Tuesday, January 31, 2006

fm483: Excellent Synopsis

The following was posted in a blog back by fm483. I found these comments insightful, and i didn't want them to remain buried. If anyone should have their own blog, it's fm483. He said:

"The Postmodern age we now live in poses perhaps the greatest challenge to orthodox Christianity. At least in Luther's time his words were taken seriously. Today, with the philosophy of Relativism permeating society, people are not able to even distinguish the TRUTH because of the cacophony of conflicting and inconsistent messages being transmitted. A good example of this is the frustrating experiences of the author of this Blog - James Swan - in dealing with Roman Catholics on another site. One would think that the 16th century Reformation never even happened, since the same unscriptural abuses and heresies have simply been handed down over the centuries to different people. James Swan no sooner finishes an excellent communication with one person on the RC blog, and then another person pops up with identical false beliefs the other had weeks ago prior to discourse!

The battles fought by St Paul in Galatians and elsewhere are simply being repeated in each generation, with only the external packaging being different: the sum and substance of the debates are unchanged and are all somehow associated with the Person and Work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. While our society may be advanced technologically, theologically this age is as confused and ignorant as ever. People are confused and superstitious, being non-thinkers with respect to anything theological. Since a man's life is so short and eternity so great, one would think people would be more seriously engaged in theological dialogue. Perhaps Luther was correct in seeing Satan behind the masking of our eyes from Christ and His Finished Work? Indeed, that would explain a great deal of the confusion in our Postmodern relativistic world! Scripture is correct in stating that although the sands on the seashore are virtually countless, only the remnant in each generation are saved. Is it only 1 out of 100 sheep? Or less?"

I would speculate, the problems pointed out above may be (in some part) due to a lack of persecution in the Western world. People will believe or disbelieve all sorts of things. There's nothing like a good dose of "freedom" to make us lazy and stupid. I think those claiming the name "Christian" would become better theologians (hopefully, of the cross), if what they believed caried consequences.

Martin Luther's Volatile Language

This excerpt is from my paper Luther And The Jews found Here.

There is also concern over Luther’s language, which becomes quite foul towards the Jews in his later treatises. In regards to Luther’s foul language, Roland Bainton has observed, “The volume of coarseness, in his total output is slight. Detractors have sifted from the pitchblende of his ninety tomes a few pages of radioactive vulgarity.”[i] But though small in percentage, it is there nonetheless and needs to be accounted for. Lest some think that Luther’s harsh language against the Jews was unique, his language against the Papacy was stronger, and his words against the Turks and false brethren were almost as strong:

Neither the vulgarity nor the violence nor the charges of satanic motivation nor the sarcastic mocking is unique to [Luther’s later Jewish] treatises. If anything, Luther’s 1541 Against Hanswurst and his 1545 Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil contain more scatology, more sallies against the devil, more heavy sarcasm, and more violence of language and recommendations. The polemics of the older Luther against the Turks and Protestant opponents are only slightly more restrained. Against each of these opponents- Catholics, Turks, other Protestants and Jews- he occasionally passed on libelous tales and gave credence to improbable charges. In all these respects Luther treated the Jews no differently than he treated his other opponents.”[ii]

Some think that illness and depression caused the “old” Luther to explode in violent harsh outbursts of profanity towards his enemies. It is a convenient explanation which locates the cause of his harsh polemics in unavoidable human frailty: senility, disease, and depression. But, a much more likely explanation is that put forth by Heiko Oberman. Oberman traces Luther’s harsh language as far back as sermon preached in 1515, thus proving the young Luther used the same type of speech as the old Luther. Most importantly, Oberman provides insight rather than psychological condemnation. He points out, “In the total historical context, …Luther’s scatology-permeated language has to be taken seriously as an expression of the painful battle fought body and soul against the Adversary, who threatens both flesh and spirit.”[iv] Luther’s rough language was therefore a weapon to use against the devil. “…[A]ll true Christians stand in a large anti-defamation league and are called upon to combat the God-awful, filthy adversary, using his own weapons and his own strategy: ‘Get lost Satan…”[v] In other words, Luther used scatological language to fight against Satan. Since Luther felt Satan was the mastermind behind works-centered religions (like Judaism), Luther attacks those religions using Satan’s own weapons against him.

For Luther, his use of scatological language exposes the Devil, who has hidden himself in the papacy, behind the Turks, and in the theology of Judaism. Since it is the Last Days, Satan must be resisted with all one’s might: with as much energy and all the vehemence possible. By exposing Satan in these systems, Satan becomes enraged and fights harder against God. By fighting harder, the Last Day approaches quicker.[vii]

Luther also felt he was following the example of Christ. Luther asks rhetorically if the Lord used abusive language against his enemies: “Was he abusive when he called the Jews an adulterous and perverse generation, an offspring of vipers, hypocrites, and children of the Devil?… The truth, which one is conscious of possessing, cannot be patient against its obstinate and intractable enemies.”[viii] In similar fashion, Luther responded to his opponent Latomus:

He [Latomus] says that I lack the evangelical modesty which I enjoin, and that this is especially true of the book in which I replied to the sophists of Louvain when they condemned my teachings.  Now I have never insisted that anyone consider me modest or holy, but only that everyone recognize what the gospel is. If they do this, I give anyone freedom to attack my life to his heart’s content. My boast is that I have injured no one’s life or reputation, but only sharply reproached, as godless and sacrilegious, those assertions, inventions, and doctrines which are against the Word of God. I do not apologize for this, for I have good precedents. John the Baptist [Luke 3:7] and Christ after him [Matt. 23:33] called the Pharisees the “offspring of vipers.” So excessive and outrageous was this abuse of such learned, holy, powerful, and honored men that they said in reply that He had a demon [John 7:20]. If in this instance Latomus had been judge, I wonder what the verdict would have been! Elsewhere Christ calls them “blind” [Matt. 23:16], “crooked,” “liars,” “sons of the devil” [John 8:44, 55]. Good God, even Paul lacked evangelical modesty when he anathematized the teachers of the Galatians [Gal. 1:8] who were, I suppose, great men. Others he calls “dogs” [Phil. 3:2], “empty talkers” [Tit. 1:10], “deceivers” [Col. 2:4, 8]. Further, he accused to his face the magician Elymas with being a “son of the devil, full of all deceit and villainy [Acts 13:10].” [ix]

ENDNOTES:

[i] Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: Mentor Books, 1950), 232.

[ii] Mark U Edwards, Luther’s Last Battles (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 140.

[iv] Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New York: Image Books, 1989), 108-109.

[v] Heiko A. Oberman. The Impact of the Reformation. (Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1994), 61.

[viii] Martin Luther as cited by Eric Gritsch, “The Unrefined Reformer” Christian History, 39 (vol. XII, No. 3), 36.

[ix] LW 32:141.

Odds And Ends: Upcoming Blogs

Just a quick note to mention upcoming blogs I’m working on, lest some of you think I don’t value your contributions:

1. Ray has provided a number of comments to my blog- All of them will be responded to. This discussion is extremely pleasing, as I don’t get much of a chance to dialog with people who are familiar with Gordon Olson’s work (In fact, I think Ray is the second person in the last three years i've met that has actually read Olson’s work).

2. fm483 has commented on RC Sproul, law and gospel, and what is really meant by the gift of faith from a Lutheran perspective found here. For anybody who is Reformed, you should read his comments- they will challenge you to clarify your theology.

3. I got an e-mail in December from someone named Finbarr commenting on my Luther paper “Sin Boldly”. His e-mail got lost in the shuffle. I plan on responding to him. He asked,

I wrote to you about Luther's phrase, "Sin Boldly," and my reflections on the fall and the biological principle. I wrote that it seems to me that when Luther wrote that "in the this world we must sin," he had in mind the pervasiveness of evil doing since the fall. One way to understand that sin is in the context of the principle of biological evolution, competition for survival of the fittest. All human beings, as persons and as peoples, must compete to survive. This is a fall from our original condition of cooperation in the Garden. We must compete, we must sin. Luther is arguing that we must acknowledge this, and the infinite grace of Christ, which is stronger than our finite sinful competition.”

Thanks to all of you for reading and responding to my blog. I appreciate your comments and challenging remarks.

Blessings,
James

Monday, January 30, 2006

New CARM Forums

If you’re a blog reader, I’d probably guess you also read discussion boards. The CARM discussion boards have been totally revamped:

http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/

You will need to register to use them.

CARM stands for “Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry”. I guess I’ve been reading and participating on these boards for six years. At one point, I spent some time moderating the forums as well. I don’t get involved in the discussions as much anymore, but here are some of the forums I will be checking in on:

Roman Catholicism

Lutheran

Arminianism & Calvinism

Apologetics

Church History

Systematic Theology


In particular, here are a few threads that have caught my eye:

Request: Protestant commentary of Suffer_ing in Philippians (and elsewhere)

The Virus of John Calvin produced...

Calvinist need to repent of hate.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Spiritual Death and Ephesians 2:8-9

This is a continuation of my interaction with Ray on Ephesians 2:8-9. The focus of this will be on Ephesians 2:1-7.

Ray's words will be in black, my words will be in blue.


*********

Ray Says: “Remember the context of Eph 2:8-9! God is graciously offering a gift that is to be received by meritless (I'll justify use of this term shortly.) faith. In that sense, man brings nothing to the table. This is natural and normal language that has been used throughout the history of commerce in descriptions of barter and trade."

Swan Replies: The context of Ephesians 2:8-9 is Ephesians 1:1-2:7 and Ephesians 2:10-6:24. Pay particular attention to 1:1- 2:7. What one needs to do is approach these verses and ask: what do these verses teach about the abilities of man? Do these verses explicitly state what an unregenerate man is able to do? 1:12 speaks of “we, who were the first to hope in Christ”. Does this explicitly tell us that an unregenerate man has the ability to “hope in Christ”? No, it doesn’t. 1:13 says, “And you were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal…” Does this explicitly tell us that an unregenerate man has the ability to believe without God first doing something? No, all it tells us is that when a person savingly believes, they are saved. One needs to go to those sections of scripture that tell us what the abilites of unregenerate man are.

And then comes Paul’s bombshell: Ephesians 2:1-7

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Here is an explicit truth: while we were dead in sins, God made us alive and raised us up with Christ. The picture is of spiritual death. Is there any description of merit-less faith that is the product of someone spiritually dead? No. I don’t find that type of language here in the context, at all.

Ray Says: “Let me illustrate. If two men are sitting at a table and discussing terms regarding an exchange of goods, and one offers the goods as a gift, a 3rd party observer would certainly not infer that inherent in this gift of goods was the ability of the receiver to believe and accept the goods as part of the gift. Quite the contrary, the receiver of the goods would have to recognize that there's value in what is being offered and that reception of the gift as a gift (no remuneration) is in his best interest.”

Swan Replies: Of course, there may never be a perfect analogy. In the one you provide above, certain paradigms have to first be in place in order for it to work with Ephesians 2. I offer you mine, which also carries inherent paradigms:

It's the old west. Two men are sitting at a table. One is doctor, very much alive; the other is cowboy, very much dead. His head is slumped down and his hat is barely staying on his head. The cowboy died from a deadly disease. The doctor has fixed an elixir that will heal him, free of charge. The cowboy only needs to reach out his hand and take this generous healing gift. The doctor offers it to him, but the cowboy just stays slumped in his chair…. because he’s dead. The doctor was told the cowboy had just died, so he throws him to the floor and begins beating his chest to jump-start his heart. After a few seconds, the cowboy appears to revive- the doctor quickly offers him the healing elixir: “I’m a doctor- take this it will cure your disease!” The cowboy quickly grabs the drink and slurps it down. But one more thing about this cowboy: he was a mean guy who had killed the doctor's family.

I find there to be nothing within the context of Ephesians 2:1-7 that suggests a spiritually dead man brings a spiritual-faith-ability to God in order to receive salvation. Rather, “Because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.” Now, note that earlier Paul says we were dead in our transgressions and sins- gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires. But when God makes us spiritually alive, we follow new desires. My question to you is thus: If a spiritually dead man is able to put forth "merit-less faith," is this not following a Godly desire? How can this be squared with Ephesians 2:1-7? It can’t. It would be saying we were dead in our transgressions and sins- gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires, except for our ability to produce a Godly desire to exert "merit-less faith." But Paul says differently. He says none of our desires are God-ward.

I agree that faith is “merit-less”- but I do so for a different reason than you. It is “merit-less” because it is a gift. Without it being a gift, it cannot really be “merit-less”. The term you use is fundamentally a return to Rome- because faith- in your usage, in effect, becomes a meritorious work.

I’ve always found this explanation from RC Sproul simple and useful:

Usually Arminians deny that their faith is a meritorious work. If they were to insist that faith is a meritorious work, they would be explicitly denying justification by faith alone. The Arminian acknowledges that faith is something a person does. It is a work, though not a meritorious one. Is it a good work? Certainly it is not a bad work. It is good for a person to trust in Christ and in Christ alone for his or her salvation. Since God commands us to trust in Christ, when we do so we are obeying this command. But all Christians agree that faith is something we do. God does not do the believing for us. We also agree that our justification is by faith insofar as faith is the instrumental cause of our justification. All the Arminian wants and intends to assert is that man has the ability to exercise the instrumental cause of faith without first being regenerated. This position clearly negates sola gratia, but not necessarily sola fide.

Then why say that Arminianism “in effect” makes faith a meritorious work? Because the good response people make to the gospel becomes the ultimate determining factor in salvation. I often ask my Arminian friends why they are Christians and other people are not. They say it is because they believe in Christ while others do not. Then I inquire why they believe and others do not? “Is it because you are more righteous than the person who abides in unbelief?” They are quick to say no. “Is it because you are more intelligent?” Again the reply is negative. They say that God is gracious enough to offer salvation to all who believe and that one cannot be saved without that grace. But this grace is cooperative grace. Man in his fallen state must reach out and grasp this grace by an act of the will, which is free to accept or reject this grace. Some exercise the will rightly (or righteously), while others do not. When pressed on this point, the Arminian finds it difficult to escape the conclusion that ultimately his salvation rests on some righteous act of the will he has performed. He has “in effect” merited the merit of Christ, which differs only slightly from the view of Rome."

Source: RC Sproul, Willing To Believe (Grand rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 26.

-continued-

Friday, January 27, 2006

Naomi Wolf gets religion

Wacky feminist Naomi Wolf is having visions of Jesus:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-brooks27jan27,0,5718118.column

Atheist accuses priest of illegally saying Jesus existed

AP
Published: 27 January 2006

Opening arguments were set to begin today in the case of an Italian priest who was accused by an atheist of breaking two Italian laws by asserting that Jesus Christ existed.

Lawyers for the prelate, the Rev. Enrico Righi, and his accuser, Luigi Cascioli, headed into the close-door hearing in the courtroom in Viterbo, north of Rome, to learn whether the judge would dismiss the case or order Righi to stand trial.

Cascioli filed a criminal complaint against his old schoolmate Righi in 2002 after Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth.

Cascioli claims that Righi violated two Italian laws by making the assertion: so-called "abuse of popular belief" in which someone fraudulently deceives people; and "impersonation" in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone.

Opening arguments were set to begin today in the case of an Italian priest who was accused by an atheist of breaking two Italian laws by asserting that Jesus Christ existed.

Lawyers for the prelate, the Rev. Enrico Righi, and his accuser, Luigi Cascioli, headed into the close-door hearing in the courtroom in Viterbo, north of Rome, to learn whether the judge would dismiss the case or order Righi to stand trial.

Cascioli filed a criminal complaint against his old schoolmate Righi in 2002 after Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Silly Luther stuff From Catholic Answers

I don’t know what it is about the folks who hang around on the Catholic Answers forums. It’s like a meeting place for the ridiculous. Here’s a work of non-brilliance posted recently:

Here is how I look at Luther:"And Satan will be let loose for a time, and he worketh thru his prophet Martin Luther...."I personally believe by reading all his works, he was under the influence of Satan, if not Satan's unholy angels. Only Satan and his minions are so capable of distorting and twisting scripture to their own means. Martin Luther set in motion the greatest ever-growing Schism the Christian nation has known. 28,000 distinct Protestant Denominations have existed since the Martin Luther and it is estimated that 5 new denominations start somewhere around the world each week. Schism upon Schism upon Schism upon Schism. It is out of control.Not to be judgmental but Martin Luther was one of the false prophets mentioned by Jesus. Hazarding a guess, I would say he is in hell and if by chance he is in heaven, his mansion in heaven is about the size of an Outhouse....”

The man who posted these comments calls himself “Joey Warren”- If my Colombo work is accurate, his blog can be found here: http://dialeticscripture.blogspot.com/. Joey says his comments are based on reading all the works of Luther. I’m assuming he read them all in English, so he read 54 volumes of material. I simply do not believe it- in fact I would strongly suggest he’s lying. Yes, that’s right- one of the defenders of the Papacy is using mistruth to provide Catholic answers. Go figure.

I actually asked Joey the following question: Have you really read all of Luther's Works? Which "works" specifically led you to your conclusion? His answer:

ColloquiaLuther’s New TestamentLuther's New Testaament (Edition of 1524). Luther's New Testaament (Edition of 1622).Do you want me to quote his heretical statements?We could just start with his "Sola Srcriptura", "Sola Fide" and the other one. All three are unbiblical and heretical.”

As I suspected, Joey hadn’t read all his works. Edwin Tait, a man fairly knowledgeable about Luther responded:

In other words, you have not read all his works. (Luther wrote many, many works besides those you list. Probably most Luther experts have not read all Luther's works. There might be a half a dozen people in the world who have.) Why did you falsely claim that you had? By "Colloquia" I presume you mean the Tischreden. Did you read all of them? And what do you mean by having read three different editions of Luthers NT? What edition is represented by "Luther's New Testament" without a year? And how is the 1622 edition different from the 1524 edition? What did you learn about Luther from reading an edition published 100 years after his time? I applaud you, at any rate, on your ability to read 16th-century German. Unless that also turns out to be a false claim. . . . (It is implicit in the claim that you read "Luther's New Testament," which is a German translation, obviously.) I don't know what you think you are accomplishing by making these weird assertions.”

Joey finally came clean after this and admitted he hadn’t actually read much of Luther:

No, I did not read them in their entirety, on the passages that were relevant to my investigation. This was done during the early 80's while in the Navy. Don't applaud me, I had lots of help. I took a trip to Europe to investigate these accusations people have made about his statements about the scriptures. I went to Germany and Rome and visited the libraries and asked to be shown certain passages where these quotes were. I had the librarian copy these after I found some scholars that could read the stuff enough. Then I visited the Universities where Theology was taught and got the same from the Professors. Then it took several months to find a couple of Linquists to translate these individually. So what I have is the photocopy of the text and it's transliteration. I hope one day that someone will put his entire works in English for the whole world so the truth of the matter can be ascertain. The problem with US libraries and Universities is that they have "Select" writings translated, not all of them. And what they do have, supports their teaching and beliefs. But I think it is in the best interest of the Lutheran movement that these don't become available in English....."

That would be my challenge to the Lutherans. Put every single one of his writings in English if they so believe that he was so HOLY and so RIGHT. but they will not, and I can take that to the bank and draw interest on it. Some things are better left hidden from the world....for some.”

I was looking in particular to references where Martin Luther questioned or made outright statements that certain books of the bible were not Inspired by God.”

I have good news for Joey- Much of Luther’s works in English have been available for quite some time, decades actually. The material he’s looking for can be found for free here:

Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture*

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ephesians 2:8-9- For Ray

This is a continuation of my discussion with Ray. Previously, I discussed God’s gift of faith, Ephesians 2:8-9 , and the interpretations of Norman Geisler and C. Gordon Olson of Calvin’s comments of Ephesians 2:8-9. Ray critiqued my analysis, and I responded accordingly. The entirety of the discussion is found in the following links.

1.*Did John Calvin Believe Faith is a Gift Given From God?*

2. *Everybody Loves Raymond...but "Raymond doesn't like Calvin"*

3. *Calvin on Ephesians 2:8-9 "The Return of Ray"*

4. *Calvin and Ephesians 2:8-9 (Ray Strikes Back)*

Ray offered further comments. Ray’s words will be in black, my words will be in blue. I'll probably post responses to him over the next few days.
**********

Ray Says: “We've already agreed that [Gordon] Olson is misusing Calvin's commentary on Eph 2:8-9. Unfortunately, he's not alone. I think many read it quickly, and with Calvin's help, misinterpret his comments. One must be very familiar with his stance on this issue [of faith as a gift given from God] in order to properly interpret him.”

Swan Replies: With any author, care and caution must be used. John Calvin was writing in a specific theological context in a specific historical time. It’s up to us to be fair and do the work needed to interpret him correctly. Calvin didn’t “help” us misinterpret him. We help ourselves to misinterpretation by not reading and studying carefully- and jumping to conclusions too rapidly.

I don’t know your background and training- With Gordon Olson though- I can’t be as forgiving, given his credentials and claims made against Calvinism in his book, Beyond Calvinism And Arminianism (New Jersey: Global Gospel Publishers, 2002). He directs his readers to “The Importance of Details” He says: “I have been forced to go into great detail of linguistic, grammatical, syntactical, exegetical, and historical material to do justice to my subject” (Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, 7). Whoever “forced” him must have been on a coffee break when Mr. Olson got to his research on Calvin. Much could be said about his failing with the “details” in his treatment of Calvin and the studies he utilized, and those he should have utilized. We haven’t even touched on Appendix E (458-463) in his book. For instance, he also uses the same fabricated quote Norman Geisler does on page 459. A simple checking of the “details” would have avoided this error. Olson didn’t check the contexts of the Calvin quotes he utilized- he simply barrowed them from Geisler and Brian Armstrong. This is not “doing justice to a subject.”

Ray Says: “Turning to your comment that Olson is intent on showing that faith is something that man has the ability to muster up, you are correct. However, Calvin is not the only source that Olson is using to support his goal. From my understanding, Calvin's view on Eph 2:8-9 carries little weight in his overall argument.”

Swan Replies: Noted that Olson uses a variety of texts to prove his conclusions. However, pay close attention to Olson’s summary statements found at the end of each chapter. On page 228 of his chapter dealing with “faith”, his first point of summary is that “Contemporary Calvinists have gone far beyond Calvin in this area and show a serious lapse into a scholastic deductionism rather than giving preference to direct Scriptural inductive study.” Since this is his first point of conclusion of five, I would disagree with you- Calvin’s view on faith is the first point of his argument, and thus essential to the tenor of the chapter. If it were not, it wouldn’t be one of the five key summary statements he wants you to grasp from his chapter.

Ray Says: “What is important is that one consider his full argument. In that regard, Olson analyzes a number of passages that Calvinists have used in the past to argue that faith is a gift. He maintains that a close look shows that they don't support the idea of faith being a gift except thru eisegesis”.

Swan Replies: Of course, I, as a Reformed person say the exact same thing. It’s important to consider our full argument. We also treat and find at fault a number of passages purported to prove an unregenerate man has the ability to exert his free will God-ward. I knew this was the direction we were headed, so if you’ve followed my blog, you’ll note I took a close look at Philippians 1:29:

*Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part One)*

*Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Two): A Look At The Interpretation Of Laurence Vance *

Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Three): A Look At The Interpretation Of Dave Hunt

Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Four): A Look At The Interpretation Of Gordon Olson

Philippians 1:29 and the Gift of Faith (Part Five): A Look At The Interpretation Of Norman Geisler

I chose this verse because it would probably rank as one of the top verses Reformed theologians would cite If anyone is guilty of eisegesis in Philippians 1:29, I would say it’s Vance, Hunt, Olson, and Geisler. I await any defense you may have of Olson’s interpretation of this verse. This interests me. Defend Olson’s work.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Church History Quiz (Part Two)


Both this quiz and the previous one are excellent for Sunday School classes or Bible studies. I've given both these quizzes to a few Sunday School classes.

If you're a trouble maker- give both these quizzes to an adult Sunday School class. They should know the answers. If they do not, and they've been Christians over 10 years, suggest they should fall under church discipline. If you're really a trouble maker- give these quizzes to a high school sunday school class, and let them take it home for each child to test their parents. If you're really really really a trouble maker, give these quizzes to your senior pastor. If you would like to be asked to leave your church, give both these quizzes to your board of elders or deacons- and if they get more than half of the questions wrong on each quiz, ask them when they are going to step down from being an elder or deacon.

This one is a little tougher. Have fun. Thanks again to the White Horse Inn gang.

ALL Questions are TRUE or FALSE

Church History Quiz
1. Emperor Constantine launched one of the most ruthless campaigns to uproot Christianity

2. The Gnostics were an ancient sect that emphasized the physical over the spiritual

3. Pelagianism was condemned by more church councils than any other heresy in church history

4. Pelagius taught that St. Augustine's doctrine of grace would lead inevitably to moral apathy

5. Arianism was the belief that Christ only appeared to have a human body

6. Orthodox Christians deny the title "Mother of God" as being applicable to Mary, the mother of Jesus

7. The Middle Ages were fairly calm in terms of heresy, due to the strength of Christendom

8. Martin Luther was the first reformer to attack the popularity of Pelagian works-righteousness in the church

9. Jerome Savonarola, in the 15th c., brought morality back to Florence and was, therefore, a precursor to the Reformation itself

10. Erasmus, a Renaissance humanist, was a major obstacle in Luther's breakthrough to understanding the Gospel

11. Martin Luther's great discovery was that the only way a sinner is acceptable to God is if the grace of God alone, by the power of the Holy Spirit, transforms the sinner into a godly Christian

12. The Reformers discovered that God doesn't expect us to be perfect, but that he forgives and accepts us on the basis of our love for him even though we still sin

13. John Calvin believed that the Old Testament law should govern modern nations and that is why he had a little girl stoned to death and had Servetus burned at the stake

14. Luther and Calvin believed that the main purpose of Holy Communion is to remember what Christ did for us and to commit ourselves anew to serving him

15. The Anabaptists were a group of English missionaries who helped advance the Reformation

16. At the Council of Trent Rome anathematized the Gospel

17. The Puritans were a group of English Arminians who sought to bring in the kingdom of God by prohibiting alcohol and banning the theater

18. Calvinists are the only Protestants who believe in unconditional election--that is, the doctrine that God elected sinners to be saved before the creation of the world apart from anything on their part, including foreseen faith

19. The position of the Roman Catholic Church and Arminianism is identical on the main questions of justification and sanctification

20. Pietism was a movement of mainly German and Dutch Protestants who wanted to emphasize the heart over doctrine

21. Modern liberalism arose out of a desire to emphasize Christianity as an intellectual philosophical system rather than a way of life and personal relationship with Christ
system rather than a way of life and personal relationship with Christ

22. The doctrine of conversion and the experience of being born again is central to historic evangelical Christianity

23. The most dominant view of end-times throughout church history has been the Rapture of the church prior to the Tribulation and the personal return of Christ to establish his millennial reign on the earth

**************

Answers to The Church History Quiz

1. FALSE - Galerius was the last of the persecutors and when he died in 311, Constantine launched the building of "Christendom"

2. FALSE - Just the opposite, they taught that matter is evil and spirit is good

3. TRUE

4. TRUE - Pelagius denied original sin and believed that all one needed to do to be saved was to follow Christ instead of Satan

5. FALSE - That's Docetism, an offshoot of Gnosticism; Arianism held just the opposite: Christ was merely a man, not the God-Man

6. FALSE - The Church insisted that the child Mary carried in her womb was no less than God himself. Thus, the title was calculated to defend the divinity of Christ. If she was not the mother of God, of whom was she the mother? Jesus. But was Jesus not God? They did not infer any notion of her being the mother of Christ according to his deity, of course, but those [like Nestorius] who wished to separate Christ's divine and human nature were warned against this by the title

7. FALSE - The period saw the rise of scores of sects, heresies, and schisms especially in the West

8. FALSE - Thomas Bradwardine, 14th c. archbishop of Canterbury; Johann von Staupitz, Luther's mentor, and the Waldensians, Wycliffe--14th c., Hus--15th c., were opponents of what Bradwardine referred to as "the new Pelagians"

9. FALSE - The Reformation was a recovery of the Gospel, not a moral crusade

10. FALSE - It is said that he "laid the egg that Luther hatched," by recovering the meaning of the key Greek words for "justification," "repentance," from the perversions of the Latin Vulgate

11. FALSE - Rome said that justification was due entirely to God's grace transforming the believer, while the Reformers insisted that justification, unlike sanctification, was a legal declaration, not a spiritual or moral transformation, even though the latter always follows

12. FALSE - They knew that God demanded perfect righteousness, and that's why justification is a perfect righteousness imputed rather than an infused righteousness or ability to pursue righteousness

13. FALSE - Calvin never had a girl stoned and actually pleaded with the city officials not to burn Servetus. He did not believe that O.T. civil law is applicable to modern nations, as he states in the Institutes

14. FALSE - Although they held different views, both believed in the "Real Presence" of Christ in Communion and denied that it was a mere memorial

15. FALSE - They formed the "Radical Reformation," believing that Protestants [Lutherans and Reformed] didn't go far enough in condemning Romanism [viz., infant baptism, the creeds, etc.] and that they denied that the Spirit is above and speaks apart from the Word. Many Anabaptists taught unorthodox doctrines, including Menno Simons' denial of Christ's true humanity, and embraced works-righteousness

16. TRUE - The Council of Trent of the Roman Catholic Church officially condemned the doctrine of justification by faith alone and its related teachings. Here are some of the most famous lines:

Canon 9: If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone..., let him be anathema

Canon 11: If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins,... let him be anathema

Canon 12: If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema

Canon 24: If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema

Canon 30: If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema

Canon 32: If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ... does not truly merit an increase of grace and eternal life... let him be anathemaThe above continues to be the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church to this very day

17. FALSE - They were English Calvinists who wanted to purify worship from what they believed to be persistent superstitions. Against their popular image, they actually were at the forefront of worldly affairs, including the arts, literature, science, exploration, and politics. See Joseph Butler's Theatre and the Crisis (Cambridge) and Leland Ryken's The Worldly Saints (Zondervan), for starters

18. FALSE - Unconditional election is the classical position of both the Roman Catholic and the major Protestant communions that came directly out of the Reformation

19. TRUE - Arminians traditionally deny the Protestant formula of justification [i.e., "justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone"] and argue that faith itself is the ground [rather than instrument] of justification. Further, they see justification as a process of being conformed to Christ

20. TRUE - Originally, they simply wanted to recover the union of doctrine and life, but the movement ended up creating anti-intellectualism, legalism and a cynical view of the institutional church

21. FALSE - Actually, its source was pietism and the desire to locate religion in a "spiritual" realm that would be safe from what the assault of the critics. Even though Christ may not have been raised in real human history, "he lives within my heart."

22. FALSE - Historic Protestantism focuses on the objective work of Christ for sinners rather than on the subjective work of Christ within sinners, while affirming and defending both

23. FALSE - The Dispensational scheme, including the idea of the Rapture, arose in the nineteenth century for the first time

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Basic Doctrine Quiz (Part 1)


I had this quiz saved from a few years back. It used to be found on the White Horse Inn website- Enjoy. This is the first part- no time limit and no cheating. On 1/23/06 will be the Church History quiz.

ALL Questions are TRUE or FALSE


Doctrine of God and Christology

1. Jesus was fully God, but only appeared to be human

2. Jesus was created by God before all things

3. Jesus was part man and part God

4. In the Old Testament, God was known as the Father, in the New Testament as the Son, and after Pentecost as the Holy Spirit

5. Jesus only died spiritually on the cross

6. God exists in 3 separate persons, who are only one in purpose


Doctrine of Salvation

7. Our salvation is based upon perfect obedience to the Ten Commandments

8. For we know that we are saved by grace after all that we can do

9. I am saved because of my decision to accept Christ

10. People who have never heard the gospel are innocent and go the heaven

11. The Bible teaches that there is an age of accountability, that children who die before this age go to heaven because they are innocent

12. If I die with unconfessed sin, I will go to hell

13. There are certain sins that I can commit which will cause me to lose my salvation

14. The Holy Spirit living inside me enables me to live a victorious life so that I am acceptable to God

15. Justification is the process by which a person, through faith in Christ and sorrow for his sins, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and so becomes a child of God

*************
ANSWERS

1. FALSE - Docetism cf. 1 John

2. FALSE - Arianism

3. FALSE - Nicene orthodoxy demands that Jesus was fully God and man

4. FALSE - Modalism

5. FALSE - Taken from Gloria Copeland, God's Will for You

6. FALSE - Taken from Jimmy Swaggart, Dake Annotated Study Bible

7. TRUE - While our salvation is not "personally" based on the Ten Commandments, it is based upon the law nonetheless. The Bible makes clear that God demands perfect conformity to his law, even though all have sinned. But all those who trust in Christ have their sins forgiven & are given the righteousness of Christ (i.e. his moral obedience) to wear like a robe. (see John 17:19, Matt 5:17 & Rom. 5). In short, we are saved by Christ's fulfilling the law in our place, as well as his dying for our sins on the cross

8. FALSE - Taken from The Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 25:23)

9. FALSE - See John 1:12-13; Rom. 11:5-8, Ephesians 2:8-10. If we our saved by our own decision, then certainly, we would have something to "boast" about, and salvation would not be by grace alone

10. FALSE - See Romans 1:20

11. FALSE - There is no such text, but David speaks of being sinful from conception (Psalm 51:3)
12. FALSE - Taken from the Roman doctrine of last rites; purgatory

13. FALSE - See Rom. 8:28-39 & Rom. 7

14. FALSE - We are acceptable to God by Christ's work on the cross (1Cor 1:30-31, Heb. 9-10), and even in our sanctification we are never victorious until we enter into glory (Phil 3:12, James 3:2)

15. FALSE - Justification is not a process, but a forensic declaration (Rom 4:5, 8:30-33). The question was taken from Kenneth Baker, Fundamentals of Catholicism, p. vol. 3 p. 57)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Wild Boar in Cyber-Space: A Brief Biography On My Interest in Martin Luther (Part Two)



Above: One of Luther’s first Roman Catholic biographers was also a great adversary with lasting impact: Johannes Cochlaeus. Cochlaeus best expressed his campaign against Luther by portraying him as a seven-headed dragon. Cochlaeus divided up the life of Luther into seven distinct periods, each represented by one of the heads on the monster. Each head held a contradictory opinion to the other. He explains what each head represents:

“Thus all brothers emerge from the womb of one and the same cowl by a birth so monstrous, that none is like the other in either behavior, shape, face or character. The elder brothers, Doctor and Martinus, come closest to the opinion of the Church, and they are to be believed above all the others, if anything anywhere in Luther's books can be believed with any certainty at all. Lutherus, however, according to his surname, plays a wicked game just like Ismael. Ecclesiastes tells the people who are always keen on novelties, pleasant things. Svermerns rages furiously and errs in the manner of Phaeton throughout the skies. Barrabas is looking for violence and sedition everywhere. And at the last, Visitator, adorned with a new mitre and ambitious for a new papacy, prescribes new laws of ceremonies, and many old ones which he had previously abolished—revokes, removes, reduces.”


With any study of Luther and the Reformation comes a crash course in Roman Catholicism. Many Roman Catholics on-line are livid against the Reformation, particularly Luther. I’ve read all sorts of unbelievable “facts” about Luther from the keyboards of Papal defenders: that he was adulterer, a drunkard, a polygamist, took books out of the Bible, uttered massive amounts of profanity, hated Jews, had people killed, and basically was in league with Satan.

Was Luther really all these things? If these things are true, how in the world could people like R.C. Sproul speak of him with such grandeur? Why would the great bastion of Reformed theology, Westminster Seminary, actually teach classes on Luther? How could an entire group of churches call themselves “Luther-an”? Well, it didn’t make sense to me. Someone wasn’t telling the truth, or either the truth was being told in such a way that the “facts” were being manipulated as tools of propaganda.

Five years ago, I was participating daily on the CARM discussion boards. Roman Catholics would frequently bring up Martin Luther- mentioning the unflattering attributes described above. Often I was directed to the entry about Luther in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Sometimes, they would link to articles to prove their historical “facts” about Luther. For instance:

Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact

The Orthodox vs. the Heterodox Luther

Luther vs. the Canon of the Bible

Martin Luther, Indulgences, and the Origins of the Protestant Revolt

Martin Luther's Devotion to Mary

The information from these old links was frequently brought into conversations. The good news is, some of these links are no longer available, and some of them have been "positively" updated. I share them in this form only to show what I originally came across, way back when.

The links above quote from historical authors that were at one time unfamiliar to me: Hartmann Grisar, Patrick O’Hare, Johannes Janssen, - and some that were familiar to me- like Will Durant and, Roland Bainton. Also, I was amazed to find the writer of these links seemed so familiar with Luther’s writings in German and Latin (and some of those dating back to the 16th Century!): Works (Werke), Weimar ed., 1883, Werke, Erlangen ed., 1868, De Servo Arbitrio, in Op. Lat, (Latin Works: Erlangen ed., 1829), Werke, (German) Wittenberg ed., 1559, Tischreden (Table-Talk), L.C.12.s., Werke, Halle ed., Luther's Letters, De Wette - Seidemann, Berlin, 1828.

Now, these editions of Luther’s writings are not readily available. They are quite difficult to track down. The amazing citations from the above German and Latin editions were taken from secondary sources (the authors I mentioned above). So I tracked down some of these secondary sources. There is an entire corpus of Roman Catholic writings that were not only against Luther and the Reformation, but were passionately and viciously against Luther and the Reformation. The result of my research can be found here:

The Roman Catholic Understanding of Luther (Part 1)

When I started researching Roman Catholic approaches to Luther, I was quite perplexed to find out that many of the Roman Catholic “anti-Luther” writers had been answered, in some cases, over fifty years ago, by very capable Lutheran writers. But unfortunately, these writings were not readily available. There were a good handful of articles from theological journals, but these are not so easy to locate (I spent many hours in the basement of Westminster’s library scouring the periodicals and journals).

Any good biography on Luther will deal with some of the issues brought up by Roman Catholics. But often, these treatments are sparse. To my knowledge, only two full-length books (in English) exist that directly respond to Roman Catholic treatments of Luther:

W.H.T. Dau, Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1917)

Richard Stauffer, Luther As Seen By Catholics (Virginia: John Knox Press, 1967)

I have both of these books. You may be able to locate Stauffer’s book via a used bookstore, but Dau’s book is extremely hard to find. Both are worthy investments. It’s unfortunate, but more web pages vilifying Luther may actually exist than those dedicated to presenting his work fairly.

So, one of my “hobbies” has been trying to fill a need, so to speak, in cyber-space. I’ve tried to pick out those aspects of Luther brought up by Catholics, and present the other side of the story: the side that great Lutheran writers had presented decades ago.

I say its a "hobby" because I don't think its as important as other things worthy of discussion- like "faith alone" or sola scriptura. Unfortunately, when one engages Roman Catholics on these subjects, a digression is sometimes put in play that seeks to link Luther's life with these subjects. It is sometimes argued: "Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura cannot be what the Bible teaches, because Luther's personal life was so sinful."

If by some chance, any of my research can put a discussion of these important subjects back on track, I will feel as if i've done some good.

James Swan: Lutheran, Calvinist, or Wolf? - A Brief Biography On My Interest in Martin Luther (Part One)


Above: A picture posted by a Lutheran describing how he viewed me.

I was having dinner a few months back with a new friend from church, and after I quoted Martin Luther about five times during the course of discussion, he said, “I think you’re a closet Lutheran.” The senior pastor of my church approached me once when I was sporting a new look at church, and he said, “You know, you look like a Lutheran minister.”

“You mean you’re not a Lutheran?” I can’t put a number to how many times I’ve been asked this. But then I have to come clean and let folks know I am an active member of a Reformed church. Sometimes, this meets with positive feedback:

Mr. Swan, Fantastic stuff, as usual. I understand (perhaps incorrectly) that you belong to a Reformed Church. May I ask what keeps you from being Lutheran?”

It is great to have you, Mr. Reformed Luther Scholar (didn’t know that such a thing existed!)! So far, your posts have been outstanding...especially the one...dealing with the hidden-ness of God -found where carnal man scoffs and laughs- in the lowliness of a stable manger and the humility of the Cross!”

Other times, it does not meet with positive feedback:

Your theology is reformed, not Lutheran. I believe you cannot view Luther through the same lens as Lutherans because of this. Your theology and Luther's are different. So, there is a automatic mistrust of what you have to say on the basis of where you are coming from...If you truly loved Luther's theology, you would embrace the Sacraments as Luther did...you could not help yourself.”

The Tertium Qid said" he wanted to discuss Luther, but when confronted with Luther quotes that exposed his slander of Luther, he asked for references to the American Edition of Luther's Works.... I shudder to think of what his teeth would have done to our little flock had not… my wife held (her) ground against his attacks on Lutheranism during my absence....Ironically, during my absence, I killed a coyote that was preying upon our deer herd's younger fawns. Gee, if I had stayed home-- I would have had a shot at a wolf who was trying to kill some of you!… All of us, without exception, were all wolves at one time, we were born that way. But by the grace of God, we are what we are now: reborn children of God and sheep of our Good Shepherd. So, TQ, if you are still listening, among Lutherans there is such a thing as forgiveness and even wolves can become sheep."

Now, these are only comments from Lutherans. These are kind compared to those from Roman Catholics and the radicals. So, whether you like me because I study Luther, or you hate me because I study Luther, I guess I finally need to explain my fascination with Martin Luther.

I was not raised Reformed or Lutheran. I grew up in a very conservative non-denominational dispensational church. I was never told anything about the great Reformers. I knew who Billy Graham was, but if you were to ask me about Martin Luther I would have said he was a great man who stood against discrimination and fought for civil rights.

I began listening to the radio broadcasts of R.C. Sproul. I had no idea what Reformed theology was- but I liked Sproul. Eventually I heard a very popular talk he gives about Luther. It is called, "Love God? Sometimes I Hate Him!" It basically describes Luther’s evangelical breakthrough- Sproul tells the tale with power and emotion. I was riveted by the broadcast. At the time I was struggling with my own love and hatred of God. The broadcast was just what I needed to hear.

I began reading about Luther- particularly Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand. I also began finding more recordings and books in which Sproul and others discussed Luther. I wasn’t too long before I began simply reading Luther. For instance, I devoured Luther's Preface To Romans before I embarked on my study of that great letter from Paul. His insights into Romans were simple yet profound. I picked up Luther's Bondage Of The Will and thoroughly enjoyed Luther’s humor, sarcasm, and devastating argumentation against Erasmus.

Eventually I took upper level classes through Westminster Seminary on the Reformation- which included an entire class on Luther. It was an in-depth study of Luther’s basic theological paradigms, rather than his history. It was through this that I was introduced to Luther’s theology of the cross and his paradoxes. This changed my entire approach to faith in Christ. Gerhard O. Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 simply revolutionized the way I "do" theology, as well as give me an even greater respect for Luther. I recommend this book to all Christians. Everyone should read it.

I have digested much of Luther’s writings. Currently, I use three different sets of Luther’s Works. I have a fairly large number of books either about Luther historically or doctrinally. Last count, I was nearing 200, not counting Journals, magazines, and on-line stuff i've tracked down. I am lucky enough to have 2 excellent state libraries near me that have excellent selections of Luther-related books. And of course, I use the Westminster Library, which can only be described as a goldmine. If its been written about Luther or by Luther, and is written in English, I can probably track it down.

I enjoy reading Luther’s sermons the most. In his sermons, Luther shines forth as the great pastor he was. His writings are comforting, and if anyone is tired of those silly “devotional” magazines your church gives away for free, track down Luther’s sermons. You will be energized by them.

On the other hand, I enjoy the "roughness" of Luther- I like the fact that he he said exactly what he wanted to, however wonderful or ridiculous it was. I've heard it said that the people we usually like are those that remind us of ourselves. I don't mean to suggest I'm anywhere near as brilliant as Luther, but I sure know how to say things without thinking them through.

I like the fact that Luther knew how to laugh and write with wit. His writing is not dry theology- it's alive. The great Catholic historian Joseph Lortz once said,

"...Luther is an intellectual giant, or, to use a word from Paul Althaus, an "ocean. " The danger of drowning in him, of not being able to come to grips with him satisfactorily, arises from his tremendous output, but no less from his own original style... It sounds banal, but cannot be left unsaid: Luther belongs in the first rank of men with extraordinary intellectual creativity. He is in the full sense a genius, a man of massive power in things religious and a giant as well in theological interpretation. Because of this, he has in many respects shaped the history of the world--even of our world today."

"Luther was a genius with language. Spontaneously his thoughts found concrete expression in the most sensitive of linguistic phrasing. It would perhaps be more exact to say that his thoughts take form in words."

I heard Church historian Timothy George mention one time that while he agreed theologically and doctrinally more with Calvin, if he had the choice to have dinner with either Luther or Calvin, he’d pick Luther. I’d choose the same.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Philippians 1:29 and the Gift of Faith (Part Five): A Look At The Interpretation Of Norman Geisler



This is the final installment of my look at non-reformed writers who disagree that Philippians 1:29 teaches faith is God’s gift. Specifically, I’ve directed my scrutiny towards contemporary writers who have written full works against Calvinism.

I saved Dr. Norman Geisler for last. I do so because compared to Laurence Vance, Dave Hunt, and C. Gordon Olson, I respect him the most. I have at least 20 books by Dr. Geisler, many of which are valuable resource tools. I have attended his seminars, and found them excellent. Despite my respect for Dr. Geisler, I have to disagree with much of what he wrote in Chosen But Free (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999). Here is Geisler’s interpretation of Philippians 1:29 (page 183 1st edition; page 190, 2nd edition):

‘For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him... .’ This is taken to mean [by Calvinists] that faith is a gift of God to certain persons, namely, the ones who are elect. Response: There are several indications here that Paul had no such thing in mind. First, the point is simply that God has not only provided us with the opportunity to trust Him but also to suffer for Him. The word "granted" (Greek: echaristhe) means "grace" or "favor." That is, both the opportunity to suffer for Him and to believe on Him are favors with which God has graced us. Further, Paul is not speaking here of initial faith that brings salvation but of the daily faith and daily suffering of someone who is already Christian. Finally, it is noteworthy that both the suffering and the believing are presented as things that we are to do. He says it is granted for "you" to do this. It was not something God did for them. Both were simply an opportunity God gave them to use "on the behalf of Christ" by their free choice.”

Geisler notes “several indications” that faith is not a gift according to Philippians 1:29. Let’s work through them slowly.

First, the point is simply that God has not only provided us with the opportunity to trust Him but also to suffer for Him. The word "granted" (Greek: echaristhe) means "grace" or "favor." That is, both the opportunity to suffer for Him and to believe on Him are favors with which God has graced us.”

Geisler is correct that the word can mean “grace” or “favor.” Dr. Geisler though has read in a word not explicit in the text: the word “opportunity.” To see Paul’s use of the word “opportunity, ”See Galatians 6:10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” The Greek word is kairos, it is not echaristhe.

Contrary to Dr. Geisler, Paul’s point is not that “God provided us with the opportunity to trust Him” and “suffer for him.” The word “granted” does not imply a choice to embrace an opportunity or reject an opportunity. Rather, the believing on Christ is something given to man as a demonstration of the grace of God. While not an exact method of determining meaning of word in a verse, note Paul’s use of the word elsewhere. Attempt to read in the idea of a choice to embrace an opportunity or reject an opportunity in the following verses:

1 Corinthians 2:12
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

Philippians 2:9
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name…”

Philemon 1:22
“But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.”

Of course, context determines meaning, so the above verses don't really end the argument against Geisler. However, If Geisler could show somewhere in the New Testament the word echaristhe being used in the way he suggests, he would have at least a beginning basis to help substantiate his interpretation.

Further, Paul is not speaking here of initial faith that brings salvation but of the daily faith and daily suffering of someone who is already Christian.”

Somehow, Geisler was able to distinguish between two types of faith. No better response is needed than that offered by James White: “…[U]nregenerate men can exercise saving faith that brings forgiveness of sins without receiving this faith as a gift from God, but the regenerate man for some reason is not as capable of producing daily faith! Are we to believe that the faith that accepts the promises of Christ unto salvation is somehow ‘easier’ than the faith the Christian needs for every day living? Surely not!” [James White, The Potter’s Freedom, (New York: Calvary Press Publishing, 2000), 320].

Finally, it is noteworthy that both the suffering and the believing are presented as things that we are to do. He says it is granted for "you" to do this. It was not something God did for them. Both were simply an opportunity God gave them to use ‘on the behalf of Christ’ by their free choice.”

Paul earlier tells the Philippians, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it...” (1:6). While this true, Calvinists do not deny that the faith given becomes our faith: God doesn’t believe for us, we are regenerated and are able to believe. No Calvinist believes that our suffering in this life is not our suffering. What A Reformed person believes is that both the beginning of our faith, and its end (sanctification) is the result of God’s work in our life (see Philippians 3:7-14). Suffering and persecution are not opportunities to choose one way or the other. They are external forces that come upon us. Generally, one does not seize the opportunity to suffer. Suffering seizes us.

If one continues to read past Philippians 1:29, Paul informs his readers to “…it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (2:13). In his own life, Paul notes that his persecution was for the sacrifice and service of the faith of the Philippians (2:17-18). Paul saw the things happening to him were for the greater glory of God.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Eavesdropping At Catholic Answers: The Debates of James White

VS.


I admit it: I skim through the Catholic Answers discussion boards. Every time I get involved in a discussion, I usually regret it. Not because I’m somehow “refuted”- rather, I usually end up wasting a large amount of time dialoging with people who have an inability to comprehend arguments and facts (I will post some examples of this in the near future). Since I spend a lot of time writing seriously, I thought this thread from Catholic Answers was worth a chuckle: Tim Staples / James White Debate.

Read for yourself how “Dr. White wrongfully used scripture and some argumentative techniques against Staples, so it was an unfair fight” or “James White is the Champion at Straw Man arguments” or “Sungenis destroys White (5 times). Hmmm.... no wonder White refuses to debate him any more” or “Pacwa took white behind the woodshed and had white grasping for straws”…” "Eventually it will be "White? who is White" He's no white, he's always wong!!”

Now, I’ve been to a few of the debates of James White vs. “insert Catholic Apologist name here.” So this is what makes these comments funny to me. I’ve seen more than one Catholic apologist squirm in his chair under cross-examination from James White. I've watched these exchanges in person- and i've heard the hush in the room when their hero is falling.

One of the funniest things I saw was the group of little old Catholic ladies yelling at White while debating Mitch Pacwa on the invalidity of the priesthood. Believe me, Pacwa needed all the help he could get. Probably the saddest thing I saw was Catholic apologist Bill Rutland attempt to defend the ability of non-Christians to enter heaven. After that debate, it isn't surprising to me the yearly debate series this was part of seems to be over. Dr. White has documented time and again how the Catholic apologists won't debate him. My guess is there won't be debates because Catholic Apologists realize how unhelpful these debates are to the validity of their "work". It must be hard to be taken seriously when recordings exist of them doing so poorly defending the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, almost every time someone on Catholic Answers starts a thread mentioning James White, there’s a pretty good chance the thread is going to disappear. The content of the discussion usually turns into slander and rhetoric. In fact, to prove my point, just go on to this thread and say: “James White is a Godly man with a heart for the truth.” Watch the responses you get, and watch how quickly the thread dissapears.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Four): A Look At The Interpretation Of Gordon Olson

This is a continuation of my look at a few different non-reformed writers who disagree that Philippians 1:29 teaches faith is God’s gift. Specifically, I’m directing my scrutiny towards those writers who have written full works against Calvinism.

A lesser-known work that I’ve written about previously is C. Gordon Olson’s Beyond Arminianism And Calvinism (New Jersey: Global gospel Publishers, 2002). This book probably hasn’t sold as many copies as other books against Calvinism. Probably the folks in New Jersey have more copies than most other regional locations, since the book appears to be self-published. The book is out-of-print, though it looks as if the material has been scaled down and repackaged in a book entitled: Getting The Gospel Right: A Balanced View Of Salvation Truth.

Olson taught the content of this book a year or two back at a local church in my area. I wasn’t able to attend due to the fact that I was teaching a class at the same time. I attempted to get the tapes of the classes, but rather ended up getting into an e-mail brawl about predestination with audio/video guy in charge of the tapes. Later I went to hear Olson speak at an evening church service, and I found him to be a very nice man. Out of all the books directed toward the downfall of Reformed theology, Olson's is the most intricate.

Gordon Olson’s book is 500+ pages. He offers this interpretation of Philippians 1:29-

Calvinists also use Philippians 1:29 (‘For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…’) to prove their point, but it is clear that we are given faith only in the same sense in which we are given suffering, that is, mediately through circumstances. No one would argue that suffering is an immediate and irresistible work of grace. As in the two Acts passages above [Acts 5:31 and 11:18], Paul is referring to the privilege and opportunity given to the Philppian Christians to believe, while alerting them to the fact that suffering for Christ comes with that privilege.”

Source: C. Gordon Olson’s Beyond Arminianism And Calvinism (New Jersey: Global gospel Publishers, 2002), 222.

This interpretation is much meatier than Vance and Hunt’s, though it’s point is not much different. Let’s work slowly through this paragraph:

Calvinists also use Philippians 1:29 (‘For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…’) to prove their point, but it is clear that we are given faith only in the same sense in which we are given suffering, that is, mediately through circumstances.”

Mediately through circumstances” is theological jargon from Olson’s interpretive paradigm. He means that God uses means. Olson says, “God has a mediate role of carrying out much of His plan in this present world- through His agents” (p.29). What Olson is saying about Philippians 1:29 is simply that God is giving people the opportunity to have faith through the preaching of the word. In other words, we’re really not given a supernatural gift of faith via God’s grace; we’re given situations like preaching in which we can express our faith in Him. Olson’s wording is tricky, since he says “we are given faith”. He definitely does not mean this- he explicitly states that "repentant faith" is within the means of spiritually dead man.

He then qualifies it with “in the same sense in which we are given suffering.” He goes on to explain:

No one would argue that suffering is an immediate and irresistible work of grace.”

Olson does what all “theologians of glory” do: they invent philosophical paradigms by which to analyze scripture. “Mediate” and “immediate” are terms which remind me of the unstable bulwark of medieval scholastic theology that Luther rallied against. But to be fair, let’s play in Olson’s ballgame for a minute. Reformed theologians (by and large) do not deny God’s use of “means” in salvation. The Preached Word does enter the heart and give spiritual birth. So faith, in a sense, is indeed arrived at "mediately." On the other hand, Reformed writers by and large note that regeneration and faith in a man's heart are the immediate work of the Spirit. Suffering is also a mediate work, as it is related to our sanctification. Both belief and suffering are gifts of God- as Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Olson continues:

As in the two Acts passages above [Acts 5:31 and 11:18], Paul is referring to the privilege and opportunity given to the Philippian Christians to believe, while alerting them to the fact that suffering for Christ comes with that privilege.”

Olson arrives where Dave Hunt does: inserting the word “privilege” into the text of Philippians 1:29. He also adds "opportunity." The striking thing about these two words is that throughout his book, Olson accuses Calvinists of reading their theology into the Bible, rather than doing inductive study, verse by verse. Here is a striking example of just that: neither "privilege" nor "opportunity" are in the text of Phillipians 1:29. Where then do these ideas come from? Olson notes they come from two passages in Acts. Leaving his interpretation of Acts aside, how is this doing inductive study? It isn't. Further, why is God giving the Philippians a privilege and opportunity to believe? What does this mean? Olson doesn't say. Does it mean God is giving them the preached word? Does it mean God the Spirit is now working to produce continuing faith in one's heart? Thus, the interpretation ultimately doesn't even make sense, nor is it the result of a close inductive look.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Three): A Look At The Interpretation Of Dave Hunt



This is a continuation of my look at a few different non-reformed writers who disagree that Philippians 1:29 teaches faith is God’s gift. Specifically, I’m directing my scrutiny towards those writers who have written full works against Calvinism.

Dave Hunt has taken a lot of time to (cough, cough) “refute” the errors of Calvinism. In 2002 he published, What Love Is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God (for all you avid collectors, used copies of the first edition go for around $65 and up). In 400+ pages, the 1st edition offers nothing on Philippians 1:29. In the revised self-published 2004 edition, Dave upped the page total to over 500+, but still didn’t mention Philippians 1:29.

The passage was eventually brought to Hunt’s attention by James White in the book, Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. Hunt offered this synopsis of Philippians 1:29-

That ‘it has been granted…to believe in Him” (Philippians 1:29) does not say that faith to believe is a gift without responsibility on man’s part, but that the privilege to believe on Christ has been granted.”

Source: Dave Hunt & James White, Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. (Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), 213.

First, Hunt at least offers an interpretation. He interprets Philippians 1:29 to say that the “gift” is not belief or suffering, it is the “privilege to believe." This is indeed reading a word into the text, and ignoring the grammar that does say both believing and suffering are gifts. Hunt makes it clear that by “privilege” he means Man must be the deciding factor on whether or not he will have faith, because Man is responsible to make his own choice, one way or the other. It would be like saying, God has given you the choice to do the honorable thing of believing in him and suffering for him. You can always choose not to do this and just remain a plain old faithless Christian who doesn't suffer. A faithless Christian? Can there be such a thing?

Second, to follow Hunt’s logic, if it is a privilege to believe, then everyone has been given this privilege, because Hunt believes in free will and man’s ability to come to faith without God’s miraculous grace. “Privilege” implies that someone has been given something another has not, but if everyone has been given the “privilege” – can it really be said Hunt is using the word properly?

Thirdly, the biggest dilemma faced by Hunt is what to do with the word, “suffer”. In the citation by Hunt’s above, he leaves out the word entirely. If one attempts to apply Hunt’s interpretation, suffering must also be a “privilege” to either choose to partake in or not. But, suffering according to the Bible is not a choice. It is something that happens to a believer- Hunt thus destroys the parallel of belief and suffering. God is not giving the Philippians a choice to suffer. He’s giving them suffering. In the same way, God is not giving the Philippians a choice to believe, He’s giving them belief. He’s not giving them opportunities or “privleges” to suffer or believe if they want to or not- this simply isn’t in the text.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part Two): A Look At The Interpretation Of Laurence Vance


I’d like to look at a few different non-reformed writers who disagree that Philippians 1:29 teaches faith is God’s gift. The first work for evaluation is “King-James-Version-only-advocate” Laurence Vance’s The Other Side Of Calvinism (Pensacola: Vance Publications, 1999-revised edition). What makes this book interesting is that both Dave Hunt and C. Gordon Olson utilize Vance’s work. Dr. Geisler does not.

The Other Side Of Calvinism (self-published) spans over 700 pages. Vance says of his book, “Since this is a biblical defense, the emphasis will be on what the Bible actually says, not what it has commonly been interpreted to teach.” [Source: The Other Side Of Calvinism, xi]. Vance notes, “Let me unequivocally assert that the purpose of this book is to show that Calvinism is beyond all doubt not the teaching of the Bible nor of reason” [Source: The Other Side Of Calvinism, x].

Since Philippians 1:29 is a proof text cited in many major works defending Reformed theology, one assumes by Vance’s claims that his treatment of the passage will be thorough. Such is not the case. Positively, at least Vance mentions the passage. In a review of The Other Side Of Calvinism, Robert Wilken commented, “The book has a Scripture Index as well. By consulting it you can quickly discover the Calvinist position on many passages. Unfortunately…many of the key passages in the gospel debate are not referenced in the index. For example: Heb 6:4–8; Jas 2:14–26; John 8:30–32; 12:42–43; Gal 5:21."

Source: Robert N. Wilkin, “The Other Side of Calvinism. Revised Edition” (Review) Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society Volume 14, August 2001(vnp.14.2.101).

Vance offers this one paragraph on Philippians 1:29:

The verse in Philippians is cited by Calvinists when seeking to prove that faith is God’s gift to his ‘elect’ so they can have their Total Depravity overcome by Irresistible Grace. But since not all Christians ‘suffer for his sake,’ an irresistible gift could not be in view.”

Source: Laurence Vance The Other Side Of Calvinism (Pensacola: Vance Publications, 1999-revised edition), 344.

First, note that Vance never offers any positive interpretation of what the verse means. He simply tells you what it doesn’t mean. In 700+ pages, Vance does not exegete Philippians 1:29. One has to simply rest assured that the verse can’t mean faith is a gift.

Second, Vance is saying that if faith is an essential gift, then suffering must also be an essential gift, but not all Christians suffer. Therefore faith can’t be gift either in Philippians 1:29. Vance’s error is in his last point: all Christians do indeed suffer.

Consider the words of Jesus in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble...” (Or, in case Mr. Vance reads this, the KJV says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation...”) Consider also the words of Jesus in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (again for Vance’s sake, the KJV says: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”). Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (Again for Vance’s sake, the KJV says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”). Paul said in Acts 14:22, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (again for Vance’s sake, the KJV says, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God”).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Philippians 1:29 And The Gift Of Faith (Part One)

After my dialog on Calvin, the gift of faith, and Ephesians 2:8-9, I thought it would be interesting to look at another proof text Calvinists use establishing faith as the gift of God.

Here are two translations of Philippians 1:29-

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (NIV)

For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” (NASB)

These two examples represent two different methods of translation. Both say basically the same thing. Two things are “granted” the believer: suffering and belief.

Context:
Paul earlier tells the Philippians that he is “in chains for Christ” (1:13). Paul wants Christ to be exalted, whether by his life or death (1:20). Paul utters the famous words, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). By the example of his own life, Paul encourages the Philippians to stand strong when facing persecution and difficult circumstances: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”(1:27). “Stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you” (1:27-28). Paul says, “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved- and that by God”(1:28). What is the sign? The opposition by persecutors to the gospel is a sign of their destruction, and that persecution is a sign to the persecuted that they are in Christ and will be saved. Paul then concludes: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.”

Interpretation
The word “granted” used in this verse, is from the Greek term charizomai. It means “to grant as a favor, that is, gratuitously, in kindness”. In other words, it means: “gift”, or "to give as a gift". It does not mean "opportunity" or "privilige". It implies God is giving or "gifting" something to the Philippians: faith and suffering.

There really isn’t any dispute that this text is saying God “grants” or "gifts" suffering to His people. A Christian has God’s promise that all things work for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Of course, psychologically we have a hard time swallowing the idea that suffering is a gift from God. How can this be? God is love- He would never want me to suffer! But, the gift of suffering doesn’t show itself until we start going through some difficult circumstance and we realize that that it is causing us to be conformed to the image of Christ. I have been through some very difficult situations. I asked for none of them. They simply happened to me. I did not "choose" them when faced with an opportunity. They were thrust into my life, beyond my control. Suffering has much to do with being confomed to the image of Christ. In other words, it has much to do with sanctification.

But here Paul tells us that believing in Christ is also a gift given by God. This is also psychologically untenable. Didn’t I by my own free will choose to believe in Christ? Sure He helps me believe now, but initially I “believed” and became “born again”. Paul tells the Philippians in no uncertain terms that they are Christians because of God. The word used for “believe” is the word “pisteuo” which means “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing).” The faith that the Philippians have is a gift. Later Paul tells the Phillipians: "...it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (2:13).

God is not giving the Philippians a choice to suffer. He’s giving them suffering. In the same way, God is not giving the Philippians a choice to believe, He’s giving them belief. He’s not giving them "opportunities" or "privleges" to suffer or believe- this simply isn’t in the text.

Some may respond, “Isn’t this verse simply speaking about the daily faith God gives us to get by? Paul isn’t speaking about initial saving faith.” The text makes no such distinction. It simply says what it says. If this is your response to Philippians 1:29, you need to stop and ask yourself whom is reading their theology into the text. One has to ask- why is daily faith a faith a gift, but not initial faith? It simply doesn't follow. Paul is telling the Philippians: God gave you faith in Him, god is now going to give you suffering. As you trust Him in His gift of faith, trust Him also in his gift of suffering. All things work together for His glory.

Look back on Philippians 1:28, "This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved- and that by God”(1:28). What is the sign? The opposition by persecutors to the gospel is a sign of their destruction, and that persecution is a sign to the persecuted that they are in Christ and will be saved. Paul then concludes: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” Contrast this with 1 Timothy 1:13-14. Paul says,

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

Here again the parallel of persecutor and believer is shown. What was poured out on Paul to change him from persecutor to persecuted? Grace, faith, and love.

Next blog(s) (hopefully): A look at those who insist Philippians 1:29 does not teach faith is a gift from God. I plan on going through the interpretations of Laurence Vance, Dave Hunt, Norman Geisler, and C. Gordon Olson.