David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Tag: Theology Page 2 of 4

Why are Creeds and Confessions Necessary, and How Have They Been Produced? – A.A. Hodge

1. Why are Creeds and Confessions necessary, and how have they been produced?

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament having been given by inspiration of God, are for man in his present state the only and the all–sufficient rule of faith and practice. This divine word, therefore, is the only standard of doctrine which has any intrinsic authority binding the consciences of men. All other standards are of value or authority only as they teach what the Scriptures teach.

But it is the inalienable duty and necessity of men to arrive at the meaning of the Scriptures in the use of their natural faculties, and by the ordinary instruments of interpretation. Since all truth is self–consistent in all its parts, and since the human reason always instinctively strives to reduce all the elements of knowledge with which it grapples to logical unity and consistency, it follows that men must more or less formally construct a system of faith out of the materials presented in the Scriptures. Every student of the Bible necessarily does this in the very process of understanding and digesting its teaching, and all such students make it manifest that they have found, in one way or another, a system of faith as complete as for him has been possible, by the very language he uses in prayer, praise, and ordinary religious discourse. If men refuse the assistance afforded by the statements of doctrine slowly elaborated and defined by the church, they must severally make out their own creed by their own unaided wisdom. The real question between the church and the impugners of human creeds, is not, as the latter often pretend, between the word of God and the creed of man, but between the tried and proved faith of the collective body of God’s people, and the private judgment and the unassisted wisdom of the individual objector. As it would have been anticipated, it is a matter of fact that the church has advanced very gradually in this work of accurately interpreting Scripture, and defining the great doctrines which compose the system of truths it reveals. The attention of the church has been especially directed to the study of one doctrine in one age, and of another doctrine in a subsequent age. And as she has gradually advanced in the clear discrimination of gospel truth, she has at different periods set down an accurate statement of the results of her new attainments in a creed, or Confession of Faith, for the purpose of preservation and of popular instruction, of discriminating and defending the truth from the perversion of heretics and the attacks of infidels, and of affording a common bond of faith and rule of teaching and discipline.

The ancient creeds of the universal Church were formed by the first four ecumenical or general councils, except the so–called Apostle’s Creed, gradually formed from the baptismal confessions in use in the different churches of the West, and the so–called Athanasian Creed, which is of private and unknown authorship. The great authoritative Confession of the Papal Church was produced by the ecumenical council held at Trent, 1545. The mass of the principal Protestant Confessions were the production of single individuals or of small circles of individuals, e.g., the Augsburg Confession and Apology, the 2nd Helvetic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Old Scotch Confession, the Thirty–nine Articles of the Church of England etc. Two, however, of the most valuable and generally received Protestant Confessions were produced by large and venerable Assemblies of learned divines, namely: the Canons of the international Synod of Dort, and the Confession and Catechisms [larger – shorter] of the national Assembly of Westminster.

Excerpt from Outlines of Theology, A.A. Hodge (PDF)

The Total Depravity of Man – Arthur W. Pink

Arthur Pink gives an outstanding explanation of total depravity in his book The Total Depravity of Man. You can download a free e-book of this excellent work on the link given. Here are a few excerpts:

It is a sadly neglected subject. Notwithstanding the clear and uniform teaching of Scripture, man’s ruined condition and alienation from God are but feebly apprehended and seldom heard in the modern pulpit, and are given little place even in what are regarded as the centers of orthodoxy. Rather the whole trend of present-day thought and teaching is in the opposite direction, and even where the Darwinian hypothesis has not been accepted, its pernicious influences are often seen. In consequence of the guilty silence of the modern pulpit, a generation of churchgoers has arisen which is deplorably ignorant of the basic truths of the Bible, so that perhaps not more than one in a thousand has even a mental knowledge of the chains of hardness and unbelief which bind the natural heart, or of the dungeon of darkness in which they lie. Thousands of preachers, instead of faithfully telling their hearers of their woeful state by nature, are wasting their time by relating the latest news of the Kremlin or of the development of nuclear weapons.

It is therefore a testing doctrine, especially of the preacher’s soundness in the faith. A man’s orthodoxy on this subject determines his viewpoint of many other doctrines of great importance. If his belief here is a scriptural one, then he will clearly perceive how impossible it is for men to improve themselves—that Christ is their only hope. He will know that unless the sinner is born again there can be no entrance for him into the kingdom of God. Nor will he entertain the idea of the fallen creature’s free will to attain goodness. He will be preserved from many errors. Andrew Fuller stated, “I never knew a person verge toward the Arminian, the Arian, the Socinian, the Antinomian schemes, without first entertaining diminutive notions of human depravity or blameworthiness.” Said the well-equipped theological instructor, J. M. Stifler, “It cannot be said too often that a false theology finds its source in inadequate views of depravity.”

Read more here.

Things That Make You Go, “Ouch”

It started with a friend calling me out on being too wrapped up in the whole ER2 thing, seeing as how I’m on the sidelines anyway (my own observation). Point taken, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly put off for a while, in my pride. Then along came an article that drove it home for me a bit more, heard through Nathan W. Bingham.

Joe Holland writing at Ligonier makes some great points.

I would offer one qualification though (in my theological superiority, kidding :)): Jesus is God, had a specific mission, separate and distinct from ours, and could see everything in people’s hearts. We can’t. He was bringing and effecting redemption itself or bringing hardness. We can’t do either of these, other than resting upon what the Spirit does through our actions. For Jesus, there was no need to debate. He told the truth, in such terms as, “Verily I say unto you.” He didn’t “reason” with people, He just told them what they personally needed to hear to either be saved or turn away. And it was always right. It is He who had the words that brought life or condemnation. Certainly his silence does speak louder than words at times. Other times it didn’t. His words speak for themselves, coming from the great I AM become man. The times He is silent, the message is, “What more could He possibly say or do?” He is who He is, and they killed Him for it.

Certainly Jesus should be emulated in action, no doubt, in terms of His approach and words to people. However, for Jesus, He is the Savior whereas we are the saved and proclaiming Him, fallibly, as Savior to people. In distinction, just to show the difference, Paul “reasoned” with those in the Synagogues, on Mars Hill, and so on. He debated, he pursued people in tearing down their idols and offering Christ. At times this meant publicly rebuking, though certainly not to the excess we’ve seen on the “interwebs” as of late. He was called all kinds of things as a result of his pursuits in discourse.

Regardless, Joe Holland’s points are good albeit painful since I’m all too prone to excess and obsession when it comes to either controversy or theological discourse. If there is one thing I need more of in my life, it’s balance and humility.

On Proper Discourse

I’m absolutely all for having “conversations” with those outside orthodoxy. But to have fellow “orthodoxians” castigate people who have serious theological questions downgrades the very discourse that would bring light and truth, the very truth that leads to Christ. The church should be an example of proper discourse (like the Bethke/DeYoung exchange) not the one’s emulating the world in shutting it down in the name of Rodney King’s mantra, “Can’t we all just get along?” There are serious issues at stake in these debates.

It is not enough that T.D. Jakes said, yes, I affirm, “One God – Three Persons.” He qualifies this affirmation and it is that qualification that speaks volumes, inviting more questions, questions that weren’t asked, questions that won’t be answered in all likelihood.

I’ve seen responses to those with questions stating that we shouldn’t attack the darkness but just bring light. My response? The Book of Jude. That whole letter is only about shining light on the darkness, attacking the darkness with the light. You do this through positive proclamation of truth (Ephesians 1-3), but also discourse that isn’t afraid of a debate (Paul taking Peter to task, Mars Hill debates, Jewish leaders).

Paul took the leaders to task everywhere he went, even going to Mars Hill to debate them, on their own turf. The Western world’s doctrine of positivism (that negation is evil) is making deeper inroads in evangelicalism and manifesting (no pun intended) itself in different ways. This has been there for a while, but the latest Elephant Room conversation has only brought it to the surface.

Joseph’s Trials and the Providence of God

Joseph attributes the ultimate cause of his trials and being sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers:

“And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:8). “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

God, in His righteousness, is sovereign not only over the ends, but also the means to accomplish those ends, even when they involve the sinful acts of others. Joseph knew this full well and God’s providential sovereignty in his trials is precisely the truth that gave him comfort in the midst of them, helping him to see past the trials to the ultimate Ordainer who does as He pleases in absolute rightness, without sin or imperfection. He does these things for His glory and our good. Sanctification and the Lord teaching us to rest in Him alone through trials can be a painful process. But the fruit is the holiness without which no one will see the Lord and the ultimate accomplishing of things we cannot foresee in our finiteness.

An even greater display of God’s providential sovereignty in the midst of trials is that of Christ. He was ordained before time to enter this world in humility.

Missional-ism: What is the Mission of the Church?

(C) by http://www.martin-liebermann.de

(Resources at the bottom of the page pertaining to this topic)

Over the past several years, the missional movement has picked up steam and has become a common modus operandi for ministry in mainstream evangelicalism, even within aspects of my own church. The term ‘missional’ has taken on many different definitions depending on the point of view. Tim Keller uses it one way, Dan Kimball, Dallas Willard and others [Doug Pagitt, McLaren] use it quite another.

[CORRECTION and update: apparently I’m wrong about Kimball and Keller having different views on missional-ism. Oddly enough, after just writing this, Keller and Kimball are on the same page it seems after releasing a joint manifesto along with some others such as Ed Stetzer and J.D. Greear: http://www.missionalmanifesto.net/ … so I retract that one part and added a couple of other names to show the contrast in views. In the manifesto, they make this statement: “It is first necessary to be clear about what missional does not mean. Missional is not synonymous with movements attempting to culturally contextualize Christianity, implement church growth, or engage in social action. The word missional can encompass all of the above, but it is not limited to any one of these.” And I’m glad they have said this. There is still the concern though about “mission creep” in this movement, that it can inadvertently become those things. I digress.]

Regardless, at the heart of the drive behind missional ecclesiology is a legitimate concern that the Western world at large needs to be re-evangelized, that believers need to go out as missionaries, as it were, and that we need to be reaching out more to the lost in both word and deed. I certainly share those concerns.

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Another Verse in a Really Long Song – How Deep Postmodernism Has Made Inroads

“Brian McLaren and his ilk of the emerging church [i.e. Rob Bell] … all it is is 19th, 20th century liberalism in a postmodern dress. There isn’t anything new in it at all. And the only reason they can get away with it is because people are so a-historical and ignorant of theologies of the past.” – David Robertson, Emergent Calvinism (MP3). One of the biggest surprises with this Rob Bell universalism/inclusivism controversy isn’t that Bell is affirming universalism. The response of evangelicals, particularly younger generations, including mine, and their response has been the most surprising aspect.

However, I shouldn’t be that surprised. It’s what happened to J. Gresham Machen in the 1920’s and 30’s in which he received the most push back from the moderates of theological liberalism who were willing to tolerate individuals who wholesale rejected anything resembling Biblical Christianity. We are now back at one of those points.

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The Liberal Trajectory Toward an Adjusted Gospel

Excerpt from Albert Mohler’s talk at T4G, entitled, How Does it Happen? Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel (Audio) (Video)

“You might want to notice that in the most recent issue of Christianity Today, the April issue that arrived to me just days ago, in the cover story, Scot McKnight says, ‘I can count on one hand the number of historical Jesus scholars who hold orthodox beliefs.’ A fascinating statement. But the moment you begin to entertain the notion that there’s a distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, you have already bankrupted the faith.

“Adolph von Harnack, another one of the most important figures in modern liberal theology, made an argument that I have actually heard some evangelicals paraphrase without understanding the toxic source and the disastrous meaning. Harnack said Christianity is like a seed or a kernel that is surrounded by a husk, kind of like a coconut. And he said that the kernel is authentic meaning, but the husk is this … he called it the acute Hellenization of doctrine, it’s this elaborated doctrine, it’s creeds and confessions and propositional statements and Scriptural claims concerning Jesus Christ, Gospel, salvation, fall, eschatology. Long before Bultmann, Harnack said what we must do to rescue Christianity is to pay attention to salvaging the seed and let the husk go. Do you buy into that? You’ve already given it all away.”

T4G 2010 Audio and Video

Session 1 – Mark Dever – “The Church is the Gospel Made Visible”

MP3 Audio

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Louis Berkhof on Justification

Excerpt from Summary of Christian Doctrine by Louis Berkhof

1. The Nature and Elements of Justification. Justification may be defined as that legal act of God by which He declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, or sanctification, and does not affect the condition but the-state of the sinner. It differs from sanctification in several particulars. Justification takes place outside of the sinner in the tribunal of God, removes the guilt of sin, and is an act which is complete at once and for all time; while sanctification takes place in man, removes the pollution of sin, and is a continuous and lifelong process. We distinguish two elements in justification, namely: (a) The forgiveness of sins on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The pardon granted applies to all sins, past, present, and future, and therefore does not admit of repetition, Ps. 103: 12; Isa. 44:22; Rom. 5:21; 8:1, 32-34; Heb. 10:14. This does not mean that we need no more pray for forgiveness, for the consciousness of guilt remains, creates a feeling of separation, and makes it necessary to seek repeatedly the comforting assurance of forgiveness, Ps. 25:7; 32:5; 51:1; Matt. 6:12; Jas. 5:15; I John 1:9. (b) The adoption as children of God. In justification God adopts believers as His children, that is, places them in the position of children and gives them all the rights of children, including the right to an eternal inheritance, Rom. 8:17; I Pet. 1:4. This legal sonship of believers should be distinguished from their moral sonship through regeneration and sanctification. Both are indicated in the following passages: John 1:12, 13; Rom. 8:15, 16; Gal. 4:5, 6.

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