Thursday, November 20, 2008

The heart of the gospel

Adrian Warnock is keeping us abreast of the Chalke debate. Adrian is right again; this is no time for debate and certainly not for coolness; it's a time for white-hot passion. When Spurgeon stood for the truth in the Dowgrade Controversy, it broke his heart that some of his own students stood against him. What would he think now, when liberalism and unbelief (for that's what it is) is invading evangelicalism with its car driven by a graduate of "Spurgeon's"?

It's a good time to include some Spurgeon on my blog. Here he is:

THE heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the
substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach this truth preach the
gospel in whatever else they may be mistaken; but they who preach not the
atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance
of the divine message. In these days I feel bound to go over and over again
the elementary truths of the gospel. In peaceful times we may feel free to
make excursions into interesting districts of truth which lie far afield; but
now we must stay at home, and guard the hearths and homes of the church
by defending the first principles of the faith. In this age there have risen up
in the church itself men who speak perverse things. There be many that
trouble us with their philosophies and novel interpretations, whereby they
deny the doctrines they profess to teach, and undermine the faith they are
pledged to maintain. It is well that some of us, who know what we believe,
and have no secret meanings for our words, should just put our foot down
and maintain our standing, holding forth the word of life, and plainly
declaring the foundation truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Even now, despite the emphasis, clearness, and distinctness of the language used here and elsewhere in Scripture there are found men daring enough to deny that substitution is taught in Scripture. With such subtle wits it is useless to argue. It is clear that language has no meaning for them. To read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, and to accept it as relating to the Messiah, and then to deny his substitutionary sacrifice is simply wickedness. It would be vain to reason with such beings; they are so blind that if they were transported to the sun they could not see. In the church and out of the church there is a deadly animosity to this truth. Modern thought labors to get away from what is obviously the meaning of the Holy Spirit, that sin was lifted from the guilty and laid upon the innocent. It is written, “The Lord hath laid on him the
iniquity of us all.” This is as plain language as can be used; but if any
plainer was required, here it is, — “He hath made him to be sin for us.”
The Lord God laid upon Jesus, who voluntarily undertook it, all the weight
of human sin. Instead of its resting on the sinner, who did commit it, it was
made to rest upon Christ, who did not commit it; while the righteousness
which Jesus wrought out was placed to the account of the guilty, who had
not worked it out, so that the guilty are treated as righteous. Those who by
nature are guilty, are regarded as righteous, while he who by nature knew
no sin whatever, was treated as guilty. I think I must have read in scores of
books that such a transference is impossible; but the statement has had no
effect upon my mind I do not care whether it is impossible or not with
learned unbelievers: it is evidently possible with God, for he has done it.
But they say it is contrary to reason. I do not care for that, either: it may be
contrary to the reason of those unbelievers, but it is not contrary to mine;
and if I am to be guided by reason, I prefer to follow my own. The
atonement is a miracle, and miracles are rather to be accepted by faith than
measured by calculation. A fact is the best of arguments. It is a fact that the
Lord hath laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. God’s revelation proves the
fact, and our faith defies human questioning! God saith it, and I believe it;
and believing it, I find life and comfort in it. Shall I not preach it?
Assuredly I will.

“E’er since by faith I saw the stream
His flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.”

And, for what it's worth, I will too.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh goody - there's going to be an inquiry

Baby P had a short life of pain and brutality and was eventually killed by those who should have protected him. So it's great to know that an inquiry (maybe even several inquiries) will be set up to see how wicked social workers could possibly have allowed this. The thinking seems to be this:
  • There's no doubt about who killed baby P
  • There's no question of it being provocation or self-defence: baby P's kung-fu skills were not yet sufficiently developed for this to be an issue
  • Therefore we need an inquiry so that next time someone's tempted to abuse a child they'll think 'Better not; could trigger an inquiry. Might even get social workers into trouble...'

Or: we could just execute the killers.

Meanwhile, just to prove that we have got our priorities right, a loving father spends a night in police custody for smacking his son. Welcome to Madland.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why I am (still) not a charismatic

Two years or so ago I blogged a post on 'Why I am not a charismatic.' Recently, trawling through some of my old blogs I discovered an anonymous comment - anonymous in the sense that Artimus conceals his identity (though I suspect he's an old friend). Artimus is a charismatic; he's polite throughout (which is good) and thinks some of my arguments are well made. (I agree - humbly of course). But his criticisms are worth looking at, partly because they are very typical of pro-charismatic arguments. First he says

However, you started by saying that you were not a charismatic because you read your Bible, but conclude with appealing to Stuart Olyotts exegesis of 1 Cor 13:10.

Well no, my friend; I don't appeal to Olyott as if having him on my side settles the matter. All I've done is explained how my doubts about the gifts arose and what, in the end, settled the matter for me. What settled the matter was a proper understanding of 1 Corinthians 13:10 - the fact that Stuart explained it to me is largely irrelevant. He's not the authority; he just taught me what the passage means - and that's what Bible teachers do.

Secondly, he says

this verse... talks about 'perfection' or 'perfect'. I just fail to see how this can be a description of the present day church.

No again my friend. I didn't say it describes the church. Nor does Olyott. I've never come across anyone who does. What we believe this word refers to in this context is Scripture - the 'perfect' revelation. Wouldn't you agree Artimus that the Bible does 'represent perfection'?

Then he says

Surely Paul could have chosen a better word like 'completion' or 'fulfilment' rather than 'perfection' to avoid confusion?

But Artimus, Paul wasn't writing in English. If you mean 'the Greek for completion or fulfilment' - that's exactly what Paul has done! The word is 'teleios' and its basic meaning is 'complete'. It's translated in several ways: perfect, mature, adult, full. Its verb form is the word used in Luke 2:43: 'When the festival was ended...' Luke doesn't mean that the festival had reached perfection. He means it had been completed, come to an end. The contrast in 1 Corinthains 13:9-10 comes out very well in the ESV: 'we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes the partial will pass away.' 'Partial' is contrasted with 'complete'. Partial what? Revelation - that's what NT prophecies are. Complete what? Revelation. What's the complete revelation? Scripture.


My simple understanding would be that 'perfection' refers to when Christ returns and the imperfect or 'Partial' as the ESV puts it, is replaced by the sinless perfection that Christ will bring.

Yes, I know that's what charismatics think it means - or something like it. But it doesn't fit the context. What's left when the perfect has come? Verse 13 tells us: faith, hope and love. But faith is 'being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,' (Hebrews 11:1). According to the New Testament then, when sight has come (heaven) faith has gone; it's been replaced. To put it baldy - there's no need for 'faith' in heaven. (Some throw up their hands in horror at this. Won't we still trust God? Of course we will - but it isn't me that contrasts faith and sight - it's the apostle.)

And then he says

I find nowhere in Scripture the slightest hint that miraculous gifts are only foundational

Well, that's odd - because it's what the New Testament calls them. 'Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone' (Ephesians 2:19,20). Here it's clear that the office, or gift, of apostles and prophets are part of the foundation of the church, and a foundation is laid at the beginning. It's not a continual thing. New Frontiers folks, as I understand it, see the need of apostles and prophets at the foundation of every local church. But 'church' throughout Ephesians (there are 9 references) means 'the universal church' - as in 5: 25, 'Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.'

Finally, Artimus says of me

your post did have the slightest hint that 'anyone who is a charismatic' a) Doesn't read their Bible, b) Must check their brain at the door when they go to church c) Accepts everything that presents it's self (sic) in the name of spiritual gifts.

Nothing is true of everyone in any camp. But I think a), b) and c) - while caricatures - can be shown to have a flavour of truth about them. Look.
  • a) Doesn't read their Bible? Many charismatics do read their Bibles, of course. But all of us are in danger of reading them with our presuppositions as filters - see my post on this. In this instance it goes like this: 'Our church has tongues, which are in the Bible. Does yours?' 'No; but then, your church doesn't have the tongues which are in the Bible, either.' 'Uhh?' A charismatic church has something it calls tongues, we don't. But look at what the charismatic church has and ask 'Is it what's in the Bible?' Answer: no. See the original post where I spell this out a bit.
  • b) Must check their brain at the door? Oh, dear. How hard it is not to be rude. Listen - I know many charismatics are intelligent people. I'm an ardent reader, for example, of Adrian Warnock's blog. But what am I to think when these intelligent people sit through services with reports of golden tea-leaves appearing? Or speak - as a New Frontiers magazine does and Artimus points to it as if it's a good thing - of having 'L-plates' on in healing ministries? Where in the New Testament is the idea of 'learning' to do healings?
  • c) accepts everything that presents itself as a spiritual gift? OK: why does the sane and sensible Terry Virgo accept Rodney Howard-Browne, as it's clear from Terry's autobiography that he does? Where were the charismatic condemnations of the 'Florida revival'? Perhaps Artimus can find one or two examples of things that haven't been accepted, but generally we'd have to say 'guilty as charged', I think.

I could go on. I usually do. But that's enough for now. Artimus, if you're out there, please come back at me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Evangelistic Preaching and Lloyd-Jones
I plan to produce a post sometime soon on evangelistic preaching. In the meantime, here's a proposal I'm working on for a DMin dissertation with WEST; I'd appreciate any help in refining it. "An evaluation of the evangelistic preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones with special reference to his Acts series of sermons and its relevance for UK pastors today."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New blog

My new photo-blog, at will hold photos of Abigail, our granddaughter, and - maybe - some of us, too.