Thursday, February 28, 2013

R.C. Sproul Reveals Himself to be Heterodox

"At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone," wrote R.C. Sproul here, "she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution."

R.C.'s words serve as a good example of the false type of thinking that I argued against in my article 'Sola Fide: The Great Ecumenical Doctrine.'  A correct understanding of Sola Fide not only undermines the legitimacy of Sproul's position, but reveals his theology of salvation to be heterodox. 

Sproul is unfortunately echoing a large body of evangelical thought whereby the notion that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone for salvation has been confused with the notion that ‘we are saved by believing in justification by faith alone.’ I have come across this error frequently in conversations with evangelicals who have told me that while individual Roman Catholics can be saved, this can only happen if they “trust in Christ alone for salvation.” When asked what it means to “trust in Christ alone”, they will say that this means that the person must not trust in their works. That is to say, the Roman Catholic must assent to Sola Fide before the possibility even exists of them being justified by grace. Thus, while Sola Fide may not be a sufficient condition for being saved, it is certainly perceived to be necessary for salvation.

But such a position is heterodox, as I hope to show.


"Liberty is not a natural right of man (as Rousseau had claimed), but the product of tradition, family, and faith. It is passed on in much the same way as property is transmitted, from one generation to another, namely, through inheritance. To support this notion of liberty as an inheritance, Burke pointed to the great freedoms of the British tradition, showing that they had accumulated over a period stretching back to the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Rights, and the entire network of common law freedoms which the hereditary succession of the monarchy helped to preserve. The legacy of these liberties would not long abide a generation that was willing to cast off the heritage of their ancestors. Because of this, whenever Burke wished to reform, it was in order to conserve." Saints and Scoundrels, page 181


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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lecture on King John

I'll be lecturing on King John this Wednesday evening at Christ the King Anglican Church. For details of the lecture series, click here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Say It, Evan Sayet! A Comic Gets Serious on The Modern Liberal

A Review of The KinderGarden of Eden: How the Modern Liberal Thinks, by Evan Sayet
by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

Evan Sayet
In March, 2007, Evan Sayet delivered a speech to the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. called "How Modern Liberals Think." It became a YouTube sensation. Andrew Breitbart called it "one of the five most important speeches ever given."

He started off his talk by saying, "I've got to imagine that just about every one of us in this room recognizes that the Democrats are wrong on just about every issue. Well, I'm here to propose to you that it's not just 'just about' every issue; it's quite literally every issue. And it's not just wrong; it's as wrong as wrong can be." A comic at heart, but deadly serious about the threat Modern Liberalism and its kissing cousin, Progressivism, pose to decent people everywhere, Sayet says that the Modern Liberal will at every turn side with:
  • The evil over the good
  • The wrong over the right
  • The lesser over the better
  • The ugly over the beautiful
  • The vulgar over the refined, and
  • The behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Racism and Slavery in Puritan New England (Part 4)

Jonathan Edwards wrote in defense of slavery
In this series of articles on racism and slavery in Puritan New England, we have seen that Puritans often treated their Black and Native  American neighbors as sub-human. For example, New England law permitted Puritans to abuse their slaves even if it led to their deaths, as we saw was the case with the puritan minister, Stephen Williams, who drove enslaved Africans to take their lives within days of beating them without pity.

Though most Puritans were kind to their slaves, New England law allowed African Americans to be treated in dehumanizing ways, including making it possible for masters to separate husbands and wives or to remove children from parents for economic gain.

Racism and Slavery in Puritan New England (Part 3)

Our previous articles, 'Racism and Slavery in Puritan New England (Part 1)' and 'Racism and Slavery in Puritan New England (Part 2)' looked at the problem of racism and slavery in Puritan New England. We saw that New England Puritans gave themselves the power to force married slave couples to live separately, and that they also gave themselves the power to remove children from parents at will. We also saw that the institution of slavery in Puritan New England was underpinned by racist attitudes towards non-whites.

This article and the following article will continue the discussion by looking at the role of the Great Awakening on the question of race and slavery in New England.

Richard Bailey’s seminal book Race and Redemption in Puritan New England is invaluable in showing that where non-whites were concerned, redemption was almost entirely conceived in spiritual and invisible terms. Bailey has shown that the concern shared by Puritan leaders of the colonial period for the souls of Africans and Native Americans was matched by an equally great acquiescence concerning their material condition. When it came to the theology of equality, Puritan religious leaders scrupulously guarded the public sphere against truths that were affirmed on Sunday morning, thus driving a wedge between the spiritual and the material.

Cotton Mather
The architects of the Great Awakening followed the New England Puritans in showing enormous concern to bring salvation to the men, women and children who had been enslaved. Yet the great concern they had for the spiritual redemption of Africans was matched by an almost equally great ambivalence as to the physical redemption of those who had been the unwilling victims of the trade in human flesh. Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and countless others could all confidently call for the evangelization of the slaves while turning a blind eye to—and sometimes offering an outright defence of—the institutions that made chattel slavery possible in the first place.

Racism and Slavery in Puritan New England (Part 2)

The larger issue behind the question of slavery was the question of race. Why was it that in Puritan New England only Blacks and Indians could be enslaved and not Whites? While a white person might enter into a condition of indentured servitude, the law always protected such a person from the type of slavery inflicted upon blacks. What was it about being White specifically that allowed a person to come under an alternative ethical and legal framework than Blacks and Native Americas?

The answer to this question is not clear, but it may have had something to do with the fact that the Puritans thought of themselves as the New Israel while thinking of all “others” (which in their context included all non-whites) as Canaanites. 

Puritanism and National Mission

In his Place and Belonging in America, Jacobson showed that there was a seamless web between religion and land that featured in the background of disputes between early colonists and the Native Americans, since it allowed the Puritans to attach covenantal—and at times even eschatological—importance to the land they believed God had given them. At its most perverse this would justify the idea of the messianic nation, since it allowed the Puritans to develop a unique typology which appropriated to themselves and their land the Biblical motifs of the New Israel.

Racism and Slavery in Puritan New England (Part 1)

Last year a friend of mine from church asked me if the colonial Puritans were racist since many of them supported slavery. My first response was to point out that there is no necessary connection between supporting slavery and being racist, and I told him I doubted that the New England Puritans had been racist. However, I promised to look into the matter.

After having spent months researching it, I have come across compelling evidence to suggest that, as a whole, the New England Puritans were indeed very racist. I will be sharing my findings in a series of blog posts. I will also make available for download a pdf where the text of these posts will be fully referenced with footnotes verifying every claim I make.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Oils to Help Reduce ADD and ADHD Symptoms

If you or your child finds it difficult to concentrate because of having ADD or ADHD symptoms, there are a range of oils you should consider. In a previous post I spoke about oils that help with concentration, and many of these also help with ADD and ADHD, especially the Brainpower and Clarity blends. Both Brainpower and Clarity have been highly effective in helping people to reduce ADD and ADHD symptoms.

Here are some other oils which are also effective for people who suffer from ADD and ADHD.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

David Attenborough condemns humanity as “a plague on the Earth”

Sir David Attenborough
Human beings are “a plague on the Earth”, Sir David Attenborough recently told Britain's Radio Times.

Known for his nature documentaries and environmental activism, the 86 year old naturalist believes that human beings need to voluntarily die off in order to protect the environment. If they do not, he predicted then nature herself will assume the role of executioner.

“It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde” he said. “Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us”.

This isn’t the first time Attenborough has assumed the role of doomsday prophet. In 2002 he commented that “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it’s time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment.”

Keep reading...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Evangelical Cultural Productivity

In James Davison Hunter book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, Hunter explains about some of the liabilities that have held back effective evangelical cultural productivity:
First, the works that are produced are almost exclusively directed to the internal needs of the faithful. This insularity is quite striking. The Evangelical world is not only difficult for outsiders to understand (consider the caricatures that abound) but also nearly impossible for them to penetrate. Evangelicals, in other words, offer little by way of a common vocabulary of shared like informed by faith but not exclusive to it. Second, this cultural productivity all tends to operate closer to the margins than to the center of the broader field of cultural production…. Third cultural production in the Evangelical world is overwhelmingly oriented toward the popular. Very much like its retail politics, its music is popular music, its art tends to be popular (highly sentimentalized and commercialized) art, its theater is mega-church drama, its publishing is mainly mass-market book publishing with a heavy bent towards ‘how-to’ books, its magazines are mass-circulation monthlies, its television is either in the format of a worship service or the talk show, its recent forays into film are primarily into popular film, and much academic work is oriented towards translations – making the difficult accessible to the largest possible number. Where there are exceptions to the rule, overall, the populist orientation of Evangelical cultural production reflects the most kitschy expressions of consumerism and often the most crude forms of market instrumentalism.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alfred the Great Lecture in Spokane Tomorrow

Alfred the Great and the Beginning of Britain

First lecture in Lenten Soup & Supper Series

Free soup and supper
Wednesday, February 20
Christ the King Church
2103 East Mission Ave
Supper begins at 6:30 pm, the lecture at 7:00.


Directions to the event can be found at the Christ the King Anglican Church website.


Robin Phillips will be speaking about some of the good guys and bad guys in his book Saints and Scoundrels.

Further Information

Further information about these events can be found on Robin's blog, and the Christ the King Anglican Church Website and on our Lenten Soup and Supper Facebook page.

Future Lectures in the series:

February 20: 'Alfred the Great and the Beginning of Britain'
February 27: 'Bad King John and Medieval Britain'
March 6: 'Richard Baxter: Making the Resurrection Practical'
March 13: 'Rousseau and the French Revolution'
March 20: 'Dorothy Sayers Against the Gnostics'

Monday, February 18, 2013

Jonathan Edwards on Evil

In my blog post 'Hell, Universalism and Some Remaining Questions', I interacted with the following words from Jonathan Edwards.
“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . . .

Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.
If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired. . . .
So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.” 
I have always been uneasy with that type of reasoning since it seems to implicate that there are unrealized potencies within the godhead. Consider that the Triune God is completely self-sufficient and doesn't need to have evil to demonstrate His character any more than He needed to create the world, let alone redeemed it, in order to demonstrate His personality (Saint Augustine makes this points lucidly in his Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love). God could have left our first parents in a state of bondage, He could have chosen for less or more people to be redeemed, He could have chosen not to create at all. The only things God cannot do are those things which contradict His nature.
The implication of saying that if God didn’t have a group of people to be angry with for all eternity that one whole side of his character (namely His hatred of sin) would not be able to be demonstrated, manifested or expressed, is essentially to say that God requires an opposite in order for Him to be good, or at least for such goodness to be fully actualized or manifested? A corollary of this is that throughout all eternity, the goodness and justice inherent in the blessed Trinity was always incomplete. On the other hand, if the members of the Trinity are completely self-sufficient and could fully appreciate their own justice independent of creation, then it would be possible for God’s redeemed and glorified children to appreciate God’s goodness and justice apart from the existence of evil, unless we can first produce an a priori argument to the contrary.
Consider further, if evil is necessary in order for God's goodness to be manifested, and if the manifestation of such goodness is a crucial part of what it means for God to be Lord (since otherwise God’s hatred of sin couldn’t find an outlet), then it follows that creation is necessary in order for God to be Lord since creation is itself a precondition to evil. In that case, God would not be Lord prior to creation. Ergo, creation is not an overflow of God’s abundance but something that was necessary in order to realize a certain aspect of His character. This lands us uncomfortably close to what some Arians have proposed. I have met Arians who said that in order for God to be Lord, He must eternally be Lord over something; ergo, the Son must be eternally subordinate to the authority of God the Father.
In The Pleasures of God, John Piper seems to go even further than Edwards, suggesting that the pain, evil and the misery of some are a necessary pre-condition for the ever-increasing enjoyment of the saints. This seems to leave us with a kind of dualism since it makes goodness eternally dependent on evil. Again, if taken to its logical consequence, this would entail that evil must be just as eternal as the blessed Trinity.


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Friday, February 15, 2013

On Christendom

"What is just as important as defeating or converting God’s enemies is the positive work of building up the culture of Christendom. For every Berlin wall that crashes to the ground, there are dozens of churches to be raised up, schools to be created, homes to be established. For each Roman coliseum that decays into ruins, there remain hundreds of libraries to be built, hymns to be composed, families to be nurtured in the faith. Here again, God does not work ex nihilo but calls men and women to be agents in His kingdom-building work.” Saints and Scoundrels, pages 13-14

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Egalitarianism vs. Complementarianism

As a follow-up to my remarks in 2011 about feminism and male domination being two sides of the same coin, I thought the following table might be useful in outlining the differences between the egalitarian vs. complementarian views of gender. Though I hold to a complementarian view, I have tried to be fair in representing the egalitarian position.

Egalitarian Theory of Gender

Complementarian Theory of Gender
Points of Contention:

  • Men and women are equal in all respects other than biology.

  • Individual persons and society in general both have an ethical obligation to treat men and women the same.

Points of Contention:

  • Men and women have been created as the natural compliment of each other.

  • Men have a unique role that only they can fulfil just as women have a unique role that only they can fulfil. Such roles are equal in value and dignity but unequal in function.

Arguments for Egalitarianism:

  • Because men and women are equal in both value and human nature they are also equal in respect to their functions and tasks.

  • Within the Christian and Islamic traditions, a denial of Egalitarianism has historically been accompanied by subordination of women to men.

  • Men and women flourish best when they are treated equally.

  • Though Complimentarianism sounds good in the abstract, in practice it is degrading to women since it puts men in positions of authority over them.

  • Egalitarianism acts as a hedge against male chauvinism, patriarchy and gender hierarchy.

  • Complimentarians typically sidestep the central questions, which is not whether there are beneficial differences between the sexes, but whether such differences warrant the inequitable roles, rights, and opportunities prescribed by advocates of gender hierarchy.

  • Lack of gender equality implies male superiority

Arguments for Complimentarianism:

  • The Bible teaches Complementarianism.

  • It is possible to live consistently with the principles of Complementarianism whereas Egalitarians are compelled to make frequent exceptions to their principles in real life.

  • Egalitarianism is based on a faulty non sequitur[1], assuming that equality of function and task can be derived from equality of human nature and of value. By contrast, Complementarianism completely avoids this error.

  • The claims of Egalitarianism are unscientific since they have been disproved by contemporary neuroscience and cognitive psychology.

  • The role-differentiation assumed by Complementarians is Trinitarian, emphasizing the beauty of mutual interdependence.

  • Men and women flourish best when they function as one another’s compliments.

  • Evidence exists for the fact that the different bodily structures of men and women lead to different lived experiences in the world. Such differentiation makes Egalitarianism impractical.

[1]  “Non sequitur” is Latin for “it does not follow” and is used in formal logic to describe an argument in which the conclusion does not follow from its premises.

Count the F's

Count how many "f"s you think are in the following passage and write down your answer in the comments section of this post.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Guns and Killing

I have now published the first two articles in a new series for the Colson Center on the topic of guns and killing.

In the first two articles I look at the writings of the founding fathers to discover the original intent behind the Second Amendment. I also explore reasons why I believe gun control is a bad idea. To read the articles, click on the following links:

Future articles in this series will look at the negative aspects of killing. I will raise concerns about the culture of violence within the pro-gun lobby which ranges everywhere from a "make my day" bravado, so an irresponsible approach to the dangers of violent computer games.


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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why the Biblicism of Jay Adams is Bad

Jay Adams
Christians are called to be Biblical, but they are not called to be Biblicist. This is because being a Biblicist is unbiblical. But what do I mean by these terms? To put it simply, Biblicism is an approach to scripture which emphasizes the Bible’s complete clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning and, above all, emphasizes the direct applicability of the Bible to every department of human life.

The key here is the word ‘direct.’ Ranald Macaulay once explained Biblical authority like this. He was speaking in a cathedral which didn’t have any electric lights but was lit up by shafts of light coming through the windows. The shafts of light came down in spotlights, directly lighting up certain areas but indirectly lighting up the entire building. He then said that  Biblical authority to that. I think that's a good analogy. The Bible does not address every area of life, just as the shafts of light did not spotlight every inch of the inside of the cathedral. In order to do that the Bible would have to be not only true, but exhaustive. Instead the Bible spotlights certain areas and through them the light of God’s truth difuses to every other area of life. While there is no department of life that the Bible does not address indirectly, in only addresses some areas directly. To be a Biblical thinker means that in every area of life, one will seek to see how the Bible applies either directly or indirectly.

The Biblicist, on the other hand, acts as if every department of life is lit up directly by scripture. This is the approach taken by Jay Adams, whose Biblicism entails him to argue that the Bible is a textbook on counseling, a view he defends here. Jay Adams has made clear in a number of places that although modern psychology can lend insights to our understanding of human behavior, in principle all such insights can be inferred directly from scripture. For Adams the Bible is sufficient in the sense that it directly addresses all human problems. Consequently, the Bible could be treated as a textbook for counseling. As he writes here, speaking of the Christian counselor:
"He does not confront him with his own ideas or the ideas of others. He limits his counsel strictly to that which may be found in the Bible, believing that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and useful for teaching, for conviction, for correction and for disciplined training in righteousness in order to fit and fully equip the man from God for every good task." (2 Timothy 3:16,17) The nouthetic counselor believes that all that is needed to help another person love God and his neighbor as he should, as the verse above indicates, may be found in the Bible.”
No Biblicist is ever entirely consistent since it is impossible to use technology and live in the world without implicitly endorsing disciplines or fields of study not directly addressed in scripture. But the Biblicist tries his hardest to infer everything directly from scripture. Jay Adams did this through frequent word studies and exegesis that theologically conservative Bible scholars often found highly questionable.

Stan Jones and Richard Butman pointed out the problem with this in their book Modern Psychotherapies and in Psychology and the Christian Faith: An Introductory Reader: “While the Bible provides us with life’s most important and ultimate answers as well as the starting points for knowledge of the human condition, it is not an all-sufficient guide for the discipline of counseling. The Bible is inspired and precious, but it is also a revelation of limited scope, the main concern of which is religious in its presentation of God’s redemptive plan for people and the great doctrines of the faith.”

Make no mistake – in giving us insight into religious categories and God’s redemptive purposes, scripture sheds light indirectly on all areas of life. However, since this light is indirect, Christians must work responsibly with other subordinate authorities such as science and empirical observation, using these tools within the Biblical framework. For example, Christians should not be afraid to use with discernment the insights of a man like Freud, since his observations about the human unconscious (much of which is now being verified through advances in neuoroscience) may help to shed light on areas that the Bible only indirectly touches upon. Since the Bible teaches the existence of an objective world, observation about how the world works, including the human brain, can be seen as a further application of the dominion mandate.
The key question is this: has the Bible really given us all we need to construct a system of counseling, or has it given us the framework in which we can use subordinant sources of knowledge (i.e., science and eimpirical observation) to construct a system within the overall umbrella of the Biblical worldview? The same question could, of course, be asked of other disciplines. When we construct automobiles or study the composition of soil, we are working indirectly under the Biblical paradigm, since these are expressions of the dominion mandate. But the Bible doesn’t contain any verses that will tell me how to fix my Dodge. I have to use the subordinate authority (endorsed by scripture) of empirical observation for that.

In order for Adam’s Biblicism to work, we would have to grant that the Bible is not only true, but exhaustive. For Adams the Bible didn’t simply give us a grid by which we can sift the questions of life, but was a counseling cookbook. This led him to de-emphasize the legitimate role that science can play in helping us to understand and even to treat human problems. He wanted to circumscribe psychologists to the domain of science and medicine treating only physical problems while pastors would treat the behavior issues. He once said, “I deplore psychology’s venture into the realms of value, behavior and attitudinal change because it is an intrusion upon the work of the minister…” It is hard to see how these statements do reality to the doctrine of God's common grace.

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