denies this gospel I do not count as my brother. Anyone who would add to this gospel and say "justification by faith alone? Yes, but..." I do not count as my brother. Their souls are in danger of putrid self-righteousness adding to the finished work of Christ. There is just not good news (Greek euangellion--gospel) in Rome, Constantinople, Salt Lake City, or in other similar places. I *need* the gospel. I *need* good news.

May the Lord be pleased to keep me in this glorious gospel.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY. I am completely convinced that man is *dead* in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-10), and that he *cannot* even lift a finger toward God's grace (John 6:44ff). Man is not able to "cooperate" with God in regeneration. Indeed, God is the One Who makes born again--the flesh profits nothing. Indeed, apart from grace, all man can do is sin (Romans 8:7-8). Furthermore, I know this to be true by experience, because even after one has been born again, he still sins constantly. Indeed, it is not in the nature of the lion to eat vegetables. The lion will never choose the veggies. The lion needs to be turned into a lamb to eat the vegetables.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION. I remain convinced that God has chosen a multitude no man can number based completely upon His sovereign good pleasure. This was not because God looked down the corridor of time to see who would "choose" Him--no one would! I continue to remain convinced as well that God has decreed all things (Lam. 3:37-38; Eph 1:11), and that He has even a purpose in ordaining the wicked's destruction (double predestination--Pr 16:4, etc.). I take comfort knowing that the Great Governor has chosen to pardon some, as we are all on death row and already condemned, but the chosen ones receive mercy.

LIMITED ATONEMENT. I have trouble understanding how people can say that Christ "died for" in the same sense as "atoned for" all of the sins of all mankind. In fact, it is once again terrible news to me if Christ died for the sins of all who have ever lived, including those already in hell at the time of His death on the cross. This smacks of works-righteousness to me and makes a mockery out of the death of Christ. An atonement is exactly that: an atonement, a taking away of sin (expiation) and a turning aside of wrath (propitiation).

Once when I was at Taco Bell, I got a sticker that said "REDEEM for one free taco." So, I went to the counter up front to "redeem" it. What do you think I expected to get back? Nothing? A burrito? A Meximelt? Do you think I expected the workers up front to tell me "actually this is only good to be redeemed *if* you believe we'll give it to you" or "if you give us just a penny, then we'll give you the taco." Of course not. A redemption is exactly that: an actual redemption.

Furthermore, if Jesus died for the sins of Peter *in the same way* that He died for the sins of Judas, then we are all in trouble. What guarantee would we have that Jesus will intercede for us, pray for us, and keep us until the end by His Holy Spirit? Is He Judas' priest too? No. I take comfort in the fact that Jesus died for Peter, and He did NOT die for Judas. This means He is committed to His elect.

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE. When God has appointed the time for His elect to come to Him, then they will most willingly come. I certainly don't see any "free will" in the case of Paul's conversion (see Acts 9). Instead, I see God saving by His power. I see Him giving a new nature. We were by nature children of wrath, but in the day of His power, He looked at the dry bones and said "Live!". Hallelujah!

PERSEVERANCE/PRESERVATION OF THE SAINTS. Here is an area where I can say I am extremely comforted. I take joy knowing that God will keep all those who are His. How do I know I am one of His? If I have come to Jesus. He promises He will not cast me out. Have I come to Jesus? What is it to come to Him? "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Our Lord tells us what it is to come to Him. It is to *rest* in Him, to rest in His works, His keeping of the Law, His righteousness. I believe that, by His grace, because He caused me to, because He revealed Himself to me, I indeed have come to Him. And I take comfort to know that He will preserve me in the faith forever.

Yes, this is one reason why I am not attracted to Lutheranism. Although I appreciate Lutheranism in its emphasis on keeping Law and Gospel distinct, I find it amazing that our Lutheran brothers and sisters have no problem saying that a truly born again believer can fall away from grace and lose their salvation. This flies in the face of Scripture which says that "you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable." And "those born of God cannot go on sinning, for the seed of God remains in them."

Indeed, there is just not enough of the gospel present in Lutheranism. But the above five points are all gospel to me. I understand completely why Charles Spurgeon would say "Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else."
__________________________

So that, my friends, is what I still believe, and what I have believed. I believe in the good news of the gospel, and I believe in the good news of sovereign grace. May the Lord open all our eyes more and more to these glorious truths!

Friday, July 25, 2008

REMINDER: OPEN INVITATION TO OUR CHILDREN'S COVENANT BAPTISMS

Readers,

Just a final reminder that all are invited to our children's covenant baptisms, taking place this Lord's Day at the Oceanside United Reformed Church ( www.oceansideurc.org ). Our four children, Gabriel, Aaron, Emmie, and Owen, will all be receiving the sign of God's gracious covenant in only two days! We are so excited!

Also, come and celebrate with us afterwards at our house. Directions and info will be in the church bulletin this Lord's Day.

Praises to our gracious Lord of the covenant!

Monday, July 21, 2008

"THE DARK KNIGHT": EXTREMELY DISTURBING

I am convinced the role of The Joker killed Heath Ledger.

I just saw "The Dark Knight" with my friend last Saturday. All I can say is, it is one of the best movies I have ever seen.

And I will never watch it again.

Friends and readers, "The Dark Knight" is also one of the most, if not the most, disturbing films I have ever seen. Why is this?

The movie gives us a direct peek into the sin nature. The Joker is a sadistic mass-murderer, and one who revels in it.

Besides the gore (and especially the disgusting gore of even looking at the face of the character "Two-Face"), what disturbed me the most about the movie was that the utter sinfulness of the sin nature cannot be put into words.

I literally lost sleep over this movie. I can't express how intensely disturbing the film was.

Would I recommend my readers to see this movie? That, of course, is up to you. I will not allow my wife to see it. This movie is not for the faint of heart.

The sin nature is so vile that we don't even understand it. The scary thing to me is that we are all Jokers.

Lord, save me from myself.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

AN OPEN INVITATION TO OUR CHILDRENS' BAPTISMS

Readers,

Praise to the God of covenant mercies! Angela and I wish to cordially invite you all to our covenant childrens' baptisms taking place at the Oceanside United Reformed Church (www.oceansideurc.org) on Sunday, July 27th, 2008.

On that day, not only will Angela and I become members of the United Reformed Church, but our pastor will be giving our children the sign of God's covenant. God's covenant sign will be given to:

Gabriel, age 4 (age 5 on August 2nd!)
Aaron, age 3
Rebekah Emerald, age 2
Owen, age 1

There will be a potluck to celebrate at our house afterwards. All are cordially invited to that as well.

Praise God for His covenant promises!

O covenant-keeping God of the promise, I praise You for Your mercies in Christ. I praise You, O Jehovah, that You make covenant with those who trust in You, and with their children. Thank You for giving us this visible token of Your promise, the sacrament of baptism. I pray, O Lord, that by Your grace, Angela and I would instruct our children in the faith and that they would grow up in their baptisms, never knowing a day in which they did not know You. Thank You, Lord, that You call them Your own. Thank You that You regard them as clean and holy. Thank You, O Lord, for granting them the kingdom. May the Name of Christ be praised. Receive all the praise and all the glory at this covenant ceremony to come. In the Name of Christ our Savior I pray. Amen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

ROOM FOR RENT

We are making available a room for rent in our house. The room is good size, fully furnished with bed, shelf space for books, office desks, and a window and closet. The renter will have free utilities and will have their own bathroom designated for them. They will also have their own shelf space in our refrigerator and pantry. They will furthermore have full access to our washer and dryer.

The renter must be a Christian in good standing with their local church. Reformed Christian is preferred.

Please let anyone interested know about this as well.

Any interested parties may contact me at jbrisby@classicalacademy.com .

Thursday, June 12, 2008

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SIMPLICITY IN LIFE?

Do you remember when you were a kid? When you had no worries about bills, budgets, finances, weight loss, which church to join, etc., etc., etc.?

I have been very stressed out lately thinking about our financial situation and our church situation. By God's grace, we are looking into membership at the Oceanside United Reformed Church. (We need weekly Table. We tried otherwise but just couldn't.) However, today I realized that our former church is having their annual family camp even as I type this. If we were still Baptists, chances are we would be there right there with them, fellowshipping and enjoying each other.

I know that we will grow in our new church. But it's because of our theological transition on the proper subjects of baptism that I have to be saddened by this.

Today, also, I did a budget and I realized that I am not making near enough at my current job to pay the bills. But I know I love my job there. I know the Lord will provide somehow. I have thought of looking into a second job. I don't want to change jobs. I love working at my job. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I remembered today when I was a kid and didn't have to worry about all this stuff. I wanted to go back. But I know I can't go back. I'm 31 and a father of five children and a wife who all need me.

But then I realized something that made me tear up happily. My children are happy. They have not a care in the world. And it's because I have cares and budgets and finances and decisions to make, and they don't, that they are so happy.

And it hit me further. The reason I had not a care in the world when I was a kid was because my dad took those cares on himself. He had those cares so I didn't have to.

As long as my children are happy and have not a care in the world, I am happy.

Where did all the simplicity in life go?

It passed on to my kids.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, June 06, 2008

LAW AND GOSPEL

Readers and Friends of The Reformed Oasis:

The following article by Michael Horton is probably the best article I have read for a good introduction to Law and Gospel. I hope you are encouraged as you read it!
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The Law & The Gospel

by Michael S. Horton© 1996 The White Horse Inn

In order to recover the sufficiency of Scripture we must once again learn to distinguish the Law and the Gospel as the "two words" of Scripture. For the Reformers, it was not enough to believe in inerrancy. Since Rome also had a high view of Scripture in theory, the Reformers were not criticizing the church for denying its divine character. Rather, they argued that Rome subverted its high view of Scripture by the addition of other words and by failing to read and proclaim Scripture according to its most obvious sense.

At the heart of the reformation's hermeneutics was the distinction between "Law" and "Gospel." For the Reformers, this was not equivalent to "Old Testament" and "New Testament;" rather, it meant, in the words of Theodore Beza, "We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the 'Law,' the other the 'Gospel.' For all the rest can be gathered under the one or other of these two headings." The Law "is written by nature in our hearts," while "What we call the Gospel (Good News) is a doctrine which is not at all in us by nature, but which is revealed from Heaven (Mt. 16:17; John 1:13)." The Law leads us to Christ in the Gospel by condemning us and causing us to despair of our own "righteousness." "Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel," Beza wrote, "is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity."1

Luther made this hermeneutic central, but both traditions of the Protestant Reformation jointly affirm this key distinction. In much of medieval preaching, the Law and Gospel were so confused that the "Good News" seemed to be that Jesus was a "kinder, gentler Moses," who softened the Law into easier exhortations, such as loving God and neighbor from the heart. The Reformers saw Rome as teaching that the Gospel was simply an easier "law" than that of the Old Testament. Instead of following a lot of rules, God expects only love and heartfelt surrender. Calvin replied, "As if we could think of anything more difficult than to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength! Compared with this law, everything could be considered easy...[For] the law cannot do anything else than to accuse and blame all to a man, to convict, and, as it were, apprehend them; in fine, to condemn them in God's judgment: that God alone may justify, that all flesh may keep silence before him."2 Thus, Calvin observes, Rome could only see the Gospel as that which enables believers to become righteous by obedience and that which is "a compensation for their lack," not realizing that the Law requires perfection, not approximation.3

Of course, no one claims to have arrived at perfection, and yet, Calvin says many do claim "to have yielded completely to God, [claiming that] they have kept the law in part and are, in respect to this part, righteous."4 Only the terror of the Law can shake us of this self-confidence. Thus, the Law condemns and drives us to Christ, so that the Gospel can comfort without any threats or exhortations that might lead to doubt. In one of his earliest writings, Calvin defended this evangelical distinction between Law and Gospel:All this will readily be understood by describing the Law and describing the Gospel and then comparing them. Therefore, the Gospel is the message, the salvation-bringing proclamation concerning Christ that he was sent by God the Father...to procure eternal life. The Law is contained in precepts, it threatens, it burdens, it promises no goodwill. The Gospel acts without threats, it does not drive one on by precepts, but rather teaches us about the supreme goodwill of God towards us. Let whoever therefore is desirous of having a plain and honest understanding of the Gospel, test everything by the above descriptions of the Law and the Gospel. Those who do not follow this method of treatment will never be adequately versed in the Philosophy of Christ.5

While the Law continues to guide the believer in the Christian life, Calvin insists that it can never be confused with the Good News. Even after conversion, the believer is in desperate need of the Gospel because he reads the commands, exhortations, threats, and warnings of the Law and often wavers in his certain confidence because he does not see in himself this righteousness that is required. Am I really surrendered? Have I truly yielded in every area of my life? What if I have not experienced the same things that other Christians regard as normative? Do I really possess the Holy Spirit? What if I fall into serious sin? These are questions that we all face in our own lives. What will restore our peace and hope in the face of such questions? The Reformers, with the prophets and apostles, were convinced that only the Gospel could bring such comfort to the struggling Christian.

Without this constant emphasis in preaching, one can never truly worship or serve God in liberty, for his gaze will always be fastened on himself--either in despair or self-righteousness--rather than on Christ. Law and Gospel must both ever be preached, both for conviction and instruction, but the conscience will never rest, Calvin says, so long as Gospel is mixed with Law. "Consequently, this Gospel does not impose any commands, but rather reveals God's goodness, his mercy and his benefits."6 This distinction, Calvin says with Luther and the other Reformers, marks the difference between Christianity and paganism: "All who deny this turn the whole of the Gospel upside down; they utterly bury Christ, and destroy all true worship of God."7

Ursinus, primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism, said that the Law-Gospel distinction has "comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures," are "the chief and general divisions of the holy scriptures, and comprise the entire doctrine comprehended therein."8 To confuse them is to corrupt the Faith at its core.9 While the Law must be preached as divine instruction for the Christian life, it must never be used to shake believers from the confidence that Christ is their "righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). The believer goes to the Law and loves that Law for its divine wisdom, for it reveals the will of the One to whom we are now reconciled by the Gospel. But the believer cannot find pardon, mercy, victory, or even the power to obey it, by going to the Law itself any more after his conversion than before. It is still always the Law that commands and the Gospel that gives. This is why every sermon must be carefully crafted on this foundational distinction.

As he watched the Baptist Church in England give way to moralism in the so-called "Down-grade Controversy," Charles Spurgeon declared, "There is no point on which men make greater mistakes than on the relation which exists between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel; others put gospel instead of the law. A certain class maintains that the law and the gospel are mixed...These men understand not the truth and are false teachers."10

In our day, these categories are once again confused in even the most conservative churches. Even where the categories of psychology, marketing and politics do not replace those of Law and Gospel, much of evangelical preaching today softens the Law and confuses the Gospel with exhortations, often leaving people with the impression that God does not expect the perfect righteousness prescribed in the Law, but a generally good heart and attitude and avoidance of major sins. A gentle moralism prevails in much of evangelical preaching today and one rarely hears the Law preached as God's condemnation and wrath, but as helpful suggestions for a more fulfilled life. In the place of God's Law, helpful tips for practical living are often offered. (In one large conservative church in which I preached recently, the sermon was identified in the program as "Lifestyle Perspectives." Only occasionally was one reminded that it was a church service and not a Rotary meeting.) The piety and faith of the biblical characters are often preached as examples to imitate, along with Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. As in Protestant liberalism, such preaching often fails to hold Christ forth as the divine savior of sinners, but instead as the coach whose play-book will show us how to achieve victory.

Sometimes it is due less to conviction than to a lack of precision. For instance, we often hear calls to "live the Gospel," and yet, nowhere in Scripture are we called to "live the Gospel." Instead, we are told to believe the Gospel and obey the Law, receiving God's favor from the one and God's guidance from the other. The Gospel--or Good News--is not that God will help us achieve his favor with his help, but that someone else lived the Law in our place and fulfilled all righteousness. Others confuse the Law and Gospel by replacing the demands of the Law with the simple command to "surrender all" or "make Jesus Lord and Savior," as if this one little work secured eternal life. Earlier this century, J. Gresham Machen declared, "According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as 'making Christ master' of one's life...But that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism."11 In another work, Machen added, What good does it do to me to tell me that the type of religion presented in the Bible is a very fine type of religion and that the thing for me to do is just to start practicing that type of religion now?...I will tell you, my friend. It does me not one tiniest little bit of good...What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?12

Does that mean that the Word of God does not command our obedience or that such obedience is optional? Certainly not! But it does mean that obedience must not be confused with the Gospel. Our best obedience is corrupted, so how could that be good news? The Gospel is that Christ was crucified for our sins and was raised for our justification. The Gospel produces new life, new experiences, and a new obedience, but too often we confuse the fruit or effects with the Gospel itself. Nothing that happens within us is, properly speaking, "Gospel," but it is the Gospel's effect. Paul instructs us, "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ..." (Phil. 1:27). While the Gospel contains no commands or threats, the Law indeed does and the Christian is still obligated to both "words" he hears from the mouth of God. Like the Godhead or the two natures of Christ, we must neither divorce nor confuse Law and Gospel.

When the Law is softened into gentle promises and the Gospel is hardened into conditions and exhortations, the believer often finds himself in a deplorable state. For those who know their own hearts, preaching that tries to tone down the Law by assuring them that God looks on the heart comes as bad news, not good news: "The heart is deceitful above all things..." (Jer. 17:9). Many Christians have experienced the confusion of Law and Gospel in their diet, where the Gospel was free and unconditional when they became believers, but is now pushed into the background to make room for an almost exclusive emphasis on exhortations. Again, it is not that exhortations do not have their place, but they must never be confused with the Gospel and that Gospel of divine forgiveness is as important for sinful believers to hear as it is for unbelievers. Nor can we assume that believers ever progress beyond the stage where they need to hear the Gospel, as if the Good News ended at conversion. For, as Calvin said, "We are all partly unbelievers throughout our lives." We must constantly hear God's promise in order to counter the doubts and fears that are natural to us.

But there are many, especially in our narcissistic age, whose ignorance of the Law leads them into a carnal security. Thus, people often conclude that they are "safe and secure from all alarm" because they walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or signed a card, even though they have never had to give up their own fig leaves in order to be clothed with the righteousness of the Lamb of God. Or perhaps, although they have not perfectly loved God and neighbor, they conclude that they are at least "yielded," "surrendered," or "letting the Spirit have his way"; that they are "living in victory over all known sin" and enjoying the "higher life." Deluding themselves and others, they need to be stripped of their fig leaves in order to be clothed with the skins of the Lamb of God. Thus, Machen writes,A new and more powerful proclamation of law is perhaps the most pressing need of the hour; men would have little difficulty with the gospel if they had only learned the lesson of the law. As it is, they are turning aside from the Christian pathway; they are turning to the village of Morality, and to the house of Mr. Legality, who is reported to be very skillful in relieving men of their burdens... 'Making Christ Master' in the life, putting into practice 'the principles of Christ' by one's own efforts--these are merely new ways of earning salvation by one's obedience to God's commands. And they are undertaken because of a lax view of what those commands are. So it always is: a low view of law always brings legalism in religion; a high view of law makes a man a seeker after grace.13

We must, therefore, recover Law and Gospel, and with such preaching, the Christocentric message of Scripture, or no good will come of our work, regardless of how committed we are to inerrancy. We cannot say that we are preaching the Word of God unless we are distinctly and clearly proclaiming both God's judgment and his justification as the regular diet in our congregations. To recover Scripture's sufficiency we must therefore, like the Reformers, recover the distinctions between Law and Gospel.

NOTES:1 Theodore Beza, The Christian Faith, trans. by James Clark (Focus Christian Ministries Trust, 1992), 40-1. Published first at Geneva in 1558 as the Confession de foi du chretien.2 Calvin, 2.7.5 -1536 Institutes, trans. by F. L. Battles (Eerdmans, 1975), 30-1; cf. 1559 Institutes 2.11.10.3 Calvin, 1559 Institutes, 3.14.13.4 Ibid.5 Battles edition of 1536 edition, op. cit., 365. Delivered by Nicolas Cop on his assumption of the rectorship of the University of Paris; there is a wide consensus among Calvin scholars that Calvin was the author.6 Ibid., p. 366.7 Ibid., p. 369.8 Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Presbyterian and Reformed, from Second American Edition, 1852), p. 2.9 Ibid, p. 2.10 Charles Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, vol.1 (Pilgrim Publications, 1975), p. 285.11 J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (Erdmans, 1923), p. 143. 12 J. Gresham Machen, Christian Faith in the Modern World (Macmillan, 1936), p. 57. 13 J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? (Macmillan, 1925), pp. 137, 139, 152.

Friday, May 30, 2008

THE LORD'S SUPPER: HOW OFTEN?

Since the Lord's Table, or Eucharist, is a means of grace, and since we receive the true body and blood of Christ spiritually (see Calvin on this in his Institutes), I am surprised, even stunned, as to why most Reformed churches have the sacrament monthly.

I am not so surprised that the Zwinglians have it monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or yearly. (Why not once a lifetime?) But nature determines frequency. I am even more stunned at those Reformed churches who agree with Calvin's view that the Eucharist is a real means of grace and that we receive the true body and blood of Christ spiritually, but yet they have it monthly. I have even heard some try to justify this by saying "since it's such a deep means of grace we shouldn't do it often." Again, this too is stunning to me.

We cannot argue against the established fact that the early church celebrated the sacrament weekly. Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 11 all indicate that the early church gathered for the purpose of enjoying the sacrament. The Reformers saw Word and Sacrament as interconnected. They saw the Sacrament as bare without the Word; and they saw the Word as bare without the sacrament. They saw the Sacrament as the visible Word of God. They saw it as the seal of the preached Word.

However, I agree that, just because the early church did something one way, it does not mean we have to do so. (We aren't necessarily supposed to greet one another with a holy kiss or have a community of goods today.)

But, having said that, since the Table is a means of grace, and since we receive the natural body and blood spiritually (as the Three Forms of Unity state), then why would someone not want the Body and Blood weekly?

The Church is the nurturing Mother of salvation. When we understand that she is the home and oasis of weak and weary pilgrims, weekly Lord's Table is a must.

It seems to me that churches that administer the sacrament less than weekly still indeed are like the nurturing mother of salvation, but is like a mother that gives her baby formula instead of breast milk. To her credit, she wants to take care of her baby, so she feeds the baby formula. But, she does not recognize the wonderful and sweet benefits of giving her baby breast milk.

It is no wonder Luther retained weekly Eucharist. I love Luther's emphasis on Law/Gospel. I love his emphasis on the theology of the cross, and that the Church is the home of weak and weary pilgrims. Is it any wonder, then, that Lutherans today have weekly Lord's Supper across the board? They correctly see the sacrament as a strengthening means of grace, as a gift from God to us. It is truly given for us.

We Reformed should learn from our Lutheran brothers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A FORMER KUYPERIAN TESTIMONY

I wrote this to a friend:
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As far as transforming the culture, I agree with what you said: gospel first. However, I think Kuyper's emphasis on transforming the culture very quickly can turn into a kind of Pharisaism. I am a testimony to this fact. And I think many evangelicals and Reformed folks are as well.

On the surface, Kuyper's idea of "there is not one single square inch of creation where the Lord Jesus does not say 'it is Mine'" sounds good. But the way it comes off I think is incorrect. It sees the natural order or the civil kingdom as essentially redemptive, instead of ruled by common grace/natural law. Natural law is quite akin to the covenant of works, so I think it is no surprise that many who deny the two kingdoms view end up with a social gospel and a kind of moralism. They conflate the covenants of works and grace, and they conflate justification by faith alone with justification by faithfulNESS alone.

I am truly beaten down by the Law. Indeed, we are told to strive, but this is the standard. The Law is a guide for sanctification, but only a guide. Only the gospel can truly sanctify. The Law will only rouse sin.

I found myself confessing sins to God and to Angela only so I could feel better about myself, and not because "against You and You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight." It was not a true love of neighbor, and it was not a true love of God. I was a Pharisee (and of course we all are in many ways).

I think the normal Christian life is one that keeps our sinfulness always at the forefront. The normal Christian life is Romans 7. Paul calls it the law of sin, and he says that when he wants to do good, evil is right there with him. A law is a norm. In Romans 8, he discusses our sufferings with Christ, which in context are our struggles with sin. And he dares to say that if you struggle with sin, ***that's because you are saved!*** Hallelujah!

This glorious gospel is foolishness to the world. You mean we are completely passive in our justification? You mean we do nothing? It is sovereign, free grace? Free? Amen! Yes, and Amen!

Kuyperianism, I think, is dangerous because it leads to a works-righteousness and does not see just how sinful we really are.

I am worn out by the Law. Give me the gospel! Give me more of Christ!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

TRANSFORM THE CULTURE???

The following is something I wrote to a friend of mine which gives a brief sketch as to why I am disallusioned with Kuyper's "transform the culture" approach. (I think even Kuyper recognized the error in this approach before he died.)
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I am disallusioned with "transform the culture" b/c I think it has led to numerous errors; although one cannot say "such-and-such leads to such-and-such," I have seen some of my friends who dabbled in theonomy end up in the Federal Vision camp; I have seen some of them embrace Eastern Orthodoxy; one of them has embraced Anglicanism and last I heard he was dabbling in Eastern Orthodoxy; I have gone to some of these guys' conferences and came away under the impression that all that was taking place was the social gospel, and I could go on.

To bring it to the point, the "transform the culture" approach seems to me to never deal with the heart. So we strive to make Christ Lord over every area of life and thought--but do we bind the consciences of unbelievers when we tell them to do this? God is interested in conquering people's hearts, not just their heads. If, by implementing biblical law, or whatever, someone changes a pagan homosexual to a pagan heterosexual, that may be good for society, but all we've done is just created another Pharisee. He may be hetero now, but he's still an unbeliever.

I've seen the "church" talk about outreach by building houses for orphans in Mexico; but that's all they did--they never preached them the gospel or anything. Now we have some comfortable, unbelieving orphans.

What is the greatest problem people have? It is that their hearts need to be changed. I think that the church today is not doing its job of being the church.What is the job of the church? To be the home of weary Christian pilgrims, and to strengthen them and protect them through Word, Sacrament, and prayer and preaching. The Church is like a nurturing mother, or should be. When we go to church, we should come away feeling refreshed, and not come away learning who to vote for or how to come down on the next moral issue in politics. The Church is other-worldly, not this-worldly.

It seems to me that, when one takes a "transform the culture" type approach, it will always inevitably lead to a kind of moralism. I don't think it's a surprise at all that evangelicalism is moralistic to the core. It's rare to find the gospel preached in evangelicalism. Most of the time it becomes a list of do's and don'ts that Scripture never prescribes. It becomes man-made rules.

Likewise, I don't think it's a coincidence that the Reformed folks who have dabbled in theonomy and Kuyperianism started getting away from the simplicity of the gospel and started getting into the social gospel. For example, I was at a conference a couple of years ago at one of Bahnsen's flagships. In this conference, it talked about showing movies from a Christian perspective to "take back the culture." It showed a brief clip of a movie by Tony Campolo (yes, Tonly Campolo of all people) in which the plot was that a young Christian threw a birthday party for a prostitute. Then they prayed for her at the end. After the movie, the audience and speakers discussed the movie and they called what the young man did for the prostitute "the gospel." They said he was practicing "the gospel"! One of my friends raised his hand and challenged this and he got his head chewed off. Afterwards, I came away from that conference feeling like I had just attended an evangelical (not a Reformed) conference. Furthermore, my friend's wife made an excellent point. If what that Christian young man did was "the gospel", how is that not any different than Angelina Jolee and Brad Pitt adopting orphans? Are Jolee and Pitt practicing "the gospel"?? Well, they may be practicing the social gospel, but not the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That, in a nutshell, is why I am so disallusioned with Kuyperianism. It is not the Church's job to transform the culture. Furthermore, this seems to have a low view of common grace. In fact, R.J. Rushdoony said that common grace needed to be abandoned as a "bastard system." I don't think that's a coincidence either. His "transform the culture by biblical law" approach made him a moralist. He had no appreciation for common grace.

In the real world, we live with unbelievers all around us. This is why I appreciate the two kingdoms approach (although I'm still studying it), which says that God rules the kingdom of the left hand, or the civil kingdom, through natural law, and He rules the kingdom of the right hand, or the Church, through Word, Sacrament, and discipline. I find this approach to be Scriptural for numerous reasons, at least prima facie. I plan on doing a post or posts on this in the future.

Sorry to ramble on, but that is a sketch of where I am.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

PRAY FOR STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN

Please pray for CCM singer Steven Curtis Chapman. I just found out that his 5-year-old adopted daughter from China, named Maria, was struck by a motor vehicle. One of Chapman's sons was the driver. It happened in their driveway, and some of the family even saw the accident.

I can't imagine what it would be like to witness my own daughter getting run over by my own son. I also can't imagine what it would be like to live my life knowing that, even though it was an accident, I was the one responsible for a family member's death.

This hits home for me. Steven Curtis Chapman, although more evangelical than my taste would like, was very influential during my evangelical years. We would listen to his music on mission trips and in youth group.

It must be a terrible time for the Chapman's right now. Please lift them up in your prayers. Pray that they would rest in the comfort of Christ and in knowing that God ordained this for their good, and that they would know that their Heavenly Father loves them and cares for them.

Heavenly Father, Triune God, Majestic King of the Universe, I lift up the Chapman family to You right now. O Lord, truly You are the Sovereign Lord, the One Who ordains all things. In Your wise providence, O God, You have ordained this terrible event to happen. But we know O Lord that all things work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose. I pray, gracious Lord, that You would keep the Chapman family during this time. I pray that they would grow much closer to You in Your grace, that they would know that You love them, and that You care for them. Please be their very present help in this, their time of need; please be their comfort and their joy. Please cause them to see the beauty of Christ, Who is familiar with all their sufferings. May they grow in understanding the deep, deep love of Jesus. Surround them with Your love O God, so they would know how much they are kept by the power of Your grace. Preserve them, O Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Great and Undivided Trinity, I lift this prayer to You. Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2008

EATING CROW AGAIN: A THEOLOGICAL MAKEOVER

Hello readers. As many of you know, very recently we have had to "eat crow" and admit we were (we think) wrong on the doctrine of baptism. We embraced covenantal infant baptism, and of course it has been very practical for us.

But the Lord has a sense of humor. Lately, I have had to rethink a lot of where I have been on Reformed issues. By God's grace, He will keep me in the Reformed faith. However, lately I have had a kind of makeover of my Reformed theology.

Not the least of which below is what I have had to take a look at (again) and restudy all over again:

*The covenant of grace. I am not so sure the John Murray view is in line with Scripture; although Murray was a wonderful man of God, and he did uphold the imputation of active obedience, his denial of the covenant of works opened the doorway to the Federal Vision heresies. I am looking into a Meredith Kline approach.

*Two Kingdoms and Natural Law. The above has also paved way for me to become disallusioned with a Kuyperian "transform the culture" type approach which is so prevalent in Reformed thought. I am considering two kingdoms and natural law as I rethink my ethic.

*Is Postmillennialism True? The above had me relook as well at my eschatology and reconsider whether postmil is true or not. I think I had been interpreting various prophecies in a wooden-literal fashion, almost like dispensationalism. This caused me (along with my disallusionment of "transform the culture") to reconsider amillennialism.

*The Regulative Principle. I just ordered R.C. Sproul's book on worship, as well as D.G. Hart's. Where do we find the idea of the RPW in the NT? It seems to me that we find descriptive aspects of the church, but not prescriptive. More on this later.

*Liturgy. I am reading D.G. Hart's book Recovering Mother Kirk: The Case for Liturgy in Reformed Worship and I find it very beneficial. Many consider liturgy "dead orthodoxy," but is it really that? More on this later as well.

I have to go now, but I just wanted to ask you readers to pray for our spiritual journeys. Most of all, may Christ be exalted in all our studies.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A DOSE OF MY OWN MEDICINE

Yesterday I saw rage in my own heart.

My family and I were at my children's karate class. As the kids were waiting in line to practice some kicking moves, my son Gabriel, who is autistic, was showing the girl in front of him what it's like for a duck to quack. The girl's father mistook that as Gabriel spitting on her. He said to my wife in a rude way, "You wanna keep your son in check? He's spittin' on my daughter! That's rude!". My wife spoke with Gabriel. I didn't hear the rest of the conversation, but she apologized to the man, mentioning that Gabriel is autistic and he doesn't know any better. "Apparently not!", the man said.

I had Gabriel go and apologize to the little girl, and the man said "Look he's doing it again!". My wife and the man's wife told him correctly that Gabe was just apologizing. "Oh," the man said.

I was already upset with the guy. But on our way home, my wife was in tears. This made me want to literally beat the guy to a bloody pulp.

But, praise be to God, the God of all mercy, that I spoke with one of my brothers in the Lord on the phone about this today. This brother, before the Lord saved him, used to get in fights a lot and even did underground fights.

"I don't fight anymore," my friend told me.

"But when is it OK to fight as Christians?", I asked. "When someone is physically attacking you or your family," my friend replied.

"But he verbally abused my wife!", I mentioned. But my friend quickly and rightly responded that I was idolizing my wife. Furthermore, he pointed out that the Lord Jesus was reviled and despised of men. He was called names, and even spat upon.

Our Lord never retaliated. He turned the other cheek.

That man will be there probably during the next time my kids have karate. Nothing needs to be done or said. What do I do if he speaks rudely again? I tell him that we are adults, and that being rude is not becoming of us.

If he wants to fight, I tell him that we are not in high school, and that I don't fight.

A DOSE OF MY OWN MEDICINE

You see, I had been spending all this time mortifying only a few sins in my life, putting all my energy in killing them particularly. But my friend gave me a good analogy. What would happen if a military at war spent all their power with their front flank only? They would get attacked from the rear. That is why they have rear guard as well. They protect themselves on all sides.

This is how we must mortify sin. If we only battle a few sins, the flesh and the enemy will attack us in other sins.

Indeed, we must kill all sins. We are at war.

Yesterday, I saw rage in my heart that I thought was never there. I got a dose of my own medicine.

All praises to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Friday, April 11, 2008

DEBATE W/EASTERN ORTHODOX PART 9: READER Q & A

Thanks again to Jay Dyer for a good debate.

We now open the floor to you, our blog readers, to direct questions to me (Protestant) or to Jay (Orthodox).

While the questions are being asked, please help us out by *not* interacting with other readers, but by keeping the questions directed to me or to Jay.

When the questions have subsided after a while, then the Q & A will close.

We now turn the floor to you, our readers, to direct questions to either me or Jay.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

MY DIET: ALL DONE!!!

The Lord has been good to me. The most I ever weighed in my life was 278. My wife used to be so worried about me. Something clicked. I said to myself, "No more, Josh."

After my 5-month liquid diet, I now weigh 200 even!

The lowest I weighed on this diet was 197, but I did a bit o' cheatin'. :0)

So, do pray for me, because now, the real test begins.

Will I keep it off?

Only time will tell.

This is a life-long battle, just like sanctification.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

DEBATE W/EASTERN ORTHODOX PART 8: JAY DYER'S CLOSING STATEMENT

Jay Dyer's closing statement is up. Use the link below and click on part 8. Since it was fairly long, Jay had to cut it short. I will refer my readers to his finished portion when it is up as well. Part 9, the Q & A for our readers, will take place on my blog this week sometime.

Thank you Jay for a good and intellectually-stimulating debate.

Here is the link for all parts of the debate:

http://www.nicenetruth.com/home/2008/03/all-parts-of-th.html

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

PARADOX IN CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY

My friend Paul Manata recently reviewed an excellent book which I think will be very useful to the Christian community: James Anderson's Paradox In Christian Theology. Anderson argues that in the history of the church, the heretics have always either gone too far with logic to the expense of mystery, or too far with mystery to the expense of logic. He argues for what constitutes a biblical paradox. Many Christians do not like or even think there is paradox in Scripture. Anderson makes a great case that both the Trinity and the Incarnation are indeed paradoxes.

You can read my friend's review by clicking on the link below:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/paradox-in-christian-theology.html

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

CHURCH SEARCH UPDATE

Hello all. Angela and I are in the process of "courting" the Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church ( http://www.escondidoopc.org/ ). If all works out, we will be seeking membership there. One of our elders at Grace Bible Church suggested giving it a couple of months. I think this is good advice.

So far, all is working well. I hope that it works out. Angela and I are burnt out from all of this. However, the light is dawning and the pain is slowly subsiding. The difficulty of course will be the official dissolution of membership at our Reformed Baptist church, but we need to do what we think is best according to our conscience.

Please continue to pray for us. We will continue to keep you all updated.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

MY DIET: LAST DAY THIS APRIL 9TH!!!

Readers,

Thanks to all who have been praying for me about my diet. I wanted to inform you all that it has been going well. My last day of my diet is April 9th, so just around the corner!

On April the 10th, I will reveal to all publicly on this blog how much I weigh on that day, according to my bathroom scale. When I started this diet, my bathroom scale said 272 (yikes!).

Not anymore. The Lord has been good to me, and to us. Please pray that I would stick with it for the remaining days through April the 9th.

The main event will be held on my blog on April the 10th!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

WHY I AM A CREDO-COMMUNIONIST

Hello again all those who enjoy drinking here at The Reformed Oasis!

With our recent transition into paedobaptism, a few have asked me whether we embrace paedocommunion. I have told them no, for the main reasons that (1) children did not partake of the Passover, and (2) children cannot examine themselves in the way Paul mentions in 1 Co 11.

One must of course do their own research on these two assertions I listed above, but I have personally found the arguments for paedocommunion extremely weak, and many times downright sentimental.

I thought I would include an article from a website that I thought was a good summary and a quick read, and with excellent proofs for the Reformed position of credo-communion. I think it also demonstrates that Reformed theology is NOT being inconsistent by believing in baptizing covenant children while granting access to the Table during later years.

The article follows below. I also recommend Kenneth Gentry, Brian Schwertly, and especially Francis Nigel Lee's articles on the subject of anti-paedocommunion/credo-communion.
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In Reformed circles there are different positions on peadocommunion. There is the “pro” (P-PC) and the “anti” (A-PC) positions. Ra McLaughlin, a trusted and scholarly theologian at IIIM, endorses the “Pro” position (see link below) and I personally endorse the “Anti” position (Third Millennium Ministries' official position). Why do I endorse the A-PC position?

1. 1 Corinthians 11:28-29.

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

The first reason I endorse A-PC is Paul’s reasoning above. Infants and smaller children, not instructed in the Lord, cannot “examine themselves” or properly “recognize the body of the Lord.” Though this qualification was not specifically mentioned by the Lord “verbally” at his institution of the Supper, it was by “example” as the Bible holds that only thirteen adults were present (Matt. 26:20; Mark 14:17). Moreover, though this requirement was not mentioned by Christ himself it is given to us by Paul who was taught by the revelation of Christ (Gal. 1:12). The P-PC position states in numerous ways that 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 was written “only” to adults and “only” to the Corinthians. However, church history records that the church letters were read from church to church (F.F. Bruce, The Canon of the New Testament, etc.) and the reasoning that 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 was “only” meant for adults does not stand up under the further scrutiny of Paul’s letters. Least we forget, infants and children are to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1) and they are to be raised with the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) - part of this training and instruction would be 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 and thus Paul’s argument is for the entire visible church (including infants and children) and not just the Corinthians or only adults.

2. Covenant Inclusion, Element Exclusion.

The second reason I endorse the A-PC position is that there would not biblically be any in drunken diapers present at the Meal (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 10:7; 11:21; Gal. 5:21; 1 Thess. 5:7). In other words, drunkenness by infants, young children, and adults would not be tolerated by the Lord or Paul at the Meal (or any other time)! The Lord’s Supper is based upon the Passover Meal.

During Passover, each Jew is obligated to drink four cups of wine at specific times during each Seder (i.e. order): the first at the start of the Seder, following Kiddush; the second before the meal, after reciting the Haggadah story; the third following the Grace after the Meal; and the last after completing Psalms of Praise (Hallel). The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God (Ex. 6:6-7), "I will bring out," "I will deliver," "I will redeem," and "I will take." At times a fifth cup was added symbolizing Elijah the Prophet. How would “infants” and “children” react under such a volume of wine? Historically, The Babylonian Talmud states concerning the Passover Meal,
....Nor shall a person have less than four cups of wine.....Rabhina, however, said: "At all events, the four cups cannot be conjoined, for each one represents a different duty."This also corresponds to what happened during Christ’s institution of the Meal. In the New Testament synoptics, we find reference to the First Cup, also known as the Cup of Blessing (Luke 22:17); to the breaking of the matzoh (Luke 22:19); to the Third Cup, the Cup of Redemption (Luke 22:20): to reclining (Luke 22:14): to the charoseth or the maror (Matt. 26:23f), and to the Hallel (Matt. 26:30).Moreover, The Babylonian Talmud makes some more significant statements concerning our understanding of the Meal and children,
R. Jehudah, said: "What benefit would children derive from wine? They should rather be given nuts, parched corn, etc., on the eve of Passover, so as to keep them awake at night, and that may make them inquire into the reason of the festivity." It was said of R. Aqiba, that he would deal out nuts and parched corn on the eve of Passover to the children, in order to keep them awake and have them ask for reasons. Boraitha, R. Eliezer said: On the night of the Passover the unleavened bread is snatched out of the children's hand in order to keep them awake and have them ask for the reason. This is momentous. Above, we see “covenant inclusion,” but “element exclusion” (just as we should have today). Since infants and children are part of the covenant they should “participate” in the Meal (by asking questions, etc.), however they should not “partake” of the elements. The children’s participation (covenant inclusion) in the Passover Meal was to ask questions [though not the topic of this question, the wife's inclusion could be seen in the prepartion of the meal]. For instance the youngest child would ask, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" After the asking of a specific question, the main portion of the Seder, Magid, would give the answers in the form of a historical review. At different points in the Seder, the leader of the Seder will cover the matzot and lift his cup of wine; then put down the cup of wine and uncover the matzot — all to elicit questions from the children. [information gathered from The Shalom Center]. This is also consistent with the teaching in the New Testament that children should be raised with the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).Since drunkenness is a sin at the Meal (1 Cor. 11:21), the children, even according to Jewish Passover custom, would not have “partaken” of the elements, though they would have “participated” in the meal in another way!While I believe that many churches should reconsider how to structure their communion meal – to include instruction for children – I do not believe they should be restructured to the point of allowing children to partake of the meal. Covenant participation in the meal does not absolutely mean partaking of the elements.

3. Census of Men and Lambs.

The third reason I prefer the A-PC position is seen in the way Israelites prepared for the Passover Meal as a nation. Though Passover began as a family celebration it developed into a national celebration. In this national celebration adult males went to Jerusalem, children were what we call catechized, (Deut. 16:2), and the numbering of Israel was taking place (Ex. 12:26-27, 21). Only the Israelite males were commanded to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The census included males 20 years of age (Num. 20:1) and those that had been properly catechized (Prov. 22:6) and were at least 12 years of age (Luke 2:40-41). Though there is not an actual record of Jesus’ participation at twelve years of age in the Passover Meal (Luke 2:40 ff) the text does say that he, "waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40) and thus he was eligible for the Passover and thus the reason he would have accompanied his parents on this particular pilgrimage (please note the text says that his parents went to the feast “every year,” but only records Christ coming in his 12th year). Please also note the detail John goes into in John 6 in Jews traveling for the Passover (John 6:4) and the fact he specifically mentioned a “lad”(John 6:9) that by definition (paidarion Friberg, Thayer, and BDAG, etc.) would have been eligible for the Passover as well.Did Israelite woman and children participate in the Passover? Exodus 12, the original Passover narrative, does not openly spell out that women, underage girls, underage males, and infants participated in the meal. Morton Smith states the PCA report on the matter of children partaking of the elements saying,
Children participating in the first Passover would need further maturation beyond the nursing stage. The Passover meal consisted not simply of liquids and semi–liquids, but of roast meat, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. It is highly unlikely that an Israelite father would feel constrained to force such a diet on an infant that was newly weaned. The same would apply to the meat of the sacrificial meals such as the peace–offerings.The point is simple enough. The Passover differed from circumcision in that children had to be older to participate in it. The nursing child, drinking milk rather than eating meat, could not at that state participate in the Passover. The point of the distinction is clearly expressed by the author of Hebrews: ‘[you] are become such as have need of milk, not of solid food. Everyone that partaketh of milk is inexperienced in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil’ (Heb. 5:12–14). Morton H. Smith, Systematic Theology, Volume One: Prolegomena, Theology, Anthropology, Christology, Index created by Christian Classics Foundation.; Published in electronic form by Christian Classics Foundation, 1996., electronic ed., 525 (Greenville SC: Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Press, 1996, c1994).The Paedocommunion view has been implied from the term "household" (Ex. 12:4) that this included "infants and children" and simply “assumed” this to be a fact. But, did they partake of the Passover? If the children didn’t this would explain the catechism, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' (Ex. 12:26) immediately following the command for the Passover (Ex. 12:1ff). Again, as Morton Smith states,
Exodus 12:26 does not give evidence that the child himself partook of the Passover. The question, “What mean ye by this service?” would seem to indicate that the child was not one of the partakers. He does not know what the service was intended for, and so the father is to instruct the child. (Page 687).The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible parallels Joshua 4:6 and Exodus 12:26-27 (including, Deut. 6:20-25) supporting this view. Compare,
Exodus 12:26 And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' Joshua 4:6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' Above we observe nearly the identical language to describe children inquiring about an act in which they did not participate! Thus, according to Jewish history only Jewish boys – normally thought to be 12 yoa, or older – and adult men partook of Passover meal [in feminist Judaic circles today Miriam’s Cup has been added so the women may participate. They even have woman Seders today!]. Moreover, we might add that if wives and children normally partook of the Passover meal where were Peter’s (Matt. 8:14-15) in Luke 22:1f? (It should be noted that adult women today should be included in the Lord’s Table as the John the Baptist baptized women as well as men (Luke 3:21), the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20 includes men and women, Acts 8:12 states men and woman were baptized (cf. Acts 16:33), and of course Paul’s inclusion that “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:27-28). Please note that Paul’s inclusion did not go as far as saying, “there is neither child nor adult”).

Lastly, I will end with a quote which I believe sums up the A-PC position nicely. Calvin stated,
At length they object, that there is not greater reason for admitting infants to baptism than to the Lord’s Supper, to which, however, they are never admitted: as if Scripture did not in every way draw a wide distinction between them. In the early Church indeed, the Lord’s Supper was frequently given to infants, as appears from Cyprian and Augustine (August. ad Bonif. Lib. 1); but the practice justly became obsolete. For if we attend to the peculiar nature of baptism, it is a kind of entrance, and as it were initiation into the Church, by which we are ranked among the people of God, a sign of our spiritual regeneration, by which we are again born to be children of God; whereas, on the contrary, the Supper is intended for those of riper years, who, having passed the tender period of infancy, are fit to bear solid food. This distinction is very clearly pointed out in Scripture. For there, as far as regards baptism, the Lord makes no selection of age, whereas he does not admit all to partake of the Supper, but confines it to those who are fit to discern the body and blood of the Lord, to examine their own conscience, to show forth the Lord’s death, and understand its power. Can we wish anything clearer than what the apostle says, when he thus exhorts, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup”? (1 Cor. 11:28.) Examination, therefore, must precede, and this it were vain to expect from infants. Again, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord’s body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food? Then what is our Lord’s injunction? “Do this in remembrance of me.” And what the inference which the apostle draws from this? “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” How, pray, can we require infants to commemorate any event of which they have no understanding; how require them “to show forth the Lord’s death,” of the nature and benefit of which they have no idea? Nothing of the kind is prescribed by baptism. Wherefore, there is the greatest difference between the two signs. This also we observe in similar signs under the old dispensation. Circumcision, which, as is well known, corresponds to our baptism, was intended for infants, but the passover, for which the Supper is substituted, did not admit all kinds of guests promiscuously, but was duly eaten only by those who were of an age sufficient to ask the meaning of it (Exod. 12:26). Had these men the least particle of soundness in their brain, would they be thus blind as to a matter so very clear and obvious? (Institutes IV: xvi: 30).
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Indeed, these are many of the reasons why the Reformed faith has always and unanimously rejected paedocommuion as a serious error.

Credo-communion is the position of the Reformed faith, and for good reasons.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

JOHN OWEN ON COVENANT CHILDREN AND BAPTISM

I was reading one of my favorite theologians today on infant baptism: John Owen, the great congregationalist paedobaptist Puritan. I thought this part of his discourse would be good to publish on my blog because, as mentioned, there was a time for a while when, even as a Baptist, I believed my children were in the covenant, but I figured I should withhold the sign and seal of baptism from them until they professed faith. Owen takes this to task. He writes:

It may be it will be said, that although children have a right to the covenant, or do belong unto it, yet they have no right to the initial seal of it. This will not suffice; for, —
1. If they have any interest in it, it is either in its grace or in its administration. If they have the former, they have the latter also, as shall be proved at any time. If they have neither, they have no interest in it; — then the truth of the promises of God made unto the fathers was not confirmed by Christ.


2. That unto whom the covenant or promise doth belong, to them belongs the administration of the initial seal of it, is expressly declared by the apostle, Acts 2:38, 39, be they who they will.
3. The truth of God’s promises is not confirmed if the sign and seal of them be denied; for that whereon they believed that God was a God unto their seed as well as unto themselves was this, that he granted the token of the covenant unto their seed as well as unto themselves. If this be taken away by Christ, their faith is overthrown, and the promise itself is not confirmed but weakened, as to the virtue it hath to beget faith and obedience.


Furthermore, in this same discourse, Owen argues well the following:

God having appointed baptism as the sign and seal of regeneration, unto whom he denies it, he denies the grace signified by it. Why is it the will of God that unbelievers and impenitent sinners should not be baptized? It is because, not granting them the grace, he will not grant them the sign. If, therefore, God denies the sign unto the infant seed of believers, it must be because he denies them the grace of it; and then all the children of believing parents dying in their infancy must, without hope, be eternally damned. I do not say that all must be so who are not baptized, but all must be so whom God would not have baptized.

But this is contrary to the goodness and law [love?] of God, the nature and promises of the covenant, the testimony of Christ reckoning them to the kingdom of God , the faith of godly parents, and the belief of the church in all ages.


In other words, there is a reason why God does not have the church administer baptism to unbelievers: because baptism belongs to those who are the people of God. Why would we give baptism to an unbeliever? To whomever we deny it, we deny it because it does not belong to unbelievers. But, if we deny it to our infant children, we are also saying that they are unbelievers. We are treating them like any other child of pagan parents.

But the children of believing parents are not viewed that way by God. If our children are in the covenant, then they have a right to the sign of God's promise. They are holy; otherwise, they would be unclean.

Praise God for His kindness and mercy!

Monday, March 17, 2008

CONTINUED UPDATE

Thank you again to all who have been praying for us. I wanted to update you on some developments in our church search.

We appreciated the reverence of the worship at the URC, and we appreciated the children's program and the preaching at the PCA we visited yesterday. However, the URC is too exclusive for us (they consider non-Reformed churches and even Reformed Baptist churches as "not true churches," although they consider them Christians; they are also close communion), and we weren't quite used to the worship style at the PCA we visited. Angela and I agreed that we need something kind of in between them.

It looks like, Lord willing, the OPC is where we will land. Last night I visited Harvest OPC in Vista ( http://www.hopc.org/ ), which is only 4 minutes away. That went very well. We will also be visiting the Escondido OPC this Sunday morning ( http://www.escondidoopc.org/ ), which is a little over 20 minutes away. In the evening, I will be visiting the Providence OPC in Temecula (http://www.temeculaopc.org/ ), which is 38 minutes away.

Oh how I wish these churches had the Table weekly! We are 100% convinced that weekly Lord's Table is a *must*. We see in Acts 2:42 and 20:7 that the early church was devoted to it. Indeed, it was a regular pattern of their worship. It grieves my soul to know that, in all of North San Diego County, there are only two churches that practice it weekly: GBC and the Oceanside URC.

So, at this point, it looks like we will be joining an OPC, but we will be enjoying the Table with GBC in the evening. I will explain to the elders of whatever church we join that for this reason we will need a dual membership. Furthermore, since on the last Sunday of the month, GBC has the Table in the morning, we will be at GBC in the morning for that Sunday. This is all we can do; we see the Table as a vital means of grace in which we truly feed spiritually on the Body and Blood of Christ. We see Calvin's view as robustly Scriptural. The OPC sees it that way too--for which reason I wonder why many of them only do it monthly. I need to feed on Christ *at least* weekly!

Please continue to pray for us. We will keep you updated.

Friday, March 14, 2008

UPDATE ON CHURCH SEARCH

Dear Family and Friends,

Just a quick update on our church hunt situation. As you know, last Sunday we visited the Oceanside URC. That went very well. We enjoyed the worship in its reverence and we enjoyed the liturgy. This Sunday we will be visiting New Life PCA in Escondido ( http://www.newlifepca.com/ ). So, both churches are Reformed churches, and both have different worship styles.

Basically, if we end up joining New Life PCA in Escondido, we would still go to GBC in the evenings for the Lord's Table. If we joined the Oceanside URC, we would have the Table weekly as well as evening service there, and we would need to dissolve our membership at GBC. That of course is a very difficult decision.

I have the difficult task of being the leader of my family and making the final decision as to where we will end up. There are pros and cons of whichever way we go. At this point, I need to consider how much weight some of the pros and some of the cons have. I of course want to run over all of this with my beautiful wife, who is my counselor. I want to do what is best for my entire family, and not just what I want. I need to remember that.

Any words of wisdom in the comments section are very welcome. Lift us up in your prayers please. You all know how painful this has been for us. We are slowly getting better, but also pray especially for any who may be saddened by this as well.

Thank you all for your prayers thus far. We know the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us. We take comfort in that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CLARIFICATION

I wanted to clarify about our situation with regards to our beloved church. My wife has posted it well on her blog, so I paste what she mentioned below:

With the last few posts about our journey into paedobaptism, I believe there has been some misunderstanding. It was not our intention to announce that we were dissolving our membership at our current church. We simply believed that our closer friends, who are generally the ones who read our blogs, deserved an explanation as to why they may not see us at church regularly. We are in the process of *looking* for a church which agrees with our heart on this issue. We are still members at our beloved current church until further notice. Also, if or when we do dissolve our membership, we will announce it in a way that is more personal. Our hearts are breaking over this. But we don’t know what else to do. We don’t know how else to handle it. We believe we may have made some people angry/frustrated/disappointed in us. Again, we are truly heartbroken about this. Neither Josh nor I slept much last night because we were too grieved at the prospect that we have let someone in particular down who we love and respect so much. We understand that not everyone will understand, or support us, let alone agree with us. It’s possible that we may not have handled this situation in the best way possible, but we did think it through and we tried the best we knew how. We’re sorry if we’ve caused any unnecessary pain, but please know that we’re hurting too.

I would also add that we recognize that it is not about us. We realize that the unfortunate thing is that there is sadness on all ends.

I am also learning when it comes to growing into maturity that we may or may not find another church, and we wish to keep our options open to stay at GBC. If we did, we would keep quiet on the baptism issue. We would somehow have our children baptized elsewhere.

Please continue to pray for us. We will keep you all posted dear brethren.

Monday, March 10, 2008

DEBATE W/EASTERN ORTHODOX PART 7: JOSH BRISBY'S CLOSING STATEMENT

I will now make my closing statement. First of all, I wish to thank Jay Dyer for his participation in this debate. I appreciate him being willing to do this, and for his cordiality both on my blog and over the phone. Although sadly we cannot consider each other brothers, I certainly do consider him a friend. Jay, if you’re ever in town, stop on by my crib and I’ll show you my hood. We’ll have some sushi and some Asahi!

Now, I opened this debate defending Reformed Baptist Christianity. The ironic thing is that during the course of this debate, I have become a Reformed paedobaptist. I am no longer a Baptist. However, since there are extensive similarities between the Reformed credobaptist view of Reformed theology and the Reformed paedobaptist view of Reformed theology, I do not feel compelled to hash those out in my closing statement. Instead, since I opened by defending Reformed theology, I will now close by mentioning why I am not Eastern Orthodox, and I will also interact with Jay’s presentations here in our debate.

AREAS OF EASTERN ORTHODOXY I FIND LACKING

THE CANON

As we have seen, most of our debate has been spent hashing out canonicity. Jay made extensive argumentation trying to defend the Apocrypha as part of the canon by giving us alleged quotes from the Apocrypha in the NT, but I think that Steve Hays did an excellent job at Triablogue showing that the great majority of these quotes actually come from the OT. Furthermore, Jay has not established that the Apocrypha deserves its place in the canon for several reasons. I ask my readers to do their research as well on the following facts:

(1) The OT Jewish view was that the Apocrypha was NOT canonical.

(2) The Apocrypha has several historical errors, as many scholars have attested.

(3) Several of the early church fathers, especially Athanasius, disagreed as to the extent even of the Apocrypha.

(4) Which books of the Apocrypha should we accept? Again, Russian Orthodoxy has more than other brands of Orthodoxy, so which is it?

(5) Even if, for the sake of argument, we grant that NT quotes are from the Apocrypha itself, how does that lead to the fact that the Apocrypha is canonical? Again, even pagan poets are quoted in Acts, but all would agree that the pagan poets were not inspired.

(6) The Apocrypha has been called the “deutero-canon”, which means “secondary canon.” Even the name itself shows that it does not hold the same weight of canonicity at least.
The above reasons give us plenty of evidence that the Apocrypha should not be considered canonical.

THE EASTERN ORTHODOX REJECTION OF THE FILIOQUE

We did not touch on this in our debate, but the Eastern Orthodox have a different view of the eternal procession of the Spirit. The West says that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father AND the Son (filioque), while the East says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. Historically this was not the case. Not only does this run into problems when we speak of the ontological order of the Trinity (1st Person, 2nd Person, 3rd Person: if the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, then how can we say that the Spirit is the 3rd Person of the Trinity? Why not the 2nd Person? How do we distinguish between the Son and the Spirit?), but even the Eastern Church itself before the 8th century did not believe this. They spoke of the Spirit proceeding from the Father, but not the Father alone. They also spoke of the Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Son, as the West has always believed. For example, this from a helpful website:

First, the Greek Fathers enumerate the Divine Persons in the same order as the Latin Fathers; they admit that the Son and the Holy Ghost are logically and ontologically connected in the same way as the Son and Father [St. Basil, Ep. cxxv; Ep. xxxviii (alias xliii) ad Gregor. fratrem; "Adv.Eunom.", I, xx, III, sub init.]

Second, the Greek Fathers establish the same relation between the Son and the Holy Ghost as between the Father and the Son; as the Father is the fountain of the Son, so is the Son the fountain of the Holy Ghost (Athanasius, Ep. ad Serap. I, xix, sqq.; "De Incarn.", ix; Orat. iii, adv. Arian., 24; Basil, "Adv. Eunom.", v, in P.G.., XXIX, 731; cf. Greg. Naz., Orat. xliii, 9).

Third, passages are not wanting in the writings of the Greek Fathers in which the Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son is clearly maintained: Greg. Thaumat., "Expos. fidei sec.", vers. saec. IV, in Rufius, Hist. Eccl., VII, xxv; Epiphanius, Haer., c. lxii, 4; Greg. Nyss. Hom. iii in orat. domin.); Cyril of Alexandria, "Thes.", ass. xxxiv; the second canon of synod of forty bishops held in 410 at Seleucia in Mesopotamia; the Arabic versions of the Canons of St. Hippolytus; the Nestorian explanation of the Symbol.

Now, to be sure, many Orthodox nowadays are seeing this as a tempest in a teapot, but my discussions with Jay over the phone demonstrate that Jay views it differently. For a helpful discussion on this, see Timothy Ware’s The Orthodox Church, in which he speaks of the perspectives of the Orthodox “doves” (who find this as a tempest in a teapot) and the Orthodox “hawks” (like Vladimir Lossky).

EASTERN ORTHODOX PICKING-AND-CHOOSING OF THE FATHERS' STATEMENTS

One thing which I find incredible is how the Eastern Orthodox always talk about the “Fathers” of the church, but then they pick and choose from the Fathers what they want to believe. This is not a problem for Protestants, because we are clear that what ultimately matters is what Scripture says (sola Scriptura). But this is indeed a problem for the Orthodox, because they lay so much weight on patristics. Jay mentioned in his response to my cross-examination question about the Fathers and the Papacy that there were not any quotes from the Fathers about universal jurisdiction of the Papacy. Jay said, “simply put, there are none.”

Well, I now submit as evidence to the court the following quotes from Eastern, yes Eastern, Fathers on the universal jurisdiction of the Papacy:

St. John Cassian, Monk:

That great man, the disciple of disciples, that master among masters, who wielding the government of the Roman Church possessed the principle authority in faith and in priesthood. Tell us, therefore, we beg of you, Peter, prince of Apostles, tell us how the Churches must believe in God (Cassian, Contra Nestorium, III, 12, CSEL, vol. 17, p. 276).

St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem:

Transverse quickly all the world from one end to the other until you come to the Apostolic See (Rome), where are the foundations of the orthodox doctrine. Make clearly known to the most holy personages of that throne the questions agitated among us. Cease not to pray and to beg them until their apostolic and Divine wisdom shall have pronounced the victorious judgement and destroyed from the foundation ...the new heresy. (Sophronius,[quoted by Bishop Stephen of Dora to Pope Martin I at the Lateran Council], Mansi, x., 893)

Stephen, Bishop of Dora in Palestine:

[addressed to Pope Martin I]And for this cause, sometimes we ask for water to our head and to our eyes a fountain of tears, sometimes the wings of a dove, according to holy David, that we might fly away and announce these things to the Chair [the Chair of Peter at Rome] which rules and presides over all, I mean to yours, the head and highest, for the healing of the whole wound. For this it has been accustomed to do from old and from the beginning with power by its canonical or apostolic authority, because the truly great Peter, head of the Apostles, was clearly thought worthy not only to be trusted with the keys of heaven, alone apart from the rest, to open it worthily to believers, or to close it justly to those who disbelieve the Gospel of grace, but because he was also commissioned to feed the sheep of the whole Catholic Church; for 'Peter,' saith He, 'lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep.' And again, because he had in a manner peculiar and special, a faith in the Lord stronger than all and unchangeable, to be converted and to confirm his fellows and spiritual brethren when tossed about, as having been adorned by God Himself incarnate for us with power and sacerdotal authority .....And Sophronius of blessed memory, who was Patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God, and under whom I was bishop, conferring not with flesh and blood, but caring only for the things of Christ with respect to your Holiness, hastened to send my nothingness without delay about this matter alone to this Apostolic see, where are the foundations of holy doctrine. (Mansi, x., 893)

Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus:

[ Writing to Pope Theodore ]O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)

St. Maximus the Confessor:

The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High. (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)
How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? ... And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers [the popes] are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome. (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)
If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God ...Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to persuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also all the holy synods, according to the holy canons and definitions has received universal and supreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world. (Maximus, Letter to Peter, in Mansi x, 692).

John VI, Patriarch of Constantinople:

The Pope of Rome, the head of the Christian priesthood, whom in Peter, the Lord commanded to confirm his brethren. (John VI, Epist. ad Constantin. Pap. ad. Combefis, Auctuar. Bibl. P.P. Graec.tom. ii. p. 211, seq.)

St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople:

Without whom [the Romans presiding in the seventh Council] a doctrine brought forward in the Church could not, even though confirmed by canonical decrees and by ecclesiastical usage, ever obtain full approval or currency. For it is they [the Popes of Rome] who have had assigned to them the rule in sacred things, and who have received into their hands the dignity of headship among the Apostles. (Nicephorus, Niceph. Cpl. pro. s. imag. c 25 [Mai N. Bibl. pp. ii. 30]).
St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople:

[ Writing to Pope Leo III ]Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven. (Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)
[ Writing to Pope Paschal ]Hear, O Apostolic Head, divinely-appointed Shepherd of Christ's sheep, keybearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, Rock of the Faith upon whom the Catholic Church is built. For Peter art thou, who adornest and governest the Chair of Peter. Hither, then, from the West, imitator of Christ, arise and repel not for ever (Ps. 43:23/44:23). To thee spake Christ our Lord: 'And thou being one day converted, shalt strengthen thy brethren.' Behold the hour and the place. Help us, thou that art set by God for this. Stretch forth thy hand so far as thou canst. Thou hast strength with God, through being the first of all. (Letter of St. Theodore and four other Abbots to Pope Paschal, Bk. ii Ep. 12, Patr. Graec. 99, 1152-3)
[ Writing to Emperor Michael ]Order that the declaration from old Rome be received, as was the custom by Tradition of our Fathers from of old and from the beginning. For this, O Emperor, is the highest of the Churches of God, in which first Peter held the Chair, to whom the Lord said: Thou art Peter ...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Theodore, Bk. II. Ep. 86)
I witness now before God and men, they have torn themselves away from the Body of Christ, from the Supreme See [Rome], in which Christ placed the keys of the Faith, against which the gates of hell (I mean the mouth of heretics) have not prevailed, and never will until the Consummation, according to the promise of Him Who cannot lie. Let the blessed and Apostolic Paschal [Pope St. Paschal I] rejoice therefore, for he has fulfilled the work of Peter. (Theodore Bk. II. Ep. 63).
In truth we have seen that a manifest successor of the prince of the Apostles presides over the Roman Church. We truly believe that Christ has not deserted the Church here [Constantinople], for assistance from you has been our one and only aid from of old and from the beginning by the providence of God in the critical times. You are, indeed the untroubled and pure fount of orthodoxy from the beginning, you the calm harbor of the whole Church, far removed from the waves of heresy, you the God-chosen city of refuge. (Letter of St. Theodor & Four Abbots to Pope Paschal).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Patriarch (363)

Our Lord Jesus Christ then became a man, but by the many He was not known. But wishing to teach that which was not known, having assembled the disciples, He asked, 'Whom do men say that the Son of man is?' ...And all being silent (for it was beyond man to learn) Peter, the Foremost of the Apostles, the Chief Herald of the Church, not using the language of his own finding, nor persuaded by human reasoning, but having his mind enlightened by the Father, says to Him, 'Thou art the Christ,' not simply that, but 'the Son of the living God.' (Cyril, Catech. xi. n. 3) For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven. (Cyril, Catechetical Lectures A.D. 350).Peter, the chief and foremost leader of the Apostles, before a little maid thrice denied the Lord, but moved to penitence, he wept bitterly. (Cyril, Catech ii. n. 15) In the power of the same Holy Spirit, Peter, also the foremost of the Apostles and the key-bearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, healed Aeneas the paralytic in the name of Christ. (Cyril, Catech. xviii. n. 27)

St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 387)

Peter himself the Head or Crown of the Apostles, the First in the Church, the Friend of Christ, who received a revelation, not from man, but from the Father, as the Lord bears witness to him, saying, 'Blessed art thou, This very Peter and when I name Peter I name that unbroken Rock, that firm Foundation, the Great Apostle, First of the disciples, the First called, and the First who obeyed he was guilty ...even denying the Lord." (Chrysostom, T. ii. Hom) Peter, the Leader of the choir of Apostles, the Mouth of the disciples, the Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the faith, the Foundation of the confession, the Fisherman of the universe. (Chrysostom, T. iii Hom). Peter, that Leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church. (Chrys. In illud hoc Scitote) (Peter), the foundation of the Church, the Coryphaeus of the choir of the Apostles, the vehement lover of Christ ...he who ran throughout the whole world, who fished the whole world; this holy Coryphaeus of the blessed choir; the ardent disciple, who was entrusted with the keys of heaven, who received the spiritual revelation. Peter, the mouth of all Apostles, the head of that company, the ruler of the whole world. (De Eleemos, iii. 4; Hom. de decem mille tal. 3) In those days Peter rose up in the midst of the disciples (Acts 15), both as being ardent, and as intrusted by Christ with the flock ...he first acts with authority in the matter, as having all put into his hands ; for to him Christ said, 'And thou, being converted, confirm thy brethren. (Chrysostom, Hom. iii Act Apost. tom. ix.) He passed over his fall, and appointed him first of the Apostles; wherefore He said: ' 'Simon, Simon,' etc. (in Ps. cxxix. 2). God allowed him to fall, because He meant to make him ruler over the whole world, that, remembering his own fall, he might forgive those who should slip in the future. And that what I have said is no guess, listen to Christ Himself saying: 'Simon, Simon, etc.' (Chrys, Hom. quod frequenter conveniendum sit 5, cf. Hom 73 in Joan 5).And why, then, passing by the others, does He converse with Peter on these things? (John 21:15). He was the chosen one of the Apostles, and the mouth of the disciples, and the leader of the choir. On this account, Paul also went up on a time to see him rather than the others (Galatians 1:18). And withal, to show him that he must thenceforward have confidence, as the denial was done away with, He puts into his hands the presidency over the brethren. And He brings not forward the denial, nor reproches him with what had past, but says, 'If you love me, preside over the brethren ...and the third time He gives him the same injunction, showing what a price He sets the presidency over His own sheep. And if one should say, 'How then did James receive the throne of Jerusalem?,' this I would answer that He appointed this man (Peter) teacher, not of that throne, but of the whole world. (Chrysostom, In Joan. Hom. 1xxxviii. n. 1, tom. viii)

St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (434): A disciple of St. John Chrysostom

Peter, the coryphaeus of the disciples, and the one set over (or chief of) the Apostles. Art not thou he that didst say, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'? Thou Bar-Jonas (son of the dove) hast thou seen so many miracles, and art thou still but Simon (a hearer)? He appointed thee the key-bearer of Heaven, and has though not yet layed aside thy fisherman's clothing? (Proclus, Or. viii In Dom. Transfig. t. ix. Galland)

St. Nilus of Constantinople (448) A disciple of St. John Chrysostom

Peter, Head of the choir of Apostles. (Nilus, Lib. ii Epistl.) Peter, who was foremost in the choir of Apostles and always ruled amongst them. (Nilus, Tract. ad. Magnam.)

Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople (466-516)

Macedonius declared, when desired by the Emperor Anastasius to condemn the Council of Chalcedon, that 'such a step without an Ecumenical Synod presided over by the Pope of Rome is impossible.' (Macedonius, Patr. Graec. 108: 360a (Theophan. Chronogr. pp. 234-346 seq.)

Emperor Justinian (520-533)

Writing to the Pope:Yielding honor to the Apostolic See and to Your Holiness, and honoring your Holiness, as one ought to honor a father, we have hastened to subject all the priests of the whole Eastern district, and to unite them to the See of your Holiness, for we do not allow of any point, however manifest and indisputable it be, which relates to the state of the Churches, not being brought to the cognizance of your Holiness, since you are the Head of all the holy Churches. (Justinian Epist. ad. Pap. Joan. ii. Cod. Justin. lib. I. tit. 1). Let your Apostleship show that you have worthily succeeded to the Apostle Peter, since the Lord will work through you, as Surpreme Pastor, the salvation of all. (Coll. Avell. Ep. 196, July 9th, 520, Justinian to Pope Hormisdas).

St. Peter, Bishop of Alexandria (306-311) Head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, he became bishop around A.D. 300, reigning for about eleven years, and dying a martyr's death.

Peter, set above the Apostles. (Peter of Alexandria, Canon. ix, Galland, iv. p. 98)

St. Anthony of Egypt (330)

Peter, the Prince of the Apostles (Anthony, Epist. xvii. Galland, iv p. 687)

St. Athanasius (362)

Rome is called the Apostolic throne. (Athanasius, Hist. Arian, ad Monach. n. 35)The Chief, Peter. (Athan, In Ps. xv. 8, tom. iii. p. 106, Migne)

St. Macarius of Egypt (371)

The Chief, Peter. (Macarius, De Patientia, n. 3, p. 180) Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church of Christ, and the true priesthood. (Macarius, Hom. xxvi. n. 23, p. 101)

St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 424)

He suffers him no longer to be called Simon, exercising authority and rule over him already having become His own. By a title suitable to the thing, He changed his name into Peter, from the word 'petra' (rock); for on him He was afterwards to found His Church. (Cyril, T. iv. Comm. in Joan., p. 131)He (Christ) promises to found the Church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the Lord of strength, and over this He sets Peter as shepherd. (Cyril, Comm. on Matt., ad loc.) Therefore, when the Lord had hinted at the disciple's denial in the words that He used, 'I have prayed for thee that thy faith not fail,' He at once introduced a word of consolation, and said (to Peter): 'And do thou, when once thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.' That is, 'Be thou a support and a teacher of those who through faith come to me.' Again, marvel also at the insight of that saying and at the completeness of the Divine gentleness of spirit. For so that He should not reduce the disciple to despair at the thought that after his denial he would have to be debarred from the glorious distinction of being an Apostle, He fills him with good hope, that he will attain the good things promised. ...O loving kindness! The sin was not yet committed, and He already extends His pardon and sets him (Peter) again in his Apostolic office. (Cyril Comm. on Luke's Gospel) For the wonderous Peter, overcome by uncontrollable fear, denied the Lord three times. Christ heals the error done, and demands in various ways the threefold confession ... For although all the holy disciples fled, ...still Peter's fault in the threefold denial was in addition, special and peculiar to himself. Therefore, by the threefold confession of blessed Peter, the fault of the triple denial was done away. Further, by the Lord's saying, Feed my lambs, we must understand a renewal as it were of the Apostleship already given to him, washing away the intervening disgrace of his fall, and the littleness of human infirmity. (Cyril, Comm. on John's Gospel). They (the Apostles) strove to learn through one, that preeminent one, Peter. (Cyril, Ib. 1. ix. p. 736). And even blessed Peter, though set over the holy disciples, says 'Lord, be it far from Thee, this shall be done to Thee. (Cyril, Ibid. 924). If Peter himself, that prince of the holy disciples, was, upon an occassion, scandalized, so as suddenly to exclaim, 'Lord, be it far from Thee,' what wonder that the tender mind of woman should be carried away? (Cyril, Ibid, p. 1064) That the Spirit is God we shall also learn hence. That the prince of the Apostles, to whom 'flesh and blood,' as the Savior says, 'did not reveal' the Divine mystery, says to Ananias, 'Why hath Satan tempted thy heart, (Cyril, T. v. Par. 1. Thesaur. p. 340) Besides all these, let there come forward that leader of the holy disciples, Peter, who, when the Lord, on a certain occassion, asked him, 'Whom do men say that the Son of man is?' instantly cried out, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' (Cyril, T. v. P.2, Hom. viii. De Fest. Pasch. p. 105) 'If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.' When the Coryphaeus (Peter) had heard these words, he began to change. (Cyril, Ib. Hom.) This bold man (Julian), besides all this, cavils at Peter, the chosen one of the holy Apostles. (Cyril, T. vi.l. ix. Contr. Julian. p. 325).

Eulogius of Alexandria (581)Born in Syria, he became the abbot of the Mother of God monastery at Antioch. In 579, he was made Patriarch of Alexandria; and became an associate of St. Gregory the Great while visiting Constantinople. Much of their subsequent correspondence is still extant.

Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, 'I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,' but only to Peter. (Eulogius, Lib. ii. Cont. Novatian. ap. Photium, Biblioth, cod. 280)

Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Syria (450)A native of Antioch, Theodoret ruled under the Antiochean Patriarch.

The great foundation of the Church was shaken, and confirmed by the Divine grace. And the Lord commanded him to apply that same care to the brethren. 'And thou,' He says, 'converted, confirm thy brethren.' (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Haeret. Fab. lib. v.c. 28) 'For as I,' He says, 'did not despise thee when tossed, so be thou a support to thy brethren in trouble, and the help by which thou was saved do thou thyself impart to others, and exhort them not while they are tottering, but raise them up in their peril. For this reason I suffer thee also to slip, but do not permit thee to fall, thus through thee gaining steadfastness for those who are tossed.' So this great pillar supported the tossing and sinking world, and permitted it not to fall entirely and gave it back stability, having been ordered to feed God's sheep. (Theodoret, Oratio de Caritate in J. P. Minge, ed., Partrologiae Curses Completus: Series Graeca).I therefore beseech your holiness to persuade the most holy and blessed bishop (Pope Leo) to use his Apostolic power, and to order me to hasten to your Council. For that most holy throne (Rome) has the sovereignty over the churches throughout the universe on many grounds. (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Epist. cxvi. Renato, p. 1197). If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, hastened to the great Peter, to convey from him the solution to those in Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more do we, poor and humble, run to the Apostolic Throne (Rome) to receive from you (Pope Leo) healing for wounds of the the Churches. For it pertains to you to have primacy in all things; for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives. (Theodoret Ibid, Epistle Leoni)

St. Epiphanius, Archbishop of Salamis (385)

Holy men are therefore called the temple of God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in them; as that Chief of the Apostles testifies, he that was found to be blessed by the Lord, because the Father had revealed unto him. To him then did the Father reveal His true Son; and the same (Peter) furthermore reveals the Holy Spirit. This was befitting in the First of the Apostles, that firm Rock upon which the Church of God is built, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The gates of hell are heretics and heresiarchs. For in every way was the faith confirmed in him who received the keys of heaven; who looses on earth and binds in heaven. For in him are found all subtle questions of faith. He was aided by the Father so as to be (or lay) the Foundation of the security (firmness) of the faith. He (Peter) heard from the same God, 'feed my lambs'; to him He entrusted the flock; he leads the way admirably in the power of his own Master. (Epiphanius, T. ii. in Anchor).

Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (649)

Writing to Pope Theodore:O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)
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The reader can see very clearly from the above quotes that Jay Dyer has not done his homework on the Church Fathers. As a Protestant, I reject the Pope because the concept is nowhere in the Bible. The Fathers held to it because they did not want to follow the Scriptural pattern of church government being a plurality of elders for each local church, all with equal authority. They got away from the biblical pattern by speaking of one bishop per local church. This became centralized in Rome, but the East could never develop this concept historically because the various centers in the East could never centralize. But Jay has a major problem because he wants to appeal to the Fathers so much as part of the Eastern Tradition. Well Jay, I have news for you: If you want to appeal to the Tradition of the Fathers, you’re going to have to become a Catholic.

THE EASTERN ORTHODOX VIEW OF MARY

The worship of Mary and the saints did not come up in our debate either. I know that I am already causing Orthodox readers to cry out, “But we don’t worship Mary or the saints!”. However, this has indeed been a major problem for both Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Although Catholicism and Orthodoxy are different, this probably explains why many Protestants view them as two sides of the same coin.

Again, let the reader judge whether Orthodoxy doesn’t worship Mary by the following quotes from some of their akathist hymns:

"Rejoice, Protection of the world"
"Tree of delectable Fruit that nourishes the faithful"
"Forgiveness for many transgressors"
"Bestower of divine goodness"
"You who wash away the stain of sin"
"Rejoice, Healing of my flesh. Rejoice, Salvation of my soul"
"Unto you, O Theotokos, invincible Champion, your City, in thanksgiving ascribes the victory for the deliverance from sufferings."
"Distressed by many temptations, I flee to thee, seeking salvation"
"I implore thee who gavest birth to the Saviour and God, O Virgin, to deliver me from perils"
"Thou alone art the protectress of the afflicted"
"O Virgin, help me! For I know thee to be the inexhaustible, unfailing treasury of healings, O all-blameless one."
"Having thee, O all-hymned one, as our hope and support and unshakable wall of salvation"
"We have thee as a wall of refuge and the perfect salvation of our souls and release from our afflictions, O Maiden, and we ever rejoice in thy light."
"but as thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do thou deliver us”
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The above quotes indeed demonstrate to me that the suspicions of Protestants towards both Catholicism and Orthodoxy are indeed true: the Orthodox and the Catholics do indeed commit idolatry when it comes to the cults of the saints. Only Jesus Christ deserves the titles given above.

THE EASTERN ORTHODOX VIEW OF THE ECUMENICAL COUNCILS

This has been one of the kickers for me. I have met some people on my blog who have flirted with Orthodoxy or who are becoming Orthodox. Many of them came from a Reformed background. The attraction for them is that they think they are joining something that is centuries old, something that is “changeless.” However, Orthodoxy has indeed changed.
One council that by all measures was ecumenical, as we have seen, declared iconoclasm the official position of the church and declared the iconodules heretical. However, later this was repudiated. Now Orthodoxy is iconodule.

The Orthodox used to say that bishops from all areas should be present to make a council ecumenical, as opposed to just local councils. But they recognized this as problematic, so they now opt for the idea of what the “whole church” accepts.

But, as Timothy Ware even readily admits, the “whole church acceptance” idea is extremely problematic. Certainly the Coptic Church did not accept the Formula of Chalcedon. In other words, from an inquirer’s standpoint, how would they know whether to turn to the Copts or to the Greeks? On another note, what about the Russians? Orthodoxy shows itself to be a mixture of confusion here. This is not at all acceptable epistemologically.

THE EASTERN ORTHODOX DO NOT EMBRACE THE JURIDICAL CONCEPTS IN SCRIPTURE

Another reason I find Orthodoxy lacking in substance is because the Bible is clear in several places, and this by Jay’s own admittance, that guilt and justification are major concepts in redemption. The Orthodox have this absent from their thought almost entirely, opting instead for theosis and divinization.

ESSENCE/ENERGIES AND THE VIA NEGATIVA

Finally, this was not touched upon, but the Orthodox concept of the attributes of God is nearly absent in its thought because they place such a major emphasis on God being “unknowable” in His essence, but knowable in His uncreated “energies (cataphaticism).” The best way to know Him, they say, is to bask in the face of the unknowable God and use negative statements about Him (apophaticism). However, although we indeed cannot know God in His essence when it comes to His infinity and omnipresence, we can know Him analogically, as Van Til said. Indeed, He reveals Himself to us. The essence/energies distinction and the via negative have major problems epistemologically when it comes to revelation. How do we know of God’s inner life? If God does not reveal to us in any way His essence, Who He is, then how do we know Him? How do we know that what He reveals is consistent with His inner life? Indeed, the essence/energies distinction and the negative way seem to lead to an epistemological agnosticism.

CONCLUSION

We can see from the above that Eastern Orthodoxy is all promises but no fulfillment. I honestly do not understand the attraction that some have to it. Throughout this debate, we have seen and demonstrated the following:

-Eastern Orthodoxy offers a “timeless connection” to the Christian past, and claims to be “changeless,” but it cannot offer a consistent view of what makes a council ecumenical, and cannot tell an inquirer why they should not accept the Coptic church.

-Eastern Orthodoxy cannot agree amongst itself as to the extent of the canon, which certainly is part of Tradition, and certainly is part of God’s revelation of Himself.

-Eastern Orthodoxy tries to have a robust view of the Church Fathers, but having such a view does not help it, because we have seen that the Church Fathers themselves held to the jurisdictional universal primacy of the Papacy, and we have seen that even amongst Eastern Fathers.

-Eastern Orthodoxy leads to an epistemological agnosticism when it comes to their essence/energies distinction, and the via negativa.

-Eastern Orthodoxy cannot tell us why we should hold to their “tradition” but not the Roman Catholic one.

-Eastern Orthodoxy’s defense of itself is ultimately circular. That is, it claims that we should accept its tradition and claims because its tradition and claims are true. Why are they true? On what grounds? Well, because its tradition supposedly never changes. But we saw this as untrue. Besides that, how does that claim lead us from an epistemological claim to a metaphysical proposition of ultimate truth?

-Eastern Orthodoxy rejects the juridical concepts in Scripture, although Scripture is replete with them.

-Eastern Orthodoxy cannot demonstrate that it distinguishes between “worship” and “reverence” of the saints; indeed, we have seen from its own akathist hymns that it uses titles of Mary which rightfully only belong to the only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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This debate has been a serious one, because this is ultimately about our eternal destiny. Reader, do you trust in Christ alone for your salvation? Do you trust in His righteousness alone, His keeping of the Law and obeying God’s Law? Or do you conflate your works, although you would say they are given to you from Christ?

We have seen that the Orthodox Church is a false church and that it rejects the gospel of our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have demonstrated that it is easily refutable on its own grounds. But ultimately what matters is, whom do you trust for your eternal soul? Do you rest in Christ and His perfect righteousness, or do you bring your filthy works to the table?

I think we can conclude with a section from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. I see Ignorance as the man who reminds me of many in our day, whether they be Orthodox or Federal Vision or New Perspectives on Paul or Roman Catholic or any other works-righteousness heresies.

From Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (conversation between Ignorance, Christian, and Hopeful):

Then directing his speech to IGNORANCE, he said, "Come, how do you? how stands it between God and your soul now?"Ign. I hope well; for I am always full of good motions, that come into my mind to comfort me as I walk.Chr. What good motions? Pray tell us.Ign. Why, I think of God and heaven.Chr. So do the devils and damned souls.Ign. But I think of them, and desire them.Chr. So do many that are never like to come there; the soul of the sluggard desires, and hath nothing.
"The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." Proverbs 13:4
Ign. But I think of them, and leave all for them.Chr. That I doubt, for leaving of all is a hard matter; yea, a harder matter than many are aware of. But why, or by what, art thou persuaded that thou hast left all for God and heaven?Ign. My heart tells me so.Chr. The wise man says, "He that trusts his own heart is a fool".
"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." Proverbs 28:26
Ign. This is spoken of an evil heart; but mine is a good one.Chr. But how dost thou prove that?Ign. It comforts me in the hopes of heaven.Chr. That may be through its deceitfulness; for a man's heart may minister comfort to him in the hopes of that thing for which he yet has no ground to hope.Ign. But my heart and life agree together; and therefore my hope is well grounded.Chr. Who told thee that thy heart and life agree together?Ign. My heart tells me so.Chr. "Ask my fellow if I be a thief." Thy heart tells thee so! Except the Word of God bears witness in this matter, other testimony is of no value.Ign. But is it not a good heart that has good thoughts? and is not a good life one that is according to God's commandments?Chr. Yes, that is a good heart that hath good thoughts; and that is a good life that is according to God's commandments: but it is one thing indeed to have these, and another thing only to think so.Ign. Pray, what count you good thoughts, and a life according to God's commandments?Chr. There are good thoughts of divers kinds: some respecting ourselves, some God, some Christ, and some other things.Ign. What be good thoughts respecting ourselves?Chr. Such as agree with the Word of God.Ign. When do our thoughts of ourselves agree with the Word of God?Chr. When we pass the same judgment upon ourselves which the Word passes. To explain myself: the Word of God saith of persons in a natural condition, "There is none righteous, there is none that doth good." It saith also, "That every imagination of the heart of man is only evil, and that continually".
"What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:9-18"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" Romans 3:23"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5
And again, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Now then, when we think thus of ourselves, having sense thereof, then are our thoughts good ones, because they are according to the Word of God.Ign. I will never believe that my heart is thus bad.Chr. Therefore thou never hadst one good thought concerning thyself in thy life. But let me go on. As the Word passes a judgment upon our heart, so it passes a judgment upon our ways: and when our thoughts of our hearts and ways agree with the judgment which the Word gives of both, then are both good, because agreeing thereto.Ign. Make out your meaning.Chr. Why, the Word of God saith, that man's ways are crooked ways; not good, but perverse. It saith, they are naturally out of the good way, that they have not known it.
"As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel." Psalms 125:5"Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:" Proverbs 2:15"What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:9-18
Now, when a man thus thinks of his ways--I say, when he doth sensibly and with heart humiliation thus think, then hath he good thoughts of his own ways because his thoughts now agree with the judgment of the Word of God.Ign. What are good thoughts concerning God?Chr. Even (as I have said concerning ourselves) when our thoughts of God do agree with what the Word saith of him; and that is when we think of his being and attributes as the Word hath taught, of which I cannot now discourse at large. But to speak of him with reference to us: then we have right thoughts of God when we think that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; when we think he knows our inmost thoughts, and that our heart with all its depths is always open unto his eyes; also, when we think that all our righteousness stinks in his nostrils, and that therefore he cannot abide to see us stand before him in any confidence even of all our best performances.Ign. Do you think that I am such a fool as to think God can see no further than I? or that I would come to God in the best of my performances?Chr. Why, how dost thou think in this matter?Ign. Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.Chr. How think thou must believe in Christ, when thou seest not thy need of him! Thou neither seest thy original nor actual infirmities; but hast such an opinion of thyself and of what thou doest, as plainly renders thee to be one that did never see a necessity of Christ's personal righteousness to justify thee before God. How then dost thou say, "I believe in Christ?"Ign. I believe well enough for all that.Chr. How dost thou believe?Ign. I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his law; or thus, Christ makes my duties that are religious acceptable to his Father by virtue of his merits, and so shall I be justified.Chr. Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith:
1. Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the Word.2. Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.3. This faith makes not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy actions' sake, which is false.4. Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty; for true justifying faith puts the soul (as sensible of its lost condition by the law) upon flying for refuge unto Christ's righteousness--which righteousness of his is not an act of grace by which he makes for justification thy obedience accepted with God; but his personal obedience to the law in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands. This righteousness, I say, true faith accepts; under the skirt of which, the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquitted from condemnation.
Ign. What! would you have us trust to what Christ in his own person has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reins of our lust, and tolerate us to live as we list; for what matter how we live, if we may be justified by Christ's personal righteousness from all, when we believe it?Chr. IGNORANCE is thy name; and as thy name is, so art thou: even this thy answer demonstrateth what I say. Ignorant thou art of what justifying righteousness is; and as ignorant how to secure thy soul, through the faith of it, from the heavy wrath of God. Yea, thou also art ignorant of the true effects of saving faith in this righteousness of Christ: which is, to bow and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love his name, his Word, ways, and people; and not as thou ignorantly imaginest.Hope. Ask him if ever he had Christ revealed to him from heaven.Ign. What! you are a man for revelations! I do believe that what both you and all the rest of you say about that matter is but the fruit of distracted brains.Hope. Why, man, Christ is so hid in God from the natural apprehensions of the flesh, that he cannot by any man be savingly known, unless God the Father reveals him to them.Ign. That is your faith, but not mine: yet mine, I doubt not, is as good as yours, though I have not in my head so many whimsies as you.Chr. Give me leave to put in a word. You ought not so slightly to speak of this matter; for this I will boldly affirm (even as my good companion hath done), that no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father; yea, and faith too, by which the soul lays hold upon Christ (if it be right), must be wrought by the exceeding greatness of his mighty power;
"All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." Matthew 11:27"Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." 1 Corinthians 12:3"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power" Ephesians 1:18
the working of which faith, I perceive, poor IGNORANCE, thou art ignorant of. Be awakened, then, see thine own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God (for He himself is God), thou shalt be delivered from condemnation.Ign. You go so fast, I cannot keep pace with you. Do you go on before; I must stay awhile behind.Then they said:
"Well, IGNORANCE, Wilt thou yet foolish be,To slight good counsel ten times given thee?And if thou yet refuse it, thou shalt knowEre long the evil of thy doing so.Remember, man, in time; stoop, do no fear:Good counsel taken well, saves; therefore hearBut if thou yet shalt slight it, thou wilt beThe loser, IGNORANCE, I'll warrant thee."
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It is the gospel of free and sovereign grace in all its simplicity and all of its glory to God through which God saves. It is the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox who say “What do you mean we are saved freely? Surely this would loosen our lusts!”

It is this gospel which Paul answers this charge of in Romans 6.

It is this gospel which is the good news. Flee to Christ and His righteousness, and repent of your own works, all you who practice the filthy rags of self-righteousness! Admit your wretchedness and bow the knee to Christ. Ask Him to give you His righteousness.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.