Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Call for Christian Rationality

W. Gary Crampton

We live in a day when the Apostle Paul’s sermon on Mar’s Hill to the first century philosophers concerning the worship of an unknown god (Acts 17) is all too relevant. Our age is awash in irrationalism; it may even be the “age of irrationalism.” And far too many in allegedly Christian circles are espousing an irrational theology in the name of Christ. Nonsense, as C. S. Lewis once predicted, has come. Twenty-three years ago John Robbins correctly assessed the situation:

There is no greater threat facing the true church of Christ at this moment than the irrationalism that now controls our entire culture. [Totalitarianism], guilty of tens of millions of murders, including those of millions of Christians, is to be feared, but not nearly so much as the idea that we do not know and cannot know the truth. Hedonism, the popular philosophy of America, is not to be feared so much as the idea that logic-“mere human logic,” to use the religious irrationalists’ own phrase-is futile.(1)

How did we get where we are? How did irrationalism become so predominant even in allegedly Christian circles? It did not happen overnight. The failure of seventeenth century Rationalism and Galileo’s (1564-1642) questioning of the Roman Church-State’s official position on geocentricity fostered a spirit of skepticism. Who are we to believe on this subject - the Roman Church-State or Galileo (science)? How do we know? Is there truly a God who has created all things? If so, how can we be sure? Into this debate stepped David Hume (1711-1776).

Being an empiricist, Hume denied that reason can ever give us knowledge of the external world, including God. But he also showed, perhaps reluctantly, that sense experience cannot yield such knowledge either. Observation is unreliable. Causal relationships are never observed. Neither can we know the continuing reality of the self, for we have no experience of it. And, of course, no experience can ever prove that the God of Scripture exists.

David Hume created what Ronald Nash referred to as a “Gap.” “Hume’s Gap,” wrote Nash, “is the rejection of the possibility of a rational knowledge of God and objective religious truth.” (2) According to Hume, man can have no knowledge of the transcendent. Any belief in God, therefore, must be irrational. Knowledge and faith have nothing in common.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) acknowledged that reading David Hume awakened him from his “dogmatic slumbers.” Kant attempted to go beyond rationalism and empiricism by claiming that all human knowledge begins with sense experience (content), but in itself, sense experience is not sufficient to give us knowledge. The content needs a form or structure. Kant taught that this form is supplied by the mind, in apriori categories of understanding. But since men can never know what cannot first be experienced, knowledge cannot extend beyond the phenomenal world. The real world, Kant’s “noumenal world,” “things in themselves” rather than “things as they appear,” therefore, can never be known. Thus, Kant constructed a “wall” between the immanent and the transcendent, and God is unknowable. (3)

It is ironic that Kant believed that this agnosticism was an aid to Christianity. He had “denied knowledge in order to make room for faith.” Belief in God was still possible, but not on rational grounds. Like Hume before him, with Kant there is nothing in common between Christian faith and knowledge. (4)

G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) attempted to correct the errors of Kant. Whereas Kant had asserted with certainty that the real world could not be known, Hegel pointed out the absurdity of affirming the unknowable. He constructed a system of Idealism in which unity and plurality are rationally blended together. For Hegel, “the real is the rational and the rational is the real.” All things, persons and objects, participate in the Absolute Mind or Spirit (Geist). Thought and being, essence and existence, are one and the same. As Hegel developed it, his philosophy is a form of pantheism. And in Hegel’s pantheistic philosophy, a problem exists. One cannot know anything without knowing everything; “the truth is the whole.” But since we do not know everything, we do not know anything. Once again, we are left in a state of skepticism. Hegel cannot justify knowledge. (5)

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), like Karl Marx, another irrationalist, was a student of Hegel. He strongly reacted against his teacher’s System. Reality, said Kierkegaard, cannot be obtained by reason. The real is not the rational. Truth is not something that can be taught; it cannot be communicated in a rational fashion. Truth does not exist in the form of propositions; it is inward and purely subjective. If one is going to know the real, he must grasp it by means of a “leap of faith.” That is, he must make a commitment to that which is irrational. For Kierkegaard, faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Knowledge is personal and passionate; it is anti-intellectual. God and truth exist only for one who leaps. (6)

Irrationality also passed into the realm of theology through the liberals Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), both of whom rejected the idea of God’s transcendence. God, they averred, is exclusively immanent. And being totally immanent, God is unable to speak divine truth to man. Hence, Schleiermacher and Ritschl both rejected revealed theology and the primacy of the intellect.

Schleiermacher, sometimes called the father of liberalism, taught that the essence of religion is to be found, not in knowledge, but in experience: the “feeling of absolute dependence.” For Schleiermacher, God is unknowable to the human mind. To find God one must look within and experience Him. Ritschl, on the other hand, averred that the essence of true religion is ethics. A system of propositional truth is unattainable. Christianity needs to recognize that all knowledge has to do with value judgments, ethical decisions.(7)

Both of these immanentistic theologians denied an infallible standard by which to judge all things. By rejecting the divine propositional revelation of Holy Scripture, they cut the jugular of Christian theism. Man is left without an epistemic base. How does one know what he must “feel”? What is the standard of “ethics” by which man is to live? Schleiermacher and Ritschl leave men without answers. But to the irrational mindset, this is not a problem. In such an anti-system, what does it matter?

In the twentieth century, the Swiss Neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) condemned the immanentism of Schleiermacher and Ritschl as a denial of the Christian faith. Barth taught the divine transcendence of God, to the exclusion of His immanence. According to Barth, God is so transcendent that He is “wholly other.” The Swiss theologian went so far as to deny not only natural theology, but general revelation as well. God can be known only through His self-revelation. (8)

But to Barth, and Emil Brunner (1889-1966) as well, God’s self-revelation is not to be found in the propositional statements of Scripture. In Neo-orthodoxy, revelation is non-propositional. Revelation is an event; it is an encounter; it is something that happens. Revelation is not objective; it is subjective.

According to Barth and Brunner, the Bible is not the Word of God in the usual sense; neither does it contain the Word of God. Rather, the Bible is a book that is full of errors. It contains errors of fact, doctrine, and logic. The Bible is merely a pointer to the Word, which is Jesus Christ. Christ is the only true revelation of God to man. The Bible, then, points to Christ. And when God makes Himself known to man through the fallible Biblical witness, then the “Christ event” occurs. Communication of truth takes place only in the personal divine-human encounter.(9)

Lamentably, irrationalism has greatly affected the visible church. The Charismatic movement is just one example of this. The primacy of the intellect and of truth has been replaced with emotionalism, ecstatic utterances, incoherent experiences, and anti-doctrinal statements (e.g., “give me Jesus, not exegesis”). Faith has nothing to do with thought, let alone logic. All too frequently we encounter what Ronald Nash referred to as “the religious revolt against logic.” (10)Augustine had claimed that God thinks logically, and that logic has been divinely ordained to be trusted and used by man as God’s image bearer, but much of alleged modern day “evangelicalism” demurs. Logic is not to be trusted. Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) is an example of one such thinker. Van Til maintained that there is no point at which man’s logic and knowledge are the same as God’s. Due to this lack of a point of contact, logical paradox must exist in Scripture. (11)Van Til went so far as to say that “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.” (12)Van Til’s irrational thought opened the door to all sorts of theological and philosophical errors in putatively Reformed circles. (13)

Donald Bloesch is a contemporary theologian who has attempted to find a middle ground between Neo-orthodoxy, on the one hand, and “right wing” orthodoxy on the other hand. He claims to have a very high view of Scripture. He denounces liberalism, for example, and calls for a creedal theology based upon Holy Scripture. He insists on the primacy of Scripture over “religious experiences,” and he denies that the Apocrypha and church tradition have an equal standing with the Bible. But even though Bloesch attempts to remove himself from the Neo-orthodox camp, his writings betray him. The shadow of Karl Barth looms large across the pages of his works. And one of the points at which he finds himself in agreement with Barth is in his rejection of the trustworthiness of logic. For example, Bloesch is quick to take issue with the belief that human logic is identical with divine logic, that is, that God thinks the syllogism Barbara. Dr. Bloesch says we must never equate the two. He openly warns against “reducing the message of faith to axioms of logic.” (14)

Gordon Clark corrected this error when he wrote:

To avoid this irrationalism...we must insist that truth is the same for God and man. Naturally, we may not know the truth of some matters. But if we know anything at all, what we must know must be identical with what God knows. God knows all truth, and unless we know something God knows, our ideas are untrue. It is absolutely essential, therefore, to insist that there is an area of coincidence between God’s mind and our mind. (15)

Dr. Clark was not denying that there is a difference in the degree of God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge. God always knows more propositions than man. What Dr. Clark asserted is that there is a point where God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge are identical. There must be a point at which the mind of man coincides with the mind of God. Without this, man could never know any truth.

Hume’s Gap reappears in the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) and a number of his followers (the Amsterdam Philosophy group). These philosophers emphasize the transcendence of God to the point of erecting a “boundary” which exists between God and man. The laws of logic are valid only on man’s side of the boundary. (16)If there were such a Dooyeweerdian boundary, of course, God could never reveal anything to His creatures, and man could never know anything about God, including the notion of the boundary. Dooyeweerd influenced Van Til greatly, and through Van Til, his many disciples.

Another contemporary theologian of irrationalism is John Frame, formerly of Westminster Seminary, now of Reformed Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Professor Frame would have us believe that “Scripture, for God’s good reasons, is often vague.” Therefore, wrote Frame, “there is no way out of escaping vagueness in theology.” He continued:

Scripture does not demand absolute precision of us, a precision impossible for creatures.... Indeed, Scripture recognizes that for sake of communication, vagueness is often preferable to precision.... Nor is theology an attempt to state truth without any subjective influence on the formulation. Such “objectivity,” like “absolute precision,” is impossible and would not be desirable if it could be achieved. (17)

Apparently clear and precise theology is a perspective that Professor Frame’s “Perspectivalism” cannot accommodate. But is it true that “Scripture, for God’s good reason, is often vague?” Not according to Reformed orthodoxy, which holds to the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1:7) says it this way:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

All things in Scripture are not equally clear to all, the Confession says, but it never asserts that they are vague or imprecise or confused. It says different readers will be puzzled by some things that other readers will find to be clear. The problem is with our understandings, not with Scripture.

Vagueness in theology, which is what Frame is defending, is not something to be applauded. Obscurity is not a virtue. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He does not speak to us in vague, illogical, paradoxical statements, as the Van Tilian school asserts. He reveals himself to us in rational, propositional statements that can be understood. The Bible is a divine revelation that God intends us to understand. Obviously, if it cannot be understood, if we cannot understand it, then it is not a revelation. But David writes: “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:8). John writes: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true” (1 John 5:20). The Psalmist knows more than his teachers, more than the ancients, because he knows God’s Word (Psalm 119:99-100). The triune God of Scripture is a God of truth: Father (Psalm 31:5); Son (John 14:6); and Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6). The Bible refers to Christ as logic, wisdom, and reason incarnate (John 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30; Colossians 2:3). Logic is the way God thinks, and the laws of logic are eternal principles. Because man is an image bearer of God, these laws are part of man. There must be, then, a point of contact between God’s logic (and knowledge), and man’s.

Carl Henry wrote:

The insistence on a logical gulf between human conceptions and God as the object of religious knowledge is erosive of knowledge and cannot escape a reduction to skepticism. Concepts that by definition are inadequate to the truth of God cannot be made to compensate for logical deficiency by appealing either to God’s omnipotence or to His grace. Nor will it do to call for a restructuring of logic in the interest of knowledge of God. Whoever calls for a higher logic must preserve the existing laws of logic to escape pleading the cause of illogical nonsense. (18)

What I am pleading for is a return to the Christian rationality of Augustine, Calvin, Clark, and the best of the Puritans. Such a system does not exalt the human mind as autonomous; rather, it affirms Biblical revelation as axiomatic. The divine revelation of Holy Scripture is a rational revelation. It is internally self-consistent. It is non-contradictory and non-paradoxical. Christian rationality reasons from revelation, not to it or apart from it. The Christian faith is intellectually defensible. In fact, as John Robbins has stated, “it is the only intellectually defensible system of thought,” (19) for the God of Scripture “has made foolish the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:20).

1 John W. Robbins, The Trinity Manifesto, 1978.

2 Ronald H. Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 22. Dr. Robbins had used this phrase in his 1974 book Answer to Ayn Rand to refer to the logical gap between the is and the ought by which Hume destroyed all theories of natural moral law, secular and religious. (See page 136.) Perhaps other writers use the phrase in still other senses.

3 Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey (The Trinity Foundation, 2000), 309-328.

4 Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, 25-28.

5 Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation (The Trinity Foundation, 1995), 63-68.

6 Clark, Thales to Dewey, 377-382.

7 Colin Brown, Philosophy & the Christian Faith (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 108-116, 154-155.

8 See Gordon H. Clark, Karl Barth’s Theological Method (The Trinity Foundation, 1997).

9 Robert L. Reymond, Introductory Studies in Contemporary Theology (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968), 91-153.

10 Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, 91-101.

11 Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 95-110.

12 Cited in John W. Robbins, Cornelius Van Til: The Man and the Myth (The Trinity Foundation, 1986), 25; see also W. Gary Crampton, Why I Am Not a Van Tilian, The Trinity Review, September 1993.

13 See John W. Robbins. Marstonian Mysticism, The Trinity Review, January/February 1980, reprinted in Against the World, The Trinity Foundation, 1996.

14 Donald G. Bloesch, Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration, & Interpretation (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 121, 293, 298; see W. Gary Crampton, The Neo-orthodoxy of Donald Bloesch, The Trinity Review, August 1995.

15 Gordon H. Clark, An Introduction to Christian Philosophy (The Trinity Foundation, 1993), 76-77.

16 Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, 96-99.

17 John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), 226, 307. These thoughts are echoed by Professor Vern Poythress of Westminster Seminary, and Clark’s comments on them may be found in Clark Speaks from the Grave, The Trinity Foundation, 1986.

18 Cited in Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, 95.

19 John W. Robbins, The Trinity Manifesto, 1978.


Copy Editing

John W. Robbins

Editor's note: This is Dr. Robbins' Commencement Address at the 70th Commencement of Faith Theological Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland, May 19, 2007.

President Manohar, distinguished Faculty of Faith Theological Seminary, honored Guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honor and a privilege to appear before you today as the commencement speaker for the 70th graduating class of Faith Theological Seminary. Thank you very much for inviting me to address you.

As an institution, Faith Theological Seminary has had a long, productive, and colorful history. Its sons include some of the prominent names of American Protestantism of the 20th Century: the prolific apologist Francis Schaeffer; Kenneth Kantzer, editor of Christianity Today; Vernon Grounds and Gordon Lewis of Denver Seminary; and many lesser known scholars and writers.

But more important than its past is its promise for the future. It is my prayer that Faith Seminary will flourish so long as and only so long as it believes and teaches the whole counsel of God. In an age in which many Christian churches and institutions have departed from the faith and are striving for the acceptance, respect, and admiration of the world, it is crucial for those that have not fallen away to remain steadfast in the Lord, always abounding in his work. One thing America does not need is another apostate seminary; it has hundreds of them already.

Commencements are festive occasions on which schools invite guests to visit and address their faculty and graduates. These commencement speakers - and there have been millions of them over the centuries - are expected to do certain things: First, they are expected to tell jokes and anecdotes, and humor has its place, even in Scripture; second, they are supposed to tell the graduates how wonderful they are, and genuine achievements are not to be overlooked; and, finally, they are expected to tell graduates to go out and make a difference in the world. I propose to do none of those things this afternoon. Let me explain why.

I have not come to entertain you. As an entertainer, I leave a lot to be desired. And if it is entertainment you want, you would have been much better served by hiring some local Maryland talent than by summoning me all the way from Tennessee. I hope you were not misled into thinking that all Tennesseans are entertainers, simply because our state has produced many famous entertainers, such as Tennessee Ernie Ford, Dolly Parton, Steve Green, Peyton Manning, just about every country singer you can name, and last but not least, Vice President Al Gore, who was recently awarded an Oscar by the entertainment industry. Mr. Gore has been entertaining the nation for decades; his recognition by Hollywood is long overdue.

Further, I have not come here to praise you; those who know you much better than I, can and will praise you more credibly, more sincerely, and more thoroughly than I could. Achievements such as yours are not to be ignored or overlooked; and that is why the Seminary has gone to great trouble to honor you today.

Finally, I have not come to unctuously exhort you to "think positively" and to "make a difference in the world." This spring thousands of commencement speakers will be urging millions of graduates to "make a difference" in their communities, their nations, and the world. Now, any fool can make a difference. In November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald made a difference in the world when he murdered President John Kennedy. In 1848 two unknown writers, one a recent Ph.D. in Germany and the other an English businessman, made a difference in the world when they published The Communist Manifesto. And just last month, an English major at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University made a difference in his community by murdering 32 students and professors, the latest and worst mass murder at an American government institution.

Of course, someone will say, they mean make a difference for good. But the problem with many commencement speakers is that their messages, while entertaining and flattering, are vague and vacuous when it comes to telling graduates what good is. They tell young people to make a difference in their communities, but they cannot offer anything more than humor, bromides, and unsupported personal opinion as guidance. It would appear that most of them have nothing of substance to say, and so hide that fact behind a screen of humor and flattery. And it is true: Apart from the Word of God, commencement speakers can offer no sound ethical guidance to graduates at all. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and in the absence of that fear, wisdom cannot even begin.

I can still remember my various graduation exercises - from high school, college, and graduate school. But I cannot remember a single thing the commencement speakers said. Thirty years from now, you may not remember a single thing I say here today either. As an idealistic young man I wanted my life to count for something, to mean something. I know you want your lives to count for something, too. And that is what I wish to speak to you about today - not my own opinions on how to make your life count for something, but what God, that is, Scripture, says about the matter.

In the Scriptures, you might be surprised to learn, there are several graduation addresses. Of course, we know of no Christian seminaries in the first century; the churches themselves were the institutions of learning. When Paul rented a house in Rome and lectured on theology for two years, everyone was welcome to attend his lectures. The church, as Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy, is the pillar and ground of the truth. And it is in the church that we find the best commencement addresses.

In that same letter, the elderly Paul, an apostle, officer, and principal teacher of the first generation of the church, who expected soon to depart from his body in order to be present with his Lord, tells the young Timothy, an officer and teacher of the second generation of the church, how to be a good servant of Jesus Christ: "If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed" (1 Timothy 4:6).

Please notice Paul's emphasis: In this one short sentence he mentions instruction, teaching, words, and doctrine. "If you instruct the brethren," he begins. The primary and essential purpose of the church and church officers is instruction, that is, teaching, communicating information from one person to another. Today, seminaries, churches, and churchgoers believe that a good pastor is a spellbinding orator, an entertainer, an effective fundraiser, a compassionate social worker, a proficient business manager, a discussion facilitator, a worship leader, a pal for young people, and an all-round cheerleader.

But Paul says a good pastor is an instructor, a teacher. That is why he tells Timothy that Elders must be married men who are able to teach. In his list of qualifications for Elders, Paul says not a word about being able to play the piano, guitar, or organ; nor about being proficient at raising money, organizing soup kitchens, nor capturing audiences with eloquent speeches.

Paul has much more to say to Timothy and to us: "If you instruct the brethren in these things...." A good servant of Jesus Christ must be an instructor, but not simply an instructor: He must be an instructor in a certain subject, namely, "these things." Since Paul writes these words in the fourth chapter of 1 Timothy, the things to which he refers are all the doctrines he has mentioned and will mention in his letter: things such as the purpose of the law; the Gospel; rules for godly worship; civil duties; qualifications for both orders of permanent church officers, Elders and Deacons; warnings against false doctrine, false teachers, and apostates; and so on. His concern is that the brethren be taught, and that they be taught the whole counsel of God. This means that Christianity is taught, not caught. Christianity is words; it is doctrine. It is a religion of knowledge and of the mind. It is completely and thoroughly rational. It is not a religion of the senses, the will, the imagination, or the emotions. Pagan religions appeal to the senses, the will, the imagination, and the emotions. They have cunningly devised fables, pomp and processions, icons, statues, rituals, bells, wonders, mysteries, and incense; but Christianity is not paganism.

A few churches and pastors admit that teaching is important, but they do not want to be restricted in what they teach. Paul's language is restrictive: If you instruct the brethren in "these things" - the doctrines Paul has written about, the doctrines of Scripture - you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ. But today many pastors and churches prefer to teach other things: psychology and sociology, socialist economics, Thomistic philosophy, evidentialist apologetics, and church tradition. They are not good servants of Jesus Christ. One must neither add to nor subtract from the Word of God in one's preaching.

Paul adds that if Timothy teaches all these things to the brethren, he will be a good servant of Jesus Christ, "nourished by the words of faith...." A good Christian servant, the Holy Spirit says, is nourished by words. In order to instruct the brethren, the good servant must read the words of Scripture, study them, meditate on them, and organize them into sermons and essays, perhaps even into books. He must, that means, be a systematic theologian. Paul tells Timothy to "give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.... Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (1 Timothy 4:13-16).

These commands to pay attention - to focus - on reading, on exhortation, and on doctrine are central to the work of a Christian pastor. Without this focus, he ceases to be a Christian pastor. If his mind wanders, he ceases to be a Christian pastor. The command to meditate immediately follows the command to focus, and Biblical meditation does not mean emptying the mind of thought, as it does in pagan religions; it means filling the mind with God's thoughts, which are revealed only in Scripture. By focusing on Scripture, one fills one's mind with God's thought, and by meditating on those thoughts, one grows in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not an anti-intellectual religion, as pagan religions are. The Bible commands us to seek and to love the truth, to memorize, to understand, and to believe the words that God has written for our learning in the Scriptures.

"Meditate on these things," Paul commands, the same things that the good servant must teach the brethren. "Give yourself entirely to them" - please notice that word "entirely" - that is, avoid merely human philosophies, traditions, practices, and ideas, and think about the doctrines that God has revealed. This is not a command to avoid gainful employment, as some commentators have suggested - keep in mind that Paul himself was a tentmaker and was not violating this commandment - it is a command to find the source of all your thinking in Scripture alone, to recognize Scripture as the only source of truth and knowledge. It is this truth, this Christian doctrine, Paul says, echoing James, that is able to save your soul. There is no salvation apart from the intellectually understood and believed Biblical doctrine. Christ is the Truth, and unless we understand and believe the truth, we are not part of Christ.

Today there are many seminary professors, church teachers, and churchgoers who express their revulsion to doctrine and words. Truth is personal, not propositional, they whine. Religion is encounter and relationship, not information and belief. Words, they say, are dead. Doctrine is head knowledge, not heart knowledge. What we need, they say, is feelings and actions, not words. We need to feel dependent, or awe-struck, or loved.

The Bible, from beginning to end, opposes such anti-intellectualism and irrationalism. Jesus says that Heaven and Earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away: They are eternal (Matthew 24:35). Peter confesses that Jesus alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Please notice that it is the words that give eternal life. The words give life because they are life: Jesus says "my words are Spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Nowhere in the Bible does Peter or anyone else say that Jesus has the feelings of eternal life, and nowhere does Jesus or anyone else in the Bible command anyone to seek heart knowledge rather than head knowledge. In fact, the Bible says the heart is the head: It is the heart that thinks, remembers, believes, plans, and reasons. Writing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul says that it is the words of the faith - the revealed words - that "nourish" the good servant of Jesus Christ. All the sheep, those in the pews as well as those in the pupits, the ordained as well as the unordained, are nourished, fed, by the words of truth. That is why Christ repeatedly told Peter to "Feed my sheep." Feeding is a figure of speech that means "teach." It is only words that nourish.

In chapter 6 of First Timothy, Paul repeats his statements to make them even more emphatic: "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing...." Those who do not consent to wholesome words, Paul writes, are arrogant know-nothings. If Paul were writing his epistles in the 21st Century, rather than the first, he would undoubtedly be harassed by the ecclesiastical thought police and subjected to church discipline for being harsh and unloving. So we must decide who is right, the Apostle Paul, who tells us that we need words and doctrine, that is, truth; or contemporary teachers who tell us what what we need are rituals, relationships, feelings, sincerity, and a warm heart. The Apostle Paul tells us what Christianity is; anything else is not Christianity.

These words in Scripture and my words to you make it clear that your job, as Christians and as graduates of Faith Theological Seminary, is not to "make a difference" in your community or in the world, but to accurately and boldly teach the words of God. While Paul's words are directed primarily to church officers, they apply to all Christians. Paul says that "If anyone" - anyone, he says - "teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words,...he is proud, knowing nothing." If you are not an Elder or never become an Elder, you are still under divine obligation to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In your conversations with your neighbors, speak the words of truth. In teaching your children, speak the words of truth. In writing a letter to the newspaper, write the words of truth. It is truth, the words of God, which never fails to accomplish its purpose, which never returns empty. It is that truth that will change the world, not you. You are only a vessel, only an instrument, of God's truth. It is only in speaking the words of truth that your life will count for something. Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 15: "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." Your labor is not in vain, if and only if it is in the Lord.

In his various addresses in Scripture, the Apostle Paul never urges anyone to "make a difference" in their world; he always commands them to proclaim the revealed words of Scripture accurately, boldly, and clearly - to do the work of the Lord. Because churches and churchmen today despise the intellect and hate knowledge, they deny the power of God's words and the power of the Gospel. They have a form of godliness but deny the power of godliness, which is the Gospel. Paul wrote to the Romans: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Paul understood something that many, even most, church officers and churchgoers do not understand: It is the Gospel alone that changes individuals and societies for the better. Christ said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). There is no other way, and you have no other mandate.

In Acts 20 we read that Paul summoned the Elders of the Ephesian church together for a meeting in Miletus. He opened the meeting by reviewing what he had done in Ephesus, "serving the Lord with all humility." What form did that service take? Did Paul do any of the things that churches today consider to be service to the Lord? He did not. Paul tells us: "I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks." Paul "kept back nothing" - he taught the whole counsel of God. He taught both publicly and privately. He taught both Jews and Gentiles. He taught God's words despite "tears and trials and plotting of the Jews." Now Paul was on his way to Jersualem, the stronghold of the hostile Jewish establishment, and he does not know what will happen to him there, except that the Holy Spirit has warned him of chains and tribulations. Paul has called the Ephesian Elders together to tell them good-bye, and how he says it is instructive for us all. Paul writes: "And indeed now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the Kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."

Paul makes it emphatically clear that the first duty of the Christian is to teach the words of truth. He makes it clear that he is innocent of the blood of all men because he had taught the whole counsel of God to all men, both Jews and non-Jews. This means, among other things, that if you wish to be innocent of the blood of all men, you also must declare the whole counsel of God to all men. One becomes a good pastor by teaching the whole counsel of God, and one becomes guilty by failing to teach it. It is the duty of the church officer, the Christian teacher, to teach the entire counsel of God. Because Paul has declared God's whole counsel, and because the Ephesians have received it, they are now responsible for declaring it. Therefore, Paul begins his next sentence with a "Therefore":

"Therefore," Paul writes, "take heed to yourselves" - notice that the Bible endorses rational self-interest - "and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood." The church is not the domain of its officers; it is the purchase and property of Christ, and officers are responsible for taking care of it, not lording it over Christ's sheep. They are to feed them: to teach them the words of truth.

Because truth and words are so important, Paul warns the Ephesian Elders in the most graphic language about false teachers: "I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock." Paul says he knows this. Not only has he already encountered and confronted false teachers in the churches, but the Holy Spirit has warned him about what will happen after his decease. Outsiders will come into the church, pretending, of course, to be sheep, and they will destroy the flock. They will teach false doctrines, confuse the sheep, and divide the flock. The Bible has many warnings about false teachers, false prophets, and wolves in the churches. Virtually every book of the Bible contains some such warning. But it is rare today to hear any warning in the churches about false teaching, and still rarer to hear false teaching and false teachers identified by name. Today such behavior is regarded as harsh and unloving. But what is unloving is failing to warn the sheep about false teachers and false teaching.

Paul warns the Ephesians that the danger is not just from newcomers: "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves." These perverse men are already in the church, Paul warns, and they will teach false doctrine, confuse the sheep, and draw away the disciples after them. In his letters Paul names names of false teachers who have opposed him. But he realizes that the problem of false teachers will be a continuing problem in the churches, and that good pastors will always have the duty, not only of teaching of the truth, but also of discerning falsehood and warning the sheep against false teachers.

Today the churches have been inundated by false teaching: Roman Catholicism is flourishing with more than one billion souls under its control; earlier this month the president of the Evangelical Theological Society became a Roman Catholic. Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement, which deny the Biblical and Reformational doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide, are leading 600 million more souls to Hell. Eastern Orthodoxy, with its doctrine of theosis, fatally deceives 350 million more. Liberalism and Neo-orthodoxy, tracing their roots to Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, and Barth, devour hundreds of millions more souls. Here in the United States a new movement, the Emergent Church, draws its inspiration from medieval Romanism and mysticism. All of these false religions - all of which profess to be Christian - have many things in common, and those things all depend on one fundamental idea: a rejection of the words of God. From outright and blatant denials of Scripture to subtle attacks on words and language as being incapable of expressing divine truth, these false teachings disparage words and propositions, and praise paradox, mystery, action, feelings, images, and institutions.

Please note that Paul's warning to the Ephesians is about false teachers in the churches. In his last words to them, he tells them what he deems most important. He does not mention those who oppose the faith outside the churches; he does not mention philosophers or vociferous atheists or other organized religions, or even tyrannical rulers. Paul sees the greatest threat to the church as being the threat from within, the threat from those who are church members and church leaders. The greatest threat, he says, is that the words of truth will be perverted, corrupted, and twisted by teachers in the church itself. Today the churches have reversed Paul's concern and warning, for they focus on threats without and ignore the threats within. They focus on atheism and humanism within the public schools, on the actions of government, on political and social issues. When they do address doctrinal issues, the threat, they say, is always outside their church. It is difficult to remember the last time anyone was tried for any error in a Baptist or Presbyterian church.

In his valedictory address to the Ephesians, Paul's sole concern is for the purity of the preaching in the churches. Paul realizes that it is the Word of God that is powerful, that it is the Gospel that grants eternal life, and that if the Word of God is preserved in its purity, then it will not only protect the church but will act as salt in society. But if the Word of God is lost or perverted, then there is no hope, no matter how many rallies are organized, petitions signed, or political actions Christians take.

"Therefore," Paul commands the Ephesians, "watch." Watch out for the wolves, watch out for the false doctrine, protect the sheep from every teaching that is not Biblical. Equip the sheep to recognize the false doctrine and the savage wolves on their own. "Remember," Paul says, "that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." Paul taught the whole counsel of God as if the lives of men depended on it - precisely because they did.

In our profoundly anti-intellectual age, many in the churches no longer believe that the eternal destinations of men - their everlasting happiness or misery - depend on what they think. Instead, the anti-intellectuals tell us that the destiny of men depends on the group to which they belong, how they behave, or what they feel. God, they tell us, would not send anyone to Hell for making a mistake in theology. If the person is sincere, then God will save him. If a person sincerely believes that Mary is co-Redemptrix, or that Venus is a Goddess, or that Mohammad or Benedict XVI is a prophet, God will forgive him. C. S. Lewis, for example, taught that all sincere worship, even that directed to an idol, is honored by God. His many disciples teach the same. But God and Paul command us to understand and believe the words of God. It was not Paul's tears that saved the Ephesians, but the words from God that Paul spoke to them - the eternal words of eternal life that are able to save your souls also.

In his intercessory prayer in John 17, Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I have glorified you on the Earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do." What was this work, and how did Christ glorify God on the Earth? Christ himself explains: "I have given to them the words which you have given me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from you; and they have believed that you sent me.... I have given them your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."

Jesus' assigned work was to give the disciples the words which he had received from the Father. That is how he glorified God on the Earth, and that is the only way you can glorify God on the Earth. The glorification of God is the proclamation of his words - accurately, boldly, clearly, and completely.

God's words have been written in the Bible alone. We do not find them in philosophy, or in science, or in poetry. We do not learn them from the sky, or from fossils, or from our neighbors. Because the Bible alone has the words of knowledge, the words of eternal life, your first duty is to give attention to the Scriptures. Read them constantly; read the Bible from cover to cover. In this way, as Paul says, you will save both yourself and those who hear you teach. Second, when you read Christian books, read them carefully. Most books that claim to be Christian today are not. They are subtle, and sometimes blatant, attacks on Christianity. Consign to the flames any book that says words, understanding, and the mind are of secondary importance. Third, read sound Christian books, and recommend them to others. I can recommend no author more highly than the late Dr. Gordon Clark, for he clearly saw the importance of words. He wrote more than 40 books in both theology and philosophy, and the guiding principle in them all is that the Bible alone is the words of God, the only source of truth and knowledge. It is that truth alone that is powerful to save souls and transform societies. Fourth, equip those who hear you to understand and teach the Scriptures clearly. If, after 10 years of laboring in a certain church there is no one there capable of filling your shoes, you need to re-think what you are doing. Paul spent only three years in Ephesus, and he left behind a flourishing church and many Elders. Rather than continuing the Roman Catholic model of one priest in one parish, we need to recognize that the goal of a pastor is to teach the men in the congregations to be pastors, to equip them for the work of the ministry. Much more teaching than one man can do is needed in every congregation.

If you do not do these things, you will be good for nothing, and your life will be wasted. But if you do these things, Paul writes, you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ. May God bless you and keep you as teach.

At Least Finish the Sentence

Hand Writing

Scott Price

Comparing Scripture with Scripture in its context we learn what God has to say to His church. Many times as people, especially preachers are making some point they force their interpretation by failing to teach it in the context in which they are drawing from. The easiest way to see this often is they do not even finish the sentence that they are reading from.

At Least Three Examples:

Genesis 4:3-4a (KJV) v-3) And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4) And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel.........

In trying to put emphasis on the sinner and by double talk at the same time claiming God is not a respecter of persons the Arminian will say that God saw Abel's meritorious actions. The context of this Scripture as well as the whole word of God places preeminence on the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God, the only Acceptable Offering. We are accepted, yes, but how? We are only accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6).

Read the rest of the sentence:
4 b) and to his offering: 5) But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (KJV) v-29a) The secret things belong unto the LORD our God:......

Many times when people are lazy or shallow they lean heavily on the first part of this verse and claim that things are unclear. Most of those times people use this verse to actually hide behind because a text somewhere else is offensive to them or else exposes another error in their man-made theology. It is a convenient verse to run to cover for, as a cloak of false humility and appearance of mystery when the information they are trying to suppress is often times blatantly woven or revealed throughout the Scripture as a whole.

Read the rest of the sentence:
29b) but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Acts 2:39 (KJV) 39a) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off,........

I have seen some preachers use this to say that God promises salvation to all without exception and that God is desiring the salvation of all without exception saying that God promises it to all. God is not a wimp who tries to save people and fails. He is NOT frustrated. His grace is irresistible as the Spirit of God works in the elect the same power that it took to raise Christ from the dead is the same power God uses to work in His people in regeneration and conversion (Eph 1:19-23). This is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17). This promise is only to those who the Lord calls by His gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Read the read of the sentence:
39b) even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

There are many more examples in the Bible that folks twist or sweep under the carpet. We must not take things out of context to mold a system that tastes better than the sweet honey of God's word. He is Truth. Submit to His way.

Trend, or Consensus Theology?

Scott Price

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever" Hebrews 13:8

The doctrine of the cross of Christ, a message that contains an automatic offense within it, is not a trendy message. It is not a widely accepted record of truth that many would seek to meditate upon, let alone promote and defend. In the vast majority of "evangelical" churches the message is seldom mentioned and when it is it is perverted in most cases. The original, true message of Christ crucified is unchanging just like Christ Himself. This attribute of both the character of Christ as God-Man and His gospel is just one area that bolsters our assurance and brings a flood of joy to our minds.

The way for an ever-evolving false gospel to continue is to dress up the same old lie in new clothes. There are many trends in theology, many issues that do not amount to much. These trends and issues are a distraction from Christ and His gospel. Of course this is the very purpose. They do make for a good means for false prophets to increase their cash flow on book sales though. This is the bad theology and doctrines contained in the false gospel that form the most widely accepted message of the masses or sort of a "mob rules" mentality. It is a so-called "truth" that is considered relative and not absolute and unchanging.

Some of the members of the larger churches or even others from the outside looking in at them have said of a particular church, "How can 10,000 people be wrong?". They would do well to heed the words of our Savior who said, "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." That verse was speaking of even the few who are being saved, the same few who enter in at the strait (compressed or narrow) gate. This is the remnant who over the generations end up totaling a number that no man can number who will surround the throne of the unchanging Lamb of God to worship at His feet. It will be no hobby or trend, but will be the desire of his or her heart for eternity.

Friends, the gospel is not a message of consensus, but rather a message that we all are wrong about by nature until God's grace turns our world on its head to see His Son, by His work, being the only way of acceptance before God. It is a message that drives and molds us, not us molding it. We obey it not it obeying us. We submit to it, not it submitting to us. It is the glorious essence heart of the gospel that stops all boasting in the sinner and brings honor to Christ as Lord. "But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you" Romans 6:17

The Truth is More Important Than We Are

Scott Price

The truth is eternal! Since it is eternal we could easily spend our entire lives dedicated to the truth. If this is the case it goes without saying that this little article is not an exhaustive explanation of truth or what should be done with it. When I say "truth" I refer to both the Christ Himself (spelled with a capital T in truth) and the message of the gospel, which is the record of both His blessed Person and glorious work. Christ cannot be separated from His gospel. The gospel is even called "the gospel of Christ" in the Scripture. This gospel is called "the doctrine of Christ" in II John 9. So, what I am also getting at is Christ cannot be separated from His doctrine, which describes Him. This doctrine, coupled with the fact that Christ Himself is the Word of God, simply stated: Christ is the ultimate authority is expressing in all forms of communication He chooses, that He is who He says He is. In the wisdom of God, Christ has always been the One designated to speak for God in all forms sovereignly chosen by God.

The truth of God in Christ, the gospel, is older than us. We as mere sinful creatures are just a speck in time, much less in eternity. Collectively, all together, at our best, we are vanity (Psalm 39:5). We do not contribute to the formation or creation of truth. It did not originate with any of us. Man does not or even has had individually or collectively the wisdom to think up any truth contained in God's gospel. We cannot add to or improve the truth. This truth has been passed to His present people from the Prophets, to the Apostles, and now to us. They received the truth from Christ, who is Truth. Is our preaching and teaching better than the Apostles? Can we improve on their doctrine, which is recorded in the inspired word of God? We better not! It would be different or in other words it would be new. The truth is old and unchanging. Anything new in the arena of truth is not the truth, but rather is a lie!

We owe allegiance to truth and the God of all truth. The truth is more important than we are. We are to conform ourselves to the truth otherwise we lie. We are to arrange our lives and prioritize them in reference to the truth so as to live for and serve the truth. We are NOT to change the truth, stretch the truth, bend the truth, twist the truth, embellish the truth, take from or add to the truth, hide the truth, ignore the truth, make the truth unclear or undefined, make lite of the truth, or take credit for the truth. BUT, on the other hand we ARE TO desire the truth, seek the truth, submit to the truth, obey the truth, study the truth, promote the truth, defend the truth, proclaim the truth, explain the truth, and we will do these things if we love the truth.

If we can remember these principles, which are only derived from the word of God and operate on them, I believe it would help us to be humble, think properly, and honor the truth of the only, exclusive God of all truth. Remember truth of this short sentence: THE TRUTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WE ARE. Do you believe that? My prayer is that you know, believe, obey, and love the truth.