Examining ancient hymns and prayers (1)

This line of posts will be somewhat different.  Normally I go on the attack towards Orthodoxy and such.  Orthodox Bridge recently posted a contrast between theosis and Reformed sanctification.  I have a detailed response to it but I will forego posting it because the author mentioned S. Wedgeworth and Derek Rishmway. Those two gentlemen are far more competent Calvin students than I am.  Secondly, when I don’t comment that site doesn’t really have many comments and gets less traffic.

Today I want to explore the ancient prayers of the church, particularly as they formed personal devotion.  My source is the Orthodox Study Bible (which as study bibles go is better than most, but with a few shortcomings).  I realize this isn’t the only source of Orthodox devotion, but it is the most accessible.

I think it is important to examine these ancient prayers because the content is richly Trinitarian and even in my tamed Americanized study bible, the language is dignified and noble.  Further, imbibing these prayers will provide the devotee with a manner of praying that avoids the tendency to end every prayer with “Lead, guide and direct us” “Lead guide and direct us.”  Etc.

And as I reviewed the OSB NT, I noticed that these prayers lack the appeals and going throughs of Mary.  With the exception of two lines in the benediction, a Protestant can say these prayers without changing anything.

Beginning

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you.

O heavenly King, O comforter, the Spirit of Truth who are in all places and fillest all things.  The treasury of good gifts and the giver of Life.  Come and abide in us, cleanse us from every Stain and save our souls, Amen.

The above is a rather ancient prayer and is worth incorporating into one’s spirituality.  This is only the beginning.

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Protecting Macarthurites from a bad inference

These are observations about claims Mac and Co. make.   They are not intended as a point-by-point analysis of Strange Fire.  That will come in due time, Lord willing.  My goal here is to protect John MacArthur’s admitted hero Martyn Lloyd-Jones from John Macarthur.

In chapters 3 and 4 JM relies on Edwards’ analysis of revival, and I think it is a good–if incomplete–analysis of any “spiritual” movement.

  1. Does the work exalt the true Christ?
  2. Does it oppose worldliness?
  3. Does it point people to the Scriptures?
  4. Does it elevate the truth?
  5. Does it produce love for God and others?

It is a good list.  However, I would say with the apostle Paul, “I would that you all prophesy.”  But back to the points above.  The logical danger with rhetorical questions is that if the opposition can bite the bullet and the position is logically unchanged, your entire argument, such that it is, evaporates.

Case study:  Wayne Grudem.

No one can accuse Wayne Grudem of not exalting Christ.  I don’t know him personally, though we did exchange friendly emails some months ago, but I highly doubt he is worldly.  Does he point people to the Scriptures?  Seriously?  As an inerrantist, I am certain Grudem can affirm 3 and 4.  5 is a given.

How would a Word-Faither do?  That’s a fair question, but if you lump Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms in the same camp with Copeland and Hinn, you are sinning against your brothers and violating the 9th commandment.  Only a party spirit can remain untouched by such a rebuke.

The Missing Case of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A search engine on Strange Fire lists only seven appearances of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

p.44 lists MLJ saying that the Spirit exalts Christ.  Presumably this is a slam against much of charismatic worship.  Fair enough.  (I do wonder if the Spirit wants us to worship like Dutch-American amillennialists).

p.261 has MLJ saying the office of prophet has ceased.  Okay, he said that.  He also said other things, and in any case I don’t think that exegesis stands up to Grudem’s scholarship.

p.117-118 say basically the same thing.

p.312 lists MLJ’s Christian Unity.

p.319 is the index.

p.281 is an endnote for Great Doctrines of the Bible.

And that’s it for MLJ.  So what’s the big deal?  Well, here is what Macarthur has to say about Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

He influenced countless preachers (myself included), and he stood steadfastly against the superficial, entertainment-oriented approach to preaching that seemed to dominate the evangelical world then as it does now. Lloyd-Jones still desperately needs to be heard today.

Again, you might ask, “What’s the big deal?  Anybody should say that about MLJ.” Macarthur elsewhere says,

There is a stream of sound teaching, sound doctrine, sound theology that runs all the way back to the apostles.  It runs through Athanasius and Augustine…and runs through the pathway of Charles Spurgeon, and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and it keeps running.

Well, here is the problem.  Macarthur does not allow (de facto) the distinction between continuationism (myself) and charismaticism (insert favorite bad guy).  He notes

Number seven, by asserting the gift of healing has continued to be present, the continuationist position affirms the same basic premise that undergirds the fraudulent ministry of charismatic faith healers.  If you say the gift of healing is still around, and you say it whimsically, there’s no evidence it’s around, either experimentally or biblically, but if you say it’s still around, then you have just validated healers.

Who would want to do that?  Are they not the lowest of the low?  Are they not the worst of the worst?  They don’t go to hospitals.  They prey on the most desperate, the most severely ill, the most hopeless, the most destitute, very often the poorest, telling them lies and getting rich.  Who would want to do anything to aid and abet them?

Said another way:

Premise 1: If continuationists assert “the miraculous,” then they validate faith healers.
Premise 2: They assert the miraculous.
(3)Conclusion: They validate faith healers (Modus Ponens)

Prem. (4): Faith healers are the lowest of the low (agreed)
Prem. (5): If anyone validates them, they, too are the lowest of the low [4, 1]

(6) If person A asserts the miraculous, then he, too, validates faith healers [2, 5]

Of course, I challenge premises 1 and 3.  Someone could still say, “Yeah, so.  You are the lowest of the low because you believe in the miraculous.”  Fair enough.  I will now lower the boom.

Lloyd-Jones states,

Those people who say that [baptism with the Holy Spirit] happens to everybody at regeneration seem to me not only to be denying the New Testament but to be definitely quenching the Spirit” (Joy Unspeakable, p. 141).

“If the apostles were incapable of being true witnesses without unusual power, who are we to claim that we can be witnesses without such power?” (The Sovereign Spirit, p. 46.)

I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say that all these gifts ended with the apostles or the Apostolic Era. I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then (Joy Unspeakable, p. 246.)

Was it only meant to be true of the early church? … The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! There is no such statement anywhere (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31-32.)

“To hold such a view,” he says, “is simply to quench the Spirit” (The Sovereign Spirit, p. 46)

Premise (7) Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserts the miraculous.

Now the Strange Fire Brigade faces a painful difficulty:  reject (1)–(6) or accept Premise (8)

(8) Martyn Lloyd-Jones validates faith-healers.  [6, 7 MP]

Conclusion

Someone could still respond, “Well, MLJ is not God. He isn’t right on everything.”  No he isn’t.  He is an amillennialist, for one.  But let’s go back to Macarthur’s claim: “anyone holding these views gives credence to faith healers and is the lowest of the low.”  He must apply that to MLJ.  The logic is impeccable (up to a point, anyway).

In analytic philosophy we call this a “defeater.”  It shows his position is either counter to the evidence or it cannot be held simultaneously with the evidence. Either his view of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is wrong and it has to be abandoned (as the evidence makes abundantly clear), or he must give the defeater to his claim that continuationists validate faith healers.

He will do neither.

His position collapses.

Implications for not celebrating Halloween

If celebrating Halloween is evil because of its connotations with pagan deities (i.e., demons), then I have to ask:

  1. Does that mean that demonic warfare exists today?

If it does, then what does that make of the claim that “the miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased?”  Surely we don’t want to say that the children and practitioners of Satan have more power than the children of the light?  I agree with the critic of Halloween:  we should not commune with evil.   But that begs the question: is evil really a danger today?  If it is, and we must say it is, then we need to rethink our views on warfare against the powers.

If it isn’t, then who cares?

A healthy plea to theonomists

Imagine a scenario.  You and the pastor disagree on one point.  What are your options?  Split the church and have a martyr-complex, obviously.  Attack him.

Or maybe not.

I am trying to let theonomists know that it’s okay to disagree with someone and let that disagreement be just that.  What does “acting like a theonomist” in the church actually mean?  No one has given a clear answer to that.   People say, “Accepting the Word of God.”  Yeah, that means nothing.   Quakers claim they do that.  I kept asking theonomists for clear, concrete details on what this actually looks like.  I haven’t gotten any.

As I’ve told theonomists,

Bahnsen was irenic. Bahnsen was a good churchman. Unlike another prominent Reconstructionist, Bahnsen didn’t sever himself from the church for 8 years and serve himself communion. That’s because Bahnsen knew that theonomy is theonomy *in* Christian ethics, not as. That means one can disagree on theonomy and the gospel, the Reformed, witness, and Confessionalism is not threatened. Bahnsen knew that.

Rich Christians Age of Hunger (Sider)

If there is one book that summarizes the cultural ethos and failed nerve of Christianity Today and InterVarsityPress, it would be Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  First, I will highlight some good points, then I will say a few really ugly remarks, then I will critique the book.

Some Good Points

He has a fairly decent take on the Sabbatical year (83ff).  I don’t think he realizes that his master, The United Nations, isn’t that concerned with biblical law.  Further, I like how he notes that Scripture “prescribes justice” (83; cf. Dt 15:9-10).  Sider even approaches (and at times affirms) the godly principle that “sinful persons and societies will always produce poor people” (83).  Amen, and amen.   I have to ask though, if Sider can name some societies in the 20th century that adopted his principles and if they were sinful and produced poor people.  One such society had four letters in its abbreviation.

Sider has some surprisingly astute comments on interest and he realizes that Christendom’s painful back-and-forth on interest wasn’t pretty and so we shouldn’t generalize (85).

He further notes that Marxists and Capitalists worship the same god: Economic forces (105).  Of course, Sider himself labours (pun) for world revolutionary forces, so he can’t be taken all that seriously.  Further, he rightly criticises the business model that has infected churches today (107).

He has an excellent section on asceticism (111ff) and its false ontology/anthropology.  He writes, “Christian asceticism has a long history, but Jesus’s life undermines its basic assumptions” (112).  Of course, a lot of the biblical examples Sider cites assume that one can legitimately spend one’s wealth on grain, alcohol, or feasts without feeling guilty by socialist agitators.

Ugly Remarks

David Chilton has correctly pointed out that this book is a guilt trip.  But that’s not why I am mad.  Religious people of various denominations have been trying to guilt trip me over silly stuff for years. I’m largely immune to it.  But when he projects “guilt-psychoses” onto godly, hard-working Christians who have made cuts in their lifestyles and to hear “they have earned hell-fire” because they didn’t meet Sider’s arbitrary “line of essentials.”  To quote Chris Rock,

Shut the f%$k up

Criticisms

Hidden assumptions

Sider makes routine comments like “And justice, as we have seen, means things like the Jubilee and sabbatical remission of debts” (115; statements like these are throughout the book). It raises the obvious question:  Who will enforce this?  Laws without sanctions are no different than PCA “recommendations.”

peacekeepers

Holier than God?

Sider has modified his tone from his first edition where he was adding to the gospel (yea, preaching another gospel).  Still, he makes comments like “It is sinful abomination for one part of the world’s Christians to grow richer year by year while our brothers and sisters in the third world suffer” (98).  This would be a true statement if a number of other conditions were met.  Are North American Christians causing other Christians to suffer?  If they are, Sider has given us no argument nor shown any evidence.  Further, would he have N.A. Christians be just as poor?  If so, then how could they help?  If they didn’t have any wealth, then how could Sider’s globalist masters take it from them?  He hasn’t thought these things through.

Vague Terminology

He notes that conservative pastors speak on “personal sins” but rarely on “structural sins” (119).  He does cite some texts trying to prove the existence of “structural sins,” but the texts mention sophisticated personal sins (ala Amos 2:6-7).  If there is such a category of structural sins–by which he seems to mean a certain way of society in which participation is sinful–they usually appear as a complex of personal sins in a social setting.  It’s hard to really talk about structural evils outside of presupposing Marx.

The institutional evils that Sider does criticize are in fact evil.  I just worry about using a Marxist term to categorize it.  But are the evils perversions of goods (private property) or are they embedded in the nature of things (private property, discipline use of scarce resources)?  Sider has elsewhere affirmed private property, so it isn’t clear exactly what he has to say here.

To be fair, Sider does define what he means by structural evils:  “Initial injustices, unless corrected, mushroom” (127).  This is actually insightful, but he never disentangles his rhetoric from Marxist terminology.  Marx saw society as inherently violent and could only progress by historical dialectic, which itself would probably be violent.

Plainly Misreads Texts

The most glaring misreading of texts is his appeal to the Jubilee principle (80ff).  While he correctly notes that the text says “all land should be returned to original owners,” and that “it was the poor person’s right to receive back his inheritance” (81).  While he doesn’t draw the conclusion, this is a brilliant argument against the evil and satanic practice of Federal inheritance taxes.

He does correctly note that Yahweh says “The Land is mine” (Lev. 25:23), but what principle should we draw from that?   Only the dominum can thus distribute the land.   This is the same dominion economics that Wyclif argued.  Well and good, but one suspects that Sider has another dominum in mind: The State.

I don’t know how he thinks his model will work.  He says “the specific provisions of the Jubilee year aren’t binding today” (85).  I agree with him, so how does he apply it?  Why is this law binding today but the ones about stoning sodomites and idolaters not?  He gives us no answer.

External Contradictions with Scripture

Sider’s most notorious point is the graduated tithe.  I just want to point out one Scriptural difficulty with it. The Bible tells us that a godly man leaves an inheritance for his seed (Prov. 13:22).  Yet, if Sider has his way it’s hard to see how this could happen.  There would be no inheritance.  It would all have been given away!

Internal Contradictions with Logic

Sider’s book is riddle with inconsistencies.  He notes (rightly) that “the right of each person to have means to earn his own way takes precedence over a purchaser’s property rights” (81).  Absolutely.  But when the state is interfering with regulations, how can he seriously claim the above?

Further, if Sider complains about world debt (and I don’t really disagree with him) yet he presupposes structures like the World Bank and the United Nations (which, ironically, are structural evils!), then his problem shouldn’t be with right-wing Christians but with his own statist overlords.

He complains about LDC (limited developing countries) “protein deficiency,” yet he ignores a concrete solution to the problem.  A country like India with such a deficiency has a lot of cattle.  Unfortunately, they worship the cows instead of eating them.  Idolatry and economic devastation are connected.  Sider doesn’t seem to see it.

Keynes or Smith?

Sider urges us not to make an idol of private property nor seek the advice of “that deist Adam Smith” (102).  In the next paragraph he praises the Keynesian revolution.  If we are going to make irrelevant comments about Adam Smith’s religious views, is now the time to mention that Keynes liked to molest little black Tunisian boys?

Fat Cat Corporations

I won’t address the sections on corporatism.   A lot has changed in 30 years (both good and bad) and neither Sider nor I am really competent to speak on these matters.  I would simply challenge him that his beloved World Bank is probably culpable in a lot of these international corporate schemes.

‘Merica

There is a lot of America-bashing in this book.  For all of America’s evils, real or supposed, I do suspect that if America were to disappear, millions more would die.

Our Reaction

Am I guilty?

Jesus asked, “Is your eye evil because mine is good?”  I refuse to let socialist agitators make me hate God’s blessings.   Still, per Sider’s recommendations, I really don’t eat all that much beef (for reasons other than guilt-trips), both of my cars were made in the last millennium (and breaking now, for what it’s worth), both churches I was a member of in the last ten years contributed to concrete, local charities that actually made a difference.

Sider’s Recommendations

Graduated tithe:  he realizes he can’t make this binding on Christians today, so I will ignore it.

Communal Living:  This is almost funny.  One should study the history of communal living in America.  Besides a nigh-100% failure rate, they more often than not end up being sex orgies.  In any case, the agrarian in me does gravitate towards simplicity, but not because of Sider’s guilt trips.

How should we live in response to Sider?  For one, who are these cozy, fat-cat, presumably white and conservative Christians that are so callous to the poor?  He doesn’t list any names.  Further, I am not aware of conservative churches that don’t give money to charities (who are better able to manage it than some bureaucrat in Washington).

The danger isn’t that my feelings are hurt because Sider shamelessly libeled his brothers in Christ.  No, he isn’t stupid.  He is against charitable giving.  Therefore, the only solution is the Government.  But even here we have a problem.   At least in theory, America’s government is democratic.  Those white males don’t elect socialists.  That’s no problem, though, for Sider has a stronger play:  The United Nations.

Sider is long on saying governments should adopt biblical principles (79, 144, 194) but I get the sneaky suspicion that this is merely suppressing fire for a globalist order.  He says America and Russia have biblical obligations to give their resources to poorer countries (194), yet he lists no bible verses proving these obligations.

He says this is not a call for a violent revolution (194).  Okay, how will you enforce it then?  What if I say no to your demands.  What are you going to do then?  At this point Sider has two options:  something like PCA recommendations or the point of a bayonet.

Because I love my country, I won’t take up arms against the Government (unless I am led by a godly lesser magistrate; then I would be on the front line).   I will fight to the death any bureaucrat from Brussels or Paris or London or wherever).

WELCOME-TO-AMERICA-UN-DEMOTIVATIONAL

 

 

The problems facing American Neo-Covenanting

There is much good in the Covenanter tradition, and this post will pain many (myself most of all).  But if they want an intellectual (Or even better, political) future then they need to own up to some challenges.  I honor and admire Richard Cameron and Alexander Peden (hey, they received extra-scriptural prophecy.  Anybody want to take up that one?).  I do not think, however, that the entire Covenanting tradition was able to hold the strings together.  And that’s not just my take on it. I think Moore argues the same thing (Our Covenant Heritage). These challenges are not simply my making up because people started slandering Christ’s elders in his church on Facebook (like Stonewall Jackson).  They point to deeper issues.

While the problems in the Covenanter tradition can easily point back to the Battle of Bothwell Bridge (cf Maurice Grant’s biographies of both Cameron and Cargill; excellent reads), I was alerted to some of the tensions by T. Harris.  Again, I am writing this so Covenanters can work out the difficulties now instead of having to make hard and fast choices on the field of battle later.   You can be angry with me, but I am your best friend.

1.  The Hatred of the South

This is myopic and almost unhealthy.   Modern covenanting talks about how evil the South is and never once tries to work through the sticky issues of how best to help freed slaves.   Or slaves who didn’t want to be freed.  As evil as slavery might have been, simply throwing the blacks out on the street only it makes it worse.   The slave-owners (and many slaves) knew this.

And it really comes back to the question:  is the relation between master and slave sinful?  This is a very specific question.  This is why Freshman atheists have a field day with us.  But I know the response:  buying stolen property, especially human property, is sinful.  Perhaps it is, but didn’t Paul know this when he outlined healthy parameters for both masters and slaves?  How do you think the ancient Romans got slaves in the first place?  Democratic vote?  They were often prisoners of war, babies of raped women, and worse.  And does Paul say, in good John Brown fashion, “Rise up slaves and kill your masters” (though to be fair John Brown actually killed white Northerners)?

Northern Covenanters love to boast on how they “deny communion to man-stealers.”    Harris notes in response,

Athenagoras, defending the church against the pagan charge of cannibalism said, “moreover, we have slaves: some of us more, some fewer. We cannot hide anything from them; yet not one of them has made up such tall stories against us.” (Early Church Fathers, ed. C.C. Richardson, p. 338). But Alexander McLeod says to the slaveholder, “you cannot be in the church,” (p. 25) and this posture was eventually ratified by the entire covenanter church. On this point, their righteousness exceeded even that of our Lord and the apostles. And that is heady stuff.

Am I saying we should have slaves today?  Of course not.  But we need to seriously think through these issues instead of giving non-answers like “Christianity provided for civilization to move forward without slavery.”  To which I say, “early Medieval Russia.”

2.  The strange love-affair with Lincoln

This is odd, too.  Lincoln really didn’t care for Christianity and he routinely made darkie jokes.   He was the biggest white supremacist of the 19th century.  He ran on the platform, in essence, that he would not free a single slave.  My Covenanter friends–you are being deceived.

Someone could respond, “You’re just angry that the South lost.”  Perhaps, perhaps not.  That brings up another point

3.  Consistently outmaneuvered politically and militarily

Why is it that the Covenanters who have such a heroic (and rightly earned) reputation for godly resistance during the Killing  Times have routinely been outmaneuvered in the public square?  I’ll give three examples: Bothwell Bridge, Cromwell, and The War Between the States.

Bothwell

The Covenanters had already proved themselves at Drumclog.  Further, Bothwell Bridge forced the Royalists into a chokepoint.   While the ultimate cause for the covenanters defeat was lack of artillery and ammo, the outcome was in the air for a while.   The problem was whether to allow Indulged parties to participate.  Granted, the Indulged sinned and were under God’s judgment.  Cameron and others were right to resist elsewhere, but Bothwell was not an ecclesiastical act.  It was a military one.   Indulged ammunition wasn’t sinful per se.

Cromwell

Covenanters call Cromwell the Usurper.   It is somewhat ironic given that these Covenanters had fought a war of defiance (rightly so) against the very same king.  I have to ask, though, precisely what did you expect when rallying behind the (well-known) debauched papal pervert Charles II?  Granted, he vowed the covenants.  Granted, he should have owned up to them.   Still, anyone could have seen how this was going to end.

How else was Cromwell to interpret this?   He knew the Covenanters were militarily capable, so he is seeing an armed host rallying behind the dynasty against which both had recently fought a war.  But even then, the Covenanters could have held him off and forced a peace.   Their actions at Dunbar as as unbelievable as they are inexplicable.  They had the advantage of both place and time.  Ignoring that, they decided to meet Cromwell on equal footing.  In response, Cromwell executed one of the most perfect maneuvers in military history (that was still studied and practiced in the 20th century by America, England, and Germany) and in effect subdued Scotland.

To make it worse, Grant notes that Cromwell’s subjugation of Scotland allowed the kirk to flourish spiritually.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.

Lincoln (again)

I must quote Harris in detail for full affect.

“Most of its members were enthusiastically for the war and anxious to participate in it as far as they could without violating their principle of dissent from the government.” (p. 58) This despite the fact that Lincoln himself constantly said the war was not about slavery. We now know Lincoln was a pathological liar; the covenanters must have known this in their bones as well, and gave vent to their approval of the “real reason,” concealed by Lincoln. At any rate, it is hard to imagine them getting so excited about a war that was about enforced union. In view of their history, that would be ironic indeed.

However, they exhibited a certain naiveté in two ways which may go part way to explain the madness. At one point, they concocted an oath to propose to the US as a basis for enlisting in the army, an oath that would be consistent with continued resistance to full submission. “I do swear by the living God, that I will be faithful to the United States, and will aid and defend them against the armies of the Confederate States, yielding all due obedience to military orders.” (p. 58) The charming bit here is the notion of defending against the armies of the CSA — armies which were purely defensive, and which would have been glad to disperse and go home, if it weren’t for the invading and marauding union armies. Somehow, they had built up a mythic view of an aggressive South, gobbling up adjacent lands by force of arms.

Covenanting on the Ground

This is open for discussion.  How exactly is National Covenanting going to work today?  Surely it means more than strong-arming congress in rejecting the First Amendment.

Note Bene:  Harris’s quotations are from David M. Carson. Transplanted to America: A Popular History of the American Covenanters to 1871. (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publications, n/d).