Christopher Columbus and papal proselytization

“Columbus was actuated by a desire to promote the interests of Romanism, when he traversed an unknown sea and discovered this Western World.”[1]

The above proposition, likely common knowledge in 1888 when it was penned by Justin Dewey Fulton, has been largely forgotten or denied in our day. Today it is common knowledge that Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America had nothing to do with the totalitarian political theory of the Roman Catholic Church-State and all to do with a particular explorer’s spirit of adventure.

So, as another Columbus Day is upon us, I thought it would be of interest to reprint a portion of the great explorer’s conquests, as retold by Walter Montaño. In the interest of maintaining Montaño’s detailed and fascinating narrative, I have retyped the entire first chapter of Behind the Purple Curtain below titled, ‘Columbus and the Cuban Martyr’, although we would not agree with every point of his interpretation. In endeavoring to reignite Protestant opposition to both Rome’s theology and her political-economic theory, the more relevant and disturbing points I have emboldened for the reader who has not the desire nor the time to read the full chapter. Following this excerpt I will make a few additional comments:

Lonely and solitary, abandoned by everybody, no longer counting on the protection of Queen Isabel, who had furnished the expeditions but had died just before this time, and having spent the rest of his life poor and unnoticed, Columbus, the adventurer who gave dominions and gold to the Crown and the Church of Spain, was agonizing in Valladolid. This was happening on May 20, 1506, four years after his fourth and last expedition in which he reached the coast of Central America.

Was it not enough that his third expedition, which started on May 30, 1498, and took him as far as the northern coast of South America and the great river Orinoco, afflicted him with two years of struggle with enemies in Spain and enemies on the lands he discovered, had resulted in his having been arrested and sent home in chains like a vulgar criminal? Must he also die like a beggar in the street?

Was this his payment for the audacity of discovering the New World with a little fleet of three small caravels, Santa Maria, La Pinta and La Nina, with which he sailed from Puerto Palos on August 3, 1492, and on the morning of October 12, 1492, landed on what we today call San Salvador?

What an irony of destiny! When cruising thence southward, coasting Cuba and reaching Haiti, Columbus was cursed by the chief of a tribe who loved liberty more than silver or gold. When he discovered Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and other islands on his second voyage, in 1493, the chief was still there, in his native isle, repeating the curse against Columbus and his crew for having violated the virgin soil. The navigator never knew that the piercing eyes of the Cuban chief, the immortal and brave Hatuey, spying every movement he made, studying every detail of his expedition, counting every action of his greedy men, were going to follow him even to his grave. Those eyes were throwing fires of condemnation to all who dared to put their feet in that sacred territory. Did Hatuey’s curse really mean anything against Columbus, following him until his death? The imagination may wonder wildly; the truth is that Columbus’ ambition for gold and personal gain were not fulfilled and his prayers to renew the Crusades for the Church were not answered.

If only motives and incentives of the expedition had been nobler and higher!

‘It was the age-old lure of substantial things that sent the pathbreakers of the seas on their perilous journeys—Columbus across the Atlantic in 1492, and da Gama around the Cape to India six years later. Their adventures were only novel incidents in the continuous search for riches’ (Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, The Macmillan Co., New York, 1930, p. 7).

Edwin Sparks indicates that religious feeling was one of the prime incentives to action in Columbus. If he could discover this outward way to the Indies, he saw himself loaded with riches which he would use in renewing the Crusades. He pledged all the gold he should find to the use of the church and added to his prayer: ‘Surely under these conditions God will grant my prayer.’ (Edwin Erle Sparks, The Expansion of the American People, Scott, Foresman and Co., Chicago, 1900, p. 26).

But could God have answered such a prayer? Was He part of that war of the Crusades? Was He going to approve and bless the bloody Inquisition on whose flames thousands of men, women, and innocent children were going to perish, once it was established in the New World? No, that cannot be called prayer; it would be an insult to God. That was only the voice of black superstition, which, unfortunately, was destined to cause a deep wound in the heart of the new continent!

As inducements to enlist men for Columbus’ expedition, jails were opened and debtors forgiven. Mutiny was bred in such a crew before a sail was hoisted. But superstition being their guiding star, it worked strongly in such minds. That category of human element was the charter for the expeditionary adventure and the mold of conduct, in religion as well as in material conquest, for the New World. It is understood that such a company could not heartily be accepted even by the lowest type of savages and never by a tribe like Hatuey’s. Thus the reason for the great chief’s curse!

Columbus went to his grave ignorant of the fact that he had discovered a new world, supposing that he had missed Japan but had landed among the islands of India, and hence called the inhabitants Indians.

While his body was descending to his grave, the other Spaniards who followed his path toward the lands of gold, armed with the sword and the cross, were already spotting the soil with the blood of the Indians, culminating their adventure by condemning Chief Hatuey to be burned alive for the crime of opposing the conquest of Catholic missions in his land. The illustrious Argentinian, Dr. Juan B. Teran, President of the University of Tucuman, reminds us how Hatuey, bound to the stake, when approached by a Roman Catholic priest to become a Christian, chose the sufferings in hell to avoid a heaven with priests and the company of such ‘Christians’ as those who were tormenting him and his people on earth.

Hatuey’s life was, no doubt, the life of a great hero. He was still young when the discovery of his beloved island took place, but he lived long enough to see the destruction of his people, the misery to which they were condemned, and even the betrayal of many Indians who sold their bodies to the conquerors for a piece of a broken mirror or the torn remnants of a once colored vestment.

Greater than the physical torture he was prepared to endure was the torment of his soul caused by the ignoble actions of the Spaniards. It was natural then that, bowed down into the depths of great despair, his great heart was bleeding with a burden. Gradually, without his being able to stem the tide, he had seen many of his beloved people sinking into degradation, imitating the vices of the adventurers. In anguish he lamented the sad condition and planned some way of escape. But how? When he was still a ruler, before the Spaniards came to destroy his dominion, his word, though kindly, was inexorable law. Alas! He realized that now he was no longer heeded by all his people and to the Spaniards he was just another slave!

At this stage, Hatuey was still a splendid specimen of manhood. He was more than seven feet tall. About his mighty shoulders was thrown an enormous blanket, which set forth his towering form to the best advantage. He had a fine forehead; his long black hair fell to his waist; his eyes were full of fire, and his mouth with its thin lips was full of decision. His age was about fifty, and he walked with a firm step. Even his Spanish oppressors envied the good looks of the men of this tribe, as they were the finest developed Indians they had ever seen—instead of the weak, squat figures described by some historians. Both men and women were cast in a noble mould; they were bred true, with no deformed, unhealthy offspring of blood contamination. They were trustworthy, honest, truthful, and singularly faithful in their marital relations.

In the bitterness of his sorrow, Hatuey called into secret consultation two resourceful, faithful braves who remained loyal to him, and with whom he counseled far into the night, as to what might be done to save the remnant of the tribe.

After long and heartfelt deliberations, a decision was reached. Playing an apparently complete surrender to the conquerors, pretending to be resigned to their fate, and making the best of it, they went to the priest to acknowledge their absolute submission to him. In reality, this was only their strategy for the plan of returning to their ancestral haunts and in due time organizing the Indian forces of resistance. No matter how long it would take them to succeed in deceiving the Spaniards, they would do it, using priests as instruments, in the same way they were used by the conquerors to subjugate the Indians.

Once they gained he priests’ confidence, a clever idea was planned. With the pretext of going for fish, which abounded there, the Indians hurried toward the forest. Two fleet scouts were sent ‘to pursue fish for the padres,’ but the fact is that they were given secret instructions as to a desirable location, a supply of water, proper land for crops, and other needs, where all could go free from the eyes of their tyrants. The men were absent for many days. When they returned they brought abundant fish and pretended to be in high spirits. In the darkness of the night they told their chief the glad news that they had found a beautiful valley where the land was fertile, water abundant for crops, game plentiful, and the scenery the most beautiful they had ever seen.

Hatuey was pleased with the report, and began at once to select the men who would advance toward the new valley. Contacting the loyal tribesmen and their families he made known his plans for the long trek to the ‘Promised Land.’ The night of escape had arrived. Chief Hatuey, with his mate, Tuzula, and their children, started in the quiet of the hour.

Immediately behind them came the warriors in a wide line to guard against any surprise attack; the women and children marched in the center line, backed by picked braves who were guarding the rear, ready to use their arrows and other weapons in case of pursuit by any traitors of the tribe or the Spaniards. Hatuey knew that in their drunken fury they would attack his party and attempt to drive the people back.

Many miles were traveled on that night, as Hatuey was anxious to reach their destination. They stopped for a few hours of rest in a wooden hill where the dense foliage lured them with its promise of a safe shelter.

Chief Hatuey rose early and upon rounding a craggy hill at the foot of the mesa, the scene which met the brave chief’s eyes made his heart thrill with pleasure. Here was a broad vista of waving grasses, with here and there a wooded spot. In the far distance a line of bright green shrubbery bounded a crystal stream.

‘Ah, land of heart’s desire!’ he breathed. To the guides who were with him, the chief related: ‘The giant god tore this great peak from his quiver, hurling it at the great green hill. How long ago no man knows! Our fathers’ fathers have climbed to the healing waters which bubble from the hot springs, to drink and bathe. My father told me the story that in a fierce battle between two gods, a lightning bolt was hurled to direct our people to the springs.’

A veritable paradise it seemed to the weary and discouraged chief. To the peak of the craggy hill he climbed, to scan the broad plain, the home of his childhood; the years since he left it at the call of the priests who delivered him to the Spanish conquerors dropped away like a cloak, and he was an Indian again, a rover of the wilds. An air of wild exhilaration filled his soul; the light which had long been absent, shone in his eyes. Smilingly, cheerfully, he spoke to the guides, then shading his eyes from the sun’s bright rays, he gave a loud call to his people below, the sign that they were to follow him.

The happy tribesmen were loud in their exclamations of delight, as they climbed the great trees, ran over the rolling hills, and came to rest finally under the green, spreading willows on the edge of the rippling creek.

Then the march was continued. Toward sunset, after a long journey, Hatuey decided to make camp in the little valley the party had come upon. The spot was guarded by smooth, straight, towering trees and covered with wide-leaved foliage; the ground was clear of brush, and a stream of clear water made an ideal place in which to get needed rest and refreshment.

Two fat deer had been speared by the men whom Hatuey had sent ahead. The meat was cut into strips, strung upon long poles, and was soon roasting over the coals of a huge fire. The hungry people were regaled later, enjoying such a feast as they had not eaten for many a day.

With his heart full of content, the chief spoke: ‘The Great Spirit, the sun god, is with us, my children. We are at home again in our native habitat. No more shall we reek in the wallow of the white man’s sins. We are again children of the wild, where our forefathers dwelt in the ages agone. Here we shall leave them for a time, clearing the ground, planting the seeds, alone and at peace. As for us who are alive, we must prepare the battle now and not rest until these conquerors are driven far far away from our land, and our people become free again.’

Scarcely had Hatuey finished speaking, when they heard a hoarse, hooting war cry, followed by a succession of flying spears. Their enemies had come upon them unawares, dragging themselves along under the cover of the darkness in the clever noiseless manner of the aborigines, which they had not forgotten.

Hatuey and his companions hurled themselves upon their assailants, driving their spears into the nearest victims. In response to the chief’s sharp orders, the other warriors snatched their spears, and rushed toward the jungle, jabbing savagely to right and left. The invaders, in appearance melted away, leaving their wounded, who, although in some cases were frightfully mangled, made absolutely no sound.

The men scoured the brush with lighted torches, and for several hours waited for a further attack. All remained quiet. Soon the women and children, who had been hurried to a place of safety, were gathered together to sleep peacefully for the remainder of the night. The guards, however, remained on the alert, waiting for the early morning, when the march was to be resumed. Five wounded Indians, carried in sergas, blankets of their own weaving, had been treated by the medicine men with yerba de pasmo, which eased them effectually. But when the morning came, they were not able to resume the march!

In every great and noble enterprise there is always the black hand of some vile traitor. Such was the case with Hatuey’s planning. His own blood and race, one who was closer to him than any other person, a second chief, so to say, betrayed him. Guided by that traitor Indian, the Spaniards, fully equipped with force and weapons, preceded by priests, were following them. Hatuey and his people, weakened in the attack of the night by Indians, instigated by the Spaniards, were captured. This time Hatuey, his wife and children, and the other Indian leaders were taken under most severe vigilance. Their hands were tied with heavy ropes, and they were cruelly maltreated on the way to Hatuey’s death.

Hatuey, bound to the stake, was approached by a Roman Catholic padre asking him to accept “religion” in order to enter heaven where “beatitude and rest” are found. But if he refused to accept that religion? His soul would burn for eternities in the fires of hell! Hatuey asked the padre: “If I go to heaven, will I find your Christian people there?”

“Oh, yes, they will be there,” the padre answered.

“Then,” Hatuey responded, “I will not become ‘Christian.’ I prefer to suffer in hell rather than go to heaven to be in the company of your ‘Christian’ people who are so cruel, and so brutal.”

The padre and the “Christians” set a fire, and the noble, brave Indian chief of Cuba, the immortal and heroic Hatuey, was burned alive.

So Cuba had its first martyr of liberty in the person of the great Hatuey, not very long after Columbus died. But while the discoverer of the New World passed away without glory, Hatuey kindled the torch of liberty for the whole continent. The Spaniards thought that this was the end of the Indian rebel, that forgotten by time and people, he would not have any place in the annals of history.

Once the chief was killed and the Indians subjugated, the Church proceeded to impart its blessings to the “triumphant conquerors.” Twenty-seven years after Columbus discovered the New World, one stormy morning of 1519, the padre celebrated the first solemn mass in Port of Cuba, having erected an altar under a ceiba tree. He thanked the Virgin and the Saints for giving them, finally, slaves for the conquerors, land and gold for the Crown, dominion for the Church. Reduced to silence—they thought—the Indian rebels would never rise again; land and people were going to be theirs forever. But they forgot that their interest in the New World was merely material, and material things slip away from our hands. Sooner or later, when their plan of exploitation would come to an end and their only objective, gold, would be exhausted, the land and the people would be liberated once more from the hands of the conquerors. “Columbus had found a world for Spain,” says Sparks, “but she was not fit to retain it.”

Cuba has passed four hundred years behind the purple curtain and, contrary to their expectations, Hatuey’s name is remembered and repeated by all Cubans, young and old, as the symbol of martyrdom for human rights. The children in the schools learn today the principles of patriotism in the heroism of Hatuey. And yet we have not seen the depths of infamy . . . the blood left by its martyrs and heroes along the trails upon which Latin America has sought the sunlit heights of liberty.

With regards to Montaño ‘s last paragraph, bear in mind that he wrote this in 1950. Liberty is as foreign a concept to Latin America as is Protestantism, and the two go hand in hand. Early twentieth-century historian Felix Rachfahl noted that:

  • Protestantism permitted the intellect to be devoted to secular pursuits, not just religious;
  • Protestantism brought education to the masses;
  • Protestantism did not encourage indolence and distaste and disdain for labor as Roman Catholicism did;
  • Protestantism championed independence and individual responsibility;
  • Protestantism created a higher type of morality;
  • Protestantism fostered the separation of church and state.[2]

The point is that for those of us who are still thankful for our heritage of liberty and Christianity, we should look to God’s grace as it manifested itself in the Protestant Reformers. Neither Columbus with his fellow papist conquerors nor Hatuey’s “martyrdom” have contributed to, or properly categorized, true biblical freedom. John Robbins comments:

“Martin Luther’s courageous rejection—in the name of written revelation, logic, and freedom—of this faith-works religion [Romanism] laid the necessary theological foundation for the emergence of a free, humane, and civilized society from the ancient and medieval paganism of Christendom. The result was religious freedom and her daughters: political, civil, and economic freedom.”[3]

Considering early colonial church-state amalgamations in New England, I would go a step further and say such principles of liberty were more thoroughly and consistently fomented with the spread of Baptistic ecclesiology and 1689 federalism, driven by the Particular Baptists’ understanding of God’s two kingdoms.[4]

 

[1] Fulton, J.D., Washington in the Lap of Rome, W. Kellaway, Boston, 1888, p. 55.

[2] Felix Rachfahl, “Kapitalismus und Kalvinismus,” 1909, as cited in Robbins, J.W., Christ and Civilization (2nd ed.), The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2007, pp. 44-45.

[3] Robbins, ref. 2, p. 38.

[4] See the excellent paper by Baines, R., ‘Separating God’s two kingdoms: Two kingdom theology among New England Baptists in the Early Republic, Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, 2014, pp. 27-68.

Book review: Debating the Text of the Word of God, Douglas Wilson vs. James R. White

In 2004, John Robbins and Sean Gerety wrote a rebuttal to Doug Wilson’s inconsistent and indefensible promulgation of the convoluted and very much “not reformed” Federal Vision theology. In that book the authors claim that Wilson “accepts on one page what he rejects on another”[1], is “very adept at inventing misleading analogies and very inept at constructing valid arguments”[2], “and exhibits a “facile glibness and an adolescent smart-aleckness that readers of his magazine and books apparently find attractive”.[3] They go on to say that

“Wilson simply makes a statement and expects his readers to accept it. His thought and writing are episodic and oracular…. Rather than providing valid arguments from true premises, Wilson offers his ‘conviction’ that this or that is so. His appeal to ‘conviction’ fits his irrational, anti-intellectual philosophy, but it carries no probative weight. Rather it reveals Wilson’s intellectual bankruptcy.”[4]

If these seemingly harsh criticisms were true thirteen years ago, it doesn’t seem that much has changed in Wilson’s method of defending errant and groundless assertions and “just-so” statements.

 

When it comes to textual criticism, technical details are best left for the scholars (which I am not). That should not stop the average Christian from endeavoring to have at least a general understanding of pertinent issues at stake with regard to competing NT text platforms. This book, while deficient in many ways, is a welcome and useful introduction to the NT text debate due to its brevity and avoidance of complicated technical examples. The reader is introduced to the fundamental issues and assumptions at hand, and in my opinion, the fundamental flaw in textus receptus-onlyism is refuted by its own absurdity before James White even gets a chance to demolish it.

Even after writing that last statement, I can imagine Doug Wilson objecting that TR-onlyism misrepresents his position. While I do not intend to misrepresent him, it is quite possible that I misunderstand him. By the end of the book even James White appears to be unclear as to what exactly it is that Wilson is advocating.

I share the same preference of English Bible translations as Doug Wilson (NKJV) and was for a time persuaded that the Dean Burgon Society was on to something when they advanced their defense of the “traditional text underlying the KJV”. While it is somewhat embarrassing to admit that I had been taken in by the DBS’s superficial passion for preserving the purity of Scripture, it also gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with the circularity of their reasoning and the absurdity of their arguments. Doug Wilson (in this book) does not quote any of the Dean Burgon Boys (as I like to call them)[5] and my guess is that he would not want to align himself with them. However, as my review of a recent Dean Burgon Society publication can attest,[6] some of the same unwarranted and baseless assumptions are found in Wilson’s writing, along with the similar tendency to take the limited space intended for the development of his argument and fill it with misleading analogies and meandering drivel, as Robbins and Gerety warned. Indeed, when it came to the cross-examination, I would forget what the question was after I got done reading Wilson’s answer. In all honesty, his is the sort of pretentious writing that I find hard not to detest.

James White, on the other hand, both answered and challenged Wilson with directness and clarity. This is important due to the subject matter and the limited space provided by the publisher to adequately interact in any substantive depth. In fact, if the publisher really wanted to engage this issue with any thoroughness they could have allowed for more cross-examinations and interaction as well as space for extensive rebuttals and longer closing arguments. In any event, it is pretty clear that Doug Wilson’s strange variety of textus receptus-onlysim-sort-of—which depends on Stephanus’ 1550 yet allows for a very specific anti-Alexandrian textual criticism—is arbitrary and defenseless.

To keep this review brief and not to reiterate the points I made in my review of Kriessman’s book, I will summarize what I believe to be the fundamental flaw in TR arguments in the form of a question: Is it reasonable to assume that had Erasmus (or Stephanus, or Beza) had access to the multitudinous manuscripts before us today and possessed the ability to consult and examine such an expansive collection, would they have done so? The answer is an obvious and unequivocal ‘yes’. They would have utilized, and did utilize, all of the manuscripts available to them. For Wilson and others who have such an affection for the so-called textus receptus, it would make more sense for Stephanus and his contemporaries to say, “No thank you, I have no need of fourth-century codices or early papyri manuscripts. This handful of fragments on the backdrop of the Latin Vulgate will suffice.”

Additionally, it is often overlooked by TR advocates that Erasmus himself clearly had to engage in textual criticism. He had to take even the small sample that was available to him and make decisions about which renderings to use for his printed text. Then he revised this allegedly inerrant “traditional text” four times before it was revised again by others who would follow him. On the one hand Wilson acknowledges this, yet he still never provides an explanation as to how this differs fundamentally from what modern regenerate textual critics do today.

One more note. Wilson more than once appeals to “faith” as to the starting point of his argument for the TR1550. He gives no objective reason why this should be the base text. Since I am a strong advocate of presuppositionalism (more accurately, Clarkian scripturalism), it should be noted that Wilson’s blind allegiance to a particular text platform cannot hide behind a reformed apologetic. Our starting axiom is pretty simple: “The Bible alone is the Word of God”. This we presuppose up front and build our arguments from there. We make no pretense about “neutrality” or act as if this axiom is derived from something empirical (obviously, since empiricism is itself a failed epistemology). Such an idea would be totally absurd as axioms cannot be proven. These are the starting axioms from which arguments proceed. We offer no apology for this foundational component of logical reasoning. However, it appears that Wilson might expect us to allow his allegiance to TR1550 to hide behind an apologetic of presuppositionalism. No, our axiom states that the Bible alone is the Word of God, and this is perfectly consistent with both the Westminster and the Second London Baptist Confession. The axiom does not, however, denote a particular NT text platform. We recognize with Warfield that inerrancy applies to the autographs, not a sixteenth-century printed text, and it is our desire to get as close to the very wording of the autographs as possible. While textual variants do not undermine any fundamental Christian doctrine we still desire to obtain the most faithful representation of the original wording. That is the work of the textual critics. For such they should be commended not criticized.

In light of Doug Wilson’s aberrant Federal Vision theology and consequent undermining of sola fide, he is in a bad position to be criticizing the critics as if they are the ones guilty of undermining the work of the Reformers.

[1] Robbins, J.W. and Gerety, S., Not Reformed At All, The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2004, p. 15.

[2] Robbins and Gerety, ref. 1, p. 50.

[3] Robbins and Gerety, ref. 1, p. 17.

[4] Robbins and Gerety, ref. 1, p. 20.

[5] I am speaking of the Dean Burgon Society based in NJ and headed up by D.A. Waite, not to be confused with Dean John Burgon himself who was a contemporary of Westcott & Hort and therefore oblivious to the arguments currently being perpetuated in his name. DBS is textus receptus only, but in their case this equates to a form of KJV-onlyism albeit less cultic and extreme (and subsequently less consistent) than Ruckmanism. It is unclear to me whether or not Burgon would have agreed with all of the central tenets put forth by the DBS.

[6] Book review: ‘Modern Version Failures’, by Charles Kriessman, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, 29(56):104-106, 2016. At the time that I submitted this review for publication I was not yet persuaded that the critical text method of White and modern scholars in general was one I felt comfortable with being still sympathetic to the Majority Text view. Yet even then the textus receptus-only arguments simply collapsed under their own weight of circularity and self-defeat. At that point I had read virtually nothing by advocates of modern textual criticism and was hoping for some ammo to fight off those “liberal textual critics”. As it turned out, DBS had simply refuted itself.

Rome’s anathemas against those who believe in justification by faith alone

Protestants are often accused of being arrogant, intolerant Catholic-bashing bigots when we point out that Rome’s gospel, being as it is “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9), is a false and damnable one. Many evangelicals today seem to be oblivious to the fact that it was actually the church of Rome whom had officially anathematized Protestants as far back as the sixteenth-century at the Council of Trent. In other words, if we are “Catholic-bashers”, they were “Protestant-bashers” first. It is for this reason that Rome’s not-so-tolerant response to the reawakening of the true gospel was appropriately termed the Counter-Reformation. Naturally, if the gospel of grace which imputes sinners with the righteousness of Christ by virtue of His propitiatory work with no help of the sacramental sorcery of priestcraft, then the church of Rome is out of business.

In actual fact, and in contrast to Rome’s well-documented history of literally bashing Protestant skulls, we do not wish to “bash” anyone but seek to faithfully uphold and proclaim the plain, unequivocal gospel of Christ’s all-sufficient (Hebrews 10:12), once-for-all (1 Peter 3:18) atoning work at Calvary for the sins of God’s elect.

Rome has stolen the words of the Apostle Paul and misapplied his anathemas of the Judaizers by boldly anathematizing those who in fact believe the biblical gospel which Paul himself preached. Robert Reymond explains:

“Paul twice calls down God’s ‘anathema’ on the Judaizers who were ‘trying to pervert the gospel of Christ’ by their law-ridden ‘gospel, which Is really no gospel at all’ (Gal. 1:8-9). His words deserve citation: ‘…even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned [anathema estō]! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.’

The first thing that must be noted from Paul’s statement is that for him the gospel—justification by faith alone in Christ’s saving work—was already a fixed message needing no additions or alterations to it in the mid-first century when he first came to the Galatian region and proclaimed it. Neither he nor an angel from heaven could alter it in any way or to any degree without falling under divine condemnation. The implication of Paul’s statement here is clear: irrespective of whatever else they may believe—including even every tenet of the Apostles’ Creed—they who would teach others that in order to be justified before God and thus go to heaven when they die they must, in addition to trusting Christ’s saving work, ‘keep the law,’ that is, perform meritorious good works of their own, are in actuality ‘false brothers’ and stand under God’s condemnation. Rome’s Tradition, which has corrupted the law-free gospel with its many additions, falls under such condemnation. In fact, the sad truth is that from the post-apostolic age to the present time many church fathers and many church communions, in addition to the Roman Catholic Church, have proclaimed ‘a different gospel’ and thus stand under Paul’s apostolic anathema.

As for the word ‘anathema’…[it should be understood as referring to the] principle of ‘devoting’ or handing something or someone over to God for his disposal, usually to destruction.”[1]

Dr. Tony Costa, Professor of Apologetics at Toronto Baptist Seminary addresses Rome’s anathemas against Protestants on Iron Sharpens Iron Radio. They also briefly engage the issue of Rome’s synergistic soteriology’s relationship to modern semi-pelagian “evangelicalism”. This episode is highly recommended.

 

[1] Reymond, R.L., The Reformation’s Conflict with Rome: Why it Must Continue, Christian Focus Publications, Great Britain, 2001, p. 20.

The man in Romans 7

Whether the Apostle Paul—speaking in the first person—is referring to himself as a regenerate man in Romans 7:14-25 or as yet his unregenerate state has historically been an area of disagreement among theologians. Of course, I make no pretense of being able to contribute anything new to help settle the debate, but I am persuaded that this latter half of Romans 7 is referring to Paul as regenerate.

A recent article by Fred Malone was particularly beneficial to me, but first, a few samples to show the diversity of opinions on this passage.

Initially, I imagined that the differences of opinion with regards to Romans 7 may have been the result of differing theological persuasions and presuppositions. While there does indeed appear to be a correlation between the “sinless perfectionists” and the conviction that Paul cannot be describing a believer, such a conclusion does not appear to be a necessary consequence of one’s soteriology.

Consider, for example, Wesleyan-Arminian Adam Clarke for the view that this “carnal” individual could not possibly refer to the converted Apostle:

“…by I here he cannot mean himself, nor any Christian believer…. It is difficult to conceive how the opinion could have crept in the Church, or prevailed there, that ‘the apostle speaks here of his regenerate state; and that what was, in such a state, true of himself, must be true of all others in the same state.’ This opinion has, most pitifully and most shamefully, not only lowered the standard of Christianity, but destroyed its influence and disgraced its character. It requires but little knowledge of the spirit of the Gospel, and of the scope of this epistle, to see that the apostle is, here, either personating a Jew under the law and without the Gospel, or showing what his own state was when he was deeply convinced that by the deeds of the law no man could be justified, and had not as yet heard those blessed words: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way, hath sent me that thou mightiest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, Acts ix. 17.”[1]

It appears that Clarke was merely following the exegeses of John Wesley and Arminius before him. McGonigle writes that

“It is important to Arminius’ argument [in asserting that Romans 7:14-25 is speaking of the convicted unregenerate] to demonstrate that the New Testament never designates a man ‘carnal’ and ‘spiritual’ at the same time. Although regeneration is never complete in this life, it does extend its renewing power to every human faculty…. He saw this as descriptive of the awakened, but as yet unregenerate, sinner.”[2]

Note the confused soteriology in Arminius, according to McGonigle: “…regeneration is never complete in this life.” This reversal of the ordo salutis[3] is perpetuated in the teachings of John Wesley. According to W. R. Downing, confusion with regard to regeneration, conversion, justification and sanctification is one of the key characteristics of Wesleyan-Arminianism:

“Wesley held that ‘justifying faith,’ or conversion, was two-fold: first, the exercise of faith in response to prevenient grace, which justified; and second, regeneration, or the beginning of sanctification (holiness). He was the first to reverse the order of conversion and regeneration, and to change the nature of the latter.”[4]

JC Ryle, followed by fellow Calvinist Gordon H. Clark “in opposition to Wesley, [realizes] that Romans 7 describes Christian struggles and not an unregenerate lack of struggle. Ryle comforts Christians by pointing out that the struggle is itself an evidence of sanctification rather than an evidence of its lack.”[5]

Henry Thiessen, who “held a mediating view between Arminianism and Calvinism”[6] and was a colleague of Clark’s at Wheaton College (and aggressively pushed for Clark’s dismissal, due primarily to Clark’s consistent Calvinism[7]), wrote that “In the 7th of Romans Paul pictures his own condition, as an unsaved man in vss. 7-13 and as a saved man in vss. 14-24. He finds deliverance from a life of defeat, not in the eradication of the carnal nature, but in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 7:25).”[8] This seems to be inconsistent with Thiessen’s Arminian forefathers, yet, he goes on to favorably quote Charles Finney, that infamous Pelagian heretic who taught sinless perfection (among other more grievous errors). Despite heaps of evidence to the contrary,[9] Thiessen insists that Finney did not teach sinless perfection but merely “the importance of rising up to our privileges of victory.”[10]

Robert Reymond devotes an entire appendix to the question of “Whom does the man in Romans 7:14-25 Represent” in his brilliant systematic theology[11] and comes to the opposite conclusion of fellow Presbyterian Calvinist Gordon Clark asserting that Paul is referring to himself as yet unregenerate (being “carnal”).

Baptist John Gill (Calvinist) comments on “I am carnal, sold under sin”:

“From hence to the end of the chapter many are of opinion, that the apostle speaks in the person of an unregenerate man, or of himself as unregenerate; but nothing is more clear, than that he speaks all along of himself in the first person, ‘I am carnal’: (autov egw) , ‘I myself’, as in (Romans 7:25), and in the present tense of what he then was and found; whereas, when he speaks of his unregenerate state, and how it was with him under the first convictions of sin, he speaks of them as things past, (7:5-11); besides, several things which are said by the apostle can neither agree with him, nor any other, but as regenerate; such as to ‘hate evil’, ‘delight in the law of God’, and ‘serve it with the mind’, (7:15, 22, 25)[12]

All of this to say that the differing exegetical conclusions regarding Romans 7 do not appear to be driven by a particular soteriology or creedal hermeneutic, but tendencies toward perfectionism (be it relative or sinless) remain typical of Arminians and Pelagians.[13] That being the case, Romans 7 will either be a source of great encouragement or defeatism and discouragement depending on one’s exegesis. Consider now the following insightful article by Fred Malone at Founders Ministries as he makes the case that Romans 7:14-8:4 describes Paul as a believer:

The Man in Romans 7, by Fred Malone

The 7th chapter of Romans is teeming with important pastoral and theological insights. A careful study of it yields help for Christians who are confused or despondent over their remaining sin. Paul’s comments in 7:14-8:4 contain important practical principles which dispel many erroneous and superficial depictions of the Christian life.

Consider the following theological questions as we approach this text:

1. What is the function of God’s Law for the unconverted? What is the function of the Law for the converted? And which Law is God’s Law? The Ten Commandments; the Nine Commandments; more or less?

2. Is the man in Rom. 7:14-25 regenerate, unregenerate?

3. If the man is a Christian, is this his entire Christian experience? Is it a periodic lapse from which he recovers? Or is this only a normal part of the daily Christian walk? Does one ever get out of Rom. 7 into Rom. 8?

4. Does the Christian have one nature or two natures? Is the Christian an Old Man and a New Man butting heads? Or is the Christian one unified nature? Where does sin come from in the Christian life? The Old Man, the New Man, or the bodily flesh?

These vital questions, which have implications for evangelism, sanctification, pastoral care, assurance of salvation and more, must be answered in the light of the seventh chapter of Romans. Specifically, verses 14-25 should be studied.

The New Covenant Christian

By delineating the biblical characteristics of a New Covenant Christian and comparing them to Rom. 7:14-25 we recognize that the kind of person which Paul has in mind is nothing less than a believer.

From Jer. 31:31-34 (fulfilled in Hebrews 8 and 10), we learn that a New Covenant Christian has two main characteristics: (l) a new record and (2) a new heart. His new record through the work of Christ is described this way: “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” And this is the new heart provided by the work of the Spirit: “I will put my laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them.” This is what it means to be born again by God’s Spirit.

One of the major differences between the Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant is this: God’s law has been internalized in every covenant believer by the regenerating work of the Spirit. The Christian has a new attitude toward God’s law as well as having the forgiveness of sins and the knowledge of God.

Which Law? The same law which Jeremiah understood when he prophesied; the same law the Israelites understood when they heard the prophecy; and the same law the Jewish readers of Hebrews understood. It is the only Law which God Himself wrote: the Ten Words, specifically called “the covenant” in Deut. 4:13. Old Testament exegesis demands this understanding of Law in Heb. 8:8-12. Further, Paul illustrates his meaning of moral Law in Rom. 7:7-25 by describing the tenth of the Ten Words in 7:7. God’s moral Law has not changed between the Old and the New Covenants. Rather, it has been internalized in the heart of every New Covenant believer.

In Rom. 7:7-13, Paul uses the first person, past tense to recount his pre-conversion state. Before conversion, he was blameless as a law-keeper in his own eyes and before his countrymen (Phil. 3:6). However, when the Tenth Commandment came to his conscience, “Thou shalt not covet,” it killed Paul before God. It stirred up his heart, revealed coveting before God, and killed his self-righteous soul sometime before (or when) he looked into the righteous face of Christ on the Damascus road.

Rom. 7:7-13 perfectly parallels Paul’s past tense description of every Christian’s pre-conversion state in 7:5: “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body, to bear fruit for death.” In Paul’s unconverted state, God took the Sword of His Holy Law and pierced his heart, unleashing all manner of filth and degradation which killed him before God. There was nothing wrong with the Law. Paul was the problem.

In Rom. 7:14-8:4, Paul moves to the first person, present tense. This is a perfect parallel to the shift from the past tense in 7:5 to the present in 7:6: “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” The shift from the past pre-converted state of every believer in 7:5 to the present converted state in 7:6 is illustrated by Paul’s personal experience in 7:7-13 and 7:14-8:4 respectively. The man of 7:14-8:4 is described in the first person, present tense. He is Paul as a Christian.

What characterizes this Christian man? In 7:14, he believes that “the Law is spiritual.” In 7:22, he “joyfully concurs with (delights in) the Law of God in the inner man.” In 7:25, he serves the Law of God with his mind inwardly and spiritually in a way that he did not before. The Law, described as one of the Ten Words in 7:7, is no longer written only on tablets of stone. Now it is written on Paul’s heart by the Holy Spirit. This is exactly the description of the New Covenant Christian above.

J. I. Packer was once asked if he really thought that Paul’s use of the present tense in Rom. 7:14-25 refers to Paul as a believer. Dr. Packer’s learned and scholarly reply was: “Of course!” The man in Rom. 7:14-8:4 is a Christian.

Objections to this View

The main objection to this view argues that Paul uses a first person, historical present tense in 7:14-25 to describe his pre-Christian state. This position states that surely noChristian, much less Paul, could say “I am carnal, sold under sin . . . nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh . . . wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death” (7:14, 15, 25). Rather, the argument goes, this must be the non-Christian of 8:7-8.

The problem with this objection is that it refuses to let 7:14-25 be admitted as evidence for the Christian life. This is presuppositional. This word “carnal” is used in 1 Cor. 3:1-3 of Christians caught in particular sins and acting as “babes in Christ.” How were they “carnal?” They were arguing over the best preacher and his baptism. They were not totally “carnal” as is popularly conceived in the erroneous, so-called “carnal Christian” doctrine. Neither were they treated as non-Christians because they acted “carnal, fleshly” in this area of division over preachers. There is no such thing as a totally “carnal” Christian nor a totally “spiritual” one.

Paul’s claim, “I am carnal, sold into bondage to sin,” is explained by Horatius Bonar in the following way:

This is not the language of an unregenerate or half-regenerate man. When, however, he adds, “I am carnal, sold under sin,” is it really Paul, the new creature in Christ, that he is describing? It is; and they who think it impossible for a saint to speak thus, must know little of sin, and less of themselves. A right apprehension of sin; of one sin or fragment of sin (if such a thing there be), would produce the oppressive sensation here described by the apostle–a sensation 20 or 30 years progress would rather intensify than weaken. They are far mistaken in their estimate of evil, who think that it is the multitude of sins that gives rise to the bitter outcry, “I am carnal.” One sin left behind would produce the feeling here expressed. Who can say, “I need the Word less and the Spirit less than I did 20 years ago”?

The true Christian knows very well that every time he falls into sin that “The Law is spiritual . . . [but] I am carnal, sold into bondage to sin.”

The same man who cries “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death (of this body of death)?” also cries, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (7:25-8:1). This man is not convicted under the weight of his sin’s condemnation. he is groaning as a regenerate man convicted under the weight of his remaining condition of sin. He cries out to Jesus Christ for help because he wants to be free from the condition of indwelling sin.

Granted, this is not all that there is to Christian experience. The man in 7:14-25 is also the man in 8:1-4 at the same time. He repents (7:14-25) and believes (8:1-4) daily. Rom. 7:14-24 is but one aspect of the mature Paul and every Christian. All Christians feel within the inward struggle against remaining sin. This is the man in whom God has written his Law upon the heart and who mourns over his daily failures to please the God of Grace. If you see yourself in 7:14-25, you are in the company of an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

Practical Lessons

First, every Christian delights in the Law of God in the inner man, agreeing that it is spiritual and good. To put it another way: You cannot have Jesus as Savior unless you bow to Him as Lord. By the very definition of the New Covenant, the covenant Law of Sinai (the Ten Words) is written upon the Christian heart by the Holy Spirit (Heb. 8:8-12). While we may be ignorant in many ways of the implications of those Laws, failing in many ways to keep them, still the saint has a disposition to walk in the commandments of God. And he is grieved and hurt and he mourns when he fails daily. Yet every mourner has this hope: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

No passage in the Bible better enables the saint to look within and know that he has come to know God (1 John 2:4). If he cannot say “I do all the good that I wish,” he can always say “the good that I wish, I do not do.” This is no excuse for sin, but it deals realistically and biblically with remaining sin. Pastors ought to open up God’s Word in Rom. 7:14-25 and read to struggling saints their spiritual condition so that they might know that God has not left them to hardness of heart. They must learn from 7:14-25 that repentance is still at work in their soul and is deepening. They must understand the Rom. 7 comfort that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:16). This is not “negative preaching” and “joyless experience.” It is the binding up of the broken-hearted. Should not every Christian say of every remaining sin: “I am carnal, sold into bondage under sin,” yet “I delight after the Law of God in the inner man?” Should not every Christian yearn to be free from this body of death?

Second, this passage teaches that sin remains in the New Covenant Christian. Some have tried to teach that there is no sin in the new creature and have been driven to distorted views of the Christian’s nature and life. This has resulted in the spiritual bondage of many. This error usually quotes Rom. 7:16-17 as a proof-text to divorce the existence of remaining sin from the new creature: “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me.” In other words, some say that when the Christian sins, he does not sin with his new heart. Rather, sin has a separated existence in the Christian. This path inevitably leads to irresponsibility, laxity, and antinomianism. This error takes several different forms.

One form of this teaching says that the Christian has two natures within–the sinful Old Man and the perfect New Man. Each is in a continual battle for supremacy. Sometimes the Old Man wins and sins. Sometimes the New Man wins and does righteous acts. They butt heads in Rom. 7:14-25. Theoretically, if one can “make Jesus Lord” and surrender to Him in an act of absolute faith and “total commitment,” He will take control and live His life through the New Man. Some proponents of this view go so far as to claim that perfectionism (of a limited kind) is possible.

However, if this line of reasoning is correct, when (not if) the Christian sins, who is responsible for the sin committed? In this view, the New Man cannot be responsible because he is “perfect” and “cannot sin.” The true saint who has surrendered all to Christ has to figure out how the Old Man (or Satan) became stronger than Christ who controls the New Man. How did Christ fail to prevent sin once He took over? This causes doubt, despair, depression, lack of assurance of salvation, and even suicidal thoughts in some because of this confused teaching. Others will not examine themselves. They overlook sin since the New Man is not responsible. The result is a prideful, arrogant, spiritual elite who will not deal seriously with God’s Law. Because of these errors the pastor who teaches holiness and obedience to God’s Law should expect despair from some and opposition from others.

Further, if this teaching is true, when one sins, who needs the forgiveness? It cannot be the New Man for he is perfect and needs no forgiveness. It cannot be the Old Man, for he cannot go to heaven or repent or change.

Finally, who is it that makes progress against sin? Not the New Man, for he is perfect. Not the Old Man, for he is beyond change. The two-nature view does not explain adequately the responsibility for sin in the Christian life, nor the need of forgiveness, nor the truth of progressive sanctification.

Another form of this view is that of David Needham in his work entitled Birthright. Needham rightly contends for a one-nature view of the Christian against the confusing two-nature view. However, he advocates that the New Man is perfectly new and does not sin. Rather sin resides in the bodily flesh of the Christian in his brain patterns, thoughts, and desires.

The problem with Needham’s view is that he does not explain satisfactorily how one can separate one’s sinful thoughts and desires in the bodily flesh from the New Man’s pure thoughts and desires, especially since the will of the Christian cooperates in the sin. Further, how can the sinful flesh overcome the perfect New Man, yielding sin? The practical effect of Needham’s one-nature plus sin-in-the-flesh is the same as the two-nature view. Either the Christian must deny full responsibility for sin when he sins or he must be cast into despair and confusion when he feels guilt for sin.

The truth that sin is found in the New Man is revealed in Rom. 7:14-8:4. Paul identifies sin as the culprit, but it is sin which indwells his new nature when he sins. “I do it,” he says, over and over. Paul summarizes and clarifies himself in 7:25, saying: “So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the Law of God, but on the other (I myself) with my flesh am serving the law of sin.” “I myself” is the New Man who serves both the Law of God with his mind and the principle of sin with his flesh at the same time.

How can this be? Rom. 6:6 explains: “Our old man was crucified with Christ, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” The two-nature view above tends to say that the Old Man is only judicially dead, that he still exists, and must be reckoned as crucified daily by faith. But Paul states that our Old Man (our former pre-Christian nature) dominated by sin and hostility to God and His Law, has been done away with through the work of the cross and its application to us by the Holy Spirit in the new birth. Now the Christian is a New Man: “If any man is in Christ, he is [not has] a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). “Since you have laid aside the old man with its evil practices, and have put on the new man who is being renewed . . . .” (Col. 3:9-10). No longer are Christians slaves to sin as when they were Old Men. Now they are New Men, dominated by slavery to God and grace and righteousness and delight in his Law. The Old Man is dead.[4] Our slavery to sin is broken. However, the sins which once dominated us remain in the imperfect New Man.

This position is not popular. “Has God made the New Man imperfectly? Has He done an imperfect job? But God does nothing imperfectly,” say the objectors. This objection is full of emotion, not Biblical argument. The fact is that God has chosen to make the New Man so that the sinner’s (not God’s) sins remain. When Thomas Boston described regeneration in his Human Nature in its Fourfold State, he said:

It is a universal change; “All things become new.” It is a blessed leaven, that leavens the whole lump, the whole spirit, and soul, and body. . . . Yet it is but an imperfect change. Though every part of man is renewed, there is no part of him perfectly renewed.

John Murray clarifies this state in his Principles of Conduct:

The believer is a new man, a new creation, but he is a new man not yet made perfect. Sin dwells in him still, and he still commits sin. He is necessarily the subject of progressive renewal; he needs to be transfigured into the image of the Lord from glory to glory.

Rom. 7:14-25 teaches that the Christian has one nature, now dominated by service to God but in which remains sin. His mind seeks to know God’s ways, his affections seek to please God, and his will seeks to obey God. Slavery to sin is broken. But the existence of sin remains in his mind, his affections, and his will so that “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you may not do the things that you please. “

Who then is responsible for obedience to God’s Law? It is the New Man who loves Christ and seeks to keep His commandments. He cries out to Christ for help and deliverance from his remaining sins by the power of the Spirit. He cooperates with God’s Spirit in obeying Christ and fighting against sin.

Who then is responsible for sin? It is the New Man who grows in sensitivity to remaining sin, who is grieved when he finds it each day, who confesses his sin and finds God faithful and just to forgive him his sins and to cleanse him from all unrighteousness. He continues to repent of his sins and deepens his repentance. He continues to believe and when he sins, he flees to His Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is not surprised by sin anymore. He knows he needs Christ daily. He knows that he must guard and keep his heart every day until he sees Christ in glory.

Rom. 7:14-25 teaches that the Christian has one nature. A new work has begun, but it is not yet perfected. There is hope here for those who struggle with sin, yearning to be free of it. There is assurance here for those who mourn over their remaining sins. And there is joy here for convicted ones because “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

A third lesson which Rom. 7:14-8:4 teaches is that the Christian life is not so much a stairstep by degrees to holiness nor a dramatic second experience, but it is an increasing dynamic of repentance and faith daily exercised. The Christian never gets out of Rom. 7:14-25 into 8:1-4 because he always lives in both chapters! Faith increases on the upper plane though sometimes weaker and sometimes stronger as we live by grace. We increasingly depend upon the blood and righteousness of Christ. We increasingly love Him and seek to keep His commandments. Moreover, repentance deepens on the lower plane, though sometimes weaker and sometimes stronger as we discover more sins that need putting to death. Daily we mourn and cry out, “I am carnal.” Daily we rejoice in the truth that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Daily we die to sin. Daily we live to righteousness. Dailyby the Spirit we “put to death the deeds of the body that we might live.” Daily we put aside anger, wrath, malice, and slander while the inner man is being renewed day by day.

Rom. 7:14-25 and Rom. 8:1-4 speak of the Christian from different aspects. The first is the Christian’s inward battle against remaining sin and his imperfect obedience to God’s Law. The second is the Christian on the counterattack with faith in Christ and the Spirit’s assistance to fulfill the righteousness of the Law. Both aspects are a continual dynamic in Christian experience. This is a mark of true conversion. In 7:14-25 it is our guide to point out remaining sins and to deepen our hatred of them, and to increase our heart love for Christ and His graces (for he that is forgiven much loves much). In 8:1-4 it is our teacher to lead us in the paths of righteousness by the power of the Spirit. For “He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” If you live in Rom. 7 and find repentance deepening and live in Rom. 8 and still flee to Christ for redemption and the Spirit’s help to fulfill the righteousness of the Law, it is enough.

Conclusion

Do not deny that Rom. 7:14-25 is the Christian. You will despair if you are honest with your soul. Do not think that you will ever get out of Rom. 7 into Rom. 8. If you do, you will chase a figment of men’s theological imaginations which will destroy your assurance of salvation and blind you to the work of God in your soul or else it will foster a spiritual pride and antinomianism which may end up destroying your soul in hell. Rather, look into Rom. 7:14-25 and see the work of God begun in the Christian soul and rejoice that He has not left you alone to harden your conscience against sin. Rejoice that the dominion of sin is broken and he is leading you into deeper repentance, increased holiness, and greater dependence upon Christ and joy in His free and ever available grace. Then do with your people what Bunyan did: “I preached what I smartingly did feel.”

There will be a day when faith will be needed no more. For then faith will become sight in His beautiful face. And repentance will be no more, for the need of it will be gone–eradicated from our glorified soul. But until then we live in need of deepened repentance and increased faith every day as we endeavor to love Him and keep His commandments. Learn the lessons of Romans 7. “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

John Newton has expressed it well:

I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

I hoped that in some favoured hour
At once He’d answer my request,
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with his own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

‘Lord, why is this?’ I trembling cried,
‘Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?’
‘Tis in this way,’ the Lord replied,
‘I answer prayer for grace and faith.

‘These inward trials I employ
‘From self and pride to set thee free;
‘And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
‘That thou may’st seek thy all in me.’

 

[Article at Founders]

 

[1] Clarke, A., Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. VI (Romans—Revelation), Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, p. 86.

[2] McGonigle, H.B., Sufficient Saving Grace: John Wesley’s Evangelical Arminianism, Paternoster, Waynesboro, GA, 2001, p. 23.

[3] Downing, W.R., Theological Propaedeutic, PIRS Publications, Morgan Hill, CA, 2010, p. 589.

[4] Downing, W.R., Lectures on Calvinism and Arminianism (rev. ed.), PIRS Publications, Morgan Hill, CA, 2007, pp. 305—306.

[5] Clark, G.H., What is the Christian Life?, The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2012, p. 50

[6] Douma, D.J., The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR, 2017, p. 51.

[7] Douma, ref. 6, pp. 47-52.

[8] Thiessen, H.C., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1949, p. 382.

[9] See for example W.R. Downing’s study of Finney in ref. 4, chapter 8.

[10] Thiessen, ref. 8, p. 383.

[11] Reymond, R.L., A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN, 1998, pp. 1127-1132.

[12] http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/romans-7-14.html

[13] Downing, ref. 4, p. 334.

The sacrifice of the Mass and the blasphemous claims of of the Roman Catholic priesthood

I was first introduced to the work of John O’Brien when former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett gave a lecture on the Mass and quoted a small sample of O’Brien’s blasphemies as found in The Faith of Millions.[1] Since that time I have come across similar quotes attributed to O’Brien along with some folks arguing that the quotes are not legitimate. Surely, the degree of blasphemy spewing forth from this servant of antichrist is so great that it is quite understandable why one would want to pretend that his blasphemies have been exaggerated, or worse, that they are the invention of sinister “Catholic bashing” Protestants.

The assertion that the O’Brien quotes are exaggerated prompted me to obtain a copy of O’Brien’s book in order to verify them for accuracy. Sickeningly, but not surprisingly (since the statements are in accordance with Trent’s teaching on the “sacrifice of the Mass”), this book bearing the Imprimatur[2] does indeed contain the blasphemous statements as cited by Bennett and others. I will reprint a few brief passages here pertaining to the Mass, that most idolatrous of all Rome’s satanic sorceries.

For those who continue to insist that Protestants are being dishonest when we accuse Romanists of re-sacrificing Christ, the following is excerpted from chapter 22 titled, “The Mass: A reenactment of Calvary (Christ is sacrificed again)”:

“The Mass is the unbloody reenactment of the sacrifice of Calvary. Through the consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the Mass perpetuates the sacrifice of the Cross by offering to God the same Victim that was immolated on Calvary for the redemption of man. In the Mass the priest speaks not in his own name, but as the ambassador of Jesus Christ, speaking the very words which Christ uttered at the Last Supper. Thus Jesus Christ is both the High Priest and the Victim in the sacrifice of the Mass and in the sacrifice of the Cross, and the ends for which both sacrifices were offered are identical.”[3]

“The sacrifice of the Mass is offered up for the same ends for which Christ died on the Cross, namely, to propitiate Almighty God for the sins of man, to render homage, praise and thanksgiving for His benefits, and to supplicate Him for graces and blessings. We should therefore assist at Mass with the same devotion with which we would have knelt at the foot of the Cross and have offered up the dying Christ as the Victim for the sins of the world; for Christ is offered up on the altar as truly as He was on Calvary’s Cross.”[4]

From chapter 17, “The Priesthood: A Divine Institution (The Priest is Christ’s Ambassador to Men)”:

“The supreme power of the priestly office is the power of consecrating. “No act is greater,” says St. Thomas, “than the consecration of the body of Christ.” In this essential phase of the sacred ministry, the power of the priest is not surpassed by that of the bishop, the archbishop, the cardinal or the pope. Indeed it is equal to that of Jesus Christ. For in this role the priest speaks with the voice and the authority of God Himself.

When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man. It is a power greater than that of monarchs and emperors: it is greater than that of saints and angels, greater than that of Seraphim and Cherubim.

Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary. While the Blessed Virgin was the human agency by which Christ became incarnate a single time, the priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal Victim for the sins of man—not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest’s command.

Of what sublime dignity is the office of the Christian priest who is thus privileged to act as the ambassador and the vicegerent of Christ on earth! He continues the essential ministry of Christ: he teaches the faithful with the authority of Christ, he pardons the penitent sinner with the power of Christ, he offers up again the same sacrifice of adoration and atonement which Christ offered on Calvary. No wonder that the name which spiritual writers are especially fond of applying to the priest is that of ‘alter Christus.’ For the priest is and should be another Christ.[5]

 

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matthew 24:23-24).

 

[1] O’Brien, J.A., The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion (new and revised edition), Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, Indiana, 1974.

[2] As the copyright page reads: “The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed” [emphasis added].

[3] p. 304.

[4] p. 306.

[5] pp. 255—256.

[Photo by Nils Huber on Unsplash]

Justin Peters Ministries issues statement concerning Brannon Howse

Justin Peters, whose gospel ministry and detailed expose of the Word of Faith movement Clouds without Water has blessed multitudes, is under attack from Brannon Howse in his ongoing crusade against heretics and compromisers (that is, anyone who dares to disagree with Brannon about anything).

Sadly, as was anticipated, Brannon has not repented of his slander of James White, and his stubborn refusal to receive correction is dividing him from sound gospel ministers (Mike Abendroth of No Compromise Radio is another minister who has been “cut loose” by Howse).

Howse would have his devoted followers believe that anyone even reluctant to stand with Worldview Weekend in defense of Howse’s assessment of the White/Qadhi dialogue is a compromiser, dupe, or coward. The fact is, Brannon Howse answers to no one within his organization nor is he accountable before a plurality of elders in accordance with the biblical model of the local church. His “Board of Directors” consists of him and his wife, as can be seen from the screenshot below:

Brannon Howse's Board of Directors

Brannon’s Board consists of him and his wife.

In yet another deceptive diatribe from Howse (dated 8/21/2017), he claims that his “executive director” pleaded with Justin Peters and “spent 6 weeks inviting [him] to talk through his concerns over the phone, and yet Justin refused.” Again, Howse himself is the executive director of WVW, which gives you an idea of just how low he is willing to go to justify and defend his misrepresentation and slanderous behavior (Justin’s sermon addressed in Howse’s article is available here).

Justin was kind enough to allow me to repost the Justin Peters Ministries Board of Directors Statement issued on August 18 concerning the slander directed at his ministry. In an effort to help reverse some of the damage done to the gospel ministry of Justin Peters by Brannon Howse and WVW, the Statement is reprinted below in its entirety:

The Board of Directors for Justin Peters Ministries consists of Michael Miller and Jim Osman. Both of us are elders in our respective churches and work to oversee the ministry of Justin Peters.

We have watched as Brannon Howse has publicly and repeatedly misrepresented and lied about Justin’s position regarding the White-Quadi Dialogue. Justin has intentionally remained silent concerning his own view of the dialogue and has not mentioned Brannon on social media since Justin has no desire to speak ill of Brannon Howse or his ministry. The concerns that Justin has raised to Brannon regard the tone with which those on both sides of this issue have criticized the other. It seems that any critique of Brannon’s tone is regarded by him as a full-throated defense of ALL interfaith dialogues (IFD), a complete compromise of the gospel, and a demonically inspired capitulation to Islam. Brannon will countenance no dissent regarding what he has said or even how he has said it.

Both Mike Miller and Jim Osman read the letters that Justin sent to Brannon Howse and offered critiques and input – which was humbly received by Justin – before those letters were sent. There is much correspondence, texts and emails, which have been exchanged in recent months that is not public. The nature and content of those letters from Justin have been grossly misrepresented. We have seen all of the correspondence between Brannon and Justin. If Brannon continues to lie against, slander, and defame Justin’s character, we can release all of the correspondence to the public so that the record may be set straight and the truth fully known.

Many who have emailed this ministry to express their disappointment in Justin’s position regarding the White-Quadi Dialogue do not know how Justin feels about this issue. He has made no public statement regarding support or opposition until this last weekend during a session at the Judge Not Conference. Those who have expressed anger at Justin’s “compromise” and “cowardice” have done so based only on what they have heard from Brannon Howse.

Brannon Howse has claimed that Justin is a “James White defender,” a compromiser, and a “Good Old Boys Club Groupie.” He has publicly called Justin a goat, a hypocrite, and a respecter of persons. Though these comments may have also been in reference to others such as Mike Abendroth whom Brannon also released from his network, they certainly include Justin. We know this given the timing of these tweets from Brannon and the timing of the letters Justin sent to him. Brannon has even publicly told people to withhold financial support from Justin’s ministry. This is especially grievous given that Justin travels to many Third World countries to preach, teach, and equip pastors at his own expense.

Justin has been called a coward because he has expressed his concerns with how the criticisms of James White have been handled. In truth, Justin Peters publicly stood face to face with Todd Bentley and called him out as a false teacher, a false prophet, and a charlatan. This while surrounded by Bentley supporters. Justin was physically escorted out of the building by two men. He has confronted false teachers to their face, preached the gospel in hostile countries around the world, and shared the gospel with Muslims both in the United States and abroad. Justin is the same man today as he was then. A compromiser? No! A coward? Certainly not!

Brannon has also claimed that Justin is a respecter of persons in that he will confront a false teacher but not a man regarded to be doctrinally sound who is in error. We know Justin and know this to be factually untrue. The fact that Justin is being slandered by Brannon Howse is evidence that he is NOT a respecter of persons. That is what got Justin into this controversy to begin with. Justin had to bring a godly correction to Brannon, even knowing that he might not take it well, and that his response, if negative, could harm Justin’s ministry, work, and reputation. Justin knew that even the mildest correction offered to Brannon could cost him dearly, given Brannon’s large public platform and his prolific use of social media to disparage those with whom he disagrees. If Justin were a respecter of persons, Brannon would be the LAST person he would have dared confront. In fact, Brannon’s correspondence to Justin shows that he expected Justin to treat him differently because Justin’s ministry has been helped by Worldview Weekend (WVW). Brannon Howse has decided that he will tolerate no reservations regarding his conduct in this issue. He has pulled both Justin Peters and Mike Abendroth from the WVW network.

If anyone doubts how one-sided this public dispute has been, we invite people to compare Justin’s Twitter page to that of Brannon Howse’s since the controversy erupted in June. You will not find one reference to Brannon or WVW by name. The contrast is a stark one.

Do you really believe that Justin Peters is a coward, a compromiser, and an undiscerning supporter of Islam? If you believe what Brannon Howse has said regarding Justin, you do not know Justin.

The Board of Directors for Justin Peters Ministries steadfastly stand behind Justin. He has conducted himself as a man under the authority of a Board of Directors and the eldership of his home church. He has graciously, lovingly, and gently sought to promote peace in the body of Christ, love in the pursuit of truth, and grace in confronting error. For this, he has been maliciously slandered by men who are careless with the truth.

Board Members,

 

Michael Miller

Pastor, Grace Family Bible Church

Sand Springs, OK

 

Jim Osman

Pastor, Kootenai Community Church

Kootenai, ID

 

If you are inclined to offer support to Justin Peters Ministries, click here.

Brannon Howse’s slander and misrepresentation of James White: A discernment ministry’s lack of discernment

On June 26, 2017, I posted some commentary on the James White / Brannon Howse debacle. The following day, I decided to take it down.

Having followed both Alpha and Omega Ministries and Worldview Weekend for some time, I immediately found some of the accusations suddenly being hurled at Dr. White by Brannon Howse and WVW to be quite ludicrous. But when I saw that some unexpected battle lines were being drawn, I thought it would be wise to refrain from criticizing Worldview Weekend too harshly. Perhaps there was more to the story; perhaps Dr. White was in fact out of line in dialoguing with Yasir Qadhi.

Over the following few weeks, subsequent emails I received from WVW (dated 7/1, 7/12 and 7/25) were filled with nothing but links to articles, audio and presentations perpetuating the same irresponsible and erroneous narrative against James White. Now that Howse has dug himself so deeply into this mess he seems to be doing everything he can to defend his allegation that White is an Islamic dupe and working for the enemy (instead of simply repenting of his slander and retracting his accusations). Despite numerous attempts by various ministries to correct Howse, it is apparent that no retraction is forthcoming. It is for this reason (and because of a friend’s insistence) that I reprint my original post (with minor additions where relevant).

This is not a running commentary and I have no intention of trying to keep up with all of the new allegations by Howse, but perhaps the post may be helpful to someone:

[6/26/17]

For anyone who follows Alpha & Omega Ministries or listens to The Dividing Line, it is old news that apologist James White engaged in two public dialogues with Muslim apologist Yasir Qadhi back in January 2017. At two different venues (a church and a mosque), these men capitalized on the rare opportunity to discuss the key tenets of Islam and Christianity in a cordial and civilized manner, and the mixed audience benefited by hearing each man represent his respective faith in a scholarly fashion. For at least some of those present at one or both of the events, it has been called a success in terms of interaction and evangelism. But for many in the Dispensational, fundamentalist, internet self-appointed “discernment ministry” crowd, not so much.

In the weeks to come I am quite certain that more ministries and bloggers will jump on the bandwagon and with Brannon Howse arrogantly declare that White is an “Islamic Dupe” or “useful idiot” for the Islamic cause. Howse, in both his article and recent Worldview Weekend TV series has repeatedly condemned the White/Qadhi exchange as an “interfaith dialogue”. This strawman is erected more times on his radio show than I would bother to take the time to count. James White called his exchange with Qadhi a “dialogue”, and I think that is an appropriate term since it was not a formal debate but a chance for each to present and discuss the major tenets of Christianity and Islam. But not in any sense could what White and Qadhi engaged in be termed an ecumenical “interfaith dialogue”. Yet, in one WVW program, Usama Dakdok compares the White/Qadhi exchange to the ecumenical charades of Rick Warren. This is an outlandish and absurd misrepresentation of James White and shows either a complete ignorance of the actual content of the dialogue or an unrelenting quest for hunting down heresy where there is none to be found.

It is possible that James White was already a blip on Howse’s heresy-hunting radar since White took the opposing position to Chris Pinto (another of Howse’s WVW contributors) regarding the history of codex sinaiticus and textual criticism in general. It is speculation on my part, but it is certainly plausible that White was already relegated to the outer fringes of Christianity in Howse’s mind ever since White debated Chris Pinto in 2013 and dismantled Pinto’s assertion that codex sinaiticus is a modern hoax. Many who take a KJV-only (or textus receptus-only) position are quick to cast dissenters into outer darkness, so perhaps such was the impetus for searching out White’s “hidden agenda” in dialoguing with Qadhi. Sadly, but not surprisingly, in a Noise of Thunder Radio program, Pinto has followed Howse in accusing White of engaging in an “interfaith dialogue” and claims that White has admitted such, using “that term [interfaith dialogue] in particular”.

Howse writes: “I have been writing and speaking on radio about Yasir Qadhi for several years, so it is not like I went looking for this controversy.” Yet on his radio program mocking James White as a “useful idiot” for the Islamic state, Howse seems oblivious to the specifics of the White/Qadhi dialogue. He claims to have done a whopping “five hours” of research the morning before his initial broadcast on this topic was thrown together, and Howse and his guests’ agenda appear to be cataloging White as another casualty of the great apostasy so prominent in Dispensational eschatology.

I happen to follow the work of both James White and Brannon Howse. I am a member of the Worldview Weekend Situation Room and was disappointed to find one particular polemics ministry parting ways with Howse a few years ago. For the sake of Brannon Howse and the ministry of Worldview Weekend, I hope that this attack on White does not result in even more reputable teachers departing from Worldview Weekend. On the other hand, if Howse refuses to repent of his slander and cease this crusade he has instigated against White, it is only natural that any remaining respectable, discerning Bible teachers would depart from WVW. More importantly, James White’s name must be cleared and other “discernment experts” should be reluctant to follow suit in slandering White and accuse him of ecumenical “interfaith dialogue”.

Brannon Howse and his co-hosts need to repent of their disingenuous remarks toward a brother who has devoted an enormous amount of time researching, writing, and teaching on the subject of Islam. The White/Qadhi dialogue has already accomplished more in terms of evangelism than the method employed by Howse, Dakdok and Hadian, at least according to some of the testimonies of those who were actually present at one or both of the venues. Even if Howse and others disagree that Christians should engage in such an exchange, or disagree about the venue, at the very least they could have watched the entirety of the two-part video before blasting White into oblivion and treating him as if he is suddenly an opponent of Christianity. White has debated more Muslim scholars than Howse, Dakdok and Hadian combined, and if any of these men would listen to some of those debates, they would find that White faithfully proclaims the biblical gospel and in no way “compromises” and gravitates toward “Chrislam” [consider some of the brief excerpts from the dialogues compiled here].

I cannot take the time to go through and address the many misrepresentations made by Howse, Dakdok and Hadian, but James White has already addressed these many accusations in great detail on recent episodes of The Dividing Line (here, here, here, here and here [as well as subsequent programs]), which I strongly recommend to anyone tempted to jump on Brannon Howse’s bandwagon. If anyone after listening to the White/Qadhi dialogues or the many rebuttals and corrections by James White can continue to allege that White has engaged in an ecumenical “interfaith dialogue”, that he embraces “Chrislam”, has become an “apostate” or is being employed as a “useful idiot” for the Islamic cause, such a person is either devoid of reasoning or devoted to promoting damaging and despicable lies about a fellow brother.

It is ironic that Brannon Howse complains of being slandered in facebook groups when it is he who is guilty of slander by his ignorant accusations against Dr. White. In this same video address, Howse says that “some defend him [James White] because they are ignorant, but they don’t desire to learn, or even have ears to hear”. It is truly shocking that Howse could bring himself to make such a statement when it is clear that he himself has not taken the time to simply listen to both the dialogues and the Dividing Line commentary before attacking White. Throughout this particular video, Howse astonishingly portrays himself as the victim of slander and false accusations.

The persistent and unrelenting misrepresentation and slander by Howse and his contributors is shameful and astounding. Unfortunately, unless Howse is moved to humble repentance, I do not foresee Worldview Weekend recovering from this controversy, a controversy which they themselves have initiated. As I already mentioned, Chris Pinto has taken up and promoted the Howse narrative, and seeing that the late Dave Hunt’s cohort T.A. McMahon is also a contributor to Worldview Weekend (and like Dave, a longtime opponent of reformed theology), my prediction is that it won’t be long before The Berean Call jumps on board and disseminates Howse’s lies to its vast audience [at this point, The Berean Call appears to be silent on this controversy].

Jimmy DeYoung is another WVW ministry partner who has gone even further in his promotion of the Howse narrative. According to Pulpit & Pen, “Jimmy DeYoung that recently referred to Dr. James White as a heretic, unchecked on Worldview Radio [later clarified that Brannon Howse is not in agreement with this assessment by Mr. DeYoung

In response to Howse’s video titled, “Warning: So-called conservative Christians defending spiritual enterprise with jihadi imam”, I would issue a warning to the many and various so-called “discernment ministries” and authorities who refuse to exercise discernment here because it may interfere with their primary mission of being the first to “expose” a professing Christian as a heretic. Research as minimal as simply listening to the White/Qadhi dialogues would have been sufficient to dispel the fictional narrative that Howse has devoted himself to promoting and defending over the last several weeks.

In the above video, Howse says concerning the defenders of White: “When their daughters and granddaughters marry Muslim men because they were led to believe they could find common ground between their faiths, don’t dare complain about a Muslim son-in-law and the Muslim babies populating the family tree.” Howse again shows his stubborn ignorance in making such a statement, since White has publicly proclaimed his desire for Muslims to be converted to Christ, and since both White and Qadhi assert in the dialogue that their respective views are “mutually exclusive”.

Unfortunately, I can no longer promote and support the work of Brannon Howse unless he repents of this sub-Christian deceitful behavior and retracts the many accusations he and his team have hurled at Dr. James White.

-Nick Sabato

 

[Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash]

A brief note on Dave Hunt’s attack on Particular Redemption as it relates to evangelism

“Paul could and did honestly say to everyone he met, ‘Christ died for you.’ In complete contrast, a book on biblical counseling that we have long recommended to readers declares, ‘As a reformed Christian, the writer [author] believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him, for they cannot say that. No man knows except Christ himself who are his elect for whom he died.’”[1]

In the above excerpt from What Love is This?, Dave Hunt addresses a statement by Jay Adams,[2] a reference Hunt also utilizes in Debating Calvinism.[3]

What we find in this brief excerpt from the late founder of the Berean Call concerning the subjects of the extent of the atonement and its relation to evangelism is a fine example of the dangerous tendency of letting unjustified theological presuppositions determine one’s approach to Scripture. If Hunt’s assumption (that the atonement is universal and general and a provision made for every individual that ever lived) is true, then it is reasonable to assume that Paul and the Apostles would have shouted from the hilltops, “Christ died for you!” But, in fact, one would search in vain to find the phrase, “Christ died for you” anywhere in the Bible. Hunt boldly states that “Paul could and did honestly say to everyone he met, ‘Christ died for you”, but he cites no Scripture whatsoever to prove this unwarranted assertion.

Though there is no instance where Paul makes the above declaration in Scripture, it is at least possible that he may have made such a statement to fellow Christians as an encouragement to them. But, contra Hunt, it is inconceivable that Paul would have told unbelievers that Christ died for them seeing that for Paul the atonement meant that all the sins of particular individuals were actually atoned for, a declaration Paul could not make to the yet unconverted.

Understand that the importance of this issue comes to light when we realize that what Hunt is essentially arguing is that if Calvinism is true, the gospel is necessarily hindered from going forth to every single creature. The reason why Hunt and many other synergists accuse Calvinists of being unevangelistic—or at the very least inconsistent with their own theology in their practical evangelism—is that some of these non-Calvinists have a confused definition of what preaching the gospel actually entails.

Incidentally, while proclaiming, “Christ died for you”, may be an improvement over modern evangelicalism’s so-called gospel of, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”, it still has significant flaws. As we have already noted, there is a reason you will find no such declaration made to the lost in any of the recorded sermons in the book of Acts. Does this mean the apostles failed to preach the gospel? Hardly. Paul tells us precisely what the gospel is in 1 Corinthians chapter 15:

“I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures….”

Notice first of all that the very same apostle whom Hunt claims announced a potential, universal atonement “to everyone he met” actually says quite plainly that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Paul knows that Christ died for his own sins as well as the sins of the entirety of the ecclesia (1 Corinthians 1:24; Jude 1:1), but he does not irresponsibly extend the atonement beyond the bounds of God’s elect people. Also, since Paul is writing to the church and not preaching a sermon on Mars Hill or writing a tract directed at the lost, he could say in his epistle, “Christ died for our sins”.

The irony is this: Hunt accuses Calvinists of undermining the proclamation of the gospel via Limited Atonement because, “the Calvinist cannot look an unsaved person in the eye and say with confidence, ‘Christ died for you!’”.[4] But if Hunt’s view of the atonement is correct, that “…Christ died to save all mankind…” and that some sinners are not saved simply “because all do not accept that payment”[5], this means that there is nobody in particular for whom Christ died. If Hunt would follow the logic of his own propositions he would restrict himself from declaring to anyone, “Christ died for you”. Hunt and other synergists are forced to redefine the atonement and turn it into a general, potential, take-it-or-leave-it offer which secures no particular individual’s salvation. In spite of this equivocation, he is persistent that such a position poses no theological problem. He writes,

“Unquestionably…the blood of the Passover lambs was shed for multitudes who perished. In fulfillment, the blood of Christ, the true Passover Lamb, must also have been shed for many who perish.”[6]

To illustrate the absurdity of this statement, think of a false convert upon his death descending into hell and declaring among those weeping and gnashing their teeth that “Christ died for you”. Such an “atonement” is truly vacuous, having actually atoned for nothing since the sinner is still condemned (John 3:36) having died in his sins (John 8:24) being eternally separated from a thrice-holy God.

It is also worth noting that this last statement from Hunt is built upon a faulty hermeneutic which views the NT in light of the Old. His argument therefore suffers an additional blow when this Dispensational error is shown to be built upon sand, being itself a clear departure from the principle of progressive revelation and the analogy of faith.[7] We will not attempt to take up these  subjects here but simply note that one would do well to acknowledge that everyone employs an interpretive framework:

“The major issue in interpretation is, should the New Testament be brought into conformity to the literalism of the Old Testament, or should the Old Testament be interpreted and understood in the light of the New? Dispensational theology makes the Old Testament determinative in interpretation and non–Dispensational theology makes the New Testament determinative and explanatory of the Old.”[8]

It is my experience that many Dispensationalists are often unconscious that such interpretive methods must even come into play for those who simply “take the Bible literally”.[9] But the reality is that the New Covenant is not like the Old (Hebrews 8:8-9). It is a new and better covenant, and, unlike the Old, everyone under the New Covenant has actually been redeemed and become children of God (John 1:12-13; Hebrews 8:11-13).[10] Reading the Bible through the lense of arbitrary dispensations and ignoring covenantal distinctives and progressive revelation is detrimental to biblical theology. It is completely unacceptable to develop a theology of the atonement by interpreting the NT through the preparatory types and shadows found throughout the OT as Hunt erroneously does.

For whom did Christ die? The Calvinist has both logic and Scripture on his side to maintain that Christ died to secure the salvation of God’s elect people and can simultaneously evangelize the lost (since evangelism is not indiscriminately declaring, “Christ died for you”). The atonement pertains to a particular people (“those who are the called” [1 Corinthians 1:24 NASB]) and is not a general, “potential atonement” (whatever that is) intended to secure the salvation of no one in particular.

We can proclaim the truth of God’s Word and rightly carry out the Great Commission without declaring to the lost, “Christ died for you”. Likewise, synergists should take some of their own medicine, follow the logic and likewise refrain from the use of such a statement since an atoning sacrifice which does not actually propitiate the wrath of God and credit the sinner with Christ’s imputed righteousness is not a ‘universal atonement’ but rather no atonement at all.

[1] Hunt, D., What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God (3rd ed.), The Berean Call, Bend, OR, 2006, p. 31.

[2] Adams, J.E., Competent to Counsel, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1970, p. 70.

[3] Hunt, D., and White, J., Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views, Multnomah Publishers, Sisters, OR, 2004, p. 106.

[4] Hunt, ref. 1, p. 316.

[5] Hunt, ref. 1, p. 339.

[6] Hunt, ref. 3 p. 367.

[7] Downing, W.R., Biblical Hermeneutics, PIRS Publications, Morgan Hill, CA, 2002, pp. 174-75.

[8] Downing, W.R., Theological Propaedeutic, PIRS Publications, Morgan Hill, CA, 2010, p. 266.

[9] This is not meant to be condescending. It is in the nature of Dispensationalism to view any departure from what may be perceived to be the “literal” reading (which often entails reading the NT in light of the OT) as spiritualizing or allegorizing the text. I was as guilty of this mentality as Hunt was.

[10] These covenantal distinctions are blurred by our paedobaptist brethren as the continuity between the OT and NT is overemphasized (in my opinion) in paedobaptist covenant theology. Note also that it is because of these covenantal distinctives that reformed Baptists argue for regenerate church membership.

Poison for the Mind: The Nation on CO2 and Global Warming, by E. Calvin Beisner

It is no secret that college campuses in general have become platforms for leftist propaganda and sinkholes of irrationality. A recent example of such irrationalism comes from University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole who alleges that carbon dioxide is far more deadly than Sarin gas. The mind-boggling madness of such a claim must not be brushed aside with a simple roll of the eyes because this is the kind of nonsense the next generation of social justice warriors, community organizers and other destroyers of Western Civilization are learning under their esteemed professors.

Fortunately, E. Calvin Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance have provided a succinct refutation of Professor Cole’s absurd claim. For a little background on Beisner and his impressive credentials see here. Of interest to my fellow Scripturalists, Beisner has also lectured on the epistemology of Gordon Clark.

The Cornwall Alliance is “a coalition of theologians, pastors, ministry leaders, scientists, economists, policy experts, and committed laymen, the Cornwall Alliance is an evangelical voice promoting environmental stewardship and economic development built on Biblical principles.” You can support the work of the Cornwall Alliance here.

“What’s “a far more deadly gas” than the Sarin that Syrian President Bashar al Assad used to kill his own citizensprompting President Trump to respond with a missile attack?

Carbon dioxide.

Or so says The Nation. According to “The Other Poison Gas Killing Syrians: Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” by University of Michigan Professor of History Juan Cole, “If Trump and his cronies really cared about children killed by noxious gases, they wouldn’t be trying to spew ever more CO2 into the atmosphere.”

We could laugh at the ignorance of the author, the fact checkers (if any), and the editors. Or we could rage at their dishonesty. Or we could cry at the ignorance of trusting but deceived readers. Maybe we should do all three.

Time for an elementary lesson in toxicology….”

Click the link below to continue reading:

Poison for the Mind: The Nation on CO2 and Global Warming

Justification by faith alone and the role of repentance: Interacting with an inverted soteriology

The doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’ has been rightly regarded as a foundational tenet of Protestantism. Having been anathematized at the Council of Trent[1], it not only continues to be the archenemy of Romish dogma but has undergone more recent attacks by professing Protestants who have given in to Federal Vision and/or the New Perspective on Paul.

But apart from these more obvious assaults on this key doctrine, it is common for even conservative evangelicals to encounter confusion when struggling to understand how the doctrine of repentance fits within the parameters of sola fide. Like many other persistent errors in American evangelicalism, much of this can be blamed on dispensationalism and its entanglement in conservative and fundamentalist churches for more than a century. At the least, many dispensationalists simply fail to understand the three-fold division of the law, despite frequently giving lip-service to it. At most, some are blatantly antinomian, considering any appeal to repentance a relic of Old Covenant, pharisaical legalism. If “the Law” collective (including the moral law which predates the Mosaic Covenant) has been abrogated under the current dispensation (as has been sometimes alleged), quite obviously there is no standard by which one’s actions can be assessed and judged needful of repentance. After all, we are reassured, the church is under the dispensation of grace. Further, we are warned, one dare not pervert grace by adding repentance as a condition for receiving it.

The problem of repentance to which I am referring can be summarized as follows: Justification is by belief alone, yet the NT also teaches the necessity of repentance. The question necessarily arises, what if someone believes the gospel but does not repent? Are they saved? Or, are they somehow “provisionally” saved but retain the potential to fall away (when their repentance is quantified and found wanting at the final Judgment)? This appears to be John Wesley’s view. Gordon Clark quotes from Wesley’s Doctrinal Summaries and notes an obvious implication:

“Q.12. Can faith be lost but through disobedience?

A. It cannot. A believer first inwardly disobeys…. Then his intercourse with God is lost, i.e., and after this [he is] like unto another man.

Q.13. How can such a man recover faith?

A. By repenting and doing the first works.

…Wesley must, if consistent, assert that a man once regenerated can nonetheless fail to arrive in Heaven and on the contrary be eternally lost in Hell.”[2]

Some have attempted to address the faith/repentance dichotomy by simply conflating repentance with belief. Indeed, repentance does refer in large part to a changing of the mind, and may even be the primary meaning in its Scriptural usage. Yet some go farther and argue that repentance and belief are purely synonymous, the terms being a mere redundancy as they are found in the NT. This “solution” ensures that sola fide is maintained and the “works” of repentance pose no threat to simple belief in the gospel.

Others have responded by stating that if ‘justification by faith alone’ is correct, then repentance is not necessary for salvation because to demand repentance in addition to faith would be adding something other to the soteriological order. Thus, the doctrine of the “carnal Christian” is born, and those few who actually do repent of their transgressions and turn from the life of the “old man” have thus attained to some higher-order Christianity, not to be expected of the average believer. These answers are hardly satisfactory in light of passages like Luke 13:3.

I have heard good men tackle this issue many times. I can remember having discussions with certain brothers where the issue seemed complicated and paradoxical, some having a zeal to maintain the Protestant doctrine but knowing that repentance was preached by Christ Himself. I personally wondered if using the word “repent” in evangelism would pervert the truth of sola fide. It took many years for me to realize that there always was a solution to this alleged faith/repentance dichotomy that both demanded repentance yet did no injustice to the purity of ‘justification by faith alone’. The biblical solution has been largely ignored because of a prior commitment to an inverted ordo salutis (order of salvation) in contemporary evangelicalism. This prior commitment to synergism is one that I was not quick to part with.

Ultimately, the whole issue hinges on what human beings allegedly need to “do” in order to be made right before a holy God. Must we simply believe the gospel, or must we believe the gospel and…? Surely something is amiss when an evangelist gives the impression that one might believe the gospel and still be lost because he hasn’t repented. If such a scenario is possible, then justification is obviously not by belief alone. And if repentance must precede conversion, how much repentance constitutes a sufficient degree of turning, seeing that sin is not completely abolished from one’s existence at the time of conversion?

Consider the following from Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society:

“Either justification is by faith alone or it is not by faith alone. It can’t be by faith alone and not by faith alone. That is logically impossible.”[3]

Wilkin’s logic in this statement is commendable. We wish that every theologian would speak with such precision and directness instead of paradoxical pandering and linguistic lollygagging. Elsewhere, in a paper responding to Thomas Schreiner’s book on justification, Wilkin writes:

“…The expression ‘bare faith’ is synonymous with ‘faith alone.’ How can justification be by faith alone and yet not by bare faith?”[4]

We find in these statements by an opponent of Calvinism a logical consistency concerning sola fide reminiscent of a devoted Calvinist by the name of Gordon Clark.[5] Indeed, The Trinity Foundation (created principally for the purpose of keeping Clark’s work in print) has likewise taken issue with Schreiner’s book and included Brandon Adams’ criticism of Piper’s Foreword in a recent Trinity Review.

Unfortunately, however, because of Wilkin’s devotion to synergism and allegiance to anti-reformed soteriological presuppositions, he and the society he represents see repentance as essentially optional. The difference between Wilkin’s criticism of Schreiner’s book (and Piper’s waffling) and the criticism of Brandon Adams—though both are in agreement that justification is by faith alone—is that Calvinists have no need to maintain a diminished view of repentance (as Wilkin clearly does), nor do they see repentance as optional but regard it as a necessary consequence of having been born-again by the Spirit of God.

Wilkin insists that “God [has] a one-condition only requirement for entrance into His family” Of course, he is speaking of faith as that one condition. He chides Wayne Grudem, John MacArthur and John Piper for being inconsistent on this particular sola, because these men speak of the necessity of repentance. To Wilkin, such is incompatible with ‘justification by faith alone’. But in the particular quotes provided by Wilkin (Piper’s Foreword to Schreiner’s book not among them), there is no inconsistency, and I encourage the reader to assess them for himself. In contrast to Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society, the theology of these men demand the recognition of God’s regenerating grace as the causative agent of both faith and repentance. In other words, Grudem, MacArthur and Piper are able to speak of the necessity of repentance without violating sola fide because they are Calvinists, regarding both repentance and faith as gifts from God and knowing that God does not give one of those gifts to His children while failing to provide the other. Wilkin’s folly is in refusing to admit that the “one-condition only requirement” he speaks of is preceded by the regenerating work of God in the heart/mind of the individual. So while faith may be the only “condition” for justification, regeneration is the “condition” which must be met by God Himself prior to faith on the part of man, and that by the will of God alone (John 1:13; James 1:18).

Bob Wilkin’s error serves to illustrate why it is that if one adhere to the reformed soteriological order he is not confronted with the alleged dilemma regarding faith and repentance. The reformed “solution” is not new; it has simply been buried under centuries of synergistic strata. The NT text supports the view that there are no such “Christians” who believe the gospel yet refuse to repent. There are no carnal Christians, and there are no “believers” who obtain both justification and glorification yet are free to forego sanctification. We can say this with confidence, and it is not because Calvinists are advocating a sort of sinless-perfection. In commenting on chapter 15 of the Second London Baptist Confession, Sam Waldron notes that

“forsaking of sin is not the achievement of perfect or sinless obedience forever. It is a genuine ‘purpose and endeavor’ to this end.”[6]

Being born-again is the work of God alone, and this divine work (regeneration) precedes faith, contra Rome, Bob Wilkin, Dave Hunt, and synergists in general. If regeneration precedes faith, it also precedes repentance. Both faith and repentance are gifts of God given to His children who have been born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13). Note that only the non-Calvinist who retains any regard for repentance finds himself in the aforementioned uncomfortable dichotomy because he views belief and repentance as actions one takes upon himself to do according to his own volition (not without a little help of the grace of God, of course) in order that he might be saved. So the question of what happens to a man who believes but refuses to repent is a legitimate one only for those who hold that faith precedes regeneration. How can such a person solve the problem of holding to Protestantism’s ‘justification by faith alone’ without neglecting the necessity of repentance? Since there is no consistent way to do this, men like Bob Wilkin are diligent to kick repentance entirely out of the conversion experience. Other synergists, like Wesley, have dealt with this problem by arguing for the necessity of repentance, with the possibility of losing one’s salvation, inadvertently treating ‘justification by faith alone’ not altogether differently from Trent’s repudiation of it.

Calvinism affords us the simple solution of regarding the ability to believe, repent, persevere and exhibit any other fruit of the Spirit as necessary consequences of having been regenerated by the Spirit of God. Such gifts are given to all whom God has called, “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Sam Waldron, in keeping with the Second London Baptist Confession, posits that

“…all believers repent and thus are given repentance by God…. By calling repentance a grace, the Shorter Catechism makes clear that it is a gift of God. It is a plant that grows in the renewed soil of the regenerate heart (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25)”.[7]

If someone regards himself as a believer but is blatantly and perpetually unrepentant, we feel no obligation to whisk their dead dry bones up to heaven with the simple caveat that they may miss out on some “heavenly rewards”. On the authority of Scripture we can regard such a one as an unbeliever—someone who has not actually been born from above. This is why Waldron can put it so bluntly:

“Is repentance, confession, and renunciation of sin, turning from it with grief and hatred for it, your constant, even daily, experience? If you are a true Christian, it is.”[8]

“But”, the objection comes, “so-and-so does believe; how can we say he is an unbeliever?” Here we must note carefully the oft-used and abused text from the Epistle of James. Many people have used passages like 2:14 to assert that faith alone is insufficient for being made right with God. But notice that James says “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Note that the person says he has faith, but his lack of works testify to the contrary. There is no indication in the epistle that works—even repentance—combined with an otherwise “dead faith” would have wrought justification before God. The sooner we realize this the sooner we will see no tension between Paul and James. But the point for now is that not all who say they believe the gospel actually do believe it. They may be able to articulate its propositions. They may hold an orthodox doctrine of God. But it is quite possible that they do not actually believe that Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. This point is deserving of much greater attention, but for now, consider this short excerpt from fellow scripturalist Sean Gerety:

“Note carefully, for Calvin the question is not between those who have faith where one person’s faith is alive and the other’s is dead, as if they both had faith, but rather between the one who believes and the other who does not.  The distinction James is drawing is between the person who possesses genuine belief and the hypocrite.  Calvin rightly understands in describing faith as alive or dead that James is using a rhetorical device as he ‘disputes against those who made a false pretense as to faith, of which they were wholly destitute.’”[9]

God does not sanctify some of His children and not others. If faith and repentance are gifts of God, then we should rightly expect that God would grant both of these gifts to all of those whom He has graciously regenerated.

It may be helpful to see how Charles Hodge carefully contrasted Jacobus Arminius’ view of repentance within the soteriological order with that of the Reformers:

“…Whether any man does thus repent and believe, or, having believed, perseveres in a holy life, depends on himself and not on God. The purpose of election, therefore, is not a purpose to save, and to that end to give faith and repentance to a definite number of individuals, but a purpose to save those who repent, believe, and persevere in faith until the end.”[10]

Obviously, in such a system, repentance, belief and perseverance must be regarded as separate and distinct conditions which may or may not be met by the individual. It is the reason why the consistent Arminian holds that salvation must be kept by the individual, with actual apostasy of the Christian a real potentiality. Dave Hunt asked essentially, What Love is This that neglects to provide the potential for justification to an amorphous mass of humanity? But we ask, what justification is this that either, 1) cannot secure the individual for eternity via the imputed righteousness of Christ unless he perseveres with a certain level of repentance, or, 2) does not lead to sanctification because repentance is only realized by higher-order Christians, and that dependent upon their own volition?

If faith precedes regeneration, as the majority of evangelicalism today maintains, then the question of where repentance fits into soteriology is an unavoidable one. Wilkin simply eliminates it from conversion altogether. It is my contention that all non-Calvinistic solutions are problematic for sola fide, another example of one way in which synergists are necessarily at peace with Rome. The best they can offer is to say that the unrepentant is probably not really saved, but they cannot place repentance within a logically coherent and consistent soteriological construct.

If, on the other hand, regeneration precedes faith the problem of where to place repentance is no problem at all. It, like faith, is a gift of God. Our Heavenly Father graciously sanctifies all whom He has justifies. He puts into the heart of His children the desire to keep His moral law, that is, a desire to repent:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:10-12).[11]

 

[1] Canon IX:  “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

[2] Clark, G.H., What is the Christian Life?, The Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2012, pp. 37-38.

[3] https://faithalone.org/blog/justification-by-faith-alone-plus-repentance-and-good-works/

[4] Wilkin, R.N., The role of good works in justification: A review of chapter 16 of Thomas Schreiner’s Faith Alone—The Doctrine of Justification, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 28(55):18, 2015.

[5] Another free grace advocate even references Clark’s Faith and Saving Faith for support in his assertion that belief has to do with being “persuaded that a proposition is true” (Biery, R.M., Belief as a cognitive phenomenon, especially in regard to salvation: An expanded discussion, Journal of the Grace Evangelical 29(56):58, 2016).

[6] Waldron, S.E., A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession (5th ed. Revised and Corrected), EP Books, Welwyn Garden City, UK, 2016, pp. 240-41.

[7] Waldron, ref. 6, p. 233 & 235-37.

[8] Waldron, ref. 6, p. 241.

[9] https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/faith-alive/

[10] Hodge, C., Justification by Faith Alone, in Bonar & Hodge, Not What My Hands Have Done, Trinity Foundation, Unicoi, TN, 2005, pp. 269-70.

[11] Of course, the Dispensationalists have a way around the implications of this passage having regarded it as a prophecy for a future restoration of ethnic Israel. They do not seem to see that this attaches the New Covenant to ethnic Jews in the last days and not to the church. That is to say, Dispensationalists do not regard the New Covenant as the constitution of the church. Yet, “Every New Testament use of Jeremiah 31:31-34 [including this excerpt from Hebrews 8] relates it to a present fulfillment in the Church. Conversely, there is no justification anywhere in the New Testament for seeing its fulfillment as future and millennial” (Waldron, S.E. and Barcellos, R.C., A Reformed Baptist Manifesto, RBAP, Palmdale, CA, 2004, p. 21).