Thursday, December 07, 2006

Remains of the Apostle Paul May Have Been Found!

What an exciting day for archaeology if it is true! I almost wonder if the sarcophagus will contain any manuscripts of Paul's writings! That would depend upon the environment underneath the basilica, because papyrus cannot survive very long in a damp environment. Anyway, I figured it was worth posting about!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Courtship Controversy
Part III
"Biblical Dating"

I promise I will get to my critique of the courtship movements' attempts to find scripture to support their idea that kissing and holding hands outside of marriage is wrong. However, I today I was informed of a new article by Scott Croft entitled "Biblical Dating." I would like to critique this article, because Mr. Croft is now using confusing language calling his position dating, and hence, many people might be led to think that he is actually promoting a "dating" position when he is not.

First of all, I think that Mr. Croft is confusing people by using the term “Biblical Dating.” What he means by “Biblical Dating” is really nothing more than a brand of courtship. I think that, if the words have been defined this way, it is confusing to then turn around and try to use them in a way that is not natural. Imagine if I say that I am a Christian, but I deny that Jesus even existed, am a naturalistic pantheist, and believe that the Bible contains many errors. Obviously, one would simply be confusing people if I called myself a Christian, and held to those beliefs. I don’t think it would help matters if, when challenged as to whether or not I am a Christian, I then say, as Mr. Croft similarly says in his response to his critics “In fact, I'm not much concerned with what you call the position we're describing, as long as we believe things that are true.” Such a comment misses the whole point, as these terms have come to have a specific meaning in our culture. As far as the general usage of terms, I want to make people aware that this is not an article about dating, as the term has come to be known. It is courtship through and through. I just ask that Mr. Croft to be honest about his presuppositions.

I think Mr. Croft misses the point when he argues that we cannot just say that the Bible doesn’t mention dating or courtship. Mr. Croft has not considered the idea that, perhaps, the Bible supports neither, and hence, simply regulates what people do in both dating and courtship. Interestingly enough, when Mr. Croft defines “Biblical dating,” he states the following:

That begins (maybe) with the man approaching and going through the woman's father or family;
that is conducted under the authority of the woman's father or family or church; and
that always has marriage (or at least a determination regarding marriage to a specific person) as its direct goal.

Notice how, in another article Mr. Croft wrote, he defines courtship as:

Let's begin by defining courtship. Courtship ordinarily begins when a single man approaches a single woman by going through the woman's father, and then conducts his relationship with the woman under the authority of her father, family, or church, whichever is most appropriate. Courtship always has marriage as its direct goal.

Of course, now Mr. Croft is calling this position “Biblical dating.” Again, when Mr. Croft goes on to define dating in that same article, he says:

What then is dating? Dating, a more modern approach, begins when either the man or the woman initiates a more- than-friends relationship with the other, and then they conduct that relationship outside of any oversight or authority. Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal.

Asside from the strawman that says that “dating may or may not have marriage as its goal,” and “they conduct the relationship outside of any oversight or authority,” notice that Mr. Croft has no problems defining the terms here as “courtship” and “dating” respectively. I think this will cause a whole lot of confusion, and it really hides where Mr. Croft is coming from.

Of course, when we get into the scripture passages, this is where I believe courtship is the weakest. The First text Mr. Croft brings up is:

I Thessalonians 4:1-8 (do not wrong or defraud one another in relationships — by implying a relationship or commitment by your words or conduct that does not actually exist)

Of course, the first problem is that the context has absolutely nothing to do with relationships, but with sin in regards to carnal, sexual relations. In fact, the Greek term porneia is clearly used in verse 3. Other terms such as ktao [to control] [v.1], pathos [passion] [v.5], and epithumia [lust] [v.5] also suggest that we are speaking here about sinning in ones carnal sexual relations. In fact, the text of verse 6 even says that the context has not changed by using the phrase “in the matter.” Hence, it is a total eisegetical assertion to read into this text some idea of relationships, when the text has absolutely, positively nothing to do with that, and defines the context as sinning with regards to sexual intercourse.

The next verse he brings up is:

Song of Solomon 2:7 ("do not awaken love before it pleases" — i.e. before the proper time, meaning marriage)

Of course, this is again, a misuse of the passage. “Awakening love before it pleases” has nothing whatsoever to do with “proper time.” There are plenty of Hebrew words and phrases to choose from Solomon had wanted to convey this meaning. The Hebrew phrase “bə+‛ēt+pronominal suffix” could be used [c.f. with Leviticus 26:4, Psalm 104:27, 145:15, Ecclesiastes 3:11, and Proverbs 15:23], and Solomon uses a word closely resembling that meaning in Ecclesiastes 3:1 [zəmān]. The reality is that the Hebrew verb həpaş has nothing whatsoever to do with time. Love is being spoken of here anthropomorphically, and it is saying that love is not to be stirred until it [love] desires. I think the best interpretation is to say that one cannot make to people fall in love. That is, others cannot arouse love in us, unless we truly desire to love that person.

Interestingly enough, the ASV, KJV, NASB, NASB update, and Brenton’s translation of the Greek Septuagint all translate the phrase “Do not awaken my love until it pleases.” This is because the article can function as a possessive pronoun [The Basics of Biblical Hebrew §5.11.4; Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax §13.5.1e]. The reason why these translations take this interpretation is because the entirety of the Song of Songs is about the love of these two people. Hence, it is rather awkward to say that, at these places [2:7, 3:5 and 8:4], the love which is being talked about is the love of the daughters of Jerusalem. This would strongly support my contention of the idea that love is not something that any human being can arouse in another person.

In the other passages Mr. Croft brings up, he simply engages in question begging. Here is what he says:

I Corinthians 6:9-7:19 (command to be pure, seriousness of sexual sin and instructions regarding marriage)
Proverbs 6:20-7:27 (warning to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships)
James 1:13-15 (temptation is from Satan and to be taken very seriously)
Romans 13:8-14 (love others, work for their soul's good; don't look to please self)
Romans 14:1-15:7 (favor others, not self ... value what's good to their souls)
I Timothy 5:1-2 (treat single women as sisters in Christ, with absolute purity)
Titus 2:1-8 (young men and women should focus on self-control/godliness)
John 14:15 (if you love Christ, you will obey His commands — read: above your own desires — and live biblically)

Of course, Mr. Croft has not proven that “modern dating” [i.e., just plain ol’ dating] is impure, does not take sexual sins or the commands of marriage seriously, does not avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships, doesn’t take temptation seriously, doesn’t love others, doesn’t work for their soul’s good, is selfish, doesn’t favor others, doesn’t treat single women with absolute purity, doesn’t focus on self-control, obey Christ commands, and live Biblically. In other words, if he is wrong about dating not doing these things, then all of these passages are totally irrelevant to the issue. He bears the burden of proof for these things, and yet he just assumes them. If he is wrong about dating doing these things, then these passages are totally irrelevant.
Mr. Croft writes:

Now, the biblical support for the modern approach to dating ... (insert crickets, tumbleweeds, person whistling here).... That was it. There isn't any. The very idea of extended romantic or sexual involvement outside of marriage doesn't even appear in Scripture unless it is described as illicit (sinful).

Of course, as I mentioned before, the Bible doesn’t say anything about dating or courtship. It regulates the behavior in each system, so that there are boundaries in which people can grow closer to each other, and closer to Christ. As far as Biblical support for the “modern concept of dating” [again, just plain ol’ dating], it is rooted in the idea that we are to love one another in Christ, bear one another’s burdens, and so forth. Obviously, if this is someone you want to marry, you should want to do that to the highest degree. Also, Mr. Croft engages in ambiguous language, as “sexual involvement” could be taken in two ways. First, it could be taken as “sexual intercourse,” and second, it could be taken as just simple kissing, cuddling, holding hands, etc. If Mr. Croft means the latter, then he bears the burden of proof, not only to prove that this is sin, but also to prove that “romantic involvement” is sin.
Mr. Croft writes:

Furthermore, it doesn't even appear in any society, western or otherwise, in any systematic way until the 20th century! While the principles supporting biblical dating have their beginnings with the very structure of the family, modern dating has its origins with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It is brand new, and yet, seemingly, it is all we know.

First of all, you will find dating principles long before the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. This is an early 20th century phenomenon. However, Mr. Croft’s position of courtship is not based in the Bible, but many of the principles are very similar to Gnosticism which had a strong influence on Christian theology around the time that courtship came about. However, leaving that aside for a second, does the fact that something came late mean that it is necessarily wrong? Granville Sharp published his work on the “article noun kai noun” construction in Greek in the 19th century. Of course, those of us who defend the deity of Christ are greatly indebted to his work, as it shows that Jesus was called God in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. Does that mean that we throw out Granville Sharp’s work, and say it was just a reaction against the theological liberalism of his time? In fact, there are beliefs that have been held far longer that courtship that Mr. Croft would reject outright. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, for instance, can be found in the fourth century AD. Yet, I am sure that, Mr. Croft as a Protestant, would reject that teaching!

Now, what about the connections between courtship and Gnosticism? One is in their view of purity. Courtship teaches a concept called “direction of purity,” which teaches that physical bodies can actually cause you to sin. That is, if you kiss, cuddle, or hold hands, this can lead to sin. This is something Paul emphatically denies when he writes:

Colossians 2:20-23 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

The whole letter of Colossians is written against proto-Gnosticism. The Gnostics had the idea that the physical matter was evil, and the immaterial world was good. Hence, they would avoid touching many things because of this, and their desire was to escape the physical realm, and hence, be free of all sin. Paul specifically says that this kind of behavior, that is, not touching things which God has not forbidden you to touch, will have the appearance of wisdom [as courtship certainly does], but that it is of no value against fleshly indulgence. In essence, by the courtship advocate thinking that he can avoid sexual sin by not kissing, holding hands, etc., he is in essence going right back to a form of Gnosticism which states that purity comes by avoidance of material objects!

James clears this up when he writes:

James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

The reason people do that which is evil is not because they were kissing, and they just couldn’t avoid it. There are already evil desires in them that desire to rebel against God. The touching has nothing whatsoever to do with it. We cannot blame kissing, and hence avoid it when the problem is with us ourselves. The only way sexual sin is to be avoided is by a change in heart, not a change in procedure.

Next, Mr. Croft goes through several statements, most of which are mere caricatures of the dating position. Here is an example of what I mean:

Modern dating philosophy assumes that there will be several intimate romantic relationships in a person's life before marriage. In fact, it advocates "playing the field" in order to determine "what one wants" in a mate. Biblical dating has as its goal to be emotionally and physically intimate with only one member of the opposite sex ... your spouse.

The first portion is a mere caricature of our position. We do not assume that there will be “several.” In fact, we would say that what is best is that a person finds the person they are going to marry early. We would say that every relationship must be worked out until it is impossible to work it out any longer. Secondly, Mr. Croft must first of all define what he means by “physically intimate,” [which is why calling this position “dating” makes it so confusing], and if he means kissing, holding hands, etc. he most show that this is forbidden in the Bible.

The next misrepresentation is found here:

Modern dating tends to be egalitarian (no differences between men and women in spiritual or emotional "wiring" or God-given roles). Biblical dating tends to be complimentarian (God has created men and women differently and has ordained each of these spiritual equals to play different and valuable roles in the church and in the family).

Which is, of course, another strawman. No one has ever said that.

He continues:

Modern dating tends to assume that you need to get to know a person more deeply than anyone else in the world to figure out whether you should be with him or her. The biblical approach suggests that real commitment to the other person should precede such a high level of intimacy.

Which, of course, clouds the issue, as Mr. Croft must defend the idea that the only kind of “real” commitment that exists is marital commitment. If there are other kinds of authentic commitments, then it is obvious that the commitment Mr. Croft needs is right there. Of course, he does not bother to defend the idea that the only “real commitment” is marriage, and ends up, again, assuming something he has yet to prove.

Modern dating tends to assume that a good relationship will "meet all my needs and desires," and a bad one won't — it's essentially a self-centered approach. Biblical dating approaches relationships from a completely different perspective — one of ministry and service and bringing glory to God.

Again, another strawman has been erected. I have met some pretty selfish courtship advocates, and the reality is that I have had to dodge many projectiles being thrown my way. Does that mean that courtship is inherently selfish? In fact, it seems odd that I just said in the last paragraph that people should do everything they can to make a relationship work. How is that in any way selfish?

Modern Dating assumes that what I do and who I date as an adult is entirely up to me and is private (my family or the church has no formal or practical authority). Biblical dating assumes a context of spiritual accountability, as is true in every other area of the Christian life.

Which, of course, is another strawman. I really have to wonder how many books by dating authors Mr. Croft has read. In fact, I would like to challenge him to get out Jeremy Clarke’s work, Cloud and Townsend’s work, or any work by a Christian author on dating, and show that they say that one must assume there are going to be several relationships before marriage, tell us to be egalitarian, be selfish wanting your needs met first, and avoid all authority. I have honestly never read any of that in any dating work. I would ask that Courtship advocates please stop these caricatures of our position!

Mr. Croft continues:

Modern dating tends to assume that there will be a high level of emotional involvement in a dating relationship, and some level of physical involvement as well. Biblical dating assumes NO physical intimacy, and more limited emotional intimacy outside of marriage.

The reason why I reject courtship is because I believe it is a challenge to the sufficiency and ultimate authority of scripture. Mr. Croft himself admits here that there is more “limited emotional intimacy.” As I pointed out in my review of one of his previous articles, this is where the departure from scripture, and hence the arbitrariness begins. The next question we have to ask is how one knows what is “limited emotional intimacy,” and what is too high a level of emotional intimacy. The Bible simply does not address this, and hence, whatever the answer, it is going to be totally arbitrary. This is what happens when the sufficiency of scripture is abandoned for a system that is then forced upon the text of scripture to make it appear that it is biblical. You end up being totally arbitrary. In fact, this is the other element of courtship that has Gnostic roots. Mr. Croft writes the following:

The Bible speaks to every area of our faith and life at some level. Some things it talks about explicitly, like salvation, or sanctification, or marriage, or elders. The Bible guides us in some areas by broader, more general principles and ideas we can build on as we strive to live the Christian life in practical ways. In either case, no area of life falls totally outside of the guidance and authority of god's word.

I would say that Mr. Croft’s position ends up undermining [although unintentionally] the sufficiency of scripture. Keep in mind that he is later going to talk about the fact that our viewpoint is “sinful,” and “illicit,” and here he states that his basis for saying that is just general principles! What ever happened to the perspicuity of scripture? Apparently, the Bible defines some sin clearly, and other sins are defined on the basis of a mere principles which then have to be applied. Of course, now we have to ask how and when those principles are going to be applied, and that gets us right back to the arbitrariness that I was referring to before. If there are general principles, then those principles must be applied, and hence, we need someone [namely, courtship advocates] to tell us how we are to apply them. Unless the scriptures state clearly and explicitly what is sin and what is not sin, this becomes nothing more than the same kind of attack on the perspicuity of scripture [though unintentional] waged by Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. I would argue that the scriptures are so clear that we do not need “general principles.” The scriptures define the limits of human behavior, and hence, if one cannot show that kissing, “emotional intimacy,” and holding hands are forbidden in scripture, then they are guilty of adding their commands to God’s word just like Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are guilty of adding their traditions to God’s word. Interestingly enough, this principle is first found, not in Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, but from Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that they had some secret knowledge that one needed in order to understand the scriptures.

Most people do not realize how pious pagans were. Many rules were made up, and wisdom was sought after regularly. In fact, much of the problem of paganism is that they had the outward appearance of wisdom, but did not truly know the truth. I can only pray that courtship advocates will not fall into that trap.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Courtship Controversy
Part II
Is Intimacy Inappropriate Before Marriage?

I will be reviewing another Boundless article found here. This is actually a section from a larger book called Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. This article addresses what courtship advocates believe is the heart of their position. Joshua Harris always responds this way when asked what the central thesis of his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye is. The article is by an attorney named Scott Croft who wrote and teaches a Dating-Courtship core seminar for Capital Hill Baptist Church where he is also an elder.

Mr. Croft begins his article by stating that there are many opinions on both dating and courtship, and that he takes the courtship route as outlined by Joshua Harris. Mr. Croft begins by giving his definition of Courtship:

Let's begin by defining courtship. Courtship ordinarily begins when a single man approaches a single woman by going through the woman's father, and then conducts his relationship with the woman under the authority of her father, family, or church, whichever is most appropriate. Courtship always has marriage as its direct goal.

Of course, we are going to see that there are a whole lot of things that Mr. Croft is not telling us in this definition that will become more apparent as we go through the article. However, where he falls down badly is when he tries to give a definition of dating:

What then is dating? Dating, a more modern approach, begins when either the man or the woman initiates a more- than-friends relationship with the other, and then they conduct that relationship outside of any oversight or authority. Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal.

Mr. Croft does not site any sources. He does not tell us which authors define dating in this way. In fact, I have been very suprised at how much dating advocates admonish young people to seek help from their parents and friends when they date. So, Mr. Croft is simply mistaken in his definition of dating, as he is erecting a strawman from the beginning. In the last sentence, when he says "Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal," he appears to be admitting that there is a form of dating that believes that you should only date people you are interested in marrying, and you should pursue that relationship all the way to marriage. I think what he means to say is that, for dating to be dating, it is not necessary to have marriage as its goal. However, we could also say that, since many courtship advocates are willing to throw me into the pits of hell because I am a dating advocate, "Courtship may not have the belief that we should treat Christians with opposing viewpoints on this issue as brothers in Christ as one of its essential beliefs." Does that somehow cast any doubt on Courtship? The problem is that just because someone does something wrong while executing a system does not mean that there is something inherintly wrong with the system.

Mr. Croft continues:

Modern dating, on the other hand, need not have marriage as a goal at all. Dating can be recreational. Not only is "dating for fun" acceptable, it is assumed that "practice" and learning by "trial and error" are necessary, even advisable, before finding the person that is just right for you. The fact that individuals will be emotionally and probably physically intimate with many people before settling down with the "right person" is just part of the deal. Yet where is the biblical support for such an approach to marriage? There is none. How many examples of "recreational dating" do we see among God's people in the Bible? Zero. The category of premarital intimacy does not exist, other than in the context of grievous sexual sin.

We note, again, the strawman argument that Mr. Croft has brought up. As far as "trial and error," that would depend upon what Mr. Croft means. First of all, we do need to recognize that there are many people today who jump from person to person and they do not care about the people they date. A person who is a true biblical dating advocate would never say that this is acceptible. You do everything you can to end up married to the person you are dating. However, if for some reason you are forced to break up, then there is not Biblical mandate against this, and I would challange Mr. Croft to find one.

Of course, Mr. Croft also needs to explain what he means when he uses the phrase "physically intimate." If he means that when people date, they are going to hold each other, kiss, and hold hands, then he needs to say so. However, the ambiguity here means that someone could easily read it to mean that dating advocates believe premarital sexual relations are acceptible, which we do not.

As far as the Biblical support, there is no support for dating or courtship. Both came along much later and much further down the line, and hence, neither have Biblical support. However, Mr. Croft is wrong to say that premarital [spiritual] intimacy does not exist in the Bible. What do we do with Jesus and the women at the cross? Why is it that Jesus is spending his last breath with these four women? At the time in your life when the people with whom you are the most intimate are supposed to be at your side, we find four women, one of whom was Jesus' mother, and the other three were women to whom Jesus was not married. Hence, if Mr. Croft wants to argue that premarital [spiritual] intimacy is sexual sin, he can give up the sinlessness of Christ.

Worse than that, the Bible does not speak of premarital [spiritual] intimacy as sexual sin. The idea that this is somehow sexual sin is something that courtship advocates have to read into the text rather than drawing it from the text.

The motive for dating or courting is marriage. The practical advice I give the singles at our church is, if you cannot happily see yourself as a married man (or woman) in less than one year, then you are not ready to date.

Wow, talk about something with absolutely, positively, no Biblical support. Notice, this position is starting to seem really arbitrary. Perhaps someone could say that one year is too long. Perhaps someone could say that you must be able to see yourself happily married 6 months? One Month? One week? One day? This is totally arbitrary, and it is left up to Mr. Croft to decide what is the appropriate time that makes dating have "a goal of marriage." I would say that the time does not matter. What matters is if you are growing both in your relationship to God, and in your relationship to the other person.

The second major difference between biblical courtship and modern dating is the mind-set couples have when interacting with one another. What do I mean by that? Modern dating is essentially a selfish endeavor. I do not mean maliciously selfish, as in "I'm going to try to hurt you for my benefit." I mean an oblivious self-centeredness that treats the whole process as ultimately about me. After all, what is the main question everyone asks about dating, falling in love, and getting married? "How do I know if I've found the one?" What is the unspoken ending to that question? "For me." Will this person make me happy? Will this relationship meet my needs? How does she look? What is the chemistry like? Have I done as well as I can do?

Here, Mr. Croft states that it is inherently wrong to say you have found the one, because there is an assumed "for me." However, is that true? What if we finish the statement "How do I know if I've found the one God has been pleased in his soverignty to give me for marriage?" Where is the selfishness in that statement? Far from being selfish, it depends upon the lordship of Christ to bring the woman into your life that he wants you to marry.

Second, Mr. Croft, assumes that if you desire something for yourself, then you are selfish. We are, as Christians, to desire purity. Does that make us selfish? We are to desire to know Christ more and more intimately. Does that somehow make us selfish? I might desire a new Tin Whistle, and tickets to go see the Cottars in concert. Does that make me selfish? I might also desire to have the complete works of B.B. Warfield. Does that make me selfish? It is simply an error to define wanting a list of things for yourself as selfish.

Now, indeed, if those were the only things you looked for in a relationship, then you would indeed be selfish. If what you want becomes ultimate, then you have, indeed, become selfish. However, we need to make a distinction between this, and the idea of desiring something in a relationship. We need to remember that, while we may have wants in a relationship, those wants are secondary to meeting the other persons needs, and loving them with all of our heart. If we cannot have the things Mr. Croft mentioned on his list, then we need to be willing to sacrifice them for the other person. In fact, God himself said that the attraction between man and woman was "very good" [Genesis 2:23 compared with 1:31]. So if Mr. Croft is saying that it is selfish to desire a woman to whom we are attracted, then he is saying that it is selfish to desire something God has called "very good."

Selfishness is not what drives a biblical marriage, and therefore should not be what drives a biblical courtship. Biblical courtship recognizes the general call to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3, NIV). It also recognizes the specific call that Ephesians 5:25 gives men in marriage, where our main role is sacrificial service. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, giving himself up for her. That means loving sacrificially every day. Biblical courtship means that a man does not look for a laundry list of characteristics that comprise his fantasy woman so that his every desire can be fulfilled, but he looks for a godly woman as Scripture defines her — a woman he can love and, yes, be attracted to, but a woman whom he can serve and love as a godly husband.

As we have seen, Mr. Croft does not know what selfishness is, so, he is simply repeating the previous error. However, can Mr. Croft show any Biblical passage that says that it is wrong to have a list of characteristics that would define someone ideal for you? The problem is if you look for the fulfillment of your desires as primary. That is, if you look at this list as a sine quon non of a person you want to marry. I think that, in the last sentence, Mr. Croft is at least admitting that having a list of desires, and desiring a woman to fill those desires is not wrong so long as it is not the primary thing for which you are looking.

In other words, modern dating asks, "How can I find the one for me?" while biblical courtship asks, "How can I be the one for her?"

Again, we have to wonder where Mr. Croft is getting his definition of dating. Modern dating says "how can I find the one God has ordained that I should marry, and how can I be the one for her." I again must assert that Mr. Croft does not know what dating is, and is simply erecting a strawman at this point.

Third, and most practically, modern dating and biblical courtship are different in their methods. And this is where the rubber really meets the road. In modern dating, intimacy precedes commitment. In biblical courtship, commitment precedes intimacy.

Now, I am going to have to define terms here. For the courtship advocate, when they speak of commitment, they mean marital commitment. What they are saying is that you cannot have intimacy without a marital commitment.

This, of course, would make nonsense out of our language. For instance, there would be something toutological in the statement "this is a commited marriage," and there would be something inherently incoherent about the statement "this is a commited boyfriend."

Also, for the courtship advocate, intimacy cannot occur outside of marriage. However, we must be careful to define terms. The Bible calls upon us to love the brothren, and hence, the must be intimacy before marriage. Courtship has a way of dealing with this, though. They make a distinction between appropriate and inappropriate intimacy. However, the astute student of philosophy will realize that this still has not answered the question as now we need to ask how we distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate intimacy. The Bible doesn't speak in this fashion. So, how are we going to define what is appropriate, and what is not appropriate intimacy? This becomes totally arbitrary. In essence the courtship advocate must engage in a long version of circular reasoning, begging the question. This comes out quite clearly in Mr. Croft's next statement:

According to the current school of thought, the best way to figure out whether you want to marry a particular person is to act as if you are married and see if you like it. Spend large amounts of time alone together. Become each other's primary emotional confidantes. Share your deepest secrets and desires. Get to know that person better than anyone else in your life. Grow your physical intimacy and intensity on the same track as your emotional intimacy. What you do and say together is private and is no one else's business, and since the relationship is private, you need not submit to anyone else's authority or be accountable. And if this pseudo-marriage works for both of you, then get married. But if one or both of you do not like how it is going, go ahead and break up even if it means going through something like an emotional and probably physical divorce.

Several things need to be said in response. First, as far as "growing" in "physical" intimacy, it is hard to know what Mr. Croft is saying. When it comes to the physical actions a man is not able to do outside of marriage, the Bible is perfectly clear, and no dating advocate denies that. Second, the idea that we do not submit to authority is a complete and total misrepresentation, and Mr. Croft needs to either cite a Christian author who says that, or remove it from his article.

Second, we also need to point out the inherent circularity of his position. Spending large amounts of time together, becoming each other's primary emotional confidants, sharing your deepest, darkest secrets, and desires, and getting to know that person better than anyone else in your life are all assumed to be inherently marital in character. However, Mr. Croft has not proven this. You won't find it in the Bible, and there is certainly no logical reason to assume that these are uniquely marital.

Such is the process of finding "the one," and this can happen with several different people before one finally marries. In the self-centered world of secular dating, we want as much information as possible to ensure that the right decision is being made. And if we can enjoy a little physical or emotional comfort along the way, great.
Clearly, this is not the biblical picture. The process just described is hurtful to the woman that the man purports to care about, not to mention to himself. And it clearly violates the command of
1 Thessalonians 4:6 not to wrong or defraud our sisters in Christ by implying a marriage-level commitment where one does not exist. It will have a damaging effect on the man's marriage and hers, whether they marry each other or not.

Again, we see total circularity on the part of courtship advocate who is despirately trying to support his position from scripture. He does not show how finding out deep information about someone is sinful before marriage. He does not show how it is hurtful, nor can he. He does not show how it has a damaging effect on each other's marriage, nor can he. Sin is an issue of the heart, not an issue of process, unless one can show that the process is wrong from the Bible.

When Mr. Croft tries to do that, he gives us a perfect example of how incredibly disconnected Courtship is from any meaningful exegesis of the Biblical text. Notice what he says:

And it clearly violates the command of 1 Thessalonians 4:6 not to wrong or defraud our sisters in Christ by implying a marriage-level commitment where one does not exist.

Let me post the entirety of this passage starting back at verse 1 and ending at verse 7:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

We see then how utterly disconnected from the text any idea of "marriage level commitment." Aside from the question begging in saying that there is a commitment that is uniquely "marriage level," we also must point out that the text is talking about unlawful sexual intercourse. The specific Greek word porneia is used in verse 3, and "lustful passion" is specifically mentioned in verse 5. Not only that, but the specific defrauding that is forbidden in this passage has to do with "the matter [unlawful sexual intercourse]," and not commitment. From the opening of his article, Mr. Croft might want to argue that this falls under the category of sexual sin as described in this passage. If that is the case, then he bears the burden of proof to show that the Greek term porneia, and the other words used in this passage mean that when there is not a Greek lexicon on God's blue earth that gives that as a definition for any of these words. This is simply a desparate attempt to find some support for a position that is just not Biblical.

Not only that, but if there is nothing uniquely "marriage level" about the things Mr. Croft has listed, then his whole argument falls apart. Mr. Croft has merely assumed that these are "marriage level commitments," but has not proven so. In that case, even if the Bible does say defrauding someone is wrong [which it does in many places], Mr. Croft must first demonstrate from the Bible that these things are inherently "marriage level."

In Biblical relationship, commitment precedes intimacy. Within this model, the man should follow the admonition in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 to treat all young women to whom he is not married as sisters, with absolute purity. The man should show leadership and willingness to bear the risk of rejection by defining the nature and the pace of the relationship. He should do this before spending significant time alone with her in order to avoid hurting or confusing her.

Of course, Mr. Croft has not shown this from the Bible, he just keeps begging the question. Notice that, again, Mr. Croft just assumes that there is something inherently impure about intimacy before marriage. Where does he prove that?

He should also seek to ensure that a significant amount of time is spent with other couples or friends rather than alone. The topics, manner, and frequency of conversations should be characterized by the desire to become acquainted with each other more deeply, but not in a way that defrauds each other. There should be no physical intimacy outside the context of marriage, and the couple should seek accountability for the spiritual health and progress of the relationship, as well as for their physical and emotional intimacy.

Several assumptions here. Again, we see the unproven assertion that premarital intimacy somehow "defrauds" people, simply his own pontification. As far as physical intimacy, I would point out that it only gets worse when you try to defend the idea that one should not kiss or hold hands before marriage. The Bible nowhere teaches this, and all one needs to do is open up D.A. Carson's book on Exegetical Fallacies, and you will see many exegetical fallicies from those who have tried to find Biblical support. I will deal with this in my next article.

Within this model, both parties should seek to find out, before God, whether they should be married, and whether they can service and honor God better together than apart. The man should take care not to treat any woman like his wife who is not his wife. Of course he must get to know his courting partner well enough to make a decision on marriage. However, prior to the decision to marry, he should always engage with her emotionally in a way he would be happy for other men to engage with her.

Again, Mr. Croft has just given us more of his ipse dixit. He cannot defend the idea that being emotionally intimate with a woman is inherently maritial. He also tacks on the idea that we should not engage someone emotionally in a way he would not be happy for other men to engage her. Again, he simply fails to prove this.

As I said, the courtship argument is, at this point, nothing but one long circular argument. Once you say that there is such a thing as appropriate and inappropriate intimacy, you then have to have a statement of ethics so we know what is appropriate, and what is inappropriate intimacy. Since the scriptures do not address the issue, courtship advocates have to make it up themselves, and they are left with one long circular argument...It is just a longer version of a circular argument. They have to go through more steps before they end up begging the question, but beg the question they do. Greg Bahnsen once said that John Frame told him that if you make the circle big enough, you can deceive yourself into thinking it isn't a circle. But it is, and it is just as fallacious as the simple:

Emotional intimacy is wrong before marriage.
Therefore, emotional intimacy is wrong before marriage.

We do need to be careful of making hasty generalizations. Just because we have shown that it is not inherently wrong or marital to have emotional intimacy does not mean it is always right to have emotional intimacy. For instance, there is nothing wrong with eating a candy bar...unless that is the 57th candy bar you have eaten today. For instance, the Bible explicitly forbids this kind of close relationship with an unbeliever. It also makes it a rule that, if you are married, you are to have a special love for your spouse. However, in each instance, notice how we are finding Biblical support for what we say. However, to limit this kind of close spiritual relationship between a man and a woman is to add a command to the text of scripture that God has not given.

Keep in mind, I have not even began to critique Mr. Croft's position yet. I have simply pointed out how he cannot even state his own position without engaging in very serious question begging.

Here are some very serious problems with Mr. Crofts position. He first of all takes the idea that marriage must be so unique, that anything having the characteristics of marriage before marriage is inherently sinful. By that logic, courtship would be wrong since marriage is a relationship just as courtship is a relationship. Therefore, since courtship has something marriage does, therefore, courtship is wrong.

Remember what I said in my first article. My thesis is that courtship is inherently idolatrious. Not only do we see in Mr. Croft's position the attempt to make marriage totally unique is a strong parallel to the uniqueness of God himself, but we must also notice that the morality of marriage is defining the morality for everyone else. Marriage has become definitional of morality. Again, we see that courtship is making a strong parallel to God himself in marriage.

All of these things and more find us right back at another criticism I must make, and that is that courtship cannot defend its position from scripture. Anyone reading the text of scripture, and expecially the text Mr. Croft brings up without ever reading any books on this topic would never come to this conclusion. Courtship is extremely artificial from an exegetical perspective, and we will show that in our next article.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Courtship Controversy
Part I
Is it Sinful to Delay Marriage?

I would like to begin a series of articles examining the claims of modern courtship advocates. I would like to begin by reviewing an article by Candice Watters found here. While it is not directly related to courtship, it gives us a glimpse into how courtship advocates think.

The controversy to which this article refers is a controversy over the delay of marriage. How there could be a controversy over such a subject, most Christians would be left scratching their heads. There is certainly no scriptural evidence that it is wrong to delay marriage. However, Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has been pushing this idea, and many people will just take Dr. Mohler's word for it because he has done such a good job in so many other areas.

However, if we are going to be Christians we are going to have to be critically minded, and that includes being critically minded of even folks like Albert Mohler. It always seems like, when it comes to this issue, the lexicons go shut, the Greek and Hebrew grammar books get thrown in the trash, and the philosophy and logic textbooks are sold back to the college bookstore. One has to wonder why that is.

Let me first of all say that there are some arguments against the idea that delaying marriage is sin that are really bad. For instance, the idea that you will not have as much "fun" if you remain single, and the idea that all men are jerks. These are really bad, and indeed, selfish reasons to not get married. First of all, yes, marriage is work. However, there are also many benifits as well as responsibilities that to write it off without weighing each one is simply rediculious. Second, the idea that all men are jerks comes from the feminists who think that all men are trying to destroy them. So, when Mrs. Watters is refuting these people, I'm cheering her on!

However, I think the single strongest argument against her viewpoint has not been given a fair hearing. It is one of the most precious truths in all of scripture, namely, that Christ is sufficient center of our lives. Mrs. Watters states the position in this way:

The top complaint from singles that want to get married but haven't yet had the opportunity has a spiritual bent. It goes something like this: The single years are more virtuous than the married ones, characterized by more faithful, focused and selfless living for the Kingdom. Christ is the sum total of what fulfills us -- to suggest that marriage can, or should fulfill us, is to devalue the role of Christ in our lives. Simply put: all we need is Jesus.

It is the idea that Christ is sufficient, and hence, if marriage never happens, we can lean on him and his sufficiency. This presents a crutial problem. In fact, it is funny that Joshua Harris, who is another courtship advocate, originally would have agreed with me on this position. He has an entire chapter in his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye in which he tries to argue that singleness is a gift from God. It is really odd that courtship advocates are now saying that singleness is something that is sinful if prolonged!

Mrs. Watters begins her critique of this position by saying:

The response to this could be an article in itself, because this belief seems to be an emerging motto of Christian singles everywhere. There's just one problem: Adam had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden and still God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18) Everything else about Eden was said to be "good" by God. Everything, that is, except a man. Alone.

Of course, the problem is that Mrs. Watters has moved from "not good" to "insufficient." Her argument is hanging on the idea that this is an essential inadequacy. However, is that what the text is saying? Absolutely not! Here is the text:

Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone [ləbadô] I will make him a helper suitable for him [‛ēzer kənegdô]." [NASB]

Here, context plays a big role. The Hebrew term ləbadô can either refer to social solitude or it can be used of referential solitude.

The first example of this is used in 1 Kings 11:29:

1 Kings 11:29 It came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field.

An example of the second usage would be in Psalm 51:4:

Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.

So, what is it being used as here? Well, the problem is that the English here is sorta hiding the Hebrew.

For all of those trained in Hebrew, the text here is using a qal infinitive construct of hāyâ functioning nominally [See Waltke-O'Connor An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax §36.2.1] Hence, "being" is therefore the subject of the sentence.

The bottom line for all of those who do not know Hebrew is that the translation of the text is much more literally rendered: "The being of the man alone is not good" [Waltke-O'Connor §36.2.1]. Hence, what is being equated here is the "not good" and "the man's being alone." Now, here is an interesting observation. He cannot be singled out referentially because there are certainly many other things with being at this time-plants, birds, trees, etc. So, what does the phrase then mean?

The answer then comes in the next phrase "I will make him a helper suitable for him." The Hebrew phrase ‛ēzer kənegdô is not one of the easiest phrases to translate in the Bible. However, most translations render it just as the NASB has. The term ‛ēzer has the idea both of assistance, but also of giving intervening aide such as military aide [see the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament]. However, one thing is for certain, the term is social in character..

Hence, we see an important point that Mrs. Watters has missed. That is that the deficiency of man's lonliness is social in nature not essential in nature. O. Palmer Robertson, Professor of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary, summarizes this very point by saying:

This lack in the man os originally created did not refer to any deficiency in his essence which made him something less than being fully in God's image. Instead it referred to an incompleteness with respect to his function as a social creature [The Genesis of Sex pgs. 127-128].

Now, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether God will always take away our social deficiencies. The answer is, of course, no. For instance, a guy who has a crush on a girl may be shy, but God is not going to come down and take away the social deficiency of shyness just so he will go up and talk to that girl. What if God wanted us to learn to trust him more, and hence, ordains that we don't get married until we are in our thirties?

Furthermore, from a New Testament perspective, this would create a problem as to the gift of singleness [1 Corithians 7:7]. Mrs. Watters has an answer for that, though:

People who claim that Jesus is enough typically quote 1 Corinthians 7. In it Paul says, "It is good for a man not to marry" and "an unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit." Paul is describing celibate service -- a calling God places on a select few men and women. Though Paul does say, "I wish that all men were as I am," he goes on to say, "But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that." The gift Paul is describing is celibacy -- a gift that equips a person to not "burn with passion" while enabling them to fully expend themselves in God's service without the distractions of spouse and children.
How do you know if you have this gift? Dr. Albert Mohler , president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of Focus' board of directors suggests asking yourself, "can I go the rest of my life without sex, without the companionship of marriage, without having children and without being bitter about it?" If you answer yes, it's likely you do.

The problem is that Albert Mohler is not an exegete. He is a theologian, and as such, is probably not aware of the extensive research that has been done on this passage. Let us look at the text more carefully:

1 Corinthians 7:7-9 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner [ho men houtōs], and another in that [ho de houtōs]. 8 But I say to the unmarried [agamois] and to widows [chērais] that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Verse 7 is very clear as Paul mentions his state and then says that, on the other hand, one has his gift in one way and the other in that using a construction. This is not in dispute. However, what I wish to dispute is the nature of that gift, and the idea that how we know if we have this gift or not is whether or not we are burning with passion. What Dr. Mohler has missed in verse 8 is that there is a masculine followed by a feminine gender. If Dr. Mohler's interpretation is correct, we have a real odd structure in the text as virgins are the only ones addressed more than once. Worse than that, is that Dr. Mohler's interpretation would make Paul a Pharisee who was trained as a scribe, and yet still a virgin. This is utter historical nonsense. Given these two facts, he would have been expected to marry as the Jews did not believe in a gift of celebacy, and only allowed celebacy as an extremely rare occurance [See Gregory Lockwood's commentary on 1 Corinthians].

So, how do we reconcile this problem? I want to suggest as Craig Blomberg [in his commentary on 1 Corinthians], Gregory Lockwood, and others have, that the text of verse 8 should actually be translated "But I say to the widowers and to widows..." In defense of this translation, we might point out that the masculine counterpart to chērais [chērois] is falling out of usage during the first century. In fact, when I did a search on Thesaurus Linguae Gracae I could find no clear instances of chēros in the first century AD. This is why we can say, at very least, that the term is falling out of usage. And, on top of that, agamos is also used to refer to someone who was once married in verse 11.

Hence, Paul is not talking about a gift of celebacy, but a gift of singleness because Paul had been married [and apparently widowered] before the writing of 1 Corinthians. What Paul is saying is that those who have lost their spouse will know whether or not they have the gift of singleness if they still desire the passion they had when they were married. The text about "burning with passion," in other words, is not addressing single people per se, but a specific group of single people, widows and widowers, which also makes it impossible to argue that the gift in verse 7 is celebacy.

Now, we have responded to Mrs. Watter's attempts to find scriptural support for her belief that delaying marriage is a sin. However, if we stopped here without making one critical observation, we would not be able to understand the nature of the thinking of courtship advocates. Do you remember what she said in the beginning of her article?:

Christ is the sum total of what fulfills us -- to suggest that marriage can, or should fulfill us, is to devalue the role of Christ in our lives. Simply put: all we need is Jesus.
The response to this could be an article in itself, because this belief seems to be an emerging motto of Christian singles everywhere. There's just one problem: Adam had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden and still God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.

One wonders why Mrs. Watters rejects the sufficiency of Christ in such a cavalier manner. Mountains of texts can be brought to defend this belief:

Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.

Where is marriage in this request of David?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

"In all your ways acknowledge the Lord" or "acknowledge marriage?"

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Notice, Paul's contentment comes, not in marriage, but in the fact that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength! What is the reason then that courtship advocates have rejected this so viciously recently? I think it is because courtship advocates have an idolatrious view of marriage. Notice, Christ is not sufficient in our lives, we must have marriage. Therefore, marriage is treated as an idol, something that is sought thinking that your are incomplete and insufficient without it. We will show later how courtship advocates view marriage as the foundation for the uniting of Christians, and how courtship advocates even view morality as being founded in marriage.

What is really sad is that, because of this, Mrs. Watters does not even fully understand the argument against her position, because she writes:

For everyone else, the call is to marriage. To marry doesn't diminish the need for Christ. In fact, it increases it: The reason Christian marriage requires a vow is that no mere promise is enough to hold two mortals together for life. We're dependent on Christ to help us fulfill it.

The problem is that no one ever disputed that. No one ever claimed that getting married diminishes the need for Christ, and makes him insufficient. What we are claiming is that anyone who claims that delaying marrage is a sin, or who gets married because they think delaying marriage is a sin is, indeed, saying that Christ is insufficient. Why is that? Because, while marriage is not wrong, marriage is also not needed in order for a person to live their lives in obedience to Christ. The only thing needed for that is the grace of God, and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. To say that something else, such as marriage, is needed to complete someone, or to keep someone pure is pure idolatry. Marriage should be something that is complementary to a person who is already sufficiently trusting in Christ, not something which is added on so that he can now be sufficient or so that he can now be obedient.

Marriage is a wonderful institution ordained by God, and it saddens me that it is under such attack today. However, if we are going to defend it, we have to make sure that we do not end up making it an idol. We must remember that, as wonderful an institution as it is, it is still the creation, not the creator. Hence, we must guard against saying that we need marriage in order to be pure, and that marriage somehow makes us incomplete and insufficient.

In conclusion then, while I admire the desire to uphold marriage, and to consider it something singles should be thinking about, I think the position to which courtship advocates have raised marriage is idolatrious. I do want to make it clear that I think that they are still my brothers and sisters in Christ. However, I think they are hurting their defense of marriage, and most importantly, robbing singles of the joy of resting in the sufficiency of Christ, whether they marry or do not marry.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pluto, The Planets, Thomas Kuhn, and Apologetics

Cathy, a Biology major at Concordia University Wisconsin, and one of the smartest people I know just recently told me something interesting. Apparently, over the summer, scientists said that Pluto was not a planet. For years since the discovery of Pluto, most people have considered it a planet, however, according to Cathy, this was the first time they sat down and actually discussed what a planet was and what it was not.

Now, I as a layman am not convinced by the arguments against Pluto being a planet. However, that is not what I wish to address here. I do want to say that I find it really odd that people for many hundreds of years used the term "planet," but it didn't have any meaning. I think that what is really going on here is a shift in paradigms as described by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Now, I need to be right upfront and say that I think Thomas Kuhn is wrong in his relativistic conclusions, but I think he has accurately described how scientific theories come and go.

Of course, we are already seeing what has happened in the scientific community as there have been fits of outrage from people who still hold the prevailing view that Pluto is indeed a planet, and it has been preceived as a scientific advancement by the other side to say that it is not. I am sure the next thing will be that those who still believe that Pluto is a planet will be marginalized, and will be considered unscientific.

Aside from dissuading people from thinking that science is a modern religion that should be followed, it should also point out that science divorced from a belief in God is something totally irrational. Without a creator who created the universe so that it has uniformity, laws of logic, and morality, science cannot exist. That is why I appriciate all of my Christian scientist friends, as they are doing science by looking to their creator.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rosie O'Donnell Crazies
If you have high blood pressure, don't listen to it. However, here is the link to a webpage where you will find a video of Rosie O'Donnell claiming that "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam."
I think that, while her statements are certainly uncalled for, and an apology to the Christian community is in order, I understand what she is saying. To the those on the left, who are trying to make secular humanism the religion of the state with the ahistorical definition of "separation of church and state, radical Islam and radical Christianity are just as threatening to the secular humanistic worldview. Radical Islam is not a relativistic, secular humanistic system, and will push their viewpoints with blood and violence against that system. In other words, if radical Islam has control of things, there goes secular humanism.
However, the same thing can be said about "radical Christianity." The word of God is so powerful that the irrational, illogical beliefs of secular humanism cannot stand to the word of God. Hence, we try to not even allow it to be debated by redefining things such as "separation of church and state," so we never have to defend our own religious commitment to secular humanism.
So, yes, both radical Christianity and radical Islam are distructive to the secular humanistic worldview. The only difference is that radical Islam destroys the secular humanistic worldview with the sword, while the radical Christianity destroys the secular humanistic worldview with the sword of the spirit.
However, it is easy to see that she was using it to smear Christians, and hence, I would say she owes the Christian community an apology. I know she is not going to give it, but that is liberalism for you.

We had a really sad church service on Sunday. A young, 26 year old man who had only been married for two years died of cancer. It was very somber, and it was all I could do to keep from crying myself, even though I didn't know him.

I think that, as hard as it may seem, we should think of death as something joyful, as well as sad. We mourn for those loved ones who have gone to be with the savior, but we should also think that they have gone to be with Christ.

It is hard as a human being, but we need to be satisfied with death at any time if that is what God gives us. I think of the people at school I spend time with like Cathy, Jenna, and Katie, as well as my father, sister, mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and realize that if God wants to take me, I will have to give up seeing them again until they die. Yet, that is what our ultimate desire is to be-that is, to be with Christ, and honor him forever. Consider David and his psalm:

Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.

Sometimes we become so selfish when we think that God cannot take us whenever he wants to do so. We should be ready to go to be with God at any time and willing to leave all of the things we love in this world, for the greater state of being perfected, praising God for all eternity in heaven. This should really hit home to people our age as we are not too much younger than this man. What do we ultimately seek? God's perfect will that might involve our death any second? Or our own selfish desires. There is everything right about loving people and caring about them. However, when we place our desire and love for another human being above our desire and love for Christ, we have just commited the sin of idolatry. If God tells you that you will die the night before you were planning to go out with that one special girl, then you need to be ready to go and be with Christ. If you haven't seen friends and family for years, and you are going to visit them, and God comes to take you away, you should desire that the most.

We all have to die someday. What it will be like on that day, I don't know. When I see my friends and loved ones before passing for the last time into eternity, I can imagine it will be sad in many ways. However, what a blessed thing the death of a Christian is! We go to be with our Lord and our savior to sing his praises for all eternity! I pray that we as Christians will not be willing to trade that desire in our hearts for anything this world has to offer.

My grandmother informed me that she was thinking of converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. It is really interesting that someone who is reformed like myself would have a grandmother considering Orthodoxy.

Anyway, I went to one of their Bible studies with her, and was given some literature to read. It is a book called Becoming Orthodox by Peter E. Gillquist. I must admit, I had only read one other book on Eastern Orthodoxy, that being Timothy Ware's book The Orthodox Church.

I have to say that I think Ware's book is far better. While Ware is Orthodox there is at least some semblance of scholarship and thought from him. I honestly cannot say the same for Gillquist's book. Here is an example of a really sophamoric mistake in exegesis on the part of Mr. Gillquist.

Gillquist writes with regards to liturgy:

When I do specific Bible study or prepare for sermons, I use the New King James Version (NKJV) as my text. But times like these late night sessions, I'll usually select another version for a fresh look at a familiar passage. On this night, I chose the New American Bible (NAB), a somewhat chatty and engaging translation done under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church.

I was moving through Acts and got to chapter 13, which opens with the Church in Antioch when they were sending out Paul and Narnabas. And then I came to verse two: "On one occasion, while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them." (NAB). Hold it! I thought to myself. Everybody knows the text says that they were "ministering to the Lord and fasting." There can't be liturgy as early as Acts 13.

So I grabbed my Greek New Testament from the bookshelf next to my desk. Right there, in Acts 13:2, for all to see: leitourgounton was the Greek word. You don't even need to know Greek to figure out the meaning! There is liturgy in Acts 13. It was the Protestants who had altered the translation. [Becoming Orthodox pgs. 75-76]

Now, I certainly would not say that you are not a Christian if you do not hold to the Reformed structure of services, but this is obviously not what is meant here. My first question is "where does the text say that this is the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox church?" For all we know, what is meant by liturgy here is the reformed regulative principle. That is something that Mr. Gillquist does not prove.

Second, Mr. Gillquist is committing a fundamental exegetical fallacy known as the Root Fallacy. He says that "You don't even need to know Greek to figure out the meaning." Why? The unstated assumption that is being made is that one can determine the meaning of a term in terms of its etymology into English. That is fundamentally false. For instance, we get our English word "polemic" from the Greek term polemos. Does that necessarily mean that "polemos" means "polemos" means "polemic?" Absolutely not. "Polemos" means "war." Our English word "pomp" comes from the Greek word "pempo." However, does that mean that "pempo" means "pomp?" Absolutely not! It means "to send."

However, Mr. Gillquist has also fallen into the fallacy of semantic anachronism. He assumes that the meaning of terms in todays time in a totally different language is going to be constant. That is simply untrue. For instance, the Greek term martrus originally simply meant "a witness in a court room." After the time of Christ, it meant "a witness for the gospel," and in the early church, it meant "one who gave their lives for their faith." Words change in their meaning, and it is sophomoric at very least to say that 2000 years later in an entirely different language we have the same word with the same meaning.

That certainly may be the case that the etymologically related words that are far apart in time have the same meaning [Our English verb "to pause" comes from the Greek verb "pauo," and both mean "to pause"], but to just make the assumption that they automatically mean the same thing is sophomoric.

Worse than that, he says this is the translation of the NAB. If you have Bibleworks, you happen to have a copy of the NAB. Here is how the NAB translates Acts 13:2:

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." [NAB]

Where is liturgy in this passage? I don't know if Mr. Gillquist had drowsy eyes or what, but even the NAB doesn't give that translation.

If the rest of the book is this bad, I almost wonder how anyone would ever convert to Orthodoxy because of this.

Friday, June 16, 2006

My Unedited E-Mail to Dr. Ergun Caner after his Sermon from the Thomas Road Baptist Church Why I am Predestined Not to be a Calvinist

Dear Dr. Caner,

Just recently I heard a sermon that you preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church. I would first of all like to say that I am not a Baptist, I am a Presbyterian, but I have many friends who are Baptists, and many friends who are Calvinistic Baptists. Now, I have not written to try to change your mind about Calvinism. Only God can do that. However, I think that, seeing as how we are both men who value academics highly, I would like to express my concerns for what I believe is an unfair presentation of Calvinism. I think that in light of our status as Christians, this topic needs to be done with sound biblical exegesis, sound logic, and careful examination of the views in question as well as gentleness and respect. I have written to express my concern in these areas.

First of all, can you provide any documentation that would substantiate the claim that a five point Calvinist is a “hyper-Calvinist?” Hyper-Calvinism has a specific meaning historically referring to one who denies that God has ordained the ends as well as the means. What is worse, is I know from your dialogue with James White that he has already corrected you on this. So, I think if you are going to continue to use that word for five point Calvinism, it is only fair to ask you, from scholar to scholar, to substantiate that claim or at very least give a defense as to why you are departing from the normal historic usage of terms.

Second, you really did a lot of begging the question. For instance, you said that you were not a Calvinist or an Arminian, but a Baptist. The problem is that this begs the question as to whether or not these are mutually exclusive categories. This is something merely asserted and not proven by you. The issue of Calvinism is something that has been debated by Baptists from the beginning. This grossly begs the question as not only could people from the history of the Baptist movement be quoted as Calvinists [Spurgeon and Boice to name two big ones], but there are several modern day Baptists that are presidents of seminaries such as Albert Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and [although he is independent] John MacArthur. The only way out of this dilemma is to say that they are not all really Baptists. However, that is still begging the question as you have to explain then what about them, apart from their belief in Calvinism, makes them non Baptists. If you cannot answer, then you have again begged the question as to whether these are mutually exclusive categories.

In other words, to say that you are not an Arminian or a Calvinist but a Baptist is like me saying that I am not a conservative Christian or a liberal Christian, I am a Presbyterian. Unless, you can show that these are mutually exclusive categories, you have begged the question.

The next example of begging the question is when you are talking about reprobation. You say that the possibility is “a lie from the pit of hell” that there is such a thing as reprobation. Well, all you have done is engage in name calling and begging of the question in the highest degree. What if I turn around and say “the idea of free will is a lie from the pit of hell.” Now we are at a stand off. Dr. Caner, I would say that this is not addressing an issue head on; this is running far from it. You also called Calvinism an infection [without explaining what you meant or arguing for it]. You have not proven anything with these statements. All you have done is begged the question and engaged in name calling.

In your quotation of John Gill, you said that he “redefined” all to mean “all kinds of men.” You said that was a lie. Again, you have given no argumentation whatsoever. I hope to show below that you would not even deal with the fact that if we were to take your meaning of “all men” and apply it across the board, it would make nonsense out of the Bible.

Another fallacy I am concerned about is half truths. For instance, you mentioned a preacher who believes it is a sin to give “invitations.” Why didn’t you mention that within the teaching of the regulative principle of worship, the controversy is over altar calls not inviting people to believe? The issue is whether we should call people forward to “accept Christ” since we do not believe salvation happens in that manner. Yes Calvinism plays an important role in that discussion, but there is also the idea that we are to worship God in the way he commanded us, and since he has not commanded us to do this, it is wrong to do it. So, there are really two other things which need to be said here. First, it is the invitation to come forward and “accept Christ,” within the context of worship is what is disputed and that the dispute also has to do with the regulative principle.

The next set of problems are exegetical in nature. You have stated that we must “dance around” the term “all.” Yet you know as well as I do since I am a Biblical languages major that quoting a passage out of context and just assuming its meaning is just as much dancing around a passage as is misinterpreting it. Why? Because then the true meaning of the text may be hidden away because the verses around it were not quoted nor were they accurately examined in their proper context.

A good example of this is Romans 9. I happen to have detailed information about this passage as I am doing my final paper in New Testament Exegesis on this passage. However, you only quoted the following part of the passage:

Romans 9:13-14 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!

However, you did not even quote the verses before it:

Romans 9:11-13 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." 13 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."

Notice that Paul says two things of significance here. That this idea of Jacob being loved and Esau being hated was before they were born or had done anything good or evil and it was not because of works. Therefore, it could have had nothing to do with “Esau did.” Not only that, but you also forgot to quote the next verse:

Romans 9:14-16 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Now, here is the big question. If you are right and the hatred of Esau is because of what Esau did, Paul has a ready made answer for his explanation. He can just say there is no injustice with God because God was merely reacting to what Esau did. However, he doesn’t say that. He said that it is his nature as God to have mercy on whomever he desires, and in verse 18 he adds that he also has the ability to harden whomever he desires. Notice how radically different Paul’s conclusion is from your conclusion. In verse 16 he says it does not depend upon human willing or effort but upon God who has mercy. Yet, in what you presented, it would be dependent upon what Esau did.

With regards to 2 Peter 3:9, you even misquoted the passage. Here is how you quoted it:

He is willing that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Now, here is what the text actually says. The objection completely disappears when it is quoted accurately:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

What a difference context makes. Now the “any” of which he does not want anyone to perish and the “all” of which he wants to come to repentance is the people to whom he was writing, that is, the “you.” One needs only to turn to 1 Peter 1:1 to find out who that is:

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,

In 1 Timothy 2:4 you just simply assumed that the phrase “all men” means all humanity without even giving any commentary. You even said John Gill was lying when he did not do that. I want to first of all point out that you turn the Bible into absolute chaos if you would apply this assumption across the board:

Acts 22:15 'For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.

Did Paul encounter every single man woman and child on the face of the planet, even the ones who lived before he was born?

2 Corinthians 3:2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;

So, did all of the people in the kingdoms of Africa and the people who lived long before Paul was born also know of the Church at Corinth?

Philippians 4:5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

Does that mean that we have to go to every man woman and child on the planet, take a time machine and go to every individual in the past, and future, and show them our gentle spirit? If that is the case, you had best get started. Here the text clearly refers to all kinds and classes of men. This is going to become an important definition as many of the cases you allege in the texts you post support universal redemption by this phrase can actually be contextually demonstrated to have the meaning "all classes of men."

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

So is Paul saying that he is going to present every man complete in Christ? Isn't that universalism?

1 Thessalonians 2:15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men

So, is Paul really saying that they are hostile to people who they have never met, hostile to people who lived before them and who will be born after they die?

Now to the text at hand. First of all, you mentioned that “all men” is used back in 1 Timothy 2:1. Let us see if your definition fits there:

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,

Now, let me ask you, does that mean you are to pray for Clyde who lived in the twelfth century? Does that mean you are to pray for people whom you will never know because they will live after you? Does this mean that you have to find a list for every person in the world and be offering prayers for every single person on the planet? Obviously such is ridiculous. In fact, there is strong parallelism here between verses one and two in the Greek as both the phrase “on behalf of” in verse 1 and “for” in verse 2 both use huper. Hence, there is some parallelism going on here. Hence, he is talking about a meaning similar to the meaning in Philippians 4:5. What is worse is that you quote the following passage as confirmation of your position, but it actually supports Gill’s position:

1 Timothy 2:7-8 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Notice that Paul here mentions another class of men, namely, the gentiles. Notice that he also says that this refers to men in every place. This is further confirmation that we are talking about all kinds of men as in Philippians 4:5.

So, I have to ask, why is it that your view assumes a certain meaning of “all men,” makes nonsense out of verse 1, misses the fact that all men has more than one meaning in the NT and ignores the rest of the text which clearly gives away what he is talking about by the phrase.

Also, you mentioned Romans 2:15 as establishing an age of accountability. Actually, the context is saying nothing of the sort. Notice the entirety of the context:

Romans 2:14-18 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. 17 But if you bear the name "Jew " and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law,

Paul is here proving that Jew and gentile are alike under sin [3:9]. What he is saying is that the gentile who does not have the law is condemned by his continence, and the Jew who does have the law is condemned because he knows the ordinances and still does not follow them. However, this says nothing about whether infants are still under condemnation for original sin. In fact, note what Paul says just a few verses later:

Romans 3:12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one."

Hence, I would say that even infants are included in this.

Along these same lines you also said, “God does not judge based on original sin. Original sin tells us our direction, but God will judge based on consciousness.” I really find it odd that you say you are not an Arminian, and yet you are rehashing the arguments of the Semi-Pelagians and the Arminians that say that original sin does not make a person guilty before God, that only ones “consciousness” does. But I suppose there is no incoherence with you rehashing those arguments. Anyway one wonders how one would get around the idea that original sin causes death:

Romans 5:16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

This text says that the judgment for Adam’s sin was condemnation. It says nothing about consciousness.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

Notice, the text says that all in Adam die, not, all those in consciousness die.

Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

How can the rest be children of wrath if some are infants and do not have continence?

Also, to say that original sin has nothing to do with God’s judgment means that it also has no function in theology. Within systematic theology our standing before God therefore has nothing to do with the fall. You see, once original sin’s severity is lowered to the level of a pointer it looses its entire function. That is why I, and even a Lutheran who heard your sermon said, this view functions the same way as a system that denies original sin.

I was also quite disturbed with the misrepresentations of Calvinism you present. Again, I have to wonder if you have read Hodge, Berkhoff, Reymond, or any Reformed Baptist systematic theologies such as Wayne Grudem. For instance, you said that since we say that everything is predestines, we have no problems saying God is the author of sin. However, the Westminster confession of faith says just the opposite:

WCF 3:1 God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:(1) yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,(2) nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.(3)

There is a distinction in Reformed theology between first and second causes. God decrees whatever comes to pass, and it is actualized in the author of sin which is second causal in nature. Whether you agree or disagree with that, why say that we believe something when Westminster contradicts it flat out?

Second, you also assumed we can know who the elect are. No Calvinist would every say we could know whether or not the person written in these people’s Bibles was reprobate or not. This is also why we can pray for people because God has ordained the ends [human salvation] as well as the means [our prayers]. God accomplishes his sovereign will through the means of his followers and the work he has created them unto [Ephesians 2:10].
The next misrepresentation is that you say that a Calvinist does not believe God is all loving if he reprobates people. This is simply a rehashing of the problem of evil. Your argument seems to go like this.

1. God is all loving.
2. God is sovereign over everything.
3. People will go to hell.

The problem is that this is only part of the truth. We need to only add one premise and the problem is gone:

4. God has a morally sufficient reason for the condemnation of the wicked in hell.

Now, there is no paradox at all. This completely escapes the problem altogether. Even an atheist philosopher such as Michael Martin recognizes that at this point the problem of evil is solved.
However, I don’t know if you have realized that the problem can be turned back on you:

1. God has exhaustive knowledge of future events.
2. Therefore, God knows what each man will do.
3. God is not obligated to create any human.
4. God is all loving.
5. There are people that are going to be in hell.

The problem is that now the incoherence comes in the question “If God knows when he creates person x that person x will reject him and end up in hell, then why does he then create person x?”

It is also a misrepresentation of Calvinism to say that we cannot evangelize. We can evangelize because of two things: Our human ignorance of who the elect are and the fact that God has both ordained the salvation of people and the means for their salvation. Consider a thunderstorm. We all believe that God is in control of nature. However, God uses the means of updrafts, warm fronts, cold fronts, evaporation, and condensation in order to cause a thunderstorm. In the same way, God has ordained that one of his means of bringing his yet unsaved elect people to salvation is through the proclamation of the word. The exciting thing about evangelism is that you never know if God may use what you say to regenerate one of his people. Since I do not know if the person I am witnessing to is one of God’s elect, I can preach the gospel with the exciting possibility that God will use my preaching to convert that person to Christ. You did not address this and instead decided to beat down a straw man.

I also wonder if you have considered the implications that a universal atonement would have on evangelism. In fact, most Calvinists I am aware of argue that I denial of particular atonement shatters evangelism. That is that particular redemption is the precondition for evangelism. Is not evangelism proclaiming the good news from God about personal salvation? Here is how Dr. Greg Bahnsen argued this very point:

First, it is the prerequisite for the proclaiming of the gospel. Notice the effect of the atonement:

Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Unless you would try to argue that Christ did not accomplish this mission, I think it would be fair to say that salvation was accomplished at the cross.

1 Timothy 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

Again, Christ saved when he came into the world.

Hebrews 10:10-14 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Notice, again, that the cross of Christ actually perfects those for whom it is made.

What does all of this mean? Well, it means that, since these verses say Christ actually saved those for whom he died, there would be no reason to proclaim the gospel, because even an unbeliever will be saved. If it is not necessary for people to become believers to be saved, then we can just forget about evangelism. However, the Bible teaches that only believers will be saved, and hence, particular redemption is the only thing that can make sense out of evangelism at this point.

Also, it is the prerequisite for proclaiming good news. Most Calvinists would maintain that universal atonement is bad news. This is because universal atonement states that Christ died for all men, but not all men will be saved. In other words, you do not bring a saving atonement. Faith then must become a basis for salvation rather than an instrument of salvation. The problem is that the Bible says man cannot do anything to believe. Notice what it says:

Genesis 8:21 And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

Jeremiah 13:23 "Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.

John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Romans 8:7-8 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

So, if man’s soul is evil from its youth, unable to change, not able to come to God, unable to submit to God, unable to please him, and cannot accept and understand the things of God, then you can there have to be some action on their part for them to be saved? According to these verses it is impossible for anyone to do it. Hence, when you say that there will be people in heaven from every tribe tongue people and nation, I just simply reply that this is impossible since on your view man must add some “free will” action. These texts say he cannot do it. Therefore, no one will be saved. That is really bad news.

Second if this is the case then you cannot bring news of salvation at all. The best you can bring is a hope or moral advice. If Christ will ultimately not accomplish his work of salvation when he said he came to seek and to save what his lost, then it might also be possible that he will not save believers either.

Also, it is the prerequisite for proclaiming personal salvation. You see, universal atonement depersonalizes salvation. If Christ went to the cross for everyone in general, then he went there for no one imparticular. This kind of an atonement would be no more personal then the giveaway coupons at the grocery store. It is not a gift that is marked for me, but for just anyone who decides to pick it up. How does this fit with a shepherd who calls his sheep by name?

How then can a person who believes Christ died for everyone proclaim the good news from God about personal salvation? I would like to submit that he cannot. However, what if I now went and said what you said:

So if you don’t want to preach and teach and reach, then you got a choice: take your little doctrine of universal atonement and find you a tree, and reach others who believe in universal atonement for your little doctrine. But if you ain’t willing to preach and teach and reach, I’m gonna tell you right now don’t come to any reformed church, because we will infect you with a gospel fervor, and a heart and a desire to see souls saved, so that the day we come around that throne you are gonna look around and see every color, every stripe, every tongue, every nation, every people, and I’m gonna be the one standin on top of my hands, standin on top of my feet, standing on a stump, and crying out, “He accomplished his work, and did not fail so as to leave it up to man. God elected us, and called us by name, and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Do you honestly think that even in that instance that kind of language is necessary? I mean, Greg Bahnsen actually made a case for the fact that a consistent belief in universal atonement makes evangelism impossible, and I still think those statements are inappropriate. It is nothing but unfair rhetoric without substance. I hope in the future you will use much more Christlike ways to deal with an issue. Remember what Paul said to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:24 -25 The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Do your words and the way you said them sound gentle and patient? By any meaningful definition of the words I would say no. Yes, this is a hot button issue. However, we are called as Christians keep our gentleness and patience even on these issues. In fact, people in my own church such as J.Gresham Machen, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Michael Butler, John Frame all came or come from my denomination and are notorious for there proclamation of the gospel as these men have even done it in debates with people like Gordon Stein, Michael Martin, Dan Barker, Edward Tabash and George Smith. You have to have a whole lot more than a gospel fervor and a desire to see hearts saved to challenge the folks on that list. You have to have a belief that God can save anyone he wants to, even the most hard hearted atheist. It is therefore really odd for someone to challenge people on that list when they do not have a gospel fervor.

Let me put what I have said altogether. In one thirty minute sermon you have engaged in linguistic revisionism, begged the question, engaged in name calling, engaged in half truths, and did not consider any contextual matters nor any Calvinist responses to the texts you brought up. That is what I am concerned about. I think it is great that you want to have discussions about this issue, but I pray that you will please not engage in these things using these methods. I do pray that one day you will embrace the doctrines of grace. I just hope that you will dialogue with your Calvinistic Baptist brethren in a way which glorifies Christ by using sound exegesis, crystal clear logic, careful examination of the views in question, gentleness, and respect.

God Bless,