Thanks to the dozen or more folks who have sent me links to the British “the Romans invented Christianity” story. I am well aware of it. There is nothing much to be said, of course, until whatever documentation being offered is published, but if you read the story carefully, you will see it is coming from a radically skeptical perspective that is, to put it mildly, biased in its origins. In any case, I will interact with what was said by the proponents on the Dividing Line eitherFriday (if we do a program) or next Tuesday. But till then, remember when the media went nuts about “the Jesus family tomb” story? Most folks don’t even remember the story any longer. Someone is always trying for their 15 minutes of fame (and inordinate income). Keep that in mind.
Responses to E-mails
This is in response to Mr. Kenney’s July 25th letter, found here. It seems he decided to try to out do Boston with his invective and intolerance. And people say there is no anti-Christian sentiment being expressed! Amazing.
Two thousand years ago a man named Jesus lived and taught amongst the Jewish people. He was asked one day about marriage and divorce. Historically, the Jewish view of marriage had been based upon the words of Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” History does not record for us anyone in the Jewish community who had ever suggested that these words be amended to read “father and father” or “mother and mother.” In fact, history records for us no one at all who attempted to teach, as a Jewish teacher or rabbi, that the prohibitions against homosexuality laid out in Scripture should be abandoned or rejected. And though the Jews had, in their traditions, relaxed the stringent standards of those first words of institution of marriage in Genesis, Jesus’ answer would have none of that. His words are well known, and I would refer you to them:
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:4–9)
Mr. Kenney, these words reflect the viewpoint of every single one of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, do they not? And how about every President of the United States up to, but no longer including, the present occupant of that office? Or more importantly, how about a very large number of the constituents in your own city who happen to take very seriously the teachings of Jesus?
Your letter to Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A of July 25th is, quite simply, sir, an outrage. It is an outrage in its incoherence and its underlying message. In sum, it is intolerant, bigoted, and filled with prejudice—all of the things you accused Mr. Cathy of communicating. Though I doubt you took the time to check the accuracy of the press reports of Mr. Cathy’s statements, if you had, you would have known that he expressed with clarity, and care, a simple Christian viewpoint of marriage. His words were sober and fair, unlike yours. A comparison, indeed, of his words and tone with yours is amazing, to say the least.
I often wonder how people who promote the redefinition of marriage under the guise of “civil rights” can so abuse history, logic, and language. You accuse anyone who disagrees with you of intolerance. You say Chick-fil-A can “take a hike and take your intolerance with you.” You do realize, I hope, how utterly intolerant your attitude is, right? You speak of his expression of his personal opinion as one of “intolerance and hate.” You do realize, I hope, that your letter is an excellent example of intolerance and hate? You speak of discrimination, yet, if you are familiar with the actual meaning of the word, you do realize you are engaging in anti-Christian discrimination in your letter and your stance?
You clearly believe that the younger generation is enlightened and is “shedding the prejudices of past generations.” When was the last time, sir, you talked to a member of the younger generation who had taken any serious time whatsoever to be familiar with the thinking, actions, morals, and world view of “past generations” so that their abandonment of their morals and ethics would have the slightest relevant weight or value? You do realize that you are revealing, with your words, a frightening willingness to condemn those who came before us, those who sacrificed and built this nation, and who did so utterly convinced of the necessity of morality and ethics, especially in the area of sexuality and the family? Have you read the writings of the Founding Fathers and their constant refrain that this experiment in liberty can never, never succeed if it is not accompanied by the highest standards of virtue and morality on the part of all of the citizens of the United States?
The reality is, sir, your letter is a shameful example of the anti-Christian intolerance and bigotry that has taken a very deep root in our society, and yet, I truly doubt you are even fully cognizant of that reality. I exhort you, sir, to consider well the responsibilities of your office and hence to refrain from the expression of such anti-Christian bigotry in the future. And more importantly, for the sake of all that is good and right, to reconsider your support for the redefinition of the very first institution established amongst men by their Creator.
You’re strutting on you tube with your chest stuck way out boasting “I know more than Chuck, I’m more spiritual than Chuck” Even if you do have superior biblical knowledge, you don’t get to use it to attack and tear down the reputations of your fellow servants of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Also, regarding what you said about Chuck Smith being the leader like a pope was incorrect because I happen to know first hand there are Calvary Chapel pastors who don’t necessarily agree with everything Chuck teaches, and that the doctrinal structure between Chuck Smith and other Calvary Chapel pastors is a relatively loose coupling. Not at all as you represented. But because you presented that pretending to have first hand knowledge when you obviously do not, you were being dishonest at best. Knowledge puffs up. God resists the proud. And what makes you think you are any less blinded to the traditions that exist in your own doctrinal paradigms? I suppose you see perfectly and Chuck is blind right? If you actually do see clear to remove the mote from your brothers eye, do it by speaking the truth in love in an email to Chuck, not in a retaliatory vindictive work of the flesh designed to tear down your brother and exalt yourself. Talk about being blind. I am ashamed of you.
Isn’t it amazing how I can provide an exegetically based response to Smith’s eisegetical comments, and all I get in response is this kind of emotionalism? I have not received a single biblically based response to what I said about Smith’s comments, yet, I have received a number of emotional ones. Personally, I think this speaks volumes. Compare the above emotionalism with what I actually said:
I take it you are distancing yourself from the Nicene creed since you know the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the creed has a different meaning to Catholic and Orthodox, than to Protestant denominations?
Will you distance yourself from the bible also, since Catholic and Orthodox sign off on it? If I can get a Catholic to sign off on the 1689 confession, can I get you to withdraw from it too?
Hello John, thanks for writing.
There is a fundamental flaw in your thinking on this topic, both in your basic logic as well as your understanding of my own stated position. Hopefully by correcting your logical errors others will be able to see more clearly, along with yourself, the real issue in the Manhattan Declaration.
There are real and historic differences in understanding the nature of the “one holy Catholic church,” and there is no question whatsoever that the church of Nicea did not hold to the distinctives of most of the modern groups. But trying to parallel the Nicene statement with a modern statement is obviously fallacious: the Manhattan Declaration is written in the context of full knowledge of the issues that divide us. The Nicene Creed does not come from the same context, and hence is not relevant. Further, the issue at hand, that being the gospel itself, is not defined by the Nicene Creed (hence the emptiness of attempting to base any kind of meaningful unity merely upon the Nicene symbol: it is insufficient for the task from a biblical perspective).
But much more glaring is the obvious error of referring to the Bible. What does it mean that Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy “sign off” on it? Both vociferously deny the doctrine of sola scriptura, do they not? So the reality is that neither submit to it as the final authority from God, but both, in differing ways, detract from its authority through subjecting it to external authorities.
You seem to have confused my concern over the gutting of the gospel with some kind of “I don’t want anything to do with those folks” simplistic attitude of a back-woods fundamentalist. This is seen in your comment about getting a Catholic to “sign off” on the London Baptist Confession of 1689, another highly illogical offering. A Catholic who “signs off” on the 1689 is, obviously, no longer a Roman Catholic. It is impossible for a Roman Catholic to agree to the teachings of the LBCF and remain in communion with Rome. Its teachings are directly and inalterably contradictory to Roman Catholicism.
So none of your examples were, in fact, relevant to the situation we face today, where men, fully knowing the fundamental differences in the proclamation of the gospel message between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and at least the Reformed churches (many “Protestants” are merely popeless Catholics theologically speaking), are seeking to present a “Mere Christianity” that seeks to create a unity based upon a gospel-less Trinitarianism. Christianity is fully and richly Trinitarian. But so is the gospel, and the Christian faith ceases to exist without the gospel at its core. The “Mere Christianity” of Frank Beckwith and Dinesh D’Souza and Timothy George and Chuck Colson is sub-Christian, for it lacks the very animating element of the faith, that being the gospel, the very thing the Trinity does in self-glorification, that which ties together the whole reason for creation! By pushing the gospel outside the definition of the faith (which clearly men like Timothy George do, for he embraces non-compromising Roman Catholics as fellow believers in Christ) these “Mere Christianity” proponents give to the world a new religion that has only the most external connections to the biblical faith found in the Scriptures. As Jesus told us long ago, the one who loses his life for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s is His true disciple. Today men want to separate out that troubling, controversial “gospel” for the sake of a philosophically driven unity. No believer who takes the Scriptures as his or her final authority can join in such a movement.
So, John, my concern is about those who are trying to replace the centrality of the gospel with a salvationless Trinitarianism that is not just sub-biblical, it is blatantly anti-biblical. I cannot get past the fact that a plain reading of the text of the Manhattan Declaration (a reading drawn from the worldview of the three main authors) indicates that it promotes the idea that all three groups possess the gospel, which they are to preach in its fulness (despite the fact that this means they are to preach contradictory messages). I know some fine men signed the document, and they insist it has nothing to do with the gospel, but words have meanings, and the authors of the document have made it painfully clear that it is, in fact, a theological statement, a veritable catechism of the Christian faith, according to Chuck Colson. I hope this helps to clarify things for you.
An honest iniquiry about Dr. White’s blog statement: I wanted to illustrate that simply taking the Qur’an as the final authority without recognizing that it is not mubinun, “clear” or “perspicuous,” on so many points (and this is one of the most vital assertions it makes, in denying the atonement of Christ!) leads to irrationality.”
How does this claim of “irrationality” differ from the Reformed ‘Sola Scriptura’ and the Catholic’s claim of this doctrine causes irrationality?
The question mixes categories and ignores the context of my original statement. The Muslim starts with the Qur’an and reads backwards to the Bible, replacing the Bible’s original context with that of the Qur’an. But while the Muslim will adopt an over-arching assumption of the corruption of the Bible, they will not even consider that possibility for the Qur’an, despite it coming after the other revelations, and claiming consistency with them. Further, the Qur’an is not clear in its text, lacking the kind of historical grounding found in the Bible. Hence, merely starting with its claims and overthrowing the Bible’s as a result leads to irrationality, as you have to accept an unclear revelation at the expense of a clear one. I illustrated this with the mention of Surah 4:157 and the Qur’an’s flying in the face of all the sources that come from the first century after Christ. The Muslim has to reject all of these sources while accepting, de fide, the Qur’anic revelation.
I do not know how to even connect this with the Roman Catholic argument against sola scriptura, as there are no connections historically or logically. One would have to prove discrepancy and error on the part of the Bible; one would have to make Rome’s traditions prior to biblical revelation, etc., to even begin to try to make a case.
Next question from the mail bag:
The only thing I wish he’d addressed better was this: Dr. White speaks of the authors’ intentions when the wrote something which was part of the Bible. But if he in fact believes that it is the Divine Word of God, why does the “writers'” intention and the context matter? It would be God’s intention that matters as to his inspiring the writer to write. God could easily have inspired a writer to write for the time (context) as well as for all times and places. Two layers of meaning. Why would God waste words that seemingly apply only to the historical situation if those same verses didn’t have great meaning for a person in any other age and place?
Meaning is carried in words. Words are spoken in a context. Without that context, words become empty containers into which we pour our own meanings, which is exactly what Harold Camping does. By removing the context, the words lack substance, and Camping can then fill them with whatever he wishes. This is classic eisegesis, reading into the text a meaning it never had.
The Bible being the Word of God does not tell us that we can simply ignore what it meant when it was first revealed. Surely there can be a “higher” fulfillment in prophecy, for example, but the prophecy still carries the original meaning it had when given. Even if one asserts “two layers of meaning” the text still has to determine both “layers,” and without context, that second layer once again becomes an empty vessel just waiting for someone to come along and fill it with their own meaning, all the while claiming they are just following Scripture. It is a very shallow view of the means by which God revealed Scripture to refer to a “wasting” of words. God chooses the means by which He reveals Himself, and we are in no position to judge on the matter.