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A Review of Hell Under Fire Simon Wartanian | 1,413 views | 555 Words | 22 January 2017 20:36
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Review-Of-Hell-Under-Fire/1087&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

Hell Under Fire:

Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment

By Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson

Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. Ed. by Christopher W. Morgan, Robert A. Peterson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

Had this book sitting on my shelf for a while and thought that it would merely be an academic book and a dry read. I couldn't be more wrong. Surely it was academic, but never on a level that made it impossible for an average Bible student to understand.

The Book and Its Content

The authors are top-notch theologians in our day who in this book respond to Annihilationism and Universalism, while at the same time give a biblical and holistic picture of hell. The subject of hell is sobering and terrifying. As believers we know that thanks to Christ we have been saved from this awful fate, which we should recognize--we rightly deserve. We likewise believe that all those without the Gospel of Christ, do not have a hope, are under the wrath of God and will everlastingly be under the wrath of God. It is terrifying to think of that and we cannot, without sympathy, discard the emotional appeal of Universalists and Annihilationists. The Bible is the sole infallible and highest authority for the Christian and if the Bible teaches that historical view of hell, then my emotions do not matter and cannot settle the truth about hell. It is as simple as that.

This book contains 10 chapters dealing, containing among other things, 

  • a historical survey about hell up to our day (chapter 1, by Albert Mohler Jr.); 
  • the OT and hell (chapter 2, by Daniel I. Block); 
  • the Lord Jesus and Hell (chapter 3, by Robert W. Yarbough); 
  • Paul and Hell (chapter 4, by Douglas J. Moo); 
  • the Apocalypse and Hell (chapter 5, by G. K. Beale); 
  • Biblical and Systematic Theology as it relates to hell (chapters 7-8, by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, respectively); 
  • an examination of Universalism and its arguments (chapter 8, by J. I. Packer); 
  • an examination of Annihilationism and its arguments (chapter 9, by Christopher W. Morgan); and finally
  • Hell and pastoral theology (chapter 10, by Sinclair Ferguson).

There is a ton to be learned in these chapters by the Bible student. What is to be learned from this book should not only fill our heads with information, but motivate us to share the Gospel with the lost because of the dreadful fate which faces them if they receive not Christ and His righteousness.

The reason we believe in the existence and everlasting nature of hell and of its punishment is simply because we believe that Holy Writ teaches it. If it were not for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who spoke more often about hell than Heaven, we would not believe in Hell, because it is so repugnant to our fallen natures.

Interaction

This work continually interacts with popular scholarship as it regards the nature of hell and the arguments for and against Annihilationism in Evangelicalism. Authors most cited and interacted with include John Stott, Clark Pinnock, David Powys and Edward W. Fudge. The authors of this work continually argue that Annihilationists do not look at the whole portrayal of hell as presented by Scripture, but rather choose to focus on and emphasize specific portrayals of hell with neglect to the rest. This accusation is also leveled against those who hold to the traditional view of Hell who emphasize the punishment aspect of hell, while neglecting to share the Gospel, or declaring that hell is also a banishment (not merely a separation of God's presence) and destruction.

The Destruction Picture of Hell

An important and helpful study was Douglas J. Moo's on the meaning of destruction. He accuses Annihilationists of reading their preconceived meaning of destruction as cessation of existence or as "annihilation" rather than deriving its meaning from the whole of Scripture. He shows how it is better and more consistent with the total picture of hell in the Bible to understand the usage of words like destruction to mean "ruin" (p. 106) and "they [the two Greek word groups olethros and apolymi/apoleia] usually refer to the situation of a person or object that has lost the essence of its nature or function" (p. 105), rather than cessation of being. In order to establish this he cites examples where the word group of destruction is used without implying cessation of existence. For example:

land that has lost its fruitfulness (olethros in Ezek. 6:14; 14:16); to ointment that is poured out wastefully and to no apparent purpose (apoleia in matt. 26:8; Mark 14:4); to wineskins that can no longer function because they have holes in them (appollymi in Matt. 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37); to coin that is useless because it is “lost” (apollymi in Luke 15:9); or to the entire world that “perishes,” as an inhabited world, in the Flood (2 Pet. 3:6). In none of these cases do the objects cease to exist; they cease to be useful or to exist in their original, intended state. In other words, these key terms appear to be used in general much like we use the world “destroy” in the sentence, “The tornado destroyed the house.” The component parts of that house did not cease to exist, but the entity “house,” a structure that provides shelter for human beings, ceased to exist. (p. 105)

While the rhetoric of Annihilationism is strong when using their preconceived ideas of destruction, they fail when examined in light of Scripture and when Scripture is compared to Scripture.

The Apocalypse and Hell

Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10-15 are arguably some of the clearest passages on the eternality of hell and of its punishment. G.K. Beale, who is recognized as the author of one of the best commentaries on Revelation, deals in detail with these passages while interacting fairly and respectfully with the other side.

He shows how the eternality of hell is parallel with the eternality of heaven. Notice how in Revelation 14:11 the torments of the lost who are said to “have no rest, day or night” are side by side with the bliss of the saints who are said to have “rest from their labors” in Revelation 14:13. Notice also the close parallel between Revelation 14:11 and 20:10. Dr. Beale lays a great stress on this and rightfully so. The worshipers of the beast, the reprobate, will meet the same fate as their lord, the unholy trinity: Satan, the beast and false prophet. Dr. Beale writes, ‘the temporal expression “day and night” (hemeras kai nyktos) clearly refers to ceaseless activity that endures for eternity in 20:10, but the identical sense is strongly implied in 7:15 and 4:8. In 7:15 the clause alludes to the worship of the whole congregation of saints in God's temple in the new creation at the end of the age...Such worship and relief will continue forever” (p. 118).

The parallel between the fate of the wicked and the righteous is also present in the fact that while the righteous “will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:5), on the other hand, “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” (Rev 14:11). Notice that Scripture says that the smoke of their torment, not destruction goes up forever and ever. The expression “forever and ever” is identical for both the righteous as well as the wicked. Torment or punishment by definition implies consciousness. We do not torment or punish a car or a rock; but we do punish criminals. Therefore, “It still remains true that Revelation 14:11 and 20:10-15 are the Achilles’ heel of the annihilationist perspective” (p. 134).

Much more could be said about this chapter, but my advice is to simply pick up the book and read this chapter. It is mind-opening and very helpful.

Summary

I loved the respectful tone of the authors and their respectful and fair interaction with the other side. I enjoyed their fair and honest handling of the Scriptures. I loved the fact that the authors frequently referred back to earlier portions of the book, which tells me that the editor did a great job at putting the book together. Sometimes they even cite earlier portions. Much could be learned from this book, from both its theological as well as pastoral tone, and I will no doubt return and look up the arguments and the texts again. Lord willing, I will try to update my commentary on chapter 32 of the 1689 sometime in the future with the insights I've gained from this work.

My final advice is: tolle lege! 




A Review of O. Palmer Robertson's The Israel of God Simon Wartanian | 1,446 views | 555 Words | 19 January 2017 22:25
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Review-Of-O-Palmer-Robertsons-The-Israel-Of-God/1086&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

The Israel of God:

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

By O. Palmer Robertson

O. Palmer Robertson. The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub. 2000)

For those who have come out of Dispensationalism or want to know what covenant theologians believe about Israel, this is the book. This is a book which deals with the place and identity of Israel in the plan of God. In six chapters Dr. Robertson discusses different topics regarding Israel from its identity to its future.

Overall, I found this to be a very helpful and edifying book. The Bible and the truths of the New Covenant were the interpreting lens for everything. We do not look to outside events and force those within the Bible.

The Occasion for the Book

In the Introduction Dr. Robertson begins with a quotation from Bill Clinton when he was the president of the USA, about Israel:

“'If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you' ... it is God's will that Israel, the biblical home of the people of Israel, continue for ever and ever.” So spoke the President of the United States in a speech delivered before the Israeli Knesset assembled in Jerusalem. He was recalling with apparent approval the words of his desperately ill pastor. He concluded the speech by saying, “Your journey is our journey, and America will stand with you now and always.” (p. 1)

It seems that this and such mindset was the driving force behind writing this book. The book is not polemic, but rather, it simply presents what the Bible as a whole teaches on some topics related to the Israel of God. It is obviously against Dispensationalism by its adherence to Covenant Theology, but it does not attack Dispensationalism directly. Its purpose is to set a positive case on what the Bible says without really engaging with the other side.

Its Land

The first chapter is dedicated to the Land of Israel. This is a hot issue nowadays. I will be the first to tell you that I hate politics and I don’t want to do anything with it and there is a lot of politics involved with Israel in the Middle East. I am not interested in political discussions. I am a theology nerd. I am interested in the theological claim of the land and God’s plan with the Jews.

Dr. Robertson argues that the “concept of a land that belongs to God’s people originated in Paradise” (p. 4). Adam was told to work the land and multiply. That was the original ideal plan if the Fall had not taken place. Then the whole earth would have been God’s land and God’s temple. The land being a sanctuary is another aspect. This is why the Lord God tells Israel that “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev 26:11-12). God places His sanctuary among His people like He did with the Tabernacle and Temple. This concept of the sanctuary of God among His people had its fulfillment in Jesus Christ of Whom it is written that He “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14). But it will also have its ultimate fulfillment on the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev 21:1-5).

An important aspect which Dr. Robertson highlights is the fact that the land actually belongs to the Lord. As Leviticus 25:23 puts it, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” The land is the Lord’s and the people of Israel are merely strangers and sojourners in the land with Yahweh. He gives the land to whomever He wills and does with it as He pleases.

An important aspect which Dr. Robertson highlights and the New Testament emphasizes is that the land is typological of the New Heavens and New Earth. Hebrews 11 says that although Abraham was the one who received the promise of the land of Canaan in which he sojourned, yet he was actually looking and desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb 11:16). The saints of old were “seeking a homeland” which is not of this world (Heb 11:14). Although Abraham lived in the “the land of promise”, says Hebrews 11:9-10, yet in actuality he understood the typology of the land and therefore “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (v. 11). This is clearly the New Heavens and New Earth, and not the land of Canaan.

In Romans 4:13 we have the promise of the land expanded. It is no longer the small land of Canaan, but now it is the whole cosmos—the New Heavens and New Earth. Therefore, the people of God are not promised the small portion of land in the Middle East, but the whole earth is promised to the meek (Matt 5:5). Robertson writes:

Because God is the Lord of the whole universe, he will fulfill his covenant promise of redemption by reconstituting the cosmos. In this way, paradise will be restored in all its glory. The blessing of land that humanity first experienced will finally be graciously given back to him. (p. 10)

Another thing which is often missed by our Dispensational brethren is the fact that the land promises were completely fulfilled as recorded in Scripture by the time of Joshua, David and Solomon (Josh 23:43-45; 1Chron 18:14; 1Kgs 4:1, 20-21; c.f. Gen 15:18-21). Furthermore, the Mosaic Covenant regulated the blessings and the possession of the land (see for example Deut 28; Lev 20:22-23). When the people disobeyed and broke the Lord’s covenant, He brought judgment upon them and exiled them away from their homeland. This is a point which is, in my opinion, often missed by those who contend that the land of Canaan is for the Israelites forever from a theological perspective. Seeing that the Mosaic Covenant is abrogated, the regulations which existed for the possession and blessings of the land are also done away with. Not only that, we should not forget that the New Testament teaches us that the land was typological.

Much more could be said, but simply read the chapter. It is really mind-opening.  

Its People

When we speak of Israel, whom do we actually mean? How does the Bible define Israel?

In chapter 2 Dr. Robertson deals with the question of who are the heirs of the land promise. Who is Israel actually? As a covenant theologian and not a Dispensationalist, one can already expect the answer. The Israel of God are all Jewish and Gentile believers in the Messiah.

There is nothing special in the ethnicity of the Jews, which makes them more holy or more special than Gentiles. Robertson notes that ‘Abraham was originally nothing more than another pagan “Gentile” before being called by God’ (p. 34). Abraham is the root of Israel and he was a mere pagan idolater before his calling (Josh 24:2). Seeing that this is in fact so, there could be nothing special in ethnicity which sets them apart. Robertson quotes the Jewish commentator on Genesis, Benno Jacob, who says:

Indeed, differences of race have never been an obstacle to joining Israel which did not know the concept of purity of blood. . . . Circumcision turned a man of foreign origin into an Israelite. (p. 35)

I found this very interesting coming from a Jew. Circumcision is what made one an Israelite and not ethnic origin. We know that in the New Covenant that fleshly circumcision is no longer required, but a new creation is what counts (Gal 6:15-16), i.e., circumcision of the heart (2Cor 3:3; Rom 2:25-28; etc.).

The glory of the New Covenant is in the fact that the people of God are not only gathered from Israel, but from “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). The distinction between Jew and Gentile no longer applies under the New Covenant (e.g. Gal 3:28). In fact, Paul explicitly says that Jew and Gentile believers have been made one in Christ in Ephesians 2.

There was a helpful discussion and exegesis of the text from which the book gets its name, Galatians 6:16. Dr. Robertson shows how the “Israel of God” in the entire context of Galatians cannot mean anything but all believing Jews and Gentiles. I found his exegesis and discussion on the text very helpful (pp. 38-46).

Dr. Robertson argues that a return to the old land is a return to the shadows of the Old Covenant which are done away with in Christ. Moreover, Dispensationalists believe that there is distinction between Israel and the Church and in the Millennium the Jews will be the head. This is nothing more than the old distinction between Jew and Gentile, which Christ has abolished, but now it is being brought again. This is a return to the Old Covenant which has been abrogated. It is a return to the shadows. It is impossible.

Another helpful aspect which Robertson touches on is the fact that the majority of Israel is still in rebellion against Christ, they are not part of the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant), therefore, they have no theological claim upon the land, not to mention the typology of the land of Canaan. Only those who have faith in the Christ of God can claim the promises of Go...




A Short Review of Beckwith's & Stott's This Is The Day Simon Wartanian | 826 views | 555 Words | 08 January 2017 23:25
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Short-Review-Of-Beckwiths-Stotts-This-Is-The-Day/1084&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

This is the Day

The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday in Its Jewish and Early Church Setting

by Roger T. Beckwith and Wilfrid Stott

A well researched book by two readable authors. Makes a convincing and honest case from both the Holy Scriptures as well as the first four centuries from Christian history.

The biblical case is short and to the point. I love the fact there is always reference back to what he has said or established on earlier pages. Roger Beckwith goes on to demonstrate that the Sabbath was a creation ordinance and as such it is not connected with the Fall. Then he goes on to survey the passages speaking about the Sabbath. Very interesting was chapter 4 where he showed continuities between the Jewish Sabbath and the Lord's Day (the Christian Sabbath). He makes the case that the Lord's Day is the day of the Lord Christ, the day on which He rose and which we keep to celebrate His resurrection. The first part was very well written and argued, although I would have liked it to be longer and more extensive, but oh well!

The second part has 9 chapters devoted to a historical study about the Sabbath and the Lord's Day. It is very interesting to many how many early references there are to the Christian observance of the Lord's Day as the day of worship. The New Testament has a handful of passages speaking about the Lord's Day (first day of the week), but apparently, in the mind of the early Christians, these passages were a firm foundation to show them that Sunday was the day of worship, the kyriake hemera! Dr. Stott makes a good survey of various pre-400 AD writings in these chapters. There are things which the Fathers believed that I don't agree with, neither do Beckwith nor Stott. But they are honest to lay out their views honestly and clearly. For example, although the observance of the Lord's Day is directly connected to the Fourth Commandment in the mind of the Christian Sabbatarian, the early Fathers, according to Stott, do not make a direct connection with it. As Christian Sabbatarians we believe that the Sabbath was instituted in the Garden and given to Adam to keep, but the Fathers did not agree or say that Adam had to keep a Sabbath, but some of them connected it with the existence of sin (i.e. trouble, sin in our lives and the need for rest). Stott lays these views out honestly and makes some observations on them. It is still amazing to me how much Christians wrote and said about the Lord's Day, although there were but a handful of passages on it in the New Testament. It goes to show that what is insignificant in our modern eyes, was more than enough for the early church. It was enough that the Lord Christ rose on the Lord's Day, for the Lord's Day to be considered the day of rest and worship--a holy day.

His chapter on Eusebius of Caesarea (8) is very interesting. He tries to demonstrate that Eusebius tried to systematize and summarize the doctrines about the Lord's Day and the Sabbath which the Fathers taught. He was the systemizer of the Christian Sunday. He speaks of the Lord transferring the feast of the Sabbath to the first day and so on. Clearly connecting the Lord's Day with the Sabbath.

Overall, a very good and well argued book. I will certainly go back to it and check some stuff again!

Seeing that this book was published in 1978 it would be hard to come by, but fear not! An online (scanned) version is available here




A Review Of Robert Martin's The Christian Sabbath Simon Wartanian | 1,486 views | 555 Words | 21 July 2016 16:43
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Review-Of-Robert-Martins-The-Christian-Sabbath/1080&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

Dr. Robert Paul Martin

The Christian Sabbath

Its Redemptive-Historical Foundation, Present Obligation, and Practical Observance

"A masterpiece and a biblically grounded book" is how I would describe this amazing work. He engaged with those with whom he disagrees. He demonstrate a spirit of love and respect toward those with whom he disagrees. The tone is never harsh. 

He grounds the Sabbath in Creation, goes to every major text in the Old Testament concerning the Sabbath. Demonstrates his ability in linguistics and in his knowledge of various interpretations of some texts. The footnotes are just great!

He then goes on to make a case for Sabbath observance under the New Covenant, but he does this by first going to major texts on the abiding validity of the Law in the New Covenant. He goes on to demonstrate our Lord's teaching on the Sabbath. He never did abrogated it, but cleared it from Pharisaic legalism. He has two chapters on works of piety and necessity and works of mercy.

He then moves to consider four misused texts: Rom 14:5-6; Gal 4:9-11; Eph 2:14-15; Col 2:16. He makes a case that none of these texts speak of the abrogation of the moral duty of observing one day out of seven as a Sabbath already established at Creation. He then moves on to consider Hebrews 4:9 wherein we are clearly told that there is still, for the New Covenant people of God, an obligation of Sabbath-keeping.

Until now he had not made a case for the change of the day. His book was about the Christian Sabbath, but what he argued for until now was the seventh-day Sabbath. To be sure, he made passing remarks on the change of the day. But he treats the change of the day in two chapters. The first one is dedicated to "the Apostolic Witness" where he examines the resurrection and the resurrection appearances as the prime reason for the change of the day, the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), the gathering of the church on the first day to break bread and have Paul preached to them (Acts 20:7), the gathering of alms on the first day (1Cor 16:1-2) and finally, the Lord's Day (Rev 1:10). In my opinion, he makes a good case for the change of the day from these passages and also from his treatment of the abiding Sabbath from Hebrews 4:9.

Then he moves to the post-apostolic testimony to the Lord's Day. He notes that often the word Sabbath was retrained for the Jewish Sabbath and was not frequently used for Sunday. Rather, from the earliest times, the expression "the Lord's Day" was used for the first day of the week on which Christ rose.

Finally, he moves on in the last part (3) to teach us how we should observe the Sabbath. He is careful in his suggestions and what He may say and deduce from God's Word. His desire is not to bind consciences where God has not bound them, but carefully give guidelines and suggestions.

Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this book and I used it a lot in my own study for the 1689 Baptist Confession's chapter 22 on the Sabbath (sections 7-8). It is detailed, it is biblical and it is written in a loving and respectful tone. What more can we expect? Get it and read it already!




Review of Walter J. Chantry's Signs Of the Apostles Simon Wartanian | 1,682 views | 555 Words | 21 April 2016 00:17
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/Review-Of-Walter-J-Chantrys-Signs-Of-The-Apostles/1075&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

Signs of the Apostles

Observations On Pentecostalism Old And New[1]

My feelings are mixed concerning this small volume. I believe that his case for cessationism did not stand. I believe that he misused some passages to make his case. Here are a few things that raised my eyebrows.

First, he argues that miracles were given for attestation from the narrative of Moses (Ex 4:5) and NT. No one disagrees, but he makes attestation the primary purpose of miracles. And not simple attestation, rather attestation for prophetic ministry. Miracles were connected with the prophets as he tries to argue from Ex 4:5 and Deut 34:10-11 (later from Elijah's example in 1Kings 18:36). But then he raises the anticipated objection about the miracles of Samson or the other prophets, his answer is not satisfying. He basically says that the "history is incomplete" (p. 11), i.e. we do not have everything that they did, therefore, they must have done some prophetic stuff as leaders of God's people. That is unsatisfactory.

Second, he uses Psalm 74:9 to say that "This is a striking endorsement of the principle that only prophets work miracles. Where miracles are performed we should expect to hear the inspired Word of God spoken. When there is no prophet, there are no signs." (p. 12)

Here pastor Chantry understands the signs to refer to the miracles of the prophets. But I believe what is a more proper sense of the verse is to speak of the Temple. The enemies of Israel as they are described in verse 4 "have roared in the midst of your [God's] meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs." The enemies of Israel have set up their own things in the Temple of God as signs. But now destitute of the Temple (in the time of the exile), the Israelites do not have their signs, i.e. the ark, the sacrifices, the temple which pictured to the people the presence of God among them.

Whatever the sense of the text, this does not have bearing upon the miracles when we come to the NT as on Pentecost when they were to be poured out on all people (Acts 2:17ff).

Third, he uses Galatians 3:5 to say "Paul appealed to his miracle-working power as evidence that he, rather than the Judaizers, ought to be believed." (p. 15) Where does Paul fit into the text? The text reads "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— ". Can it be that this is based upon the assumption that only the apostles can work miracles while the verse doesn't say a word about such a thing?

Fourth, he limits the scope of Hebrews 2:3-4 to the apostles though he does not explicitly say that (pp. 15-16). But the text does not reject the present work of God among the Hebrews, it simply highlights God's work among the Apostles.

Fifth, he anticipates the objection of non-apostles doing miracles and he raises the case of Philip in Acts 8:4-15. Then there's some weird comment about the people to whom Philip had preached that "[c]ertainly the true converts among them already had God's Spirit in their hearts, for [citation of Rom 8:9]" (p. 17). This was a first time for me, usually people explain it in terms of the foundational period of Acts and the primacy of Apostles that the believers did not receive the Spirit.

He accepts that Philip did actually perform miraculous deeds as the Bible obviously says (Acts 8:6-7), but then objects that it was the Apostles and not Philip who had the prerogative of ministering the miraculous gifts to others. "Every recorded instance of men in the church receiving such gifts occurred under the direct ministry of an apostle. Thus even the general exercise of miraculous powers within the church served as a testimony to the prophetic authority of the apostles." (p. 17)

I particularly do not find such argumentation strong enough. What about the believers elsewhere in Corinth, Rome or Thessalonica? And is it surprising that almost everyone (if not everyone, I'm not sure) in Acts was somehow related to the Apostles? I mean, the book is primarily about Paul and the work of the other apostles, so obviously they would be related to them. It is not for nothing that we call the book the ACTS of the APOSTLES.

Sixth, when I picked up the book I was interested to see what he had to say on 2 Cor 12:12 from which the title of the book comes. I was surprised to merely find a paragraph! He says that Paul "considered miraculous gifts as God-given proof of an apostolic ministry." (p. 15) But the passage does not connect the "signs and wonders and mighty works" to the "signs of a true apostle." Yes, Paul did do those things, but these were not the signs of his apostleship, rather as Dr. Sam Storms observes, the signs of him being a true apostle consisted in:

(a) the fruit of his preaching, that is, the salvation of the Corinthians themselves (cf. 1 Cor. 9 : l b - 2 , "Are not you the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord"; cf. 2 Cor. 3:1-3); (b) his Christlike life of holiness, humility, etc. (cf. 2 Cor. 1:12; 2:17; 3 : 4 -6; 4:2; 5:11; 6:3-13; 7:2; 10:13-18; 11:6,23-28); and (c) his sufferings, hardship, persecution, etc. (cf. 4 : 7 - 1 5 ; 5:4-10; 11:21-33; 13:4). Paul patiently displayed these "things that mark[ed]" his apostolic authority. And this was accompanied by the signs, wonders, and miracles he performed.[2]

Seventh, he believes that the "perfect" of 1Cor 13:10 was the completion of the NT canon. He appeals to 1Cor 14:20 where the word telios is translated as "mature" instead of "perfect" to claim that when the Scripture were completed the church outgrew the "childhood of charismatic revelations." (p. 44) Not referring to the present day Charismatics, but the way he understands Paul when he speaks of being a child (v. 11). Verse 11, according to Pastor Chantry speaks of the time before the NT canon was complete, before 95 A.D. with the last book of the NT, the Apocalypse. It is that time in the words of verse 12 that they looked in a "mirror dimly," but after the arrival of the full canon of Scripture we now see "face to face." He appeals to Num 12:6-8 to argue that the Lord spoke clearly and mouth to mouth (or face to face) to Moses and therefore (he does not explictly say this, but I believe he assumes it) what God delivered to Moses, Moses then in turn spoke to the people and it became Scripture. I don't believe that this is a proper use of this passage. The Lord had clearly favored Moses and had an intimate relationship with Him as a friend of His. The text also says the Moses beheld the form of the LORD. He saw God. Moses spoke face to face (Ex 33:11) with God. This is not what we have in Scriptures. I will not deny that God speaks and reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures, meditate on 1Sam 3:21, but that revelation of Himself is "sufficient for every good work" (2Tim 3:16-17), yet not a complete face to face and mouth to mouth relationship which we await in heaven.

This passage most naturally refers to when we go to heaven to be with the Lord; or better when the Lord comes. It speaks of the condition of our relationship when we are no more away from the Lord. Richard Gaffin who made a very good case for Cessationism in Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? says in a footnote, 'To argue, as some cessationists do, that "the perfect" has in view the completion of the New Testament canon or some other state of affairs prior to the Parousia is just not credible exegetically.'[3] 

There were some other things or usages of Scripture which I did not think were proper, but these were the big ones that stood out.

This work is not scholarly. It does not engage with those who are respectable representatives of the position being critiqued, but it is a popular level treatment of how and what the average Charismatic/Pentecostal believes, behaves and says. At some points I could "amen" his criticism of what is reported in such circles and their behaviors and the diminishment of God's infallible Word. But I was not convinced of his cessationist case.

Be critical, look up the references of Scripture in their context and carefully study this book.

Footnotes

  1. ^ The review was originally written on 7 January 2016 on GoodReads.
  2. ^ Ed. Wayne Grudem. (1996) Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Zondervan. pp. 194-195
  3. ^ Ed. Wayne Grudem. (1996) Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Zondervan. p. 55, footnote 81.



Review of Sam Waldron's To Be Continued? Simon Wartanian | 1,586 views | 555 Words | 20 April 2016 23:29
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/Review-Of-Sam-Waldrons-To-Be-Continued/1074&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

To Be Continued?

Are The Miraculous Gifts For Today?

Dr. Waldron is a respectful and good Christian scholar, but this work was not written for the big scholars, but was written for the lay Christian who is interested in topic of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I liked the book and I thought that it was a pretty good case for cessationism. He tried to interact for example with Grudem on some points.

The Argument

The argument is basically:

1. There are no apostles
2. Therefore there are no prophets
3. Therefore there are no tongue-speaks
4. Therefore there are no miracle-workers

1. Apostles

First of all, by the use of Ephesians 4:9-11 he spends a paragraph or two to say that the apostolate was a gift. The word for gift in verse 9 is not the usual χάρισμα (charisma). He does not interact with those who do not accept that the apostolate was a (spiritual) gift, but rather a ministry or an office. This in my opinion is the biggest flaw in his argument. 

The Cascade Argument is built around and based upon the point that the greatest "gift" – the apostolate has ceased in the first century. He in fact makes a good case on the cessation of the apostolate, but does not make a convincing case that it was a spiritual gift like those mentioned in 1Cor 12:7-10 for example. Therefore, his Cascading Argument becomes weak. This is a point that Matt Slick also brought in the back-and-forth in their debate.

The argument basically starts with, if the greatest gift has ceased, it is therefore possible that the other "miraculous" gifts have also ceased. I don't believe that the NT makes such a distinction between the gifts as the “ordinary” and “extraordinary”, or “non-miraculous” and “miraculous.” I have not been able to find this distinction yet in the text of Scripture. 

2. Prophets

He demonstrates from the OT that a prophet was simply the mouth of God to the people (Ex 4:10-17; 7:1-2).  Also, what the prophets said had to be 100% accurate according to the regulations of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:15-22. Therefore he proceeds to the New Testament with the same definition of prophecy and this is understandable.

He first considers few passages used in support of continuationism including Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Cor 13:8-13 and the case of Agabus (Acts 21:10-11).

On Ephesians 4 he says that if we maintain that everything in verse 11 is needed for our maturity and unity in the faith then we are proving too much. If we follow that, then we must also say that the apostolate must continue, but we have proven that it in fact did not continue. Therefore, he says that the apostles must refer to the writings and teaching of the apostles that we have in the New Testament and prophets or prophecy refers to the book of Revelation. He does not dispute if we have prophecy (i.e. the book of Revelation), rather if we have ongoing or new prophecy.

I don't think that the putting of Revelation under the category of "prophets" is right. John was not writing as a prophet, but was writing with the authority of an Apostle, that is the case for every NT book. It was either written by an apostle or an associate. I know of no NT book whose author was an prophet. 

Therefore, I do indeed agree that we have the Apostles in their writings, but I know of nothing that we have from prophets, therefore, it would seem that they would be necessary for the building up and achieving the unity of faith. (I don't know how this practically looks, but I just want to understand what the passage is teaching)

On 1Cor 13:8-13 contrary to some cessationist Dr. Waldron does not believe that the verse is speaking about the closing of the canon, rather it refers to the state after the coming of Christ when we will have "face to face" knowledge of God. But he says that the passage does not specify the time of the cessation of prophecy and tongues. So this question is undecided by this verse. On page 64 he says "The conclusion must be that Paul is teaching the doing away of partial knowledge in favor of perfect knowledge in verse ten. He says nothing about when the gifts of prophecy and tongues pass away. He only refers to the passing of the present partial knowledge that was conveyed through those gifts. He leaves open the question of the time of the passing of the gifts of prophecy and tongues."

He tries to interact with Grudem on Agabus, but I don't believe that he sufficiently refuted Grudem. Basically, Grudem with the words of Richard Gaffin was accused of requiring "pedantic precision" on Agabus (p. 67). I've read Gaffin's and Waldron's case against Grudem on Agabus, but I don't believe that they've refuted what Grudem has argued for.

Since according to Dr. Waldron's survey of the OT prophecy is simply the forthtelling of what God has put into the prophet's mouth and this principle he says also in the par excellence the Lord Jesus, therefore, prophecy cannot at the present time exist. The canon is closed and even continuationists admit that their prophecies are not infallible. 

3. Tongues

His discussion on tongues was interesting and short. Like other cessationists, he argued that tongues were always human languages. He starts with Pentecost in Acts 2 and carries that conclusion to every other text. So for example when we come to 1Cor 13:1 and read about "tongues of angels" there it means either that Paul was using a hyperbole or using the claim of his opponents (pp. 85-86).

On 1Cor 14:13, 26-28 he argues that because Paul called for the tongues-speakers to seek to interpret this meant that these were human languages. I don't find that too persuasive. Why doesn't he say pray to translate or find someone who could understand this foreign language?

He also thinks that tongues was a sign of judgment on the Jews according to 1Cor 14:21. It seems very improbable to me that the Corinthians had in their congregation unbelieving Jews for whom this would have been a sign. But rather, tongues without interpretation is a sign of judgment to the unbelieving in general as it would drive them away from the church and would give them the idea that these people are out of their minds. In this way it is a sign of judgment upon the unbelieving. It is a sign of judgment in its misuse, not in its proper use. How would tongues have functioned on the day of Pentecost? I don't find this “tongues was a judgment on Israel” line of thinking persuasive and he's not the only one who has used it.

He identifies tongues-speaking with prophecy by using two passages Acts 2:14-18 and 1Cor 14:5.

Acts 2 was interesting as the crowd is hearing the disciples speaking in foreign human languages which they understand their wondering what is happening. Then Peter says that "this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel" (v. 16). The question for me is does the "this" refer to the prophesying mentioned in verses 17-18 or does it only refer to "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh"? If tongues was prophecy, what did they infallibly foretold? The crowd says that "we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." (v. 11) There is here no mention of prophecy. But they were merely inspired by the speech to tell the mighty deeds of God in all kinds of languages.

As a side note, I was disappointed that this passage especially with the connection with "the last days" was not brought up in the discussion about prophecy. This is an important passage which many continuationists appeal to for the continuation of prophecy among other things in the days of the New Covenant.

The next passage he uses is 1Cor 14:5 where he claims that "1 Corinthians 14:5 asserts functional equivalence of tongues-speaking with prophecy--provided that someone interprets what is said." (p. 89) 

I agree, but I don't agree with what he means by prophecy. Prophecy is specifically defined for us in verse 3. It is not about telling the future or infallibly speaking the very words of God, rather "the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation." Therefore, if tongues is interpreted it has the same function for upbuilding and encouragement as prophecy is, but this does not mean that it is the same thing.

Since he argued in the previous part that prophecy ceased and now argued that tongues was a form of prophecy, the logical step for the waterfall is that tongues also ceased. 

4. Miracle-Workers

He does not spend much time on miracles. What he is arguing against is miracle workers, not miracles per se. He tries to establish the distinction from 1 Cor 12:28-29.

Then he goes on to define miracle. Broadly speaking a miracle is "any unusual exhibition of the extraordinary providence or supernatural power of God." And he adds "In this broad sense, I am happy to affirm that God does miracles today." (p. 99) However, there is also a strict definition of miracles which he believes do not happen anymore. "A miracle is redemptiv...




A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw Simon Wartanian | 3,605 views | 555 Words | 27 November 2015 22:25
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Review-Of-Jeffrey-D-Johnsons-The-Fatal-Flaw/1067&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

The Fatal Flaw

Of the Theology behind Infant Baptism

For some time I have tried to get my hands on Jeffery Johnson’s book, but Amazon did not provide it as new. That is, until I saw it on Solid Ground Books. I was able to get it along with the Kingdom of God and Hercules Collin’s Catechism.

I’ve heard a lot of good about this book and I’ve also listened to Jeffery Johnson’s sermons/lectures on Covenant Theology especially the most recent with Pascal Denault. I’ve read his chapter in Recovering Covenantal A Heritage and listened to his sermon on the dual nature of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants which helped me a lot. I was eager to get started on this book and see what I could learn more.

The Paedobaptist Positions

To start, he lays down all the division of Paedobaptism. He numbers 8 –

  1. Fides Aliena (Faith of Another) – the church supplies the faith necessary for the infant. Those who hold this position understand that faith is a necessary prerequisite for baptism. But this faith could not come from the infant, thus the Church supplies the faith that is necessary. Those who take this position also believe that baptism removes Adam’s guilt and “cleanses the heart of its inward depravity.” (p. 6, Augustine, Origen)
  2. Fides Infusa (Infused Faith) – Faith is given at the point of baptism. When the infant is baptism, they are also given faith in that act.
  3. Fides Infantium – Luther said “In baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” Luther was the proponent of justification by faith alone and thus for infants to be saved they had to believe. The faith of another could not do it for them. Faith is not transferable.
  4. Sacramental Symbolism – This is Ulrich Zwingli’s position which taught that water baptism had no bearing upon the Spirit’s internal work. It was merely an external sign and symbol. Unlike the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Zwingli did not believe that water baptism administers faith.
  5. Pre-credobaptism – Baptism comes before the infant having faith. It does symbolize faith and union with Christ, but does not guarantee it. This is the Reformed Paedobaptist position. The Westminster says: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.” (chapter 28, paragraph 6)
  6. Presumptive Regeneration – I’ve not had much interaction with the Dutch Reformed position here in Holland and I’ve heard only mischaracterizations of it, so I can’t say if this is the position of every church here (I live in the Netherlands). But through the influence of Abraham Kuyper, the church sought to bring baptism closer to faith. This position basically says that we believe that infants have faith and are Christian until proven otherwise. “Although it is not certain that baptism regenerates all infants, the church assumes regeneration until proven otherwise.” (p. 15)
  7. Baptismal Regeneration – This is the position which Johnson identifies with the Federal Vision theologians, which basically says that baptism impart faith to all infants to whom it is administered, elect and non-elect. Baptism regenerates all covenant children. Zwingli divided the sign and the sacrament, Federal Vision says “God’s promise assures us there is basic, fundamental unity between the sign and the thing signified. The water and the Spirit cannot be divided.” (p. 16, from The Federal Vision, edited by Steve Wikins and Duane Garner)
  8. Paedofaith – Some Federal Vision theologians claim that covenant children are regenerate from the womb. Basically, Christian parents receive Christian and thus believing children from God. “God gives us children with faith. Covenant children begin life as believers, not in need of conversion, but endurance (cf. Heb. 10:36). They should be received and raised as children of God.” (p. 18, from Mark Horne, Why Baptist Babies?)

Although it was really nice to know about all the different positions about infant baptism, the author seeks to directly combat one position and that is the Westminster position (positions 4 and 5). It’s not like from the earliest days of infant baptism that the church understood it was the sign of the Covenant of Grace, or that it did not wash away sin. That is clearly not the case.

The old church practiced infant baptism for other reasons, than the Reformed Paedobaptist churches since the Reformation.

Although I do not believe that infant baptism is a biblical practice, but I must agree with Jeffery Johnson that the Westminster position of Covenant Theology and infant baptism is the closest to the Scripture from the above options. For some people to be truly “Reformed” you have to hold to Covenant Theology which supports the practice of infant baptism, forgetting that there is a difference between Baptist and Presbyterian Covenant Theology. If you would like to learn more about 1689 Baptist Covenant Theology, which is called 1689 Federalism see my attempt to make a case for it when expositing the 7th chapter of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith here.

The Westminster Position

The author spends some time first to explain the Presbyterian/Westminster. The basis of the Westminster position is continuity between the covenants of the Bible.

They understand that the Lord established a covenant of works in the Garden with Adam as the representative of the human race which he broke. Then the Lord established the Covenant of Grace in Genesis 3:15 and onward. This was Covenant of Grace was differently administered under Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. But the essence of these covenants was the same.

The logic is understandable. If infants were admitted into the covenant under Moses and Abraham and the New Covenant is basically and essentially the same, then infants should also be admitted into the New Covenant. The question is, whether if these covenants truly were administrations of the one Covenant of Grace.

The Westminster says the following of the Covenant of Grace in chapter 7 –

Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe. (paragraph 3)

As Calvinists, our Presbyterian brethren along with us believe in salvation by grace and in Christ throughout the ages. This is what is here conveyed in the Confession. The essence of the Covenant of Grace is faith and salvation in Christ, although that had different outer form under the various covenants. Abraham did not have as much clarity about the Messiah as we now by the grace of God have. This is expressed in the fifth paragraph –

This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.

Under the law, by that meaning the whole period of the Old Testament, the Covenant of Grace was seen in the shadows and prophecies (See certain shadows in the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants). But under the New Testament dispensation we have a fuller revelation of God’s purposes and the Covenant of Grace which was fully revealed in the New Covenant.

The Westminister position is summed up in the last sentence in paragraph 6 –

…There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.

As Pascal Denault puts it: one covenant, two administrations.

Sign of the Covenant

Our Presbyterian brethren argue that the sign of the covenant of grace prior to the New Covenant was circumcision. Circumcision was applied to all males within the covenant. In fact, 8 days old infants were required to be circumcised.

They see the sign of the covenant being replaced from circumcision to baptism on the basis of their interpretation of Rom 4:11 and Col 2:11-12. Johnson spends quite some time on Romans 4:11.

Now let us apply the Westminster understanding of the Covenant of Grace to this. The Covenant of Grace was administered under Abraham and Moses a...




Review of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology Simon Wartanian | 5,735 views | 555 Words | 19 July 2015 19:18
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/Review-Of-Wayne-Grudems-Systematic-Theology/1062&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

Introduction

I purchased this book because I wanted to have a good biblical case for each doctrine that I was interested in looking at. At that time I was interested in learning more about God's sovereignty.

I never thought that I'd read such a large book with 57 chapters of biblical doctrine, but I am thankful that God sustained me through the journey that I had with Wayne Grudem in biblical doctrine.

Why it's awesome

A lot of reasons can be given why this Systematic Theology is great. It is the first Systematic Theology that I've picked up and I know for certain that I will go back to it many times.

In a certain sense Dr. Grudem's job is simple, find the passages which speak of a particular doctrine and explain what they say. But it is the manner in which he cites and explains the passages that is encouraging. He always explains the contexts and I cannot think of a citation that is out of context. He lays out the context, explains what the passages means in context and it's relevance to the present topic.

I love those fruitful footnotes. I would often skip footnotes thinking that they only refer to works cited, but that's not the only thing that Dr. Grudem does in his footnotes. He often explains things more technical, makes a particular case for something, refers to a relevant topic in his Systematic Theology or engages with the other side. 

His handling of the Holy Scriptures is truly aspiring. I pray that God would given me the same love for the Scriptures, that Dr. Grudem has. He does not simply assume things, he proves them biblically. That should be every Christian's desire.

The two biggest reasons why it's a great text is because, first it is thoroughly biblical. What I most loved is the fact that he produced the passages and not merely referenced them. He backs up every major statement he makes upon a doctrine.

Second, it is accessible and not only for “theologians.”[1] It is easy to understand, he tries his best to explain things plainly, though there are obviously difficult doctrines which are not that easy to explain.

If you don't have this great Systematic Theology, get it now.

Major Doctrines

Here I want to say a couple of things about Grudem's major influence on my doctrine.

The Holy Scriptures

Dr Grudem is unashamed about his belief in God's absolute and holy Word.

The Bible is God's sole authoritative Word, His very speech (2Tim 3:16). God used holy men as His instruments and spoke through them, not ignoring or overriding their vocabularies and use of language (2Pet 1:20-21).

It is incapable of being wrong, because it comes from the God who is the Truth (Jn 14:6) and who cannot lie (Heb 6:18). The Word of God reflects the character and its integrity is based upon the character of God.

The Bible, which is the collection of 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books is the very and certain Word of God.

See my commentary on the first chapter (Of The Holy Scriptures) of the 1689 Baptist London Confession.

Trinity

Dr Grudem excellently shows the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity from the Scripture and not from creeds as is often alleged by unbelievers. I have often gone back to chapter 14 (God in Three Persons: The Trinity) to get more insight into this great doctrine and the biblical support.

Dr Grudem goes on to prove the doctrine of the Trinity by using three statements that summarize the doctrine:

  1. God is three persons.
  2. Each person is fully God.
  3. There is one God.

From there on he goes into the Scriptures to prove just that!

See my case for the doctrine of the Trinity in my commentary on the 1689 Baptist London Confession.

God's Providence

This is the first chapter that I read from Grudem. Chapter 16: God's Providence. And man...I was in for something. It was excellent and it was fully biblical. I loved it.

He defines God's Providence as follows:

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.[2]

God is absolutely sovereign over His creation. Nothing can happen without His will. Moreover He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Although God is absolutely sovereign, even over chance events (Prov 16:33), man is still held responsible (Isaiah 11, Gen 50:20; Acts 4:27-28).

This is above our understanding, but it is what the Scriptures teach and thus we are to obey it.

This is not fatalism, this is the carrying out of a divine plan of a God who is just, holy, wise and merciful.

We are not “robots,” as many non-Calvinists would accuse Calvinists of making man, we make responsible choices, but these choices are absolutely under the control of God.

See my commentary on chapter 3 (Of God's Decree) and chapter 5 (Of Divine Providence) on the 1689.

The Person of Christ

The treatment of of the Person of Christ is excellent. His two-fold natures in one Person, His effective and definite atonement, resurrection and ascension. All these he handles in part 4 with great care and persuasive biblical argumentation.

Before reading his treatment on the Person of Christ, I thought that Christ now was only divine and not man. God graciously used Dr. Grudem to persuaded me otherwise. 

In the incarnation the Word took on flesh (Jn 1:1, 14). He did not lay aside His divinity, but added humanity to His divine Person (Phil 2:5-11). He was resurrected with a human body and went into heaven with that glorified body, nothing actually convinces us that the Lord Jesus ceased to be human at the moment of His ascension. In fact the Bible tells us that it is the man Christ Jesus who is our Mediator:

1Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 

The Application of Redemption

Part 5 is entitled The Doctrine of The Application of Redemption. Therein Dr. Grudem handles among other things:

  1. Common Grace
  2. Election and Reprobation
  3. The Gospel Call and Effective Calling 
  4. Regeneration
  5. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
  6. Justification (Right Legal Standing Before God)
  7. Adoption (Membership in God’s Family)
  8. Sanctification (Growth in Likeness to Christ)
  9. Death and the Intermediate State
  10. Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body)
  11. Union with Christ

These chapters are excellent like the rest and if you didn't know, Dr Wayne Grudem is a full-fetched Calvinist and in these chapters, what is called “Calvinism” is argued and shown to be the system of the Bible itself. He follows Romans 8:29-30 in laying out these doctrine sin this way:

Rom 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

The Doctrine of the Church

Part 6 of this treatment deals with Ecclesiology. I've learned a ton in this part, because it wasn't something that I've read about before.

Being a baptist, he argues for a congregational and independent type of church and makes the case for the consistent plurality of elders in NT congregations.

What I also liked was the distinction that he made with with more and less pure churches. He admits that in the present time there will not be a church which is perfect in doctrine, but there will be churches which are more or less pure churches. There are no perfect churches.

Being a Reformed Baptist myself, I loved his treatment of Baptism (chapter 49) and his interaction with Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology on Protestant Infant Baptism. I though that his case for Credobaptism was strong and he was gracious toward our Padeobaptist brethren.

An important doctrine which he got me more thinking about was the Gifts of the Spirit. He being a continuationist and I...kinda undecided, but was practically a cessationist, but couldn't make up my mind from the Scriptures because according to my judgment I didn't see any where in the NT the idea that the spritual gifts would stop.

A few things should be said, Dr. Grudem is an excellent theologian, so he is not like the prosperity preachers and the Benny Hinns. He does not believe that “NT congregational prophecy” is the speaking of the very words of God, but he defines prophecy as “telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.”[3] He does not believe that NT congregation prophecy is predicting the future. Further, he believes that in the OT the prophets spoke the very words of God and to disobey a prophet was the same as to disobey God. But this is not the case in the NT. In the NT, the prophets are replaced with the Apostles (w...




Review of Dean Davis' The High King of Heaven on Amillennialism Simon Wartanian | 6,025 views | 555 Words | 13 April 2015 23:31
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/Review-Of-Dean-Davis-The-High-King-Of-Heaven-On-Amillennialism/1056&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

Dean Davis - The High King of Heaven:

Discovering the Master Key to the Great End Time Debate

The subtitle indeed is a bold claim, saying that in this book we will discover “the master key” to the End Time debate. I believe we indeed do discover the master key to the End Time debate.

This book is nothing like the others that I’ve read on Amillennialism (Kingdom Come, The Bible and the Future, The Case for Amillennialism), it dares to go and try to interpret the difficult texts in support of premillennialism. It is anti-premillennial as well as, but in lesser tone against Postmillennialism. This is all done in a tone of brotherly love. I enjoyed that aspect of the interaction.

Amillennialism

This book lays out the classic view of Amillennialism which is Dean Davis[1] believes (as others also do) is the classic eschatology of Church History and the Reformation.

The word amillennialism means no millennium. However, amillennarians do not deny the existence of a millennium, only that it begins after the Parousia and that it will last for a literal thousand years. Instead, they teach that the thousand years of Revelation 20 symbolize the present Era of Proclamation, during which time Christ reigns with (the departed spirits of) his saints in heaven. Amillennarians are, then, “present-millennarians.” Pages 23-24

Basically, Amillennialism teaches that the Millennium of Revelation 20 started from the cross and will end at the Second Coming of our Lord, spanning over 2 millennia up till now and is thus to be interpreted symbolically, rather than literally. The Millennium is the Gospel Era, or as Dean likes to call it, the Era of Proclamation.

This is a simple chart laying out the Amillennial vision of Salvation History.

The Kingdom of God

One of the very ups of this book was the extensive study of the Kingdom of God in the New and Old Testaments. My understanding of the Kingdom of God was really expanded.

A Definition of the Kingdom of God

Dean Davis defines the Kingdom of God as:

In essence, the Kingdom of God is the direct reign of God the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, over his redeemed creatures; creatures who have been rescued from every spiritual and physical enemy, and restored to every spiritual and physical friend that God planned for them in the beginning. Also, the Kingdom is the blessed realm that this redemptive reign creates, and over which it forever rules. Page 65.

This he does not merely assume, but ably goes to prove it from the Bible, here is a summary of his five points:

  1. The Kingdom is the direct reign of God the Father (Mt 6:10)
  2. The Kingdom is a sphere of wholeness and blessing (Mt 9:35; 10:7-8; 12:28)
  3. The Kingdom is mediated by the Son of God (John 5:19, 30; 6:38;  8:28; 12:49; 14:10)
  4. The Kingdom is effected by the Spirit of God (Mt 12:28; Acts 1:4-8)
  5. The Kingdom is a realm beneath a reign (Mt 13:41-42; Rev 11:15)

Thereby is indeed the definition that he gives is justified and satisfactory.

The Two-Staged Kingdom

Amillennarians see the Kingdom of God coming in two stages, separated by the Parousia of our Lord:

  1. The Kingdom of the Son (already, the present Era of Proclamation)
  2. The Kingdom of the Father (not yet, the future World/Age to Come)

Now, the terminology used here is not meant to give the idea that the Son has no share in the second stage of the Kingdom or that the Father has no share in the first, but rather is taken from 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 where we learn that at the Coming of our Lord, the Lord Jesus will deliver His Kingdom, His consummated Kingdom to God the Father and will be subjected to Him. Thus, seeing a difference between the present Kingdom of the Son (which is to be delivered up to the Father) and the coming Kingdom of the Father (which is the eternal World to Come). This terminology is also supported by Matthew 13:41-43.

The two-staged Kingdom is seen from Jesus’ own contrast of this present age and the age to come. Here is a table I made for myself:            

Verse This age The age to come
Mt 12:32 …will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (compare Mk 3:28-30)
Mk 10:30 …receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life. (Lk 18:30)
Eph 1:21 …far above all rule and authority…not only in this age But also in the one to come
Lk 20:34-36 The sons of this age marry… but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection… neither marry… they cannot die anymore… equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection
1Cor 1:20 Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  
1Cor 2:6 …although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  
2Cor 4:4 …god of this world (age) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers…  
Gal 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age…  
1Tim 6:17, 19 As for the rich in this present age… treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future…
Titus 2:12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age  

 

Not forgetting that Jesus already affirmed that the Kingdom came with Him, in the present age (Lk 17:21; Mk 1:15; Mt 12:28).

But this fact can also be seen from surveying some of Jesus’ parables and simple Didactic (Gospels and Epistles) teaching about the Kingdom, rather than going to Revelation or Old Testament Prophecy which are obscure. Here Amillennialism makes good use of the Reformed Analogy of Faith interpretation which is thus defined in my confession:

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 (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly. 1689, 1:9[2]

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Mt 13:24-30, 36-48)

This is one of the many NT texts which illustrate the two-staged Kingdom of God.

First we are given the parable itself in Matthew 13:24-30, then we are also given the true interpretation of the parable in Matthew 13:36-48.

In this parable we learn of the side by side existence and out growing of two kingdoms: The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. Here we learn that both kingdoms will grow, but there will be a gathering and a burning of the weeds at the time of the harvest. In Matthew 13:49-40 we are told that the harvest is the end of the age, the end of the present age. Herein is the Second Coming of our Lord strongly implied. This was a stage of the kingdom wherein it is spiritual and existing side by side with the Kingdom of the Evil One.

In our Lord Jesus’ explanation of the parable we get more insight of the Consummation. There we are told that when our Lord comes again, all sinners will be taken out of the world (“causes of sin”) and thrown into hell, but the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.

This second stage of the Kingdom is called the Kingdom of the Father, but unlike the first stage of the Kingdom, it is without any trace of evil. This is the World to Come, this is the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Here I think we see clearly two stages of the Kingdom, the first wherein it is spiritual and side by side existing with the Kingdom of the Evil One, then second stage wherein all evil is removed and the cosmos is transformed.

The New Covenant Hermeneutic

This indeed is the Master Key. Here is the best portion of the book, this goes deep into the proper interpretation of Old Testament prophecies. This also builds upon the foundation laid previously of the two staged Kingdom and its people, the Israel of God and not Israel after the flesh. The people of the New Covenant, both Jew and Gentile believers in Christ.

The NCH is concerned chiefly with the interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom prophecies. These are prophecies like Ezekiel 36-37 and Jeremiah 31-33 where Israel is promised eschatological restoration. These are not simple kingdom prophecies or prophecies about the Messiah which did indeed come to pass very literally.

Part 3 of the book is dedicated to the interpretation of OTKP in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah using the New Covenant Hermeneutic.

Dean introduces us to 7 important principles for properly interpreting the Old Testament (Kingdom Prophecy).

  1. Literal
    1. Regular OT narrative is to be taken literally. When the Bible speaks of Adam, Abraham, Noah and the Flood, these are literal, true and historical things.
  2. Ethical
    1. The OT is ...



A Short Review of Sam Waldron's Modern Exposition of 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith Simon Wartanian | 2,816 views | 555 Words | 23 February 2015 19:14
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Short-Review-Of-Sam-Waldrons-Modern-Exposition-Of-1689-Baptist-Confession-Of-Faith/943&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

Introduction to the Confession

It was a while back that I somehow came into contact (I don't remember how, maybe through James White?) with the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith and I found myself at home in it. Though I did not study it very deeply. This time I have taken the time to go through it with Sam Waldron which I though he did a very good job.

Introduction to Covenant Theology

Before beginning my study of the confession, through a brother I got into the subject of Baptist Covenant Theology, I got the work of Pascal Denault The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology and Waldron's A Reformed Baptist Manifesto. Sometime later I got the recent Recovering a Covenantal Heritage volume. I have been more and more interested in this stream of Reformed Theology.

Introduction to Baptistic Convictions & Calvinism

I first became baptistic simply through reading the New Testament and finding no evidence of any infant baptism. I was baptized in the Armenian Church as an infant and was attending a Baptist church in Holland and was convinced that my baptism was no baptism. So on 14-06-2013[1] I was baptized after a profession of faith. At that time I was in the process of studying the Doctrines of Grace. Sometime later, by the grace of God I came to embrace and glory in them.

The Confession

The first and foremost thing that I love about this Confession is it's high, high, high view of God's sovereign freedom. I love it and that is exactly how I believe that God is, the Sovereign King over every molecule. 
I love the fact of the Baptists' deep commitment to the truth and the sole authority of the Bible and their appeal to the Bible. I could not really find any disagreements with the Confession, so I feel home in it and I'm not ashamed to identify myself as a Reformed Baptist.

What I loved about Dr Waldron's work is his way of explaining the Confession and going through the biblical evidence (as I have been reading Grudem, I would have loved it if Dr Waldron would cite portions of the passages that he was using as proof, rather most of the time, only references were given).

When I started studying the Confession I didn't realizes that a confession is actually a Systematic Theology! :)

Dr Waldron explained things very well, I especially liked his extensive treatment of chapters 29 (Of Baptism), 31 (of the state of man after death and of the resurrection of the dead) and 32 (Of the last judgment). There he interacted with the other side and provided some answers. With the explanations he went also through more detail.

During my study of the 1689 I left some comments about my thoughts on each paragraph that can be viewed here: http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Second-Baptist-Confession-Of-Faith-With-Commentary-And-Highlighting/922 

Also I have opened a new section wherein I try to go in detail to explain why I agree with the formulation of doctrines in the 1689. The section is found here: http://www.thecalvinist.net/1689 

Few minor problems with the book

One thing that was frustrating me, was the load of typos there. It's not that I'm a grammar nazi, but the quality of the work is so great that the multitude of the typos, wrong headings above pages (pages 103, 381), no spacing between words, wrong numeration really were the only downside, which could have been prevented. Hopefully, they will update it in the future, otherwise we'll just have to wait for James Renihan's exposition of the 1689 that is in progress!

Footnotes

  1. ^ Here is a picture of my baptism back when my hair was long. 

 




A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will Simon Wartanian | 3,089 views | 555 Words | 22 February 2015 00:23
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Review-Of-RC-Sprouls-Willing-To-Believe-Thoughts-On-Free-Will/942&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

R.C. Sproul – Willing To Believe

The Controversy Over Free Will

Although read in Dutch[1] I’ve was motivated to get this work by watching RC Sproul’s teaching series on the book called Willing to Believe[2]. It helped understand the issues surround the question of human freedom and sovereignty. I remember that it was not much later than that I was studying Jonathan Edwards’ The Freedom of the Will, which was somewhat difficult.

In this great work this master theologian gives a historical theological study of important theologians throughout the history of the Christian church on the question of human freedom. He goes through some Christian heroes and giants of the faith like Augustine, Edwards, Luther and Calvin. Also some who were non-Christian and anti-Christian in their theology and thinking like Charles Finney and Pelagius. Lastly, theologians who belong more to the in house debate between Arminianism/Semi-Pelagianism and Calvinism, like Jacob Arminius himself.

The Pelagians

Pelagius was a British monk living in the fifth century and he is known to have a huge dispute with Augustine on the nature of man and free will. Pelagius reacted to a seemingly harmless prayer of Augustine which said: Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire. Harmless doesn’t it? Well, that’s not what Pelagius thought. He thought it outrages, because it showed man’s total dependence on God to graciously grant the ability to obey Him. Pelagius believed that commandment presupposes ability. What many nowadays believe. He said that God would never command something that man was not able to do. Therefore, everything that God commands man is able to do. So, away with Romans 8:7-8.

He further taught that Adam was in no sense the federal head of the human race. Adam was created mortal and would have died even if he didn’t sin. All men are born in the state that Adam was in. Adam gave man bad influence, not a sinful nature otherwise known as Original Sin.

He taught that the nature of man was basically good and that sinning didn’t effect that basic goodness of man.

Man has a free will to do good or evil and to obey God in all things.

Jesus’ death was not substitionary, but it was as an example for us.

People can live sinless lives, and in fact some have lived sinless lives.

The grace of God is important, but not essential. What I mean is that it would be awesome if one uses the grace of God for obedience, it will make things much easier, but it is even possible to obey without the grace of God.

This among other things are the things that he believed. I think, for any serious Bible student, they must conclude that this places him outside of Christian orthodoxy. Pelagius and his teachings were condemned in 418 and you would think that it will be the last thing heard of Pelagius, but then arises Charles Finney many centuries later in America.

Charles Finney

Charles Finney taught things very similar to Pelagius. In fact, he was more Pelagian than Pelagius.

He rejected the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which is the heart of the Gospel message.

He rejected the penal substitionary atonement of Christ in place of the believers. He posed the Governmental and Moral Influence theories of the atonement. He taught that all that was needed for conversion was good argumentation and persuasion. His influence is seen in the decisional evangelism/regeneration of our day, when people are told to make a “choice” for Christ. Or to make to choose Christ to be born again.

It is interesting to observe that this is the vision of the secular culture. That man is able to do anything possible. We think we are not bound by nature to anything. We think that we are the gods of our destinies.

The Semi-Pelagians/Arminians

After Augustine’s sharp critique of Pelagius the church did not stay on the Augustinian position, it’s not surprising seeing that man hates the fact that he’s dependent on God for the good that he does and is unable to do that which he ought to do.

There came a position which was somewhere between Augustinianism and Pelagianism. Which rejected the Pelagian heresy, and out of concern for man’s personal responsibility tried to elevate the freedom of the human will in the matter of salvation. They believed that man was badly wounded by the fall. Death is the punishment of the fall. Man’s dispositions are inclined to evil. But there still is in man the ability to resist the grace of God. Although man is dead in sins and is a slave of sin, yet he is still able to resist the effective grace of God and thereby frustrate the plans of God.

Here RC introduces the difference between mongergism and synergism. Monergism is the teaching that there is One Power which is in work in us when regeneration happens, in that we are passive. Synergism on the other hand teaches that man and God cooperate to bring the salvation of man. Arminians may not like the word synergism, but it describes what they believe. They believe that God does everything that He can to bring men to Himself, and He wants all men to come, but yet some refuse to come. Therefore, the will of man is that which effectuates salvation. The Augustinians disagreed.

Jacob Arminius

Later in the 16th century came Jacob Arminius who studied in Geneva (Calvin’s city) and was a Calvinist, but later came to doubt his Calvinism. He agreed with Calvinism about Total Depravity, but where he differed was the nature of grace. Many of the statements of Arminius about human depravity, could be amen’d by Calvinists, but not those about the nature of grace. Basically, he believed that grace was resistible. It was necessary, but not essential in the sense that for anyone to be saved he needs grace, yet grace alone can’t do it, it must cooperate with man for its effectiveness. Man can resist the grace of God.

He also believed the common belief even of our day that the election of God was based on who would believe or not believe like the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians.

The Augustinians & the Reformed

This book was written to defend and clarify the Augustinian doctrine of free will, which is the Reformed doctrine of free will. Here I want to survey some of the theologians and their thoughts concerning free will. Let’s start with Augustine.

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine was the ardent opponent of Pelagius. He was the one who answered and challenged Pelagius and it was because of his prayer that Pelagius was outraged. They are so radically different from each other.

Augustine believed and taught the doctrine of Original Sin. The doctrine teaches that because of Adam’s disobedience and because Adam was the representative of the whole human race (the root of the tree), therefore by his disobedience the whole human race was thrown into misery and sin. He stood in the place of those born of men and women. He believed that death (both spiritual and physical) was the punishment of the disobedience of our first parents.

He taught that all men have free will (liberum arbitrium). What they lacked was liberty (libertas). Augustine defined free will as the power to make free choices without any compulsion from the outside. In that sense every person has free will and is free to do as he pleases. What man in the Fall has lost is libertas. Augustine (and RC) understands libertas as the ability do that which is required of us. God commands man to be holy and obey Him, but since the Fall man has not been able to do that because he lost the libertas to will to that which is good. Because as Jonathan Edwards later would clearly say is that man choses according to his pleasure and desires, the only problem is that the Scriptures everywhere describe our desires as sinful. Man is free do all that he desires (liberum arbitrium), but in the Fall he has lost his desire to do good (libertas).

At this point RC introduces some helpful Latin phrases (I love the fact that he many times explains what words mean):

  • Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
  • Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This obviously Adam and Eve did.
  • Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
  • Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

Augustine like all Calvinists rejected Pelagius’ foreknowledge view of election and taught that God predestined according to His good pleasure without “looking into the future.” He predestined not because men believed, but He predestined so that men would believe.

Martin Luther

Some more than thousand years later there came a dispute between Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther. Luther taught the Augustinian view of freedom and predestination and Erasmus was on the Semi-Pelagian side, only he seemed to think that ...




Welcome To The Staunch Calvinist Simon Wartanian | 5,360 views | 555 Words | 08 March 2014 16:57
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/Welcome-To-The-Staunch-Calvinist/1&search=BOOK REVIEW&precision=exact

Welcome to The Staunch Calvinist. This is a place where Calvinistic Theology will be displayed. A place where the Doctrines of Grace will be explained and defended. This is a place where the Sovereignty of God is cherished and promoted. We hope you will be ministered to through the materials on the website. Our goal is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and honor Him. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14

The following document may help you to understand the Biblical case for ‘Calvinism’: God's Absolute Sovereignty – A case for Calvinism

I have two sections dedicated to the Doctrines of Grace, defining the Doctrines of Grace & defending the Doctrines of Grace which are taken from the document above. In the General section you will find some BOOK REVIEWs and the resources from which I mainly drew the content of the “God’s Absolute Sovereignty” document.

As a Reformed Baptist, I started the 1689 Confession section wherein I seek to explain the chapters and make a case for what is said on a particular subject. As of 18/09/2016 the commentary is complete:

  1. Of the Holy Scriptures
  2. Of God and the Holy Trinity (the attributes of God and a case for the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity)
  3. Of God’s Decree (I make a case for predestination, election, reprobation and absolute sovereignty even over evil and sin)
  4. Of Creation
  5. Of Divine Providence
  6. Of the Fall of Man, Of Sin, And of the Punishment Thereof (Total Depravity)
  7. Of God’s Covenant (1689 Federalism)
  8. Of Christ the Mediator (including a case for the Substitutionary Atonement, Active and Passive Obedience of Christ, Definite Atonement and answers to passages used against the doctrine)
  9. Of Free WIll (with the help of Jonathan Edwards, the consistency of moral agency being found in carrying one's desires, the inconsistencies of libertarian free will, explanation of necessity and inability)
  10. Of Effectual Calling (with a case for infant salvation)
  11. Of Justification (faith is a gift and regeneration precedes faith)
  12. Of Adoption
  13. Of Sanctification
  14. Of Saving Faith
  15. Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation
  16. Of Good Works
  17. Of The Perseverance Of The Saints (Positive case for the Reformed doctrine and responses to passages such as Hebrews 6 and the like)
  18. Of The Assurance Of Grace And Salvation
  19. Of The Law Of God (Threefold Division of the Law, the Decalogue before Moses, a brief exposition of the Decalogue, ceremonial and civil laws, the abiding moral law under the New Covenant in the OT prophecy and the NT, Threefold Uses of the Law, The Law and the Gospel)
  20. Of The Gospel, And Of The Extent Of The Grace Thereof
  21. Of Christian Liberty And Liberty of Conscience
  22. Of Religious Worship And the Sabbath Day (A case for the Regulative Principle of Worship and the Christian Sabbath)
  23. Of Lawful Oaths And Vows
  24. Of The Civil Magistrate
  25. Of Marriage
  26. Of The Church
  27. Of the Communion of Saints
  28. Of Baptism And The Lord's Supper
  29. Of Baptism
  30. Of The Lord's Supper
  31. Of The State Of Man After Death And Of The Resurrection Of The Dead (Intermediate State Hades, Sheol, Heaven; A Case for Amillennial Eschatology; critique of Premillennialism)
  32. Of The Last Judgment (Endless punishment in Hell contra Annihilationism)