Monthly Archives: March 2015

AN OPEN JOURNAL to NEW CITY FELLOWSHIP, Grand Rapids, MI—Day Four

“Roll reproach and contempt away from me, for I have preserved Your Testimonies” Psalm 119:22

Saturday, March 14, 2015

In Augustine’s time, controversies between Christian partisans were all too often “settled” by the sword, not by the Word of God—the carnal sword, not the Sword of the Spirit. This was repeated in Luther’s and Calvin’s and Knox’s day. True also in the days of the Arminian Remonstrance in the Netherlands in the early 1600s, in the Thirty Years’ War, during the English Revolution and Cromwell’s day around mid-century, during the Dutch Afscheiding of the 1830’s, on so on, and many episodes in between. It’s an old and pervasive imperial habit.

Although in the 18th to 19th century American republic a sea change was taking place, especially along the frontier, not until late 19th century did free churches start abounding in Europe.

* * * * *

I’ve been trying for years to scare up a conversation about some central issues of the faith. I’ve peddled my stuff around to churches and pastors. I’ve sent these pieces around for nearly eight years now—since Pentecost season of 2007. I crave high-level friendly exchanges where I can learn why my findings and discoveries seem to contradict so much of theology and dogma. I did get some heartening responses, but mostly silence (and, of course, a few rebuffs, which I only expected).

Then I started a blog site, “The Premial Atonement,” to rouse some conversation. It has just passed its Third Anniversary—March 11th. Yet I have only received about a dozen blog responses total. This is fine with me from one perspective: I can continue to load up my years of exegetical notes and systematic musings in peace and tranquility. Plus, I can even go back to correct and tweak whatever I’ve written. I can post “Papers” at the top of the site and revise them to my heart’s content without embarrassment.

However, pastors are too busy to broach the reading of my stuff. Professors have burdensome loads of papers to grade, their own lectures to prepare, and graduate students to supervise. But bloggers? They want something more “sexy” to read than my jargon and idiosyncratic approach. I get that.

Yet nobody takes time to dig into the Word these days! [Okay, okay—just a bit of rhetorical exaggeration there.] Even with the inestimable boon of computerized Bible search engines of extraordinary capabilities and vast libraries of biblical and theological reference works and commentaries at our fingertips, few take the time to exploit the treasures.

Now, granted the deleterious effects of electronic media on the emerging generations, I suspect that more fundamentally we need a sufficient reason—something with solid threat value—to stir us to action. Many of my writings would pose such a threat to traditional doctrines—doctrines formulated in days preceding development of our modern study tools. Since that day, their dogmatic errors, despite numerous and able objectors, have become enshrined and entrenched beyond criticism. Like the Talmud, which often tended to bumped the Torah in authority, they serve to divide the unity of Christ’s body into sects/“heresies” mutually contending for territory and human souls, on the lookout for “converts,” or at least pew sitters, to give some semblance of truth to claims to be “growing.” But growing up and growing fat are very different processes.

The early church at Jerusalem saw fit to make room for people willing and able to devote their time and skills to serving up the Word of God. Jesus himself was a rabbi, as scholars are coming to agree. [See Rodney Stark, “Jesus and the Jesus Movement,” Chap. 3 in The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (New York: HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011), pp. 49-70] Thus he established this genetic code for his disciples/learners, and hence for the church at large.

Study of God’s Word—close examination—is normative for churches of God, in fact definitive. It is what makes us followers and “disciples”/“learners” of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not sermons. Paul argued the Gospel from synagogue to synagogue, and even his epistles to churches are arguments. Being in that sense “argumentative” is not a bad thing…just so long as we keep up the argumentation over Scripture in sincerity, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and “believing all things” good (1 Corinthians 13) about one another, instead of fragmenting into sects and “fighting over words” and casting each other out of the church—think only of Diotrephes (“Zeus-nurtured”—thunderbolts and all!) in 3 John. Let God’s Word prevail among us. All progress starts when we heartily believe we might be wrong! For to believe that is to remain always repentant in mood. To be unwilling to engage fellow “fallibles” is to harden up, become stiff-necked, and risk “cardio-sclerosis” hard-heartedness. That is a prelude to judgment from God. And as we know, “judgment begins at the house of God.”

So in the spirit of last Sunday’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 13, let us submit ourselves to one another in love and proceed to investigate God’s life-giving Word from Heaven instead of remaining stuck in earthly creeds and confessions and catechisms whenever it becomes sufficiently evident that they have become human traditions that obscure God’s Word (as I now sincerely believe they have).

* * * * *

The apostle Paul charged that elders of the flock should be “apt-to-teach” (1 Timothy 3:2, 2 Timothy 2:24) presumably the Word of God in preference to “confessions,” “creeds,” or “theology”—doing their own digging instead of retrenching the ruts of fallible forbears, although paying due respects for their efforts.

* * * * *

You cannot become right unless you believe you might be wrong. Even so, you can’t become righteous unless you believe you might have done wrong and get forgiveness for it. Western civilization, granted its irregularities, has absorbed much of this wisdom. It is the mainspring of sustainable progress.

* * * * *

If you insist that everyone must agree with all your extra-biblical distinctives and shibboleths in order to stay under your roof, you are, in effect, a schismatic (i.e., a “heretic”) and will divide the one body of Christ, as indeed you have. You have let an imposter insinuate itself into the place of honor that should be reserved for Scripture alone.

Sunday morning adult discussion has been a real comedown for me, because it is never a time for real Bible study, investigation, or exposition. [I understand you have a week night small group where this may happen. Does it?] You tend to stroke your source of separation: confession and catechisms. Creedal assumptions simply shine your shibboleths.

* * * * *

Harold is, in effect, acting schismatically to insist on parroting the creeds (unless the Apostles’). We can do better. Diotrephes went so far as to expel the saints. If Harold is not a “Diotrephes,” he’s honing dangerously close.

* * * * *

It is my opinion that well-known mid-20th century evangelical author Leon Morris is guilty of a kind of criminal negligence in the field of theology. Moreover, he is a repeat offender. As I came across these instances I lost my composure and became indignant. Yet the man is highly honored among Evangelicals. J. I. Packer is similarly guilty, yet is still held in highest esteem. This baffles me. Don’t folks study the Bible for themselves? Isn’t the Word of God living among us? How can we be so put upon by such trifling with Scripture? “Them’s fightin’ words” for some fans of these popular authors. But whose indignation is the more justified?

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AN OPEN JOURNAL to NEW CITY FELLOWSHIP, Grand Rapids, MI — Day Three

“Chief men, they persecute me gratuitously, yet my heart stands in awe before Your word.” — Psalm 119:161 (CVOT)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I owe Reformational or  Neo-Calvinists more than any other single communion of Christians.  And I am herewith attempting to pay them back.  Yes, it’s “payback” time, but I mean that in the kindest way.  I want to pay back the favor!  I can serve my fellow Calvinist brothers and sisters in no higher manner than to extend our joint Reformational agenda into the field of theology and doctrine.  I have been doing basic, fundamental research in theology, and I now hope to divulge the stunning results for the benefit of many others.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

I’m preparing to write a book on the atonement (plus justification, reconciliation, etc.) that fully documents my case for God’s premial justice in the event.  But I need informed objections in order to fine-tune it.  You could help me here.  If you either list your objections or mark up my papers and return them, I can address those issues systematically.  Would you consider doing this for me?  It will take time and hard effort, not especially pleasant, I know!  All I have to offer is my deep gratitude.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

Might I suggest that we discuss only the pieces that everyone has read, so that we are all on the same page (literally)?  This would be rather important in view of the variety of genres and unfamiliar turns of thought.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

Mika,

You asked me why, if I knew what you believed as a church, I would decide to attend New City Fellowship.  I answer with another question:  am I not obligated before the Lord, if I see brethren in error, to correct them in the Lord, gently, in love, but firmly?  (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

I have, accordingly, in a non-contentious manner, submitted my documents on the Atonement to all of the elders, official and unofficial, for leisurely consideration…for starters.  My method is calculated to light a light more than to curse the dark.  Light does the best job of chasing darkness.

In addition, where it seems appropriate, I hope to point out in the adult discussion session Scriptures and exegetical or lexical or historical details that may cast light on the points under discussion.  Aquila and Priscilla, you’ll recall, drew the worthy Apollos aside to instruct him more carefully in the truth of the Gospel.  Different historical circumstances may dictate different tactical procedures, but the abiding feature is always that God’s Explanation gets further elucidated and honored.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

A couple of weeks ago, Mika taught about opening our ears to God’s Word.  He stomped and shouted and jumped around for emphasis, but what’s the payoff today?  At this meeting?

Here I was anticipating a meeting with the elders that Mika wanted us to have in order to discuss limits on my talking about these ideas with others in NCF.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

Already Harold has proven himself unable to represent my teaching accurately.  Therefore, I could request that our sessions be recorded in full and that I also receive a copy, complete and unedited.  Otherwise Satan is sure to take unfair advantage of us to the detriment of the Truth, not to mention our reputations and honor.

Harold quite rudely interrupted a conversation I was having with a sophomore at Calvin College, daughter of Christian school teacher Al Bandstra (http://dordt.edu/publications/dordt_press/beyond_control/author.shtml) of Sioux Center, Iowa (where I attended Dordt College years ago and she attended last year).  Mr. Bandstra wrote a book on discipline in the classroom http://dordt.edu/publications/dordt_press/beyond_control/) that I happened to give a daughter of mine last Christmas, after she completed her student teaching in middle school science (also Bandstra’s level).  After starting to read a little bit, I decided to read the whole book (fact is, I simply couldn’t put it down!) before giving it to my daughter, so wise was it.  (Don’t take my word for it: http://dordt.edu/publications/dordt_press/beyond_control/endorsements.shtml)  Our conversation turned to my own education, then my current pursuits.  My atonement studies naturally came up.

As I was explaining some of the salient features, such as the centrality of the Resurrection to the Atonement, I was interrupted by Harold, who evidently had been hovering nearby to catch me in my words.  He informed me that I had no right to “teach” [did he say “heresies”?] in “this church” (to the best of my recollection), much less to a “visitor.”  This was the first such outburst I have ever experienced.  I have been differed with; I have never been accused of “heresy” in public, and this outburst came without Harold’s prior warning or charges.  It was rude and disrespectful.  I had already given him a folder with my atonement writings and had invited a response.  I had expected a high-level, gentlemanly interchange.  But this butting in without warning is highly unacceptable and way out of line.  It embarrassed the young lady and was scarcely done in love—the timely topic of the sermon that morning by the guest pastor from Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ada.  Harold is welcome to confront me appropriately if he thinks my documents teach error.  But no one who has laid his position so totally open as I have, for brotherly review and correction should be subjected to such contentious raillery and needless embarrassment.  I would counsel self-control and hearing a man out, not factious, public, unsubstantiated accusations.

What is even more reprehensible, however, is Harold’s misrepresentation and twisting of my words.  I am a wordsmith.  I am quite conscious of the biblical usage of key words, having made the use of analytic concordances something of a specialty—my métier.  Still, it is quite understandable that where the consistent use of biblical words and concepts is contradicted by creeds and theologies, there must be a clash and Scripture should be accorded supremacy, although this may all too seldom be the outcome.  Therefore the clash must continue among us until God’s Word is supreme.  Sad to say, wars and rumors of wars “are declared unto the end” until contenders lay down their arms and bow the knee to the Victor, who seems all too patient with his erring churches (see Rev. 1-3).  But who are we to judge His wise timing?  He tells his angels to wait until the tares are grown to send in the sickles.

In the meantime, let us not prove contentious or churlish but humbly perform due diligence “with our concordances on,” as I like to say.

Defend the Bible?  Sooner defend a Sword!  Rather, use the Bible.

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AN OPEN JOURNAL to NEW CITY FELLOWSHIP, Grand Rapids, MI — Day Two

“Many are my persecutors and my foes, yet I do not turn aside from Your testimonies.” — Psalm 119:157

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please,” said Brer Rabbit. “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

“I was bred and born in the briar patch, Brer Fox,” he called. “Born and bred in the briar patch.” *

The Disney “Songs of the South” version of Uncle Remus’s famous tale, “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby,” is now regarded as politically incorrect—insufferably so. Nevertheless, the thought of occasionally having to “save my skin” by using Brer Rabbit’s wiley maneuver, I confess, appeals to me. Yet I have gradually come to the reluctant conclusion that many of my contemporaries do not share this delight at the prospect of having to defend oneself by direct appeal to Scripture, for this is the scenario I have in view here. Creedal adherence has created an entire ancillary industry of formulating belief-statements that abbreviate the painstaking struggle of grappling with “Scripture alone.” This is what I have now encountered up close and personal at NCF.

It is no longer “ecclesiastically correct” to appeal directly to Scripture for one’s doctrinal authority, at least not if the issue concerns matters that were “settled” some 350-500 years ago and provide us a chummy identity with folks of like dialect. Such identity, however, may not qualify as a fully catholic “communion of the saints” so much as a communion of the sects. This is ironic, of course, but so commonplace an occurrence in the American church that we scarcely rankle at the highly constricting outcome.

Therefore, when I began sensing that whatever reading of my Atonement documents the NCF elders happened to be doing was raising issues of doctrinal divergence from the Westminster standards (or the Heidelberg Catechism being discussed in the plenary adult Sunday School after the sermon), my reflexive defense mechanism defaulted to direct appeal to Scripture along the lines of concordant analysis. That’s what prompted the following brief notes:

“Explain my concordant method and my attempts to teach others how to use it.”

This is simply a method of analyzing the Biblical vocabulary by the use of concordances according to the original languages. I never got this far at NCF during my nine weeks there. I hope to illustrate it later on in this blog series.

“Not based on a theory; based on discoveries derived from basic research.”

The use of concordant analysis enables a student to get beyond merely traditional, creedal, denominational, and theoretical uses of terms, which not only can be confusing, but can separate Christians from one another and spawn unnecessary differences of opinion and even “word-fighting’,” which the apostle Paul condemns. The Word of God itself dissolves theological theories. I ask skeptics to hold their fire until I provide some telling illustrations of how this can advance sound theological reasoning and facilitate fresh discoveries from Scripture. I was born and bred in this briar patch.

“‘Stick to the Script!’

This is my admonition to those why by long habit are accustomed to deferring to confessions, creeds, catechisms, and similar statements of faith. By doing so, they inevitably depart from “The Script” often, and to the hurt of their faith.

“It was only especially among the Corinthians that Paul declared he would perceive nothing among them but Christ crucified (that was at the very beginning of I Corinthians) because they denied the somatic/bodily nature of the RESURRECTION! Paul never writes this way in any other book of his! He doesn’t need to. He adjusts his method depending on the errors of those he is addressing.” This has by now been very amply and convincingly documented in Alexander LaBrecque’s dissertation, “The Resurrection Faith: Paul’s Somatic Soteriology Apart from the Circumcision Controversy” (University of Sheffield, 1995/96), especially in the section, “The Strategy of Paul’s Soteriological Corrective,” where he elaborates on “The Cross versus Wisdom” (pp. 83-94) and “The Secret Wisdom of the Cross” (pp. 94-96).

“If Augustine’s use of Scripture on the ‘predestination’ issue is a fair sample of his method, he set an appalling precedent for later generations.”

Augustine there used a far-fetched verse as a springboard for bludgeoning his opponent with rhetoric—a default tactic when he was in controversy. Here his early-trained rhetorical strength becomes a snare and a curse.

“Luther declared he would have the ploughboy know/understand more of Scripture than the Pope.”

What excuse do we have, in a day that boasts universal literacy (at least that was true in America some two centuries ago!), to discourage our youth from becoming mighty in the Scriptures instead of reclining lazily on creedal standards?

“The root question is not whether I agree or disagree with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, or the Canons of Dort, or the Belgic Confession of Faith, or the Heidelberg Catechism. The real issue is whether they agree or disagree with Scripture, for you have exalted them above criticism by Scripture.” Haven’t you sacrificed your own God-given powers of judgment to human beings from centuries ago? Is that wise? Prudent? Safe?  Naturally, you will immediately point to all the “proof texts” that accompany those “standards.”  I shall have plenty to say about those along the way.

“I realize that my documents on the Atonement require quite an investment of time and concentration, and that they may raise some initial objections from those of various traditions.  Therefore, in view of tight schedules, I would simply like to suggest that you could help me greatly if you maybe just jotted down your objections and questions even from your first impressions, and in an approximate order of importance.”

“The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is just around the corner.  Isn’t it our duty to get it right this time?  Isn’t it long overdue to stop boasting about being Reformed and actually continue reforming once again?  Let’s become Reformational!”

“I got close to Calvinists as a college student when the Lord led me to the Reformational movement of Canadian so-called Neo-Calvinists in 1968.  I owe them, big time!  These research findings of many decades are my gift to them and their fellow travelers.”

*  retold by S. E. Schlosser

 

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ADVANTAGES OF A PREMIAL ATONEMENT: CONSIDERED RATIONALLY, JUDICIALLY, ETHICALLY, AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY

March 11, 2015

As today is the THIRD ANNIVERSARY (hurray!) of this blog site elucidating THE PREMIAL ATONEMENT, which is to say, the apostolic view of the Atonement, I’ve decided to celebrate by posting a few of the salient advantages of this position.  For the last few months, I have been critiquing the view of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), sometimes called the “governmental” or “rectoral” or “acceptilation” theory, and its later morphs into the Edwardian theory (named after the son of Jonathan Edwards, Sr., of First Great Awakening fame) of the later 18th century and then into the New England Theology of the 19th century, especially in the United States.  I have devoted this time in response to a forthcoming publication by a very gifted young open-air evangelist from Texas, Jesse Morrell, whose astonishing ministry, Open Air Outreach:  www.OpenAirOutreach.com, especially at university campuses across the United States, deserves worthy attention and support.  He is also a publisher of many 19th century books espousing the view I am critiquing:  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/MoralGovernmentTheology.  I am now at the point of preparing to launch directly into Jesse’s online version of his own book, The Vicarious Atonement of Christ, which I first read in 2012.  I post the following 31 “Advantages of a Premial Atonement:  Explanatory, Judicial, Practical, and Ethical,” as a sort of summary to give folks a breather from the previous months of slogging through details.  As always, your thoughtful comments would be welcome.

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Marilyn!

1. It is entirely non-violent from God’s side.

2.  Jesus’ teaching is integral to the reason for his crucifixion.

3.  Jesus’ entire life of righteous, obedient faithfulness weighs into the formula for atonement, as in the recapitulation approach of Irenaeus.

4. The exemplary quality of his suffering goes beyond the penal satisfaction theory and incorporates the valid nucleus of “moral” influence (à la Peter Abelard, allegedly) without its limitations when regarded as a complete explanation.

5.  The joyful note of victory is prominent, as in the “Christus victor” approach of Gustaf Aulén.

6.  A key “payoff” of Christ’s agony was the outpouring of the Gift of the Holy Spirit in unprecedented superabundance, whose role is to cleanse the human heart from sin and empower for witness to God’s Kingdom.

7. Christ’s historic crucifixion was the sacrifice to end all literal sacrifices, for it fulfills and expounds the prophetic message of the Passover and Old Testament sacrifices.

8. It stands on the high ground of God’s justice, as Anselm and Calvin would claim, but without their unintended ethical compromise of His rewarding or restorative justice.

9. It incorporates Christ’s resurrection most prominently and integrally in the atoning process.

10. It precludes “substitution” of any penal sort whatsoever; Jesus is the “real McCoy,” the Truth in the flesh, who experienced God’s justice directly and properly only by his resurrection.

11. Christ’s ransoming was exclusively heroic, not in the least punitive, on God’s part.

12.  Christ pays for us by his ransom or “blessed exchange” (à la Luther), not for sin’s debt.

13. Christ did not experience God’s condemnation, punishment, or wrath to any degree (thus there was never any “divine child abuse”).

14. Christ’s incarnation assumes its proper role in salvation, namely, as the means for the Son of God to acquire somatic property and personal relationships, the wrongful deprivation of which would constitute an injury of such aggravated magnitude as to evoke God’s decisive intervention as Judge and Savior.

15. Christ’s embodying the role of the (archetypal) scapegoat does not entail the indiscriminate (retroactive and prospective) exoneration of all historic “scapegoats” (à la René Girard) as if they all were ipso facto “innocent” like Jesus unquestionably was.

16. Jesus’ crucifixion was not in any sense a “vicarious repentance” (à la John McLeod Campbell, allegedly) or “vicarious confession” (à la Robert C. Moberly).

17. Jesus was not made “sin” in any proper sense, but rather a “sin-offering”; in other words, he was the one slain—the one sinned against (for he was perfectly innocent)—the crucifixion was the sin in view.

18. The “laying on of hands” simply refers to the priestly hands laid criminally on Christ to slay him, i.e., the corporate sin of Israel, through her official sacred representatives.

19. There was no “deal with the Devil” whatever; he was “tricked” fair and square. Due to the blindness induced by his career-long wickedness (see especially the Book of Proverbs), he was clueless concerning what his slaying of God’s Son would precipitate in connection with his own dethronement, humiliation, ultimate condemnation, and agelong conscious torment.

20. Because Christ did not “pay for (the debt of) sins,” there is no economized quid pro quo between his quantified “sufferings” and the extent of redemption or atonement “purchased” for a discrete “sovereignly,” “graciously,” “mercifully” “pre”-destined limited allowance of some “elect” number.

21. Faith is rehabilitated and restored as the authentic apostolic means of human access to the benefits of Christ’s achievement because, as a non-act—in fact a “Sabbath” of non-work—it alone comports with God’s genuine graciousness.

22. Conciliation was not accomplished at the Cross for all humanity (which would imply universalism) but by the Message of the Cross—namely, that God raised up Jesus out of such a certain and wrongful death—for all who will hear and believe it.

23. There is no residual “mystery” in the Gospel; it was only kept a secret for long ages to prevent its premature discovery and sabotage by Satan.

24. Jesus did not “identify with sin” in any sense; rather, we “identify” with him by water baptism. He identified with sinners only by becoming truly human, even taking on a mortal, corruptible body like ours, yet remained without sin.

25. Our union with Christ is effected by our immersion in his wrongful death and rightful resurrection—whereby we obtain his Holy Spirit, which makes us spiritually one with him and the Father—not via his incarnation or any other means.

26. The doctrine of “original sin” originated by Augustine is not according to Scripture. Rather, Scripture teaches that death is passed down through the generations of Adam’s descendants. There was no “imputation of Adam’s sin” to his descendants, although they did also suffer from his sin the evil consequences of being banned from the Tree of Life, so likewise died. Thus death (not sin, guilt or punishment) was inherited by all. And since “original sin” does not exist, it does not need to be washed away by (e.g., infant) baptism.

27. There was no “imputation of sins” to Christ; he “bore” those sins instead. Hence God’s character is not impugned by ascribing guilt to the innocent, as a penal atonement must. There was no transfer of guilt from sinners to the innocent Christ, the Lamb of God, on the cross, since he was never guilty. He simply, in obedience to his Father, accepted the sin being done to him in the confidence that God would repay him justly, in due time. Hence Jesus did not “need” to suffer any wrath of God to “pay for” such guilt.

28. There was no “imputation of Christ’s own righteousness” to believing sinners; instead, their own faith is regarded by God as righteousness, accordingly winning the rightful award of life in the coming age, plus the Holy Spirit as its pledge in the meantime. By such means, God desires to establish and even glorify faith, which otherwise risks getting debased by well-meaning human teachers. The peril of antinomianism is hereby avoided.

29. So-called “eternal conscious punishment” of human beings (as distinct from sinning angels) is not necessary to “repay infinite sin by infinite suffering.” God no more needs to cause “infinite suffering” to stubborn sinful human beings to repay them for their sins than He needed to cause “infinite suffering” to His beloved Son, as a substitute, in order to “pay for sin(s).” Much rather, God’s premial justice repaid Christ for his obedient faithfulness in “retribution” for the injustices sinners inflicted on him, hence God had no “need” to repay them for those wrongs. God’s warning to Adam that if he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “to die shall you be dying,” was sufficiently carried out by ordinary death. This obviates the necessity for any further sanction on account of that primal sin. Yet it still leaves open the contingency of further punishment after the general resurrection and Final Judgment as just repayment for other human wrongdoings. The “Lake of Fire” is such a punishment—the Second Death culminating in final extermination.

30. Christ voluntarily “bore” sins instead of “repaying” them to his foes via retributive avenging. Because God Himself intervened with premial restitution by way of resurrection from the dead, stupendous glory, and authority over all nations—indeed, over the whole created universe—there was no judicial, ethical, or moral “need” whatsoever to repay those sins with a penalty, punishment, or suffering of any sort.  This premial solution thus dissolves the pseudo-problem of double jeopardy. However, it does not exclude the optional use of discretionary punishment for correction, chastisement, chastening, discipline, etc.; nor does it exclude final extermination of the incorrigible.

31. God can be appropriately (even “infinitely”) merciful, patient, tolerant, and kind without any “skin off Christ’s back,” because atonement was achieved by the premial or restorative justice of resurrection to agelong life for Christ, not by his suffering of abuse as a substitute in our place. And because God Himself repaid Christ for the injustice against him, those who actually prosecuted the injustice do not need to restore the loss. By extraordinary mercy, their sins are virtually forgiven; nevertheless (!), if they persist in their stubborn distrust and unrepentance from wicked deeds after learning of such mercy, they cannot receive the generous promise of God’s Holy Spirit to actually wash away their sins. Therefore, they will be condemned along with their sins despite the total abrogation of any requirement for them to repay their divine Victim. What a waste! How sad is that?

August 21, 23, 25, 2012, March 10-11, April 1-3, 2015, January 18-19, March 27, 2016

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AN OPEN JOURNAL to NEW CITY FELLOWSHIP, Grand Rapids, MI — Day One

Though distress and constraint have converged on me, Your instructions are my delectations.” Psalm 119:143 (CVOT)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

“We can make no progress unless we believe we are fallible. The absolute condition for forward movement in any field of science is the abiding conviction that we could be wrong. If instead we try to silence, much less persecute those who challenge our rightness or “orthodoxy,” we risk dwelling in darkness and quenching the light.”

By this date, I had given a folder of my Atonement documents (usually 15-18 pieces, with lists of titles and dates of composition in chronological and length order) to Pastor Edmondson and two of the other three elders—Doug Felch and Harold Schnyders, whom I felt might be able to give me informed critique. I wasn’t expecting much any time soon. Mika was preparing to defend his Ph.D. dissertation at Calvin Seminary; Doug was busy teaching classes at Kuyper College in mid-semester; I don’t remember why I gave them to Harold unless because he was the person who first told me about NCF, but he was also teaching Physics at GVSU, plus maybe some departmental duties.

I had also given a set to Steve Gaffin early on, both because he showed some interest and awareness of the issues, and because his father, Prof. Richard B. Gaffin, now emeritus, of Westminster Seminary, wrote an important book (originally his dissertation for Westminster Seminary, 1969), Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (1987), formerly The Centrality of the Resurrection (1978), whose change of title betrays a willingness to back off the significance of this assertion simply because “some readers, and at least one reviewer, were misled by the word ‘centrality’, finding in it a suggestion of tension between Christ’s death and his resurrection, as if the former is somehow less central for Paul.” This reason should strike us as both strange and disturbing; in fact, it reveals the pivotal misunderstanding of the Gospel that is the very issue of this blog site and, by reflex, of this current controversy at NCF.

Still, Steve seemed intrigued with my position, which I had shared during a potluck around the second Sunday in February, when I first met him and learned who he was. I had been in communication with his father sometime after I started distributing my first major Atonement document, “77 Questions about the Atonement,” around Pentecost/Memorial Day of 2007. I had read enough of his book to realize that he had not arrived at a judicial understanding of Christ’s Resurrection, whatever else he may have to contribute to the topic. Prof. Gaffin had responded by sending me a brief email that simply asked who I was. I must have mentioned learning of his work through one of his former students, Bob Drake, who was pastor of the Christian Reformed Campus Forum near the University of Minnesota in the early 1980’s, where my wife and I attended at the time. The prospect of meeting Prof. Gaffin personally when he visits this June motivated me to finish reading his book recently in preparation for a more engaged discussion. I shall have more to say about his worthy treatment in later blogs.

However, in the meantime my fond wish for receiving some eventual critique of my documents was blowing up in my face. What little any of the elders (I include Mika who, within OPC ecclesial polity is included among the elders) had read of my pieces had aroused their instant fears lest I should communicate my position to anyone else. It should be kept in mind that although people have voiced disagreements with my position, which re-centralizes Christ’s Resurrection into pivotal soteriological significance, I had seldom (except for three recent encounters only since last fall) been lumped into the category of “heretic.” True, I had long been wondering when one or another sect would actually take the plunge. Now I have my answer. All are arch-Calvinistic Presbyterians of three different sub-sects, plus an arch-Calvinist of John Piper’s discipling. I see a pattern. Yet I still desired written objections to aspects of my systematic presentations so I could determine what the specific “offenses” are. Therefore I jotted down the following sentences to remind myself that now, since they had started putting pressure on me to keep silent about my “teachings” (as they called any communications of mine) at least in private, within their church, then I needed something solid to chew on in the meantime. It seems to me that communicating one’s opinions and teaching “doctrines” should be distinguished more accurately, fairly, and flexibly; or am I merely voicing a self-serving motive?

“I would be pleased and honored to take written objections to anything I have written. I welcome all criticisms and will, in turn, respond in writing to clarify, justify, or recant.”

By March 1st, which was pastor Edmondson’s fifth sermon on the Gospel of Mark since I first heard him on February 1st, it seemed to me that the elders, instead of reading my pieces carefully or trying to listen to my clarifications, were starting to voice impressionistic criticisms without much substance, and certainly without documentation. That’s what prompted the following:

“Mika’s sermon on March 1st was entitled “Listening to the Word” and focused on opening our ears to hear God’s Word. He harangued us. A lot of good that did if you [Mika] are not ready to hear the Word of the Lord I am now bringing! That sermon should have prepared us for today.”

Instead, I fear it was feckless.  Does this all sound slightly shrill to you?  Okay.  Granted.  I did start to perceive a glaring slip between preaching and practice.  Those words may well reflect the shrillness of a sermon that was just starting to edge on hypocrisy.  I’m probably wrong.  I hope I’m wrong.  I’ve been wrong before.

After all, I don’t have to be right. The grand overarching Gospel truth of forgiveness allows me to be wrong, very wrong indeed, even wickedly wrong sometimes, and still have a graceful way out: repentance and forgiveness. I don’t have to feel I’m right about everything. Forgiveness gives us S T R E T C H. It takes us beyond brittle. That allows progress in civilization. In historic fact, it has fostered Western civilization. But more about this another time.

In fact, it would be wrong to label Mika’s sermonic dilation as personal hypocrisy. Rather, the greater slippage surely occurs between pulpit and pew. That’s different. Indeed, this very gap may have prompted such a sermon in the first place! Mika was justifiably worked up over what he perceived to be the big gap between what he saw Christ teaching and what he saw Christians living. So the issue is more a matter of effectiveness of communicating an urgent concern (of both preacher and God!). And a harangue is probably not the most effective way to achieve the desired results. But I sympathize with his expression of urgency that the Word of God should take deep root and starts producing worthy fruit among us.

And if you think that my point-blank words to Pastor Edmondson about being “not ready to hear the Word of the Lord I am now bringing is just a bit cheeky, let me ask you why you go to church. Is it to bring a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, a translation, as the apostle Paul urges (I Corinthians 14:26)? Or perhaps even a prophecy (I Thessalonians 5:20)? Is it to “Let the word of Christ be making its home in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing yourselves in psalms, in hymns, in spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16), or was that only for the “early church” or for outside the church walls? The apostle Peter (on whose confession the church was founded) charges, if anyone is speaking, as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). He is not speaking to church officers here, but to all the gathered saints. The apostles want the church to abound in the Word of God. If we all come properly prepared to serve one another with the Word of God the best we know how, what a rich fellowship we would enjoy! What a true threat to Satan’s doomed kingdom!

If you really want the Word to get exposure and to penetrate the soil, Mika, shouldn’t you be thankful for reinforcements (even if only volunteers) to help get the job done? But what to do with differences of opinion…

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The Gracious Sea of God’s Forgetfulness

The New Testament is “the power of God for salvation,” and it contains the results of the resurrected Lord’s having “opened up the Scriptures” to his disciples and having “opened up their minds” to the Scriptures. It is the repository of the apostles’ testimony concerning God’s chosen Messiah, including the account of God’s having exalted him via crucifixion-cum-resurrection, which is the divinely appointed means whereby the Father has deigned to “draw all humanity towardHimself. This is God’s vehicle for “election”; all who believe it get chosen! [7/25/09]

The apostle Peter writes in his second epistle to “those who are chancing-upon (-λαχ-) an equally precious faith[fullness] in (εν) [the] righteousness of our God and [of the] savior, Jesus Messiah: May graciousness and peace be multiplied to you in the recognition of God and of Jesus Messiah our Lord” (2 Peter 1:1-2). Peter could have hardly found a less “sovereign” term than “chance-upon” to designate their good “luck” (-λαχ-) in having come across the Truth about the righteous/just covenantal faithfulness of God and of the Savior, Messiah Jesus the risen Lord! But it’s certainly no “accident” that what follows from this premial justice is the generous “multiplication” of “graciousness and peace” to them, because this is exactly what we have come to expect from the Father’s just award, in covenantal troth, to His cherished Son for all his faithful obedience to Him through every trial of faith. But please carefully note how free and gratuitous is this boon in relation to its objects! It leaves them both truly free and, by its own inherent virtue, fully…sufficiently empowered (v 3-4) to apprehend God’s “precious and greatest promises” of the New Covenant such that they can become “participants of the divine nature” (v 4). WOW!

The MULTIPLICATION of the fruits of God’s rewarding justice to Jesus is the calculus of the ‘CrossurrectionSO THAT THIS SALVATION COULD BECOME GREAT ENOUGH TO SAVE THE WHOLE SIN-BLASTED WORLD! [7/25/09]

The whole uniqueness of the seemingly solid system of Calvinism is a house of cards (the 5 Points, plus further ramifications), built on a foundation of sand (Penal Satisfaction). The grand truth of God’s premial justice sweeps the entirety into the raging billows of God’s graciousness and the deep blue sea of GOD’S FORGETFULNESS! Praise God! That’s good enough for me! [7/26/09]

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Jesus Christ alone connected the dots left by Old Testament prophecies.

According to the apostolic testimony in the New Testament, sinners believe the Proclamation of God not because of some “irresistible grace” but solely because of the power of that Proclamation itself! Thus God’s Explanation gets the credit for generating faith. To be sure, that announcement relates how Christ’s faithful obedience, even to death, procured a stupendous reward that anyone can share in who believes it and walks accordingly. In other words, it tells us all about how we can enter into that graciousness through the delivering ransom of Messiah Jesus the risen Lord. But it is not properly speaking that favor that “did us the favor”! It was Christ himself! And most emphatically it is not “irresistible”! We have first of all to deal with the person of the Savior, both his words and works, which, as preserved and attested in apostolic Scripture, are corroborated by the Holy Spirit with signs and miracles and powers to persuade our needy, sluggish, oppressed, often deluded hearts so we can believe the Truth. All this comes before we can taste the graciousness of God in re. [7/22/09]

None of the Old Testament shadows revealed the whole picture, but each one left an indelible dot on the map of God’s progressive unveiling of human destiny. Jesus came and lived and taught and healed and died and resurrected and then connected all the dots for his disciples. The deepest character of God was thereby opened to the astonishing public view of everyone as His portrait thus materialized before them. [7/23/09]

The water and the blood signify the very same reality. The water of baptism and the blood of the Lord’s supper both depict RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD, and the SPIRIT TESTIFIES AT BOTH EVENTS because it is the FURTHER AWARD OF MESSIAH’S ABUSE-TAKING AT THE CROSS—an award that only commenced with the resurrection (1 John 5:6-8). Thus our complete salvation was procured by the cross, but actually manifested at Pentecost (for his believing disciples). [7/23/09]

Post-Reformation Calvinists were playing a dangerous game with Scripture. More was at stake than simply importing clumsy categories from the surrounding intellectual culture (William Perkins and William Ames from the logic of Peter Ramus; John Owen from Aristotle; etc.). THE THROBBING HEART OF THE GOSPEL WAS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK BY THEIR SYNCRETISM—a more polite epithet will not do. They sold at least part of our birthright for a mess of pottage. [7/23/09]

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