Evidence that Cannot Save

Evidence that Cannot Save Law

A review by Stuart Brogden

John Warwick Montgomery has an impressive resume – author of more than 60 books in in 6 languages; he holds eleven earned degrees; is admitted as a lawyer to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court; and is a Distinguished Research Professor at Concordia University Wisconsin. That’s something of note. He has written a short book, History, Law, and Christianity, which is divided into two parts that examine the historical and legal evidence for Christianity. One of his colleagues at the university, Rod Rosenbladt, endorses this book and encourages readers to buy several copies, “because you will end up doing what I do. You will give copies to non-Christians!”

And this perspective reveals the faulty foundation of this work – it is presented as a compelling argument for the biblical account of Jesus that can bring lost people into the kingdom of God. We should not overlook the excellent examination of historical and legal evidence that does support the biblical accounts – but we cannot fall into the trap of thinking evidence or philosophical arguments will save anyone. This faulty foundation shows up early in the book – page 4, as the author declares, “Like Cambridge professor C.S. Lewis, I was brought ‘kicking and struggling’ into the kingdom of God by the historical evidence on behalf of Jesus’ claims.” On page 31, Montgomery serves up a short quote by Pliny the Younger, circa 122, showing how early Christians met for worship, and he then comments, “From that day to this all Christians – Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant – have worshiped Christ as God on the basis of the historically impeccable testimony of Jesus’ own followers and of those who knew them intimately.”  Let’s leave aside the issue of which Jesus is embraced by Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics and just focus on the thrust of Montgomery’s statement. It is another declaration that people come to saving knowledge of Christ on the basis of evidence and confidence of arguments based on that evidence.

This cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. If the author’s perspective is true, we need to witness with an eye towards saving people contrary to the Apostle Paul – And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV)

As with other books that have been written in this vein, this book can be quite useful for Christians who want to grow in their confidence of the biblical record, but is dangerous as a witnessing tool. People convinced by such evidence and sound arguments may very well end up having a faith that rests in the wisdom of men. We are ambassadors of the cross, not of historical evidence. People are brought into a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus by the work of His Spirit, as we proclaim His gospel. The flip side of the coin offered up by Montgomery is the attractive but just as faulty view that we can save Mormons (or others) by showing them factual errors in their religious books and doctrines. We cannot argue anyone into the kingdom of God.

That being said, this book has much encouragement for the saints. Montgomery rightly refutes post-modernism, false philosophical arguments, and liberal theology. He provides a very credible and readable defense of the person and deity of Christ Jesus from the historical record and the legal perspective, starting off (page 8) reminding us our faith is not blind or without evidentiary support: “Christian theology cannot be divorced from logic and history.” Since the gospel is centered on the work and person of Christ Jesus, we must accept the biblical record as factual – not something merely mystical – just as Jesus did when He talked about Adam, Jonah, Abraham, and other ancients from Moses’ account. Montgomery reminds us that while we can gain much from reading books written by other Christians, our faith and our truth are founded on the “primary documents” – the word of God. This is good stuff!

On page 11 and following, our author examines the historical credibility of the Bible, looking at biographical evidence, internal evidence, and external evidence. In each of these areas, the Scriptures excel in comparison to other historical persons and events accepted by all with far less support in all of these areas. Does this not reinforce the fact that such evidence cannot bring about the change that happens when one is born by again by the will of the Creator? But to see how blind lost people are to truth and willing they are to believe anything else, Montgomery observes: “To express skepticism concerning the resultant text of the New Testament books (as represented, for example, by Nestle’s Novem Testamentum Graece) is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” We can have confidence in our God because His Word is reliable. But we believe His Word because He opened our mind to His Truth when He made new creatures in Christ.

The second part of this short book focuses on the legal defense of the faith. He begins (page 47) by pointing out that every false religion is self-validating, a standard that very post-modern would embrace. “Christianity, on the other hand, declares that the truth of its absolute claims rests squarely on certain historical facts open to ordinary investigation.” The edge of the knife – our faith is fact-based, historically, archeologically, and philosophically; but can only be embraced if we are raised from spiritual death by the Author of all Truth. By nature, men suppress the Truth (Roman 1:18) and cannot will or desire to see it (Isaiah 64:7). Beginning on page 51, Montgomery addresses “four overarching questions” that “need to be addressed: (1) Are the historical records of Jesus solid enough to rely upon? (2) Is the testimony in these records concerning his life and ministry sufficiently reliable to know what he claimed about himself? (3) Do the accounts of his resurrection from the dead, offered as proof of his divine claims, in fact establish those claims? (4) If Jesus’ deity is established in the foregoing manner, does he place a divine stamp of approval on the Bible so as render it pronouncements apodictically certain?” Then he uses classical legal reasoning to examine each of these.

Our author examines motives for false testimony and the complexities of deception, providing nifty charts to show the various points of tension in each false presentation. Telling lies requires excellent memory and collaboration – and falls apart rather easily under competent cross-examination. The culture of disciples provided a cross-examination of sorts, making it impossible for them to carry on a life based on lies when so many Jews and Romans, who were hostile to their claims, walked among them day by day.

His last paragraph is worth a close read: “To meet man’s desperate need for apodictic (clearly established or beyond dispute) principles of human conduct, an incarnate God must not speak with a forked tongue. And, as we have seen, no divine stuttering has occurred. To the contrary, his message can be relied upon as evidentially established, a sure light shining in a dark world, illuminating the path to eternity.” Note this clearly – “His message can be relied upon.” We have been entrusted with His message, not our own. His message is the simple, foolish message of the cross, the story of the fall of man, the perfect life of the solitary God-man who earned the right to take the punishment for our sins and make a way for sinners to be reconciled to holy God. That is the life-giving message that He has given us – and we have nothing to be ashamed of when we proclaim it. The message is credible because the Author is credible. Once He gives new life, we can appreciate and embrace the trustworthiness of the message.

The Gospel in the Old Testament

The Gospel in the Old Testament. christ-in-the-old-460x259

What follows is a portion of what will be in part 2 of the book I am writing (Reformed and Baptist). I would like any constructive criticism ya’ll may be able and willing to contribute.

Perhaps the most clear, comprehensive illustration of the gospel in the Old Testament is portrayed in the story of the great flood. In the days of Noah, as in most eras of humanity, men were evil and there were few who knew and worshiped the One God. Noah found favor in the eyes of YHWH (Gen 6:3). Noah alone, of all the men on earth at that time, found favor in God’s sight. What does this mean? Abraham declared that he had found favor in God’s sight (Ex 33:12 & 13) and Moses, like Noah, is said by YHWH to have found favor in His eyes (Ex 33:16 & 17). Each man was solitary in his standing as God’s chosen vessel in the midst of a wicked and crooked generation, just as was the Christ to whom each of these men pointed. These mortal men, however, had no righteousness of their own, as the types always fail to fully portray the anti-type. They found favor in God’s sight because, as we see in the tale of Joseph in Egypt (Gen 39 – 50), God was with each of them and His favor was given to each of them. While each of the ancient patriarchs serve our purpose of showing how salvation has always been by grace given to sinners through faith given to sinners to believe God’s message about the promised Savior, Noah is the one example we will focus on.

In verse 9 we read that Noah was righteous, blameless in his generation – because he walked with God. Here, again, we must not read too much into these adjectives describing Noah. No natural man has ever been or will ever be truly blameless or righteous before God unless God justifies him and makes Him so (Ecc 7:20); there is no one who calls upon God, no one who rouses himself to take hold of Him (Isa 64:7). Noah’s blamelessness means he was circumspect in his living and did not give his generation cause to blaspheme God, just as described in 1 Tim 3:7, wherein the qualifications of elders are revealed. As our Lord kept Himself pure (John 17:4), using His walk with and prayer to His Father (Luke 22:39 – 46) to strengthen Him, so Noah was strengthened by walking with God – just as you and I are in our day. The earth was corrupt in God’s sight, filled with violence (verse 11); note the contrast to Noah, who found favor in God’s sight. As He will do at the end of the age, God the Righteous Judge declared His judgment upon the wicked world (verse 13) and told Noah how to save himself and his family (verses 14 – 17). Noah was told to make an ark and make many rooms in it, for the salvation of his family and all the animals God would shut up in the ark (Gen 7:11 – 17). None but the people and animals that God called would be allowed in the ark, none but those effectually called by YHWH into His provision of refuge would be saved. The vast majority of the earth’s population was consumed by God’s wrath; there was no refuge for anyone other than being in the ark (verses 20 – 23).

Do you see how this story points us to Christ? He was the solitary Son who was pleasing to the Father, hated by the world (John 15:18 & 19) and the wicked and corrupt generation that was seeking after signs (Matt 16:4). God pronounced His judgment that will cause the earth and its starry heavens to burn up and be consumed in His wrath (2 Pet 3:10), brought forth in resurrected glory as will His children be (1 Cor 15:35 – 49). Jesus went to prepare many rooms in His Father’s house, promising to take us there (John 14:2 & 3). The house, the temple (Eph 2:21 & 22), the city in which our Lord will dwell with those He saves (Rev 21:1-3); is built up of His elect, spiritual stones (1 Pet 2:4 & 5); firmly planted on the foundation laid by Jesus (1 Cor 3:11) and the prophets and apostles (Eph 2:20) – our Chief Cornerstone (Acts 4:11) and the other foundations stones that will never be shaken (Heb 12:28). None but those effectually called by God (John 17:1 & 2) will be allowed to enter in to the New Jerusalem that Christ is building by His blood and His righteousness (Heb 9:12; 1 Pet 1:18 & 19; 1 Cor 1:30).

I bring in a parable on baptism in chapter 2, so the reader will also know that this ark is specifically called out by Peter as a type, with the flood representing Jesus’ baptism in the wrath of God (1 Pet 3:21), the cup of which He drank – to the fullest, all the dregs (Psalm 75:2 – 8; Christ stood in our place as the one condemned, which is portrayed here) – to save those He predestined for that glorious end.

This is why I think this bit of history from God’s Holy Scriptures is one of the best for showing the comprehensive story of God’s redemptive purposes shown throughout His Word, which is the main theme in all of Scripture. Don’t take my word for it – this is what the Captain of our salvation said to dull minded disciples shortly after His resurrection. And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

Battle Plans

Battle Plan Battle Plan

A review by Stuart Brogden

David W. Saxton’s God’s Battle Plan for the Mind is a tightly-packed synthesis of Puritan thoughts on biblical meditation from more than 3 dozen books. In twelve chapters, he covers several important topics, such as defining the difference between biblical mediation and unbiblical meditation. But first, he wants to show us the joy of developing the habit of meditating on the Word of God and throughout the book he shows the pitfalls of being negligent and the nourishment to our souls we gain by persisting in getting the most of our relationship with our Lord and Savior.

What does it mean to meditate? It means to think personally, practically, seriously, and earnestly on how the truth of God’s Word should look like in life.” (page 2) That is helpful in our world in which so many endorse and practice pagan meditation. Saxton reminds us that God has designed us and ordained His Word to be compatible – we find comfort and relief when we are close to Him; we find our Who He is and how we draw close in His Word. “God has chosen primarily to help us deal with discouragements and sin by applying divines truth to our minds. … Biblical meditation on Scripture acts as a believer’s medicine because God’s Spirit always uses the balm of His truth to provide lasting comfort and help.” (page 3) If believers do not spend time and effort in the Word of God, contemplating its truth and application to him, he will be drawn aside to lesser things and be weakened rather than strengthened.

On page 8, our author quotes Philippians 4:8-9 as an example of how God shows proper biblical meditation. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV) He then tells us (page 9), “This passage pronounces a blessing not on those who merely know God’s will, but rather on those who have put His will into everyday practice by dwelling on God’s truth.”

One aspect of this book that grew somewhat tedious for me is the sheer quantity and concentration of quotes from the Puritans. Many pages have 6 to 8 quotes, with sentences and paragraphs peppered with footnotes; often taking more space than Saxton uses. While it is good to read the thoughts of these long-gone saints, it is a bit distracting for so many quotes to be used in short space. But let’s get on with the book!

In advocating biblical mediation, Saxton (pages 28 & 29) tells us that the Bible is full of admonitions for God’s people to remember – as a form of mediation. “Revelation 2:5 demonstrates that this kind of meditation is actually the first step towards evangelical repentance: “Remember therefore from when thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove they candlestick out of his place – unless thou repent.” “Remember” is the word mnamoneuo, which means “to recall information from memory.” The word does not suggest that a person has actually forgotten. Rather, it commands the believer to recall or to think about again.” I would add that this word also conveys the notion of being told to not forget something, to bear in mind – as when your mother would you to remember to bring your coat home from school. Still on page 29, we are given Thomas Hooker’s definition of biblical meditation, one I think worth meditating on: “Meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth, and settle it upon the heart.” While I think this is an excellent definition, I am weary of present day duality of heart and mind – as if one’s heart (pointing to the chest) is what the Bible means by this term, rather than “heart” being a Hebrew metaphor for the seat of one’s being – the soul, which includes our mind.

In chapters 4 and 5, Saxton explores “occasional meditation” and “deliberate meditation”, showing from the Puritans and the Word of God how unplanned, near-spontaneous contemplation of some attribute of God is as valuable as planned study and prayer and pondering the Word. Occasional meditation ought to fill our minds during the day, rather than our routine absorption of cultural media and the attending thoughts it stimulates. We are cautioned to be on guard against the mystical practice of Rome and others with regards to occasional meditation, but also to persist in training ourselves to think on and ponder the Word of God and how it applies to our daily lives throughout our days. We are urged to memorize Scripture as a safe guard for our thought-life. That’s good advice – I dare most of us are not taking it! Deliberate meditation is pressed on us as necessary for spiritual life – if we do not make plans to read, study, pray over, and ponder God’s Word, our sinful minds will fill us with fleshly desires. I am an advocate of making time early in the day, the calibrate my thinking with the Scriptures before I engage the world. Many of the Puritans agree with me, but they also recognize the danger of dictating specifics to others – some may function better later in the day. So each man must be convinced in his own mind.

William Bridge taught that meditation on the Word should be divided into four parts. The believer must consider the exactness of the commandment, the faithfulness of the promise, the terror of the threatening, and the weightiness of the examples.” (page 62) This I see as excellent counsel. Far too many Christians have a casual attitude towards the Word of God, actually caring not for various passages that do not conform to their presuppositions. Encouraging Christians to ever trust God, Saxton sums up a Puritan view: “In His wise and perfect dealings, the Lord sometimes causes His people to experience unusual times of joy, sorrow, decision, or change. These are all His divine gifts to turn the believer’s heart to seriously consider God’s dealings to gain His perspective from His Word.” If we grasp the truth of the sovereignty of God, we will embrace this idea – nothing we encounter is “happenstance”; all is God’s providential care, an expression of His kindness towards us. There is excellent teaching on choosing subjects to meditate upon – from sin and death to eternity to hell, and God’s rescue of His people. Our author quotes Thomas Watson (page 93): “Meditation on hell would rejoicing in a child of God … Christ Himself has felt the pain of hell for you. The Lamb of God being roasted in the fire of God’s wrath, by this burnt-offering the Lord is now appeased toward His people. Oh how may the godly rejoice!” Do we see the Lord in this light? Do we begin to comprehend how blessed we are by NOT having to face God’s wrath?

As with all things, Saxton and the Puritans see the main focus of meditation being to bring glory to God. How much of our prayer life is fleshly? Physical healing is always needed – but how often at church prayer meetings do we hear moans and weeping over spiritual matters? Is the eternal destiny of our family and friends as important as losing 10 pounds or getting a higher paying job? Do we recognize how desperately we need God’s grace this day? He quotes Henry Scudder (page 100) – “when you arise and dress yourself, lose not that precious time (when your mind is freshest) with impertinent and fruitless thoughts…. This is a fit time to think about why you have need of apparel.” The Fall affects everything in this age. I heard a pastor remark that every time a dog barks, he is reminding us that our race caused him and all creation to be cursed. We messed it up – not the dogs that God was kind enough to give us as companions. Do we admit to being Adam’s offspring, in need of the last Adam’s righteousness and thankful for His submission to the Father in all things? That is a good thing to meditate upon!

In chapter 10 we are given the benefits of meditation: it deepens repentance; increase resolve to fight sin; inflames heart affection for the Lord; increase growth in grace; provides comfort and assurance to the soul; creates a life of joy, thankfulness, and contentment; deepens and matures a Christian’s experience; and improves the knowledge and retention of God’s Word. That’s quite a list! Any one of these benefits is more than enough to show any child of God that he should spend more time and mental energy consuming and pondering the Word of God and how, now, he should live. None of us has “arrived” nor will any of us do so in this age. Brothers and sisters – we need these benefits and others who have gone before us bid us drink deeply from the fount of God’s Word to gain them. If you and I are honest, we admit we have no excuse for our negligence in pursuing godliness. Saxton calls upon the Puritans to speak to this in chapter 11 – Enemies of Meditation.

But there are a couple things in chapter 10 that must be highlighted, showing us that neither Saxton nor his beloved Puritans had it all together, either. First up, a short quote from Thomas Watson, a very credible witness for the Lord – but not perfect. Saxton quotes Watson from Heaven Taken by Storm (pages 106 – 107): “If only people meditated on the damnableness of sin … they would break off … sinning and become new creatures.” This is cobbled together from a short paragraph from Watson’s pen:

Meditation produceth reformation, Psalm cxix. 59. ‘I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.’ Did but people meditated on the damnableness of sin; did but they meddled with it, there is a rope at the end of it, which will hang them eternally in hell, they would break off a course of sinning, and become new creatures. Let all this persuade us to holy meditation. I dare be bold to say that if men would spend but one quarter of an hour every day in contemplating heavenly objects, it would leave a mighty impression upon them, and, through the blessing of God might prove the beginning of a happy conversion.

First, let’s all agree that spending time humbly before God as revealed in Scripture will cause reformation within the Christian. But can pondering sin and stopping any one or several of them actually cause a child of wrath to be born again and adopted by God? Mr. Watson had this backwards! God is the One who works transformation by raising a spiritually dead person to new life, becoming a new creature in Christ – not by any works on the part of the creature, for then we would have cause to boast in our flesh! God works reformation in the lives of His people, as we all are on a journey of becoming more conformed to Christ and need His Spirit working within us to make it so. These two things are not the same. From other things written by Watson, I think he knew this – but his writing and thinking (like mine) is not perfect. And he errs in this instance.

Secondly, after quoting Jonathan Edwards (page 110), Saxton says, “Meditation causes believers to grow in grace because it allows the word of His grace to minister a genuine building up of the soul.” (emphasis mine) We must always be on guard with how we characterize the Creator. He does not need our permission or cooperation to work His grace in our lives. He does instruct and equip us to cooperate with Him in this endeavor, but we do not allow Him to work His grace in our lives. Our brother would serve us better by saying that meditation promotes the Word of His grace to build up our soul.

Sanctification (which all of what this book discusses fit within) is a curious process. Unlike justification, sanctification is not monolithic. And while we are encouraged to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our ongoing sanctification, there are times in each believer’s life that He sanctifies us without our cooperation. Praise the Lord that He does not grow weary or negligent in His work, though we may be from time-to-time! But note this – apart from the Spirit working in us, we cannot sanctify ourselves. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Game, point, match.

Last gripe – in the last chapter, careless language once again inserts an unbiblical image that has been promoted and abused by many, though I do not think this is Saxton’s intention. On page 130, Saxton tells us: “Our deceitful hearts seek to convince us that we have the innate ability to live the Christian life in our own power. Only humble prayer can drive out that evil spirit.” Two things are evident in this short quote: He contradicts himself, telling us rightly we cannot live the Christian life in our power, then telling us how to do so! Then he tells us that sin in us is an evil spirit. Accepting this image without realizing God’s truth leaves us open to being misled. Bob Larson has made untold sums of money playing on the fears of those who do not know the Lord or who are ignorant of the fact that if the Spirit of the living God indwells us, no evil spirit can therein abide. Though our flesh is affected and afflicted by indwelling sin, our soul is perfectly righteous and “possessed” by the Spirit of God. Only lost persons can have an evil spirit within them. That should make us thankful yet again to be found in Christ!

To conclude (lest I go on too long, as is my wont), this is a most excellent book, much needed in every church and by every child of God – for who does not need more grace and closeness with our Lord? Saxton tells us (page 131), “normal Christian growth can be a messy, painful, and imperfect struggle. Yet, just the same, it is a struggle worth fighting.” In his conclusion, he tells us, “The believer’s ultimate purpose is to glorify God through becoming more life Jesus Christ (Rom 8:28-30; 2 Cor 3:18). … This process of progressive sanctification is all of the Lord’s grace, yet it is a duty in which God’s people are responsible to participate.” “Find your greatest delight in life in the presence of Christ though His Word.” (page 137)

Arminianism: The Road to Rome

Arminianism: The Road to Rome

Augustus Toplady (1740-1778)

hymnwriter and theologian

Whose Voice Do You Hear? toplady3

“My sheep, saith Christ, hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. O, most worthy Scriptures! which ought to compel us to have a faithful remembrance, and to note the tenor thereof; which is, the sheep of Christ shall never perish.”Doth Christ mean part of his elect, or all, think you? I do hold, and affirm, and also faithfully believe, that he meant all his elect, and not part, as some do full ungodly affirm. I confess and believe assuredly, that there shall never any of them perish: for I have good authority so to say; be- cause Christ is my author, and saith, if it were possible, the very elect should be deceived. Ergo, it is not possible that they can be so deceived, that they shall ever finally perish, or be damned: wherefore, whosoever doth affirm that there may be any (i.e. any of the elect) lost, doth affirm that Christ hath a torn body.”1

The above valuable letter of recantation is thus inscribed: “A Letter to the Congregation of Free-willers, by One that had been of that Persuasion, but come off, and now a Prisoner for Religion:” which superscription will hereafter, in its due place, supply us with a remark of more than slight importance.


John Wesley, A Friend of Rome?

To occupy the place of argument, it has been alleged that “Mr. Wesley is an old man;” and the Church of Rome is still older than he. Is that any reason why the enormities, either of the mother or the son, should pass unchastised?

It has also been suggested, that “Mr. Wesley is a very laborious man:” not more laborious, I presume, than a certain active being, who is said to go to and fro in the earth, and walk up and down in it:2 nor yet more laborious, I should imagine, than certain ancient Sectarians, concerning whom it was long ago said, “Woe unto you Scribes, hypocrites; for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte:”3 nor, by any means, so usefully laborious, as a certain diligent member of the community, respecting whose variety of occupations the public have lately received the following intelligence: “The truth of the following instance of industry may be depended on: a poor man with a large family, now cries milk, every morning, in Lothbury, and the neighbourhood of the Royal Exchange; at eleven, he wheels about a barrow of potatoes; at one, he cleans shoes at the Change; after dinner, cries milk again; in the evening, sells sprats; and at night, finishes the measure of his labour as a watchman.”4


The Quarrel is With the Wolf

Mr. Sellon, moreover, reminds me (p. 128.) that, “while the shepherds are quarrelling, the wolf gets into the sheep fold;” not impossible: but it so happens, that the present quarrel is not among “the shepherds,” but with the “wolf” himself; which “quarrel” is warranted by every maxim of pastoral meekness and fidelity.

I am further told, that, while I am “berating the Arminians, Rome and the devil laugh in their sleeves.” Admitting that Mr. Sellon might derive this anecdote from the fountain head, the parties themselves, yet, as neither they nor he are very conspicuous for veracity, I construe the intelligence by the rule of reverse, though authenticated by the deposition of their right trusty and well-beloved cousin and counsellor.

Once more: I am charged with “excessive superciliousness, and majesty of pride:” and why not charged with having seven heads and ten horns, and a tail as long as a bell-rope? After all, what has my pride, or my humility, to do with the argument in hand? Whether I am haughty, or meek, is of no more consequence either to that, or to the public, than whether I am tall or short: however, I am, at this very time, giving one proof, that my “majesty of pride” can stoop; that even to ventilate the impertinences of Mr. Sellon.


Arminianism at Home in Rome

But, however frivolous his cavils, the principles for which he contends are of the most pernicious nature and tendency. I must repeat, what already seems to have given him so much offence, that Arminianism “came from Rome, and leads thither again.” Julian, bishop of Eclana a contemporary and disciple of Pelagius, was one of those who endeavoured, with much art, to gild the doctrines of that heresiarch, in order to render them more sightly and palatable. The Pelagian system, thus varnished and paliated, soon began to acquire the softer name of Semipelagianism. Let us take a view of it, as drawn to our hands by the celebrated Mr. Bower, who himself, in the main, a professed Pelagian, and therefore less likely to present us with an unfavourable portrait of the system he generally approved. Among the principles of that sect, this learned writer enumerates the following:

“The notion of election and reprobation, independent on our merits or demerits, is maintaining a fatal necessity, is the bane of all virtue, and serves only to render good men remiss in working out their salvation, and to drive sinners to despair.   “The decrees of election and reprobation are posterior to, and in consequence of, our good or evil works, as foreseen by God from all eternity.”5

Is not this too the very language of modern Arminianism? Do not the partizans of that scheme argue on the same identical terms? Should it be said, “True, this proves that Arminianism is Pelagianism revived; but it does not prove, that the doctrines of Arminianism are originally Popish:” a moment’s cool attention will make it plain that they are. Let us again hear Mr. Bower, who, after the passage just quoted, immediately adds, “on these two last propositions, the Jesuits found their whole system of grace and free-will; agreeing therein with the Semipelagians, against the Jansenists and St. Augustine.”6 The Jesuits were moulded into a regular body, towards the middle of the sixteenth century: toward the close of the same century, Arminius began to infest the Protestant churches. It needs therefore no great penetration, to discern from what source he drew his poison. His journey to Rome (though Monsicur Bayle affects to make light of the inferences which were at that very time deduced from it) was not for nothing. If, however, any are disposed to believe, that Arminius imbibed his doctrines from the Socinians in Poland, with whom, it is certain, he was on terms of intimate friendship, I have no objection to splitting the difference: he might import some of his tenets from the Racovian brethren, and yet be indebted, for others, to the disciples of Loyola.


Papists and Predestination

Certain it is, that Arminius himself was sensible, how greatly the doctrine of predestination widens the distance between Protestantism and Popery. “There is no point of doctrines (says he) which the Papists, the Anabaptists, and the (new) Lutherans more fiercely oppose, nor by means of which they heap more discredit on the reformed churches, and bring the reformed system itself into more odium; for they (i.e. the Papists, & etc.) assert, that no fouler blasphemy against God can be thought or expressed, than is contained in the doctrine of predestination.”7 For which reason, he advises the reformed world to discard predestination from their creed, in order that they may live on more brotherly terms with the Papists, the Anabaptists, and such like.

The Arminian writers make no scruple to seize and retail each other’s arguments, as common property. Hence, Samuel Hoord copies from Van Harmin the self same observation which I have now cited. “Predestination (says Samuel) is an opinion odious to the Papists, opening their foul mouths, against our Church and religion:”8 consequently, our adopting the opposite doctrines of universal grace and freewill, would, by bringing us so many degrees nearer to the Papists, conduce to shut their mouths, and make them regard us, so far at least, as their own orthodox and dearly beloved brethren: whence it follows, that, as Arminianism came from Rome, so “it leads thither again.”


The Jesuits and Predestination

If the joint verdict of Arminius himself, and of his English proselyte Hoord, will not turn the scale, let us add the testimony of a professed Jesuit, by way of making up full weight. When archbishop Laud’s papers were exam- ined, a letter was found among them, thus endorsed with that prelate’s own hand: “March, 1628. A Jesuit’s Letter, sent to the Rector at Bruxels, about the ensuing Parliament.” The design of this letter was to give the Superior of the Jesuits, then resident at Brussels, an account of the posture of civil and ecclesiastical affairs in England; an extract from it I shall here subjoin: “Father Rector, let not the damp of astonishment seize upon your ardent and zealous soul, in apprehending the sodaine and unexpected calling of a Parliament. We have now many strings to our bow. We have planted that soveraigne drugge Arminianisme, which we hope will purge the Protestants from their heresie; and it flourisheth and beares fruit in due season. For the better prevention of the Puritanes, the Arminians have already locked up the Duke’s (of Buckingham) eares; and we have those of our owne religion, which stand continually at the Duke’s chamber, to see who goes in and out: we cannot be too circumspect and carefull in this regard. I am, at this time, transported with joy, to see how happily all instruments and means, as well great as lesser, co-operate unto our purposes. But, to return unto the maine fabricke:–OUR FOUNDATION IS ARMINIANISME. The Arminians and projectors, as it appeares in the premises, affect mutation. This we second and enforce by probable arguments.”9


The Sovereign Drug Arminianism

The “Sovereign drug, Arminianism,” which said the Jesuit, “we (i.e. we Papists) have planted” in England, did indeed bid fair “to purge our Protestant Church effectually. How merrily Popery and Arminianism, at that time, danced hand in hand, may be learned from Tindal: “The churches were adorned with paintings, images, altar-pieces, & etc. and, instead of communion tables, alters were set up, and bowings to them and the sacramental elements enjoined. The predestinarian doctrines were forbid, not only to be preached, but to be printed; and the Arminian sense of the Articles was encouraged and propagated.”10 The Jesuit, therefore, did not exult without cause. The “sovereign drug,” so lately “planted,” did indeed take deep root downward, and bring forth fruit upward, under the cherishing auspices of Charles and Laud. Heylyn, too, acknowledges, that the state of things was truly described by another Jesuit of that age, who wrote: “Protestantism waxeth weary of itself. The doctrine (by the Arminians, who then sat at the helm) is altered in many things, for which their progenitors forsook the Church of Rome: as limbus patrum; prayer for the dead, and possibility of keeping God’s com- mandments; and the accounting of Calvinism to be heresy at least, if not treason.”11


Arminianism From the Pit

The maintaining of these positions, by the Court divines, was an “alteration” indeed; which the abandoned Heylyn ascribes to “the ingenuity and moderation found in some professors of our religion.” If we sum up the evidence that has been given, we shall find its amount to be, that Arminianism came from the Church of Rome, and leads back again to the pit whence it was digged.


ENDNOTES:

1. Strype, u.s.
2. Job 1:7 with 1 Peter 5:8.
3. Matt. 23:15.
4. Bath Chronicle, for Feb. 6, 1772.
5. Bower’s Hist. of the Popes, vol. 1, p. 350.
6. Bower ibid.
7. Arminius, in Oper. P.115. Ludg. 1629. (See book for Latin.)
8. Hoord, In Bishop Davenant’s Animadversions, Camb. 1641.
9. Hidden works of darkness, p. 89, 90. Edit. 1645.
10. Tindal’s Contin. of Rapin, vol. 3 octavo, 1758.
11. Life of Laud, p. 238.

The Little God Who Can’t

The Little God Who Can’timages

Is God unable to save everyone he loves?  Here’s more thought on a delicate subject.

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In reading about the life of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, one cannot help being struck by the enormity of what a failure it all was.  There were grand and glorious promises made to the Hebrew people about their life in their promised land, but the writings of Moses also contained prophecies about a crashing destruction that would come upon their nation in the end.  What was God doing?  Why would he create such a grand experiment in the life of humanity knowing that it would only end in failure and tragedy?  Was God unable to make such a great and elaborate plan a success rather than a failure?  The answer, of course, is made plain in the New Testament.  God’s full intention was to show and prove to all people that man has sinned against the God who made him and fully deserves eternal death.  It was and still is a hard lesson to learn.

In our world today man still has not fully understood what it was that the failure of Israel taught us — that man cannot save himself by being “good” and keeping laws — or even by making correct decisions. Even a large part of the Christian community today believes in a religious system that leaves the far greater part of humanity in a burning hell rather than “saved” because they have not “done” something to make themselves acceptable to God.

To many Christians today God is a failure. He means well, but He just can’t get what He wants. He supposedly wants to save the whole world of humanity from hell, but that obviously is not happening; and people that he (supposedly) dearly loves are being separated from him for eternity. Popular Christian belief today requires that a person must first hear the gospel, believe it, then repent and confess their sin.  Then they can become born again and go to heaven. The truth is , however, that for the first 4,000 years of human history there was no New Testament gospel as we have it today.  And even in modern times the greater part of the world’s population still has not heard it.

Has Israel’s failure to save themselves in Old Testament times now become God’s failure in our time?  The choice of heaven or hell is now (supposedly) in the hands of man. God is excluded from the contest (gamble). He wants everybody to be eternally “saved,” but the losses are terrible, and hell is filling up with unbelievers who do not choose God. What can God do? He is powerless. He made the rules and now He must abide by them. Will He grieve forever because people He loves are in a state of eternal torment? Is this the God we believe in?  Is something wrong?

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Radio Pastor Loren Henry Wilson

Responsibility, Inability and Grace

A great review of important issues that bear on the essential doctrine of soteriology – how is one saved? By John Hendrix. accounted-as-righteousness_t_nv

Responsibility, Inability and Grace

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me…” – John 6:37

The truth of God’s word is honored not in holding exclusively to one truth to the exclusion of another truth, but in believing the whole counsel of God. The Bible plainly teaches that man is responsible to obey the summons of God to repent and believe the gospel just as it plainly teaches that he is morally unwilling and unable to do so. These two seemingly contradictory assertions can be reconciled when we understand that, after the fall, God’s perfect standard for holiness for man does not change … so even the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Christ who justifies sinners, can only belong to us, not by nature but by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness. Jesus says, “no one can come to me [i.e. believe in me] unless the Father who sent me grants it.” (John 6:54) Again, the Apostle Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Furthermore some teach that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his regenerative grace, we believe, will and desire to believe, but do not confess that it is by the work of renewal by the Holy Spirit within us that we even have the faith, the will, or the desire to do all these things; If we make the assistance of grace depend on our own wisdom, humility, prudence, obedience, sound judgment or good sense, but don’t agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, we then directly contradict the Scripture which says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

The following chart shows that the Bible clearly teaches both man’s responsibility to believe the gospel and his inability to do so. The third column helps us to understand how those whom God has set his affection on infallibly come to faith, in spite of this inability and, most of all, how this gives all glory to God in the work of salvation: Augustine once said, “God bids us do what we cannot, that we may know what we ought to seek from him.”

(This chart is loosely based on a chart by Lamar McKinney)

The Responsibility of Man

The Inability of Man

Monergistic Grace of God

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matt. 11:28

No man can come to me, . . .

John 6:44a

. . . except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:44b

…whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

…men loved the darkness rather than the Light…and will not come into the light…

John 3:20, 21

..”But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

John 3:21

Note: there are, indeed, those who come to the light — namely those whose deeds are the work of God. “Wrought in God” means worked by God. Apart from this gracious work of God all men hate the light of God and will not come to him lest their evil be exposed.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Isa 55:6

There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Rom 3:11

. . . I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

Rom 10:20b

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ…

1 John 3:23

“…the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Romans 8:7

you do not hear, because you are not of God.

John 8:47

“…and these whom He called, He also justified;

Rom 8:30

…and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Acts 13:48

God…commandeth all men every where to repent.

Acts 17:30

…the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him

John 14:7

“…if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Tim 2:25

. . . whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Rev 22:17b

So then it is not of him that willeth, . . .

Rom 9:16a

“…but on God, who has mercy.” – Rom 9:16b

…Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,. . .

Ps 110:3a

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

Isa 45:22

. . . Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:3a

. . . The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest . . . see that Just One, . . ..

Acts 22:14

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

John 1:12

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Cor 2:14

But as many as received him, . . . were born, not of . . the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13

. . . if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, . . .

ROM 10:9

. . . no man can say that Jesus is Lord . . .

1 Cor 12:3b

. . . but by the Holy Ghost.

1 Cor 12:3b

. . . make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, . . ?

Ezek 18:31

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: . . .

Jer 17:9

A new heart also will I give you, . . . and I will take away the stony heart . . .

Ezek 36:26

“If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Matt 19:21

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”


Matt 19:23

“Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matt 25b-26

God knoweth we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requireth no more than he giveth, and giveth what he requireth, and accepteth what he giveth.” – Richard Sibbes

John Hendryx
Monergism

A CHRISTOTELIC VIEW OF DANIEL 9:24-27

What follows is an excellent approach to an optimum understanding of this famous but often Disp
misunderstood passage from God’s Word, written by Zachary Maxcey who blogs at Providence Theological Seminary Blog (http://nct-blog.ptsco.org/)

A Preliminary Plea for Tolerance in Non-Essential Eschatological Matters

Few areas of theological study ignite such heated controversy as eschatology. Sadly, on account of eschatological differences, Christians all too often hurl harsh, bitter invectives against those whom they would claim as their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Such behavior, not to mention the doctrinal divisions, both damages the public witness of the Body of Christ and significantly hinders the proclamation of the Gospel. In the words of the Apostle James, My brothers, this should not be  (James 3:10).[1] As believers in Christ, we must be able to lock arms together on all essential matters of the Christian faith, while agreeing to disagree in non-essential or disputable matters. We must remember that famous statement of Rupertus Meldenius, In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. [2] When we fail to do so, we stand in violation of Christ’s command to love one another as He loved us, an outworking of the second greatest commandment (John 13:34; Matt 22:39). As long as we accept the absolute essentials[3] of orthodox Christian eschatology, we can agree to disagree with fellow believers on such eschatological questions as the timing of the rapture, the issue of the millennium, or the Seventy Weeks prophecy. If we are unable to respectfully[4] differ in Christian love with fellow believers on these (and other) disputable matters, we, including this author, have absolutely no business communicating our eschatological opinions.

Download the 56 page document here: https://app.box.com/s/fmyp05zgs8t1b112nz52