Thou Shalt Not Proof-Text

What Proof-Texting Is

Proof-texting is “that process whereby a person ‘proves’ a doctrine or practice merely by aluding to a text without considering its original inspired meaning.”1 As Charles Simpson put it, “… proof-texting is like shooting an arrow into a wall and then painting the target around it. Religious proof-texters use one or two verses of Scripture to “paint” a specific doctrine and then arrogantly portray their position as Scripturally infallible.”2

Mark W. Foreman notes that, “Believers often search anxiously to discover some verse or passage they presume will prove a particular point, all the while ignoring the serious exegetical work involved in interpreting and applying Scripture. Often they force a verse to say something it was never intended to mean and which usually has nothing to do with its original and historical and literary context. Rather than treating the Bible as a historical document written to the specific needs and issues of the original audience, and to be interpreted and applied appropriately, it is instead treated as a divinely authoritative version of Bartlett’s book of quotations. This quote-a-verse mentality permeates the modern evangelical church and is problematic.”3

What Are Some Common Proof-Texts?

Craig Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary4, partnered with Seedbed to produce a three part video on “Bad Bible Proof-Texts.” Some of the passages examined include Psalm 50:10, Psalm 118:24, Song of Solomon 2:1, Joel 2:9, and Joel 3:10.

Why Should We Not Proof-Text?

Proof-texting would allow a person to make the Bible say whatever he/she wants it to say. A fine example would be the following which “uses” biblical texts to demonstrate that Jesus is not God.

“There is a direct statement about Jesus being the Son of Jehovah in the Psalms: “…He said to me, ‘You [Jesus] are my son, today I [Jehovah] have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7)

Jehovah spoke to Jesus, in His pre-human existence, concerning the creation of Adam and Eve: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ….'” (Genesis 1:26)

There were plans, from the beginning, to make Jesus a human as shown in Deuteronomy: “…he [Jehovah] will raise up for you a Prophet [Jesus] like me [Moses], an Israeli, a man to whom you must listen and whom you must obey.” (Deuteronomy 18:15, TLB; see also Acts 3:22)

During His ministry on Earth, Jesus stated that He taught not His own wisdom, but that of His Father, Jehovah: “For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49)

There are a large number of Bible verses which can be used to prove that Jesus was not God, but the Son of God. The chapter of this thesis, “VII. Bible Verses Prove Trinity False”, lists over a hundred such texts.

The Bible, therefore, teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jehovah said He would send His Son and Jesus made the statement that Jehovah was His Father. The Apostles taught these facts. The Bible does not teach that Jesus was Jehovah and neither Jesus nor His followers claimed otherwise.”5

Not yet convinced of the proposition? See also “90 Verses That Say: Jesus Is Not God Nor The Literal Son of God.”6

In addition, C. Michael Patton highlights four problems associated with proof-texting and they are i) the problem of interpretation, ii) the problem of understanding, iii) the problem of communication, and iv) the problem of arrogance. 7

What Then Should We Do?

So how do we avoid the dangers associated with proof-texting? The answer is proper exegesis and hermeneutics. When confronted with a barrage of texts allegedly proving a particular doctrine, go through the texts one by one and examine its grammatical-historical context. Milton S. Terry dubbed the Grammatical-Historical method as “… the method which fully commends itself to the judgement and conscience of Christian scholars. Its fundamental principle is to gather from the Scriptures themselves the precise meaning which the writers intended to convey. It applies to the sacred books the same principles, the same grammatical process and exercise of common sense and reason which we apply to other books.”8

As Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart point out, “A text cannot mean what it could never have meant for its original readers/hearers … the true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken or written.”9 Well known exegete Tremper Longman III once said, “when I interpret a text of Scripture, my goal is to understand the passage or book in its Old Testament context and from that understanding to bridge the gap to my situation today.”10

Mark Strauss’s Ten Steps for Exegesis11 provides a great guideline in what to do when interpreting a particular verse/passage. The ten steps are:

1. Identify the Genre (the Literary Form)
2. Establish the Historical and Literary Context
3. Develop a Thesis Statement
4. Outline the Progress of Thought in the Passage
5. Consult Secondary Sources (a Good Commentary)
6. Analyze Syntactical Relationships
7. Analyze Key Terms and Themes
8. Resolve Interpretive Issues and Problems
9. Evaluate Your Results From the Perspective of Wider Contextual and Theological Issues
10. Summarize Your Results

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Introduction to Soteriology (Books)

Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, is arguably one of the most controversial doctrines within Christendom. If you are somewhat new to it and are looking to study it deeper, on top of the books listed below, consider also a previous article of mine titled “Introduction to Soteriology (Creeds & Confessions).”12

In order to avoid the strawman fallacy, that is, “[a] misrepresentation of an opponent’s position or a competitor’s product to tout one’s own argument or product as superior.”2, it is greatly recommended that one reads and learns the different soteriological positions from its original sources. This would include the works of those who hold to that particular position.

The following is by no means intended to be an extensive list. There are many other works out there on the topic and, seeing how soteriology is still contentious 400+ years after the time of Luther, Calvin, and Arminius, I believe there will be many more books written on the subject. For introductory purposes, the books listed below will suffice.

 

For Arminianism

The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism, edited by Clark Pinnock (Harper Collins, 1989)

Grace, Faith, Free Will (Randall House Publications, 2002) by Robert Picirilli

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (InterVarsity Press, 2006) by Roger Olson

Understanding Assurance & Salvation (Randall House Publications, 2006)  by Robert Picirilli

Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation (Randall House, 2011) by F Leroy Forlines

Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation, edited by Clark Pinnock and John D Wagner (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015)

 

For Calvinism

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination (1932) by Lorraine Boettner

The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented (P&R Publishing,  1963) by David Steele and Curtis Thomas

Chosen By God (Tyndale House Publishers, 1994) by R.C. Sproul

The Potter’s Freedom (Calvary Press, 2000) by James White

For Calvinism (Zondervan, 2011) by Michael Horton

 

For Lutheranism

The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: Exhibited, and Verified from the Original Sources (Lutheran Publication Society, 1876) by Heinrich Schmidt

Lutheran Theology (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011) by Steven Paulson

The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church (Tredition, 2012) by George Geberding

The Great Divide: A Lutheran Evaluation of Reformed Theology (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015) by Jordan Cooper

 

For Traditionalism/Provisionalism/Provisionism

Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, edited by David Allen and Steve Lemke (B&H Publishing Group, 2010)

The Potter’s Promise (Booktango, 2015) by Leighton Flowers

Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology, edited by David L. Allen, Eric Hankins, Adam Harwood (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016)

 

Misc [optional]

Chosen But Free (Bethany House, 2001) by Norman Geisler 3

Calvinism Vs. Arminianism (Author House, 2014) by Steve Urick

Is God Calvinist or Arminian?: The Closing Argument (WestBow Press, 2018) by Bob Raymond

 

Disclaimer: The recommendations in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Faithful Preaching of the Gospel in a Sermon

Guest Contributor: Calan Moy

“all [sermon] messages given were relevant … as well as faithful to the Gospel.”

The words of my friend sat in my head as I tried to wrap my head around how the seemingly “Christian” event he had went to had portrayed that concept to him since it was an event that was notoriously known for the lack of attention given to sermons. After contemplating for several weeks, I have came up with what I think is a good reference to discern sermons that are preached through a biblical perspective:

1) Faithful preaching of the gospel in a sermon is expository in nature

An exposition of the text simply brings out the meaning of the text to explicitly show the gospel from every location in scripture, hence the preaching fundamentally roots itself in the power of the words of the text, and not in the preacher.

2) Faithful preaching of the gospel is rooted in systematic theology

Faithful preaching understands, grounds and applies theology that has been derived from Scripture and it understands the nature of God in a deep and reverent fashion. It understands the truths about God’s justice shown in his awful fury and judgement towards sinners and yet restrains these truths with the love of God towards the righteous and unrighteous. The effect of systematic theology is that it acts as a control for the preaching. It preaches the “whole counsel of God” without missing out the essentials of the gospel.

3) Faithful preaching of the gospel is God-glorifying

The preacher of the gospel, ultimately, does not want people to hear what he has to say but wants people to hear what God has to say about Himself and about them. An emphasis that focuses on men, with a positive note as to what men achieve without the work of Christ in their lives, achieves the opposite effect of being God-glorifying.

4) Faithful preaching of the gospel is a blade

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that ”…the word of God is active, sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart…”
Be very afraid of preaching that is faithful to the gospel. It is a blade (or a scalpel) that surgically slices you and reveals your motives as for what they are. It shows you to be what you really are.

5) Faithful preaching of the gospel has a basic understanding of biblical anthropology

Anthropology, which means the study of men and their beings, makes the condition and being of men the point of the preaching. It points out the deficiencies and incapability of men rather than teach a positive and high view of what man is.

6) Faithful preaching of the gospel grounds itself in the power of the Holy Spirit

The gospel which is exposited, relies wholly upon the Holy Spirit to convict and bring men to repentance. It is not of the preachers own doing. It does not rely upon the things that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:4, i.e. “…clever and persuasive speeches”, but rather, upon “(the) demonstration of the Spirit and of power”.

7) Faithful preaching of the gospel does not advocate legalism

The preaching of the gospel brings about the change within believers that only God can do and only by the sanctifying power of the word. It changes people to orient their thoughts and attitudes towards the good of both God and the neighbour, and thus smashes the power of legalism for it leaves the believers only with the law of love/Christ due to the work of Christ on the cross.

8) Faithful preaching of the gospel is Christ-centred

It centres itself around the nature, incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession of Christ, in his kingly, priestly and prophetic roles. I am convinced that to leave out any one of the 3 roles mentioned above is to deprive Christ of his majesty and glory, as well as to reject the Old Testament understanding of the “Messiah”. To preach Christ as Lord and Saviour requires all 3 roles to be rightly expounded and understood.

9) Faithful preaching of the gospel is apologetic in nature

The gospel when rightly proclaimed, teaches, rebukes and corrects our thoughts that are mistaken or which deviate from the truth of God. The gospel is, according to 1 Corinthians, “…foolishness to the world” as the world cannot comprehend the mind of God. Hence, the gospel serves as the argument that defends the truth of God and what He has revealed to us. We recognise that the gospel as an apologetic tool will never make sense to the world unless they repent and believe in it. The gospel either brings the unbeliever to repentance when confronted with the truth, or it pushes the unbeliever away with that exact same truth.

Conclusion

I believe that God still works through sermons that do not rightly have Christ at the centre. However, while admitting this, we must acknowledge that an abnormality does not equal to the norm. Instead, we should constantly hold to being “semper reformanda” (constantly reforming), in light of God’s word as these are dark and sinful times we are in. Therefore, all the more do we need to have a sharpness and a discernment of the truth that a preacher in the pulpit brings to us!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Editor’s Note: The author welcomes any feedback on the article and can be contacted at calanmoy20142015 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Modern Day Apostles?

Mid-2017, there was a healing rally in my country, Malaysia 4, led by an individual who goes by the name of Apostle G. Maldonado on social media.2 More recently, in September 2018, a local church in Malaysia hosted a prayer conference featuring Apostle Julius Suubi. 3

Naturally, within my circles, this sparked discussion about whether or not there are apostles today in light of the close of the canon.

A) Are there apostles today?

The answer to this question would depend on your definition of an apostle. Marcelo Souza, in his article “Are There Apostles Today?” notes the biblical requirement for apostleship.

“1. The apostle had to be an eyewitness of the risen Jesus [see Acts 1:2-3, 21-22; 4:33; 9:1-6; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-9] …

2. The apostle had to have been commissioned directly by Jesus [see Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:21-26; Gal. 1:1, 26].” 4

However, the requirements he laid out refers to a narrow sense of the term apostle. There is a broader sense which will be considered below.

Wescott and Hort defines ‘apostolos’ (the Greek word for “apostle”) as “a messenger, envoy, delegate, one commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel; an apostle.”5

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance’s definition is “a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle“] (with miraculous powers): – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.”6

Thayer in his NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon (1999) defines ‘apostolos’ as “1. a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders … 2. Specially applied to the twelve disciples whom Christ selected, out of the multitude of his adherents, to be his constant companions and the heralds to proclaim to men the kingdom of God … 3. In a broader sense the name is transferred to other eminent Christian teachers; as Barnabas, Acts 14:14, and perhaps also Timothy and Silvanus, 1 Thessalonians 2:7 (6), cf. too Romans 16:7 (?) …” 7

“According to BDAG [i.e. a Greek lexicon], apostolos “can also mean delegate, envoy, messenger … perhaps missionary.””8

So what I would argue is that we do have apostles today (in the broad sense of the word) and they would include missionaries, for the very reason that missionaries are sent out to preach the Gospel.

we do have apostles today (in the broad sense of the word) and they would include missionaries Click To Tweet

There are no longer any apostles in the narrow sense of the word because no one in the 21st century would be able to fulfill the two requirements of apostleship as quoted above.

There are no longer any apostles in the narrow sense of the word because no one in the 21st century would be able to fulfill the two requirements of apostleship Click To Tweet

Another way to see it is according to Gordon Fee’s distinction in his commentary the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1987). He distinguishes between the “functional” (ongoing ministry) and “positional/official” use of the term9. So today, we would have apostles in the functional sense, but not in the positional/official sense.

Tl;dr – There is a difference between apostles in the technical/specific/narrow sense of the word apostolos (Gk 652) and the non-technical/broad sense of the same word. We no longer have the former, but we can have the latter.

B) What are their roles?

With regard to the role of apostles, their general role is, together with the other offices/positions in Ephesians 4, “… to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”10

More specifically, based on the semantic range of the Greek word apostolos, an apostle’s role would be to go out and perform the tasks to which they have been assigned. If the task is to go to Area A and plant/start a church there, that is that particular apostle’s role.

C) Should we shy away from using the term “apostle”?

The short answer is no. We should not shy away from using the term apostle just because it is misused by certain quarters. There are cults leaders who refer to themselves as pastors.11 Should we then no longer use the term pastor12 despite it being a biblical role?

Instead, what we should be doing is educating Christians about what the Bible teaches on apostles so that they would know how to distinguish between the functional and the positional/official sense of the word.

For further reading, see the following great articles by Dr Craig Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary13:-

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 1)

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 2)

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 3)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Lawyer-Theologians

In my brief study of theologians throughout church history, I noticed a common denominator between many of them. Quite a number of theologians received formal legal training/education in their lifetime14. The following is a non-exhaustive list of lawyer-theologians, arranged chronologically:

2nd Century

Tertullian of Carthage

Background

“Son of a proconsular centurion, Tertullian studied law at Rome and as a young man converted to the Christian faith.”2

“There is an historical tradition, based on Eusebius and the Justinian Law Code, that Tertullian was a great legal expert. Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica mentioned that Tertullian knew ‘the Roman laws extremely accurately’. Justinian’s Digesta and Codex also quoted legal works by a jurist named Tertullian.”3

“Many word studies of Tertullian found legal terminology in his writings and declared his theology formed by the legal context. After Barnes, however, scholars began to reevaluate the presuppositions of these words, concluding with different results …

Claude Fredouille, and many now see Tertullian, not as a legal expert, but as a rhetorical genius capable of persuading with a whole range of imagery, including legal imagery.”4

Theological Contribution

Apologeticus
De testimonio animae
De Adversius Iudaeos
Adv. Marcionem
Adv. Praxeam
Adv. Hermogenem
De praesciptione hereticorum
Scorpiace

De monogamia
Ad uxorem
De virginibus velandis
De cultu feminarium
De patientia
De pudicitia
De oratione
AD martyras

3rd Century

Gregory Thaumaturgus

Background

“Gregory of Thaumaturgus had originally left Pontus to study Latin and Roman law at Beirut. While there, he might have been seduced from his legal studies not by biblical studies with the Christian teacher Origen, but by the delights of classic Greek culture.”5

“In the mid-third century, the Church Father, ‘Gregory the ‘wonderworker’ – later known as Gregory Thaumaturgus’ – studied rhetoric and Roman law with a private teacher in his hometown of Neo-Caesarea (the capital of Pontus, Asia Minor), before setting out with his brother and others for the law school at Beirut; they got as far as Caesarea in Palestine, where they continued their education with Origen …”6

“There is a passage from Gregory Thaumaturgus, who had studied law in his youth and became bishop of Nicocaesarea in Pontus about the middle of the third century …”7

Theological Contribution

Oratio Panengyrica
Epistola Canonica
Exposition of the Faith
Epistola ad Philagrium

4th Century

Basil of Caesarea 

Background

“[Basil of Caesarea] studied for five years in Athens, then came back home to begin a successful worldly career, teaching rhetoric and practicing law in Caeserea, the region’s capital.”8

“After years of private study, Basil enrolled in the University of Athens, the most prestigious university at that time. In due course, Basil returned to Cesaria, where he began his legal practice.”9

Theological Contribution

On the Holy Spirit
Refutation of the Apology of the Impious Eunomius

Amphilocius of Iconium

Background

“Amphilocius, later Bishop of Iconium, had abandoned his practice of law and was living in retirement at Ozizala, not far from Nazianzus, where Gregory, his uncle, was bishop.”10

“A number of key bishops in the Eastern Church who had received rhetorical education went on to practice as advocates before their episcopal appointments. From the Cappadocian Fathers we can name Basil the Great and his contemporaries Amphilocius of Iconium and Asterius of Amasea.”11

Theological Contribution

Against False Asceticism
Epistola Synodica
In Occursum Domini
Epistula lambica ad Seleucum

John Chyrsostom

Background

“After the completion of his studies, Chrysostom became a rhetorician, and began the profitable practice of law, which opened to him a brilliant political career.”12

“In due time, Chrysostom began to practice as a lawyer; and as the profession of the law was reckoned one of the surest avenues to political distinction for a man of talent, and the speeches of Chrysostom excited great admiration, a brilliant and prosperous career seemed to lie before him.”13

Theological Contribution

Hieratikon
Kata Ioudaion
Against Those Who Oppose the Monastic Life
On the Priesthood
Instructions to Catechumens
On the Imcomprehensibility of the Divine Nature

Continue reading “Lawyer-Theologians”

How One Can Be Reformed and Arminian

This article intends to argue for the proposition that one can identify as Reformed and Arminian at the same time. First off, for the purposes of clarification, this should not be confused with Reformed Arminianism. The latter is synonymous with Classical Arminianism, that is Arminian theology closer to that which was held by Jacob Arminius himself[1]. Reformed Arminianism stands in contrast to Wesleyan Arminianism.

So, how can one claim to be Reformed and Arminian at the same time? Isn’t Reformed theology closely associated to or even sometimes used synonymously with Calvinism?[2] It is submitted that it all boils down one’s definition of Reformed. The same goes for concepts like “sovereignty” and “decree” in relation to God[3].

A) Defining “Reformed”

The problem with defining the concept “Reformed” is that even those who claim to be Reformed disagree on what constitutes “Reformed”. There are extremely narrow definitions, as well as extremely broad ones.

C. Matthew McMahon starts off with some basic principles of the Reformed tradition:

“Some good starting points in the consideration of this topic would be the following.

1] The Majesty and the Praise of God,

2] The Polemic Against Idolatry,

3] The Working Out of God’s Divine Covenant Purposes in History through justification by faith by the one and only mediator Jesus Christ,

4] Sanctification and a life of Holiness,

5] The Life of the Mind as the Service of God,

6] Biblical Preaching,

7] The order of Church Government and Pastoral Care,

8] The Disciplined Life, and

9] The Simplicity of the Gospel.”[4]

The problem with these definitions is that they can be readily affirmed by all Protestants. However, Reformed folks who hold to a narrow definition of what it means to be Reformed would not consider some Protestants as being Reformed. Case in point would be Methodists for their Arminianism.

Byron G. Curtis, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Geneva College provided his extensive definition on what it means to be reformed. He says:

“To be reformed means:

1) to confess with the orthodox churches the consensus of the first five centuries of Christianity, including:

a) Classic theism: One omnipotent, benevolent God, distinct from creation.

b) Nicene and Chalcedonian Trinitarianism: one God in three eternally existent persons, equal in power and glory.

c) Christ, the God-Man, the one mediator between God & the human race, incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended, & coming again.

d) Humanity created in the image of God, yet tragically fallen & profoundly in need of restoration to God through Christ.

e) The Visible Church: the community of the redeemed, indwelt y the Holy Spirit; the mystical body of Christ on earth.

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

f) The Sacraments: visible signs and seals of the grace of God, ministering Christ’s love to us in our deep need.

g) The Christian life: characterized by the prime theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

2) to confess with the Reformation churches the four great “Solas:”

a) RE the source of authority: Sola Scriptura.

b) RE the basis of salvation: Sola Gratia.

c) RE the means of salvation: Sola Fide

d) Re the merit of salvation: Solus Christus

3) to confess with the Reformed churches the distinctives of the Reformed faith:

a) In salvation: monergism not synergism. God alone saves. Such monergism implies T.U.L.I.P., the Five Points of Calvinism from the Synod of Dordt:

T = Total Depravity

U = Unconditional Election

L = Limited Atonement, or, better, Particular Redemption

I = Irresistible Grace

P = Perseverence [sic] and Preservation of the Saints

b) In worship: the Regulative Principle of Worship “Whatever is not commanded in public worship is forbidden.” God alone directs how he is to be worshiped in the assem- bly [sic] of the visible church.

c) In the Visible Church: Covenant Theology & Covenant Community. The Church is the New Israel, incorporating believers among Jews and Gentiles alike. Infant Baptism ordinarily follows from this understanding. Sacraments are not merely human observances, but acts of Jesus Christ, marking out the visible church.

d) In life: Life is religion: there is no sacred/secular destinction [sic]. As such Christians have neither jobs nor careers; they have vocations (callings). Every calling is “full time Christian service,” because every Christian is a full-time Christian.

4) finally, in everything, as Christians everywhere joyfully affirm: Soli Deo Gloria. ‘To God alone be the glory.’”[5]

Richard Muller, shares a similar definition, though he adds belief in amillennialism into the mix:

“Any of these documents [i.e. Reformed Confessions and Catechisms], in addition to standing in substantial agreement on the so-called five points — total inability to attain one’s own salvation, unconditional grace, limited efficacy of Christ’s all-sufficient work of satisfaction, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints — also stand in substantial agreement on the issues of the baptism of infants, the identification of the sacraments as a means of grace, and the unity of the one covenant of grace from Abraham to the eschaton.

They also — all of them — agree on the assumption that our assurance of the salvation, wrought by grace alone through the work of Christ and God’s Spirit in us, rests not on our outward deeds or personal claims but on our apprehension of Christ in faith and on our recognition of the inward work of the Spirit in us. Because this assurance is inward and cannot easily or definitively be externalized, all of these documents also agree that the church is both visible and invisible — that it is a covenanted people of God identified not by externalized indications of the work of God in individuals, such as adult conversion experiences but by the preaching of the word of God and the right administration of the sacraments.

Finally, they all agree, either explicitly or implicitly, that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 is the kingdom of grace established by Christ at his first coming that extends until his Second Coming at the end of the world.”[6]

R. C. Sproul, well known amongst the narrow-definition-Reformed-folk as being Reformed, grew to accept postmillennialism as the biblical eschatological position [7]. Under Richard Muller’s definition, this would disqualify R. C. Sproul from being considered Reformed, although he checks the other boxes.

C. Matthew McMahon’s definition which includes infant baptism (pp.20-21), covenant theology (pp.28-29), and the Lord’s Supper as sign and seals (pp.29-30)[8] is less comprehensive but, just like the definitions provided before it, would exclude Reformed Baptists who affirm credobaptism. It would seem odd that individuals like John Bunyan (1628–1688), Alistair Begg (1952–), D. A. Carson (1946–), John Gill (1697–1771), Wayne Grudem (1948–), Albert Mohler (1959–), Arthur Pink (1886–1952), John Piper (1946-), Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892), and James White (1962-) would not make the Reformed cut.

Michael Allen adds to the discussion by arguing that, “By “Reformational,” we speak of those churches and persons who affirm the five solas (sola Scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, and soli Deo Gloria), the five points enumerated by the Reformed Synod of Dordt regarding the doctrine of predestination, and the importance of penal substitution as a crucial (though not exclusive) understanding of the atonement.”[9] R.C. Sproul takes it a step further and synthesises the Five Points of Reformed Theology as being just TULIP[10].

To include TULIP in the pre-requisite of being Reformed, or even to make it the sole criterion, might exclude the following individuals who are/were regarded as Magisterial Reformers. First off, Phillip Melanchton who studied under Martin Luther himself[11].  Leighton Flowers points out that, “… Calvin, though a close friend, took great issue with Melanchthon’s soteriology, as would most Calvinistic scholars today. Melanchthon affirmed a more corporate approach to the doctrine of predestination, while rejecting the typical Calvinistic view that God predetermines to save some individuals to the neglect of the rest. For instance, Melanchthon wrote,

“The eternal fate of individuals was in their own hands at the moment when they heard the Spirit-illumined Gospel promises. Altogether, therefore, the choice for a saving faith in Jesus had three origins: the Word, the Spirit, and the individual free will.””[12]

Gregory Graybill observes that, “In 1532, Melanchton’s gradually evolving doctrine on the will’s role in justification finally reached a tipping-point. In The Summary of Ethics, he was almost there. In The Commentary on Romans, he was there, and in the Loci of 1533-5, he strengthened his position. A subtle change had taken place in Melanchton’s thinking, marking a transition from a bound-will position to one of evangelical free will.”[13]

Secondly, “… it would appear likely that the chief Polish shaper of the Reformed church, Jan Laski, though he was involved only after his return from the West from 1556 until his death in 1560, remained somewhat Erasmian on predestination and free will.”[14] It has been noted that “few Reformed theologians were to turn sympathetically to Erasmus’s championing of free will, the exception being that independent-minded Erasmian Jan Laski.”[15]. Erasmus’s view of predestination and free will is contrary to that of Luther’s and the latter was a significant influence in Calvin’s view of soteriology, as seen in Beneficio di Cristo.

Thirdly, John Wycliffe who was quoted as having said: “And who knoweth the mesure of goddis mercy, to whom herynge of goddis word schal thus profits, eche man schal hope to come to hevene & enforce hym to here & fulfille goddis word, for sith eche men hath a free wille & chesyng of good and evyl, no man schal be savyd but he that wilfully hereth and endless kepith goddis hestis, and no man schal be dampnyd but he that wilfully & endeles brekith goddis comaundementis, & foraskith thus & blasphemeth god. & herynge of goddis word & grace to kepen it, frely govyn of god to man but gif he wilfully dispise it, is right weie to askape this peril & come to endeles blisse.”[16]

Wycliffe was basically of the opinion that “Although ‘trewe men’ acknowledge that ‘god hath ordeyned goode men to blisse’, this does not contradict the truth that he also ‘geveth to eche man a free wille to chese good or evyl & god is redi to geve hem grace gif thei wolen resceyven it.”[17]. This position seems to be in conflict with the U and I of TULIP.

To include TULIP in the pre-requisite of being Reformed, or even to make it the sole criterion, might exclude ... individuals who are/were regarded as Magisterial Reformers Click To Tweet

Roger Olson acknowledges the definitional problem at hand. He articulates that, “On one end of the spectrum of defining it, “Reformed” requires affirmation of and adherence to the “three symbols of unity”—The Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of the Synod of Dort. By that definition, Presbyterians are not Reformed. (Which is why, for example, the publisher Presbyterian and Reformed is so named.) Everyone agrees that they have much in common, but some Reformed scholars define “Reformed” in such a way as to exclude even Presbyterians.

At the other end of the spectrum of defining “Reformed” is the traditional Lutheran approach. For many “old school” Lutherans (e.g., Casper Nervig in Christian Truth and Religious Delusions ) all Protestants are either Lutheran or Reformed with Anglicans being sort of a hybrid. Anabaptists aren’t Protestant. But Methodists are Reformed (in this taxonomy)!”[18]

Perhaps the solution is to embrace a broader definition which encompasses that which the Protestant Reformation stood for. The spirit of the Reformation was Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (‘The church reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God’). C. Matthew McMahon notes that, “The term “Reformer” was used to describe those men who desired to reach back to the foundations of the Word of God and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in contrast to human traditions and ecclesiastical corruption.”[19]

Perhaps the solution is to embrace a broader definition which encompasses that which the Protestant Reformation stood for, a mere-Reformed definition if you will Click To Tweet

Tim Challies agrees when he says that, “It is important to understand that because the Reformed tradition arose from the Protestant Reformation, the term Reformed was not defined from within a void. Rather, it was defined as a biblical response to the excesses and perversions of the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformers, having returned to Scripture, attempted to carefully and faithfully rebuild the church upon the teachings of the New Testament.”[20] According to John Barber, “the message of the Lutheran and Reformed theologians have been codified into a simple set of five Latin phrases: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).”[21]

As such, anyone who, embodies the spirit of the Reformation and by extension, affirms the five solas, should be entitled to refer to himself/herself as Reformed. This would, undeniably, include Arminians. Carl Bangs, an Arminius scholar, notes that “Arminius stands firmly in the tradition of Reformed theology in insisting that salvation is by grace alone and that human ability or merit must be excluded as a cause of salvation. It is faith in Christ alone that places a sinner in the company of the elect.”[22]

... anyone who embodies the spirit of the Reformation, and by extension affirms the five solas, should be entitled to refer to himself/herself as Reformed. This would, undeniably, include Arminians. Click To Tweet

B) Why Reformed?

In light of fact that the term “Reformed” is historically and theologically loaded, why would an Arminian want to identify as such? The simple answer is that Arminius himself was Reformed. Arminius scholar, Keith D. Stanglin, asserts that “… Arminius and the Remonstrants before the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) considered themselves to be Reformed.”[23]

So why would Arminius consider himself to be Reformed? Arminius “studied under Calvin’s successor Beza in Geneva and was given a letter of recommendation by him to the Reformed Church of Amsterdam. It seems highly unlikely that the chief pastor at Geneva and principal of its Reformed academy would not know the theological inclinations of one of his star pupils.”[24]

Arminius also taught at the University of Leiden/Leyden[25] which was “a centre of Dutch Reformed theology and of science and medicine in the 17th and 18th centuries,”[26] and affirmed the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism[27]. Furthermore, the Remonstrant Brotherhood, a Dutch denomination which follows the work of Arminius and his followers, is a full member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches [28]

In consideration of all that has been said, Arminians should not be afraid or embarrassed to embrace the Reformed label. Their theological tradition stands squarely within the framework of historical Reformed thought. Whether or not they wish to take up the designation is an entirely different matter.

Arminians should not be afraid or embarrassed to embrace the Reformed label. Their theological tradition stands squarely within the frame of historical Reformed thought. Click To Tweet

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

[1] For further elaboration, see Matthew Pinson, “Meet A Reformed Arminian.” TheGospelCoalition.org. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/meet-a-reformed-arminian/

[2] Tim Challies, “Defining My Terms: Calvinist and Reformed.” Challies.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://www.challies.com/articles/defining-my-terms-calvinist-and-reformed/: “I will treat the terms “Reformed” and “Calvinist” as being synonymous. While some may disagree with this, I believe it is beyond dispute that most people use the terms interchangeably.”

[3] With regards to “sovereignty,” Calvinists, Arminians, Provisionalists/Traditionalists, Lutherans, and Molinists would affirm that God is sovereign, but they do not necessarily share the same conception of it.

[4] C. Matthew McMahon, The Reformed Apprentice: A Workbook on Reformed Theology (2013), p.27

[5] Byron G. Curtis, “A “Reformed” Definition.” Fivesolas.com. Accessed May 17, 2018. http://www.fivesolas.com/ref_defn.htm

[6] Richard Muller, “How Many Points?” Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 28 (1993): 427

[7] Kenneth Gentry, “Recent Developments in the Eschatological Debate.” ReformationOnline.com. Accessed May 17, 2018. http://www.reformationonline.com/debate.htm: “A recent noteworthy “convert” to postmillennialism is R. C. Sproul, who invited me to speak on postmillennialism and preterism at his 1999 National Conference in Orlando”; see also “The End? Finding Hope in the Millennial Maze: 1999 National Conference.” Ligonier.org. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/orlando_1999_national_conference/postmillennialism/

[8] C. Matthew McMahon, The Reformed Apprentice: A Workbook on Reformed Theology (2013)

[9] Michael Allen, Reformed Theology (2010), p.6

[10] R.C. Sproul, What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics (2005)

[11] “Phillip Melanchton 500th Anniversary Exhibit.” LutheranHistory.org. Accessed May 17, 2018. http://www.lutheranhistory.org/melanchthon/: “At Wittenberg Philipp Melanchthon studied theology under Dr. Martin Luther. In September 1519 he was granted his first degree in theology: baccalaureus biblicus. Melanchthon turned out to be a popular lecturer. And Luther, who was fourteen years his senior, recognized Melanchthon’s remarkable abilities.”

[12] Leighton Flowers, “Is Reformation Day only for the Calvinists?” Soteriology101.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://soteriology101.com/2016/10/31/is-reformation-day-only-for-the-calvinists/

[13] Gregory Graybill, Evangelical Free Will: Phillipp Melanchthon’s Doctrinal Journey on the Origins of Faith (2010), p.199

[14] George Huntston Williams, The Proceedings of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society, Volume 18 (1976), p.586

[15] Zwingliana: Beiträge zur Geschichte Zwinglis der Reformation und des Protestantismus in der Schweiz (2005), p.175; see also Samuel Fiszman, The Polish renaissance in its European context (1988): “But significantly, perhaps of all the classical Protestant luminaries of first orsecond magnitude, Jan Laski was the most Erasmian in mitigating this major thrust of classical Protestantism in his interest in free will”

[16] ‘Speculum de Antichristo’ in The English Works of John Wyclif, ed. F. D. Matthew (1880), p.111

[17] D. Andrew Penny, Freewill Or Predestination: The Battle Over Saving Grace in Mid-Tudor England (1990), pp.16-17

[18] Roger Olson, “Is Arminianism “Reformed?”” Patheos.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/02/is-arminianism-reformed/

[19] C. Matthew McMahon, The Reformed Apprentice: A Workbook on Reformed Theology (2013), p.19

[20] Tim Challies, “What It Means To Be Reformed.” Challies.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://www.challies.com/articles/what-it-means-to-be-reformed/

[21] John Barber, The Road from Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture (2008), p.233

[22] Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation (1971), p. 198

[23] Keith Stanglin, Arminius on the Assurance of Salvation: The Context, Roots, and Shape of the Leiden Debate, 1603-1609­ (2007), p.14

[24] Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (2009), p.48

[25] see William den Boer, God’s Twofold Love: The Theology of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609) (2010), p.21: “Following the events of this assembly as recorded above, there appeared today in the same assembly Dr Jacobus Arminius, Doctor and Professor at the University of Leiden”; see also Arminius, Arminianism, and Europe: Jacobus Arminius (1559/60-1609) (2009), eds. Theodoor Marius van Leeuwen, Keith D. Stanglin, Marijke Tolsma, p. IX: “In any case in October 2009 at Leiden University, where Arminius was a professor from 1603 until his death, a conference was held in honour of him.”

[26] “Leiden.” Britannica.com. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/place/Leiden

[27] After citing the 14th and 16th article of the Belgic Confession and questions 20 and 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Arminius says the following: “Since these are the actual statements of our confession and catechism, no good reason can be foot put forward by those who defend these ever mentioned sentiments on predestination to force these doctrines on their colleagues or on the church of Christ; nor should they be offended and place it in the worst possible light when something is taught in the church or university that does not exactly correspond to or is in opposition to their position.” [Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation With Introduction and Theological Commentary, ed. W Steven Gunter (2012), p.112]

[28] “Members.” WCRC.ch. Accessed November 6, 2018. http://wcrc.ch/members

Masculine Imageries of God (Part 1)

Guest Contributor: Hon Sir Neng

INTRODUCTION

Throughout Scripture, God is addressed with masculine pronoun. Nowhere has God ever been addressed by feminine pronoun(s). This is an issue that needs to be discussed, especially with the rise of what some Western theologians would call “Christian Feminism.” Some of the more radical ones would promote the idea of addressing God with a female pronoun (i.e. she, her & etc). Many would go to the extent of claiming it was written from a patriarchal mindset and that women must reinterpret Scripture for themselves. There are certain underlying assumptions and implications behind this idea, especially when the masculine imageries are taken away.

To start things off, we need to establish 3 assumptions.

GOD’S GENDER

Firstly, God has no gender, He is neither male or female. Reason being that Scripture describes God’s incorporeality or Him being immaterial, just as John Frame argues how He is not identified with any physical being in the world (389-390)[1]. However, there are certain things which we can deduce from Scripture:

i. God was never addressed with female pronoun, but with male pronoun.

ii. God revealed Himself to us primarily through masculine imageries.

iii. Scripture also contains feminine imageries of God.

These findings suggests that, even in light of God being genderless, Scripture emphasizes the importance of addressing God with a masculine pronoun. The masculine and feminine imageries in the Bible also describe certain attributes and acts of God. This series will solely focus on the masculine imageries only.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM

Secondly, God reveals Himself to us via anthropomorphic means. Beegle describe it as “…a figure of speech that describes God as having human form (Exo. 15:3, Num. 12:8), with feet (Gen. 3:8; Exo. 24:10), hands (Exo. 24:11; Jos. 4:24), mouth (Num. 12:8; Isa. 40:5), and heart (Hos. 11:8), but in a wider sense the term also includes human attributes and emotions (Gen. 2:2; 6:6: Exo. 20:5; Hos. 11:8)”[2] This simply means God who is transcendent (i.e. far above), uses human imageries to reveal Himself and communicate with humans. That does not mean God possesses all these physical attributes. As we mentioned earlier, God is incorporeal, and does not possess any physical forms.

GOD’S DESIGN OF MALE & FEMALE

Thirdly, God created and ordained men and women in a way that complements each other. Within Scripture, God has established and ordained certain positions for only the men. Take for example the Priests (Lev. 8), Pastors and Elders (1 Tim. 2:12-13), as well as Kings and Apostles. Even within marriage, God has ordained the husband as the head of the house to lovingly lead the family (Eph. 5:22-24). These roles display headship within its specific function(s).

CONCLUSION

What can we make out of these 3 assumptions? God does not reveal Himself out of a vacuum. Instead, he reveals Himself even through means like human function or roles which He ordained and established. These three assumptions would better help us understand the masculine imageries of God as we explore further in the next few articles.

 

[1] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (P & R Publishing, 2013), 289-290.

[2] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, Cumbria: Baker Pub Group, 1996), 69.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Was Jesus’s Body Broken for Us?

There seems to be a longstanding tradition to say, during Holy Communion, that Jesus’ body was broken for us. In Richard Baxter’s writings, we see that “The Words of distribution – “Take yee, Eat yee, This is the Body of Christ which is Broken for you, Do this in remembrance of Him,” … – followed the [1549 Book of Common Prayer and 1637 Scottish Book of Common Prayer].”[1] (emphasis mine).

Vernard Eller, in his book titled Could the Church Have It all Wrong? (1997) says that, “In the Lord’s Supper the bread represents the body of Jesus broken for us.”[2] (emphasis mine). Well known bible teacher, John Piper, also uses similar language: “The Lord’s Supper is precious beyond words as a gift from Jesus to his church not only as a reminder of his death for us, but also as an occasion when he draws near to nourish our intimacy with him and strengthen us by his shed blood and his broken body.”[3] (emphasis mine)

This article will attempt to answer the question whether it is right to say that Jesus’ body was broken for us, in a manner which is most faithful to Scripture. First off, let us look at what the Gospels have to say about the matter. It is of utmost importance since these are from Jesus Himself who instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

  1. The Gospels

Matthew 26:26(NASB)
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

 

Mark 14:22(NASB)
While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”

 

Luke 22:19(NASB)
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

From the above passages, what we can derive is that that which is broken is the bread. We see no mention of Christ’s body being broken. A.T. Robertson shares this point when after referring to John 19:30 he said, “The bread was broken, but not the body of Jesus.”[4] However, could it be argued that the broken bread is representative of Jesus’s broken body? We will evaluate the strength of this interpretation later in the article. Moving on, let us examine Pauline passages which make mention of the Holy Communion.

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The Saviour’s Seder?

By: Kenneth Ho

Introduction

The celebration of Passover (or Hebrew: פֶּסַח Pesach) commemorates the account of the liberation of the Jews from slavery under Ancient Egypt. While noting that it has been celebrated for millennia by the Jewish community with the aforementioned reason in mind, much has been said as to whether the Last Supper partaken by Jesus and His disciples was indeed a Seder meal. Many of the proponents (most prominently Christians) of the actuality that the Last Supper was indeed a Seder will then bestow upon it novel connotations and implications. If it is possible, I will to the best of my ability as a layperson present the evidence for and against this notion.

History

The tradition of celebrating the Passover has its roots in the biblical account of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt with the LORD declaring to Moses and Aaron that “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you[1].” It was during this month that the LORD carried out His divine plan to liberate the Hebrews by carrying out the events as can be read in the exodus account in that on the night of the Passover, the Israelites were to eat the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The lamb’s blood should be swabbed on their doorposts as a sign. God, seeing the sign, will then “pass over” the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:13), while smiting the Egyptians with the tenth plague, the killing of the first-born sons. Standard biblical chronology places these events at around 1311 B.C[2].

The Hebrews were enjoined to memorialise the events[3] by the retelling of the slavery and deliverance from Egypt[4] from one generation to the next. The Passover event in particular was to be remembered on the 14th of the first month in the Hebrew calendar called Nisan[5] (initially called Abib[6] but was later changed[7] to Nisan). Initially, the sacrifices of the Hebrews were to be carried out as a private affair among individual families[8] or as a combined household if a neighbour’s household was too small to afford a paschal lamb[9].

However, this private household practice was reformed into a temple cult practice following the construction of the First Temple by King Solomon[10] with descriptions of this practice being found in Talmudic sources[11]. Other biblical references to the practice of the temple cult can be found pertaining to the Second Temple (515 B.C – 70 A.D) in the later books of the Old Testament[12]. Throughout the gospels, it is apparent that this practice developed into a hugely public affair with multitudes of people performing pilgrimages from afar to Jerusalem. Testifying to the numbers of pilgrims during the Feast are diverse non-biblical Jewish sources[13] numbering the totality of pilgrims at approximately 3 million at its zenith.

Despite the development of the public aspect of the Feast, private commemoration was still prevalent among the Jewish families. According to the scholar Abraham Bloch[14], the first step leading to the creation of the home Passover seder service was taken during the period of the great Temples in Jerusalem, when the Jews who had slaughtered the paschal (Passover) offerings joined the Levites in the chanting of the Hallel (psalms of praise). It is currently unclear as to how the development of private commemoration coincided with the dominance of the temple when it existed (if it did happen) but due to space and time constraints, that will not be discussed here. Many works of rabbinic literature, the ancients and contemporary writers[15] document this development and self-research is encouraged.

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Gehenna & The Valley of Hinnom

There are various words used in the New Testament (NT) which are translated into our English bibles as “hell.” First off, there’s Hades which is “properly, unseen, i.e. “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls.” [1] Besides that, there’s also Tartarus which has been taken to mean, “the place of punishment of the fallen angels,” [2] Now we come to the topic of today’s article, that is, Gehenna.

“Gehenna is a transliteration from the Aramaic form of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, “valley of Hinnom.” [3] To transliterate is to “write or print (a letter or word) using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language.” [4] The development can be summarised as: Ge-Hinnom (Hebrew) –> Ge-hinnam (Aramaic) -> Ge’enna (Greek); Gehenna (transliteration)

The phrase “valley of Hinnom” is found in Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; Nehemiah 11:30. It is also known as the valley of Ben-Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; 18:16), the valley of the son of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10), and Topheth [5] (Jeremiah 7:31; 2 Kings 23:10).

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