30 April 2013

Acting unwisely that "grace" may abound?

by Dan Phillips

At CBC the Sunday School class has been a series titled The Bible, Marriage and You. Having Biblically laid the foundation of the meaning of marriage, we turned to focus for several lessons on how singles should approach marriage. As long-time Pyro readers would expect, I made a very impassioned case that Christians should not even toy with becoming romantically involved with non-believers.

Last Sunday we capped that portion of the series, and turned to address marrieds. But before we left our focus on singles, I wanted to deal with one last issue. A great believer in prevention, I wanted to head off a pernicious thought: the person who might say, "But ______ dated an unbeliever, and he got saved!" or even "But ____ married an unbeliever, and she got saved/was a great lady/whatever." In other words, "Sure, maybe it's foolish, maybe it's even sinful, but other people did it and it worked out okay... so what's the big deal, Pastor?"

This is course-charting by anecdote, and it is (to say the very least) a foolish way to live.

As you can imagine, I had some thoughts about this, and I shared them with characteristic daintiness and nuance. Which is to say I fired up the grill and barbecued away, driven by passion and conviction and a lot of care and concern for my dear ones here, as well as intrawebbers. My conclusion was that this whole line of thinking amounted to asking "Why not just continue in sin, that grace might abound?"

And then Monday, I read this, and its (at present) unanimously positive, emotional accolades. Ah, me.

Tullian Tchividjian, now a pastor, admits to having been such an incorrigible 16yo that his father actually booted him out of the house. But Tchividjian continued on a rebellious, ruinous path... and his father fully subsidized it. At one point, after Tchividjian had screwed up a job and lied to his father about what had happened, dad gave him a blank check, no questions asked. Though Tchividjian took advantage of that check, it didn't stop there. Tullian snuck into the family home and committed repeated acts of theft and felony, stealing dad's checks and forging his signature. Dad (a clinical psychologist, or so I read) was aware of his son's crimes, and let him go on (you'll pardon me) unchecked and unconfronted.

But see: it had a happy ending. By all accounts, Tchividjian's now converted, is a good guy and a celebrated and well-positioned preacher of wide renown. So we know it was the right thing to do. Right?

In proof and as a capper, Tchividjian quotes a bunch of directly-relevant Scriptures counseling Christian parents to handle rebellious, criminal dependents in just exactly this manner.

No, I'm kidding. Tchividjian doesn't do anything like that. What he does instead is quote Steve Brown, whose rather appalling teachings about "grace" I've examined at great length elsewhere (here, here, and here).

But it's a feel-good story, and anyone who disagrees can only be cast as a legalist and anti-grace and a hater and a good-story-spoiler and all those awful things. Besides, it's at The Gospel Coalition, so it has to be all right, right? They're all sound there. Right?

Tchividjian's book Jesus + Nothing = Everything received a fair bit of friendly critical pushback, most of which centered around accusations that it fell short of Biblically relating the indicative to the imperative.

Unfortunately, none of the critics I read seemed to know of a single book that presents the Gospel Biblically, highlighting God's saving grace in such a way as to frame the place of God's commands within a grace-fueled walk — a book that does some kind of justice both to both indicative and imperative. It sounded as if they really, really wished that some book Biblically preached up God's sovereign, saving grace, and equally clearly set forth the distinctively sanctifying power of grace. Some book that dealt extensively with Scripture, exalted God and His word, and was broadly accessible. But none of the critics I read could really recommend a single book that did all that. Sadder still, none of the commenters on those reviews seemed to know of such a book, either. Alas.

It is tough critiquing an article like this, as the critics of Tchividjian's book clearly struggled in their criticisms. How do you criticize such a piece, without sounding as if you're criticizing grace — even though it may be a "you keep using that word" situation. If writers or speakers can just say words like "grace" and "love," and let our imaginations roam free, this is what we're likely to come up with. Then particularly if we append the uniquely modern modifier unconditional, and the uniquely modern equation of such love with unconditional enabling and approval, we're well on our way. Add a few heart-tugging anecdotes and a lot of sentiment, and the deal's sealed and on its way to the publisher/conference circuit.

So then when someone tries to point out that the book of Proverbs is still in the Bible, is still breathed out by the God who knows everything about grace and love, and is still profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness; and that Proverbs (to say the least) doesn't lend itself to such amorphous sentimentality and funding of folly and crime... well, he's really asking for it.

And yet.

The call to us is, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15) — not "you will figure out what strikes you as the most gracious, loving thing to do, then pray for it all to work out." Love for God is still, in this church age, to keep His commandments (1 Jn 5:3) — not to pursue what we hope will work, especially if it suits our standards of grace and love, and leave it to God to bring on the happy ending.

And it falls to us who are elders to keep speaking things that befit sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), and insistently to urge our hearers to be eager to do them (Titus 2:15).

Not to do what fits the content our imaginations supply to a Bibley theme, bereft of the Bible's own working out of that theme.

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Meanwhile, read Carl Trueman

by Dan Phillips

I have a post in the works for today, undergoing some editorial revision.

But while that's in process, READ CARL TRUEMAN. The bro brings the bam!, wondering aloud what it would be like if
the conservative evangelical church world came to be dominated by a symbiotic network of high profile and charismatic leaders (think more Weber than Wimber), media organisations, and big conferences? What if leadership, doctrine, and policy were no longer rooted in the primacy of biblical polity and the local church? What if, in other words, all of this became a function of an Evangelical Industrial Complex?
You must read the whole thing. It's devastatingly wonderful.

And yeah, thank God that things aren't really that bad.


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28 April 2013

Pray for your under-shepherd!

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Eccentric Preachers, pages 52-54, Pilgrim Publications. 
"Do you not think it very hard that some of us can never utter a playful sentence without being criticized?"

A minister who is much before the public has need to be thick skinned, and to exercise to a very high degree the virtue of longsuffering. It may help him if he will remember the conduct of good Cotton Mather, a man remarkable for the sweetness of his temper. On one occasion, having taken a prominent interest in the political concerns of his country, he received a large number of abusive letters. All of these he tied up in a packet, and wrote upon the cover, “Libels. Father, forgive them.”

No man of God need be astonished at slander, as though some strange thing had happened unto him, for the best servants of God have been subject to that trial. Mr. Whitefield truly said, “Thousands of prayers are put up for us, and thousands of lies are spread abroad against us.”

Of himself, concerning his tour in Scotland, they said, “Wherever he went he had a gaping crowd around him, and had the address to make them part with their money. He was a pickpocket, and went off to England with a full purse, but with a ruined reputation among all except his bigoted admirers.” This was falsehood itself.

I commend to young preachers when they are tried in this fashion the wise and weighty words of   Thomas A’Kempis : —

“My son, take it not grievously if some think ill of thee, and speak that which thou wouldest not willingly hear.
“Thou oughtest to be the hardest judge of thyself and to think no man weaker than thyself.
“If thou dost walk spiritually, thou wilt not much weigh fleeting words.
“It is no small wisdom to keep silence in an evil time, and in thy heart to turn thyself to God, and not to be troubled by the judgment of men.
“Let not thy peace depend on the tongues of men; for whether they judge well of thee or ill, thou art not on that account other than thyself. Where are true peace and true glory? Are they not in God?
“And he that careth not to please men, nor feareth to displease them, shall enjoy much peace.
“From inordinate love and vain fear ariseth all disquietness of heart and distraction of the mind.”

Dr. Campbell once told me the following story:—On one occasion, when Mr. Wesley was preaching, he said, “I have been falsely charged with every crime of which a human being is capable, except that of drunkenness.” He had scarcely uttered these words before a wretched woman started up and screamed out at the top of her voice, “You old villain, and will you deny it? Did you not pledge your bands last night for a noggin of whisky, and did not the woman sell them to our parson’s wife?”

Having delivered herself of this abominable calumny the virago sat down amid a thunder-struck assembly, whereupon Mr. Wesley lifted his hands to heaven, and thanked God that his cup was now full, for they had said all manner of evil against him falsely for Christ’s name-sake. After this we feel reconciled to the idle tales which buzz about us, annoying us for a small moment, but doing no great damage.

26 April 2013

The Crucial Distinction Between Essential and Peripheral Doctrines

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the original PyroManiac blog back in September 2005.  Phil explains why this distinction is vital, and how it is rightly applied.

As usual, the comments are closed.

We've been talking about the distinction between (on the one hand) truth that is so essential to the gospel—so vitally important—that you must affirm it or be condemned; and (on the other hand) lesser truths, where there may be more room for misunderstanding or disagreement. How does one tell which category any given doctrine fits into?

Some have suggested (and I quite agree) that Scripture may be deliberately vague on these issues for good but hidden reasons, so that some of the questions we have raised are answered in the Bible with stark black-and-white clarity; while most of the answers we're looking for are sketched out in indistinct lines and with varying shades of gray.

On the other hand, some who have commented have wondered aloud whether any distinction between essential and peripheral truths is really even necessary.

It seems to me that even a few moments of cursory thought would quickly drive us to the conclusion that we cannot simply erase every distinction between primary and secondary doctrines...Scripture commands us to contend earnestly against error when the faith once delivered to the saints is at stake; and yet, when the unity of true saints is at stake, we are commanded to receive people who are weak in the faith without indulging in doubtful disputations.

We're expected to make sound judgments about which is which. Remember, Jesus sternly rebuked the Pharisees for failing to distinguish between vital and secondary legal principles—even though no distinction between "gnats" and "camels" was ever spelled out explicitly in the Old Testament law. They were held responsible to apply rational, sensible judgment to the biblical data—and there was plainly enough data so they should have understood that justice, mercy, and the love of God are bigger spiritual principles than counting out little seeds for a tithe (Luke 11:42).

Notice what Jesus said: "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23). Recognizing a proper taxonomy of spiritual principles doesn't give us permission to abandon whatever principles are deemed secondary. I think that's a misunderstanding that causes some to shy away from speaking of "secondary" truths. But "secondary" doesn't mean "optional." It does, however, mean that all truths aren't of equal import. Not every point of truth is an occasion for all-out battle, especially between brethren who agree on the major points.

That's one of the huge practical realities of real-world ministry that sensible people who want to be faithful to the commands of Romans 14 simply must understand. We may not always agree on which issues are worth fighting for, but it's an evil mind that rejects the distinction completely and fights with equal vigor over every issue, gnats and camels alike.

25 April 2013

"God didn't say," and hashtags

by Dan Phillips

Last Sunday (because: Sunday) I launched a new hashtag with this:"Look, if you can't find a church as perfect as you, just stay home and read or listen to recordings or something" #GodNeverSaid
Eventually, it was followed by a flood of them, including:

Normally, Twitter is something of a meritocracy, in that non-celebrities can earn a following by excellent posts, as for instance Trogdor is doing. In that way it's a social free-market, and that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, hashtags also provide an opportunity for bitter little folks unable to gather much of an audience on their own merits. Lucky to have a handful of followers, their talent is limited to aping and gainsaying more creative folks so as to poach for themselves a false visibility on the backs of others. They're like brats who feel clever as they make rude bodily noises during the sermon, simply to distract and get attention. They don't actually contribute anything, but they do interrupt the grownups.

Solomon lamented the principle; anyone who tries to lead would also. These sad souls lack the creativity God gave a dung beetle, which at least can build something from something; taxonomically, they harken more to the tick or the mosquito, content to suck out others' lifeblood. They haven't the wit to come up with their own hashtags. They know that, if they did, they'd be roundly and deservedly ignored. So they must find a larger host organism and latch on.

They come late hoping to bury, so you'll have to plow to the bottom and scroll up. More happily, hashtags also provides a chance to showcase true insight of verbal musicians who bring their instruments to play in the same opera, such as:
There are a lot more. Chris Rosebrough was a late and great entry to the party. He always brings the goods, and doen't need me as a publicist.


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24 April 2013

The Actual Agenda

by Frank Turk

When I sat down this weekend to come up with a stunning post for today, I had maybe a dozen ideas, including lampooning this utterly-awful post from Mark Driscoll which, in my view, demonstrates what sort of fellow he is -- and not in a good way. Maybe we'll get back to it eventually because it would be worth thinking about what sort of fellow writes that post when he's got so much to actively and publicly apologize for to the other fellow who helped him go mainstream.

However: do not let that derail the comments to this post.

This post is a bit from 2005 which I have slightly reworked for one purpose only: it still needs to be said.


In my experience, it always comes back to this question: "Does Orthodoxy matter in the life of the Christian?" "It", in this case, is any discussion in which the name of Jesus Christ is used to advance an agenda.

Let's clear something up before I go on: having an "agenda" is not a bad thing. Anyone who has ever been in a meeting knows that an agenda keeps the meeting from lasting forever and also keeps the meeting facing some goal. Listen: I know that a lot of people frequently use the word "agenda" to mean "an underlying often ideological plan or program", and intend it to imply some evil motive. I don't intend it that way. When I say that someone has an agenda, simply read it to mean that I think this person does what they are doing intentionally. That is to say, they have thought about what they are doing and choose to do it for specific reasons.

God willing, we should all have an agenda. God willing, we all have the right agenda. Don't get all squirrelly because I say someone has an agenda.

So in any discussion where someone is using an agenda and part of that agenda is "Jesus Christ" -- either as an end or as a means -- I wonder if anyone considers the complex matter of Orthodoxy? I ask this because when this matter comes up, it seems like it always causes a wicked stir. For example, someone might say, "I admire Pope John Paul II as a Christian leader of historic proportions," and someone else might ask, "I am unaware that praying to Mary 'Possess my soul, Take over my entire personality and life, replace it with Yourself, Incline me to constant adoration, Pray in me and through me, Let me live in you and keep me in this union always,’ was actually 'Christian'. What do you mean by 'Christian'?"

Now think on this: the second person not saying that this Pope did nothing of any geopolitical "good". The question being posed is one of orthodoxy, in the same way, for example, that the men at Nicea posed the question of orthodoxy to Arius. The question is not a matter of political usefulness or even humanitarian usefulness. The question is whether the Gospel is being preached when the spiritual things otherwise hidden were brought to light.

What seems to come up quite often is this: apparently, that question is irrelevant -- or perhaps it is actually the wrong question to ask at all because of other mitigating factors. Some people advocate that there is no right way to determine orthodoxy because of the state of the church; others advocate that the demand for orthodoxy is itself a flawed pursuit because it is abstracted from the good works in evidence. In that, we should be able to call John Paul II, or Bono, or Mother Theresa, or Johnny Cash, or TD Jakes, or Oprah, or the Apostle Paul all "heroes of the faith" because their work was done in some orbit around the center-bound name of Jesus.

Yet it never fails to upset the advocates of this position when one asks anyway, "well, I happen to personally know a fellow who spent 2 years in South America as a missionary building hospitals and teaching school to children -- but he was a missionary for the Latter Day Saints. Is he a Christian hero also?" If you're lucky, after you sort through all the hyperbolic rhetoric that comes back, you might find the retort, "oh heavens -- he's not even a Trinitarian. That's a stupid example." If you're not as lucky, you'll find a respected Seminary President who gives your question the high-brow pish-tosh, as if Joseph Smith never renounced all of Christendom as abhorrent to God, declaring himself and his golden tablets the only true prophetic utterance.

Somehow those who will reply in that way simply cannot see the matters of orthodoxy at stake. I would actually agree that being non-Trinitarian (like a Oneness advocate, or a Mormon) excludes one from Orthodoxy -- which is my point in asking the question. What it underscores, however, is the larger issue that the Trinity is not the only matter of orthodoxy. If one is outside the faith for rejecting the Trinity, can't one be outside the faith for adding Mary, de facto via prayers to her that ask her to do the work of the Holy Spirit, to the Trinity? What about worshiping the Eucharist as God? Or for that matter, what about changing Jesus' declaration "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me," to mean that anyone who says he worships the God of Abraham must by implication be brought there through Christ -- even if he explicitly rejects Christ? What if someone was doing all of the above?

Or worse: what if someone has made the work of the Cross merely into a means of making money, or making himself important or popular?

All of these questions are matters of orthodoxy -- that is, matters of what is and is not "the Gospel", what is and is not the Good News of Jesus Christ. So if someone finds the cure for cancer and gives it away for free, and dies a beggar for doing so, he may have done something historically, ethically exceptional. If someone takes a high-profile stand that flies in the face of both Capitalism and Socialism but it is actually the right moral stand, Amen. But let's not confuse that with Christianity -- which is discipleship to Christ for the sake of the cross and the Gospel.

To be a disciple of Christ for the sake of the Cross and the Gospel means that we are actually referring to "Christ", "Cross", and "Gospel." That is: we are referring to that real person and those real things which are the ones which do all the unbelievable things we say they do. If we say "cross" and we mean a piece of jewelry, or "Gospel" and we mean a kind of campy folk music, we are not talking about truth but rather mere fashion. But when we are talking about truth, Orthodoxy -- that is, conformity to the faith delivered once for all time to the saints -- has to matter.  Conformity to that cannot merely be on the agenda: it has to be the the actual agenda, the singular objective and only check-box.

Especially, since it needs to be said, when we're talking about the men who lead the church both by proxy and by example.

23 April 2013

What in the "world"?

by Dan Phillips

In my review of the new EEC volume on the letters of John, I remarked on the author's selective lack of curiosity as to John's meaning in using "world" (kosmos) in 1 John 2:2. I noted that Derickson was forced to admit and consider other senses in later passages, though he had treated 2:2 as if the term could only be univocal, and only naked and baseless dogmatism could ever move one to another view.

My aim here is not to solve the difficulties in understanding 1 John 2:2 (on which I've shared a thought or two in the past). Rather, it is to open some minds — pause, to allow gales of laughter and tear-wiping to die down — of those who imagine that Bible readers who affirm Scripture's teachings about God's sovereignty in grace (i.e. "Calvinists") simply make up the notion that "world" could ever mean anything other than "every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born."

I'd just like to observe that it is not only impossible to imagine that the word always has that meaning — it is, in fact, questionable whether it ever has that meaning.

My favorite example is John 1:10, which saith: "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him."

Can we say, "World just means world," and be saying anything meaningful about that passage?

That is, is John really saying, "In the incarnation, the Logos was in the presence of every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born, and every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born was made through him, yet every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born did not know him"?


Rather, is not John saying "Jesus came to be in the society of mankind [Sense 1], and though the entire physical universe [Sense 2] had been made through him [cf. v. 3], yet the anti-God Satanic system within it [Sense 3] did not know him"? If so, then, do we not have three senses of the same word, kosmos, in a single verse?

Or how about John 3:17, the verse after the Arminians' favorite (imagined) trump-card verse? It reads, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." Again, a threefold use of kosmos. Does John really mean, "For God did not send his Son in the Incarnation to every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born to condemn every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born but in order that every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born will be saved through him"? If so, how come most of the world never got a glimpse of Jesus or heard a word He said (and still haven't), and how come so many people are in fact and will in fact remain lost?

Or take 1 John 5:19, which has virtually the same wording as 2:2 — "We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." So, really? Is John actually saying that "every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born lies in the power of the evil one"? What about John himself, and the believers to whom he wrote? John certainly didn't think they all lay under the power of Satan (cf. 2:13-14). As for Paul, he thought he was (and we are) "in Christ," not in the evil one.

We shall come to real misery when we try to apply this to John 17:9, where our Lord prays, "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." Is He saying, " I am praying for them. I am not praying for every last man, woman and child who ever has been born or ever will be born but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." But aren't "those whom you have given me" people who have been born?

I could easily go on, and on, and on and on and on. Of course, no human power can dislodge dogma from the grips of its worshipers, but one may dare to hope that all fair-minded readers will grant the one point I'm making: the word kosmos is not univocal, and it does not "just mean 'world,' period." It means different things in different contexts.

What that specific meaning is must be determined by serious exegesis, and not by bilious assertion and airy, impatient dismissal.

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21 April 2013

Earnest Andrew

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, pages 8-9, Pilgrim Publications.
"If Andrew had not been the means of converting his brother, the probabilities are that he would never have been an apostle."

Christ had some reason in the choice of His apostles to their office, and perhaps the ground of His choice of Andrew as an apostle was this: “He is an earnest man,” said He, “he brought me Simon Peter; he is always speaking privately to individuals; I will make an apostle of him.”

You must have some talent entrusted to you, and something given you to do which no one else can do. Find out, then, what your sphere is, and occupy it. Ask God to tell you what is your niche, and stand in it, occupying the place till Jesus Christ shall come and give you your reward. Use what ability you have, and use it at once.

Andrew proved his wisdom in that he set great store by a single soul. He bent all his efforts at first upon one man. Afterwards, Andrew, through the Holy Spirit, was made useful to scores, but he began with one.

What a task for the arithmetician, to value one soul! One soul sets all heaven’s bells ringing by its repentance. One sinner that repenteth maketh angels rejoice. What if you spend a whole life pleading and labouring for the conversion of that one child? If you win that pearl it shall pay you your life worth.

Be not therefore dull and discouraged because your class declines in numbers, or because the mass of those with whom you labour reject your testimony. If a man could but earn one in a day he might be satisfied. “One what?” saith one. I meant not one penny, but one thousand pounds. “Ah,” say you, “that would be an immense reward.”

So if you earn but one soul you must reckon what that one is; it is one for numeration, but for value it exceeds all that earth could show. What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and lost his soul? And what loss would it be to you, if you did lose all the world, and gained your soul, and God made you useful in the gaining of the souls of others?

Be content, and labour in your sphere, even if it be small, and you will be wise.

19 April 2013

"Justification by Faith," "Imputation," and "Substitution" in a Single Verse

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the first two posts in a series; both were published back in May 2006.  Phil draws out the foundational doctrines encapsulated in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Second Corinthians 5:21 is one of my favorite verses of Scripture: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

The whole gospel message is contained in embryo in those words. That short statement is crucial to our understanding of the nature of the atonement, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and the twin principles of imputation and substitution. It teaches great truths about the character of God, the sinlessness of Christ, and the simplicity of salvation. It summarizes the core truth of biblical soteriology. It has important implications for Christology. And it even says something about theology proper, because it plainly assumes the sovereignty of God, the love of God, the justice of God, and the grace of God.

This is one of those crystal-clear verses that helps us make sense of all the rest of Scripture. It helps explain the significance of the priestly and sacrificial laws of the Old Testament. It thoroughly illuminates the meaning of the cross of Christ. It reminds us why Christ is the only way of salvation from sin. It shows why no good works performed by sinners could ever contribute an iota to their salvation. And it demonstrates how salvation was accomplished for us without any of our own works—and yet in a way that completely fulfilled God's law, upheld His justice, and vindicated His own righteousness.

In other words to borrow an expression from Romans 3:26, here is how God can "be just, and the justifier of [those who believe] in Jesus." This text explains how God can pardon sinners and treat them as righteous without compromising His own impeccable righteousness or lowering His perfect standards in any way.


Historic Protestantism was born out of Luther's realization that the doctrine of justification by faith is the heart of the gospel. That conviction of Luther's has always been part of the fabric of Protestant belief. That's a stubborn fact of history that tends to rankle some folks today who insist that the central principles of historic Reformed theology—starting with sola fide—are outdated and too narrow and therefore need to yield to "a more generous, catholic spirit."

Luther called justification the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. Calvin called it the principal hinge of religion. Every other major reformer likewise accorded sola fide the same kind of importance.

Actually, the word "importance" doesn't do it justice. Historic Protestantism has regarded justification by faith as the central distinctive and most essential truth of the gospel.


[N]o single verse of Scripture is more clear about this than 2 Corinthians 5:21. The verse is Paul's simple one-sentence summary of the message he proclaimed as an ambassador of Christ. It explains precisely what he meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, "I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

Here, in Paul's own words, is the heart of the true ambassador's message. This is Paul's own explanation of precisely what he meant when he spoke of preaching "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." In other words, this is Paul's most succinct summary of the heart of the gospel: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

18 April 2013

"Did you take him to coffee first?" dodge (NEXT! #32)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: I felt I needed to say publicly that you should have privately taken X out for coffee before publicly taking him/her to issue for his/her public teaching and conduct.

Response A: Yeah... so where's my coffee?

Response B: You're as right publicly to fault my public statement as Paul was publicly to fault Peter's public behavior, and as I was to fault his/hers.

(Proverbs 21:22)

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17 April 2013

A Lie in their Right Hand

by Frank Turk

Before we get to the main festivities, I have two bits of internet housekeeping.
Michael Carpenter is the Church Planter/Pastor of a new work here in Little Rock called The Church at Argenta, which is the plant of a couple of local SBC churches.  I met Michael through Ed Stetzer, and he is both not like me and just like me.

Michael is bi-vocational, and his other vocation is MUGS CAFE.  It's Michael's way of living in the community he is evangelizing.  And: like any new business, it needs the right starting push.

You can give it that push by clicking through the above tweet (or right here) and voting for Mugs Cafe -- one a day, every day, until May 6th when voting closes.  It costs you nothing, and could win Michael the commercial refrigeration case he needs for the sandwich bar.

The other piece of housekeeping is to one-up Ed Stetzer by linking you to the new album by @EmmanuelMN
The buzz is that it's "pretty sick," which I think is how the kids these days say it's enjoyable and satisfying.  Kids these days ...

Lastly, it takes me about 15-20 minutes to drive to work everyday, and the same to come home.  Occasionally I use that time to catch an especially compelling podcast, like the new one from The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals called "the Mortification of Spin."  It's criminal that this podcast only comes out once every other week, but as a free service of the proprietors of Reformation21.org, it's worth every second and always worth the wait.

However: None of that is what I'm blogging about.

What I'm blogging about is how I spend the other 9 days going to and from work -- which is to listen to secular talk radio, specifically the News, and then on the way home NPR's "All Things Considered."  The sharper implements in the utensil drawer will have noticed the distinction I have made there, because there's bias, there's MSM bias, and then there's NPR -- which is, on most days, the most self-involved demonstration in any medium of how the secular cultural forces in the US view themselves and the world around them.  Sometimes I wonder if these people ever leave the studios they broadcast from -- because the lack of interaction with actual people who do things for a living during these two hours is staggering.

For me, it's an education regarding the unadulterated secularism and unvarnished idolatry of the world.  I can hear things on NPR no one else would ever dream of saying out loud, so when it comes to talking to a person in fact about any of these subjects, I have already heard the worst and most offensive interpretation of the issue via NPR.  The odds of being shocked by someone's secularism, then, is greatly reduced.

All that to come to the point, which today is about religious practice and freedom.  Before you read on, please take the 2 minutes it will take to read this transcript of a story from last wednesday.

If you don't have 2 minutes, the Hopi Indians are apparently a great example of Is 44:12-20.  Their religion includes a kind of mask-making, and the masks are called "katsina" masks.  Apparently if you wear one, you become a katsina spirit.

Now, bear with me, because that's not really the part worth fretting over.  Of course the Hopi believe that.  I think you can't be Hopi unless you believe that -- they actually distinguish themselves as the civilized ones, and all other people as uncivilized.  So this religious devotion to the Katsina spirits, the iquatzi beings embodied by the masks, is essentially Hopi.

This is also not the part worth fretting over, but it is the main conflict here: they want the artifacts housed at the Neret-Minet Auction House, which include some of these masks, to be shipped back to them immediately, and for the auction house to abandon an upcoming auction of the items, er, um, friends and spirits because, undoubtedly, they are stolen.

When were they stolen?  That's omitted from this story.

Now look: what is actually the troubling part of this story is this here:
BREUNIG: Where a Westerner would see it as an artwork, the Hopis see it as something much more and something that cannot, cannot be sold in this way. It is incredibly painful for them. 
MORALES: And that's why the Hopi Tribal Council recently talked to reporters. They wanted to put public pressure on the auction house. Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa says taking these items off Hopi land is against tribal law. In essence, they're stolen. 
LEROY SHINGOITEWA: Today, if I was to go downtown of Flagstaff and go into any one of the churches and take a figure of Christ or a cross or whatever and go outside and use it for a fence post, in this country, I would be prosecuted immediately. Our dilemma is that now, we're working in international waters.
Now, let's at least understand the good Chief Shingoitewa's point here: he wants other people to respect his religion.  For my part, I think I don't have to believe his religion in order to say, "well, if you want to believe that, I can't stop you."

But: I do have to object to his hypothetical claim.  First of all: crosses are bought and sold every day all over the world.    Whether that's a great idea, a neutral fact, or a violation of the 2nd commandment [thx Bev] I'll leave for another day.  My point in mentioning it is only to say that nobody is violating my conscience toward the Cross and its image by buying one or selling one -- and to say otherwise is, at best, hyperbole.

And having said all that, that is still not the biggest tall tale in this complaint.  Let's be honest: the images of those things considered sacred by the group broadly-considered as "Christian" are not hardly never desecrated or mocked.  Jesus winds up on South Park often enough to put this claim to bed forever -- and to mention all the far-worse desecrations of Christian iconography and statuary which can easily be found in a quick internet search causes the claim by Chief Shingoitewa to be lacking only a laugh track to indicate it is a cheap punchline and not a real plea for civilized people to come to their senses.

It's actually a little terrifying to me that somewhere they are going to spend time in an international court asking the question, "are these artifacts property or gods?"  They are most certainly not gods, however earnest the Hopi may be.  And to take those claims seriously ...

... look: for the sake of this discussion, what the people at NPR want us to suppose is that every religious claim is of equal sociological value, and of equal truth value.  And ironically: they want those claims in this case to be worthy of international intervention in order to validate those claims in preserving the traditions and culture of an otherwise-minor nation of spiritists.

My suggestion is this: when NPR takes the claims of any Christian, or any Jew, or any inherently-Western person this seriously and soberly, I'll be willing to give the Hopi and his friend the mask a fair hearing.  Until then, let's please not pretend that the secularists at NPR give a second thought to the lie in their right hand. Their only purpose is to pretend to be multicultural and informed when in fact they have simply denigrated every religious claim to utter tomfoolery by elevating this one to artificial seriousness.

16 April 2013

Book review — 1, 2, & 3 John: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, by Gary Derickson

by Dan Phillips

(Logos Bible Software, 2012)

I made 25 pages of notes in reading this book. So while the review is massive, it could have been a lot longer!

Summary: due to the rich thoroughness of exegetical material provided, this is a must-have commentary for anyone who would preach or teach John's epistles, though I strenuously disagree with some of Derickson's interpretations.

Paradoxical? Read on.

Big picture: With this volume, Logos launches a new commentary series titled the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Contributors range from the well-known (Walter Kaiser, Jr,; Ronald Youngblood; Robert Thomas) to the unknown.

Taking this volume as a template, the format is superb. After a detailed introduction to the book, the commentary begins along the lines of the author's outline. First is an Introduction to the passage, followed by the Original text (in Greek, in this case), followed by Textual Notes, and the author's original Translation. Then comes thorough, well-documented verse by verse Commentary, then a Biblical Theology section, finishing with Applicational and Devotional Implications, sometimes Additional Exegetical Comments, and finally a Selected Bibliography section. At the volume's end is a list of foreign and technical words (from Actionsart to Synecdoche, this case), a General Bibliography of Journals and periodicals, General books, and unpublished works (dissertations and a thesis).

This is a terrific approach and, depending on the quality of the author, will raise each volume's value.

All of which carries out the editors' stated intent for this series, which they intend for use by ‎"scholars, pastors, and students of the Bible." Each book is written by authors "committed to both the evangelical faith and a careful exegesis of the biblical text," each of whom "affirms historic, orthodox Christianity and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures" and the whole "reflects the important interpretative principles of the Reformation, while utilizing historical-grammatical and contextual interpretative methods."

Of course, the single trait that distinguishes this series is that it is "the first commentary series produced first in electronic form."‎ This enables the electronic volumes to contain such items as charts, graphs, timelines, and photos. But beyond that, authors will be able periodically to add to their original contribution when new data or insights become available. So your individual volumes may continually be improved from year to year, without having to purchase second or third editions. That's pretty darned cool.

Overview of this volume. ‎Author Gary W. Derickson's acknowledgement includes this: "My greatest desire is that God will be glorified and Christ’s church edified..."

Clearly one way in which Derickson pursues this goal is by unhurried, nearly microscopically-detailed examination of virtually every word and syntactical feature of each verse. Very little escapes Derickson's attention and comment. His diligence shows itself in some of the most thorough documentation I've ever seen: in all, this volume contains one thousand, nine hundred and twenty-one (1921) footnotes. This respectful thoroughness and conversance with the literature alone qualifies the book as indispensable. It is a commentary in its own right, but is also gateway to a wealth of resources.

In addition to clearly having solid academic "chops," Derickson shows a practical eye and God-loving heart in his applications and illustrations.

Introduction. Derickson's first words are refreshingly categorical: "The author of this epistle is John, the beloved apostle." Period. That's different.  Then Derickson wades into internal evidence and external attestation.

As to internal evidence, the author notes that "no extant copy of the epistle is without a title attributing it to John."  Further affirmation comes from the author's "self-disclosure, writing style, and conceptual connection to the Gospel of John." As to date, "For the Gospel, a date between A.D. 80 and A.D. 90 seems plausible, while the Revelation was likely written around A.D. 95. Thus, the first epistle of John most likely was written around A.D. 90, a few years before the writing of the Revelation." I prefer authors who don't excessively pussyfoot, and Derickson doesn't.

I found scores of typos, which I sent to Logos; but very few factual (as opposed to interpretive) errors. One error was on 2:24, where Derickson wrongly calls ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἣν αὐτὸς ἐπηγγείλατο a "cognate accusative."‎ Or again, on ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ in 2:5, he says it has "three possible meanings" — and then he gives four, and favors the fourth! Similarly, Derickson says there are "four major views" on water and blood in 5:6 — and then details six views. There are other errors, but they are relatively few.

As an example of the Application and Devotional Implications feature, which closes each section, consider Derickson's thoughts on 2:7-11 —
‎Additionally, as is shown by John later in the epistle, this lack of love most often expresses itself, not in anger or conflict but in indifference. How much do we care about the Christians around us? Do we care enough to get involved in their lives, to help them with personal needs? Or are we deceiving ourselves into thinking we are good people while being unengaged in the body of Christ?
Derickson writes as a Christian, and not merely as an academic. In his Biblical Theology Comments on 1 John 2:18-27, he says "the large number of false teachers today is a reminder to our generation that the Antichrist is coming, and also, to our great joy, so is the real Christ!" Then, on the same section of 1 John in his Application and Devotional Implications, Derickson writes:
‎Our best defense against false teachers is not to study false teachings but to know God’s truth. We can only do that by knowing God’s Word. We can only do that by reading and studying it. Listening to good preaching is edifying. Reading devotionals or books by Christian authors is edifying as well. However, neither comes close to knowing God’s Word. It is through His Scriptures that God has chosen to instruct and protect us. That is why Paul commanded the Colossians to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within” them (Col 3:16). That is why John speaks of the “anointing” dwelling in us. The idea of dwelling is not just that we are to know God’s Word. That is part of it. We are also to be influenced (guided) by God’s Word. That is our defense against false teaching today, even as then. The better we know Jesus (have correct Christology), the closer our fellowship can be with Him and God the Father. Any congregation that is serious about communing with God must devote themselves to teaching each member about God
To this, we all would give a hearty "amen."

Back to the larger view: Derickson rejects singling out any single theme for the book.
John states four purposes within his epistle, though they may not exhaust all of his reasons or motives for writing. In 1:3 he writes so that he and his readers may have fellowship with one another and with God. This is immediately followed by a second purpose, that he or they, or better, both, may experience joy (1:4). Then, near the end of his first section of instruction, he writes so that his readers “may not sin” (2:1). Finally, near the end of this epistle, he writes so that his readers might have assurance of their salvation on the basis of their belief in Jesus (5:13).
It is this that brings me to:

Central problem. For all its many strengths, this volume's value is badly compromised by Derickson's doctrinal grid.

My first worries began when Derickson noted that Kostenberger "appears to interpret the epistle through the rubric of the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance, that true believers (the elect) will persevere in good works till the end and that the non-elect will fall away or their faith will fail before their deaths." That's a "Calvinist" view? To Derickson, it is, as he betrays a baleful allegiance to the Zane Hodges approach to Scripture. While his allegiance is far from slavish (he often cites Hodges, then disagrees), it is overwhelming and very troubling.

Derickson takes the view that the letter has multiple purposes, but largely centers around tests of fellowship, and "does not see the tests being related to salvation."

As you might imagine, this leads to some brain-achingly bizarre interpretations and denials of the obvious. His position is a very troubling expression of what I expose at length as "Gutless Grace" in TWTG (195-204).

For instance, on 1 John 2:1, Derickson says
You cannot have sanctifying faith without justifying faith having preceded it. But sanctifying faith does not necessarily follow.

It gets worse on 1 John 2:4, which says "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Derickson says:
‎John is not saying he is unregenerate (contra Burge, 98; Schnackenburg, 102), an unbeliever, but just a liar. ...“Truth” is not equivalent to “salvation” or “gospel message.” Rather, John uses it often and, in this case, to indicate the body of orthodox teachings that impact one’s lifestyle. It is important that we not read every description of a person soteriologically. We must remember that not all saints are saintly in their behavior. Disobedience reveals the lack of a personal knowledge of Jesus in the same way that the apostles, who accompanied Jesus for three and a half years, lacked that knowledge in the Upper Room. Thus, claiming to know Him while disobeying His word is to live a lie, described here by John as “the truth is not in him.” What he means by this is that truth is not a controlling influence in the believer’s life as was possible for John in 1:6, 8, and 10.
Again 2:12-14, Derickson points out that John writes with assurance of his readers' salvation, then triumphally proclaims that John
writes to assure them of their secure status with God. Recognizing this is important if one is to understand the nature of the “tests” in this epistle. Since John is so certain of the spiritual standing of his readers, it conversely stands against reason to think that any test provided in the epistle would be related to the question of whether they are “saved.” The Test of Life view of the epistle cannot be sustained without either ignoring this fact or lessening its significance
It "cannot"? Derickson can't envision any other approach that would do justice to both John's assurance and the plain sense of his tests and warnings? What if John writes with the positive expectation that his readers will apply the tests of life and find that they are saved — though they still remain genuine tests of life? That's all it takes to avoid the gymnastics Derickson's grid requires.

On 1 John 2:19, Derickson has I. Howard Marshall (no Calvinist!) affirming "the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance."  Derickson further says ‎"the idea of perseverance proving election is foreign to John" and "John does not address perseverance." Amazing. Then very oddly, he goes on to say:
‎The departure of the false teachers from the midst of the apostolic band (“us”) revealed they were not true believers; they were never regenerate (Grayston, 77; Smith, 72). ...By saying that these false teachers were “not of us,” John indicates that they were never identified with the apostolic circle and had never agreed with the teachings of the apostles. If their teachings had agreed with those of the apostles, then they would have remained associated with them.
So a person can make a false profession that identifies him as a member of the apostolic group, and when he departs that group we can conclude that he never was a true member — which we know by the departure. If he'd been a true member, he'd've stayed. But that same test can't apply to the visible church? This strikes me as very bizarre.

Then on 1 John 2:29, Derickson says:
‎Finally, what John has affirmed in the positive, that we can see those born of God from their righteous conduct, need not be true in the reverse. He is not saying by this that those who do not practice righteousness are not born of God.
On 1 John 3:6 (emphases added) —
This is much like what he said of those who do not believe in Jesus in John 3:18. They do not believe in Jesus because they have already been judged and stand in a state of judgment. John is affirming here that a sinful character indicates either these people are not eyewitnesses of Jesus (going back to 1:1–4) or they do not really understand God, much like the disciples whom Jesus chided for their ignorance in the Upper Room (Smalley, 164). They are out of fellowship with God (Pentecost, 79). This is parallel in thought with 2:9, where one may claim to be in the light while hating his brother but in actuality is in the darkness. Here someone may claim to know God, but a sinful lifestyle indicates that their knowledge is not personal but cursory; they are spiritually blind and ignorant (Hodges, 146). A child can know who their father is without knowing their father. In the same way, a child of God may know of Him, and may have placed his or her trust in His Son sufficient to save, without knowing Him intimately...
Habitually sinful conduct reveals the lack of fellowship with Christ in the life of a believer. Even so, when someone claims to be a Christian while sin remains the characteristic of his or her lifestyle, their conduct makes it legitimate to question their salvation. However, questioning their salvation is different from declaring that it is impossible for him or her to be a sinful believer. Westcott notes well, “St John speaks of ‘abiding’ in Christ and not simply of ‘being’ in Christ, because his argument rests on the efficacy of continuous human effort” (Westcott, 104). When one recognizes John is discussing issues of sanctification within the household of God, it is natural to see the issue of human responsibility in sanctification arising from the text.
Again, on 1 John 3:8 —
...every believer has habitual sins. The need for daily confession of sins indicates that we all habitually sin, though we confess only known individual acts of sin (Matt 6:12). The distinction made by him ignores 1:8–10 and ignores the reality of every believer’s experience. It also ignores John’s use of literary dualism to develop absolute antitheses. John is purposefully making a stark contrast between kinds of people. Whereas the one doing righteousness is described as righteous and is identified with Jesus who is righteous, this person is identified with the devil. John’s use of ἐκ sees Satan, the devil, as the source of the sin-doer’s conduct. Does this necessarily translate into that person being unregenerate? If taken in isolation, this statement might mean such. However, if being used in a purposefully dualistic context, should it not be seen in light of rhetorical license?
Then in the footnote:
‎Even so, the idea that this is describing someone who practices sin and is therefore unsaved is invalidated by the implication of all New Testament commands. Christians are not given positive and negative commands for things that automatically result from their salvation. For example, we are never commanded to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Why? It is automatic. We do not baptize ourselves. God baptizes us at the instance of our spiritual birth. Without it there is no spiritual birth (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 12:13). In the same way, when we are commanded not to do something, it must be possible for believers to do it. Otherwise, the command is nonsensical. Also, if a believer can commit a certain sin once, he or she can obviously do it a second time, a third time, and then habitually. Thus even habitual sin proves nothing. In that light, what John is saying here has to be recognized as rhetorical rather than prescriptive.
So the fact that God commands us not to sin means that we can, in fact can do so habitually and characteristically, therefore it has nothing to do with salvation. Does this not strike one as incredibly perverse — in a verse that says Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, for a commenter to say the works of the devil may not even be budged (let alone destroyed) in the life of a believer?

Derickson  translates 1 John 3:10 "everyone who has been born from God does not sin, because His seed abides in him, and it is not able to sin, because it has been born from God," and actually argues at length that the seed is the new nature, and it is not able to sin, though the believer is able to sin. In fact, once again, Derickson spends a lot of energy arguing that the believer can continue in sin and be enslaved to sin.
‎However when Paul commands believers not to let sin reign in their mortal bodies (Rom 6:12), by implication such is not only possible but the experience of most. Further, sin does not “reign” through occasional lapses. Paul’s warning about becoming enslaved to sin (Rom 6:5–6, 12–14) means that such a believer will habitually sin. Thus, though being born from God gives a person a new nature, that nature does not guarantee immunity to habitual sin any more than occasional sin. The old nature is still resident within and still likes to sin. It has neither been eradicated nor incapacitated. It must still be dealt with in the life of the believer. Thus Paul commands us to “reckon” ourselves “dead to sin” (Rom 6:11). Moreover, he warns that failure to do so results in slavery to sin rather than righteousness.
On 1 John 3:10, John says "By this the children of God and the children of the Devil are apparent: everyone who does not do righteousness is not of God, and the one who does not love his brother. " Does this mean what it appears to mean? Not to Derickson:
‎Christians reveal their new natures by choosing righteous living. The devil’s children reveal their unregenerate natures by sinning. So when a Christian sins, he or she fails to express the new nature but reflects the devil’s pattern by expressing the old nature.
In that case, should John not have said "everyone who does not do righteousness is either not of God, or he actually is of God, but he just isn't expressing his real down-deep new nature"?

Once again, in 1 John 4:7, a verse that says ‎πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται καὶ γινώσκει τὸν θεόν, Derickson takes the opportunity to say:
Though we often use the phrase “to know God” to mean “to have exercised justifying faith in God” or “to be a Christian,” John teaches that justified believers may not “know” the God in whom they believe (Grayston, 124). This knowledge of God is conditioned on meeting certain criteria, such as obedience and love of other Christians. The disciples were with Jesus more than three years and still did not “know” Him. Modern disciples can be in the family of God for decades and still not really know Him as well.
So what's important in a verse that says that love indicates regeneration and knowledge of God — what is important to Derickson — is to say it's okay not to know God; you're still saved.

On 1 John 4:16, his constant refrain:
Failure to love does not prove one is unregenerate. If it were impossible for a believer to fail to love other believers then we would not have the command to do so. By its very nature, any command, whether positive (“do this”) or negative (“don’t do that”) implies that believers can do the opposite of what is commanded. They can disobey. Thus, believers can and do fail to love other believers with God’s love. The consequence is loss of mutual relationship with God (fellowship) as well as with other believers.
On 1 John 4:20, he says:
‎Love of God is demonstrated by loving Christians. In this verse and the one that follows John affirms that an absence of love denies relationship with God. This denial does not mean a person is unregenerate. It just means that the person is not living according to what is true.
So, if you don't love other Christians, you have no relationship with God, but you're regenerate. Got it. A regenerate person with no relationship with God. Because he's saved by "gutless grace."

‎More twisted reasoning, on 1 John 5:10 —
...‎justifying faith is not always sanctifying faith. What makes justifying faith effective is its object. It is Jesus who saves, not faith. God the Father justifies those whose faith has His Son as its object, not their theology. God justifies them apart from works both at the moment of faith and subsequently (Eph 2:8–9). Furthermore, if justifying faith is workless at salvation, it may remain workless and still justify. However, as Jas 2 teaches, apart from works faith will not sanctify, being ineffectual, being “dead” but not nonexistent.
"Saved by dead faith." Just like the Bible says...the opposite of. I think this may be the single most perverse mishandling of a fairly plain verse that I've ever seen.

This is really troubling. So it turns out a claim to faith can be tested — but only by doctrinal means. If the claim isn't worked out in doctrinally correct ways, it's invalid.

But just think this through: if I am "workless," if I show no submission to the person of Christ, doesn't that mean I "believe" in a Jesus who has no authority over my life, whose teaching about my life is inconsequential and can be ignored safely and soundly, with whom I am free to disagree about literally everything apart from formal acceptance of a couple of propositions? Does such a "Jesus" exist?  Does such a "Jesus" save? Is the testimony that God bore about His Son "Give the nod to a few propositions about Him...then hold His person and everything He actually taught and commanded in contempt and do whatever you want"? I don't recall reading that verse.

On 1 John 5:18, again, ‎Derickson is quick to assure us that all Christians do in fact sin, habitually and all the time, no matter what John's words seem to say. Derickson complains that any other reading "is a deduction necessitated by the doctrine of perseverance and its implications rather than a teaching of Scripture." Derickson further complains that repentance is not stated nor implied in the verse. (And carefree continuance in sin is?) And yet does Derickson not do the same thing he objects to, here?
‎The implication of Jesus’ instructions to confess our sins whenever we pray necessarily means we have sins to confess every time we pray. If we pray every day, which we should, and there are not sins we commit regularly, then either there is a long list of sins we are unconsciously working our way through, or we are just tipping our hats at God and pretending we are sinners. All Christians have habitual sins of which they remain unaware. They have habitual sins that of which they are aware! For a praying Christian, those repeated sins are repeatedly confessed. God forgives them thousands of times in a lifetime, and cleanses that confessing Christian of the other thousands of sins that he or she remains unaware. John cannot be affirming a believer will not persist in some sin as a lifestyle. That becomes equivalent to saying that only intentional sins count in the formula of sinlessness that results from Christ’s protection against Satan. That being said, John is indeed affirming by this that one born of God is not characterized by sin, but only in the sense that divine birth does not give birth to sin and death, but to life.
What a perverse view, when an expositor is driven by a verse saying "everyone who has been begotten by God does not sin" to go on and on about how everyone who has been begotten by God does in fact sin, when the greatest burden he seems to feel is to explain the prevalence of sin (and reassure habitual sinners) rather than talk about its end (and call for repentance and mortification).

Relatively minor problem. The "Gutless Grace" theme is very troubling. The other is more annoying than anything else.

I don't "deduct points" for commenters who stop short of affirming the Biblical doctrine of sovereign grace and effectual atonement. But it is interesting that when he comes to 2:2's οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου, Derickson drops what he has done about every issue thus far, down to the tiniest minutiae of grammar and textual criticism. He simply asserts‎ "Through these he makes it clear that Jesus’ propitiatory work is not limited just to believers."  Boom. No evidence, nor respectful discussion of alternative views necessary — unlike every other issue so far.

Again, "This is one of the clearest statements of Scripture that Jesus’ propitiatory work on the cross is universal and not limited only to the elect." Again, "However, dying for sins does not remove them from the unrepentant soul." And in a footnote, uncharacteristically polemically, Derickson says
‎Kistemaker (255) notes that “John chooses the adjective ὅλος (whole) instead of πᾶς (every, all) to communicate the idea of universality.” Even so, he does not see Jesus dying for every human being, but limits Jesus’ death to “all the people who believe in him” (253). He defines κόσμος, then, in terms of “the world in its totality, not necessarily in its individuality.” This demonstrates the difficulty those who would hold to limited atonement face. The text is clear, but their theological system forces them to limit its meaning, and so Jesus’ work on the cross, to the elect alone.
Well, there you have it, then. "The text is clear." Leaving aside the irony of Derickson sniping at people whose "theological system forces them" to mishandle the text, Derickson doesn't even allude to the undebatably varying senses of kosmos in John, doesn't allude to John Owen, and he simply ignores the massive elephant in the room (the fact that John says Jesus is the propitiation, not that He provides or offers it) by asserting that "dying for sins does not remove them from the unrepentant soul." Where is that in the text? In fact, earlier he had noted that "‎the verb εἰμί, ...is ...included for emphasis," so that "John is stressing his point. Jesus is the Propitiation!" So He is...and yet He really isn't, to Derickson.

Apparently it really does depend on what the meaning of the word "is" is.

This becomes still more annoying when Derickson gets to 2:15, at which point he suddenly discovers that the apostle uses the word with several divergent nuances! He doesn't examine those nuances on the first occurrence of the word (because the meaning there is "clear"), but examines it on a later occurrence. Further, here he flatly asserts that the world in this use is evil and anti-God and "a child of God should not love it" — but doesn't wrestle with his earlier insistence that Christ made propitiation for it.

And yet again, on ‎μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ in 2:15, Derickson says “'World' may be being used in one of three senses here." Here, yes; but somehow not in 2:2, where it can only mean one thing.

Once more, on 4:9, he says ‎"Interpreters are divided on the sense of κόσμος in this verse," and discusses two options. But interpreters aren't divided on 2:2? In Derickson's world, apparently not.

Derickson's theological comments on the issue are so theologically tone-deaf that one wonders whether he has actually ever read opposing literature with half the care he shows in most other cases.

Final summary. Derickson's fondness for the "Gutless Grace" school of thought lessens the value of some of his interpretations, and his failure to deal seriously with some aspects of atonement language can be annoying. Yet I still do recommend this resource to any pastor and teacher, due to Derickson's painstaking thoroughness in going over virtually every detail of the text, his marvellously exhaustive documentation, and the frequent real-world applications characterize Derickson's work.

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