Saturday, September 23, 2017

What the Early Church Believed About God's Foreknowledge and Man's Free Moral Agency

The topic of God's foreknowledge has been a divisive and difficult one. On the one hand, the Calvinist approach, which connects foreknowledge to predestination, does damage to God's reputation, making a caricature of Him as a cold, uncaring, beast. What is needed to adequately refute such a calumny is a biblical definition of foreknowledge, and its relationship, if any, to predestination. The answers that appear to be so elusive to so many Christians today are actually right under our noses. If we want to understand how the early church viewed the topic, we simply need to turn to the Church Fathers. It is exactly this need that this article seeks to fulfill. We will begin by examining the key New Testament passages on the topic, and gleaning from them the components of a biblical definition.

Acts 2:23 reads, “This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

From this passage we can plainly see that God, in His omniscience, is possessed of foreknowledge. While one might attempt to build a case for the Calvinist understanding of the topic from this verse (if taken alone and out of context), it does not really support that view. This verse is speaking specifically of the plan of salvation accomplished through Christ, whom God foreknew would save humanity by God's deliberate plan. In this case, the deliberate plan was not something done to Jesus without consent, but something that Jesus, as God, willingly participated in out of love for His creatures. We also must keep in mind that Man has free moral agency, given him by God in His sovereignty. This is an important point as we progress.

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”- Deuteronomy 30:19, 20

If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.”- Isaiah 1:19, 20

Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of My God.”- Revelation 3:11, 12

Thus, Acts 2:23 merely establishes that God has foreknowledge, not that such foreknowledge is the cause of all events in history or in the lives of individuals. In this sense, God's foreknowledge is simply God's comprehension of the future and His provision for those who use their free moral agency wisely. Foreknowledge does not equal causation. Man is still possessed of free will, and that by God's sovereign decree.

In other words, Man's free moral agency is a product of God's sovereignty, not in conflict with it or controlled by it. This is not simply the view of an Arminian, but that of the Church Fathers as well.1

Neither do we maintain that it is by fate (or foreordination) that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer. Rather, we maintain that each man acts rightly or sins by his free choice...Since God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free will, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed.”- Justin Martyr

Lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever occurs happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man's actions. Now, if this is not so, but all things happen by fate, then neither is anything in our power. For it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first one meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions.”- Justin Martyr

We were not created to die. Rather, we die by our own fault. Our free will has destroyed us. We who were free became slaves. We have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God. We ourselves have manifested wickedness. But we, wo have manifested it, are able again to reject it.”- Tatian

But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect similar to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself his own cause that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff.”- Irenaeus

....who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:”- 1 Peter 1:2

This is a favored verse of those who advocate the Calvinist view of the “elect”. But does it really argue for foreknowledge as causation? We have already discussed foreknowledge as provision for all potential eventualities in connection with Man's free moral agency. With that in mind, it is a simple matter of applying this understanding to the words of the Apostle. In this case, those who are chosen are those who have believed freely, and because God has foreknowledge of those who will believe, he has made provision for them, through the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work, to be obedient to our Lord. This in no way supports the idea of the “elect” being somehow foreordained to achieve eternal life. As Church Father Methodius put it:

God is good and wise. He does what is best. Therefore, there is no fixed destiny.”

Scripture is clear that Man must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. Cooperation of course implies free moral agency.

Moreover brethren, I declare to you the which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you..”- 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2

But what of Romans 8:29? Does it not state that God predestined an elect class?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”- Romans 8:29

This verse too is often used as a proof text for the Calvinist view. But it does not meet the criteria once we examine it closely. It simply means that God foreknew that some would exercise their free moral agency to receive the gift of salvation (“those God foreknew”), and in His sovereignty, provided a way (just as in 1 Peter 1:2) for them to be conformed to the image of Christ. Nothing in the verse demands any act on God's part that nullifies Man's free moral agency. In fact, Scripture states clearly that God desires all to come to repentance, which would make no sense if some were predestined not to come to repentance, as Calvinists claim.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”- 2 Peter 3:9

In the final analysis, the Calvinist view, while it seemingly meets Scriptural standards, does so only if we ignore or abuse other key biblical doctrine, as well as the common consensus of the church as witnessed in the writings of he Church Fathers.

In closing, we can take as our definition of God's foreknowledge that gleaned from Scripture and the Church Fathers, as explained above, and set forth succinctly by Dr. Mark Bird.

Foreknowledge is the doctrine that God knows everything, including future events and all contingencies. He knows what will happen and what would have happened had people made different choices. He knows the consequences of all possible choices or events. For God to know the future does not mean that He causes it. Knowledge does not imply causation. Just because we know the sun will rise tomorrow doesn't mean that we will make it rise.” 2

1Many more quotes from the Church Fathers could be provided, all witnessing the same doctrinal position, but these should suffice., Catechism entry on God   

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Law: Done Away or Useful for Christians?

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.”- 1 Timothy 1:8

"He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those persons from both covenants who are eligible for God's building...For, as I have shown, this faith existed in Abraham prior to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God..."- Irenaeus

"The yoke of the Law was heavy, and is cast off by us."- Cyprian
The question of the Old Testament Law and its relationship to the New Testament Christian is one that has been debated from the earliest days of the church. It was just such a question that brought the Apostles together for the first council of the church in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. Subsequently the issue continued to surface in response to both Jewish factions of the early church and heretical teachings and sects such as the Ebionites. Eventually, as the gap between the church and the Jewish community at large began to widen, those who insisted on observance of the Mosaic Law broke away from the church and became known as “Judaizers”.
Today this same spirit of Judaizing exists in the form of the Hebrew Roots Movement; a movement that demands observance of the Law by disciples of Christ in precisely the same manner as Orthodox Jews. Thus they expect disciples to be circumcised, to keep kosher, to wear tzitzit (fringe), to observe all of the traditional holy days of Judaism, and essentially to live an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. On the other end of the spectrum we have Christians leaders who teach that we have no connection to the Mosaic Law whatsoever, and that we are not under the law, but under grace, and that the law was done away with.
This Antinomian approach is, like its polar opposite (Judaizing), antithetical to the teachings of Sacred Scripture on the issue. Paul tells us in his first epistle to Timothy that the law is good if we use it lawfully. As Dr. Allan Brown points out in his unpublished paper Not Under Law, But Under Grace:
“The apostle Paul, the man who wrote the phrase, “not under the law, but under grace,” rejects such an interpretation of his words. He wrote to Timothy and said, “We know that the  law is good, if a man use it lawfully” (1 Tim.1:8). In other words, the Law of God—the Old Testament—has continuing relevance in this New Testament dispensation if it is used properly. Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 3:16‐17 supports this claim. Writing under inspiration of  the Holy Spirit long after the New Covenant was inaugurated, Paul asserts that the Old  Testament is still profitable for “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.”  This means there is a proper use and application of the Old Testament for Christians today.”
Jesus Himself clearly held the Law in high regard. He rejected the notion that the Law was in some way done away with by His mission.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” – Matthew 5:17
Dr. Allan Brown writes:
“As Christ honored the principles of the Law, so are His followers to honor the principles  of the Law. Thus, when Jesus speaks of His purpose “to fulfill the Law,” He is emphasizing the continuing validity of the Old Testament for His people."
This same principle is echoed in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, wherein he writes:
“For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”Romans 10:4
Paul is not stating that the Law is done away with, but that Christ is the goal of the Law. That is, He is the example of the person the Law intends us to be. As Dr. Allan Brown explains:
“The term “end” (telos) in this context does not mean “end, termination, cessation,” but rather the goal toward which the Law is directing us. Christ is the end of the law in the sense of being the “goal” of the Law for righteousness.”

Christ made it very clear that the Law has not been done away with in the gospel when he said:
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”- Matthew 5:18
Clearly heaven and earth have not passed away (which may be a reference to the end of days), and so the Law remains in effect.
So, what is the purpose and function of the Law?
The purpose of the Law is basically twofold. First, it reveals the heart of God. It informs us of what He thinks. Second, it reveals how to live a proper human life. It functions on eight basic levels. Dr. Allan Brown explains that the Law:
  1. Imparts wisdom to us so we can know the truth and please God.
  2. Psalms 119:98– Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they [are] ever with me.
  3. Psalms 119:142-Thy righteousness [is] an everlasting righteousness, and thy law [is]  the truth.
  4. Deuteronomy 4:6– Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your  understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and  say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
  5. The Law reveals Christ.
  6. Luke 24:44– And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you,  while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the  law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
  7. Galatians 3:24-Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,  that we might be justified by faith.
  8. It teaches us how to be saved by faith and does not teach salvation by the works of the Law.
  9. Psalms 19:7– The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of  the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
  10. Romans 7:10– And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death Galatians 3:24- Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,  that we might be justified by faith.
  11. Galatians 3:21– Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if  there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
  12. Romans 9:31‐32:- But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath  not attained to the law of righteousness. 32. Wherefore? Because they sought it not  by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.
  13. Romans 3:28-Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the  deeds of the law.
  14. It encourages faith in God and obedience to His commands.
  15. Joshua 1:7‐8– Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe  to do according to all he law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not  from it [to] the right-hand or [to] the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
  16. 2 Kings 21:8-Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
  17. It teaches us how to love God by fearing Him and keeping His commandments.
  18. Deuteronomy 10:12– And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee,  but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve  the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, (13) To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for  thy good?
  19. Deuteronomy 11:1– Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his  charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.
  20. Deuteronomy 11:13– And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto  my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and  to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
  21. It teaches us how to be blessed and happy.
  22. Psalms 1:2– But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he  meditate day and night.
  23. Psalms 40:8– I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
  24. Psalms 119:1– Blessed [are] the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
  25. It reveals the sinfulness of sin and helps restrain man’s sinful tendencies.
  26. Romans 3:20– For by the law is the knowledge of sin.
  27. Romans 5:20– Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.
  28. Romans 7:7– What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not  known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
  29. Galatians 3:19– Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of  transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it  was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
  30. I Timothy 1:9– Knowing this, that the  law is not made for a righteous man, but for  the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and  profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
  31. It brings a sense of guilt and condemnation to those who willfully violate God’s law.
  32. Romans 3:19– Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them  who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may  become guilty before God.
  33. Galatians 3:10– For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for  it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written  in the book of the  law to do them.
  34. Galatians 3:13– Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a  curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:
Clearly then the Mosaic Law fulfills a very specific purpose in the lives of Christians.
Having established this we must now confront the issue of observance of the Law. How does a Christian do so?
In order to understand how the Law applies to the Christian life one must have a grasp on the so-called “UP-SA” method. UP-SA stands for “Universal Principles-Specific Applications”.
  • Universal Principles-These are truths found in the Old Testament Law that are based on God’s eternal and unchanging character, and thus are applicable at all places and at all times.
  • Specific Applications– This is an application of these Universal Truths specific to time, place and circumstance.
Greg L. Bahnsen recognizes a similar method. He writes in his book By This Standard:
Likewise, there were cultural details mentioned in many of God’s laws so as to illustrate the moral principle which He required (for example, the distinction between accidental manslaughter and malicious murder was illustrated in terms of a flying ax head). What is of permanent moral authority is the Principle illustrated, and not the cultural detail used to illustrate it. Thus we ought not to read the case laws of the Old Testament as binding us to the literal wording utilized..”
“In addition to localized imperatives and cultural details of expression, we would note that certain administrative details of Old Testament society are not normative for today (for example, the type or form of government, the method of tax collecting, the location of the capitol). These aspects of Old Testament life were not prescribed by standing law, and they do not bind us today.”
The Christian is not required to observe the parts of the Law that are specific to the Israelites, given for a specific time, place or circumstance- that is, the Specific Applications. The Christian is, however, responsible for the observance of the Universal Principles underlying these applications, since, as mentioned, they flow from God’s eternal and unchanging character. This is at the heart of Jesus’ answer regarding the greatest commandment. And it is by the Christian’s observance of these two commandments, in a relationship with Christ and seeking to meet His example of a proper human life with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that we embody the heart of the Law.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:”                                                          - Hebrews 8:10
It is indeed true that we are saved by grace through faith, but this in no way renders the Law obsolete.
“Do we then make void the Law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”- Romans 3:31
This is not a pick and choose method for understanding the Law, and must be guided by biblical thinking. Dr. Allan Brown shares a word of caution.
“Each verse in the Old Testament reflects either a universal principle or is a specific  application of a universal principle. When you encounter a verse that seems to have no  relevance to you because you live in a different country with a different culture and different  worship practices, do not ignore or dismiss the verse. Ask yourself, “Is this verse teaching a  universal principle or is it a specific application of a universal principle."
“And he said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”- Matthew 22:37-39
The Law not only demonstrates how to love God and our neighbor, but provides a continual witness as to what these commandments look like when properly carried out. It is a guide to understanding what it means to be “set-apart” unto God as His possession, set-apart from all that is sinful and all that is common.
Bahnsen, writing of this aspect of the Law in the Christian”s life, states:
“Hebrews 12:14 exhorts us to “follow after . . . the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord,” indicating that those who are acceptable to God must be “set apart” (sanctified) unto Him and “separated” from the sinful pollution of the world. This entails cleansing from defilement (2 Cor. 7:1), leading a spotless life (2 Peter 3:14) – language reminiscent of the purity and sacrificial laws of the Old Testament. Second Timothy 2:19 summarizes the New Testament theme of separation from the world: “Let every one that names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness .“
How is this to be done? What is the nature of such separation from unrighteousness and defilement? By what standard does the New Testament Christian separate himself from ‘the world”? James instructs us that the word of God — which for James surely included the Old Testament scriptures of his day – is the key to this ethical separation”
Indeed the Apostle James wrote:
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself, and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
                                                 - James 1: 21-25
"We affirm that this was the function of the Law as preparatory to the Gospel. It was utilized to form the faith, through gradual stages, of those who would learn the perfect light of the Christian discipline."- Tertullian

The Law then is a revelation of God’s heart, and when properly used shows us our true spiritual state, and encourages us to repentance, to act on all the light we possess, provides us with greater light, and urges us to be doers of God’s Word and not simply hearers.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What the Early Church Believed About the Age of Accountability

The question of when one has reached the age whereby he/she is held accountable for their sins is one that has had very little clarity throughout church history. Some say it is the age of seven. Others, taking a more careful and thoughtful approach, suggest that age may be different for different children. For example, a child who has learning difficulties or other issues impacting emotional and mental growth will be older before they reach the age of accountability, of ever they do, depending on the type and extent of difficulty or condition. Meanwhile, some children mature faster, and so may reach the age before their peers. While I certainly take this approach myself, I also have to recognize what is normative in Apostolic Tradition. In researching this topic, I found only one statement from an Ante-Nicene Father, which is as follows:

"In pursuance of that aspect of the association of body and soul that we now have to consider, we maintain that the puberty of the soul coincides with that of the body. Generally speaking, they both attain together this full growth at about the fourteenth year of life. The soul attains it by the suggestion of the senses, and the body attains it by the growth of the bodily members. I do not mention this age because reflection begins at this age. Nor do I choose it because the civil laws date the commencement of the real business of life from this age. Rather, I choose it because this was the appointed order from the very first. For after their obtaining knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve felt that they must cover their nakedness. Likewise, we profess to have the same discernment of good and evil from the time that we experience the same sensation of shame. Now, beginning with the aforementioned age, sex is suffused and clothed with a special sensibility. This eye gives way to lust and communicates its pleasure to another. It understands the natural relations between male and female, and it wears the fig leaf apron to cover the shame that it still excites."- Tertullian

Essentially, Tertullian argues that, once a child has an understanding of nakedness, and of human sexuality, that child has reached the age of accountability. In his culture and time, that age was fourteen years old. In today's cultural climate, it is usually much sooner than that for most children. So here we have an Apostolic guideline: once a child has an understanding of the shame of open nakedness, and of human sexuality, that child  has reached the age of accountability. In our current culture, that age may be anywhere from six to eight years of age, if we are not dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Whatever the case, however, fourteen years of age is the basic guideline and rule of the early church.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Bishop Joseph Butler and Charismatic Chaos

Bishop Joseph Butler (May 18, 1692-June 16, 1752) was an Anglican theologian, philosopher and apologist who is most known for his opposition to Deism, as well as his minor controversy with John Wesley and the young Methodist Movement. Butler's philosophy and theology had a strong influence on other great thinkers, such as David Hume and John Henry Newman.

After entering the academy at Gloucester he was baptized in the Anglican Church, and in 1714 went on to attend seminary at Oriel College, Oxford. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1718, and was ordained a deacon by Bishop William Talbot, Bishop of Salesbury, in the episcopal palace chapel in October of the same year. In December of 1718, he was ordained a priest by the same bishop at Saint James' Church, in Piccadilly. In 1736 he became the head chaplain for King George II's wife, Caroline of Ansbach. Subsequently he was nominated for Bishop of Bristol and consecrated on December 3, 1738 in the chapel of Lambeth palace.

Butler's most famous writing is his Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, a deeply philosophical and quite effective refutation of the (at that time) popular philosophy of Deism. Butler was also known as a great moral theologian. One expert on Butler's theology and philosophy, Stephen Darwall, wrote that:

“Probably no figure had a greater impact on nineteenth century British moral philosophy than Butler.”

When we read about Butler in Methodist history, it is easy to dismiss him in a bit of Wesleyan indignation, but he was not and is not a man to be so easily dismissed. He must be understood in historical context, as well as in theological- which is quite orthodox. Butler's controversy with Wesley was hardly some fluke or petty argument, but was important to avoiding potential heresy, which often arises out of movements that place emphasis on experiential religion. 

After meeting John Wesley and becoming familiar with the emotional outbursts of some in the early Methodist movement (which Butler referred to as “fits”), Bishop Butler rightly condemned “the pretending to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Spirit”, referring to such as “a horrid thing- a very horrid thing!” This led Butler to ask Wesley to leave the area, since he viewed the emotionalism attendant to the young Methodist movement to be, at the very least, near heretical.

As someone who comes from outside the Wesleyan fold, as well as the holiness movement, I feel I can offer a critique of Butler's position that those raised in these circles cannot. Butler's concern was for theological orthodoxy as well as the dignity of the worship of God. Those given to so-called “charismata” tend to be anything but dignified, and quite often fall into heresy due to “pretended revelations and gifts of the Holy Spirit.” This fact is evidenced in the many tragic sects and strange practices that have developed in the modern Charismatic movement. We find such oddities as: teaching that unless someone speaks in tongues they are not truly saved, “holy laughter”, faith healing, the “little gods” heresy, gnostic dualism, holy dancing, “slain” in the Spirit, and even claims of special revelations bringing forth new doctrines or secret and lost teachings now restored in this current dispensation.

As John MacArthur writes: 

“It is a sad twist of irony that those who claim to be most focused on the Holy Spirit are in actuality the ones doing the most to abuse, grieve, insult, misrepresent, quench, and dishonor Him. How do they do it? By attributing to Him words He did not say, deeds He did not do, phenomena He did not produce, and experiences that have nothing to do with Him. They boldly plaster His name on that which is not His work.”

Indeed, I agree with MacArthur as he writes: 

“The sad fact is that biblical truth has never been the hallmark of the Charismatic Movement, where spiritual experience is continually elevated above sound doctrine.”

While it may not be the popular opinion with regard to the conflict between John Wesley (a man whom I highly esteem) and Butler, I find Butler's critique to have been fair, biblical and quite understandable. And given what we know today of such extraordinary manifestations of charismatic gifts, such as glossolalia, Butler's warnings and concerns were quite correct and quite nearly prophetic.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fr. John Wesley and Social Holiness

What is most valuable in the Wesleyan Anglican heritage (and here I speak specifically of the Conservative Holiness branch of the Wesleyan family) is the emphasis on personal holiness. We live in a time where the church has abdicated its role as the moral compass of culture, and in fact has embraced the moral uncertainty and relativism of the increasingly hostile forces of Cultural Marxism that control the direction of public thought.

Wesley's clear expectation of those in the Methodist movement was that, above all, they be a holy people, obedient to God's expressed will, and truly be salt and light. Unfortunately, the United Methodist Church is not upholding this primary principle taught by Wesley, nor is the greater body of Christianity. Instead we find the standard line is, 'I'm just a saved sinner.' This is simply an excuse in the face of their reluctance to actually pursue a holy life.

If he gives you the grace to make you believe, he will give you the grace to live a holy life afterward.”- Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon here echoes the clarion voice of Wesley who taught the same with regard to God's provision for the truly converted.

By justification we are saved from the guilt of sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin.”- John Wesley

We find much talk in Christian circles of holiness, but very little of its pursuit. For example, Roman Catholicism places great emphasis on holiness, but does not substantively demand it of its members, providing for them a “get out of hell free” card as it were through the sacrament of confession. I am certainly not against confession, nor absolution in our Lord's name. However, when someone abuses such a privilege by confessing the same sin routinely, we know there is a deeper problem here and perhaps not enough emphasis on personal holiness as a necessity of Christian spiritual life.

Beyond this, Wesley emphasized social holiness, which is another way of expressing the social Kingship of Christ.

The Gospel of Christ knows no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness.”
John Wesley

This is the Christian Faith lived out: the manifestation of Christ's revelation in the social order. It is a shadow of the future coming Kingdom of God. Thus, social holiness penetrates every facet of Christian life- economic, cultural, political- creating a community of faith that is constantly infused with a sense of the Sacred and of God's continual presence. In a simplistic sense, it is the community of believers who seek to live publicly according to the dictates of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their best ability and to its fullest. Wesley clearly understood that the key to temporal pleasure was not in indulging the flesh, amusing the lusts of the mind and the senses, but of loving God so much that our happiness is found in holiness of life.

As the more holy we are upon earth, the more happy we must be.”- John Wesley

It is interesting to note that Pope Pius XI carried this theme to its logical end when writing on the topic of the social Kingship of Christ.

Nor is there any difference in this matter (holiness and the Kingship of Christ) between the individual and the family or the state; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him is the salvation of society.”
If, therefore, the rulers of nation wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ.”

The element of social holiness is one which the churches of Modernity have forgotten, either due to compromise with worldly political forces, or to capitulation to the conventions of the anti-culture of Modernity itself. The Wesleyan heritage of holiness is of absolute importance to our world. We can see around us every day the effects of a rejection of the social Kingship of Christ. It manifests as moral relativism, religious indifference, Atheistic Naturalism, Cultural Marxism, and Libertarianism. The Christian community in the West has compromised with ideologies at odds with a healthy organic culture, and consequently, the West has succumbed to the disease of Modernity. The only way a culture in such desperate throes as ours is ever made well again is by taking the antidote-social holiness. Only the social Kingship of Christ can reverse the destruction we see happening on a daily basis, and that element of social holiness will only be available if we preserve, live and share this most precious of gifts from the Wesleyan Anglican heritage in our daily lives, and show the world the future kingdom of God in miniature form.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Social Kingship of Christ and the Coming Kingdom

God is infinitely Holy, and no one can draw near to Him and live. He has, nevertheless, revealed to us many heavenly mysteries, including that of the Trinity. We would have known nothing of this if God Himself had not revealed it to us. There is in that sense a coming down of God to us, of Him "who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen nor can see.” (1 Timothy 6:16) Yet, this revelation takes place under the veil of Faith, and as such, it is open only to the humble and the pure of heart that He has chosen. Those under the sway of Modernity ("the world" in biblical language), of Satan, to a great extent, will not accept His revelation. They are blinded to spiritual realities by their indoctrination in the principles of Atheistic Naturalism and Relativism.

Throughout the history of His chosen people, the revelation of God’s mysteries has been gradual, reaching its climax with the coming of God Himself in the flesh, “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Colossians 1:26) The Son has become man, and, in a way which escapes our full understanding, has shown the wholeness of His Father.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

It is this mystery of Christ that the church transmits to all generations. Indeed, the mission of the Son in the world is continued by the mission of the Apostles, and through those who share in that Apostolic mission, of the church:

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

This principle has a social application as well as spiritual. As Christ revealed to us His divinity, and as the church makes Christ’s mystery known to any who hear, likewise the Kingdom message of the Gospel is, in an analogical manner, a manifestation or revelation of Christ’s mystery. This is what living the Christian Faith properly is: the manifestation of the principles of Christ’s future coming kingdom through the social body of culture. It is a shadow of the future Kingdom of God where He will reign over all nations and peoples.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a social fabric in which Christianity penetrates down to the last corners of temporal life (customs, uses, games and work), a civilization in which the temporal is unceasingly infused by the eternal. Concretely, it is the ensemble of peoples who want to live publicly according to the laws of the God to their absolute fullest measure.

In this Gospel of the Kingdom, there is the certainty that Faith and life, united, form an indissoluble whole. Without deserting the world, but without losing sight of the true sense of life, it ordains the whole of human existence towards a unique goal, towards intimate social fellowship with God, being convinced that outside Him there is no lasting peace, either for the heart of man or for society or for the community of nations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Resisting Modernity is Spiritual Warfare

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”- James 4:7

The restoration of the early church will not come by material means, but by, first, a transformation of self, and personal restoration to God's will for humanity. We must learn how to resist Modernity ("the world" in biblical language) through living the Gospel and Apostolic Tradition. What follows are some guidelines to assist my reader in beginning to understand and live our faith in an increasingly anti-Christian culture. It needs to be said, however, that our love of our Faith and Tradition is not primarily inspired by any mundane reasoning, such as nostalgia for the “good ole' days”, or political considerations, but springs forth naturally out of a love of God. For the Christian, love of God is defined as follows:

To love God is to self-sacrificially commitment oneself to delight in Him, to rejoice in serving Him, to desire continually to please Him, to seek one’s happiness in Him, and to thirst day and night for a fuller enjoyment of Him.

Modernity knows none of these concepts. Indeed, Modernity would be a twisted version of this definition. If we apply the same construct to Modernity it would read:

To love Modernity is to reject self-sacrifice and God, to eschew commitment to anything beyond material production and acquisition of goods, to serve the secular state, to desire continually more personal gain and indulgence, to seek one's happiness in libertarian decadence, and to thirst day and night for purely selfish and material desires.

Many Christians have been infected with this sort of thinking as a result of living in a society permeated with it. This is why we must tear Modernity out of our lives and strive to live the Gospel and Apostolic Tradition.

Let us start with modesty. Mass media is filled with examples of immodesty, ranging from television programs that glorify immoral behavior, homosexuality, adultery and like abominations, to advertising that strips women of their created dignity by making them mere props in Modernity's incessant production of goods and services that serve to enslave the consumer, down to the disgusting level of outright pornography. Women are taught by such means that they are tools, objects of pleasure, with no other value than to acquire the things to make them more pleasing to the eye, which necessarily means more sexualized. Men are taught that these images of debauchery and depravity are the ideal for women, and if a woman does not meet these standards of “beauty”, then she is, in fact, ugly and plain, and therefore, not desirable. The Christian cannot be a part of this! Modesty is the first principle we must nurture in our lives and the lives of our children. Modesty is first a heart attitude and second an expression of that attitude in demeanor, deportment, and clothing.

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”-I Timothy 2:9

The word “modest”, used by Paul, means, “appropriate, proper, well arranged, put in order”. Note that it means “in order”. It is important to know that Christianity is order, while Modernity is disorder.

Proper clothing for a woman is modest, orderly, and discreet. We can define it this way: Modesty in dress is the application of an appropriate sense of order and discretion as one of the considerations that governs our choice of apparel. Discreetness of dress is the application of good judgment, moderation, self control and self respect.

This definition stands defiantly against that of Modernity, which views clothing in utilitarian terms, or as ornamentation for enticement to sin. Remember: Modesty is first a heart attitude, secondly, an expression of that attitude in demeanor, deportment, and clothing. That heart attitude is one of a sense of honor that would be ashamed to do an unworthy act and, therefore, keeps one from acting shamefully. It is a preventative kind of embarrassment, that precludes our doing something that would be judged inappropriate. The Christian adheres to the following principle regarding nakedness and modesty: Both in terms of exposure and accent, modest clothing conceals at the very minimum the body from the neck to the knee. When you buy clothing, what do you want emphasized? The Christian wants countenance to be emphasized. Countenance is the graciousness of the Lord that comes out in our face, eyes, and sound of our voices. We should be very careful to watch what we accentuate.

1. Elements of accentuation
2. Direction of the seams and neckline. 
3. Do the seam lines or neckline of the blouse direct the eyes to the breasts?
4. Do the seam lines of the skirt direct the eyes to the waist, to the groin?
5. Form & fit (tightness, where it’s tight).
6. Underwear visible through clothing
7. Type of material: shiny, silky, eye catching
8. All clothing, without exception, sends messages. 

What message is your clothing sending? In the culture of Modernity, acceptable lines of “modesty” have shrunk past the irreducible minimums established in God’s word, and thus, Apostolic Tradition. Much of what is considered “modest” by the world involves the exposure of nakedness according to Scripture. We should pay attention to what is modest in the church subcultures in which we move. Apostolic Tradition requires long sleeves for modesty, while some churches prefer it but do not require it. Most conservative Christians have a general sense that sleeveless attire (even if it meets the Biblical standard for not revealing the upper torso) is immodest. 

If your church subculture is anything less than the Scriptural standard, you should work for change in that church by your personal choices and by teaching the correct principles. It is not illegitimate to expect Christians to observe Apostolic Tradition guidelines for modesty which go beyond the irreducible minimums required by Sacred Scripture. However, when teaching others these guidelines we must clearly identify our boundaries as Apostolic Tradition – sound ancient guides created for the sake of carefulness and encouragements to holiness. Our bodies are not our own, we have been bought with a price, therefore we are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20).

Our love for God motivates our concern for His glory which in turn motivates us to dress in a God-glorifying manner. Further, our love for God motivates us to seek to please Him in everything we do. Since modest dress is God’s will for humanity, the Christian delights to dress in a way that pleases Him. As is always true, doing what pleases God is beneficial to others and thus, to our culture. Modest dress promotes pure minds and chaste living. In other words, holy hearts and lives. It reduces the opportunity the enemy has to attack others and our culture through the lusts of the flesh. It also serves as a testimony to the world that Christians are a holy people and that is what God requires of all men. (1 Thess. 4:6-8).

The “music” of Modernity can in no wise be said to possess any of the characteristics of a truly inspired composition. Music must meet the minimum criteria to be considered a legitimate work of art and expression of the human spirit. These criteria are:

1.  sound ordered in time and space that is the result of creative intelligence,
2.  involves an expression of meaning to another/other personal beings, and
3.  is aesthetically beautiful.

These are the four minimum requirements. This is not to say they are the only requirements. True music can be more than this, but never less than this. Let us take a closer look at the key terms in these four criteria. Sound- In other words, true music cannot be silent. It must produce some sound.

Ordered- It must possess consciously identifiable organization.

Time- The beginning and end has measurable movement.

Space- It doesn't happen in the mind, but in the material world.

Creative Intelligence- It comes from personal beings with a self awareness.

Expression of Meaning- It must involve communication (in terms of feelings, moods, emotions, images, or ideas) to other personal beings.

Aesthetic- It must be objectively beautiful.

When considering the music of Modernity, we must look for not only these minimum criteria, but other, broader considerations, such as the influence of music on the consciousness and sub-conscious self. While music does not control one's behavior, it can certainly influence one's emotional state. It can suggest responses and actions. In this case of the music of Modernity, it most often influences to sin and discord. Many Christians are ignorant of the proper way in which to view music. They think that the morality of music is determined only by its lyrics. On the level of aesthetics, they have been influenced by Relativism enough that they believe beauty is a purely subjective concept, determined by the individual alone, so what is bad for you is good for him. Some will even suggest that, since God created all things-including music- then all forms of music are inherently good and of divine origin. By the same logic, God created paper and ink, and thus, since all that God created is good, pornography must be good as well. The fallacy of such logic is the presupposition that God is responsible for and approves of how humanity uses His creation. Musical beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. The human ability to create and appreciate music and beauty are reflections of the divine within us. Since it is a part of the image of God within us, we must look to God to regulate our values. In other words, our music must be in harmony with God's expression of beauty, which is ordered. The music of Modernity is, by these criteria, not aesthetic, and not ordered. It is discordant, screeching, and the lyrics promote the very values the Christian Traditionalist abhors. From where does the music of Modernity gain its sound and message?

The workmanship of your tabrets and of your pipes were prepared in you in the day that you were created.”- Ezekiel 28:13

This verse is speaking of the creation of Lucifer, who later became Satan. It appears to imply that Lucifer was created with an inherent musical ability, though I grant this is not a necessary conclusion. However, if we take this at face value, then we can readily conclude that, though music certainly promotes Cultural Marxism with all its attendant horrors, the ultimate source is Satan himself. This only makes sense, considering, as we have already noted, Modernity is itself an occult mystery. One has only to examine the disharmony and disorderliness of the music of Modernity to find evidence of this. We find an even more blatant example in lyrics. For example, we find lyrics like these:

Pull your panties to the side so I can dig you out Cause I'm the old school pervert You know what I be all about” - Insane Clown Posse, Old School Pervert

These are the more clean lyrics of the song, most of which I could not publish without committing grave sin. We find even more blatant references to the source of the music of Modernity. For example, the realm of Death Metal music:

Homage for Satan, sworn to the devil Unholy master, destroy the heavens Homage for Satan, God cannot find you hell is your heaven Jesus ripped apart “- Deicide, Home for Satan

I dare say it can get no clearer than this. When choosing music we must choose that music which, first, glorifies God. Music glorifies God when it expresses aesthetic, beauty, order, and edifies the soul. It also glorifies God if it contributes to the beauty, health and sanctity of the culture. When we think of music in the traditional culture of Western Europe we naturally think of great composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Wagner, Schubert, Handel and Tchaikovsky. Theirs is music that reflects the image of God-glorifying Him in its aesthetic beauty and orderliness as it contributed to the overall beauty and sanctity of Western European culture.

I address these two particular issues-music and clothing- as these are two of the most prominent. There are many others that could be, and need be, addressed, but are not within the scope of this article. Suffice it to say you can look around you, with Scripture as your guide, and find areas where you can resist the Leftist revolution creeping into your life. I admonish you to resist and teach your children the principles of such resistance.