Thursday, June 25, 2015

Haldane on Textual Criticism

I'm reading through Robert Haldane's Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans reprinted in 1960 by The Banner of Truth Trust.  His original work appeared in three volumes from 1835-1839.  As I read and study this summer (and probably this fall), I will post quotes and make observations from time to time.

I'll quote Mr. Haldane at length here as he speaks to textual criticism in the Preface to his Exposition, (pp. 3-4):

"The spirit of speculation and of novelty which is now abroad, loudly calls upon Christians to give earnest heed to the truths inculcated in the Epistle to the Romans.  There is hardly any doctrine which has not been of late years exposed to the corruptions and perversions of men who profess to be believers of Divine revelation.  Many, altogether destitute of the Spirit of God and the semblance of true religion, have nevertheless chosen the word of God and its solemn and awfully momentous truths as the arena upon which to exercise their learning and display their ingenuity.  In consequence of the Scriptures being written in the dead languages, there is doubtless scope for the diligent employment of critical research.  But if it were inquired how much additional light has been thrown upon the sacred volume by the refinements of modern critics, it would be found to bear a very small proportion to the evil influence of unsanctified learning applied to the holy doctrines of revelation.  It has become common, even among Christians, to speak of the critical interpretation of Scripture as requiring little or nothing more than mere scholarship; and many seem to suppose that the office of a critical and that of a doctrinal interpreter are so widely different, that a man may be a safe and useful critic who has no relish for the grand truths of the Bible.  There cannot be a more lamentable delusion, or one more calculated to desecrate the character and obscure the majesty of the word of God.  To suppose that a man may rightly interpret the Scriptures, while he is ignorant of the truths of the Gospel, or disaffected to some of its grand fundamental doctrines,--to imagine that this can be to him a useful or even an innocent occupation,--is to regard these Scriptures as the production of ordinary men, treating of subjects of ordinary importance, instead of containing, as they do, the Message of the Most High God, revealing life or death to every soul to whom they come.
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Christians ought to be particularly on their guard against tampering in any degree with the word of God.  We should never forget that, when we are explaining any expression of Scripture, we are treating of what are the very words of the Holy Ghost, as much as if they had been spoken to us by a voice from heaven.  The profane rashness of many critics is much emboldened by the circumstances that men have been employed as the instruments of the Almighty in communicating His revelation.  A sort of modified inspiration only is granted to the Scriptures, and they are often treated as the words merely of those who were employed as the penmen.  When God is thus kept out of sight, little ceremony is used with the words of the Apostles.  That profound reverence and awe with which the Scriptures ought to be read and handled, are in many instances too little exemplified.  The poor man's Bible is the word of God, in which he has suspicion that there is anything but perfection.  The Bible of the profoundly erudite scholar is often a book that is not so necessary to instruct him, as one that needs his hand for alteration, or amendment, or confirmation.  Learning may be usefully employed; but if learning ever forgets that it must sit at the feet of Jesus, it will be a curse instead of a blessing.  It will raise clouds and darkness, instead of communicating light to the world."


***
"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.  Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us," (Eccl. 1:9-10).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Testimony of Scripture

On May 25, 2015, Rowan Murphy of Arann Reformed Baptist Church taught on Chapter 1 paragraph 5 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  This paragraph reads:

"We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."
Even though Mr. Murphy's teaching is short, he makes some key points that I want to highlight:
  • The church (through the offices given in Eph. 4:11-13) must stir up its members to have a high reverence for Scripture.
  • God saves sinners to have holy fellowship with Him through all eternity.  Islam promises a heaven of 72 virgins, an eternity of vice.  You do not need to be saved to want Muslim heaven.  It is paradise for the sinner.  But God has given us a heaven that you must be saved in order to want; a selfless, sinless worship of God forever.  This doesn't appeal to the mind of unregenerated man, but it is one of the heavenly things that God speaks of in His Word.  It is one of the transcendent, glorious things that God has called us to (1 Cor. 2:9).
  • The efficacy of the doctrine of the Gospel is found in God's Word.  Don't believe a great preacher because he says something.  Believe what a great preacher says because he reads it from the Word of God.  Believe the Word of God based on its own merit, quality, and authority.
  • Christ is in the whole Word of God.  He is the Seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3 and the Great God in Revelation 1.  In Genesis 24 Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer which means God of my help, to get a bride for his son Isaac.  This is a picture of God sending his Holy Spirit to get a bride for the Son; a picture of the triune God working to procure the bride of Christ, the church.  The Gospel is everywhere in the Bible.  We clearly see the majesty of the style and the consent of all the parts of Scripture together.
  • The doctrines of grace should make believers humble and cause them to glorify God.  The glory of God is one of the most important themes of Scripture.
  • Christ does not just point to the way in which man can walk in his own strength and wisdom; Christ is the way and believers are in Him.  We are brought to heaven by His conquest.  Man's only way of salvation is Christ Himself.
  • The Holy Spirit guides us in truth by the Word of God.

***
"And I [the Apostle Paul], brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory," (1 Cor. 2:1-7).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Why Worry?

Many of the books that I review on my blog come through crossfocusedreviews.com. As part of receiving the free book, I agree to post my review on my blog as well as on amazon.com. Occasionally, I will receive feedback from my blog readers, but most of the negative comments I receive are responses to my book reviews posted on the Amazon website. Therefore, I have a series of blog posts that I've labeled Countering Criticism where I evaluate the validity of the negative feedback I receive. Today, I would like to look at one comment from a poster named Doug H. regarding my book review on Living Without Worry. You can read my original review here.

On June 7, 2015, Doug H. wrote:
"I read your review and understand where you are coming from (an extreme Calvinistic perspective). If your theology is correct and there is no offer of salvation in the Bible, the [sic] each and every person has MUCH to worry about. How can we know we are truly elect until we persevere in good works till the end of our lives? Do you not see that this is works for salvation?

I agree the Bible does not say to accept Jesus into our lives. Rather the saving message is to believe in JESUS for everlasting life (John 3:16, 5:24, 6:47). It has nothing to do with behavior; salvation depends on God's faithfulness and not our own."
First, Doug contends that I'm coming from an "extreme Calvinistic perspective". I'm not sure really what he means by extreme. The belief that salvation is a monergistic work of God (Calvinism) is not extreme; it is biblical. God has chosen His elect "before the foundation of the world," (Eph. 1:4) and "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will," (Eph. 1:5). In other words, God elects His people according to His will. That's plainly written in Ephesians. If we read a little further, we are told that "[f]or by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Not of works, lest any man should boast," (Eph. 2:8-9, emphasis mine). Clearly, God alone is the agent of salvation. There is no free will in salvation. After the Fall in Genesis 3, man does not have the capacity nor the desire to choose Jesus. We read in Rom. 3:10-11, 23: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God...For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Finally, in the words of Jesus Himself: "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father," (John 6:65).

Next, Doug's argument is not coherent. I'm really not sure what his point is because he does not clearly express his belief of how salvation is achieved. No man is able to believe in Jesus on his own since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). In addition, he obviously does not understand the 5 tenets of Calvinism. In my review, I never said that Christians must persevere in good works to prove they are saved because that's not biblical, and Calvinism does not teach that either. Doug is making statements based on what he has heard or what he thinks Calvinism teaches. Once regenerated, Christians persevere in faith by the power of God and do good works because good works are ordained by God as well: "For we are workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them," (Eph. 2:10).

I'm surprised that Doug doesn't think anyone should "accept Jesus"; we both agree on that point. While it is true that the "saving message is to believe in Jesus for everlasting life", I would also include the need for repentance unto salvation. Doug then says, "salvation depends on God's faithfulness, not our own." This is where his argument is contradictory and actually proves my point. Salvation is wholly a work of the One, True, Faithful God because depraved, unregenerate man can not, and will not, be faithful. Based on Doug's comments and the Bible verses he referenced, it appears that he believes that once man believes, then he is saved. The biblical picture that I've shown above is just the opposite. God regenerates (or saves) man through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, and then man repents and believes.

***
"Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified," (Rom. 8:30).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Impassibility of God


On the Confessing Baptist Podcast episode #78 dated February 3, 2015, Jason Delgado interviewed Sam Renihan, editor of God Without Passions, A Reader, which is a compilation of 60 excerpts from 16th and 17th century Reformed theologians who argue for Divine Impassibility.

This book was compiled to help Christians understand what is so clearly laid out in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, paragraph 1:  The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of Himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but Himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions."

The doctrine of Divine Impassibility states that there are no emotional changes in God; God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by His relationship to creation.  He is who He is.  God is completely different from creation.  He is the Creator who called everything into existence; He is something other than creation and creation will never be God.  You cross the gap between the two through analogy.  Therefore, the biblical authors use language of emotion relative to God, but you have maintain the analogy between the Creator and the creature.  Also, the affections given to God are the outworkings of His will; therefore, God cannot have changeable affections and emotions because He has one single, immutable decree.

Affections connect the body and the soul with faculties of mind, will, and understanding; they are motions where the will takes actions through the body to do something relative to good and evil.  Passions are a subset of affections; in fallen nature, they violate the boundaries of nature, reason, and moral order (i.e. over-eating, lust, etc.).  Affections in man are perfections in God.  

Nevertheless, Scripture attributes affections and passions to God.  Therefore, we must ask how we should read these and answer that it is done metaphorically.  God decreed to threaten Nineveh, and He decreed to deliver Nineveh.  He decreed to create man, and He decreed to destroy man.  There's no change in God, but it's called repentance because from man's perspective, God begins something and then undoes it.  We have to be careful not to take the human action of repentance along with its baggage of human emotions and ascribe it to God.  It's not wrong to speak in the language of Scripture, but it is wrong to equate human language with the divine Creator.

On a side note, Jason Delgado made the following statement (around the 37 minute mark, emphasis mine):  "Some of the common objections that come up when this doctrine is espoused is...the Bible says things like God gets angry or God repents.  It says that more than once.  That's not a textual variant...it's clear in black and white what the Bible says...Isn't there some kind of change in God?  How can it be true that God is without passions if we see God having passions at this moment here."

So if there were a textual variant for God getting angry or God repenting, would that affect the doctrine of Divine Impassibility?  Mr. Delgado implies that the lack of textual variant makes this issue clear.  However, this  assumes that if there were a textual variant, then that difference would factor into the analysis of God's character.  This is why the doctrine of the Preservation of God's Word is so important.  If Christians believe that God's Word has been corrupted through textual variants, then it is not infallible; and if it's not infallible, then Christians believe in vain.  The doctrine of Divine Impassibility is true, not because no textual variants exist, but because it's what God's Word tells us.

***
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe," (2 Thess. 2:13).

Monday, June 1, 2015

All Delights Are to Be Denied for Christ

"Do not fear; trust your honors, your dignities, and riches with God. There was never anything lost in a self-denying way for Jesus Christ; nothing can make you more honorable than the ways of godliness, and nothing can cast more contempt and shame upon you than the ways of sin do. It is the basest servitude there is, both for yourselves and all your estates and honors to be under the power of your lusts. As you would account it a greater contempt and shame for you to be made to serve in the lowest and basest work that is than if an ordinary man should be forced to it, then surely it is more contemptible for you to be under the slavery of sin than for an ordinary man." 
~Jeremiah Burroughs from Moses' Self-Denial, p. 53

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"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter," (Heb. 11:24).