Friday, January 21, 2011

Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson's "Exegetical Fallacies," Pt. 3: Failure to Recognize Distinctions

“Of course the Bible teaches that in Christ there is no male and female (Gal. 3:28); but does the Bible mean that male and female are alike in every respect? Who is going to bear the babies? Or do I now get my turn? The context of Galatians 3:28 shows the concern in that passage is with justification. In their standing before God, male and female are as one: neither enjoys any special advantage, each is acquitted by grace through faith...According to Luke, Peter cites Joel to the effect that both male and female shall prophesy (Acts 2:17); and certainly in the New Testament women do in fact prophesy (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:2-16). But Peter also says that the woman is the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). Whether this is taken with respect to physical strength or something else, it entails some sort of distinction; and a very good case can be made from New Testament evidence that a distinction was drawn between the gift of prophecy, which men and women could equally enjoy, and the church-recognized teaching authority over men, which only men could discharge” (D.A. Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies, Second Edition.” Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006, pages 92-93).
Today’s fallacy quote by D.A. Carson comes from his labeled fallacy “Failure to Recognize Distinctions.” While Carson is quite the dogmatic Calvinist, he is also a staunch complementarian. You may not believe this, but most of his book spends time critiquing egalitarians more than it does Arminians (which is the other group he attacks).
Carson argues that, since men and women are biologically different, such biological distinctions testify to distinctions of spiritual authority in the church:
“does the Bible mean that male and female are alike in every respect? Who is going to bear the babies? Or do I now get my turn?”
The problem with this quote is that Carson goes from a biological distinction (that women are child-bearers) to spiritual authority without giving any biblical proof. At the most, this is just an absurd inference that the text does not justify. Not even the Scriptures state that spiritual authority is given on the basis of biological distinction. Rather, spiritual authority is given by the decision of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11). Carson is really stretching his exegesis on this one. To be somewhat facetious, “Who is going to do sound exegesis? Carson? Or do I now get my turn”?
Next, Carson gives another somewhat biological proof for his disagreement with women teaching men:
“According to Luke, Peter cites Joel to the effect that both male and female shall prophesy (Acts 2:17); and certainly in the New Testament women do in fact prophesy (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:2-16). But Peter also says that the woman is the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). Whether this is taken with respect to physical strength or something else, it entails some sort of distinction.”
What does “the weaker vessel” reference have to do with spiritual authority in the church? When Peter refers to the woman as the weaker vessel, he is not talking about the female intellect. 1 Peter 3:7 discusses the context of marriage (not spiritual authority in the church), so Peter is not saying that women are weak and cannot lead in church. Rather, he is referring to the woman in terms of physical strength, vulnerability in the marriage, etc. This is why men are to give honor to their wives: since Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians that “God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it” (1 Cor. 13:24, NKJV). Women are not only to be honored because God gives them greater honor in their marriages, but also “that your prayers may not be hindered.” Does this mean that the man’s prayers could be hindered if he dishonors his wife in any way? Yes. Could this possibly refer to spiritual gifts: that is, that if a man dishonors his wife in her spiritual calling, he will hinder his prayers? Absolutely! I doubt, however, that complementarians give this any thought. D.A. Carson does not, in his reference to the passage.
A wife desires to be cherished, to be appreciated, to be seen as more than a sex object to be tossed around at will. But how do complementarians justify their treatment of their wives in church when they prevent them to do what they are called to do? I am thinking of a couple at this very moment where both husband and wife have PhDs. The husband is allowed to teach, publish, write, research, and do all that is in his heart...while his wife received a PhD in order to sit by his side and take care of their children. How right is this? What did she get her PhD for if she would do nothing with it? And does the husband in this case not consider that he might be hindering his wife’s progress, the progress of their marriage, not to mention their prayers? It’s certainly something worth thinking about.
Carson ends his assessment with the idea that the Scriptures teach some sort of leadership distinction between men and women (appealing to 1 Timothy 2). The problem, however, is that one cannot just blow off the context of Galatians. Let’s now revisit Carson’s assessment of Galatians:
“The context of Galatians 3:28 shows the concern in that passage is with justification. In their standing before God, male and female are as one: neither enjoys any special advantage, each is acquitted by grace through faith.”
Carson claims that neither male nor female “enjoys any special advantage,” and each person is “acquitted by grace through faith.” But, notice Carson’s “slide” qualification here: Carson doesn’t just say that neither enjoys special privileges; rather, the privilege that is the same for both male and female is “acquitted by grace through faith.” To Carson, salvation is alike for both male and female, but that’s all. Women are not given the same gifts as men for the same places of leadership in the church.
But does not God gives gifts as He pleases (1 Cor. 12:11)? If this be the case, then how can Carson argue that a distinction in gender explains the Holy Spirit’s moving? Don’t you think that the Holy Spirit could have explained this if He desired to? Since the Spirit is the inaugurator of the early church, could He not have spoken to us clearly about the Spirit giving gifts “according to gender”? Paul clearly knew how to write “male and female” in Galatians 3:28---so why didn’t he write that in 1 Corinthians 12:11?
Carson’s exegesis has problems simply because he attempts to make distinctions in gifting a result of gender, not a result of the Spirit’s own decision. I guess the next question becomes, “Does the Spirit desire to gift according to gender?”...and sadly enough, Carson has staked out on a position that is unbiblical. If anyone has failed to recognize distinctions, it’s D.A. Carson himself, the same man (may I admit) that wrote a book explaining the nature and practice of exegetical fallacies.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who Wants To Be An Arminian? The Dividing Fifth Point (Perseverance)

Today’s post is a small break in the D.A. Carson series I’ve been working on, titled “Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson’s ‘Exegetical Fallacies’.” I have a different desire on my heart today: that is, I desire to talk to my fellow Arminian brothers and sisters about the fifth tenet: that is, the tenet of Arminian theology concerning perseverance.
Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, Director of The Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, along with the other writers of “Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism” (eds. David Allen, Steve Lemke, writers Drs. Paige Patterson, Ken Keathley, Bruce Little, et al, published an article titled “Neither Calvinists nor Arminians But Baptists” this past September 2010. (You can find this article on the top right of the CTS main page.) The purpose of this article was to explain why many Baptists align themselves with neither Calvinism nor Arminianism. I read the group’s critique of Calvinism and agreed wholeheartedly. In particular, I thought that Dr. Bruce Little’s argument against John Piper’s view of God and His “Spectacular Sins” (a book title of Piper’s) was a phenomenal critique indeed. I highly suggest you read the book because of Dr. Little’s chapter, if for no other reason. I think the problem of evil is a problem indeed if the Calvinist notion of sovereignty prevails.
What about the critique of Arminianism? There were two main reasons why the writers and editors disagreed with Arminianism: (1) “the tendency of some Arminians to fall into the trap of Open Theism” (“Neither Calvinists Nor Arminians But Baptists,” page 6), and (2) “Our understanding from the five Arminian articles of 1610 is that classical Arminians are unsure as to whether Christians may lose their salvation” (“Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists,” page 6).
First, let me say that I do think some Arminians fall into Open Theism, but I think it’s a huge overgeneralization to leap from “some Arminians fall into Open Theism” to “therefore, we don’t desire to be Arminians because this is what Arminians think.” There are many Arminian scholars out there, namely, Robert Picirilli, J. Matthew Pinson, I.Howard Marshall, Ben Witherington III, Roger Olson, Grant Osborne, etc., who are not Open Theists. To be Arminian does not necessitate that one will automatically become Open Theist. I could make a similar statement about Baptists--- that is, that I don’t desire to be in the category of “merely Baptist” because not aligning with a group leads to the idea that Baptists do not have a theology and do not study the Scriptures. Sadly enough, as a Baptist, I’ve met quite a few people in my life who fit that description...but I don’t believe that such a view characterizes all Baptists adequately.
Some merely decide not to align with a group because they don’t understand “what all the fuss is about.” Some Baptists remain undecided about the two camps because they want believers to get along and stop finding things to fight about. And so, they think that, by adhering to peace (and a non-fighting stance), they are living by the Word of “The Prince of Peace.” I respect that, but I still think one has to decide where he or she stands on the five points, whether they want to or not. To fail to know what the Bible teaches on these points is to fail to show oneself approved before God (2 Tim. 2:15). If we Baptists can agree that there is one God in three persons, that Christ is the only way to be saved (there is “no other name,” see John 14:6, Book of Acts), and, for example, that God made man and woman to be in union (the Scriptures do not endorse homosexual marriage), then we can come to understand what the Scriptures teach on the five points of depravity, election, atonement, grace, and perseverance.
There is, however, the other point in the article that is worth mentioning:
Our understanding from the five Arminian articles of 1610 is that classical Arminians are unsure as to whether Christians may lose their salvation. As the Remonstrants’ fifth article states, they did not reach a conclusion regarding the perseverance of the saints “cum plerophoria animi nostri”, with full assurance in their minds (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, III, 549). On the other hand, unlike classical Arminians, we are absolutely sure that Scripture teaches that a born-again Christian will be saved. This is why our Baptist Faith and Message affirms, without equivocation, “All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end” (art. V, “God’s Purpose of Grace”) (pg. 6).
As damaging as this quote is to Arminians, I must be objective and discuss it. The writers of this article make a very true claim: if Arminians cannot struggle with their doctrine of perseverance and come to agree on where they stand, then statements such as the quote above will always be effective in persuading many to remain “out of the ring” between Calvinism and Arminianism.
In regards to Arminius, the claim made in the article written by the “Whosoever Will” writers states that Arminians did not make up their minds about whether or not a person can lose salvation. However, this is what Arminius himself had to say:
“My sentiments respecting the Perseverance of the Saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh...yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, Whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ...and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual” (James Arminius, “Works” I: 665-666).
Many believe that this means that Arminians do not have a formulated doctrine regarding perseverance. While some Arminians hold to eternal security and others conditional security (believers can fall away), Arminius himself left the question open-ended. He never once expresses that he doubts his followers can come to a stance on the issue; rather, he simply states that it is important that those who hold to his theology convene and reason on the doctrine of perseverance.
Although Arminius only lived a short life (died around age 49), Classical Arminianism today is still divided on this issue. Throughout the last two years, I’ve talked with many Arminians who seem to desire protesting against the Calvinist, but clearly have no stance when it comes to this issue. Some hold to eternal security and use Arminius’s note on “diligent inquiry” to assert that they can be Arminians whether or not eternal security is consistent or inconsistent with the other four tenets in their system (depravity, election, atonement, and grace). Others hold to conditional security and are either considered heretics, unbiblical, or outright dogmatic. Some Arminians accuse fellow brothers and sisters of going beyond Arminius in their claims to conditional security (while going beyond Arminius themselves in their claims to eternal security). But this divide is the exact reason why many do not desire to have anything to do with Classic Arminianism.
The nay-saying about us, fellow Arminians, is right: we do not have a stance. What we have done over the years is put up plexiglass around our notion of security in Christ, instead of subjecting it to the Scriptures and the critiques of others who are respected in the field. We refuse to talk about it, and would rather unite in the other four points that we all can hold to. I am all for unity; however, we cannot unify around a doctrine upon which we take no particular stance. We cannot say that there is “one” God, “one” faith, “one” truth, and “one” path to God...and then, arrive at the Scriptures (the revelation of God) and state that “many positions on this point [perseverance] can be right.” If there is one revelation of God (the Scriptures, the Word) given to us, and we can formulate “one” unified stance on the other four doctrines of depravity, election, atonement, and grace, then we can unify around a particular stance on perseverance. Failure to come to a unified agreement on perseverance in Classic Arminian theology will frustrate our efforts as we seek to advance the cause of Christ.
I realize that this post may be upsetting to some of my Arminian brothers and sisters...but it’s been a long time coming. I believe that theologians should be honest, even about their own views. As a result, I love Classic Arminian theology, the heart and writings of Arminius, and all those who agree with me. At the same time, “open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed” (Proverbs 27:5, NKJV). I desire to openly rebuke my Arminian brethren so as to make us better. We need to desperately search the Scriptures and come to a conclusion on this one point. The only persons holding Arminians back are Arminians themselves. Arminius has passed the torch down to us; now it’s time for us to run with it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson's "Exegetical Fallacies," Pt. 2: Reconciling 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Corinthians 14

“In this case, however, there is no need for such a procedure of last resort. The passage can be and has been adequately explained in its context. There are ample parallels to this way of looking to the Old Testament for a principle, not a quotation (and the principle in question is doubtless Gen. 2:20b-24, referred to by Paul both in 1 Cor. 11:8-9 and in 1 Tim. 2:13); and the demand for silence on the part of women does not bring on irreconcilable conflict with 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, where under certain conditions women are permitted to pray and prophesy, because the silence of 14:33b-36 is limited by context: women are to keep silent in connection with the evaluation of prophecies, to which the context refers, for otherwise they would be assuming a role of doctrinal authority in the congregation (contra 1 Tim. 2:11-15) (D.A. Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies, Second Edition.” Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006, pages 40-41).

In the last post, I critiqued Dr. Carson’s idea of a tense fallacy regarding I. Howard Marshall’s interpretation of Hebrews 3. I made it clear there that Carson simply takes the perfect tense, looks to the end of the human life, and concludes that those who are true believers are only those who endure to the end. You may not have caught on to it, but what Carson is saying is, “Only those who endure to the end ever believed to begin with.” The sad part about such a statement is, that if one does not endure to the end, according to Carson, such an individual was “never saved to begin with.” But, if the individual was never saved, then how about you and me? How about those who love God in the present, who serve Him, worship Him, and do His work? If believers in the here and now must endure to even know if they are saved, how can they know they are saved “now”? How can they know if they are saved “today”? See, Dr. Carson’s words sound believable until we start to question the believer’s salvation---then, things turn ugly. But Carson’s question is a good one for those who insist that the apostate “was never saved.” If the apostate can do what he did, how do you and I know that we will not end up like him? To know the end in the here and now takes a special omniscience, one that you and I do not possess whatsoever. Therefore, when we question that the apostate was ever saved, we are questioning if even we ourselves are saved...and I doubt the believer wants to take that treacherous step.
In today’s post, however, I will not discuss the doctrine of apostasy...instead, I will tackle another fallacy of Carson’s: “Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings.” In the quote above, we find Carson critiquing an assessment of Walter Kaiser Jr.’s regarding the word “nomos” (Grk. “law”) in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36. Kaiser argues that the word “nomos” there refers to rabbinical law. Carson insists that this is highly unlikely, and then goes on to give his own assessment of what “law” Paul may have referred to: “the silence of 14:33b-36 is limited by context: women are to keep silent in connection with the evaluation of prophecies, to which the context refers, for otherwise they would be assuming a role of doctrinal authority in the congregation (contra 1 Tim. 2:11-15).”
In the sentence before the one I just quoted (see quote above at the top of the post), Carson feels the need to reconcile 1 Corinthians 14 with the permission of women to prophecy before the congregation in 1 Corinthians 11. His solution? Women can pray and prophesy (as 1 Cor. 11 allows), but they cannot “evaluate prophecies.”
Now, whenever a solution or remedy is proposed to texts that seem to conflict with one another, the solution always has to be tested against the context. If there is a solution proposed that may sound believable but does not fit the context, then believers must toss the theory out and look for another proposal that will adhere to sound hermeneutics.
Since Dr. Carson has proposed the prohibition of women from prophecy evaluation, it’s now time to check that view against the context of 1 Corinthians (before we can decide whether or not it would even adhere to 1 Timothy 2).
First, let’s note that the background to 1 Corinthians 14:33 is concerned with bringing understanding to the body of Christ (as well as unbelievers). At the beginning of chapter 14, Paul tells the Corinthians that their focus on tongues as a spiritual gift is lopsidedly misguided: that is, they should desire to prophesy above all. Why? Because “he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him...but he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men...edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:2-4, NKJV).
This theme is continued in his discussion of speaking in tongues: “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19). The goal of speaking in the church is to edify the body of Christ, to encourage, to push forward into the things of God. How can that be done if the person does not understand the language in which someone is speaking? How can one put something into action that he or she does not understand? Paul uses this logic to argue that speaking in tongues is a good gift and fit for use before God...but it is not to be publicly proclaimed amongst believers, especially when there is no interpreter to bridge communication between the unknown language and confused believers (1 Cor. 14:28).
In verses 29-32, Paul begins to turn the discussion towards prophets and prophecy: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” What Paul is doing here is exactly what he is doing in all of chapter 14--- providing instructions on how to maintain order and harmony in the body of Christ. Things are out of place, as the Corinthians themselves desire to speak in tongues and are so doing, despite the presence/absence of an interpreter. Paul is aware that worship serves are becoming places where confusion runs rampant, so he feels the need to address the issues. With the prophets, each is to have his/her turn in prophesying, while each is to judge in turn. Paul’s emphasis on “ALL may learn and ALL may be encouraged” (v.31) is his way of saying, “everyone has a moment to act in church. No one person has to “bull-doze” the others in order to get a moment to prophesy and judge. There is enough room in God’s House (the church) for everyone to be given their opportunity to exercise their gifts.” In essence, “Corinthians, what are you fighting about?”
When we get to the prohibition against women speaking in church, the tendency is to do what Carson does: to claim that women are prohibited from evaluating prophecy, and tie it in with 1 Timothy 2 (which is Carson’s prooftext for everything women can and cannot do. What about the other texts regarding women?). However, the context does not point out that women cannot evaluate prophecy. After all, look at Paul’s words:
“And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32).
If this follows with verses 31 and before, then Paul is saying that judging prophecy is to be left to those who are prophets in the house of God. And this contradicts Carson’s idea that women cannot judge prophecy because women themselves are prophets. As Carson himself says in the quote above, “...under certain conditions women are permitted to pray and prophesy” (Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies,” page 40). If women are allowed to pray “and prophesy,” then why would women be automatically forbidden from evaluation prophecy? I’ll set up a syllogism:
Premise #1: Only prophets can judge prophecy.
Premise #2: Some women are prophets.
Conclusion: Therefore, female prophets (prophetesses) cannot judge prophecy.
The conclusion does not follow from the premises. If women are prophets, and prophets are the ones to judge prophecy, then why would women be prohibited from judging prophecy? Carson’s thought here does not follow, considering his own admission that women were allowed to prophesy in the Corinthian congregation. He is only left, in the end, to appeal to 1 Timothy 2 to make his case.
By so arguing, Carson has forgotten the principal rule of hermeneutics: that is, that one must first assessment a statement made in the context in which the statement was written. One cannot make a case to link the prohibition of 1 Corinthians 14:34 with 1 Timothy 2 unless he or she knows what the statement meant to the Corinthian congregation in 1 Corinthians 14 (and the larger context of 1 Corinthians). Then and only then, can Carson appeal to 1 Timothy 2. As is seen here, Carson claims that he is calling Walt Kaiser, Jr. on a fallacy--- but instead, he fumbles and commits one of his own. See? “I told ya” that it’s ironic Carson commits exegetical fallacies in a book written against committing exegetical fallacies...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson's "Exegetical Fallacies," Pt. 1: The Fallacy of Tense Relationships

“Exegetical and theological fallacies arise in this area when conclusions are drawn without adequate attention being paid to the relationships between clause and clause, established (usually) by the verbal forms. For instance, I. Howard Marshall interprets Hebrews 3:6b (‘And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast,’NIV) and Hebrews 3:14 (‘We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first,’ NIV) as if they say exactly the same thing, that ‘membership of God’s household is conditional upon perseverance’ (I. Howard Marshall, ‘Kept By the Power of God,’ pp. 140, 152). In one sense of course, that is correct; but close attention to the tenses in their context in Hebrews 3:14 reveals an extra ingredient in this verse. We have become (Grk. gegonamen) ---past reference, I would argue---partakers of Christ if we now, in the present, hold firmly to the confidence we had at first. It follows from this that although perseverance is mandated, it is also the evidence of what has taken place in the past. Put another way, perseverance becomes one of the essential ingredients of what it means to be a Christian, of what a partaker of Christ is and does. If persevering shows that we have already come to share in Christ, it can only be because sharing in Christ has perseverance for its inevitable fruit (D.A. Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies, Second Edition.” Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), pages 84-85).
This will begin the new series on D.A. Carson’s book. Before I get started, let me say that the purpose of this series is not to say that Dr. Carson is a horrible theologian or an exegete who intends to bend the text to his own ideas. I’m not suggesting through my critiques of Dr. Carson’s book that he as a conspiracy to mislead believers. That is not my intention at all. Rather, my goal is to see where D.A. Carson’s presuppositions become most evident in his writing, and then place his presuppositions alongside of Scripture to see if they are true or not. Dr. Carson wrote his book with the same idea in mind. Carson writes regarding traditional beliefs in his introduction:
“it is all too easy to read the traditional interpretations we have received from others into the text of Scripture. Then we may unwittingly transfer the authority of Scripture to our traditional interpretations and invest them with a false, even an idolatrous, degree of certainty. Because traditions are reshaped as they are passed on, after a while we may drift far from God’s Word while still insisting all our theological opinions are ‘biblical’ and therefore true. If when we are in such a state we study the Bible uncritically, more than likely it will simply reinforce our errors” (Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies,” page 17).
As a result, I will submit myself to the idea that I could be wrong. But I desire to suggest in this series that Dr. Carson can be as well (as he himself states in his book).
Regarding I. Howard Marshall’s stance above, Carson states that to some extent, he agrees with Marshall. However, he desires to point out that, because the writer uses the words “until the end” and “we have become partakers of Christ” (a present state), that this means that perseverance for those in Christ is “inevitable.” The perfect tense (“we have become partakers”), connected with “until the end,” refers to one big constant journey. In other words, true believers do not fall away from the faith, do not turn back to their old way of life.
But what I desire to submit to you today is that Hebrews 3:6 and Hebrews 3:14 seem to bind the idea of confidence and endurance (perseverance) together. So whether or not Dr. Carson is correct is based on what the Scriptures say about both confidence and endurance.
Does being in Christ “necessitate” (key word) that one will endure to the end? Not according to the biblical text. Hebrews 10 provides a good connection:
“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promse” (Hebrews 10:35-36, NKJV).
Notice in the text that confidence is not to be cast away, and that confidence and endurance are linked. To cast away one’s confidence is to fail to endure (persevere). If the writer exhorts the Jewish congregation, “do not cast away your confidence,” this means that it is possible for one to cast away their confidence in God. If one can cast away their confidence in God, then one can fail to endure. Confidence is linked in Scripture with endurance in the writing of the Apostle John:
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this, we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him...beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 2:18-21, NKJV).
Loving in deed and in truth helps us to “assure our hearts before Him” (1 Jn. 2:19). And great assurance, produced as a result of godly living, gives us confidence toward God (because our heart does not condemn us, 1 Jn. 2:21). So assurance is produced as a result of godly living, and the assurance produced through godly living brings us confidence toward God, such that, when we make requests known to God, “we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 Jn. 2:22).
If one does not see the connection between confidence and endurance here, look at the Gospels. In Matthew 13:21, the “rocky-soil” Christian “endures for a while”; in Mark 4:17, he or she “endures only for a time”; in Luke 8:13, however, he or she “believe for a while.” Endurance and belief are linked here in the gospels referring to the rocky soil as well as the seed sown on good ground. So, in terms of the NT, belief and endurance are connected, such that, to believe is to endure; those who “believe for a while” (as Jesus describes them in the Gospels) refer to those who only “endure for a while,” and then fall away in times of temptation. Can we just say, like Carson, that these individuals in this rocky group “were never saved to begin with,” that, if their conversion was real they would have endured? I think most are willing to say that on the basis of 1 John 2:19. But I think 1 John 2:19 is problematic because of 1 Timothy 4:1 (in which the Spirit Himself says that some will depart from the faith). And in 1 Timothy 4, Paul does not write that many will depart from the faith because “they were never saved to begin with”; rather, they depart because they pay attention to demonic teaching (4:2).
In the end, Carson’s claim that perseverance will “inevitably” follow conversion cannot withstand the biblical evidence that testifies to the contrary. Rather, the Gospels and Hebrews seem to indicate that believers can “throw away their confidence” and “endure for a while” and then fall away. Carson’s view of the text then, is not just about semantics and the meaning of tenses; rather, he is making a Calvinistic claim to eternal security. But I know many who would agree with his Calvinist claim of eternal security but reject the other points of his theology such as “Irresistible Grace,” “Unconditional Election (and Unconditional Reprobation),” and “Limited Atonement”... all of which, by the way, “inevitably” follow from this one point of his theology.
I will continue with more fallacies in D.A. Carson’s work in my next post. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Series!

                                                   Dear Readership,

 Happy New Year again to you! About a week ago, I wrote my latest post at CTS. I realize that it has been an entire week since I've written. I wanna take time here to apologize to my readership for the time that I have been away. I am currently registered in a January term class here at Southeastern Seminary, called "Critical Thinking and Argumentation." I've spent the last two weeks going to class everyday from 8am-12:30pm, followed by a nap at home...only to wake up, shower, get dressed, grab dinner, and study with a brother of mine. It's been one heck of a two weeks!! Continue to pray for me; I am doing well, but I've pulled all-nighters everyday for the last two weeks just to make sure I'm up and awake for class at 8am. I don't do very well with morning classes, so I've been sleeping about 5 hours or so doing the day in order to have just enough sleep to stay up and do homework all night. In addition to the chapters of reading and the 150-page book my class has been reading (which I'll talk about in a minute), I've also been given the joy of having computer software (called "LogiCola") that tests your knowledge of the chapters in the book. I recently took my midterm in the Critical Thinking class and was thankful that I played with the software during the week. Many of the questions came from the it was good to see that my efforts did not go unrewarded :-)

 On to the book my class has been reading...the title of the book is called "Exegetical Fallacies" by D. A. Carson. Now that I've read the book, I have to write an 8-page sermon (exegetical), using ten of the 56 fallacies Carson mentions in his book. It's a fun assignment...but it's also a hard one. I'm gonna struggle most with committing logical fallacies. I've been taught as an apologetics major here at Southeastern that God is a God of logic, a God of creatures made in God's image and likeness, we too, should strive to think God's thoughts after Him. So committing logical fallacies to get a good's what I'm required to do, but my fear is that I'll write a sermon thinking I've committed fallacies that may not even be fallacies :-) such is the fear of every seminary student...

Having read Carson's book, I noticed that he tends to critique the views of Arminians and the position I'd like to refer to as "Spirit-gifting" in regards to the issue of women in ministry. I have used the term "egalitarian" at my other site, "Men and Women in the Church," but I do so to distinguish it from the view of complementarianism. There are some things that egalitarians believe that I do not. Among these, some egalitarians, particularly feminists, like to refer to "women's rights"  in regards to women in the church. Instead, I focus more on Spirit-gifting because to me, the debate on men and women in the church is not political, but Scriptural.  I hold to the headship of men in the home, but I do so because wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in several places in the New Testament. However, I don't see the kind of evidence that complementarianism espouses  regarding women in the church  in the Scriptures themselves. Rather, I see the presupposition (or assumption) that 1 Timothy 2: 8-15 means that women cannot be in leadership, and then everything else in Scripture regarding women is defined in terms of that one text (others being Titus 2 or 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14, etc.). I think 1 Timothy 2 as it has been interpreted by complementarians cannot stand up to the claims the Scriptures themselves make regarding the gifting of the Spirit. God didn't create roles irrespective of Spirit-gifting; rather, He created roles "in accordance with" Spirit-gifting. As a result, complementarians have to prove that a woman cannot serve in a role because she is not given certain gifts, rather than just "women have certain fixed roles in the church." And I don't think anyone can claim that God can't gift a woman to preach, teach, pastor, etc. To make that claim would amount to heresy, as some would begin to limit God's sovereignty. Calvinists (and even some Arminians) should think twice before making this mistake.

 And that brings me to the announcement. This coming week, starting Monday, January 17, 2011, I intend to start a new series here at the Center for Theological Studies titled "Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson's 'Exegetical Fallacies.'" I think that Dr. Carson, as much as I respect him, has fallacies on his own (ironicly) in a book in which he tells believers not to commit exegetical fallacies. What I aim to do in this new series is show that Carson brings his own presuppositions to the biblical evidence, and that he attacks all views that disagree with his and uses both Arminians and egalitarians as part of his "fallacy" attacks. I have to be honest and admit that he does attack some of his Calvinist brethren who smear Calvin's name (and claim that Calvin separated faith and reason), but these examples are few compared to the "overwhelming" (I can use no less of an honest term) attacks he makes against egalitarians and their claims. I for one here at the Center often critique sharply the views of those who disagree with me...but I have my reasons. And I hope that you, the readership, will seriously study my views of theology and the Scriptures and question whether or not I hold to the biblical text. I desire to be faithful to what God says in His Word. I realize that we all have presuppositions, but that is not the issue; rather, the question to ask ourselves is, "Does the Bible support the way I think about this?", or, "Does the Bible support my perspective on this given issue?". These are the kinds of questions we must ask ourselves.

 So much for a brief announcement! In any case, I just wanted to let you all know that I am soon to return to CTS. I have much to tell and show in the coming days about the new understanding the course in Critical Thinking has provided. God bless you all...and keep studying the Scriptures for the glory of God.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Absolute Graciousness of Salvation

“From the Calvinist perspective, the effect of the synergism in Luther’s, Wesley’s, and Molina’s approaches is seriously problematic precisely because it makes the decisive factor in a person’s salvation that person’s own decision. It seems to us that if salvation is realized through cooperation between God and the person saved, the absolute graciousness of salvation is compromised. Since the difference between those who are saved and those who are not lies within the action of the believer, it seems that these believers have cause for self-congratulation and that God’s glory in salvation has been compromised (Eph. 2:8-9)” (Dr. Terrance L. Tiessen, “Who Can Be Saved? ReAssessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004, page 238).
I have spent some time quoting Dr. Terrance Tiessen and his words in his massive work, “Who Can Be Saved?: ReAssessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions.” I would like to applaud Dr. Tiessen for a massive undertaking. It took a lot of energy to read this I can only imagine the energy it took to write it.
I’m back today to assess another of Dr. Tiessen’s quotes regarding grace and salvation. He spends some time detailing “Luther’s, Wesley’s, and Molina’s approaches” to grace. He also details the typical Calvinist stance regarding grace. However, not even the typical Calvinist notion of discriminating grace appeals to him:
“Although I have found the Calvinist reading of Scripture very helpful and generally very plausible, I have not been completely satisfied with the classic Calvinist responses to this charge of injustice [those who are not given the ability to believe are condemned for not doing so]. The particular concept that I commend to your consideration now is the fruit of my attempt to deal with my dissatisfaction with the classical answer (Dr. Terrance Tiessen,” “Who Can Be Saved?,” page 232).
To me, then, it seemed that if Calvinism’s thoughts on grace did not entirely satisfy, then Tiessen would hold to an Arminian view on grace. However, this is where Dr. Tiessen boldly declares that he cannot hold to a Molinist or Arminian view of grace (see original quote from page 238 above).
Why can’t Dr. Tiessen hold to the Molinist/Arminian views of grace? “It seems to us that if salvation is realized through cooperation between God and the person saved, the absolute graciousness of salvation is compromised.”
First and foremost, let me state that “the absolute graciousness of salvation” that Tiessen mentions is a philosophical statement that must be investigated by the Scriptures themselves. Such statements cannot stand alone and automatically be considered correct. I fear that many believers turn Calvinist because Calvinists come up with statements like this one above that make you think that being a Classic Arminian, for example, implies the denial of the graciousness of God in salvation (which is simply not true).
Should God allow man to choose to be saved, “it seems that these believers have cause for self-congratulation and that God’s glory in salvation has been compromised (Eph. 2:8-9).” Why is this? Why does God’s glory in salvation have to be compromised by the Lord’s granting salvation to every person? Oh...I know why: in the Calvinist scheme, for God to do such a thing would deny Ephesians 2:8-9 (as referenced by Tiessen in the quote just now).
When Calvinists do this, it seems that they have another great point. After all, who would wanna deny Ephesians 2:8-9? Or who would wanna compromise God’s glory in salvation? If there are two things Calvinists live for, they would be both Ephesians 2:8-9 (salvation by faith not works), and God’s glory. These are two great emphases of Calvinist theology.
Nevertheless, Tiessen has erred in his interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9. The text itself states that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8, NKJV). Grace and faith (comprising salvation) is a gift of God. Even the faith that man must exercise is a gift of God. If God did not enable man to believe, he would never believe on the name of Christ. This is what Classic Arminians mean by the word “response ability” (responsibility): that man has the “ability” (enabled by God) to “respond” to the gospel. Secondly, verse 9 tells us that salvation by grace through faith is “not of works.” In these two verses alone, we see that faith is of God and not of works. Faith and works here are opposed to one another, so Dr. Tiessen’s argument falls completely.
To show once again that faith and works are opposed, Romans 4 is a great text. Paul uses Abraham as an example of one who was not justified by works, but faith (Rom. 4:2-3, referencing Genesis 15:6). Consequently, Paul states that the faith vs. works issue explains why many of the Gentiles were saved, while the Jews (who had the promises and Christ) were not (Rom. 9:30-33).
Going back to Romans 4, Paul shows us that salvation through the law would have made faith null and void (v.14), of no effect. Rather, “it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham” (Rom. 4:16).
Dr. Tiessen said in his quote above from page 238 that, if man cooperates with God in salvation (by believing), then “the absolute graciousness” of God is compromised. But how can God’s graciousness be compromised in such a scenario if God grants salvation through faith “that it might be according to grace”? How can salvation through faith take away from grace when the whole reason God did it was to show His grace in the first place? Notice, secondly, that because of God’s grace, salvation was EXTENDED to the Gentiles (no longer belonging solely to the Jews). God, in granting salvation through faith, MAGNIFIED His glory even more by allowing many others to call upon His Name. How is salvation by grace through faith taking away from God’s glory? Does God not become both just (in judging sin through the sacrifice of Christ) and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26) in salvation? How then, does any of the process itself detract from or compromise God’s glory?
When Jesus was born, the heavenly host of angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14) What did these words mean? What does it mean to proclaim at Jesus’ birth that there is “glory to God in the highest”? God’s glory was magnified even in the Incarnation, as Christ became the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29). So again I ask, what about salvation by grace through faith takes away from God’s glory? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
We’ve seen in this post that Dr. Tiessen has some philosophical presuppositions that blur his understanding of the text. How one can read the contrast of “faith and works” and claim that “faith is equal to works” is beyond me. What it shows, however, is that “the Calvinist reading of Scripture” (as Tiessen calls it) is nothing more than a philosophical overlaying of Scripture. It is a new lens by which one approaches the text. However, while it provides new sight, it also blinds one to the truth of the Scriptures. And what’s so sad is that so many of the evangelical world’s greatest theologians fall for it...

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Issue of Logic

“Abasciano agrees with me that we must uphold the law of non-contradiction. But he claims that the notion that God determines who will believe, and at the same time judges those who fail to believe because they should have believed, is a contradiction. I argue that no contradiction exists here because we have a mystery analogous to the mystery of the Trinity. Abasciano rejects my view because philosophically, mystery ‘should be reserved for realities in which we do not know how something works, but in which there is no logical contradiction.’ He claims the doctrine of the Trinity is not contradictory because it is not a contradiction to say that there are three persons and one being, but my view fails, according to Abasciano, because it is a contradiction to say that God predetermines all things and also to say that human beings make authentic choices.
It should be noted that Abasciano thinks my view is contradictory because his definition of freedom differs from mine. Abasciano defends libertarian freedom which means that people have the ability to choose the contrary. I would argue, however, along with Calvin and Edwards (and the Calvinist tradition) for a compatibilistic view of freedom. Human beings are free when they choose in accordance with their nature, when they do what they wish to do...Abasciano is correct in saying that my view is contradictory if libertarian freedom is true. But I would argue that libertarian freedom does not accord with logic or the Scriptures (cf. Acts 2:23), and hence his objection on this point fails” (Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner, “Corporate and Individual Election in Romans 9: A Response To Brian Abasciano.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 2 (June 2006), pages 384-385).
“Good things come to those who wait” has often been used to demonstrate the importance of waiting and the good that results from it. As a result, I decided to leave Schreiner’s philosophical statement until last in his critique. Therefore, today’s post will show Schreiner struggling to maintain his philosophical leanings on the basis of the text.
First, he agrees with Dr. Brian Abasciano regarding the law of non-contradiction. I would say that this is one of the fundamental philosophical laws of human existence (see R.C. Sproul’s “Defending Your Faith” to see the Law of Non-Contradiction as well as other basic philosophical laws).
However, I would disagree that divine sovereignty and human responsibility are a “mystery.” If they are, then we cannot know what God has done for us or what God expects of us. In short, God has placed us on earth with a Bible that we are incapable of understanding. Surely, Schreiner wouldn’t say that we cannot understand the Bible; if so, why would he even write theology textbooks?
The major paragraph of the Schreiner quote above that I wanna tackle is his attack of Dr. Abasciano’s philosophical view of libertarian freedom:
"It should be noted that Abasciano thinks my view is contradictory because his definition of freedom differs from mine. Abasciano defends libertarian freedom which means that people have the ability to choose the contrary. I would argue, however, along with Calvin and Edwards (and the Calvinist tradition) for a compatibilistic view of freedom. Human beings are free when they choose in accordance with their nature, when they do what they wish to do...Abasciano is correct in saying that my view is contradictory if libertarian freedom is true. But I would argue that libertarian freedom does not accord with logic or the Scriptures (cf. Acts 2:23), and hence his objection on this point fails.”
Abasciano argues for libertarian freedom, the idea that humans have a limited amount of power (and choice) by which they make decisions that they are held accountable for. Schreiner, in contrast, argues “compatibilistic freedom,” which says that choices made are both chosen by the individual who commits them and God Himself. But Schreiner’s compatibilistic freedom is problematic when one considers that, in his view, God determined that certain persons would be saved and certain others would be damned for all eternity.
The biggest offense of Schreiner’s response is his statement that “libertarian freedom does not accord with logic or the Scriptures (cf. Acts 2:23)...” On a philosophical level, I desire for Dr. Schreiner to explain why libertarian freedom “does not accord with logic.” What about libertarian freedom is illogical? Is this not the kind of freedom Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden when God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17, NKJV)? Did God not grant them a significant amount of freedom to eat from every tree EXCEPT ONE? Did God not limit their freedom in the number of trees they could (and could not) eat from? How would his compatibilistic freedom fit Genesis?
He points to Acts 2:23 as the prooftext for compatibilism, and then says that Dr. Abasciano’s libertarian freedom “does not accord with the Scriptures.” But I could easily point to passages of Scripture that contradict Schreiner’s compatibilism. For example, what about 1 Samuel 23 where God tells David that he would be Saul would come to Keilah and the men of the town would hand him over...but it does not happen (instead, David escapes and Saul cannot find him)? What about when David attempts to number the people, and, for his sin, the Lord tells David, “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you” (2 Sam. 24:12)? This passage tackles the issue of Schreiner’s compatibilism: while the text tells us that the Lord, in anger against Israel, “moved David against them,” (2 Sam. 24:1), the text does not tell us that God determined David would number the people. Rather, it seems that God, knowing David’s own thoughts and heart, used his sinful disposition to accomplish His decision to attack Israel.
This is the same idea that we find in Genesis regarding Abraham, Sarah, and the Pharaoh down in Egypt. The Lord comes to the king (Abimelech) and tells him that he has another man’s wife. The king responds that he was told by both Abraham and Sarah that they were siblings, not spouses (Gen. 20:5). The king then goes on to state, “In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.” The Lord responds, “I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore, I did not let you touch her” (Gen. 20:6). The Lord prevents the king from sleeping with Abraham’s wife because the king honestly did not know that Sarah was Abraham’s wife! The Lord worked in accordance with Abimelech’s heart disposition...the Lord did not “cause” Abimelech to not sin despite whether or not he really wanted to. The Lord prevented the sin because Abimelech did not want to sin. This is why he asks “Lord, will you slay a righteous nation also” (v. 4)? If God determines anything in these situations, it is that He determines to either allow sin or not on the basis of the heart decisions of the individuals involved. Yes, Classical Arminianism can hold to divine providence without conceding anything to the Calvinist notion divine providence.
Compatibilistic freedom sounds like it argues that predetermination and human freedom are “compatible,” that is, that they work together. However, this is not what “compatible” means in the context of freedom: rather, what it means is that God predetermines something, then it happens, and the person is still held responsible because “they freely chose to do it.” For those who don’t believe me, read these words by Dr. Ken Keathley:
“First, God knows everything that could happen. This first moment is His natural knowledge, where God knows everything due to His omniscient nature. Second, from the set of infinite possibilities, God also knows which scenarios would result in persons freely responding in the way He desires. This crucial moment of knowledge is between the first and third moment, hence the term middle knowledge. From the repertoire of available options provided by His middle knowledge, God freely and sovereignly chooses which one He will bring to pass. This results in God’s third moment of knowledge, which is His foreknowledge of what certainly will occur. The third moment is God’s free knowledge because it is determined by His free and sovereign choice...God meticulously ‘sets the table’ so that humans freely choose what He had predetermined (Ken Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, page 152).
In short, God determines what He knows in His middle knowledge. If He knows that I will resist salvation, it’s because He determined it. There may have been a world where I would have been saved...but God doesn’t know that I will be saved because He chose the world in which I will not be saved. God determines what He knows about me.
This is the compatibilistic freedom Schreiner holds to. And yet, how is there any sort of genuine freedom if God determines what I will do? Libertarian freedom endorses the idea that God limits my options, but allows me to choose which option I desire...such as what my occupation will be (there are certain things I cannot do because I do not possess certain skills). Compatibilistic freedom says that God not only limits my job options (for example), but even chooses the exact job I will select...and then turns around and says, “You freely chose it.” Where is the logic in this???

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! It is now the year 2011, and we find ourselves at the start of a new adventure. I pray that everyone had a blessed Christmas, great New Year's Eve, and a glorious New Year's Day today. If you're like me, you've enjoyed the holidays...but now, it's time to get back to work. Satan, evil, and sin are still alive in 2011, and we don't know what the future it's time to get back to the work we've already begun.

2011 will hold surprises unlike any other. Here at the Center for Theological Studies (CTS), I will still bring to you great research and great responses as I've made it my constant aim to do. As of this moment, I do not have insight into what new surprises I will bring to the blog this year. However, I will say that we are blessed to have the "Faith and Film" section here at CTS. The "Faith and Film" section will explode this year. One surprise for 2011 (there is one, after all!!!) is that I will begin to blog on "The Matrix" movies pretty soon. I've watched them, taken meticulous notes, and hope to transform notes into insightful blog posts in the coming days.

On another note, I start a January class this coming Monday called "Critical Thinking and Argumentation" with the distinguished Dr. Greg Welty. Pray that my class goes well and that I please the Lord with my studies. I certainly do need prayer for this...after all, who wants to get up for two weeks and have class everyday from 8am-12:30pm?

Now, on to the glorious news...I, your blog writer here at CTS, will graduate this coming May 2011 with her Master of Divinity Degree in Apologetics and Biblical Languages. I look forward to graduation day and all that it will bring. The best part is...I'M NOT DONE WITH SCHOOL YET! :-)  Spring 2012 is right around the corner (even though it's a year away), and I hope to start next Spring in my Master of Theology (ThM) program here at Southeastern Seminary. Dr. Ken Keathley has graciously agreed to be my mentor...and I am so honored that he would take up the challenge of dealing with me for another two years. Dr. Keathley needs prayer, too: I can be quite a handful at times (yes, I have my imperfections).

Aside from this, all is well. To my readership, I wanna thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You have made my time at the Center more exciting than I ever knew it could be. I have also been blessed to talk to folks on campus who are reading me (people I never knew would ever read my work). Hearing fellow seminary and college students say, "We're reading you," is a joy and a delight. They bless me by doing so, proving to me that my work is of eternal worth...and that others are being blessed by it as well. One thing that I always attempt to do is be faithful to the text. I am Classical Arminian not because I like the idea that I can fall away from the faith, or because I secretly wanna be Open Theist...or because I just don't like Calvinism. I am Classic Arminian because I believe that Dr. James Arminius's theology is faithful to both the text and sound hermeneutics. When I read warnings about falling away, I take those as providing warnings to believers who are openly (and unconfessedly) living in sin, while the promises still provide assurance for those who are striving to be like Christ (as well as motivate believers living in sin to wake up from their spiritual slumber and stand firm against the deceit of Satan). I think that both promises and warnings can be accounted for in the Classical Arminian system...and I think that Calvinists and Molinists struggle to accommodate the divine warnings into their systems. And if divine sovereignty has selected some and not others, then there is no responsibility. This explains why both Calvinists and Molinists hold that the warnings apply to fake believers. In those two systems, the warnings can only apply to disingenuous (fake) believers because God keeps His own...God makes them persevere...they are guaranteed perseverance and its end (eternal life) because God "claims responsibility" for them and preserves them. In other words, there is no human responsibility for the eternally elected children of God. Instead, there is only divine responsibility. What does this mean for human responsibility? We are left to wonder...

Once again, thanks to all who have supported me from my infant blogging days until now. If you think you've seen all of God's work in my life, get ready for 2011--- you ain't seen nothin' yet...