Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Biblical Inerrancy

Considering Biblical Inerrancy, I support the positions of both subjective Biblical inerrancy and plenary verbal inspiration. Although doctrinal purity and theological assertions of truth are dependent upon inerrancy, a more important conclusion of inerrancy relates to the sovereignty of God. If God is incapable of preserving his Word throughout the generations without error, then the authority to which we appeal logically falls upon Church tradition and the teachings of man. Considering the imperfect nature of man, an authority not resting in Scripture alone does more to supply unbelievers with the necessary arguments against the inspiration of Scripture than it does for the inerrancy of Scripture (For if God is incapable of preserving His Word without error, how can we trust Him as the source of revelation when that revelation was physically penned by fallible man?). Likely the strongest arguments, even if the most overused in support of inspiration, are 2 Peter 1:20 and 2 Timothy 3:16. If inspiration is from the Holy Spirit and not man, then it is reasonable to assume the implied inerrancy of Scripture here in that the life of God is what sustains His Word, and not the effort of man. Coupling this fact with the nature of God, being incapable of deceit, we cannot claim that error exists in Scripture without calling into question God’s purity as it relates to deception or His sovereignty as it relates to Scriptural preservation. Believing that all Scripture is true is an imperative presupposition in order to understand the Scriptural claims of the necessity for repentance and placing one’s faith in Christ for salvation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Refutation of “Good Friday”

In light of the approaching Easter holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss an issue related to the resurrection. Although we commonly associate "Good Friday" as the day of Christ's death, my attempt here will be to present Biblical and historical evidence refuting this tradition. This may be difficult for some to review with an unbiased opinion based upon a general acceptance of 2000 years of Church tradition pointing to Friday as the day of Christ's death; however, I am hoping that we can put our biases aside long enough to thoughtfully consider the Scriptures. In presenting the evidence, I will first answer five questions whose answers are explicitly documented (with references) in Scripture, followed by a final question relating to the Jewish reckoning of time and tying all the Scripture references presented to answer the first five questions in support of a Thursday day of death for Christ together. Enjoy!

When did Jesus die?

Jesus died (on Thursday) at approximately the 9th hour, that is, 3pm.

Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46

How long was Jesus in the burial tomb?

Jesus was in the tomb for three days and three nights.

Matthew 12:39-40; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

When was Jesus raised?

Jesus was raised the third day.

Matthew 16:21; John 2:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:4

What day was the “third day?”

The “third day” was the first day of the week, that is, Sunday.

Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1-8.

When was Jesus buried?

Jesus was buried at night (Thursday evening to us, the end of the day; Friday evening to the Jew, the beginning of the day).

Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56.

What considerations must we take regarding the Jewish reckoning of time in the New Testament?

a. Jews reckon time in accordance with Genesis 1, “there was evening and there was morning.” To the Jew, a day ends and begins at evening; approximately 6pm.

b. Jews reckon any portion of a day to be considered as a full day in counting sequence. Therefore, the 3 hours before 6pm are to be considered a full day.

c. Relating the rendering of time to the NT era, the 6th hour is noon while the 9th hour is 3pm. This is in regards to the day (i.e. daytime) starting at 6am with the new day (i.e. nighttime) starting at 6pm.

d. Looking again to Genesis 1, the time must first pass before it is counted. Considering this, 6am is not the start of the first hour, but rather, 7am is hour 1. This enables us to understand the 6th hour as 12pm and not 11am.

e. Reviewing all these things, a Wednesday death makes for 4 days and 4 nights of burial or 5 days and 4 nights of death, while a Friday death makes for 2 days and 2 nights of burial or 3 days and 2 nights of death.

f. This makes Thursday 4 days and 3 nights of death or 3 days and 3 nights of burial.

g. The only day of death that contains a period of 3 days and 3 nights is Thursday, if looking at the sequence in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 convinces us of time reckoned to burial which reconciles with Matthew 12:39-40, rather than time reckoned to death which no day can satisfy.

Taking all of this information into consideration, one must answer two questions. First, what is our source of authority? Granted, 2000 years of Church tradition supports the idea of Good Friday, however, the final authority in matters of faith and practice is sola scriptura (Scripture alone) not sola ecclesia (the Church alone). All theological determinations related to orthodoxy and orthopraxy must come from Scripture, not mere tradition, regardless of how long that tradition has existed or how strong the conviction to follow that tradition is. Secondly, understanding our final source of authority is Scripture alone, are we willing to set aside any previous beliefs which have been refuted by that authority? It is hard to change when we have come to a place of comfort in our faith and convictions. However, in the interest of searching out the truth of Scripture, one must be loyal to the inspired Word of God as opposed to the man-made traditions of the Church. Legalistic dogma was rebuked by Christ and the Word is a tool to correct any misunderstandings of our faith. As a last point, and most importantly, whether you still believe in “Good Friday” or have accepted the Biblical evidence supporting “Good Thursday,” we can all rejoice in the fact that our faith is fulfilled not in the death of Christ, but rather in His glorious resurrection! God bless.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Response to Bill Wagner

Considering the comments of Dr. Wagner (click here), I must say that I received Christ by a Gospel presentation given through a tract and by means of the "Sinner's Prayer." Having experienced this, I would not neglect the fact that people can be saved by Gospel tracts and by an individual presenting the Gospel in hopes of the completion of the "Sinner's Prayer." All this aside, I also understand that I am not saved because I prayed a prayer, because I read a tract, or because I walked an aisle. In fact, I believe that the "Sinner's Prayer" was more of a way to work out a new attitude of repentance and faithfulness to God rather than a particular moment of salvation. It seems with emphasis on the "Altar Call" and the "Sinner's Prayer" devoid of any meaningful theology, we have created a new kind of Christian: A backslider. How often we hear that term relating to some "Christian" who persists in a lifestyle of sin. The very fact that Calvinists are so evangelistic (sharing both the whole counsel of God and not using some man-made gimmick to effect salvation) is the major reason I first began to examine the claims of the Doctrines of Grace in accordance with Scripture.

The other side of both the giving of the "Altar Call" and recitation of the "Sinner's Prayer" is that many who use these methods as their primary tools of evangelism are too quick to affirm the new "believer" in the certainty of salvation before having viewed their fruits. Really, the issue seems to tie together the tenets of Calvinism. Believing man is capable of coming to God on his own, believing that God chooses us because we will choose Him, believing that anyone can be saved if we just coerce them enough, and believing that God cannot draw us unless we allow Him only causes man to create methods in which we can do all the work so that we can get all the glory.

Are we to work? Yes. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. So we are to preach the Gospel with fervency. However, God is both the author and finisher of our faith, solely responsible for effecting salvation, but yet not removing our responsibility to Him in our obedience to that Gospel and the preaching thereof.

Does Calvinism "Limit" God?

I’m confused. Dr. James Flanagan, President of Luther Rice Seminary, has stated, “We believe that Jesus' death is sufficient to save all mankind but is efficacious only for those who believe. We reject the notion that Jesus died just for the elect.” It sounds as if Dr. Flanagan is a closet Calvinist. His first statement indicates Jesus’ death is sufficient to all, but efficient only to believers (i.e. the “elect”). His second statement indicates the rejection of Jesus' death for the elect. So which is it? Does he believe that Jesus' death is efficient only for the elect, or does he believe Jesus' death is not efficient only for the elect?

The apparent contradiction is obvious. It seems that many non-Calvinists or those who identify with Amyraldism (4-point Calvinism rejecting Limited Atonement) take issue with the idea of Limited Atonement a.k.a. Particular Redemption. The issue seems to be one of confusion over what Calvinists believe on this point. From the Canons of Dort, the Second Main Point of Doctrine, Article 3, “This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.”

This statement clarifies the misunderstanding of those not holding to Limited Atonement that Calvinists do not simply believe Jesus died for the elect and was incapable of saving anyone else. We understand the extent of God’s power to save through the Cross, but distinguish that Jesus died efficiently for the elect alone. If we say that Christ died for everyone, then we indicate an insufficiency in God’s ability to save everyone in which Christ supposedly died for. This is because we know many will spend eternity in Hell after having rejected the Gospel time and again during their lives. I believe this is more an issue of semantics than of theology. The principle of Limited Atonement refers to the efficiency (application) of salvation through the Cross, not the capability of that Cross. Calvinists are not limiting God, just confessing the reality of to whom His salvation is applied.

A second issue this raises is that if atonement were universal, there would be no need for evangelism. While many non-Calvinists state the non-missional nature of Calvinism, the very fact remains that the work of preaching the Gospel is unnecessary if all are to be saved. In this sense, non-Calvinists at the heart are identifying with hypercalvinists by not looking at the whole picture. Hypercalvinists believe God will do all the work, so there is no human responsibility, while non-Calvinists believe any can be saved so they overlook divine sovereignty. Realizing that Jesus died for the elect, and that God uses believers as a tool to bring the lost to repentance by the means of preaching the Gospel, we do not overlook human responsibility or divine sovereignty.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

To B(aptize) or not to B(aptize)? That is the question.

A common argument between those of the reformed tradition (Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, etc.) and those of baptistic tradition is whether or not there are grounds for paedobaptism (that is, infant baptism) in accordance with Scripture. My purpose here is to outline a few of the major concerns held by each side and ultimately demonstrate the Baptist conviction.

One of the first arguments Baptists make is that there is no explicit evidence of paedobaptism in the pages of Scripture. This is a poor argument or rather, an incomplete one, as we offer it to our reformed brethren. The general purpose of baptism is the same amongst both circles. We baptize as an act of obedience to God, identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Baptism does not save us, but rather it is the sign of the covenant between God and His people. The Old Testament sign of the covenant (Abrahamic) was circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14). The very fact that children were circumcised and demonstrated the sign of the covenant is a comparison used as to why we should baptize our children as a sign of the new covenant in Christ’s blood.

Considering all these things, saying that there is no explicit evidence of paedobaptism in the pages of Scripture is a weak argument. If we held this mentality in all things, how is it we would be able to practice liberty in non-essentials? The truth is not that we do not practice paedobaptism because there is no explicit evidence of it in the pages of Scripture, but rather that we do not practice paedobaptism because there is no explicit evidence of it in the pages of Scripture coupled with the fact that there is in fact explicit evidence of credobaptism (Mark 1:5, Luke 7:29, Acts 19:5, Colossians 2:12, Luke 3:12, John 4:1, Acts 2:41, and Acts 9:18). Understanding that baptism is both prescribed and described as an act of obedience identifying in Christ’s death and resurrection for the believer in the pages of Scripture is what prompts us to exercise credobaptism while prohibiting paedobaptism. We see these evidences by such Scripture verses as Mark 1:4 (John’s baptism of repentance, an act incapable by infants), Acts 2:38-41; 19:3-5 (baptism of repentance and belief in Jesus Christ, both acts incapable by infants), Romans 6:3-4, and Colossians 2:12.

An additional point to make over the argument of the sign of the covenant being demonstrated by infants in the Old Testament is that it was demonstrated by male infants alone. The absence of female infants, or just females generally, from the ability to demonstrate the sign of the covenant just reaffirms the fact that we, in Christ, have a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6).

The final argument I would like to present is that of the reformed support for paedobaptism by the evidence of practice throughout Church history. While I have not fully reviewed the history nor can I accurately verify the truth of this claim, I can however comment on the validity of the argument. Even a nominal Christian can attest to the fact that tradition does not dictate theology. This fact is in spite of Paul’s admonition to us against traditional conformity with the world in Romans 12:1-2. This line of thinking is why many who confuse the purpose of Church history attempt to refute the Holy Trinity by such affirmative proclamations as the Nicene Creed from the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Although the purpose of the Council was to officially refute such heresy as non-trinitarianism espoused by heretics such as Arius, and not to establish a new teaching by the Church (argued to be trinitarianism), the point to be made here is that our authority is not sola ecclesia, but rather sola scriptura. Understanding our final authority comes from Scripture alone, and not Church tradition, dissolves an appeal to Church history as an authority in light of documented Scriptural references to the contrary.

In hopes of coming to a stronger conviction of credobaptism as opposed to paedobaptism, I close with a simple denotation of the Greek word baptizo, translated into English as baptize. This word denotes a full submersion as opposed to pouring or sprinkling of water. Although a more popular argument against sprinkling or pouring in method of baptism, the point here is that we cannot fully submerge an infant without certain qualms over their safety. If we are being true to the Greek of the New Testament in our method of baptism by immersion, then we cannot reasonably expect anyone to baptize infants against their safety, against explicit Scriptural demonstrations of credobaptism, against the lack of explicit demonstrations of paedobaptism in the pages of Scripture, against a better covenant in Christ’s blood, and against an appeal to Church history as an authoritative means of developing our theology.