Puritan Gems

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Atheism's Groundless Epistemology Exposed

"Tim The Teacher" tries to build his case against God by using arguments based on radical empiricism. In the end, he has no ground on which to stand. Let's pray that he will treat his own materialistic worldview with equal skepticism, and that the Master will claim Tim for His own.

See A Question Of Faith.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Eternal Security and Sanctification

“… In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:4-5)

It is often said by the critics of the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints that such security trends to lead to lasciviousness. There is some cause for concern in this area, especially when this doctrine is mixed with “free will” salvation. I’ve met more than one poor deluded soul who, despite living a godless life, considered himself saved on the basis that, at one point in his life, he went to an altar and repeated a prayer (more on this tragic practice in a few weeks). In such cases, the problem with the “once saved, always saved” approach isn’t with the “always saved”, but rather with the “once saved”. Eternal security is not meant to be fire insurance for the wicked, and abuses of doctrine are not the cause of the doctrine itself. Those who profess such a vain religion would to well to heed the words of our Saviour.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:21-23)

For the believer, however, the Doctrine of Eternal Security should lead to greater sanctification, for it is the secure believer who has the freedom to dig deep within his wicked heart and purge whatever great deformity he may find. He may pray as David did, with confidence:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23-24)

In contrast, those who fear losing their salvation are rarely led to greater sanctification. They are dangerously relying on what Charles Spurgeon referred to as “Carnal Security”. Rather than take joy in their adoption, they rely on their own works to maintain their justification, and then foolishly think that they have succeeded. They must lower God’s standard of perfection, and cannot be honest about their own sinfulness. They think well of themselves if they attend a church service, say a few prayers and devotions, and avoid any “big” sins. I would ask such a person, “How much is required in order to maintain ones justification? How many sins does it take to lose it? Do sins such as gossip and private, lustful thoughts count?” Indeed, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength…” (Jeremiah 17:5)

Look at these beautiful words. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons…” (Ephesians 1:4-5). What glorious confidence that should provide for us as we continue to examine our hearts! Friend, there is no reason to hold anything back, for the Lord already sees it. Let us approach the Great Physician as a son approaches a father, allowing Him to perform the necessary heart surgery, confident that He is preparing us for glory.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Egalitarianism: An Examination of the Alleged Supporting Scriptures

“For those things which I have already mentioned might easily be performed by many even of those who are under authority, women as well as men; but when one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also… The divine law indeed has excluded women from the ministry, but they endeavor to thrust themselves into it; and since they can effect nothing of themselves, they do all through the agency of others; and they have become invested with so much power that they can appoint or eject priests at their will; things in fact are turned upside down, and the proverbial saying may be seen realized —“The ruled lead the rulers:” and would that it were men who do this instead of women, who have not received a commission to teach. Why do I say teach? For the blessed Paul did not suffer them even to speak in the Church.” (Chrysostom - The Priesthood 2:2 , 3:9).

“In the New Testament the Holy Spirit, speaking through St Paul, ordained that women should be silent in the churches and assemblies (1 Cor. 14:34), and said that this is the Lord's commandment? In the congregations or churches where there is a ministry women are to be silent and not preach (1 Timothy 2:12).” (Martin Luther - Infiltrating and Clandestine Preachers, Works 40:390-91).

In light of the recent close vote (446 to 427) in the PCA concerning the ordination of “deaconesses”, as well as the increasing number of female pastors in many denominations, I thought it would be profitable to examine some of the Scriptures that are commonly used in support of women in ordained ministry, despite the very clear commandment of 1 Timothy 2:12. The following arguments appear in a publication by a well known Pentecostal denomination which practices the ordination of women ministers.

1.) “Junia was a female apostle” (Romans 16:7).

Romans 16:7 does not state the Junia was an apostle, or any type of church leader. Some translations say that she was “of note among the apostles” (ASV. KVJ, etc.) The meaning is clarified by the ESV, that she was “well known to the apostles”. For that matter, it’s not even clear that Junia was a woman, since the Greek “Iounian” could also be translated “Junias” (a male name), as some early transcripts read.

In any case, there were only 14 Apostles (the original 12, plus Mattias and Paul). The term “Apostle” here referring to the church office, not the generic term that many try to cause confusion with.

2.) “in Christ, there is neither male or female” (Galatians 3:28).

Clearly a misused text (See Most Misused Bible Passages Poll). Taken to its logical extreme, this sort of exegesis could be used to support gay marriage (Don’t laugh, this is being done). The passage is clearly used to emphasize the fact that salvation is not dependent on social standing. The passage is not meant to blur the clear distinction between men and women, and thus their qualification for church office or teaching in public ministry.

3.) “Paul also allowed women to “teach” in (Romans 16:1-6; Philippians 4:2-3). Thus he presumably addressed 1Timothy to the specific situation in a specific community.”

The cited passages do not suggest that women are allowed to teach (not to mention that those who use this argument never manage to explain what the “specific situation” in 1 Timothy was). There are many ways that a woman can (and should) be “workers in Christ Jesus” without holding an ordained office or teaching in public worship. That same is true with Philippians 4, and there are many ways to “labor…in the gospel” without holding an ordained office or teaching in public worship.

The clearest passage regarding women teaching is 1 Timothy 2:12, and Paul really leaves no ambiguity in his statement. To suggest that Paul was addressing a “specific situation in a specific community.” is presumptuous indeed. Especially when Paul was clearly addressing Timothy in regards to “all people” (without distinction) (v. 1, 4, 6). Paul goes on to suggest that “in every place the men should pray” (v.8). Does that apply only to the specific situation in Timothy, or to men in every place? On what basis, then, would anyone suggest that Paul suddenly shift gears and applies vs. 12 to “a specific situation”? Certainly not sound biblical exegesis.

4.) “Joel explicitly emphasized that when God poured out His Spirit, women as well as men would prophesy (Joel 2:28-29).”

This is the most common argument, with another misused passage, though not quite as clear, since preaching is a form of prophesying. When Peter was citing this passage, he was applying it to what had just happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). There were 3,000 people with him, and yet he was the only one “preaching”. No one else was preaching, and no women had been ordained to church office. It’s best to let the Bible apply its own meaning to a passage rather than try to make it say something that it doesn’t.

5.) “Slaves can be saved and also receive gifts for ministry equally, so can Gentiles, so can women.”

Gifts for ministry do not necessarily entail preaching or ordination for church office. Over and over again, those offices are strictly limited to men. In 1 Timothy 2:12, God left no wiggle room for interpretation, nor did He contradict Himself on the other passages that we just dealt with.
I would ask those who voted “yes” in the GA, as I have often asked in regards to 1 Timothy 2:12: Let’s suppose, just for a second, the Paul had actually meant that he does “not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man”, and that “she is to remain quiet” in church. How else could he have expressed that sentiment any clearer than he did here? Versa ipsa loquitur.

6.) “Women ministers have led many to Christ”.

True or not, this is a common argument adopting a pragmatic worldview, that the end justifies the means. It is used to support everything from altar calls, church clowns and jugglers, Rock and Roll “Worship” services, and false TBN preachers. I would ask those who use this argument to consider if what Judas Iscariot did should be justified on the basis that it has saved so many people. Truth should never be expendable for perceived successful results. The ends never justify the means, especially when those means are unbiblical.

If it make anyone feel better, there are very few men that are qualified for ordained office as well, but those who do qualify are exclusively men. This last vote was a bit too close for my comfort.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Justification by Calvinism?

And I thought I was a doctrinal hardcase...

There is an interesting discussion on the Puritan Board concerning Arminianism and Salvation. Not a few posters have expressed the belief that Arminianism in any form disqualifies one from the kingdom of God.

As a former "saved Arminian" who knows quite a few saved Arminians, I needed to take exception to such a broad sweeping statement. The difficulty comes in trying to define what Arminianism is. Granted, the classic historical Arminian belief system is incompatible with Biblical Christianity. Fortunately, there are very few pure Arminians today. The vast majoity of those who call themselves Arminians would be shocked at what Arminianism actually teaches (ie. Christ death offered no payment for sins, etc.)

The question is whether one can obtain saving faith and still be in error about how that faith was obtained. I would answer in the affirmative. The Galatian Church taught justification by works. Paul unapologetically refuted the error, but never once suggested that the Galatian Church was anything other than a true church. We need the grace to recognize that "The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error" (WCF Chapter XXV:V.).

Arminianism in any form is a gross error, and we should do all in our power to correct it. But there is an equal danger of adding "Belief in Calvinism" to the Ordo Salutis, and teaching "Justification by Calvinism". I'm just not there.