Archive for the ‘Reformed Theology’ Category

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Purpose: Here is a summary list of questions to Probe the Assurance of your Salvation that we have gone over in this series.

If one wishes to probe it more in-depth with Scripture with each questions please consult Part 6-9.


1.) Do you truly understand and trust in the Gospel?

2.) Are you fellowshipping with God and God’s people?

3.) Do you live knowing and practicing the truth?

4.) Do you confess your sins?

5.) Do you follow God’s commandments?

6.) Do you reject loving the world more than God?

7.) Do you love Jesus and others?

8.) Has God changed you?

9.) Is the yoke of obedience lighter for you over the passing of time?

10.) Is God disciplining you?

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i. Test of Assurance #1: Do you understand the Gospel?

i.      Dilemma: Do you really know the Gospel?

ii.      Purpose: Give a brief exposition of the Gospel message.

iii.      Outline of this session:

1. Consequences of a wrong gospel is grave

2. Do you understand sin and its consequences?

3. Do you understand what Christ has done it?

iv.      Consequences of a wrong gospel is grave

1. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel [d]contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be [e]accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel [f]contrary to what you received, he is to be [g]accursed!” (Galatians 1:8-9)

a. Note another gospel, no matter who it’s from is dangerous.

b. Note also the seriousness of false gospel preaching is something Paul wishes upon the false preacher “to be [e]accursed! 

c. It’s so important that Paul repeats it twice again in verse 9.

2. Why this strong condemnation?  Paul goes on to say “For as many as are of the works of [a]the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.’” (Galatians 3:10)

a. A false gospel that will deny grace through faith in Jesus Christ will instead preaches justification by “the works of [a]the Law.

b. This brings about a curse both in the New Testament and the Old Testament as the Paul cites Deuteronomy 27:26.

3. 2 Peter 2:1-3

a. The reality of false teachers:But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you,” (2 Peter 2:1a)

b.  The reality of the dangerous false teaching they produce: “who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1b)

c. The reality that many will be deceived: Many will follow their sensuality, and because of themthe way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

v.      Do you understand sin and its consequences?

1. Everyone has sins

a. “ as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10)

b. “ for all [a]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)

2. Sins have consequences

a. The LSD verse:But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin [p]is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

b. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a)

vi.      Do you understand what Christ has done to rid our guilt?

1. “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b)

2. Salvation by Grace alone: Ephesians 2:8-9.

3. Substitionary Atonement:

a. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

b. Other passages: Isaiah 53:5-6, 1 Corinthians 15:3

vii.      Further doctrines to study to better understand the Gospel

1. Predestination

2. Justification

3. Adoption

4. Union with Christ

viii.      Works to read up on

1. The Epistle to the Romans by Leon Morris

2. Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther

3. The Future of Justification by John Piper

4. Atonement by Leon Morris

5. The God Who Justifies by James White

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h. Christians can know that they are saved

i.      Dilemma: The last few weeks demonstrated that God will see that a believer persevere and have eternal security, so while God can know we are saved can believers know they are saved also?

ii.      Illustration: A man in the train might not be sure whether the train has enough coal to arrive at their location while the Engineer knows this and that was never in doubt.  Is a similar thing the cases with a believer’s salvation or can a believer know he or she is saved?

iii.      Believers can know that they are saved

1. A believer can know whether he or she is saved since scripture states this explicitly: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

2. A believer can know whether he or she is saved due to the Holy Spirit’s testimony:

a. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery [b]leading to fear again, but you have received [c]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)

i.      Earlier in Romans 8:11 Paul makes it clear the Holy Spirit resides in the believer.

ii.      Now in verse 15, Paul indicates negatively what the Spirit does not mean and what the Spirit does mean.

1. What it does not mean: ““For you have not received a spirit of slavery [b]leading to fear again,

2. What it means:but you have received [c]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!

3. Greek word for “but” is “Alla,” a strong contrast.

iii.      If you are saved, this verse tells us we will know we are adopted as sons of God.

iv.      Also, our spirit will cry out to Him showing we have a relationship with God.

b. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Romans8:16)

i.      There is an emphasis on “Himself,” since it is the first word in the verse thus indicating that the Spirit is the one who will do this.

ii.      The tense for the Greek verb “testifies” indicates a general constant truth.

iii.      The Spirit testifies “that we are children of God

iv.      This testimony by the Holy Spirit is in conjunction “with our spirit

3. A believer can know whether he or she is saved because of Scripture’s promises to those who believe.

a. The Scripture’s relationship to Salvation

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,  and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

b. Promises of Salvation in the Scriptures

i.      “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is [a]the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)

ii.      John 1:12, John 3:16, etc.

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The last few posts in this series we have laying the theological foundation before diving into how Christians can be assured of their salvation.  It’s important to understand the doctrine of the perseverance of the Saints.

i.      Dilemma: What are we to make of some Christians objections to the teaching that a believer will always be saved and persevere?

ii.      In this session we will survey a few verses from the Bible that allegedly refute Perseverance of the Saints

iii.      What needs to be done in order to refute the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints

1. Arthur Pink observed that “in order to disprove the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints the Arminian is bound to do two things: produce the case of one who was truly born again, and then demonstrate that this person actually died in a state of apostasy, for unless he can do both his example is not to the point. It is not sufficient for him to bring forward one who made a credible profession and then repudiated it, for Scripture itself shows emphatically that such a person was never regenerate:”[1]

2. Thus it is not enough to show verses that:

a. Professing Christians fall away.

Remember, “it is the preservation of saints and not every one who deems himself a Christian.” [2]

b. God warns believers not to fall away.

i.      Those who affirm perseverance of the saints believe that while it’s hypothetical possibility that a believer might fall away, yet a true believer WOULD NOT fall away.

ii.      The reason a believer would not fall away: “It is by means of God’s promises and precepts, exhortations and threatenings, that they are stirred up to the use of those things by which perseverance is wrought and assurance is obtained.”[3]

c. A Christian must maintain his or her faith.

Perseverance of the Saints believes that God’s work of a believer’s eternal security means that in the level of human responsibility Christians will maintain and endure in their faith.

iv.      Biblical verses that allegedly refute Perseverance of the Saints

      1. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

a. Objection: This verse shows people can fall away.

b. Be careful to establish a doctrine from a detail of a parable

i.      Note the literary form here is a parable: “Hear then the parable of the sower.” (v.18)

ii.      It’s easy to misunderstand a parable.

1. Parables were partly told so that some would not understand: The disciples asked Jesus why he spoke in parable (v.10) and Jesus replied, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (v.14)

2. Jesus’ own disciples asked Jesut to explain the parable (v.36)

3. Parables are like analogies and all analogies break down so be careful of overemphasizing and building your doctrine from details of parables.

iii.      Hermeneutical decision: We move from the clear to the unclear.

iv.      Practically this means we move from the clear propositional teaching from Jesus and the greater Scriptural context of the Epistles, etc to the parables.

c. Note that this parable (v.18-23) never identify the ones falling away as born again.

d. Though this man “hears the word” (v.20) “yet he has no firm root in himself,” (v.21) which goes contrary to James 1:21 teaching that “the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

e. The one who does not fall away is described in verse 23: “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

i.      The difference between this one and the other guys was that this man “hears the word and understands it;” as opposed to the rest such as in verse 20-21 who did not understand.

ii.      We can thus rule out these verses teaches a true believer falling away since the prerequisite of a true believer is that he or she must first understand God’s Word.

2. “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that [a]the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, [b]subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 5)

a. Objection: Didn’t God save his people once yet didn’t save them later?

b. There is a fallacy of equivocation here: that is, two possible meaning of being saved is being confused.

c. To illustrate, let the definition of saved, in terms of being rescued from eternal punishments, be labeled as saved1A.  The other definition of saved, in which we define as rescue from threatening situations, such as out of Egypt as in the situation of this verse, will be labeled as saved2B.  To be saved1A requires belief or believing, as John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  Saved2B, or being saved from other threatening situation, doesn’t necessarily mean that you were saved1A, since you didn’t necessarily believe, that is trust in the God of the Bible.  If we look at the world around us, we see atheists surviving car crash and being saved2B.  You can also say that being saved2B is a miraculous sign.  Yet, such people aren’t saved1A, since Jesus is not their Lord and Savior.  God, in his mercy, might allow someone to be delivered from certain situations that could be defined as saved2B.  The case of those in unbelief being given mercy, or saved2B, but not being saved1A is exactly the case described in Jude 5.  God saved2B his people, the Jews, out of Egypt.  But among them, there were those who weren’t saved1A in the first place, since they didn’t believe.  Thus, it’s not surprising to see that the Lord said this in Numbers 14:11-“How long will these people treat me with contempt?  How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?” (Italics mine)  So, taking all this into account, Jude 5 doesn’t go contrary against the position of once saved always saved.

d. Rather, if we were to take the contrary view seriously, that is the denial of the perseverance of the saints and believers can lose there salvation, there’s an issue we have to face:  If someone was once saved1A and later not saved1A, isn’t that person not saved1A at all? How can we call someone that is not saved1A, saved1A when they are not saved1A?! Yet, that is the logical dilemma.

3. “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance,[a]since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

a. This Bible verse describes “if they fall away”.  Whereas in theory one COULD lose their salvation, in reality Christians WILL NOT lose their salvation.

b. This passage shows what it means if a true believer were to fall away in verse 6.  It is impossible to:

i.      “again crucify to themselves the Son of God”

ii.      “and put Him to open shame.

c. Taking the argument to a logical conclusion that most Arminians would reject:  If this verse does teach that a believer can lose their salvation they can never get it back.

d. Please see below on a Biblical view of apostasy.

v.      Toward a Biblical view of apostasy

1. There are Biblical passages that talk about people falling away (), yet what is the explanation of this?

2. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that [d]it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19)

3. Further resource: Apostasy in Pastoral Theology by Steve Hays.[4]

vi.      Towards a Biblical view of the relationship of warning and Perseverance

1. There are passages that warn a believer (ex: 1 Corinthians 10:12, Hebrews 12:25, Hebrews 13:22).

2. There is no contradiction between warning and a believers’ perseverance.

3. Example of Jude: Responsibility (v.22) and Sovereignty (v.24)

4. God uses warning to a believer and the believers’ response to allow them to persevere.

[1] Arthur W. Pink, “Eternal Security: Its Opposition” in Eternal Security.  <Accessed at  http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Security/sec_03.htm>

[2] Arthur W. Pink, “Eternal Security: Its Safeguard” in Eternal Security.  <Accessed at  http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Security/sec_03.htm>

[3] Arthur W. Pink, “Eternal Security: Its Opposition” in Eternal Security.  <Accessed at  http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Security/sec_03.htm>

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Assurance of Salvation Seriesa. Introduction

i.      Our study of Christian assurance of salvation begins with an exposition of the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints which is foundational and shapes how Christian ought to understand assurance of salvation.

ii.      Outline

1. Definition of Perseverance of the Saints and Eternal Security

2. Why is Perseverance of the Saints important for Christian assurance

3. Foundation: The Sovereignty of God

4. Passages demonstrating God’s elect will never be lost

5. Passages demonstrating God’s elect will persevere in their faith and works

b. Definition of Perseverance of the Saints and Eternal Security

i.      The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints “teaches very specifically that they who have once been regenerated and effectually called by God to a state of grace, can never completely fall from that state and thus fail to attain to eternal salvation, though they may sometimes be overcome by evil and fall in sin.  It is maintained that the life of regeneration and the habits that develop out of it in the way of sanctification can never entirely disappear.”[1]

ii.      “Eternal Security is the teaching that God shall with no uncertainty bring into their eternal inheritance those who are actually justified—delivered from the curse of the law and have the righteousness of Christ reckoned to their account—and who have been begotten by the Spirit of God. And further it is the teaching that God shall do this in a way glorifying to Himself, in harmony with His nature and consistent with the teaching of Scripture concerning the nature of those who are called saints.”[2]

iii.       “The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end  of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.”[3]

c. Why is doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints important for Christian assurance

i.      Assurance must be based on a biblical view of eternal Security.

ii.      “Eternal Security is a doctrine that complements and completes other truths. It is the truth which establishes a Christian in assurance of salvation. The doctrine of election in itself cannot do this. Justification cannot do this. The doctrine of sanctification cannot do this. Not even the doctrine of glorification does so. Yet each of these is incomplete without Eternal Security. Election, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification are all hypothetical—mere possibilities—until Eternal Security complements and completes them by showing how they are applied to specific individuals. And it is also practical because it brings believers to assurance of salvation, which according to many Scripture passages they are to have.”[4]

d. Foundation: Beginning with the Sovereignty of God

i.      Note: The fact that those born again will have eternal security of their salvation rests on the basis of God’s Sovereignty.

ii.      “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

This verse indicates God has the capacity to fulfill what He pleases.

iii.      “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

1. Note again, this verse indicates God has the capacity to fulfill what He pleases.

2. Note the second half of the verse emphasis of this truth everywhere: “heaven,” “earth,” “seas” “and in all deeps.

iv.      “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;” (Isaiah 46:10)

1. One other way God expresses His Sovereignty is through omniscience (Isaiah 46:10a)

2. Note the second half of the verse stating His purpose will be accomplished.

v.      Isaiah 14:27—God’s purpose cannot be overthrown.

e. Passages demonstrating God’s elect will never be lost

i.      John 3:16—Contra Arminians, how can eternal life be eternal life if it’s not eternal life?

ii.      Eternal security because of Jesus’ promise: “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28)

1. Those who are given eternal life will not perish.

2. Nor will anyone snatch them away.

iii.      Eternal security because of Jesus’ prayer: “Therefore He is able also to save [a]forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

1. Note that the subject is Jesus.

2. Jesus “is able also to save [a]forever

3. Whom can He save forever? “those who draw near to God through Him,

How?  “since He always lives to make intercession for them.

iv.      Eternal security because of God’s Power: “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:4-5) 

1. Note verse 4’s language of eternal security: “inheritance,” “imperishable,” “will not fade away,” “reserved in heaven for you

2. Note the basis of this is in verse 5a: “protected by the power of God 

3. How do we access it?  “through faith for a salvation” (verse 5b)

v.      Other passages: Romans 8:38-39, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 1 Corinthians 1:8, Hebrews 13:5,

[1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 546.

[2] Arthur W. Pink, “Preface” in Eternal Security.  <Accessed at http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Security/sec_foreword.htm>

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Houses, 1994), 788.

[4] Arthur W. Pink, “Preface” in Eternal Security.  <Accessed at http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Security/sec_foreword.htm>


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About a month ago someone commented on my post concerning Jaeson Ma’s New Song “Rise and Fall” being unbiblical.  The issue is with my charge of Jaeson Ma being Pelagian.  The original comment can be read by clicking here.  The commentator, a “James Jordan” whose blog name is Descriptive Grace, is no stranger of commenting on our blog and displaying irrationality.

Here’s my response to his comment:

Hey James,
Please read carefully and don’t misrepresent others and engage in ad hominem. You have a history of doing this on our blog (my previous response can be found herehttps://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/a-fallacious-versus-a-proper-use-of-ad-hominem-argumentation/). This is your second strike and with the thIrd strike you’re out.

1.) “Are you sure you realize this? Because I don’t think you do.”

Response: If you think that I’m expecting a three point sermon from his song, marshal forth a quote demonstrating that I expect that of Jaeson Ma. Please don’t twist my words either.

2.) “Whatever happened to I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me”? I guess you Marcionites removed that from your copy of the Pauline Corpus. Its in your nature to mutilate scripture.”

Response: First off I don’t know what’s with the straw man fallacy you are committing when you charge me with being a Marcionite as I don’t believe that verse should be removed from Philippians (or the Bible for that matter). Nor does my post here even imply anything of that sort. I believe what Philippians 4:13 teaches by the way. Secondly, what does this passage have to do with the subject at hand in a post dealing with Jaeson Ma’s music video being heretical? Ma didn’t cite that verse in the song nor paraphrased it, so obviously I didn’t bring up Philippians 4:13 either. I don’t know what’s your thinking here, but if you think this post was silent on Philippians 4:13 imply I don’t believe in the truth taught there then you are committing a fallacy of argument from silence buddy.

3.) “If this was Pelagian, would he admit that we all fall short?”

Response: I see you are implying in your argument that if Jaeson Ma admit all fall short morally/spiritually then he cannot be a Pelagian. But the song’s topic of “fall” isn’t talking about sin or a moral fall per me but a much more general fall in the sense of a disappointment or being “down.” Jaeson Ma clearly says “we all fall short” between 2:27-28. But did you listen to the context? It’s sandwhiched in a verse beginning in 2:15 that talks about the will to rise and get up, be courageous (an activity of the will), etc. Thus, it’s not a fall of Romans 3:23 (of sin). Note again the emphasis on the will.

4.) “You knee-jerk jerks just like caling everone Pelagians, like little kids who just learned a new big word.”

Response: First off, where did I call everyone else Pelagians? Secondly, what’s with your ad hominem attack of calling me “knee-jerk jerks” and “little kids who just learned a new big word”? Thirdly, I don’t know why you are addressing me in the plural. I assume you are attacking those who blog here and not just myself, the writer of this post on Jaeson Ma. Way to go with your guilt by association fallacy for the other two guys. Fourthly, say for the sake of the argument I am a little kid who just learned a new big word. Is this the right way and godly response?

5.) “But I don’t like the song. In fact, it sounds Calvinist to me, and that’s why I hate it. Paraphrasing the song “We rise and fall, no big deal, nobody’s perfect, we’re all born sinners, so sin is nothing, no big deal, cheap grace will handle it–we rise and fall–get over it.””

Response: First off, what you paraphrase don’t sound Calvinistic (in popular usage of the term). I think the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that Calvinism essentially subscribes to the belief (a) “sin is nothing,” as in “no big deal,”(b) “cheap grace will handle” sin, (c) and regards to whatever that ambiguous “rise and fall” is in Calvinism (which you need to clarify), we should “get over it.” Secondly, your paraphrase of the song is inaccurate; for instance, where in the song does Jaeson Ma assert “we’re all born sinners”? At 54-55 seconds, Jaeson Ma did say “We may have sinned…” but that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that therefore means all have sinned in the same way Pelagians can believe there are those who may sin but that doesn’t mean all have sinned (to go back to response 3 to your own admission about all having sinned is incompatible with Pelagianism). Also, where in the song does he mentioned cheap grace at all? Or quote what lines that lead you to assume “cheap grace”? I might have missed it so help me out if I’m mistaken which can happen.

6.) “The non-Christian worldview is the Calvinist worldview secularized: sin ain’t no big thing. Pelagianism viewed sin as a big deal.”

Response: Again, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate this mispresentation of Calvinism seeing sin as no big deal. By the way do you think that your sins committed here of misrepresenting others and personal attacks “ain’t no big thing?”

7.) “You Calvinists have perverted the term ‘Pelagian’ like you pervet so many terms (Sovereignty comes to mind) so to you Pelagian means some limp-wristed doofus who says ‘just be a moral person.’ That’s not what Pelagius himself or any of his associates taught.”

Response: Jaeson Ma’s gospel here is Pelagian in the sense that it believes in the power of the will, which he assumes reside generally among his listening public (Christian and non-Christian). Jaeson Ma’s song is essentially Pelagian in that regards. See below #8.

8.) “so to you Pelagian means some limp-wristed doofus who says ‘just be a moral person.’ That’s not what Pelagius himself or any of his associates taught. You’re using the term ‘Pelagian’ to mean a Deist. Pelagius was no Deist.”

Response: Technically Deist refers to those who view a God knowable by reason with the rejection of God’s supernatural revelation. Should I assert the same kind of rhethoric you use here against yourself (how ironic) that you “pervert” this term? But I get what you mean by the popular term Deist to refer to those who thinks the point of God and religion is just to be a moral person. My observation of how you use the handle “Deism” in popular parlance leads me to ask the question: Why is it there a double standard on your part when I use the common understanding of the term Pelagian?

9.) “Pelagius believed that you had to believe in Jesus and be baptized. He just believed you did those things by free will.”

Sounds like Jaeson Ma’s belief matches Pelagius, knowing of his Passion Church baptizing people and the theme of his song here on the will (not to mention his preaching). It’s just he focuses and emphasize everyone having the same will power able to exercise the will to rise–or fall and rise after the fall.

10.) “he was a credobaptist”
Pelagius was Credo-Baptist? Help me to document this from his writing. I thought his letter to Innocent I repudiate the charge that he didn’t baptize children: “”there are certain subjects about which some men are trying to vilify me. One of these is, that I refuse to infants the
sacrament of baptism,” and “”[I have been] defamed by certain persons for [supposedly] refusing the sacrament of baptism to infants, and
promising the kingdom of heaven irrespective of Christ’s redemption. [I have] never heard even an impious heretic
say this about infants. Who indeed is so unacquainted with Gospel lessons, as not only to attempt to make such an
affirmation, but even to be able to lightly say it or even let it enter his thought? And then who is so impious as to wish
to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven, by forbidding them to be baptized and to be born again in Christ?”

Again, your comments is far from being descriptive of grace and care.

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God is With us Oliphint

Anyone who wants to get a taste of strong Robust Reformed Theology Proper ought to read this book.  Scott Oliphint, the professor apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary does an excellent job in this book.  My copy is heavily highlighted with notes and comments.  The following are some of the points that stood out to me:

  • This work has a good discussion of aseity as a foundational doctrine of God: God is God and not dependent upon His creation or creature.  From this point, it follows that God’s “essential attributes” are those that entail His independence (17).  Also gave a good definition of Divine Simplicity (17-18).
  • Oliphint gives a good hermeneutical principle concerning how to prioritize God’s attributes especially concerning passages that are anthropomorphic: “Contrary to what we have just noted, Scripture’s unity must be given priority in our interpretation of the various texts of Scripture.  Muller denominates that priority as ‘ontological.’  He means that any and all texts of Scripture (and here we will confine our concerns to texts that deal with the character of God) that seek to tell us something of God’s character must be prioritized on the basis of the fundamental aseity of God” (27).
  • The book is helpful in resolving the theological problem of how to account for passages in Scripture that describes God like man while also maintaining a strong aseity of Classical theism.  I found it helpful his distinction between God’s essential attributes and Covenantal attributes in which the latter describes God’s condescension in relating to us.  I think the term “covenantal” attributes is helpful even for those who might not subscribe to Covenant Theology.
  • I thought I read the best nuance definition of antinomy and paradox offerred by Oliphint on pages 36-38.
  • Interesting theological extrapolation from Exodus 3:1-14, pointing out Word Revelation and Deed Revelation, and how God’s deed in the Burning Bush tells us something about God: His presence with his people and also Him being self-sustaining.
  • At first I thought it was curious that Oliphint was cautious of using the term “Creator/Creature distinction” though he agrees with the idea as taught by those who are before him such as Cornelius Van Til, etc.  He has good reason: because God is more than a Creator, one does not want to give the idea that the essence of the distinction between God and all of His creation is because of His role as the Creator; rather, it’s because God in of Himself is wholly different.  Oliphint chooses instead to use “Eimi/Eikonic distinction” as a better term, with the term “Eimi” to capture God as the true original.
  • Book gives a good refutation of Middle knowledge including the Neo-Calvinistic version (99-105);  it must be understood in the context of God’s free knowledge and necessary knowledge which was finely discussed before Oliphint’s critique of Middle knowledge.  Here I am recalling Paul Helm’s point in another work of how Middle Knowledge is an unnecessary category in light of God’s free knowledge.
  • Oliphint is helpful to points out two kinds of condescension by God: adoption and adaptation (124-25).
  • I thought Oliphint has something stimulating to say about the issue of the incarnation.  On page 142, he has a good discussion of how the human nature of man is anhypostatic (that is, impersonal) apart from the person of the Son of God while also being enhypostatic (“in person”) through the person of the Son of God.
  • Enjoyed how Oliphint’s work was in conversation with systematic theology, historical theology, a tidbit of exegesis and philosophy.
  • It was beautiful to see Oliphint using the Doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ’s essential Divine nature and voluntary human nature to make us think about God’s relationship with us is much in the same way of His attributes He adds to condescend to us and His essential nature.

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Last month we posted resources on a Christian theology of reading featuring a PDF syllabus and 9 part audio series in MP3 that I encourage you to check out.  Apparently the Reformed Baptist Preacher Al Martin also a have series on Christians and reading.

Al Martin preacher

Here are the messages on Sermon Audio:

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 1 of 4: 7 Broad Biblical Principles 1/2

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 2 of 4: 7 Broad Biblical Principles 2/2

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 3 of 4: Specific Book Recommendations

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 4 of 4: Specific Book Recommendations PS

As I said before, I believe the church needs to teach, encourage and cultivate its members to read in order to develop their Christian worldview, their faith and love for God.  This include reading the Bible and books outside the Bible.  We need to disciple God’s people with Biblical truths of everything since every inch on earth belongs to God and we ought to practice biblical dominion over every sphere.  There is no neutrality–we need to live out the Lordship of Christ.

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Greenville Seminary

Thanks to Jeff Downs for directly letting us know about these resources!

I have enjoyed past audio downloads from Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s Spring Conference especially last year’s topic on Old Princeton.  Each year they focus on a particular subject and have their faculty along with distinguished guests lecture and preach on various facets of the subject.  This year was on the doctrine of man.  This year’s audio is already available for free download!  They are originally from here.

Supernatural Creation of Man by Dr. Richard Belcher

The Covenant of Works by Guy Prentiss Waters

Temptation and the Fall by Dr. Joel Beeke

Red in Tooth and Claw? An Exegetical Evaluation of the Doctrine by Matthew Hoist

Imago Dei – Man, the Image of God by Dr. Nelson Kloosterman

Original Sin and Depravity by Dr. Joseph A. Pipa Jr.

The Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission – an Integrationist Model by Dr. Nelson Kloosterman

Questioning the Philosophy of Science Used to Question the Bible’s Doctrine by Gabriel Fluhrer

Q&A Sessions

Godly Dominion by Dr. E. Calvin Beisner

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Reformation for Armchair Theologian

Of all the books I have read in the Armchair Theologians series this is the one I learned the most from. There were many things I did not know before about the Reformation that I picked up from this work. The author Glenn Sunshine tells us in the introduction that the book was originally an adaptation of a series of studies and lectures he presented on the Reformation. I thought he did a pretty good job with the history. What I like about this introductory work to the Reformation in contrast with others that I read before is the fact that this book gave more of the historical and political contexts of what was going on while the church and theologians were hammering out a Protestant theology. It was such a tumultuous time period with wars and persecution for Protestants. I appreciated the book’s discussion on the political and social atmosphere that the Reformation took place; there were many times as I read the book that I thought to myself of the biblical truth that what man and rulers might have meant for evil, God brought about good in spite of it. Surely the Reformation would probably not have had a lasting effect if the Catholics were able to militarily wiped out Protestants; but this did not occur since various other wars going on in Europe at that time that tied down or disunited Catholics politically. As a result the Reformation was not militarily crushed and survived it’s infancy. But that does not mean this period was peaceful; on the contrary, by the time the Reformation was reaching the second generation much bloodshed would be spilled with religious wars such as the Thirty Year’s War, etc. I appreciated the author’s decision to discuss the Reformation not just about Luther, Zwingli and Calvin as most classical introduction do, but also how the Reformation spread and fared in other places such as with the Dutch, France, England and Bohemia, etc. It’s a history that’s not always pretty especially with the various rulers’ persecution and political drama. The author did a good job writing this book in a format that is interesting and engaging narrative form. I would recommend this book.

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Calvin For Armchair Theologian

This is the fourth book I read in the “Armchair Theologians” series, and one of the better ones I would say though my favorite was on Martin Luther. This work does a good job in explaining John Calvin’s biography–how he started out as a humanist and lawyer and eventually a pastor and theologian. Calvin’s story of how he got to Geneva is a testimony of God’s providence–for Calvin was originally taking a detour to another place and happened to visit the city only to be persuaded (well threatened with God’s Wrath) to stay–an important decision that made tremendous impact in history. I appreciated the author’s discussion about the Institutes of Christian religion, and the background for why Calvin wrote this book along with the author’s observation of how Calvin organized his theology. What I appreciate the most about this book is the fact that the author tackled some of the controversies surrounding Calvin with the consideration of Calvin in his historical situation. Evaluating Calvin in this light removes some of the objections people have stated against him or his theology. For instance, in the Predestination debate with Bolsec, the author revealed that Bolsec was the one who initiated attacking Calvin’s view first and also reminded the reader that Bolsec’s negative biography had an ax to grind. It seems that there cannot be any discussion about Calvin’s controversial life without the mention of Michael Servetus. Contrary to some myths, Michael Servetus was not killed by John Calvin since he was a pastor/theologian and not a member of the magistrate. In addition, the book pointed out that Calvin at that time didn’t enjoy a particularly good relationship with the rulers of Geneva so it’s doubtful how much pull Calvin had on the officials during that time. Calvin’s involvement at first was to correct Servetus and he was even originally not in favor of any punishment against Servetus. The book also considered the Servetus controversy in it’s historical setting, and while it does not necessarily excuse what happened it should slow down the modern critic from ignorantly assuming Geneva was a hotbed of Calvinistic tyranny. Geneva at that time had already a reputation for being too tolerant for sheltering what some perceived to be too many theological wild cats and when Servetus came along the officials in Geneva even consulted with other cities as to what to do with him.  Thus, Geneva was under mounting pressure to do something. Readers must remember that this was not a time period in which religious tolerance was at a premium; yet Geneva’s only religious execution was Servetus in contrasts to the multitudes the Roman Catholics managed to kill in religious wars or burn at the stakes those who were Protestants, etc. The most problematic part of the book was the last chapter on the heirs of Calvin, where the author’s careful and thoughtful reflection gets unhinged and his theologically more liberal perspective shows. Elwood thinks that theological Liberals, Barthians, Neo-Orthodox and Liberation Theologians are legitimate heirs to Calvin’s legacy while seeing Conservative Reformed Christians such as those of Old Princeton as the wacky right wing extremists of Calvin’s theological lineage. This would seems strange to most people and no doubt this reveals more of Elwood’s theological paradigm than it does about Calvin’s legacy. Elwood here assumes that Semper Reformanda gives license for him to assume that whatever have changed over time can be rightly called “Calvinistic.”  However I don’t think that’s true to the spirit of Semper Reformanda–Calvin’s principle of “always reforming” assumes a high view of Scripture and the Word of God as normative–something that some of Calvin’s alleged heirs that Elwood asserts in this book have failed to subscribe to.

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Rick Kelly

I enjoy reading this blog by a guy who goes by the handle “Wintery Knight.”  A few days ago WinteryKnight posted a lecture by Jerry Walls rejecting Calvinism. That post produced many comments.  In the past our blog experienced similar dialogues concerning Calvinism though at a smaller scale (see for instance the comment section of this post).  Overall the comments at Wintery Knight were cordial.  From a quick scan, I thought the most problematic comment was by an individual who went by the name “TMD” which I produce in full below :

Calvinists delude themselves into thinking that they have Scripturally-derived beliefs, when in fact, they are guilty of the exact same type of atomistic prooftexting that is often used to show Jews that Jesus is Messiah.

One can use this method to prove almost anything. Open theism can be proven no less effectively through this method:http://openviewtheology.com/95_verses.html

Calvinists might respond that there are responses to these verses. Sure, but the Arminian, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox responses to Calvinist prooftexting are no worse. The different parties are in exactly the same boat, but the Calvinists are in denial of this.

Our interpretation of Scripture must be shaped by outside factors, such as archaeology. The population size of ancient Egypt, for example, was so small that we cannot rationally hold to a literal interpretation of the numbers of people in the book of Numbers. Archaeology MUST take precedence over philology.

As Angus Menuge has demonstrated (along with Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga) it is logically impossible for any deterministic entity to reason. Therefore, any argument for determinism, including a Biblical argument, is self-refuting. The job of the exegete will then be to interpret Scripture in such a way that is consistent with the undeniability of libertarian free will. To do otherwise is like trying to prooftext that pi=3. It it futile to try.

I wish to offer some quick thoughts concerning the commentator’s reasoning rather than a defense of Calvinism per se.  In the past I have seen how some Calvinists are quick to offer a positive presentation of Calvinism but if the hearer’s hermeneutics and methodological commitments rule out the Calvinist’s Scriptural presentation ahead of time while remaining deeply flawed then it might be more fruitful to evaluate and tackle these pre-commitments head on first.  Have a metaphorical knock out.  Hopefully without the result of TMD (google it).

Let’s take a closer look at the comment.

“Calvinists delude themselves into thinking that they have Scripturally-derived beliefs, when in fact, they are guilty of the exact same type of atomistic prooftexting that is often used to show Jews that Jesus is Messiah.  One can use this method to prove almost anything.  Open theism can be proven no less effectively through this method:http://openviewtheology.com/95_verses.html  Calvinists might respond that there are responses to these verses. Sure, but the Arminian, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox responses to Calvinist prooftexting are no worse. The different parties are in exactly the same boat, but the Calvinists are in denial of this.”

Problem 1:  Note the first sentence makes claims that Calvinists “delude themselves,” and are guilty of “atomistic prooftexting.”  While he asserts this, he has not demonstrated that Calvinists have deluded themselves or are “atomistic” in their approach to Scripture.

Problem 2: To say that there are other interpretations besides the Calvinistic conclusion is no refutation of Calvinistic use of selected passages.

Problem 3: There is also the assertion that the Arminians, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinistic proof-texting are “in exactly the same boat” with the Calvinists.  This is also not demonstrated.

Problem 4: To just assert that Calvinists are in denial that they are proof texting neither prove Calvinists have committed proof texting nor does this refute Calvinism.

Our interpretation of Scripture must be shaped by outside factors, such as archaeology.The population size of ancient Egypt, for example, was so small that we cannot rationally hold to a literal interpretation of the numbers of people in the book of Numbers. Archaeology MUST take precedence over philology.

Problem 5: “Our interpretation of Scripture must be shaped by outside factors, such as archaeology…” but I would add that we must also take into account the degrees of certainty of each extra-biblical data being used.  The lower the certainty that the discovered data is true, the more cautious one should be in allowing these external data to shape our interpretation of Scripture.

Problem 6: While allowing room for archaeological contribution in our hermeneutics and exegesis, one must also realize the limitation of outside sources since things such as archaeological data are interpreted, partially complete and fallible.

Problem 7: Ironically, TMD’s previous rhetoric rejecting Calvinism on the basis that there’s “proof texting” being committed can be turned against his stance that archaeological data should drive one’s interpretation of Scripture:  Since all archaeological factoid is “decontextualized” to a certain degree despite the best effort of archaeologists, it is inevitable that archaeologists have a factoid that is isolated from it’s total context, and thus there is a level of proof text going on to a certain degree.

Problem 8: Per problem 7, wouldn’t Scripture being true also help situate archaeological finds and give them a “fuller” context?  Rather than it being a one way street, Scripture helps one from “proof texting” archaological data.  And since the nature of Scripture is both (1) propositional in form, that is revealing truth directly and (2) as God’s Word is always true, it seems the inter-relationship between archaeology and the Bible is not equal in their inter-dependence and authority.

Problem 9: Per Problem 7, it must be legitimately questioned whether “archaeology MUST take precedence over philology.”  Especially since philology involves language, being the actual medium directly used to convey information in the Scriptures, there must be a greater priority for philology and all things pertaining to languages in one’s heremeneutical hierarchy in order to establish authorial intent.

Problem 10: Per Problems 6, 7, 8 and 9, TMD’s example against “a literal interpretation of the numbers of people in the book of Numbers” does not follow.

As Angus Menuge has demonstrated (along with Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga) it is logically impossible for any deterministic entity to reason. Therefore, any argument for determinism, including a Biblical argument, is self-refuting. The job of the exegete will then be to interpret Scripture in such a way that is consistent with the undeniability of libertarian free will. To do otherwise is like trying to prooftext that pi=3. It it futile to try.

Problem 11:  “The job of the exegete will then be to interpret Scripture in such a way that is consistent with the undeniability of libertarian free will.”  But I will contend that it still needs to be demonstrated that LFW exists rather than a given.

Problem 12: Per 11, to assume LFW as a hermeneutical priority in reading the text makes one suspectible to proof texting, especially if it’s not a given that Scripture teaches LFW.

Problem 13: No demonstration is given of how a Biblical argument against LFW is self-refuting.

Problem 14: Angus Menuge paper titled “Libertarian Free Will and the Argument from Reason” acknowledges, “However,being controlled isn’t the problem: what matter is what controls you: you are free so long as your will is governed by the right (rational) causes.”  Then he went on to argue against Compatibalism (a view many Calvinist hold) by refuting something that is not compatiablism (thus commiting a straw man fallacy) on the basis that reasoning presupposes responsibility and without coercion against their will.  Compatibalism holds to both tenets.

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Augustine for Armchair theologian

The book is supposed to be an introduction to the great Church father Augustine. The author spent the bulk of the book on Augustine’s autobiography, The Confessions. It made me want to read The Confessions alongside this work either as a commentary or as a “cliff note.” However, with the book’s title, “Augustine for Armchair Theologians,” one would expect the book to be broad enough to cover Augustine’s life and theology rather than spending 175 pages out of 222 on the The Confession alone. It doesn’t do justice to Augustine, especially for a work that’s suppose to be a guide for “arm chair theologians,”since there is so much more to Augustine than just his conversion; he was also a prolific writer and thinker, and from what I understand, the man has written over ninety separate works. I would have loved for the book to have explore some of these lesser known writings by Augustine and also for the book to further explore Augustine’s view of the Trinity and his contribution to it’s theological development. Writings by Augustine that the author did explore was rather brief, such as The City of God. Having read portions of The City of God, I wished the author could have expounded more upon it as I found Augustine’s reasoning and argumentation in the beginning of this classic to be witty and insightful. At times I thought the author was too sympathetic with Augustine’s theological opponents. While recently I have had second thoughts and desire to revisit my understanding of the Donatists’ position for fear that others might have caricatured it, nevertheless I was somewhat taken aback with the author’s sympathies with Pelagius and his followers. Again, the strength of the book was really it’s extensive discussion of The Confession and according to statements in the book, the author taught courses on it and must have been his area of expertise.

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basilica book


This book is on the history of the Roman Catholics’ building of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. What made me want to read this is because I wanted a fuller context of the building of the basilica that historically prompted the sales of indulgences which of course set the wheels turning that eventually that resulted in the Protestant Reformation. The author’s was a family acquaintance of Pope John Paul II and while I don’t know where she stand with spiritual matters I must admit she did a good job of presenting the history behind the building of St. Peter’s including some very unpleasant side to Roman Catholicism and the less than perfect side to the popes involved with the building project–such as the war fighting Julius II, the pompous Leo and others, who had mistress and children. The work also talks about the artists behind the building–with familiar names such as Michelangelo and Raphael. It explore the politics of the builders and artists themselves in this work. I enjoyed the work filling in the gaps historically, politically of Roman Catholicism before and during the Reformation.

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Yesterday I reviewed Luther’s classic commentary on Galatians.  After a reader’s comment, I found several media format one can enjoy this classic!

Martin Luther Galatians


You can download it for free onto Kindle if you click HERE.

If you want to download it to your Apple IBook click HERE.

If you want an Adobe PDF copy click HERE.

If you want to read it online in Html Format, click here for the table of Content.

If you want to hear it courtesy of LibriVox, click here.


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