02 November 2006

Calvinists in the Hands of an Angry Arminian

A Brief Response to Roger Olson
Part 1 of 3
by Gary L. W. Johnson
Pastor, The Church Of The Redeemer in Mesa, AZ


With Phil Johnson in Florida and the other Pyros nearly burnt out for the week, Gary L. W. Johnson (no relation to Phil) is guest-blogging today. Gary's contribution elevates the academic level of the blog considerably. He is co-editor (with Fowler White) of Whatever Happened to the Reformation? (P&R, 2001); co-editor (with Guy Waters) of By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification (forthcoming from Crossway, February 2007); and editor of a book on B. B. Warfield scheduled for release by P&R in Spring 2007. He is guest-blogging at PyroManiacs for the first time.

oger Olson has established himself as a prominent voice in the pages of Christianity Today, and as the author of a number of books that have served to enhance his reputation as a leading spokesman for both Post-conservative Evangelicalism and Evangelical Arminianism. But he has also acquired an equally well-deserved reputation for his pugnacious and combative style. Millard Erickson, who served as a colleague with Olson, nonetheless took exception to Olson's repeated use of pejorative and inflammatory language that frequently appear in his writings. (See his article in Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodations in Post-modern Times, eds. M. Erickson, P. Helseth J. Taylor. Crossway 2004.)

His most recent book, Arminian Theology: Myth and Realities (IVP, 2006), Olson's reputation as a voice to be reckoned will no doubt be further substantiated, but despite the claims on the dust jacket about Olson's "gracious and irenic spirit," this volume will also serve to show that he is as bellicose as ever.

Olson's main complaint throughout the book is that Calvinists, almost without exception, are guilty of misunderstanding, misrepresenting and distorting the true character of Evangelical Arminianism. All the representative Calvinists that Olson cites in this book are guilty as charged: James Boice, Edwin Palmer, R. C. Sproul, Louis Berkhof, Robert Peterson, Michael Williams, Richard Muller, Robert Letham and especially the individuals associated with Modern Reformation, i.e., Mike Horton, Robert Godfrey and Kim Riddlebarger.

Olson however, reserves his most rancorous flagrante delicto for the Old Princeton duo of Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield, with Warfield in particular singled out for special malevolent treatment.

It is not my intention to write a full-blown review of Olson's book. I know of others who will undertake that task. My long time friend and fellow Calvinist, C. Samuel Storms will begin shortly a chapter-by-chapter analysis of Olson (these will be posted at his website). Sam and I may sound a lot alike on this subject primarily because we were both privileged to have been students of one of the most accomplished Calvinistic theologians of the 20th century, the late S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. I instead will have a somewhat narrower focus: (1) Olson's assessment of Warfield, (2) his neglect of some of the most important Calvinistic critiques of Arminianism and (3) his evasive tactics concerning the charge of semi-pelagianism.

Olson takes umbrage with Warfield's review of his contemporary, the noted Methodist theologian John Miley, which appears in the Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield II, ed. J. Meeter (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973) pp. 308-320. Olson calls this "a lengthy attack" (26) and elsewhere a "caustic attack" (278) declaring that Warfield's criticisms "were stated in such an extreme way as to raise questions about Warfield's own generosity of interpretation and treatment of fellow Christians. Many twentieth-century Calvinists know little about Arminianism except what they read in nineteenth-century Calvinist theologians Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield. Both were vitriolic critics who could not bring themselves to see any good in Arminianism. And they blamed it for every possible evil consequence they could see it possibly having" (26).

Is this a fair assessment not only of Warfield's review, but of him overall? Is this significant Calvinistic divine really the ill-mannered theological ogre that Olson makes him out to be? Let the reader judge. The first thing you notice is that Olson does not give a single example of what he accuses Warfield of doing. When we actually read Warfield's review, even the most sympathetic Arminian would be hard pressed to read into it what Olson claims is there.

This is how Warfield begins:

The high quality of the Biblical and Theological Library, now publishing by the Methodist Publication House, does honor to the great denomination which it represents. Dr. Miley's Systematic Theology is the latest issue in the series, and it is highly but not unduly praised when it is recognized as worthy to stand in company with Dr. Bennett's Christian Archaeology and Dr. Terry's Biblical Hermeneutics. It is clearly, directly, and strongly written; it is characterized by candor, restraint, and modesty; it is orderly in arrangement and lucid in discussion. It is altogether a good book, which the Arminian should find rarely satisfying, and with which the Calvinist should count it a privilege to join issue(308).

Wow! Would that Olson treated his Calvinistic opponents as civilly as Warfield does Miley. Warfield goes on to commend Miley for his "very illuminating discussion of such topics as these: the nature of scientific treatment; the scientific basis of Christianity; the right of systematization and the value of dogma; and the method of systematizing—under which occurs a very sensible criticism of the so-called 'Christocentric' method" (309).

Warfield begins his review of the second volume of Miley's theology in a tone very reminiscent of his complementary remarks about Volume I, by saying that it "is conceived in the same spirit and executed with the same skill which characterized the first" (314).

Furthermore, Warfield's analysis of the historical Arminian development after Arminius runs parallel to that described by Olson. Warfield writes:

The Remonstrant controversy was a battle of giants. In its earnest grapple, the movement tentatively begun by Arminius tended rapidly toward its level in a distinctively Pelagian anthropology and Socinian soteriology. But in the great evangelical revival of the last century, the Wesleyan leaders offered to the world an Evangelicalized Arminianism. The rationalism of the Remonstrants, they affirmed, was not due to their Arminianism but to their Humanism. The essential elements of Arminianism, they asserted, were in no wise inconsistent with the great Evangelical doctrines of sin and atonement. On the contrary, they declared, the Arminian construction alone gave their full rights to the catholic doctrines of the condemnation of all men in Adam and the vicarious satisfaction for sin in Christ. An Arminianism zealous for these doctrines might well claim to stand on a higher plane than that occupied by the Remonstrants (314).

So far Olson would agree. But it is what Warfield goes on to say that irritates Olson and really constitutes the reason behind Olson's acerbic assessment of the great Princetonian.

Warfield framed it this way:

The question, however, was a pressing one, whether the Evangelical elements thus taken up could consist with the Arminian principle. Calvinists earnestly urged that the union was an unnatural one, and could not be stable: that either the Evangelical elements ought to rule to the exclusion of the unharmonizable Arminian principle, in which case we should have consistent Calvinism; or else the Arminian principle would inevitably rule to the exclusion of the Evangelical doctrines forced into artificial conjunction with it, and we should have consistent Arminianism (315).

Neither here or anywhere in the review does Warfield resort to name calling or insinuate that Miley, and Arminians like him, are guilty of sloppy scholarship or the like. Instead Warfield sets out to show the differences between the two theological systems, something that Olson would admit is legitimate.

But here is where the plot thickens. Olson contends that Miley "introduced a somewhat liberalizing tendency into Wesleyan Arminian theology" and (somewhat reluctantly I suspect) admitted as well that "some of Warfield's criticisms of Miley were valid" (26), but as in the case of his accusations against Warfield, so too here he gives no examples of what he considers to be valid criticisms. Is Warfield guilty of Olson's charges simply because he spells out the dark family secrets that Olson would prefer stay hidden?

Warfield concludes his analysis by saying, "After a century of conflict, Dr. Miley's admirably reasoned volumes come to tell us frankly that the Calvinists have been right in these contentions. Arminianism, he says, has no logical place in its system for a doctrine of race sin, either in the sense of the participation of the race in the guilt of Adam's first sin, or in the sense of the infection of the race with a guilty corruption. Arminianism, he says, has no logical place in its system for a doctrine of penal substitution of Christ for sinners and of an atonement by satisfaction. If the Arminian principle is to rule, he says, the doctrine of race sin must go, and the doctrine of vicarious punishment must go. And, as he thinks that the Arminian principle ought to rule, he teaches that men are not by nature under the condemning wrath of God, and that Christ did not vicariously bear the penalty of sin. Thus, in his hands, Arminianism is seeking to purify itself by cleansing itself from the Evangelical elements with which it has been so long conjoined" (314).

Olson deeply resents Warfield connecting the dots. This, to Olson's way of thinking, makes Warfield guilty of malfeasance. Olson wants desperately to separate "heart Arminians" from "head Arminians" (17), and that mean-spirited Warfield refuses to do so!

Warfield insists that
The importance of Dr. Miley's attitude in this matter will not be properly estimated until we remind ourselves that he does not stand alone in it. Those who are familiar with recent Arminian theologizing will be aware that Dr. Miley in this is only a representative of a marked present-day drift in Arminian dogmatics. The nature of the impression which this drift will make upon us will doubtless depend, in part at least, upon whether our mind is upon the thinker or upon the thought. There is no one who will not feel regret to see one driven, by whatever stress of logic, from his hold upon fundamental Evangelical doctrine; it is better far to be inconsistently Evangelical than consistently Arminian. On the other hand, the line of thought by which Dr. Miley, for instance, clears away the Evangelical accretions from the Arminian core, commands our complete admiration. It is quiet logic, working its irresistible way to an irrefutable end. And as a matter of constructive reasoning it cannot be other than salutary. It is just as well that the world should come to know with the utmost clearness that these Evangelical doctrines are unconformable with Arminianism. It is just as well that the world should realize with increased clearness that Evangelicalism stands or falls with Calvinism, and that every proof of Evangelicalism is a proof of Calvinism (315).

Incidentally, and this may be another issue that Olson wished was kept in the closet, Warfield commends Miley for rejecting the proposals of the nineteenth-century forerunner to what is today known as Open Theism, Lorenzo McCabe.

"The divine intellect is discussed under the caption of omniscience; and the perplexities which emerge from it for Arminian thought are not disguised (pp. 189 f.). Dr. Miley refuses, however, to be led by these perplexities into a denial of the divine foreknowledge of free actions, which he defends unanswerably against the arguments of Dr. McCabe" (310).

Olson has openly defended the Open-theists in the pages of Christianity Today (Jan 9, 1995, p. 30), and so it comes as no surprise to hear him say, "I consider open theism a legitimate evangelical and Arminian option even though I have not yet adopted it as my own perspective" (198). Olson acknowledges that Open-theists like his good friend (8) Clark Pinnock, argues that their view is consistent Arminianism (198). Why is Warfield charged with a lack of charity for drawing similar conclusions?

Warfield's review is measured, respectful and even complimentary, while at the same time he shows himself to be consciously Calvinist. Indeed, it could be said of him fortiter in re sed suaviter in modo, lit. "steadfast in what must be done, but gentle in the way he does it."

What's wrong with that? Was Warfield a "vitriolic critic" who could not bring himself to see any good in Arminianism, as Olson claims? Not if we judge Warfield by this review, nor in light of the fact that Warfield actually had articles published in leading Methodist journals of the time.

In his review of F. J. Snell's Wesley and Methodism, to mention only one example, Warfield had this to say of the father of Evangelical Arminianism, John Wesley, "the reader lays the book down, feeling that he has listened to a very lively raconteur recounting with real reverence the very true story of a very noble man. Wesley's weaknesses are not hidden. Neither are his virtues. And the total impression is exceedingly good" (The Presbyterian and Reformed Review July, 1901 p. 489).

I am forced to conclude that Olson has in fact read very little of Warfield and what little he has, he has done so with a jaundiced eye.

Olson claims in the conclusion that he wants a sense of fair play, common sense, rules of fairness between Arminians and Calvinists, but I ask in light of Olson's treatment of Warfield, who is guilty of "misunderstanding, misrepresenting and distorting"? To all who are interested I say, Warfield's review is easily available, so Tolle Lege and let the reader judge.

(To be continued . . . )

Gary L. W. Johnson



31 comments:

DJP said...

Welcome! Thanks for a great read.

Your description of Olson's (mis)handling of Warfield brings immediately to my mind the way Fee treats him in Fee's (IMHO) overrated commentary on 1 Corinthians. Sneeringly dismissing the view that to teleion refers to "the full revelation given in the NT itself," in a footnote Fee asserts that it was "[g]iven its classical exposition by B. B. Warfield" -- but provides no documentation in that note (p. 645).

Jeff Wright said...

Awesome. Very informative. Someone has already hit me with citations from Olson's new book! I agree that he and his writings must be reckoned with. Thanks for the post.

Martin Downes said...

Gary,

Your post illustrates the difference between rhetoric and substance.

centuri0n said...

I never thought I'd live to see the day when "tolle lege" would be said on this blog in a context that I would agree with.

I am also somewhat jealous that Pastor Johnson invoked flagrante delicto before I did -- but I admit it was because some people would think it was illegal in their state.

I feel so high-brow. Somehow the blog seems so much more ... fancy today ...

rick said...

Nice post although you might let the Pyro guys provide some coaching on the graphics.

Seriously, it is good to have read some of Warfield. I've never read him and as a Charismatic, I only know of him (tongue-in-cheek here) as the father of Charismatic haters.

Your samples show him to be a good man. As already noted, substance over rhetoric. We can all learn from that.

I look forward to reading more of him. Thanks your post. Great stuff.

donsands said...

B.B. Warfield is a great example to the body of Christ.

I remember my pastor sharing about him in the pulpit that his wife was stricken during their honeymoon, and was an invalid the rest of her life, and Benjamin Warfield cared for her with great love every day of his life.

A true hero of the faith.

Highland Host said...

As a Calvinist who has read the entire works of John Wesley (in the Baker edition, since you ask. The same publisher as my set of Warfield ;), I'm always amused by such poorly-rearched criticism from the other side. In a theological debate we ought at least to be courteous enough to read some of what the other side has written.
And, as a man who has read Wesley, I'm afraid Señor Olson is trating Warfield much as Wesley treated Toplady.
Fine in the 18th century, but NOT the way serious theology is conducted these days.

Tom Chantry said...

Great post; thank you. But you know, the most provocative statement was the following: "All the representative Calvinists that Olson cites in this book are guilty as charged..."

Do you plan to take that up again in parts 2 and 3? Or did I misunderstand you?

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thanks for this.

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Thanks for the excellent analysis. I'm looking forward to the next post.

PS: This settles it, I'm changing my last name to Johnson.

centuri0n said...

Jim:

We can be like the Ramones.

This is Phil Johnson, I'm Frankie Johnson, that Dan Johnson over there, and our drummer is Pecadillo Johnson.

Crazy.

centuri0n said...

Tom: I think Pastor Johnson was representing Olson's position and not the actual facts.

I might stand corrected in a future post.

Kim said...

rick:

You are correct about Warfield being a good man. His wife was ill from the very beginning of their marriage, and he was very devoted to caring for her. He was never able to travel very far because he took very diligent care of her. He was a very good example of a devoted husband.

Pastor Rod said...

Whew!

How comforting to know that that Olson guy is such a meanie. Now we can just dismiss his whole book as a mean-spirited, poorly-researched polemic espousing that academically-challenged heresy known as Arminianism.

Everybody knows that Calvinists are smarter than Arminians. Besides, anyone who really understands Calvinism could never continue to hold to such an contemptible view of God and the Bible as Arminianism.

Christopher Redman said...

"Olson has openly defended the Open-theists in the pages of Christianity Today (Jan 9, 1995, p. 30), and so it comes as no surprise to hear him say, "I consider open theism a legitimate evangelical and Arminian option even though I have not yet adopted it as my own perspective" (198). Olson acknowledges that Open-theists like his good friend (8) Clark Pinnock, argues that their view is consistent Arminianism (198)."

It appears here that Olson is flirting with disaster!

Martin Downes said...

pastor rod,

Isn't your response a little overblown? Firing out a shot gun blast is no contribution to discussing the content of the post.

Gary Johnson's entry has given us a careful look at what Warfield actually wrote in place of a generalisation about Warfield's bad attitude.

donsands said...

"Everybody knows that Calvinists are smarter than Arminians."

This made me think. Seems that there was a greater amount of "smarterness" in the past; much more than there is today. It's hard work to use the brains God gave us.

Seems the Church as a whole today has been dumbed down in so many ways, from reading, studying, and meditating upon the Holy Bible.

Just a side thought. Hope this isn't too much of a rabbit trail.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks, Gary. Interesting stuff.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Gary L. W. Johnson wrote:

"Olson acknowledges that Open-theists like his good friend (8) Clark Pinnock, argues that their view is consistent Arminianism (198). Why is Warfield charged with a lack of charity for drawing similar conclusions?"

Eons ago when I was reading VanTil I can remember how fond he was of "connecting the dots" to demonstrate how some "less consistent calvinist" was really an Arminian and how some Arminian was really a Pelagian. This was an aspect of VanTil's argumentation which I found hard to accept.

I am not convinced that arguments of this kind are valid. For example, it is often claimed that K.Barth's view of the atonement would logically lead to universalism. But the local Barth disciples I have discussed this with, two of them wrote their Ph.D. dissertations on Barth, claim that he was not a universalist and repeatedly disowned it.

Olsen's statement over a decade ago in CT: "I consider open theism a legitimate evangelical and Arminian option even though I have not yet adopted it as my own perspective" sounds more like politics than theology.

I consider "connecting the dots" a dubious practice. It invariably leads to claiming someone affirmed something they did not and would not affirm.

Christopher Redman said...

Is the quote from CT by Olson regarding Open Theism a correct quote or not? If it is a correct quote, and if he has come to the light since then, he should have publicly denounced the heretical concepts of Open Theism.

This isn't politics, either he said it or didn't and he either believes it now or he doesn't.

CR

TheBlueRaja said...

If anyone's interested, Doug Wilson seems to hold much the same position (personally, I'm fairly flamed out just about every angle of the Calvinism/Arminianism debate and tend to see some false dichotomy there).


This post goes on to explain some more practical implications about how such a view might work itself out in relationships with actual Arminians. The post is initially about N.T. Wright, but it speaks directly to the issues of consistency and fellowship with Arminians.

farmboy said...

"I consider 'connecting the dots' a dubious practice. It invariably leads to claiming someone affirmed something they did not and would not affirm."

Provided that there are no errors in logic, connecting the dots is not a dubious practice. Instead it is a useful practice for identifying inconsistent positions held by a given person.

Using Barth as a ready example: He could both 1) not believe in universalism and 2) hold other beliefs that logically led to universialism. I assume that a person holding inconsistent positions of this sort would want to be made aware of such inconsistency. Said person could then think through this inconsistency and the implications that it has for his theology. This exercise would be useful even if it did not result in revised theological positions.

centuri0n said...

Raja --

Yeah, but how many really goods fights is that kind of thinking going to result in?
_____________________

C.S.Bart:

There's not question Barth overtly denies universalism -- because when you put all the cards on the table with barth, he wasn't trying to re-invent faith in Christ: he thought he was rediscovering it, which is a whole other kettle of fish. See: I think Barth really wanted to save people from the fires of hell both in the next life and in this one.

But if we concede that Barth himself was not a universalist, what happens when you start reading all the people that are actually that kind of advocate and see them going back to (among other people) Barth for the foundations of their ideas?

"connect the dots" is an interesting intellectual game because it it puts the person in question "on the spot" so to speak -- it causes them to ask the question "do they really mean all the things that they are saying?"

Tom Chantry said...

Centuri0n,

Yeah, I read that paragraph a few times and couldn't tell if Johnson was agreeing about all of those guys misrepresenting Arminianism or if he was still presentng Olson's view. I posted the question hoping that the statement would be clarified.

Having read this post, I am once again amazed and impressed with Warfield's ability to remain a gentleman while not compromising his position. He seems to have clearly identified the inconsistency of his opponents without descending to "straw-manning" them. We certainly want to do the same.

Which begs the question, have Boice, Sproul, Berkhof etc. misrepresented Arminianism, or has Olson misrepresented them? I trust Gary Johnson will clarify that. I expect it to be interesting reading, whatever position he takes.

TheBlueRaja said...

Cent,

You're right, which is why I've modified Wilson's position slightly, allowing that we can fellowship with them, but we get to punch them in the stomach whenever we want (and then tell them to stop their wheezing protests because God ordained it). I like what he has to say here as well, but again - it seems like the cook should be able to use the frying pan more offensively.

centuri0n said...

Raja --

That cooks post is Wilson at his best. Great stuff, unquestionably.

But what is the desiderata of that pericope?

TheBlueRaja said...

It's in flagrante delicto without the fortiter in re sed suaviter in modo that occurs without having ever heeded the wisdom of Tolle Lege.

TheBlueRaja said...

DJP,

You're right - Fee's commentary is a little over-rated. Thiselton's is MUCH better.

Reg W Schofield said...

Very enlightening article. I have long been a admirer of Warfield and have always found his writings helpful and fair towards his opponents.
Although I wish one statement would be cleared up and that is when Johnson mentions Sproul,Horton etc..and says guilty as charged . I have read and listened to these men for years and have never found there defense of calvinism and their critic of arminians as nothing but fair.
Also in my encounters with those who hold to arminian way of thinking ,when I have debated with them , they become very combative and instead of engaging the text we are looking at , they begin to name call Calvin or any who defend this true biblical teaching. Arminianism when taken to its logical conclusion I hold , has to embrace open theism for it has already laid the ground work.
I look forward to reading the Johnsons next letter.

C.T. Lillies said...

Great post and thanks. It did indeed spiff the place up a bit.

Frank wrote: But if we concede that Barth himself was not a universalist, what happens when you start reading all the people that are actually that kind of advocate and see them going back to (among other people) Barth for the foundations of their ideas?

So how does this make him any different than Mark Driscoll?

Josh

Alando Franklin said...

Further Dividing the Body of Christ:

Interesting that S. Lewis Johnson was mentioned. I'll post an excerpt directly from the website of the church he served as a pastor. Although I understand the review and defense of a favored from our camp, this seems to be an unfortunate precedence being set in the modern day Christian church. God help us!

THE APOSTLE'S CONDEMNATION

Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

v. 13

These three rapid-fire questions are like three deadly thrusts of a sharp sword. Anyone alone would have been sufficient to condemn their divisions. Together the three are devastating.



A. Such divisions are an offense to the person of Christ.

When Paul asks, "Has Christ been divided?" he is asking if our Lord has been divided up or parceled out into various groups. Has one part of Him been given to Paul? Has another part of Him been given to Peter? Of course not! As Christ is incapable of divisions, so the church cannot be divided. Divisions are an offense to the person of Jesus Christ.



B. Such divisions are an offense to the work of Christ.

"Paul was not crucified for you, was he?" The "Pauline Party" begins to squirm in their seats. They look at each other nervously. "Was Paul crucified for you?" "Well, no." "Was it Paul's blood that redeemed you?" "No, no, that's not true." "Is it Paul that has purchased you for himself?" "No, not Paul." "Well, who is it?" Of course, it's the Lord. It was the precious blood of Christ that was shed for us. Our divisions are an offense to the work of Christ because it is the work of Christ that has purchased us for Himself. We are His personal property. Taking any other name, saying we are disciples of any particular preacher or theologian is an offense to the very work that Christ has done on our behalf. Believers have no relationship even to inspired teachers such as to justify being called by their names. We are called Christians because we belong to Christ.



C. Such divisions are an offense to the confession of your relationship to Jesus Christ.

Again, he asks, "Were you baptized in (into) the name of Paul?" What does he mean? Barclay says:

"To give money into a man's name was to pay it into his account, into his personal possession. To sell a slave into a man's name was to give that slave into the absolute and undisputed possession. A soldier swore loyalty into the name of Caesar and he belonged absolutely to the emperor."

Robertson and Plummer suggest that the phrase, "into the name of Jesus Christ" implies "entrance into fellowship and allegiance as exists between the Redeemer and the redeemed." That helps us understand the question. "Were you baptized into the name of Paul'?" "Was your baptism an acknowledgment of the absolute undisputed authority of Paul in your life'?" Of course the answer is "No."

They were baptized into the name of Christ. In their baptism, they publicly acknowledged their allegiance to Him. He was the one who had undisputed claim and authority in their life. None of the Corinthians were the possession of Paul that they should call themselves by his name. This was a contradiction of their confession in baptism.

If I understand verses twelve and thirteen correctly, I see Paul saying two things to us of tremendous importance.

Directly, he is condemning an ATTITUDE that leads to parties or factions within the church. There is still just one local church in Corinth, but in that church attitudes have developed that have fractured and fragmented the body.

This tendency is one of the curses of the contemporary church. Some give to a preacher a loyalty that only God deserves, and by their attitudes they divide Christians. Others crusade for a favorite doctrine at the expense of the whole counsel of God, and by their attitudes they divide churches. Personal prejudices, preferences, social standings and ethnic backgrounds cultivate attitudes that often fracture the body.

Indirectly, one can readily see a condemnation of DENOMINATIONALISM. Paul categorically condemns fragmenting the one church of Jesus Christ into segments that are labeled by the names of men or doctrines or days or any other such thing. Denominationalism is a product of the carnality of men - not the wisdom of God. We dare not defend it, tolerate it or ignore it. But how shall we oppose it?

"What denomination are you anyway?" Hardly a week goes by that I am not asked this question. Recently I asked one of our deacons how he answered that question. He responded: "The same denomination that Paul was." Now that's not a bad answer. What denomination was Paul? None! In the New Testament church, denominationalism did not exist.

Someone has said that the New Testament church was like a bottle of medicine that had many ingredients in it, but no label. It practiced baptism but there were no Baptists. It believed in predestination, but there were no Presbyterians. It believed in the - Holy Spirit but there were no Methodists. It observed the Lord's Supper but there were no Plymouth Brethren. It feared God, but there were no Quakers. There were bishops but no Episcopalians. The early church, you see, was a church where all the ingredients were present, but there were no labels that fragmented the church.

As believers in Jesus Christ who want to be biblical in our practices and faithful to our confession, we will take only the name of Jesus Christ, but not for a moment will we exclude from our fellowship or from our warm companionship another Christian who may take another name. We will have happy fellowship with any church that is evangelical, believing and preaching the Word of God. We will receive into our fellowship and to the Lord's Table any believer in Christ. By so doing, we seek to confess our belief in the oneness of the Body of Christ.

Do you see what we must avoid? It is what Paul, I believe, is condemning in this passage. He condemns primarily the attitude of sectarianism, of denominationalism. We will never, by God's grace, permit ourselves to ever cultivate such an attitude that will fragment the church of Christ. Indirectly he is condemning the practice of denominationalism. Again, by God's grace, we will never take a name or a position that will deny the oneness of the Body of Christ. May God help us always to testify by our attitudes and actions to the unity of the Body of Christ.