Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dr. Gaffin On The Perpetual State of Justification

Dr. Richard Gaffin recently asserted in an article printed in the February, 2007 issue of New Horizons that the justified in Christ remain justified due to Jesus’ intercessory prayer (among other things). If such a point is sound, then it would stand to reason that without the supposed necessary condition of the Mediator’s prayer, the justified would fall from grace. Let’s remove from this discussion the obvious point that Christ holds together all things by the word of his power. Dr. Gaffin is not merely suggesting that if Christ doesn’t pray for the world it will fall apart and that the disintegration of the world would of course include the believer’s justification. Rather he is saying that if Christ does not pray for our state of justification, we would lose what we have in Christ. For Dr. Gaffin’s thesis to be true, it must be logically possible for the benefit of justification that proceeds from effectual calling to be undone. Obviously Dr. Gaffin appreciates that it is theologically impossible for a saint to lose his salvation because of God’s promise. The question is whether it is logically impossible for a soul to fall from grace and lose his forgiveness and righteousness in Christ. To entertain the logical possibility of one losing his justification, we must table the theological promise that informs us that such will not occur. We are not looking at what will occur but what could occur if there was no Divine promise to the contrary.

Allowing for counterfactuals, we can imagine without logical contradiction that I am writing this entry due to Jesus’ effectual prayer and that without it I would be reading instead. The reason that it is tenable that I could be reading rather than writing is because such a counterfactual does not contradict who I am; it does not contradict my essence in other words. Does it stand to reason that there would be no logical contradiction in my essence or in my relationship with God if I were to fall from grace due to a lack of intercessory prayer?

Why should we believe that the non-eternal, existential union that believers have in Christ by grace can be logically altered? It is probably more evident that it would be logically impossible for a glorified soul to fall from glory because of the ontological change that will occur when the corruptible puts on the incorruption. For starters, there would be no point of contact for sin to infect the glorified saint so that he might fall from glory. However, must redeemed sinners wait for their glorified state in order to receive any immutable, ontological change to their essence that would prohibit them from falling from God’s favor unto a loss of forgiveness in Christ? Is it logically possible for those who have been recreated in Christ to become uncreated and separated from Christ's body? Is it posssible that the Head be separated from His Body? Is it logically possible that one die if Christ has died as his substitute? Doesn't our security in Christ transcend His intercessory prayer and rely solely on what He has already done for us?

Our Lord is praying for many things for which I am grateful, but I am not convinced that He is praying that believers remain (forgiven) in Him and that He remain in them, anymore than we should suppose that Jesus must pray for the mutual indwelling of the three Persons of the Trinity. Of course, Christ prays that believers grow in him but why should we believe that He prays for those who are in him to be perpetually forgiven and declared righteous in Him? Don't believers have by grace what the Son has by nature – immutable sonship with all its privileges – namely, immutable union and communion with the Triune God that cannot logically (and of course theologically) be altered? Believers are Christ’s body. Can Christ lose his body? Must Christ pray that his vindication over death remain His and isn't Christ's vindication the believer's by a union with Christ that cannot be broken and need not be asked for by the Son?

If Jesus stopped praying for our sanctification, why would we not enter into glory as opposed to death? Why should we believe that the default position or gravitational pull is downward as opposed to upward for the saint who has been recreated in the image of Christ? I should probably tread lightly here given whom I am questioning but it seems rather obvious to me that our forgiveness has been sealed until the day of redemption and that fact is not a matter of prayer. What is a matter of prayer is the growth that has been appointed for the believer in Christ, for it is logically possible that one grow less than he will.


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Federal Vision, Augustinian not Reformed

Federal Vision (FV) theology borrows from Augustine at his worst while departing from Calvin and the Reformed confessions at their best. FV is correct that perseverance is a gift given to the elect alone but where the system is terribly flawed is in its doctrine of regeneration, which suggests that the reprobate can, for a season, enjoy the grace of faith and union with Christ prior to falling away. Consequently, the FV has no place to ground the assurance of salvation that is available to the regenerate because the system allows for the reprobate to receive the same measure of regeneration and faith as the elect. Assurance becomes predicated upon the secret decree of perseverance, which cannot be known being a secret! All of which stands in stark contrast to the biblical teaching, that the Holy Spirit bears witness with the believer’s spirit according to the unambiguous word of promise that all who God calls, He justifies and will glorify.

If FV has brought something new to the church that exceeds the theological precision and exhaustiveness of the Reformed confessions, then what is it that its proponents have discovered? The simple answer is that the FV movement has brought nothing new to the church but rather denies what the Reformers taught. What is most disruptive is that FV'ists claim the tradition of the Reformers only to turn around and deny what they taught, and even died for.


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Youth Group Eclipsing Grace? Can God Compete?

"Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul." J.I. Packer

Is the Christian church training our young people in the way that they shouldn't go by not teaching them that corporate worship and the study of God is essential to living the Christian life?

Don't get me wrong. I am not against youth group (necessarily). My question is why is it that so many in the church today are preoccupied with a vibrant youth ministry yet not the least bit faithful in joining with the church in corporate prayer, the sacraments, corporate worship and fellowship, and the hearing of God's word? I am afraid that there might be too many parents raising children in the church who are looking for spirituality in all the wrong places.

Too often young people in the church are looking to meet God under rocks. What a shame that is. If for nothing else, for the sake of Christ's sheep, shouldn't the church be instructing them in the God ordained means of grace? We have children who, as Lewis said, "go on making mud pies in a slum because they cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." Some will undoubtedly say, "Oh but Ron, we must meet our children where they are!" No, I say. We must do better than that. We must no not only meet our children where they are; we must teach our children where they must meet God! Let's not do one without the other.

Is there liberty to give my children donuts for dinner? Well of course there is but how profitable would it be? Two things that must be considered are what would they be receiving in the actual meal and what would I be teaching them about good nourishment? In the like manner, is youth group lawful? Well of course it is but what can they receive in youth group as compared to corporate worship and what would we be teaching them about their need for corporate worship if we allow youth group to be a greater priority in the young person’s life than the corporate worship of God? I am against a "vibrant" youth group if such a mindset reduces to giving children dessert prior to them feasting on the main meal. Let's do both. If a church is detetermined to have a "youth group", then make it an excellent one by emphasizing the priority of corporate worship and all that it entails. I question, however, that if youth resonate with that, then will there even be any great need for youth group? Won't fellowship in various homes suffice?

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

Plain and simple from the prophet Isaiah, if the young people of the church really want to delight in the Lord, then they should not seek to find their own pleasure on Sunday but rather do those things pleasing to God, which can largely be accomplished by receiving the grace that is dispensed during the corporate worship of God. Doing the Lord's pleasure on Sunday is a sufficient condition for delighting in the Lord; so let's get back to basics, shall we? Whether or not Word and Sacrament is what people want -- it is what we desperately need. I've got an idea: let's teach about Word and Sacrament in youth group!

Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennet said to his silly daughter Kitty, "You go to Brighton!—I would not trust you so near it as East-Bourne, for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever to enter my house again, nor even to pass through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner."

Bennet finally got it right on behalf of his daughter Kitty but at the high cost of his youngest daughter Lydia’s dignity. He finally learned that certain privileges must be earned by a demonstration of an appreciation of what is needful. Until Kitty could prove that she could be sober minded for even ten minutes, she was not permitted to stir outdoors. Note well that the requirement was a precondition to function well in the reward that was before her. In other words, Kitty would not even be able to operate well outdoors unless she had learned to be sober minded indoors. In the like manner, is it really that unreasonable to strive to teach our Christian young people to have an appreciation and affection for the inner sanctum of the church prior to cutting them loose outdoors, to be “spiritual” in youth group? Let's not try to shortcut God's ways in an effort to know God better.

For a description of what a great youth group might look like, maybe take a peek here:


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Friday, January 12, 2007

The Precedence of Paedocommunion Does Not Come From The Precedence For Covenant Baptism

There is a difference in precedence between infant baptism and infant communion. The former is built upon the OT precedence that infants of professing believers are to receive the mark of inclusion into the people of God. It is not suggested under the older economy that infants should participate in a covenant meal of communion with God. Moreover, the reality that the sign and seal of circumcision signifies need not be tied to the moment of the administration of the sacrament, whereas the practice of communion IS communion. Communion, in other words, is not merely a sign and seal that is to be considered later but rather it IS communion at the moment of partaking. Accordingly, whereas one can be passive when receiving the sign of entrance into the visible, covenant people of God such is not analogous to the practice of paedocommunion. The mind must be engaged in communion.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Sound Proof For God's Existence

So often we hear that the existence of God cannot be proven, which simply is not true. That is not to say that we come to know God through cleverly devised proofs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We know God by nature and we must justify this knowledge by Scripture, the Christian's ultimate authority.

All reasoning has a terminus point; for the Christian it is Scripture. For the unbeliever it is usually the universal laws of logic, which problematically do not comport with any worldview that denies the existence of God and our being made in his image as rational, logical creatures.

Since the premises in the following argument are true and the form of the argument is valid, the conclusion is reliable and true.

P1. If God has revealed himself, then God exists
P2. God has revealed himself
C. Therefore, God exists

So Christian, please never say again that one cannot prove the existence of God.

The issue is not about proof. Proving God's existence is simple, as was just shown. The issue is over the justification of premises and what people will accept as authoritative. For instance, if one believes that his senses can justify premises, then one might choose to prove that there are crackers in the pantry in the following manner:

P1. If I see crackers in the pantry, then there are crackers in the pantry
P2. I see crackers in the pantry
C. Therefore, there are crackers in the pantry

The deductive argument for there being crackers in the pantry was implicit in Dr. Bahnsen's debate with Gorden Stein. The point I'd like to make is that only a skeptic would deny such a proof can be sound because only a skeptic would deny that one's senses can be reliable. Just the same, if a skeptic did not accept the truth of the premises, the proof would not become invalidated or proven false. In the like manner, only an unbeliever - who is suppressing in unrighteousness the obvious truth of God's revelation - would deny that God has revealed himself and, therefore, God exists. Just as it is true that the skeptic's disfunctional worldview cannot invalidate what is actually true - it is no less true that the fallen worldview cannot invalidate the absolute authority of Scripture. Truth is not a matter of consensus after all. To think so is to confuse proof with persuasion, a fundamental error in apologetics.

Don't get me wrong; I would not employ such a proof for God's existence in a debate with a professing atheist. My only point in putting forth such a proof is to show that the issue is not about proof but rather about the willingness to yield to the self-attesting, authoritative Christ of Scripture and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit who testifies that God is speaking in Scripture.

Not to despair, we are not reduced to fideism, which is to say we are not reduced to saying that God has revealed himself and that settles the matter. Although it is true that God has revealed himself to all men everywhere, the Christian is to defend the faith and not just assert what he knows to be true.

We should defend the faith by arguing that God is the necesssary precondition for intelligible experience.

Prove A: The Christian God exists.
Step 1 ~A: (Assume the opposite of what we are trying to prove): The Christian God does not exist.
Step 2 (~A--> B): If God does not exist, then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility
Step 3 (~B): There is intelligible experience (Contradiction!)
Step 4 (~ ~A):
It is not the case that God does not exist (Modus Tollens on 2 and 3)
Step 5 (A): --> God does exist (Law of negation.)

The above demonstration of the transcendetal argument for the existence of God (TAG) is sound in that the form is valid and the premises are true. We must keep in mind that the truth of any valid conclusion is not predicated upon the consensus of the truth of the premises. Accordingly, since unbelievers refuse to admit to the truth claims of the Bible and, therefore, step 2 of the proof, the only thing the Christian can do is (i) reduce the opposing worldview to absurdity by exposing its arbitrariness and inconsistency and (ii) show how the God of Scripture provides a necessary precondition for knowledge, reality and ethics. In a word, the apologist is to demonstrate that God's special revelation, Scripture, offers the only justification for intelligible experience.

TAG is to be offered as a challenge to the unbeliever and, therefore, a starting point for discussion. The apologist is then to demonstrate by the life experiences enjoyed by the professing atheist how intelligible experience presupposes God's revelation of himself. For instance, the apologist might wish to demonstrate how only the Christian worldview supplies the necessary precondition for the justification of trusting one's senses in order, for instance, to begin to justify the knowledge of crackers being in the pantry. In doing so the apologist gives "evidence" of the reliability of the proof, but such evidence cannot "prove" that the proof is sound anymore than evidence can prove God's existence. Again, the unbeliever denies step-2 of the proof. Accordingly, all the apologist is left to do is show that logic, reality and ethics presuppose that which only the Christian worldview can afford - a common creator who has provides a fruitful connection between the minds of men and the created order, making intelligible experience possible.

In sum, the proof of God's existence is sound in and of itself because it employs a valid form and true premises. Consequently, the argument succeeds in proving the existence of God, but in a much more powerful way than the first deductive argument at the top of the page, which although is sound, does not deal with the preconditions of intelligible experience and, therefore, is not very interesting other than it serves as a good example (to the Christian in particular) that God's existence can be proved.

Finally, the Christian would do well not only to offer a proof for God's existence in a transcendental fashion but also to expose the various forms of the one unbelieving worldview for their arbitrariness and inconsistencies. Note well, however, that to reduce an opposing worldview to absurdity is not to prove the Christian worldview. It's a far cry from it in fact. Our apologetic is not inductive. We must also appreciate that all the competitors to the Christian worldview are simply variations of the single-unbelieving worldview, which posits that intelligible experience can be justified apart from revelation. Consequently, there are not an infinite number of worldviews as some have claimed but rather only two. I know this from Scripture, which is a reliable appeal for truth; Scripture allows us to know some things without having to know all things! Scripture is the only appeal for those who wish to justify their knowledge of anything.

At the end of the day, "Jesus loves me this I know, 'cause the Bible tells me so." That's not my defense of the Christian worldview, but it's certainly a defensible fact. In other words, we don't "reason" ourselves to God, but our belief in God is indeed reasonable. In fact, it's not just reasonable; it's justifiable and true, which is to say it constitutes as knowledge. Belief in God is the only reasonable position to hold if for no other reason, it is unreasonable to argue against God's existence because to do so one must first presuppose those tools of argumentation that are only defenisble given God's existence.


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