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Sola Scriptura

(32 posts)

The Word Is in the Book

Wednesday··2006·11·29
Among the frustrations of conversing with postmodern “thinkers” is their insistence that the Bible is not the Word of God, but Christ is the Word. True Christianity is not to be found in the written Word, but in relationship with the incarnate Word. To this I reply, “Nonsense!” (Greek: σκύβαλον). John Piper responds more eloquently (and more politely): Why is the Spirit so silent about the incarnate Word after the age of the New Testament—even among those who encroach on the authority of the book? The answer seems to be that it pleased God to reveal the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, to all succeeding generations through a book, especially the Gospels. Luther puts it like this: The apostles themselves considered it necessary to put the New Testament into Greek and to bind it fast to that language, doubtless in order to preserve it for us safe and sound as in a sacred ark. For they foresaw all that was to come and now has come to pass, and knew that if it were contained only in one’s head, wild and fearful disorder and confusion, and many various interpretations, fancies and doctrines would arise in the Church, which could be prevented and from which the plain man could be protected only by committing the New Testament to writing and language. The ministry of the internal Spirit does not nullify the ministry of the “external Word.” The Spirit does not duplicate what the book was designed to do. The Spirit glorifies the incarnate Word of the Gospels, but he does not re-narrate his words and deeds for illiterate people or negligent pastors. The immense implication of this for the pastoral ministry and lay ministry is that ministers are essentially brokers of the Word of God transmitted in a book. We are fundamentally readers and teachers and proclaimers of the message of the book. And all of this is for the glory of the incarnate Word and by the power of the indwelling Spirit. But neither the indwelling Spirit nor the incarnate Word leads us away from the book that Luther called “the external Word.” Christ stands forth for our worship and our fellowship and our obedience from the “external Word.” This is where we see “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). So it is for the sake of Christ that the Spirit broods over the book where Christ is clear, not over trances where he is obscure. —John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Crossway, 2000), 81–83.
continue reading The Word Is in the Book

“God told me”

Friday··2008·08·08
Sinclair Ferguson laments the desire of many for direct revelation from God: Why, then, should Christians today—by contrast with their fathers—be so thirsty to experience immediate personal revelation from God (“God told me . . .”) when His desire for us is the ongoing work of the Spirit opening up our understanding through mediated revelation of the New Testament? There seem to be three reasons: 1. It may appear to be more exciting, more obviously supernatural, to have direct revelation rather than Bible revelation. It seems to many people to be more “spiritual,” more “divine,” more “personal.” 2. To many people, it feels much more convincing to be able to say, “God told me . . .” than to say, “The Bible tells me. . . .” 3. Direct revelation makes it unnecessary to engage in painstaking Bible study and careful consideration of Christian doctrine in order to know the will of God. By comparison with immediate revelation, Bible study seems—to be frank—boring. Although rarely said, underlying all of this is a sinister thought: the Bible is not very clear. By contrast, it is assumed that direct revelation cannot possibly be misunderstood. —Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 107. While I agree that all three of Ferguson’s reasons are correct, I think the third is the most common, and perhaps the one that leads to rationalizing (I know, an odd word in this context) the first two. I believe most Christians are just too lazy to do the hard work of Bible study. The less apathetic among them fall back on the entirely sentimental reasons one and two. All this is very sad, because those people are going to learn absolutely nothing from God, because God is not going to speak to them. Yes, my subjectively-guided friend, you read that right. If you claim that God has spoken to you, I don’t believe you. I don’t think you are lying (unless you say it on TBN; then I’m quite convinced you’re making it up); I just think you are deluded, mistaking the voices in your head for the Holy Spirit. Conversely, if you are willing to buckle down and “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), you will “[increase] in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:46–52), and be “[sanctified] in the truth” (John 17:17–19).
continue reading “God told me”

Things I Wish I Had Said: Sufficiency of Scripture

Monday··2008·10·27 · 4 Comments
I have, on several occasions, had some variation of the following conversation: Charismatic: It’s sad that you don’t believe God speaks today. God is still the same as he was in the Bible. He spoke to his people then; there is no reason to believe he doesn’t now. It’s a shame that you think so little of God. He is awesome, and still does awesome things. Me: God doesn’t speak to us now because his Word is complete. . . . . . . and I would go on about the cessation of prophesy, the closing of the canon, etc. It has been quite a while since I’ve had such an encounter, and I’ve replayed the situation in my mind several times. As is typical, I have excellent hindsight, prompting one of my many Things I Wish I Had Said moments. I wish I had said something like this: You’ve misunderstood me. I do believe that God speaks today. He speaks to me, personally, all the time. He tells me all about himself, his nature, his character, his will, and his acts—past, present, and yet to come. He tells me all about myself, my sin, and my need for a Savior. He calls me to repent and believe. He invites me to come to him, weary and heavy-laden, and promises me rest. He entreats me to cast my cares upon him, for he cares for me. He commands me to love him with all my heart, soul mind, and strength, and to love you, too. He tells me what is good, and what he requires of me: do justly; love mercy; walk humbly. He promises that I will face no inescapable temptation, and that he will preserve me in the faith to the end, when he will receive me into his presence. He speaks to me of those things each time I open his Word. He tells me everything I need to know, and much more than I can possibly take in. You see, when I say God is not giving direct revelation today, I am not betraying a low view of God; I am demonstrating a high view of his Word, and therefore of God himself, since I cannot separate the two. You think you show great faith by looking for extraordinary words from God. But I say, this Word that I hold in my hand, this Bible, is itself a miracle. Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Is that not extraordinary? I have a sure, undeniable Word from the Lord constantly available at my fingertips that never fails to accomplish God’s purpose, that is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. You say I think too little of what God will do. I say you think too little of what he has done. You are looking for something fresh, new, and exciting; I’m not yet over the exciting things God has already done. I am satisfied with his finished work and his future promises; you are looking for more, now. Your faith is dependent upon perceived signs and wonders; My faith and hope is in the Word God has spoken. I am filled; you are hungry. You are hunting for unicorns, while I eat from a freezer filled with prime beef. I suppose that’s not a very scholarly apologetic; but that’s what was on my mind this morning, and those are my immediate thoughts on the matter.

The Biblical View

Monday··2010·06·07 · 10 Comments
A couple of weeks ago, Ligonier Ministries’ Renewing Your Mind radio program broadcast a couple of old lectures—not really sermons, and not really a “debate” (as they were billed), either—on baptism. R. C. Sproul presented the traditional view of infant baptism, and John MacArthur presented the biblical doctrine of the baptism of believers alone. Now, if I was one of the Truly Reformed, I’d be annoyed by that last sentence, particularly by the adjectives. Of course, this is my blog, and I’m not pretending any kind of impartiality. I am also not introducing two speakers presenting opposing views, so I am under no burden to appear fair and unbiased. However, if that was the situation, describing the opposing views as I did above—even though that is exactly how I see it—would be prejudicial, and inappropriate for the moment. Consider, then, how the two messages were described on the Ligonier website: Baptism Debate With R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur The church’s practice of infant baptism came under attack in the sixteenth century. Since that time, many Christian churches have rallied against the practice, administering baptism only to believing adults. From Ligonier Ministries” 1998 National Conference, Drs. John MacArthur Jr. and R.C. Sproul discuss their views on the Biblical meaning and mode of Christian baptism. Dr. MacArthur presents the credo-baptist position and Dr. Sproul presents the historic paedo(infant)-baptist position. That’s “the credo-baptist position” vs. the “historic paedo(infant)-baptist position.” That really didn’t bother me at first, but after a comment about it was made on another blog, I began to think more about what the word “historic” means: Main Entry: his·tor·ic Pronunciation: \hi-’stȯr-ik, -’stär-\ Function: adjective Date: 1594 : historical: as a : famous or important in history <historic battlefields> b : having great and lasting importance <a historic occasion> c : known or established in the past <historic interest rates> d : dating from or preserved from a past time or culture <historic buildings> <historic artifacts> So which view is more “historic”? I’ll grant that paedobaptism is an historic practice, but, by Dr. Sproul’s own admission, we don’t find it documented until the third century. Credobaptism, we all know, is explicitly documented in the New Testament. Paedobaptism is clearly not the historic position. To Ligonier’s credit, the original Renewing Your Mind introductions did not use quite so prejudicial a term. The original audience heard the following descriptions: the Protestant views of infant baptism the traditional doctrine of infant baptism the traditional Protestant case for infant baptism the classical Protestant view of infant baptism the classical Protestant case for infant baptism the Protestant case for infant baptism the traditional view of believer’s baptism Those descriptions still indicate some bias—there is a “case for” infant baptism, but only a “view of” believer’s baptism—but I don’t find them quite so irksome. After all, the earliest Protestants were paedobaptists. Somewhat humorous to me, though, is the reference to the “classical Protestant view.” [ahem] Excuse me, Mr. Ligonier-Announcer, but wouldn’t that be the Lutheran view? Well, be that as it may, I’ve rambled on for some five hundred words without getting to the issue that is really on my mind. We could go back and forth indefinitely on which is the historic view, or the (historical, classical, or what-you-will) Protestant view. Those discussions are not entirely irrelevant, but neither are they decisive. What we really want to know is which view is biblical. Luther famously declared that popes and councils can err. He also proved that reformers can err. Reformed churchmen would point to his doctrine of baptismal regeneration as proof of that. Among his other errors, also recognized by the Reformed, were his insistence on the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper (transconsubstantiation), and the perpetual virginity of Mary. Calvin also either believed in or considered it unnecessary to deny the perpetual virginity. The Church Fathers present a wide variety of oddities (consider where Matthew 18:7–9 took Origen!). The Fathers and Reformers, valuable as they are, must be left in their places. So I think it’s unfortunate that those terms (historic, classical, traditional, Protestant) were used at all. Being Protestant is of great importance to me. That the Reformation was and remains necessary and right is a presupposition in any of my discussions. Yet the bottom line is not being Protestant, or (mostly) Reformed. The bottom line is being biblical. I’m sure Drs. Sproul and MacArthur would agree.
continue reading The Biblical View
Just a few links that got my attention in the past few days: Another reason to dispose of the “First Lady” title and just call her “Mrs. President”: Olive Garden, Red Lobster Join First Lady’s Anti-Obesity Campaign. Here’s an economics-in-the-real-world lesson for Olive Garden, etc: I, along with pretty much every other consumer, choose the businesses that I will patronize based on one criterion, viz., it offers the products and services I want at a price I’m willing to pay. If you tailor your menu to the whims of some unelected busybody (elected busybodies are just as bad, by the way), well, I hope you see a lot of Mrs. Obama sitting at your table eating your fruit cups. Like other consumers, I go out to eat to have food I don’t normally can eat at home, and I get all the fruit I want at home. And be serious. French fries and sugar-sweetened beverages will not become the exception rather than the rule for children, unless you take them off the menu altogether. In that case, I hope Mrs. O brings her kids, and you have to listen to them whine as they pick at their fruit and vegetables, sans butter and salt. On the up-side for consumers, service should improve as the waiting lines disappear. But then, much of the staff will have been let go . . . I could go on and on with the consequences of non-consumer-driven business decisions, but you get the picture. By the way, for anyone who thinks the first sentence of the previous paragraph demeans the dignity of the First lady, let me say that I consider a move from political activist (or absolutely anything else) to dedicated wife and mother to be a huge promotion. Not that it will solve the problem of Presidential spouses trying to make themselves politically relevant, but it’s looking more and more like Mrs. O will be a one-term Mrs. President. But you never know. A clever voter registration campaign could turn things around. Okay, then, enough of that. For those of you thinking how unspiritual this post is, here’s an excellent critique of the Blackaby (Experiencing God) view of God’s will and guidance thereto, continued here, with a testimony to its consequences here. This is another example of why I believe all shades of charismatic theology are dangerous. Anytime you look for God’s voice anywhere but in Scripture (that’s the sixty-six books from Genesis to Revelation), you’re chasing a chimera.
continue reading Some Stuff

“Expect a Miracle”

Thursday··2013·03·28 · 3 Comments
Let us not argue about what God can do. Let us agree from the start that God can do anything. He can turn a cat into a dog, if he so desires. But let us instead consider what God does do, as he has revealed in Scripture, and as we see in creation. If God wants me to have a dog, he will not transform my cat, though I may earnestly wish for it and believe with all my heart that he can. No, if God wants me to have a dog, he will by some means cause me to acquire a puppy born of a canine mother. To look for anything more dramatic, considering what he has taught me about his normal means of dog-making, would not demonstrate any kind of faith. It would insult him, and be presumptuous and sinful.
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Knowing versus Feeling

Thursday··2013·08·08
Alistair Begg speaks my mind (and describes me on a Sunday morning): Knowing versus Feeling in Worship
continue reading Knowing versus Feeling

Your Imaginary Heaven

Monday··2013·08·26 · 3 Comments
Charles Spurgeon on Heaven Is for Real and other heaven tourism books: It’s a little heaven below, to imagine sweet things. But never think that imagination can picture heaven. When it is most sublime when it is freest from the dust of earth, when it is carried up by the greatest knowledge, and kept steady by the most extreme caution, imagination cannot picture heaven. “It hath not entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Imagination is good, but not to picture to us heaven. Your imaginary heaven you will find by-and-by to be all a mistake; though you may have piled up fine castles, you will find them to be castles in the air, and they will vanish like thin clouds before the gale. For imagination cannot make a heaven. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered the heart of man to conceive” it. —Cited in The Glory of Heaven: The Truth about Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (Second Edition) (Crossway, 2013), 18.
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Heaven Is for Real, and Other Fantasy Fiction

Tuesday··2013·08·27 · 1 Comments
Yes, I know, you read that really great book about the kid who went to heaven and came back to tell about it. You’re excited about it, and you want to share your excitement with me. Thanks. Really, I mean that sincerely. I really do appreciate your desire to share this thing that means so much to you. All Cats Go to Heaven would have been too big a stretch. That’s why I don’t enjoy telling you what I must tell you: I don’t believe it, not one sentence, not for one minute. It’s all nonsense, poppycock, hogwash, fiddle-faddle, balderdash. I don’t enjoy saying that, because I know the implicit accusations make me come across as a jerk. Who am I to say these people are flat making stuff up, or, at best, mistaking dreams for reality? Why would I think they would do that? Let me suggest that that is exactly the wrong question. The question I ask is, why would I believe such a fabulous tale? Why would I be so credulous, and, at the risk of really insulting you, gullible? What has this author done to earn my confidence? I don’t know this guy, and telling me he’s a Christian and a pastor doesn’t help one bit. The English-speaking world is filled with “Christians” who aren’t, and “pastors” who lie or are themselves deceived. Let’s not be naïve. A ready willingness to believe extra-biblical claims is not a sign of faith. Rather, incredulity is a sign of maturity. When people come with fantastic stories of heaven such as are not even found in Scripture, our response should not be, “Wow, that’s amazing,” but “Prove it.” You know, like the Bible exhorts us (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11). Finally, a tip for would-be tellers of tall tales: if you want to fool me, first learn what the Bible says about heaven, and limit your own descriptions accordingly. Granddad-with-wings was kind of a give-away.

Spiritual Lemmings

Wednesday··2013·08·28
Following yesterday’s post, here are a couple of paragraphs from John MacArthur’s The Glory of Heaven. In a world in which spirituality is fashionable, it’s important to know that not all things “spiritual” are good and true. Failing to discern makes the church look more like Oprah than the bride of Christ, and an unwillingness to discern displays a low view of Scripture. Accepting the reality of supernatural things is not the same as believing the truth. When an unbelieving mind rejects the authority of Scripture but embraces the reality of the supernatural realm, the result is always catastrophic. . . . Contemporary evangelicals simply have a too-low view of Scripture and a too-high regard for trendy things. Perhaps no demographic is more suggestible or more lemminglike. Accordingly, evangelical readers have become the largest market for and the most voracious consumers of stories told by people who claim to have gone to heaven and come back. —John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven: The Truth about Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (Second Edition) (Crossway, 2013), 27, 34.
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Pious Gullibility

Thursday··2013·08·29
I know I risk beating a dead horse with this third-of-a-kind post, but the problem of evangelical gullibility concerns me deeply. From The Prayer of Jabez to Heaven Is for Real, evangelicals are ready, and even anxious, to swallow every new, exciting addition to biblical Christianity, which they must find boring and inadequate. In short, the horse isn’t dead, and won’t be until until every Christian demands, with Luther, “Give me Scripture, Scripture, Scripture. Do you hear me? Scripture.” Those who demand to know more than Scripture tells us are sinning: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29). The limits of our curiosity are thus established by the boundary of biblical revelation. The typical Christian today seems oblivious to the principles established by Deuteronomy 29:29 and 1 Corinthians 4:6 (“that you may learn . . . not to go beyond what is written”). In fact, people seem to be looking for spiritual truth, messages from God, and insight into the spirit world everywhere but Scripture. Today’s evangelicals have been indoctrinated by decades of charismatic influence to think God regularly bypasses his written Word in order to speak directly to any and every believer—as if extra biblical revelation were a standard feature of ordinary Christian experience. Many therefore think charity requires them to receive claims of “fresh revelation” with a kind of pious gullibility. After all, who are we to question someone else’s private word from God? So when dozens of best-selling authors who profess to be Christians are suddenly claiming they have seen heaven and want to tell us what it’s like, most of the Christian community is defenseless in the wake of the onslaught. —John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven: The Truth about Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (Second Edition) (Crossway, 2013), 39–40.
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The Fatal Flaw

Tuesday··2014·04·15
According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than ninety percent of self-identified Pentecostals in most countries hold to the beliefs known as the “prosperity gospel.” How is this possible for such a blatantly heretical philosophy to so thoroughly infest the movement? The answer explains more than just the embrace of prosperity teaching. It is a critical and systemic defect within charismatic theology—a flaw that accounts for just about every theological aberration or abnormality that makes its home within the Charismatic Movement. It is this: Pentecostals and charismatics elevate religious experience over biblical truth. Though many of them pay lip service to the authority of God’s Word, in practice they deny it. If Scripture alone were truly their final authority, charismatic Christians would never tolerate patently unbiblical practices— like mumbling in nonsensical prayer languages, uttering fallible prophecies, worshipping in disorderly ways, or being knocked senseless by the supposed power of the Holy Spirit. They ought to reinterpret their experiences to match the Bible; instead, they reinterpret Scripture in novel and unorthodox ways in order to justify their experiences. As a result, any aberrant teaching or practice can be legitimized, especially when a new “revelation from God” conveniently authenticates it as having His approval. Though written nearly a half century ago, the words of René Pache still ring true: The excessive preeminence given to the Holy Spirit in their devotions and their preoccupation with gifts, ecstasies, and “prophecies” has tended to neglect of the Scriptures. Why be tied to a Book out of the past when one can communicate every day with the living God? But this is exactly the danger point. Apart from the constant control of the written revelation, we soon find ourselves engulfed in subjectivity; and the believer, even if he has the best intentions, can sink rapidly into deviations, illuminism or exaltation. Let each remind himself of the prohibition of taking anything away from Scripture or adding anything to it (Deut. 4: 2; Rev. 22:18–19). Almost every heresy and sect has originated in a supposed revelation or a new experience on the part of its founder, something outside the strictly biblical framework. By abandoning the final authority of the text, the Charismatic Movement has made itself susceptible to the worst kinds of doctrinal deception and spiritual exploitation. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014) 16–17.
continue reading The Fatal Flaw

You Ask Me How I Know He Lives

Monday··2014·04·21 · 2 Comments
I serve a risen Savior (“He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty”. From thence he sent the Holy Spirit, who is in the world today.) I know that He is living, Whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy; I read His words of cheer; And just the time I need Him He, my great High Priest, intercedes for me with the Father. “Therefore let us draw near . . .” He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains me in righteousness as I “let [his Word] richly dwell within [me] ” along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He promised that he would rise from the dead, the angel announced that he had, he appeared to the Apostles and others, and the Holy Spirit recorded it all in Scripture, which “I have treasured in my heart.” And that’s all I have to say about that.
continue reading You Ask Me How I Know He Lives

Apostolic Qualifications

Tuesday··2014·05·13
Charismatics, and others who build entire theological systems on single verses or even words, will ask, “Where does the Bible say the apostolic office is no more?” This is unlikely to satisfy them, but it should convince you, the logical, biblical thinker. It would be impossible for any contemporary Christian to meet the biblical qualifications required for someone to be considered an apostle. The New Testament articulates at least three necessary criteria:(1) an apostle had to be a physical eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 10:39–41; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7–8); (2) an apostle had to be personally appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2, 24; 10:41; Gal. 1:1); and (3) an apostle had to be able to authenticate his apostolic appointment with miraculous signs (Matt. 10:1 –2; Acts 1:5–8; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 8:14; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3–4). Those qualifications alone conclusively demonstrate that there are no apostles in the church today. No living person has seen the risen Christ with his or her own eyes; no one is able to perform miraculous signs like those done by the apostles in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 3:3–11; 5:15–16; 9:36–42; 20:6–12; 28:1–6); and—in spite of presumptuous claims to the contrary—no one in the modern church has been personally and directly appointed as an apostle by the Lord Jesus. Of course, there are some charismatics who claim to have seen visions of the resurrected Lord. Not only are such claims highly suspect and impossible to verify; they simply do not meet the apostolic criteria—since an apostle had to see the resurrected Christ in the flesh with his own eyes. . . . Wayne Grudem, popular author and professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, is a committed charismatic himself and perhaps the best theologian and apologist for the movement. But even he acknowledges that “since no one today can meet the qualification of having seen the risen Christ with his own eyes, there are no apostles today.” —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 92–93.
continue reading Apostolic Qualifications

How God Moves Us

Wednesday··2014·05·21
[F]rom childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:15–17 Those verses make a solid, brief statement on the truth, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture. It could hardly declare more clearly the folly of looking for more revelation than what is already given. To seek further unmediated communication from God is plainly contrary to the Word already given. However, we also want to know what this does not mean. MacArthur writes, Does this mean God has stopped speaking? Certainly not, but He speaks today through His all-sufficient Word. Does the Spirit of God move our hearts and impress us with specific duties or callings? Certainly, but He works through the Word of God to do that. Such experiences do not involve new revelation but illumination, when the Holy Spirit applies the Word to our hearts and opens our spiritual eyes to its truth. We must guard carefully against allowing our experience and our own subjective thoughts and imaginations to eclipse the authority and the certainty of the more sure Word. —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 117.
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Semi-Lunatics with Stupid Messages

Wednesday··2014·05·28
Charles Spurgeon had a way with words that could not be borne by this sissified, sensitive generation—and so I love him. Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonoured by persons—I hope they were insane—who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages. . . . Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the word of God already—he adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at his door. —Charles Spurgeon, cited in Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 130–131.

Examine Yourself (5)

Monday··2014·08·18
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. —1 Corinthians 11:27–29 It does little good to examine ourselves without the proper standard of measure. If we compare ourselves to our friends and neighbors, husbands and wives, or any other worldly standard, we are likely to pass most tests. But Christians have a more pure standard. But be sure thou compare thy heart and life with the law of God. Oh how many spots will that glass discover! When the woman hath swept her house and gathered the dust up altogether, she thinks there is none left; but when the sun doth but shine in through some broken pane of glass, she seeth the whole house swarm with innumerable motes of dust floating to and fro in the air. The light of God’s law will make innumerable sins visible to thee, which without it will lie hid. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:186
continue reading Examine Yourself (5)

Focused on Christ, or Deceived

Saturday··2016·01·02
In The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, Michael Beasley warns against undervaluing Christ’s gifts to the church. Without such gifts, the church will most certainly be carried about by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:11–16). Since the purpose of these gifts is to magnify Christ through the proclamation of His word, they are indispensable with respect to the church’s spiritual purity and growth. Christ’s gift of the Apostles, along with their attending signs, wonders, and divine revelation; the gift of His prophets in the Spirit who also disclosed God’s divine revelation of the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:1–13); the gift of His evangelists who advance the message of the Gospel to the lost; His pastors and His teachers who rightly divide the Word of God for Christ’s sheep—all of these provisions come from Christ for the maturation of the body so that His saints would not be like children tossed about by the trickery of men (Ephesians 4:14), but would become mature to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). In everything, such gifts are given so that Christ’s body would be collectively built up “in love.” In view of these matters we should avoid the extreme of making light of these gifts, or deriding their nature and purpose. To do so would be to dishonor to the One who sacrificed Himself in order to lavish such gifts upon the church. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 10–11. On the other hand, we should also beware of another tendency, one that leads to their exaltation and over-valuation: Luke 10:17–20: 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” This portion of Luke 10 reveals the disciples’ response to their brief missionary journey (Luke 10:1–16). Remarkably, the disciples’ joy and exuberance was not reciprocated by the Savior. Rather than joining in their celebration that even the demons were subject to them in Christ’s name, Jesus corrects their focus entirely by instructing them to rejoice because their names are recorded in heaven. We must not underestimate the gravity and importance of the Savior’s teaching, after all, a soul that is not centrally focused on Christ and His kingdom is a soul that is fully deceived: Matthew 7:22–23: 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” —Ibid., 11–12.
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Fallible Prophesy: Problematic and Dangerous

Monday··2016·01·04
The following includes two of “several reasons why such a notion of [fallible] prophecy is problematic and even dangerous to the church in any age.” Within the doctrine of fallible prophecy, Agabus is traditionally utilized as the central example of a NT fallible prophet (Acts 21:10–11). However, there are several inconsistencies concerning the interpretation and application of his example. If Agabus’ example was followed logically (according to the logic of fallible prophecy), then no fallible prophecy would ever require obedience from a believer due to the corrupting presence of error. This reality guts fallible prophecy of any positive value or purpose whatsoever. From the standard of Scripture, it was no small thing for a person to claim to be a prophet of God. The Bible explicitly affirms only two classes of prophets: true prophets and false prophets. In the Old Testament, the penalty of death fell upon those who falsely claimed such a gift and office. However, according to the doctrine of fallible prophecy, neither grave error nor immaturity should serve as a barrier to the exercise of such a gift by nearly everyone within the local church. Such thinking is a tragedy for the body of Christ which is called to holiness and truth in all aspects of life and servitude. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 17.

Celebrity Culture and Error

Tuesday··2016·01·05
Fallible prophesy has an accomplice: Additionally, there should be concern for the integral problem of celebritism which continues to plague the body of Christ in the modern day. In many cases, such Evangelical celebritism serves as the vehicle for problematic teachings like fallible prophecy, whether such an influence is intended or unintended.—Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 27. How far in the orthodox, Reformed world has this notion of fallible prophesy spread because the leading teachers have treated it as a non-essential and promoted its promoters, and because the celebrity culture has rendered them all virtually untouchable?
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A God Who Does Not Misspeak

Wednesday··2016·01·06
To claim that prophesy can be fallible is a serious offense against the character of our infallible God. I believe that we can confess that God is a God who does not misspeak. Clearly, Old Testament history reveals that the variance of God’s servants and messengers is striking, but what He accomplishes through them is the same: unhindered divine Revelation. He has spoken through multiple prophets and unique leaders (like Abraham and Moses) in order to disclose His revelation; He has used the wicked to declare His word and can use asses and rocks to render utterances that are pleasing to Him. Overall, despite creaturely frailty and fallibility, God has used kings, priests, judges, and prophets to disclose the glory of the One who is the King of kings and Lord of lords; the Prophet; our Great High Priest; the uniquely chosen Servant; and returning Judge—Jesus Christ. When we pause and consider the collective force of all these principles, we learn an essential lesson about the character and nature of God: He is utterly sovereign in the delivery of His infallible message—a message that supplies the bedrock of real assurance to believers of all generations, in the Old Covenant and the New: 2 Peter 1:16–21: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Clearly, Peter wanted his audience to know that what was being revealed to the New Testament church was not a fabrication of human invention. To do this, Peter reminded his readers of God’s nature and sovereign work through His chosen messengers. God’s actions throughout history have been delivered through the perfectly trustworthy record of Scripture because no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Simply put, this is how God works. Our Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever and He takes His revelation very seriously. Throughout history, God’s prophetic revelation has been central to this precious matter of revealing the glory of Christ. It is for this reason that Satan has sought, throughout history, to corrupt such revelation from the very beginning. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 33–34.
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The Test of Love

Thursday··2016·01·07
How important is it that we reject false (extra-biblical) prophesy? It is as fundamental as our love for God. It is this same emphasis on the centrality of love that we find throughout the Old and New Testament. Remember that it was the Savior who cited Deuteronomy 6:4–5 and Leviticus 19:18 when He gave these instructions concerning the foremost commandment: Mark 12:28–31: 28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” If there is a central motive and affection emphasized within the full corpus of Holy Writ, it is love. The harmony of this theme is transcendently beautiful, reminding us that whatever we do in life, if it is not done out of love for the Lord first then our servitude is counted as nothing. Let the reader know that we have not wandered away from the topic of prophecy. What we have already examined regarding the centrality of love leads us to other central truths: Deuteronomy 13:1–5: 1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. I would ask the reader to consider the central test supplied in Deuteronomy 13:3. We would miss too much if we only gleaned from this passage the specific tests supplied for evaluating a claimant of the prophetic gift. Though extremely important, those tests are only a subordinate component of God’s broader test for His people, as He said: for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. . . . Those who genuinely herald God and His word are revealed to be those who love Him truly; those who tolerate error and the corruptions of God’s revelation simply fail such a test of love. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 36–37, 38.
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Grudem’s Lexical Lunacy

Friday··2016·01·08
Michael Beasley calls into question—rather embarrassingly, I think—Wayne Grudem’s lexical basis for tinkering with the definition of New Testament prophesy. [Grudem’s] list of examples of prophetes is derived from page 794 of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT). Though I can credit him for supplying the reference, it would have been better for him to mention the section/subsection from which he harvested his data. I say this because lexical articles found within TDNT normally peruse a variety of scriptural word uses from OT, LXX, rabbinic, intertestamental, profane Greek, and NT sources. The value of this is that the student of Scripture can learn about the full lexical spectrum of words that are used in the Bible, from the good, bad, and ugliest examples. What is so striking about Grudem’s citation is that TDNT’s complete section dealing with the word prophetes begins on page 781 and ends on page 861 of volume VI in the series—a fairly large section for just one biblical word. Thus, for the full span of 80 pages, there is a wealth of information supplied concerning the use of prophetes—most of which deals with the OT and NT uses of the word. However, Grudem chose to draw from the least relevant section: profane (secular) Greek, a section which spans thirteen pages. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 54–55.
continue reading Grudem’s Lexical Lunacy

Merely Human Words

Tuesday··2016·01·12
Posting from The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, it has occurred to me that not everyone knows what this doctrine of fallible prophesy is all about. This bit of hokum from Wayne Grudem should give the sense—or, rather, nonsense—of it. So prophecies in the church today should be considered merely human words, not God’s words, and not equal to God’s words in authority. But does this conclusion conflict with current charismatic teaching or practice? I think it conflicts with much charismatic practice, but not with most charismatic teaching. Most charismatic teachers today would agree that contemporary prophecy is not equal to Scripture in authority. Though some will speak of prophecy as being the ‘word of God’ for today, there is almost uniform testimony from all sections of the charismatic movement that prophecy is imperfect and impure, and will contain elements that are not to be obeyed or trusted. For example, Bruce Yocum, the author of a widely used charismatic book on prophecy, writes, ‘Prophecy can be impure—our thoughts, or ideas can get mixed into the message we receive—whether we receive the words directly or only receive a sense of the message.’ But it must be said that in actual practice much confusion results from the habit of prefacing prophecies with the common Old Testament phrase, ‘Thus says the Lord’ (a phrase nowhere spoken in the New Testament by any prophets in New Testament churches). This is unfortunate, because it gives the impression that the words that follow are God’s very words, whereas the New Testament does not justify that position and, when pressed, most responsible charismatic spokesmen would not want to claim it for every part of their prophecies anyway. So there would be much gain and no loss if that introductory phrase were dropped. Now it is true that Agabus uses a similar phrase (“Thus says the Holy Spirit”) in Acts 21:11, but the same words (Gk. Tade legei) are used by Christian writers just after the time of the New Testament to introduce very general paraphrases or greatly expanded interpretations of what is being reported (so Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians 7:1–2 [about A.D. 108] and Epistle of Barnabas 6:8, 9:2, 5 [A.D. 70–100]). The phrase can apparently mean, ‘This is generally (or approximately) what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.’ —Wayne Grudem, cited in Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 66–67. If you can subdue your laughter over the term “responsible charismatic spokesman” for a moment, I think you can see just how thoroughly emasculated “prophesy” is in this scheme. “Merely human words”? One wonders why there would even be a word to describe something so inconsequential.
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Grudem’s Hermeneutical Hijinx

Thursday··2016·01·14
As we have seen, Wayne Grudem’s doctrine of fallible prophesy depends on some desperately selective lexicology. On top of that, his hermeneutics make a pretty desperate stretch, leaning heavily on the much-debated prophesy of Agabus (Acts 21:11). The advocates of fallible prophecy have analyzed Agabus as never before in church history. Grudem insists that Paul was not bound by the Jews, but by the Romans. Recalling the simplicity of Agabus’ prophecy, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands, and declared, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Within this prophecy, nothing is said about the timing, duration, or final outcome of Paul’s captivity. When we consider Paul’s initial arrest by the Jews, Luke tells us nothing about how Paul was restrained, except that the Jews took hold of Paul and dragged him. Concerning this last observation, it is helpful to note that the Jewish attorney, Tertullus, testified before Felix that Paul had been arrested [ekratesamen] because he “stirs up dissension among all the Jews through the world.” When we consider this account, we should note that the concept of Paul’s arrest by the Jews raises further questions about the manner in which he was restrained by them seeing that the concept of being formally arrested typically included the idea of being bound, as in the case of John the Baptist and Christ: John the Baptist: Matthew 14:3 For when Herod had John arrested [kratesas], he bound [edesen] him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. (NASB95)Jesus Christ: John 18:12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound [edesan] Him, (NASB95) Though none of this explicitly proves that the Jews temporarily bound Paul directly, it does raise serious questions about the veracity of those who insist that such a matter is impossible. Despite this, Grudem insists that Paul was never directly bound by the Jews. It would be one thing if Grudem dismissed this discussion for a lack of scriptural evidence, but this has not been his approach. One of the central arguments of fallible prophecy rests upon the absence of any explicit reference to the Jews binding Paul. By rendering an argument which rests on the absence of data, Grudem supplies nothing more than an argument from ignorance. To his mind, the fact that Luke says nothing about Paul being directly bound by the Jews actually proves that it never actually occurred. In reality, the lack of such a record proves nothing by itself. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 88–90.

Grudem’s Exegetical Error

Monday··2016·01·18
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. —1 Corinthians 14:29 Wayne Grudem imagines that this verse demonstrates a difference between Old and New Testament prophesy. He explains, When Paul says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” (1 Cor. 14:29), he suggests that they should listen carefully and sift the good from the bad, accepting some and rejecting the rest (for this is the implication of the Greek words diakrino, here translated “weigh what is said”). We cannot imagine that an Old Testament prophet like Isaiah would have said, “Listen to what I say and weigh what is said—sort the good from the bad, what you accept from what you should not accept”! If prophecy had absolute divine authority, it would be sin to do this. But here Paul commands that it be done, suggesting that New Testament prophecy did not have the authority of God’s very words. —Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1054, cited in Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 147–148. According to Grudem, prophets used to be held to a standard of absolute veracity, but now, anyone can be a prophet, and leave it to the listener to separate the filet mignon from the bologna. Michael Beasley replies, Grudem’s repeated use of this text is simply stunning. In his book, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, he manages to refer to this passage 72 times. Such repetition reveals his dependency upon his interpretation of this one passage. Grudem assumes that Paul’s use of the word diakrino eliminates the idea of passing judgment over the claimant of prophecy. He believes that this is the case in view of his stress on an interpretation of diakrino whereby a partitive analysis of the prophecy is in view only, but not the prophet. Yet . . . the principal means by which any prophet was evaluated was through the passing of judgment of what was said. Therefore, the concept of a partitive analysis of a prophetic utterance does nothing to advance the thinking of fallible prophecy. Grudem’s resistance to the notion of judging the claimant of prophecy has no scriptural basis, yet he offers not much more than a farcical offer by Isaiah: “Listen to what I say and weigh what is said—sort the good from the bad, what you accept from what you should not accept.” Indeed, Isaiah would never say, sort the good from the bad, for a simple reason: he was a genuine prophet of God. However, this does not mean that Isaiah would have resisted critical evaluation as a prophet, for this would have been a contradiction to God’s word as we have already examined in Deuteronomy 13:1–5, 18:18–22, and Jeremiah 14:13–15. The need for prophetic testing is rooted in the presence of false prophets, not genuine ones. A genuine prophet will always withstand scrutiny, but the false prophet will fail when evaluated by God’s prescribed tests. What Grudem resists is the idea that the scrutiny prescribed in 1 Corinthians 14:29 is in any way similar to the Old Testament standard whereby the prophet was principally scrutinized by the accuracy or inaccuracy of his utterance. For him it would be sin to scrutinize an infallible messenger like Isaiah. Yet, the Apostle Paul was willing to subject himself to scrutiny over his own words: Galatians 1:8: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! Critical analysis and testing are absolute necessities for the body of Christ. Paul’s willingness to be scrutinized demonstrates the need for the church to be discerning, and it also demonstrates the primacy of the message over the messenger. When the Bereans heard the word of God through the Apostle Paul, they examined what he said by the standard of God’s word. Rather than calling this sin or rebellion, Luke called the Bereans nobleminded: Acts 17:11: Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 148–150.
continue reading Grudem’s Exegetical Error

Two Kinds of Prophesy

Wednesday··2016·01·20
Michael Beasley demonstrates the consistency between the Old and New Testaments in the judgment of prophesy, concluding that in the New, just as in the Old, there are only two categories of prophesy: not fallible and infallible, but genuine, and counterfeit. [In the Old Testament], when the claimant of prophecy was found to be false, the prophet was declared to be “evil” (H. ra’, G. poneron) such that he was to be purged from Israel’s assembly: “that prophet shall die” (Deut. 18:20) and “So you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deut. 13:5). This familiar injunction, “you shall purge the evil from among you,” which is repeated ten times in Deuteronomy, consistently referred to the death of the one deemed as evil. In the Septuagint, the word used for evil is poneros which is the same term that Paul used in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and 1 Corinthians 5:21 (“. . . remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”). As we already discussed, the new order of the New Covenant calls for church discipline rather than the death of the offender. Such was the case for Paul’s dealings with the Corinthian church, and such is the case for his instructions to the Thessalonians. Paul’s antithesis between good and evil in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 is quite strong and clear: “. . . hold fast to that which is good, abstain from every form of evil [ponerou].” We should also note that Paul’s injunction is devoid of any exceptions: “abstain from every form [pantos eidous] of evil.” The Greek word for form [eidous] speaks of the form of things based upon sight or observation. Thus, this term speaks of the form or substance of things based upon empirical analysis of that which is observed. Thus, Paul’s command to abstain from such evil is rooted in this matter of observation and analysis. Such observation and analysis we have already seen prescribed in texts such as Deuteronomy 13:1–5, 18:18–22; Jeremiah 14:14–16; Matthew 7:15–23, 24:24; Corinthians 12:3, 13, 14:29, 16:22; and Galatians 5:2–23. False prophesy encompasses multiple forms of evil, and all of it must be rejected: prophesies issued in the name of false gods; prophesies falsely issued in the name of the true God; prophesies issued by prideful presumption, fleshliness, malicious intent, and lovelessness—all such forms of false prophecy, and the false prophets who deliver them, are to be classified as evil and resisted as such. Alternately, valid prophecies and the prophets who deliver them are to be embraced as good. Any form of compromise from these prophetic tests is not only dangerous, it is unloving. In all of this, we must recognize that the notion of a third category of prophecy (fallible prophecy) is nothing less than a human contrivance. Scripture presents only two categories of prophecy: prophetes (prophet) and pseudoprophetes (false prophet). Out of this reality, Christ warned the disciples concerning the manner in which false prophets present themselves: Matthew 7:15–23: 15 “Beware of the false prophets (pseudophrophetes), who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’ —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 162–164.
continue reading Two Kinds of Prophesy

Fallible Prophesy, Impotent God

Thursday··2016·01·21
One of several ways in which the doctrine of fallible prophesy is dangerous: By changing and redacting the scriptural concept of prophecy, the advocates of fallible prophecy have created a host of doctrinal problems and points of confusion within the church. God’s promise is clear: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire” (Isaiah 55:11), yet in fallible prophecy, such a promise is negated by human corruption. Thus, fallible prophecy . . . raises fundamental questions about theology proper, that is, what can be said about a deity that tries, ineffectually, to communicate through prophetic intermediaries? —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 170–171.

A Saga of Subjectivity

Tuesday··2016·01·26
Last week, I posted on the damage done to our view of God if we embrace the doctrine of fallible prophesy. Second only to that, its most dangerous product (in my opinion) is this: In light of its problematic interpretations of prophecy, fallible prophecy promotes subjectivism among Christians and supplies a dangerous form of protection for false prophets, whether they are self-deceived or intentional deceivers of others. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 171. John Piper tells a story of a “prophesy” he received from a member of his congregation in which his wife, pregnant at the time, was to give birth to a girl, and die in childbirth. This was his response: I went back to my study, I got down and I just wept. I said, ‘Lord I have been trying to help these people take this gift seriously and I don’t know what to do with this. This is . . . I cannot imagine why this would be helpful. It doesn’t feel like it’s of You, and yet I don’t want to discourage people.’ So I kept it totally to myself. I didn’t tell Noel my wife about it and when we delivered our fourth boy, not girl, I gave a ‘whoop’ which I always do, but this ‘whoop’ was a little extra because I knew as soon as the boy was born this was not a true prophecy and Noel is still alive and Barnabas is, what, 27 years old today; but that’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy — you just say ‘I don’t want anything to do with that kind of stuff’ and I don’t blame people for feeling that way but the Bible says, don’t despise them; be careful and discerning and so, my answer to your question is: if you sense something you have for somebody, offer it them as a gift, don’t thrust it at them as a demand — ‘I sense’ — I would use the words like, ‘I sense that God wants me to say to you.’ . . . Offer gifts to people — these are spiritual gifts, these are not spiritual hammers. And so, offer it to them and say, ‘just test it and if it seems to help, wonderful. —David Matthis, Piper on Prophecy and Tongues, cited in The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, 177–178. Beasley recognizes Piper’s doctrinally-induced helplessness to respond in any sensible manner. Though Piper recounts the story from the standpoint of hindsight, we should wonder how he could have known that this was a false prophecy from the beginning, as he said: “I cannot imagine why this would be helpful. It doesn’t feel like it’s of You . . .” In what sense might this not have felt to be of the Lord and by what scriptural standard did he make such an initial assessment? Apart from any scriptural test, is the criterion for testing a fallible prophecy to be reduced to the subjective question of one’s own “feelings?” —Beasley, Ibid., 179. Then there is the danger, from which Piper—the shepherd—should have protected his flock, of the false prophet left free to practice her “gift” among the sheep. In Piper’s cited example, no single aspect of this woman’s “prophecy” was valid, except for the mention of pregnancy—a fact that would have been visibly evident to all. Piper correctly calls the prophecy “false,” however, we hear nothing in his testimony about the scripturally requisite tests of love being applied to this situation (Deuteronomy 13:1–5, 1 Corinthians 13). With the presence of a false prophet in the church, such tests are not an option. Perhaps there was a follow-up provided to this situation, but if this is the case, we are left without the central lesson of such follow-up. Thus, one must wonder if this woman is still in the church today practicing her “gift,” thereby binding the consciences of others with her falsely claimed prophecies; or has she moved on to other churches unabatedly spreading her influence to others? —Ibid. When the shepherd allows wolves among the sheep, who will protect the flock?
continue reading A Saga of Subjectivity

What God Has Indeed Said

Thursday··2016·01·28
A final, brief word on the erroneous doctrine of fallible prophesy: In the end, the task of a true shepherd is not to direct people to what God may have said or what He is trying to say, but to direct them to what He has indeed said. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 191.
continue reading What God Has Indeed Said

Called to Think

Tuesday··2016·03·15
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. —1 Peter 4:1–2 Whenever we talk about spiritual warfare, it seems we always come back to the same thing: immersion in the Word of God. In light of Jesus’ suffering unto death, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin (v. 1). . . . The Apostle Paul enjoined the Ephesians to put on the whole armor of God, and he listed each piece of armor that was worn by soldiers in the ancient world (Eph. 6:13–17). Here Peter uses the same language of preparing for warfare. The reason that Paul called us to put on the armor of God is that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Likewise with Peter, who, just a few verses earlier, wrote that angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Christ (3:22). The powers and principalities against which we wrestle have been put in subjection to Christ; nevertheless, the war goes on for us, and in order to succeed in the battle of the Christian life, we need to be armed. The armor for warfare that Paul gives includes helmet, breastplate, and shield. For Peter, the principal item of armor is the mind of Christ. We are called to arm ourselves by seeking the mind of Christ. . . . I know no other way to gain the mind of Christ than to immerse ourselves in His Word. Studying the Scriptures is the way by which we learn the mind of Christ, because the Scriptures reveal Christ. We are living in the most anti-intellectual period in the history of the Christian church. The application of the mind to the search for understanding of the things of God is dismissed in some quarters and actually despised in others. Feeling is substituted for thinking. Christians, we are called to think, to seek understanding of the Word of God; there is no other way to get the mind of Christ. . . . We have to search the Scriptures, and this is a serious matter. We simply cannot find the mind of Christ in fifteen minutes a day. We must immerse ourselves in the Word of God if we really want to progress in this battle. —R. C. Sproul, 1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure (Crossway, 2011), 140–141.
continue reading Called to Think
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 The following note was addressed to G. Campbell Morgan: The writer begs leave to call to the Rev. Campbell Morgan’s remembrance a statement he made last Sunday evening, viz., “My Friend has proved His love to me so as to bring conviction to my heart.” Then why does he not convince every person of His love? Why is He not just to all? Since the note was unsigned, Morgan responded in the following week’s sermon. It will be seen that my Friend had brought conviction of His love to my heart I made the statement on the basis of the text which I take tonight. I do not think the thinking of that letter is lonely, even though the writing of it is singular. I can well imagine that many people would go away lat Sunday evening saying in their hearts practically the same things. “The Preacher declared that God had demonstrated His love to the conviction of his heart, but He has not done so in my experience, and if not, why not?” To that attitude of mind I want to say that the proof given to me of the love of God has been given to all. I did not mean to say that in some flaming vision of the night or apocalypse of the day God had done for me what He has not done for others. . . . My Friend’s proof of His love is not given to me alone, but to all men. No proof in mystic words spoken in loneliness to my own heart and no proof by some sudden and exceptional vision could begin to be so conclusive to my reason as the great proof which belongs to all quite as much as it belongs to me. I venture to say—I know I speak within the realm of the finite, and limited and human, and yet I say it of profound conviction—God Himself could not have thought of any other way to prove His love so conclusive as the way He has taken. Will you let me, in all love and tenderness, and yet with great earnestness, say to you, my friend who wrote to me, and to all such, that if God’s love has not carried conviction to your heart, I think it is because you have not taken time to consider that great proof? You have heard of it, you have sung of it. You could recite the proof texts, my text and the text in John, and many other such. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.” That is the proof. “God commendeth His own love toward is, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That is the proof. I have no other. . . . What can be said when Scripture has spoken? —G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit (Sermon: Amazing Love) (Baker, 2006), 1:126–127.
continue reading The Proof

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