Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: The Foundation of Communion with God

In his book The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, Ryan McGraw shows the significance of John Owen's Trinitarian piety by providing highlights of Owen's personal life and introducing themes from his selected works.  The author concludes this book with a guide on what and how to read Owen, and his goal is to "help readers develop a deep-seated and explicitly Trinitarian piety," (Kindle location 337).

The author's history of John Owen's life is brief, but it includes the important details that provide a good biographical sketch of Owen and why he was known as the "Prince of the English Divines."  Mr. McGraw also discusses the theology of the time period and gives a very succinct definition of the covenant of redemption, which is crucial to the understanding of Owen's writings.  I found the following statement very helpful as I read through the selected writings later in the book: "Owen believed one of the primary benefits of new covenant worship was explicitly communion with God as triune," (Kindle location 322).

Mr. McGraw acknowledges that John Owen can be difficult to read, but he also points out that it is well worth the effort.  The author provides biographical and theological information on Owen to help the reader, but I found it challenging to just sit down and read straight through this book.   Even though I regularly read the Puritans, I still consider Owen's writing style to be demanding.  His works are deep, rich, and thought-provoking.  To really understand and apply Owen's works, I think it would be better to read each selection as a daily devotion, or even as part of a small group or family study.

I highly recommend this book for all Christians.  The background information is helpful and Owen's writings are relevant to rightly worshiping the Triune God.  The selections, when read and digested slowly, can be extremely beneficial to the sanctifying work in a Christian's life.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Means of Grace: Preaching or the Preacher? (Part II)

On September 25, 2014, Dr. James Renihan presented a lecture titled "Preaching as a Means of Grace" at the Southwest Founders' Conference at Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.  You can see my first post on his lecture here.

As I previously stated, Dr. Renihan's lecture profoundly changed my view of the Reformed Baptist community in America.  I've listened to the disdain that Dr. James White, a Reformed Baptist Apologist, has for the King James Bible based on his interaction with Dr. Jeff Riddle of Christ Reformed Baptist Church.  Honestly, I thought his strong stand against the King James was a minority opinion, and that the majority of Christian scholars and pastors were at least tolerant of the King James.  It's becoming more clear that my conviction that the King James Bible is God's preserved Word through the Textus Receptus is not tolerated by Christianity in general or by the reformed leaders of my denomination specifically.

As a participant in a family conference for Reformed Baptists, I did not expect the strong degradation of the "older translations" (i.e. The King James Bible) by Dr. Renihan.  He created doubt on the veracity of the King James and caused division--at least for me.  I do not plan to attend another Southwest Founders' Conference because it was very clear that the leadership of the the host church wholeheartedly agreed with Dr. Renihan.  I certainly did not agree with him, so I'm going to post my remaining notes of Dr. Renihan's lecture and show how his arguments are not supported by the King James Bible or The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  [Format clarification from my lecture notes:  Bolded words were emphasized by Dr. Renihan; underlining is my emphasis.]

~~~

Dr. Renihan continues his lecture with Question #3:  How are they to hear him (Dr. Renihan points out that the way this is structured 'him' belongs here) without someone preaching? He states that if you don't have 'him' in your Bible, it's alright to write it in there, and you ought to write it in.  (He can show us the exegesis in the Greek a little later on if we really want to see it.)

[Personal observation:  As I noted in my previous post, Dr. Renihan is privately interpreting the Bible, and now he is strongly insisting that we follow him.  In the King James Bible, the final question in Romans 10:14 reads:  "and how shall they hear without a preacher?" The 54 men appointed to translate the King James Bible were well-educated men who were knowledgeable of the Greek language, and the Second Westminster Company assigned to translate Romans through Jude agreed that the reading should not include the word 'him'.  Of the 13 major English Bible translations listed on blueletterbible.org for Romans 10:14, NONE of them include the direct object 'him' in the final question; they are ALL consistent with the King James.  The New Living translation includes a prepositional phrase 'about him' after the verb 'hear', but this inclusion contradicts the point the Dr. Renihan continues to force upon the text.]

He notes that up to this point, 'they' in the text have been unbelievers; but now, all of the sudden, at the end of the 3rd question something different happens because we don't have a finite verb anymore; now we have a participle. Paul ends this question with a participle that is the object of the preposition 'without'.  He could have used the noun for preacher, but he didn't.  Instead, he uses a verbal noun with a dual emphasis that focuses on preaching as the act of a commissioned person.  It emphasizes preaching and the preacher.  You have to have both.  A message needs a messenger.  Paul also changes the referent of 'they'.  In the first 3 questions, 'they' are unbelievers.  In the 4th question, 'they' are preachers.  Paul is shifting our eyes from the audience to the pulpit.  Both are necessary for the activity.

Question #4:  How are they to preach unless they are sent? The preacher must be sent.  The voice of Jesus Christ comes through preaching; comes through the men that He has sent.  Dr. Renihan stresses that the verb is important here; it is picked up from the Hebrew OT to denote the authorization of someone to fulfill a particular function or a task which is normally clearly defined.  If the sending is linked with a task in the use of this verb, it follows that attention is always focused on the one who sends--the ascended Lord.  In other words, the stress falls on the one who gives his authority to the one whom he sends and whom he takes into his service.

This is based upon a Jewish practice that became very important in the New Testament.  Rabbinical Judaism in the time of Jesus clearly recognized the function of the representative derived from the old Semitic law concerning messengers.  It is expressed in the principle found in the Mishna:  A man's agent is like himself; hence the messenger becomes the proxy of the one who has given him the commission irrespective of the personality of the messenger of the one who has commissioned him--irrespective even of the commission.  The expression means a person acting with full authority for another.

[Personal observation:  According to wikipedia.org, the Mishna(h) is one of the "earliest extant works of rabbinic literature, expounding and developing Judaism's Oral Law" or Oral Torah.  "Kabbalistic knowledge was believed to be part of the Oral Torah, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai" (although there is a view that it began with Adam).  This mystical side of Judaism should never be used by Christians as the basis for reading and interpreting the Bible.]

Dr. Renihan also notes that the point of the 4th question is that true Christian preaching, through which Christ himself speaks, is not something that men can accomplish on their own initiative.  It can only take place where men are authorized and commissioned by God.

In verse 17 a less common Greek word is used.  It is not the 'word of Christ', but the 'message of Christ'; the message that Christ brings through His appointed preachers.  This is how faith comes, from hearing.  What we must notice here is the emphasis on the present activity of Christ in preaching.  They call upon him; they believe on him; they hear him.  A different 'they' are sent by him.  And at all times preaching is considered an activity done of the risen Christ himself and this is how faith comes.

That's why it's so important for people to pray for Jesus to come and speak through preachers when pastors preach.  The preacher needs to hear the words spoken because the preacher's soul needs to be nourished on the doctrines of the Gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ when they are proclaimed both to the world and to God's people.

2 Cor. 5:16-20 also emphasizes salvation.  The ESV (which is the version Dr. Renihan uses) gets verse 20 exactly right; some of the older translations do not.  It should be "God making his appeal through us," not "as though God did beseech you by us."

"God making his appeal through us" is how it ought to read.  It is a genitive absolute that follows the conjunction hos and has a very specific grammatical reading in the Greek language, and Paul uses it in a very specific way.  Translated like this: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ seeing that God makes his appeal through us."

Some older translations say something like this:  "As though God makes his appeal."  That's not right.  It's "seeing that God makes his appeal through us."  Very strong language, but Paul makes our point for us.  Here, verse 20 describes to us the power and the work of Jesus Christ.  We are God's ambassadors seeing that Christ or that God is pleading through us.  There's a very real sense in which the ambassador is viewed as endowed with God's authority.  But it's more than that.  It's not simply that there is a representative authority in the preacher.  It is that God comes and pleads through him when he serves as an ambassador of Christ.

[Personal observation:  Again, Dr. Renihan is making a private interpretation with strong insistence that his listeners follow him; otherwise your Bible is wrong.  In the King James Bible, 2 Cor. 5:20 reads:  "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." Of the 13 major English Bible translations listed on blueletterbible.org for 2 Cor. 5:20, 4 versions do not include the conjunction 'as though' (NLT, ESV, HCSB, RSV); the other 9 versions are consistent with or similar to the King James.]

Dr. Renihan says that the Gospel in Romans 1:16 is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.  When Christ's ambassador speaks, He [Jesus] speaks through him.  Though men may think it foolish, those who understand, see the wisdom.  He [Jesus] speaks to unbelievers; He speaks to believers.  He presents Himself to us.  He calls us to trust in him.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.  We recognize the importance of an utter dependence on the Spirit of God in preaching and this is why the Gospel ministry is so important.

[Personal observation:  This is the only time that Dr. Renihan mentions the Holy Spirit.  I agree  that we are dependent upon the Spirit of God in preaching; but this is NOT what he has been saying up to this point, and it's not what he continues to stress after this statement.   Because it is the only time that the Spirit is mentioned, it may be that he is equivocating Jesus with the Spirit of God.  While it's true that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both God as part of the Godhead, they have different roles.  Jesus calls the elect to Himself through the preaching of the Word by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is not being channeled through preachers.  However, this is exactly what Dr. Renihan is erroneously expounding from Scripture.]

Dr. Renihan continues with the question, what happens when pastors preach?  Conditions must be met.  God must commission and send men through His church.  Those men must declare the truth of Scripture, (Acts 20)--the whole counsel of God centered on Jesus Christ who fulfills the Old Testament promises.  Christ brings salvation because people hear His voice and through that preaching they call on the name of the Lord.  Faithful declaration of the truth is needed, not of opinion, but careful, honest explanation of what has been written in the word of God.  When these things are present, Jesus Christ Himself comes and speaks through the preacher to God's people.  This is not a new kind of inspiration; we're not talking that.  This is not a form of mysticism; we're not talking about that.  Rather it is a recognition that as Lord, exalted to the highest place in heaven, claiming that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him.  Knowing that He is the God-man, He sovereignly comes through the preaching of the Word to bless His Word as it is proclaimed; assuring that it will accomplish His purpose, His will, His plan, His counsel.  All of us, congregations and churches--wherever we worship--can always expect that Christ will be present, our great Prophet, and address His church through the faithfully preached Word.

Dr. Renihan concludes that preachers should speak the truth.  There is no promise in Scripture, no commitment from the ascended Lord Jesus, to bless the preacher's words or opinions; but we can expect Him to bless His Words.  Preachers should study hard and make sure that what they say when they stand before God's people is 100% pure the word of God.

Psalm 95 and Heb. 4:7 tell us to hear His voice and not harden our hearts.  You must receive the preached word as if Christ Himself were speaking to you.  Therefore, pay attention to the word that is preached, come with expectation, listen with faith, and pray diligently for pastors.  This will lead to growth.  The grace of faith by which the elect are enabled to believe is ordinarily the result of the preaching of the word.  Preach the whole counsel of God about Jesus Christ.  Jesus is not absent, but present.  Preachers declare Him boldly; hearers, by faith, listen to His voice.  And God will be glorified through the preached Word.

~~This ends Dr. Renihan's Lecture~~

Based on the concluding remarks, does Jesus preach through false preachers who have "felt" a call to preach?  I can turn on the TV and listen to many "preachers" who don't study and preach the Word of God rightly.  Is Jesus speaking through them?  If not, how can a Christian tell?  Jude specifically warns us that there are certain men crept in unawares; false preachers and teachers who are ungodly men and filthy dreamers, (Jude 4, 8).

Obviously, Christians should listen to preachers who rightly divide the Word of God, but Dr. Renihan did not address the fact that all Christians should be like the Bereans who received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, (Acts 17:11).  Christians should compare what is being preached to the Scripture; however, just like we cannot tell if a person is truly a Christian, we cannot tell if a preacher is truly called by God.  As Christians mature and seek godly counsel, we are better equipped to discern true, biblical preaching; but there is no modern day prophet or Vicar of Christ who speaks as Jesus here on earth.  This concept is dangerous and will lead to cults of personality rather than churches of Christ.

In John 10:16 Jesus tells us:  "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd," (KJV).

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith uses John 10:16 as biblical support under Chapter 26 Of the Church [the footnoted phrase for John 10 is in bold]:
"In the execution of this power wherewith He is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calls out of the world unto Himself, through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those that are given unto Him by His Father, that they may walk before Him all the ways of obedience, which He prescribeth to them in His Word.  Those thus called, He commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which He requireth of them in the world," (1689 LBCF, Ch. 26, para. 5).
Jesus Christ is the Word, (John 1:1-14), and He calls His elect through the Word by the Holy Spirit.  There is no verse that says Jesus is channeled through the voice of a preacher.  Channeling familiar spirits is an abominable occultic practice that is condemned in the Bible, (Deut. 18:10-12).  Dr. Renihan states that he is not talking about mysticism; which is exactly what it sounds like, and probably why he made the disclaimer.  He states that his point is to recognize that as Lord, Jesus is exalted to the highest place in heaven with all authority in heaven and earth.  I don't deny that fact; it's biblical and it's confessional.  But just because Jesus is exalted doesn't mean that His voice is heard through preachers; this concept is neither biblical, nor confessional.

The 1698 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience," (Chap. 1, para. 1).  It also states that "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly," (Chap. 1, para. 9).  In his lecture, Dr. Renihan undermines the Bible by changing the translation based on his own private interpretation; and he does not compare Scripture to Scripture to clarify the passage, but he picks individual words that support his argument without considering other verses that speak more clearly.  Dr. Renihan's conjecture that Jesus Himself preaches through called preachers presumes too much regarding the pastoral office than what is found in the Bible.  I find his forced, erroneous contention blasphemous to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


***
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Means of Grace: Preaching or the Preacher? (Part I)

On September 25, 2014, Dr. James Renihan presented a lecture titled "Preaching as a Means of Grace" at the Southwest Founders' Conference at Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.  This lecture profoundly changed my view of the Reformed Baptist community in America.  I've listened to the disdain that Dr. James White, a Reformed Baptist Apologist, has for the King James Bible based on his interaction with Dr. Jeff Riddle of Christ Reformed Baptist Church.  Honestly, I thought his strong stand against the King James was a minority opinion, and that the majority of Christian scholars and pastors were at least tolerant of the King James.  It's becoming more clear that my conviction that the King James Bible is God's preserved Word through the Textus Receptus is not tolerated by Christianity in general or by the reformed leaders of my denomination specifically.

As a participant in a family conference for Reformed Baptists, I did not expect the strong degradation of the "older translations" (i.e. The King James Bible) by Dr. Renihan.  He created doubt on the veracity of the King James and caused division--at least for me.  I do not plan to attend another Southwest Founders' Conference because it was very clear that the leadership of the the host church wholeheartedly agreed with Dr. Renihan.  I certainly did not agree with him, so I'm going to post my notes of Dr. Renihan's lecture and show how his arguments are not supported by the King James Bible or The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.

Dr. Renihan starts his lecture by reading Ephesians 2:11-17.  In this passage Paul is writing to the Gentile Ephesians, and verse 17 includes the phrase 'he came and preached.'  Dr. Renihan asks and answers some key questions.  Who is 'he' in verse 17?  In this instance, the antecedent is Jesus Christ.  When did Christ do this?  In the context of the passage, it is after Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  Did Jesus physically go to Ephesus in order to preach to the these Gentiles?  Did He come down from heaven and preach about Himself?  The obvious answer is no, He did not.  Eph. 2:17 is similar to Acts 26:23 and John 10:16.  These three verses tell us that Christ preached to the Gentiles.  So, how can this be?  

Next, Dr. Renihan moves to Romans 10:14-17, which shows how God brings the message of salvation to humanity.  Salvation comes from faith in Jesus Christ apart from the works of mankind.  He states that the exegesis of this text is very, very important.  In verse 14, the second word is 'then'.  In the Greek, this word ties together what goes before and what comes after; it is very clear that Paul is carrying on the same theme about salvation.

In this passage Paul asks four questions:
  1. How then will they call on him in whom they've not believed?
  2. How are they to believe in him whom they've never heard?  (Dr. Renihan makes a point to note that this is his own translation.)
  3. How are they to hear him without someone preaching?  (Again, Dr. Renihan makes a point to note that this is his own translation.)
  4. How are they to preach unless they are sent?
[Personal observation:  Dr. Renihan is obviously well-versed in Koine Greek, but the comment that he is using his own translation still contradicts the Bible: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation," 2 Peter 1:20.  No one is exempt from the Word of God.]

Dr. Renihan states that Greek is an inflected language, and the Greek in this passage has the same grammatical construction for all four questions except #3.  He continues to look at the individual questions and analyzes the Greek (the words in bold were emphasized by Dr. Renihan during the lecture):

Question #1:  How will they call on him?
This question uses a special verb form.  The Greek meaning is to call upon someone, especially a divinity.  Paul wants us to understand that the object of the verb to call upon God is included in the verb itself.  The question refers to unbelievers.

Question #2:  How are they to believe in him whom they've never heard?
The main verb is heard; the Greek word is where we get the English word acoustic from.  Most Greek verbs take a direct object.  But akouo is different; akouo takes a direct object in the genitive.  if you don't understand what's going on, it looks like it says something like this:  How are they to believe in him of whom they've never heard.  But that's not what Paul says.  Because the verb takes the genitive as the direct object, literally what it says is this:  How are they to believe in him whom they've never heard.  Not of whom.

[Personal observation:  The King James Bible reads 'of whom'.  As a teacher of English grammar and Latin (along with a very limited knowledge of Koine Greek), I understand direct objects and the accusative and genitive cases.  However, Dr. Renihan made several appeals during his lecture to see him afterwards if we wanted to see the exegesis of what he was saying; which implied that if I disagreed with him, I obviously don't understand the underlying grammar.  I found his repeated appeal to explain the exegesis privately very arrogant and condescending.  It sounded similar to the scholarly priest of the Roman Catholic Church explaining the Bible to the uneducated laity.]

Additionally, Dr. Renihan notes that John Murray's commentary on Romans says that there is no need to insert the preposition 'in' before him.  A striking feature of this clause is that Christ is represented as being heard in the Gospel when proclaimed by the sent messengers.  The implication is that Christ speaks in the Gospel proclamation. That is the most important point of the whole text.  And that's what the other three verses (in Eph. 2, Acts 26, and John 10) are speaking about.  When the preaching happens, Jesus Christ comes to the Gentiles or to the Jews (whoever is in the audience).  Jesus comes through His appointed messengers; He preaches to the audience.

Dr. Renihan continues by stating that the basis for the doctrine of the means of grace is the fact that Christ has ascended into heaven, has claimed all power and authority for Himself, and has sent messengers on His behalf.  We don't believe in an absent Lord; we believe in a present Lord who acts among His people and for the extension of His kingdom.  That is what Paul is describing in this place.  The direct object is normally in the accusative.  Akouo takes the genitive and it simply means: How are they to believe in him whom they never heard.  They can't call upon him because they don't believe in him.  And how are they going to believe in him if they have not heard him?!
 ~~~

This is a long lecture, so I'm going to end my lecture notes here and make some personal remarks.  First, Dr. Renihan is tediously making an argument about a minor grammatical inclusion of the word 'of' to support his argument.  The grammatical distinction that he is trying to make is not very apparent or very strong.  The 54 men appointed to translate the King James Bible were well-educated men who were knowledgeable of the Greek language, and the Second Westminster Company assigned to translate Romans through Jude agreed that the reading should be 'of whom'.  Of the 13 major English Bible translations listed on blueletterbible.org for Romans 10:14, only 3 use 'whom' (NASB, ASV, HNV); the other 10 versions are consistent with the King James and use 'of whom'.

With all of his talk about direct objects, the accusative case, and the genitive case, Dr. Renihan muddies the water and implies that some of the Bible translations have been incorrectly translated.  However, since we are dealing with the subject of salvation, Dr. Renihan contradicts The 1698 London Baptist Confession of Faith, which says that "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience," (Chap. 1, para. 1).

Dr. Renihan performs these grammatical gymnastics so that he can say that Jesus preaches through preachers.  There is no Scripture that says this or even implies such a thing (without changing the grammar & reading the idea into the text).  Yes, there are three verses which talk about Jesus preaching to the Gentiles, but Jesus is the Word, (John 1:1) and God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to spread His Gospel, (1 Cor. 1:18).  Jesus is present in the preaching as the Word that is preached; He is not the voice of the preacher.

If Jesus were the voice speaking as a preacher preaches, then everything that is said outside of the written Word would need to be recorded and added to the Bible as additional revelation.  In addition, man is still fallible in his regenerated state because he still has a sin nature that wars within him, (Rom. 7:19-25).  Therefore, everything a preacher says from the pulpit may or may not be true due to human misunderstanding or misapplication.  How can Jesus preach through a preacher that may not accurately expound the truth of Scripture?  Obviously, this can not be the case.  In order for a preacher to preach without error, he would be limited to reading only the written Word of God with no commentary or explanation; and that's not the role of a pastor.

Now let's look at Romans 10:13-17 which says:  "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?  And show shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!  But they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, (KJV)."

These verses are used as proof texts in The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF), the Baptist Catechism, and Keach's Catechism.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith uses Romans 10:14, 17 and Romans 10:14, 15, 17 as biblical support under Chapter 14 Of Saving Faith and Chapter 20 Of the Gospel and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof, respectively [the footnoted phrase for Romans 10 is in bold]:
"The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened," (1689 LBCF, Ch. 14, para. 1).

"This promise of Christ, and salvation by Him, is revealed only by the Word of God; neither do the works of creation or providence, with the light of nature, make discovery of Christ, or of grace by Him, so much as in a general or obscure way; much less that men destitute of the revelation of Him by the promise or Gospel, should be enable thereby to attain saving faith or repentance," (1689 LBCF, Ch. 20, para. 2).
When our Reformed Baptist forefathers read Romans 10, they saw that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the Word.  They did not twist the grammatical construction of the Greek to show that it is really Jesus' voice through the preachers that accomplishes the work of salvation.

We also see that understanding that the Word is made effectual through the Holy Spirit and not the voice of Jesus in the following catechism questions:

Question #94 of the Baptist Catechism uses Romans 10:13-17 as biblical support for the answer:
Q. 94: How is the Word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
Question #95 of the 1677 Keach's Catechism uses Romans 10:17 as biblical support for the answer:
Q. 95. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper and Prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
Again, we see the Holy Spirit's role of convicting and converting sinners through the written Word of God.  Dr. Renihan's private interpretation contradicts not only what the Bible actually says, but also how the Confession systematically interprets these verses and how the Baptist catechisms teach the concept of saving faith.

Therefore, Dr. Renihan's analysis of the underlying Greek puts too much emphasis on the preacher and not enough emphasis on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit in the salvation process.  His argument is not readily found in the Word of God or supported when looking at the text as a whole.  I will continue my analysis on the remaining part of his lecture in my next post.

NB:  Part II is here.

***
"Those whom God hath predestined unto life, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ," (1689 LBCF Ch. 10, para. 1).

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour," (Titus 3:5-6).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

C.S. Lewis's Flawed Christianity - Part V

In my previous posts on C.S. Lewis, I looked at his views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general.  I focused on his religious tolerance in Part I; his beliefs of heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer in Part II; his views of the Lord's Supper, theistic evolution, and the immortality of animals in Part III; and his positions on Christ's Atonement and the historicity of the Bible in Part IV.

As part of my analysis, I've been using C.S. Lewis on Scripture:  His Thoughts on the Nature of Biblical Inspiration, the Role of Revelation and the Question of Inerrancy by Michael J. Christensen (copyright 1979, ISBN 0-8499-0115-4).  Mr. Christensen looks at Mr. Lewis's views on the Bible itself, the Bible as literature, and the Bible as myth to determine whether or not C.S. Lewis thought that the Bible was inerrant.

I've written four posts looking at C.S. Lewis's beliefs based on the first two chapters of Mr. Christensen's book.  I could continue this series and cover the remaining four chapters by examining his views on the Bible as literature and the Bible as myth, but the outcome would be the same; what Mr. Lewis believes does not line-up with Scripture.

So, in answer to Mr. Christensen's question of whether or not C.S. Lewis would consider the Bible to be inerrant, let's examine the author's conclusion:
"At the same time, Lewis would acknowledge that it [the Bible] is the ongoing revelation of God in Christ, not its embodiment in Scripture, which is infallible.  It is the message of the living Word of God, not the medium of its expression, which is authoritative.  Scripture, as the primary medium of divine revelation, conveys, presents, or as Lewis prefers, "carries" God's truth in finite human form," (p. 88).
The short answer is no, C.S. Lewis would not consider the Bible to be inerrant.

In his book Into the Region of Awe (copyright 2005, ISBN 0-8308-3284-X), David Downing looks at the mysticism of C.S. Lewis.  He acknowledges that "C.S. Lewis is widely regarded as the most influential voice for Christian faith in the modern era...Lewis is generally thought of as a commonsense Christian, one who offers theology that is understandable and morality that is practical."

After looking into the beliefs of C.S. Lewis, I do not consider him a brother in Christ.  We do not believe in the same Jesus.  I don't know how C.S. Lewis became such a powerful "Christian" voice in the church.  I would surmise that the growth in ecumenism along with an increasing lack of discernment have contributed to his inclusion.  I also found this statement telling from Mr. Downing's Introduction:
"Generally, Lewis did not highlight his interest in Christian mysticism.  He knew that many of his fellow believers misunderstood or mistrusted claims of personal encounters with the Divine, and he studiously tried to avoid topics that separate Christians, focusing instead on beliefs they can celebrate together.  But a survey of Lewis's letters (some unpublished), theological meditations and works of fiction show that the spiritual vitality of his books derives in no small measure from his own mystical intuitions and from his broad reading in Christian mysticism," (p. 13).
It's easy to deceive people when you are not honest and upfront about your beliefs.  Somewhere along the way, C.S. Lewis was promoted as a true Christian, and once he was let into mainstream Christianity, nothing can cast him out; not even the truth.

As a member of the Anglican Communion of the Church of England, C.S. Lewis identified himself as a Protestant; therefore, his beliefs should line up with orthodox Christianity.  Since I have shown that his beliefs are not orthodox, but actually promote Roman Catholic tradition, it is imperative that Christians mark Mr. Lewis as contrary to the Bible and avoid him just as the Apostle Paul instructs us:  "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause division and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good works and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple," (Rom. 16:17-18).

I pray that this series of posts will help you think biblically as you discern what books to read and what movies to watch.  As Christians ponder how to interact with the world, many questions will arise, including:  'Can Christians read any books written by non-Christians?'  I think the answer can be yes or no, depending on the individual Christian conscience; there is liberty in Christ.  I'm certainly not promoting a legalistic ban on anything worldly, but when the evidence is clear, Christians should not associate themselves with false teachers.  My concern with C.S. Lewis is that he is held up as a model Christian for the regular man; therefore, his books and movies are recommended and promoted because they reflect "biblical" truth and doctrine.  As I've shown, they do not and they cannot because Mr. Lewis did not recognize the Truth of the written Word of God.

***
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty," (2 Cor. 6:17-18).