Saturday, April 29, 2006

Preservation of the Words of God

"No sooner, was the work of Evangelists and Apostles recognised as the necessary counterpart and complement of God's ancient Scriptures and became the 'New Testament,' than a reception was found to be awaiting it in the world closely resembling that which He experienced Who is the subject of its pages. Calumny and misrepresentation, persecution and murderous hate, assailed Him continually. And the Written Word in like manner, in the earliest age of all, was shamefully handled by mankind. Not only was it confused through human infirmity and misapprehension, but it became also the object of restless malice and unsparing assaults...

Before our Lord ascended up to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send them the Holy Ghost, who should supply His place and abide with His Church for ever. He added a promise that it should be the office of that inspiring Spirit not only to bring to their remembrance all things whatsoever he had told them, but also to guide His Church 'into all Truth' or 'the whole Truth,' (John 16:13). Accordingly, the earliest great achievement of those days was accomplished on giving to the Church the Scriptures of the New Testament, in which, authorised teaching was enshrined in written form,.....There exists no reason for supposing that the Divine Agent, who in the first instance thus gave to mankind the Scriptures of Truth, straightway abdicated His office: took no further care of His work; abandoned those precious writings to their fate. That a perpetual miracle was wrought for their preservation - that copyists were protected against all risk of error, or evil men prevented from adulterating shamefully copies of the Deposit - no one, it is presumed, is so weak as to suppose. But it is quite a different thing to claim that all down the ages the sacred writings must needs have been God's peculiar care; that the Church under Him has watched over them with intelligence and skill, has recognised which copies exhibit a fabricated, which an honestly transcribed text has generally sanctioned the one, and generally disallowed the other."
{ John William Burgon, "The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established")

"Hence, the providence of God hath manifested itself no less concerned in the preservation of the writings than of the doctrine contained in them; the writing itself being the product of his own eternal counsel for the preservation of the doctrine, after a sufficient discovery of the insufficiency of all other means for that end and purpose. And hence the malice of Satan hath raged no less against the book than against the truth contained in it. The dealings of Antiochus under the Old Testament, and of sundry persecuting emperors under the New, evince no less. And it was no less crime of old to be traditor libri than to be abnegator fidei. The reproach of chartacea scripta, and membranae, (Coster. Enchirid., cap. 1.), reflects on its author. It is true, we have not the autographa of Moses and the prophets, of the apostles and evangelists; but the apographa or “copies” which we have contain every iota that was in them.

There is no doubt but that in the copies we now enjoy of the Old Testament there are some diverse readings, or various lections. The various lections of Ben Asher, or Rabbi Aaron the son of Rabbi Moses of the tribe of Asher, and Ben Naphtali, or Rabbi Moses the son of David of the tribe of Naphtali — the lections also of the eastern and western Jews, which we have collected at the end of the great Bible with the Masora — evince it. But yet we affirm, that the whole Word of God, in every letter and tittle, as given from him by inspiration, is preserved without corruption. Where there is any variety it is always in things of less, indeed of no, importance. God by his providence
preserving the whole entire, suffered this lesser variety to fall out, in or among the copies we have, for the quickening and exercising of our diligence in our search into his Word." (
John Owen, "Of The Divine Original of the Scripture," emphasis added).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

R.L. Dabney On Civil Government

Chapter 47: The Civil MagistrateSyllabus for Lecture 73:
1. State the two theories of the origin of civil government out of a "social contract," and out of the ordinance of God. Establish the true one.
2. What is civil liberty? What its limits?
3. What are the proper objects of the powers of the Civil Magistrate? What their limits? What the limits to the obedience of a Christian man to the Civil Magistrate? When and how far is the Christian entitled to plead a 'higher law?'
4. Is the citizen bound always to passive obedience? If not, when does the right of forcible resistance to an unjust government begin? See Confession of Faith, ch. 23. Blackstone's Com. bk. 1. Introduc. 2. Paley's Moral Phil. bk. 6. ch. 1–5. Montesquieu Esprit des Loix, bk. 1. ch. 11. Burlemaqui, Vol. iv, pt. 1. Locke's Treatise of Civil Gov., bk. 2. Princeton Review, Jan., 1851. Bledsoe on Liberty and Slavery, ch. 1, So. Rev. Art. 'Civil Liberty.' Defence of Virginia and the South, ch. 7, 3.
Examined in its Christian Aspects Only.

The duty of the Christian citizen to civil society is so extensive and important, and so many questions arise as to its limits and nature, the propriety of holding office, the powers exercised by the magistrate, etc., that the teacher of the Church should be well grounded in the true doctrine of the nature of the commonwealth. Hence, our Confession has very properly placed this doctrine in its 23d chapter. It is emphatically a doctrine of Scripture.

1. Theories of Government Origin.Three opposing theories have prevailed among nominally Christian philosophers, as to the origin and extent of the Civil Magistrate's powers. The one traces them to a supposed social contract. Men are to be at first apprehended, they say, as insulated individuals, separate human integers, all naturally equal, and each by nature absolutely free, having a natural liberty to exercise his whole will, as a "Lord of Creation." But the experience of the exposure, inconveniences, and mutual violences of so many independent wills, led them, in time, to be willing to surrender a part of their independence, in order to secure the enjoyment of the rest of their rights. To do this, they are supposed to have conferred, and to have entered into a compact with each other, binding themselves to each other to submit to certain rules and restraints upon their natural rights, and to obey certain ones selected to rule, in order that the power thus delegated to their hands might be used for the protection of the remaining rights of all. Subsequent citizens entering the society, by birth or immigration, are supposed to have given an assent, express or implied, to this compact. The terms of it form the organic law, or constitution of the commonwealth. And the reason why men are bound to obey the legitimate commands of the magistrate is, that they have thus bargained with their fellow–citizens to obey, for the sake of mutual benefits.

Social Contract Theory Modified.

Many writers, as Blackstone and Burlemaqui, are too sensible not to see that this theory is false to the facts of the case; but they still urge, that although individual men never existed, in fact, in the insulated state supposed, and did not actually pass out of that state into a commonwealth state, by a formal social contract; yet such a contract must be assumed as implied, and as offering the virtual source of political power and obligation. Thus Blackstone, ubi supra , p.47: "But though society had not its formal beginning from any convention of individuals, actuated by their wants and their fears; yet it is the sense of their weakness and imperfection which keeps mankind together; that demonstrates the necessity of this union; and that therefore is the solid and natural foundation, as well as the cement of civil society." To us it appears, that if the compact never occurred in fact, but is only a supposititious one, a legal fiction it is no basis for any theory, and no source for practical rights and duties.

Christian Theory.

The other theory may be called the Christian. It traces civil government to the will and providence of God, who, from the first, created man with social instincts and placed him under social relations (when men were few, the patriarchal, as they increased, the commonwealth). It teaches that some form of social government is as original as man himself. If asked, whence the obligation to obey the civil magistrate, it answers: from the will of God, which is the great source of all obligation. The fact that such obedience is greatly promotive of human convenience, well–being and order, confirms and illustrates the obligation, but did not originate it. Hence, civil government is an ordinance of God; magistrates rule by His providence and by His command, and are His agents or ministers. Obedience to them, in the Lord, is a religious duty, and rebellion against them is not only injustice to our fellow–men, but disobedience to God. This is the theory plainly asserted by Paul, Rom.13:1–7, and 1Pet.2:13–18 It may be illustrated by the parental state.

Theory of Divine Right.

This account of the matter has been also pushed to a most vicious extreme, by the party known as Legitimatists, or advocates of the Divine right of royalty. The Bible here teaches us, they assert, that the power the civil magistrate holds, is in no sense delegated from the people, but wholly from God; that the people have no option to select or change their form of government, any more than a child has to choose its parent, or a soul the deity it will worship; that no matter how oppressive or unjust the government may be, the citizen has no duty nor right but passive submission, and that the divinely selected form is hereditary monarchy—the form first instituted in the hand of Adam, continued in the patriarchal institution, re–affirmed in the New Testament, and never departed from except by heaven defying republicans, etc.


The refutation to this obsequious theory is proven through ordinary facts. Against the paternal instinct of government, we must let common sense advise us that men do not bear to rulers the relation of children to parents, either in their greatest weakness, inferiority of knowlegde or virtue, nor in the natural affection felt for them. Rather, men are in general the natural equal of their rulers. Therefore, the argument from the family to the commonwealth to prove that a system of monarchy fails utterly. God's chosen form of Commonwealth government to the Hebrews was not monarchial, but republican. And when He reluctantly gave them a king, the succession was not hereditary, but virtually elective, as witness the cases of David, Jeroboam, Jehu, etc. 3d. The New Testament does not limit its teachings to the religious obligation to obey kings, but says generally! "the Powers that be are ordained of God.""There is no power but of God": thus giving the religious source, equally to the authority of kings and constables, and giving it to any form of government which providentially existed de facto . The thing then, which God ordains, is not a particular form of government, but that men shall maintain some form of government. Last, it is peculiarly fatal to the Legitimatist theory that the actual government of Rome, which the New Testament immediately enjoined Christians to obey, was not a legitimate, nor a hereditary monarchy, but one very lately formed in the usurpation of Octavius Caesar, and not in a single instance transmitted by descent, so far as Paul's day.

The Ruler for the People.

On the contrary, while we emphatically ascribe the fact of civil government and the obligation to obey it, to the will of God we also assert that in the secondary sense, the government is, potentially, the people. The original source of the power, the authority and the obligation to obey it, is God, the human source is not an irresponsible Ruler, but the body of the ruled themselves, that is, the sovereignty, so far as it is human, resides in the people, and is held by the rulers, by delegation from them. It is, indeed, the ordinance of the supreme God, that such delegation should be made, and the power so delegated be obeyed, by each individual; but still the power, so far as it is human, is the people's power, and not the ruler's. This is proved by two facts. All the citizens have a general native equality; they possess a common title, in the general, to the benefits of existence, as being all human beings and children of a common Creator. They are all alike under the golden rule, which is God's great charter of a general equality. Hence the second fact, that the government is for the governed, not for the especial benefit of the governors. The object of the institution, which God had in view, was the good of the community. The people are not for the rulers, but the rulers for the people. This is expressly stated by Paul, Rom 13:3, 4. Now, as before stated, the rulers have no monopoly of sense, virtue, experience, natural right, over their fellow–citizens, and hence the power of selecting rulers should be in the citizens.

Social Contract Refuted. 1st. Not Founded on Facts.

Having thus cleared the Scriptural theory from the odious perversions of the advocates of "legitimacy," I proceed to affirm it against the vain dream of a social contract, and the theory of obligation based upon it. lst. It is notoriously false to the actual facts. Civil government is not only a theory, but a fact; the origin of it can therefore be only found in a fact, not in a legal fiction. The fact is, that men never rightfully existed for one moment in the state of independent insulation, out of which they are supposed to have passed, by their own option, into a state of society. God never gave them such independency. Their responsibility to Him, and their civic relations to fellow–men, as ordained by God, are as native as their existence is. They do not choose their civic obligations, but are born under them; just as a child is born to his filial obligations. And the simple, practical proof is, that if one man were now to claim this option to assume civic relations and obligations, or to decline them, and so forego the advantages of civic life, any civilized government on earth would laugh his claim to scorn, and would immediately compel his allegiance by force. The mere assumption of such an attitude as that imagined for the normal one of man, and of the act in which it is supposed government legitimately originates, would constitute him an outlaw; a being whom every civil society claims a natural right to destroy; the right of self–preservation.

2d. Atheistic.

The theory is atheistic, utterly ignoring man's relation to his Creator, the right of that Creator to determine under what obligations man shall live; and the great Bible fact, that God has determined he shall live under civic obligations.

3d. Not Inductive.

It is utterly unphilosophical, in that, while the ethics of government should be an inductive science, this theory is, and by its very nature must be, utterly devoid of experimental evidence! Hence it has no claims to be even entertained for discussion, in foro scientice .

4th. Inconsistent

If the authority of laws and constitutions and magistrates originates in the social contract, then certain most inconvenient and preposterous consequences would logically follow. One is, that however inconvenient and even ruinous, the institutions of the country might become, by reason of the changes of time and circumstance, no majority could ever righteously change them, against the will of any minority; for the reason that the inconveniences of a bargain which a man has voluntarily made, are no justification for his breaking it. The righteous man must not change, though he has "sworn to his own hurt." Another inconvenience would be, that it could never be settled what were the terms agreed upon in the original social contract; and what part of the existing laws were the accretions of time and of unwarranted power, save where the original constitution was in writing. A worse consequence would be, that if the compact originated the obligation to obey the civil magistrate, then any one unconstitutional or unjust act of the ruler would break that compact. But when broken by one side, it is broken for both; and allegiance would be wholly voided.

Last: The civil magistrate is armed with some powers, which could not have been created by a social contract alone; because they did not belong to the contracting parties, viz: individual men cannot give, for instance, the right of life and death. No man's life belongs to him, but to God alone. He cannot transfer what does not belong to him; nor can one say, that although the individual may not have the right to delegate away a power over his own life which he does not possess, yet the community may be justified in assuming it, by the law of self–preservation. For there is no community as yet, until this theory of its derivation from a social contract is established There is only a number of individual, unrelated, independent men.

Natural Liberty What? Civil Liberty how Differing?

To elucidate and establish these ideas farther, let us inquire what is the true difference between man's natural liberty and his civil liberty. The advocates of the theory of a social compact seem to consider, as indeed some of them define, men's natural liberty to be a freedom to do what they please. They all say that Government limits or restrains it somewhat, the individual surrendering a part in order to have the rest better protected. Hence it follows, that all government, even the republican, being of the nature of restraint, is in itself a natural evil, and a natural infringement on right, to be endured only as an expedient for avoiding the greater evil of anarchy! Well might such theorists deduce the consequence, that there is no ethical ground for obedience to government, except the implied assent of the individual; the question would be, whether it is not a surrender of duty to come under such an obligation? They also, of course, confound a man's natural rights and natural liberties together; they would be still more consistent, if, with their great inventor, Hobbes, they denied that there was any such thing as rights, distinct from might, until they were factitiously created by the restraints of civil government.

Radical Theory False. True Stated.

This view I consider, although embraced in part by the current of Christian moralists, is only worthy of an atheist, who denies the existence of any original relations between the Creator and creature, and of any original moral distinctions. It ignores the great fact, that man's will never was his proper law; it simply passes over, in the insane pride of human perfectionism, the great fact of original sin, by which every man's will is more or less inclined to do unrighteousness. It falsely supposes a state of nature, in which man's might makes his right; whereas no man is righteously entitled to exist in that state for one instant. But if you would see how simple and impregnable is the Bible theory of natural and civil liberty, take these facts, undisputed by any Christian. The rule of action is moral: moral obligations are as original (as natural) as man himself. The practical source and measure of them is God's will. That will, ab initio , binds upon man certain relations and duties which he owes to God and to his fellow man; and also defines his right, i. e., those things which it is the duty of other beings to allow him to have and to do. Man enters existence with those moral relations resting, by God's will, upon him. And a part of that will, as taught by His law and providence is, that man shall be a member of, and obey, civil government, Hence, government is as natural as man is. What then is man's natural liberty? I answer: it is freedom to do whatever he has a moral right to do. Freedom to do whatever a man is physically able to do, is not a liberty of nature or law, but a natural license, a natural iniquity. What is civil liberty then? I reply still, it is (under a just government) freedom to do whatever a man has a moral right to do. Perhaps no government is perfectly just. Some withhold more, some fewer of the citizen's moral rights: none withhold them all. Under all governments there are some rights left; and so, some liberty. A fair and just government would be one that would leave to each subject of it, in the general, (excepting exceptional cases of incidental hardship,) freedom to do whatever he had a moral right to do, and take away all other, so far as secular and civic acts are concerned. Such a government, then, would not restrain the natural liberty of the citizens at all. Their natural would be identical with their civic liberty. Government then does not originate our rights, neither can it take them away. Good government does originate our liberty in a practical sense, i. e., it secures the exercise of it to us.

No Natural Right Sacrificed to Just Government.

The instance most commonly cited, as one of a natural right surrendered to civil society, is the right of self–defence. We accept the instance and assert that it fully confirms our view. For if it means the liberty of forcible defence at the time the unprovoked aggression is made, that is not surrendered; it is allowed under all enlightened governments fully. If it mean the privilege of a savage's retaliation, I deny that any human ever had such a right by nature. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." If it mean the privilege to attach the righteous temporal penalty, and execute it ourselves, on the aggressor, so as to deter him and others from similar assaults, I deny that this is naturally a personal right; for nothing is more unnatural than for a man to be judge in his own case. Other instances of supposed loss of natural rights are alleged with more plausibility; as when a citizen is restrained by law from selling his corn out of the country, (a thing naturally moral per se ) from some economic motive of public good; and yet the righteous citizen feels bound to obey. I reply: if the restriction of the government is not unjust, then there exists such a state of circumstances among the fellow citizens, that the sale of the corn out of the country, under those circumstances, would have been a natural breach of the law of righteousness and love towards them. So that, under the particular state of the case, the man's natural right to sell his corn had terminated. Natural rights may change with circumstances.

Natural Equality what? Golden Rule.

Here we may understand, in what sense "all men are by nature free and equal." Obviously no man is by nature free, in the sense of being born in possession of that vile license to do whatever he has will and physical ability to do, which the infidel moralists understand by the sacred name of liberty. For every man is born under obligation to God, to his parents, and to such form of government as may providentially be over his parents. (I may add the obligation to ecclesiastical government is also native). But all men have a native title to that liberty which I have defined, viz: freedom to do what they have a moral right to do. But as rights differ, the amount of this freedom to which given men have a natural title, varies in different cases. But all men are alike in this; that they all have the same general right by nature, to enjoy their own natural quantum of freedom, be it what it may. Again: are all men naturally equal in strength, in virtue, in capacity, or in rights? The thought is preposterous. The same man does not even continue to have the same natural rights all the time. The female child is born with a different set of rights in part, from the male child of the same parents; because born to different native capacities and natural relations and duties. In what then are men naturally equal? I answer, first: in their common title to the several quantums of liberty appropriate to each, differing as they do in different men; second, they are equal in their common humanity, and their common share in the obligations and benefits of the golden rule. All men are reciprocally bound to love their neighbors as themselves; and to do unto others, as they would that others should do to them. See Job 31:13–15. Here inspiration defines that equality as in full force between master and slave; and as entirely compatible with that relation. Here is the great charter of Bible republicanism. Men have by nature, a general equality in this; not a specific one. Hence, the general equality of nature will by no means produce a literal and universal equality of civil condition; for the simple reason that the different classes of citizens have very different specific rights; and this grows out of their differences of sex, virtue, intelligence, civilization, etc., and the demands of the common welfare. Thus, if the low grade of intelligence, virtue and civilization of the African in America, disqualified him for being his own guardian, and if his own true welfare (taking the "general run" of cases) and that of the community, would be plainly marred by this freedom; then the law decided correctly, that the African here has no natural right to his self–control, as to his own labour and locomotion. Hence, his natural liberty is only that which remains after that privilege is retrenched. Still he has natural rights, (to marriage, to a livelihood from his own labour, to the Sabbath, and to the service of God, and immortality, etc., &c). Freedom to enjoy all these constitutes his natural liberty, and if the laws violate any of it causelessly, they are unjust.

3. Proper Sphere of Civil Government.

The two remaining questions are more practical, and may be discussed more briefly. We discard the theocratic conception of civil government. The proper object of it is, in general, to secure to man his life, liberty, and property, i. e., his secular rights. Man's intellectual and spiritual concerns belong to different jurisdictions; the parental and the ecclesiastical. The evidence is, that the parental, and the ecclesiastical departments of duty and right are separately recognized by Scripture and distinctly fenced off, as independent circles. (See also John 18:35,36; Luke 12:14; 2Cor.10:4; Matt.22:21). The powers of the civil magistrate then, are limited by righteousness, (not always by facts) to these general functions, regulating and adjudicating all secular rights, and protecting all members of civil society in their enjoyment of their several proper shares thereof. This general function implies a number of others; prominently, these three: taxation, punishment, including capital for capital crimes, and defensive war. For the first, (see Matt.22:21; Rom.13:6,7;) for the second, (see Gen.9:5,6; Num.35:33; Rom.13:1–5;) for the third, (Ex.17:9, and passim in Old Testament; Luke 3:14,15; Acts 10:1,2). The same thing follows from the power of capital punishment. Aggressive war is wholesale murder. The magistrate who is charged with the sword, to avenge and prevent domestic murder, is a fortiori charged to punish and prevent the foreign murderer.

Duty of Christians to Unjust Civil Government.

But, few governments are strictly just; and the inquiry therefore arises how shall the Christian citizen act, under an oppressive command of the civil magistrate? I reply, if the act which he requires is not positively a sin per se , it must be obeyed, although in obeying we surrender a clear, moral right of our own. The proof is the example of the Bible saints— the fact that the very government to which Paul and Peter challenged obedience as a Christian duty, was far from being an equitable one; and the truth that a harsh and unjust government is a far less evil than the absence of all government. The duty of obedience, does not, as we have seen, spring out of our assent, nor from the government's being the one of our choice, but from the providence of God which placed us under it, coupled with the fact that government is His ordinance. If the thing commanded by the civil magistrate is positively sinful, then the Christian citizen must refuse obedience, but yield submission to the penalty therefor. Of course, he is entitled, while submitting either in this or the former case, to seek the peaceable repeal of the sinful law or command; but that he is bound to disobey it in the latter case, is clear from the example of the apostles and martyrs: Acts 4:19; 5:29; and from the obvious consideration, that since the civil magistrate is but God's minister, it is preposterous God's power committed to him should be used to pull down God's authority. But does not the duty of disobeying imply that there ought to be an immunity from penalty for so doing? I reply, of course, in strict justice, there ought; but this is one of those rights which the private Christian may not defend by violence, against the civil magistrate. The magistrate is magistrate still, and his authority in all things, not carrying necessary guilt in the compliance, is still binding, notwithstanding his unrighteous command. To suffer is not sin per se : hence, although when he commanded you to sin, you refused, when he commands you to suffer for that refusal, you acquiesce. It should be again remembered, that an unjust government is far better than none at all. It is God's will that such a government, even, should be obeyed by individuals, rather than have anarchy. If a man holds office under a government, and the official function enjoined upon him is positive sin, it is his duty to resign, giving up his office and its emoluments, along with its responsibilities, and then he has no more concern with the unrighteous law than any other private citizen. That concern is simply to seek its repeal by constitutional means. If the majority, or other controlling force in the constitution make that appeal unattainable for him, then the private citizen is clear of the sin, and has no concern with the sinful law. He is neither bound, nor permitted to resist it by force. But for an official of government to hold office, promise official obedience, and draw his compensation therefor, and yet undertake to refuse to perform the official duties of his place, on the ground that his conscience tells him the acts are morally wrong; this is but a disgusting compound of pharisaism, avarice and perjury. Thus we have, in a nutshell, the true doctrine of a "higher law," as distinguished from the spurious.

Right of Private Judgment Asserted.

One more question remains: Who is to be the judge when the act required of the citizen by law is morally wrong? I reply, the citizen himself, in the last resort. This is the great Protestant and Scriptural doctrine of private judgment. We sustain it by the obvious fact, that when the issue is thus made between the government and its citizen, if that is to be absolute judge in its own case, there is an end of personal independence and liberty. But the government's judgment being thus set aside, there remains no other human umpire. 2d. Every intelligent being lies under moral relations to God, which are immediate and inevitable. No creature in the universe can answer for him, in a case of conscience, or step between him and his guilt. Hence, it is the most monstrous and unnatural injustice that any power should dictate to his conscience, except His divine Judge. See Prov.9:12; Rom.14:4. The clear example of Bible saints sustains this, as cited above; for while they clearly recognized the legitimacy of the magistrate's authority, they claim the privilege of private judgment in disobeying their commands to sin. If it be said that this doctrine is in danger of introducing disorder and insubordination, I answer, no; not under any government that at all deserves to stand; for when the right of private judgment is thus exercised, as an appeal to God's judgment, and with the fact before our faces, that if we feel bound to disobey the law, we shall be still bound to submit meekly to the penalty, none of us will be apt to exercise the privilege too lightly.

4. Right of Revolution Discussed.

Thus far, we have considered the individual action of the citizen towards an unrighteous government, and have shown that, even when constrained to disobey an unrighteous law, he must submit to the penalty. Do we then inculcate the slavish doctrine of passive obedience, which asserts the divine and irresponsible right of kings, so that even though they so abuse their powers that the proper ends of government are lost, God forbids resistance? By no means. To Americans, whose national existence and glory are all founded on the "right of revolution," slight arguments would probably be needed to support it. But, it is the duty of thinking men to have some better support for their opinions, than the popularity of them.

Argument for Passive Obedience Refuted.

The argument for passive obedience, from Romans 13, is at first view, plausible, but will not bear inquiry. Note that the thing which is there declared to be of divine authority, is not a particular form of government, but submission to the government, whatever it is. God has not ordained what government mankind shall live under, but only that they shall live under a government. The end of government is not the gratification of the rulers, but the good of the ruled. When a form of government entirely ceases, as a whole, to subserve its proper end, is it still to subsist forever? This is preposterous. Who then is to change it? The submissionists say, Providence alone. But Providence works by means. Shall those means be external force or internal force? These are the only alternatives; for of course corrupt abuses will not correct themselves, when their whole interest is, to be perpetuated. External force is unauthorized; for nothing is clearer than that a nation should not interfere, uncalled, in the affairs of another. Again: we have seen that the sovereignty is in the people rather than the rulers; and that the power the rulers hold is delegated. May the people never resume their own, when it is wholly abused to their injury? There may be obviously a point then where "resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." The meaning of the apostle is, that this resistance must be the act, not of the individual, but of the people. The insubordination which he condemns, is that which arrays against a government, bad like that of the Caesars perhaps, the worse anarchy of the individual will. But the body of the citizens is the commonwealth; and when the commonwealth arises and supersedes the abused authority of her public servants, the allegiance of the individual is due to her, just as before to her servants. But it may be asked, How can the commonwealth move to do this, except by the personal movement of individuals against the "powers that be?" I answer, (and this explains the true nature of the right of revolution): true: but if the individual moves, when he is not inspired by the movement of the popular heart; when his motion is not the exponent, as well as the occasion, of theirs, he has made a mistake—he has done wrong—he must bear his guilt. It is usually said, as by Paley, that a revolution is only justifiable when the evils of the government are worse than the probable evils of the convulsive change; and when there is a reasonable prospect of success. The latter point is doubtful. Some of the noblest revolutions, as that of the Swiss, were rather the result of indignation at intolerable wrong, and a generous despair, than of this calculation of chances of success.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

EXCHANGED LIFE By: Major W. Ian Thomas

Christian living is not a method or technique; it is an entirely different, revolutionary principle of life. It is the principle of an exchanged life" not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20).

This is all part of our Gospel - it is not the Gospel plus! We must not get our terminology wrong. To divorce the behavior of the Christian from the Gospel is entirely false and is not true to the Word of God, yet all too often such is the characteristic of gospel preaching.

I would like to explore with you what is the true spiritual content of our Gospel ­ not just heaven one day, but Christ right now! Christ in you, on the grounds of redemption ­ this is the Gospel! To preach anything less than this must inevitably produce "Evan-jellyfish" ­ folk with no spiritual vertebrae, whose faith docs not "behave!"

Do you remember what James says in his epistle? "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead" (chapter 2:26). The "spirit" there means breath, and a body without breath is dead. Stop breathing ­ and folk will bury you! In other words, a living body breathes, and a living faith breathes, and a living faith breaths with divine action. A living faith breathes with the activity of Jesus Christ. That is why the Lord Jesus, in John 6:29, said, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent."

That is the work of God. It is your living faith in the adequacy of the One who is in you, which releases His divine action through you. It is the kind of activity that the Bible calls "good works," as opposed to "dead works."

"Good works" are those works that have their origin in Jesus Christ - - whose activity is released through your body, presented to Him as a living sacrifice by a faith that expresses total dependence, as opposed to the Adamic independence (Romans 12: 1,2).

It is only the life of the Lord Jesus -- His activity, clothed with you and displayed through you, that ultimately will find the approval of God.

From: The Saving Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. ©1961.


There is something, which makes Christianity more than a religion, more than an ethic, and more than the idle dream of the sentimental idealist. It is this something, which makes it relevant to each one of us right now as a contemporary experience. It is the fact that Christ Himself is the very life content of the Christian faith. It is He who makes it "tick." "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:24). The One who calls you is the One who does that to which He calls you. "For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). He is Himself the very dynamic of all His demands.

Christ did not die simply that you might be saved from a bad conscience, or even to remove the stain of past failure, but to "clear the decks" for divine action. You have been told that Christ died to save you. This is gloriously true in a very limited, though vital sense. In Romans 5:10 we read, "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." The Lord Jesus Christ therefore ministers to you in two distinct ways - He reconciles you to God by His death, and He saves you by His life.

This, however, is but the beginning of the story, "for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, (now an accomplished fact,) we shall be saved (as a continuing process) by His life" (Romans 5:10). The glorious fact of the matter is this ­ no sooner has God reconciled to Himself the man who has responded to His call, than He re-imparts to him, as a forgiven sinner, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and this restoration to him of the Holy Spirit constitutes what the Bible calls regeneration, or new birth. Titus 3:5 and 6, ­ "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour."

From: The Saving Life of Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. ©1961.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spurgeon on Rick Warren?

"[Our Savior did not] use any means which might enlist man's lower nature on his side. When I have heard of large congregations gathered together by the music of a fine choir, I have remembered that the same thing is done at the opera house and the music-hall, and I have felt no joy. When we have heard of crowds enchanted by the sublime music of the pealing organ, I have seen in the fact rather a glorification of St. Cecilia than of Jesus Christ. Our Lord trusted in no measure or degree to the charms of music for the establishing his throne. He has not given to his disciples the slightest intimation that they are to employ the attractions of the concert room to promote the kingdom of heaven.

I find no rubric in Scripture commanding Paul to clothe himself in robes of blue, scarlet, or violet; neither do I find Peter commanded to wear a surplice, an alb, or a chasuble. The Holy Spirit has not cared even to hint at a surpliced choir, or at banners, processions, and processional hymns. Now, if our Lord had arranged a religion of fine shows, and pompous ceremonies, and gorgeous architecture, and enchanting, music, and bewitching incense, and the like, we could have comprehended its growth; but he is "a root out of a dry ground", for he owes nothing to any of these.

Christianity has been infinitely hindered by the musical, the aesthetic, and the ceremonial devices of men, but it has never been advantaged by them, no, not a jot. The sensuous delights of sound and sight have always been enlisted on the side of error, but Christ has employed nobler and more spiritual agencies. Things which fascinate the senses are left to be the chosen instruments of Antichrist, but the gospel, disdaining Saul's armor, goes forth in the natural simplicity of its own might, like David, with sling and stone. Our holy religion owes nothing whatever to any carnal means; so far as they are concerned, it is "a root out of a dry ground".
--Charles Spurgeon, A Root Out of Dry Ground, 1872

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Confessions of a New Version Addict. by A.W.Tozer

Since shortly after my conversion to Christ as a teen-ager I have been addicted to the habit of acquiring and being disappointed with new versions of the Scriptures, both revisions and new translations.

It is a habit I cannot shake off. In spite of a long record of frustrated hopes and cruel disappointments, to this day I have but to hear a new version of the Scriptures has come out and I am off to the book-seller to pick up a copy. As Ponce de Leon, otherwise a sensible enough fellow, knocked about the world looking for a nonexistent fountain of youth, so I continue to look for the new version that will make any other new versions unnecessary by bringing out the meanings of the Holy Scriptures as sharply as the developer brings out the details of the picture on a photographic plate.

But it never works out that way. After poring over the new book for a few days or weeks and finding that it is just one more version, I put it aside and return to my first love, the familiar King James Bible. I know its mistakes very well, its mistranslations and confused tenses; I should, for the Bible teachers are forever correcting it in public and the introductions to the new versions never tire of pointing out these flaws in the grand old English Bible.

It has been my experience that the new versions make at least one mistake for every one they correct, so by the time the trusting reader has reached the last chapter of the Book of Revelation he is back where he started and just goes out by that same door where in he went. And in the meanwhile he has lost the incalculable benefit of constant and intimate mental association with the clearest, richest and most beautiful English to be found anywhere among the libraries of the World, the Authorized Version.

I believe that my error has been that I have nursed the hope, perhaps subconsciously, that my dullness of spirit and coldness of heart are the result of not hearing the truth expressed clearly enough in the common language of the street; that if I could hear a promise or a commandment couched in different words it would be easier to believe and obey.

But this is a gross fallacy. Words are only arbitrary symbols to convey meanings, and the meaning is all that matters. God would impart an idea to mankind, so He employs a verbal symbol which the reader can understand. That is what language is for, and that is all it is for, unless, as I have suggested above, the language becomes a thing of beauty in inself and so exerts a cultural influence upon those who read it and hear it spoken. But that is secondary; the primary purpose of language is to express truth, and it is before the bar of truth that we must all stand at last.

Mark Twain, when asked what he did about the passages of Scripture he could not understand, is supposed to have replied that these did not bother him. "But the ones I can understand," he said, "often make me sweat."

I believe that there is serious danger that we ignore the plain truth (which, incidentally, is about the same in all versions) while we search for novel meanings and more modern expressions of old truths which we know well enough but make no effort to obey. The chief purpose of the Word of God is to reveal saving truth, to bring men to Christ, to make them holy, to draw them into loving communion with God and to teach them how to do good to all men, especially to them that are of the household of faith. Let a man study prayerfully any of the generally recognized versions, done by proficient and responsible scholars, and the Spirit will quicken the truth to his heart and lead him toward the ends God has in view for him. Almost everything depends upon his response to the Spirit's workings.

While it is important that the translations be accurate and faithful, yet better versions do not make better men. And this brings us to consider those translators who think to do God service by packing into the English text every possible shade of meaning the word will bear in the original. The synonyms are put in brackets and the reader, apparently, just takes his choice. This would never do anywhere else. Imagine reading to a child.

"Twinkle, twinkle (blink, wink, shine intermittently, sparkle), little (diminutive, small, wee, tiny) star (heavenly body, luminary, orb, sphere),
How I wonder (question, puzzle over, dubitate) what you are (be, have identify with, belong under the description of),
Up above (atop, opposite to down, contrary to direction of gravity) the world (the earth, the abode of human-kind) so high (elevated),
Like a diamond (gem, precious stone, crystallized carbon) in the sky (the heavens, the firmament, the empyrean)"

Yet this is the latest religious word game in evangelical circles and we are all urged to play at it. For myself, I cannot keep serious while reading such a version, so I just pass up these uncertain translators and turn to one who can make up his mind. I have a secret love for decisiveness. It is quite natural for us humans to ignore the high moral intent of the Holy Scriptures and get lost in verbiage. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,"says the old version, and multitudes over the centuries have knelt in pentitence and tearfully sought to know true poverty of spirit; lately the fad seems to be to try to find shades of meaning for the words and to express them in more colloquial language. I wonder if anyone benefits by having the same thing said several different ways for him.

A few hundred years ago it was considered very much the thing for ministers preaching in English to interlard their sermons with frequent Greek and Latin words and phrases, always left untranslated by the speaker. His hearers were no doubt duly impressed with his learning but they had not the faintest notion what he was talking about. He has now been displaced by the preacher who knows enough Greek to make him uncomfortable and can never resist the temptation to turn every sermon into a classroom lecture. I have sometimes thought (and I trust not uncharitably) that the knowledge of a little Greek is a great convenience to such a man, for the Greek being a remarkably accommodating language enables him to preach anything he wants to without being challenged.

All this is not to cry down true scholarship nor to discourage honest attempts to put the Bible into modem speech. It is rather to confess that I have not become a holier man nor a better preacher by my incurable addiction to new versions of the Scriptures. I find that if I am failing to live in accordance with the will of God, I get no relief by reading about that will in a new translation. As soon as God shows a man the way, it is his duty and happy privilege to walk in it. If he refuses or neglects to walk in it he may seek some temporary consolation by looking about for some version that will say the same thing to him in a different way. While he is jockeying about for new shades of meaning his conscience may get a bit of rest, but I am sure that a faithful God will not let him escape.

Sometime he'll have to face up to the meaning of things, no matter in what version they are expressed. As I write I can see fifteen versions before me without turning my head and there are many more stashed about here and there. And they all say the same thing to me; namely, that I must trust Christ Jesus the Lord as my Saviour, love God with all my heart, soul and mind, and my neighbour as myself. They all say that I must be holy, humble, obedient, prayerful, pure, kindly, courageous and faithful. They all say that God is my Father and the Holy Spirit the inhabitant of my nature through the mystery of the new birth. And they all end with the cry for Christ's returning. I really don't need any more new versions, but I'll probably buy the next one that comes out.

Maybe someday I'll find something sufficiently different to justify the expense. But I haven't up to now.

Could This Be Our Most Critical Need?

"WHEN VIEWING THE RELIGIOUS scene today, we are tempted to fix on one or another weakness and say, "This is what is wrong with the church. If this were corrected, we could recapture the glory of the early church and have pentecostal times back with us again."
This tendency to oversimplification is itself a weakness and should be guarded against always, especially when dealing with anything as complex as religion as it occurs in modern times. It takes a very young man to reduce all our present woes to a single disease and cure the whole thing with one simple remedy. Older and wiser heads will be more cautious, having learned that the prescribed nostrum seldom works for the reason that the diagnosis has not been correct. Nothing is that simple. Few spiritual diseases occur alone. Almost all are complicated by the presence of others and are so vitally interrelated as they spread over the whole religious body that it would take the wisdom of a Solomon to find a single cure.

For this reason, I am hesitant to point to any one defect in present-day Christianity and make all our troubles to stem from it alone. That so-called Bible religion in our times is suffering rapid decline is so evident as to need no proof, but just what has brought about this decline is not so easy to discover. I can only say that I have observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians which might turn out to be the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles. Of course, if that were true, then the supplying of that lack would be our most critical need.

The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How there can be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today. I think it is altogether accurate to say that there has never before been a time in the history of the church when so many people were engaged in Bible study as are so engaged today. If the knowledge of Bible doctrine were any guarantee of godliness, this would without doubt be known in history as the age of sanctity. Instead, it may well be known as the age of the church’s Babylonish captivity, or the age of worldliness, when the professed Bride of Christ allowed herself to be successfully courted by the fallen sons of men in unbelievable numbers. The body of evangelical believers, under evil influences, has during the last twenty five years gone over to the world in complete and abject surrender, avoiding only a few of the grosser sins such as drunkenness and sexual promiscuity.

That this disgraceful betrayal has taken place in broad daylight with full consent of our Bible teachers and evangelists is one of the most terrible affairs in the spiritual history of the world. Yet I for one cannot believe that the great surrender was negotiated by men of evil heart who set out deliberately to destroy the faith of our fathers. Many good and clean-living people have collaborated with the quislings who betrayed us. Why? The answer can only be, from lack of spiritual vision. Something like a mist has settled over the church as "the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations" (Isaiah 25:7). Such a veil once descended upon Israel: "For their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts" (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). That was Israel’s tragic hour. God raised up the church and temporarily disfranchised His ancient people. He could not trust His work to blind men.

Surely we need a baptism of clear seeing if we are to escape the fate of Israel (and of every other religious body in history that forsook God). If not the greatest need, then surely one of the greatest is for the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic vision. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. Unless they come soon, it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come, we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly orthodoxy. But the cross is always the harbinger of the resurrection.

Mere evangelism is not our present need. Evangelism does no more than extend religion, of whatever kind it may be. It gains acceptance for religion among larger numbers of people without giving much thought to the quality of that religion. The tragedy is that present-day evangelism accepts the degenerate form of Christianity now current as the very religion of the apostles and busies itself with making converts to it with no questions asked. And all the time we are moving farther and farther from the New Testament pattern.

We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with that irresponsible, amusement-mad, paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing unscriptural methods to achieve their ends.

When the Roman church apostatized, God brought about the Reformation. When the Reformation declined, God raised up the Moravians and the Wesleys. When these movements began to die, God raised up fundamentalism and the "deeper life" groups.

Now that these have almost without exception sold out to the world—what next?" (A.W. Tozer, We Travel An Appointed Way, Chapter 38, emphasis added)

Francis Turretin on Preservation of the Bible

"Unless unimpaired integrity characterize the Scriptures, they could not be regarded as the sole rule of faith and practice, and the door would be thrown wide open to atheists, libertines, enthusiasts, and other profane persons like them for destroying its authenticity...and overthrowing the foundation of salvation. For since nothing false can be an object of [saving] faith, how could the Scriptures be held as authentic and reckoned divine if liable to contradictions and corruptions? Nor can it be said that these corruptions are only in smaller things which do not affect the foundation of faith. For if once the authenticity...of the Scriptures is taken away (which would result even from the incurable corruption of one passage), how could our faith rest on what remains? And if corruption is admitted in those of lesser importance, why not in others of greater? Who could assure me that no error or blemish had crept into fundamental passages? Or what reply could be given to a subtle atheist or heretic who should pertinaciously assert that this or that passage less in his favor had been corrupted? It will not do to say that divine providence wished to keep it free from serious corruptions, but not from minor. For besides the fact that this is gratuitous, it cannot be held without injury, as if lacking in the necessary things which are required for the full credibility...of Scripture itself. Nor can we readily believe that God, who dictated and inspired each and every word to these, would not take care of their entire preservation. If men use the utmost care diligently to preserve their words (especially if they are of any importance, as for example a testament or contract) in order that it may not be corrupted, how much more, must we suppose, would God take care of His Word which He intended as a testament and seal of His covenant with us, so that it might not be corrupted; especially when He could easily foresee and prevent such corruptions in order to establish the faith of His church?" (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, I:71. )

John Owen on Preservation of the Bible

"The sum of what I am pleading for, as to the particular head to be vindicated, is, that as the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were immediately and entirely given out by God Himself, His mind being in them represented unto us without the least interveniency of such mediums and ways as were capable of giving change or alteration to the least iota or syllable; so, by His good and merciful providential dispensation, in His love to His Word and church, His whole Word, as first given out by Him, is preserved unto us entire in the original languages; where, shining in its own beauty and lustre (as also in all translations, so far as they faithfully represent the originals), it manifests and evidences unto the consciences of men, without other foreign help or assistance, its divine original and authority." (John Owen, The Works of John Owen (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), XVI:349-350.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Wrath of God: What Is It?

It is rare that there is anything good in human anger. Almost always it springs out of unholy states of heart, and frequently it leads to cursing and violence. The man of evil temper is unpredictable and dangerous and is usually shunned by men of peace and good will.

There is a strong tendency among religious teachers these days to disassociate anger from the divine character and to defend God by explaining away the Scriptures that relate it to Him. This is understandable, but in the light of the full revelation of God it is inexcusable.

In the first place, God needs no defense. Those teachers who are forever trying to make God over in their own image might better be employed in seeking to make themselves over in the image of God. In the Scriptures "God spake all these words," and there is no independent criterion by which we can judge the revelation God there makes concerning Himself.

The present refusal of so many to accept the doctrine of the wrath of God is part of a larger pattern of unbelief that begins with doubt concerning the veracity of the Christian Scriptures.

Let a man question the inspiration of the Scriptures and a curious, even monstrous, inversion takes place: thereafter he judges the Word instead of letting the Word judge him; he determines what the Word should teach instead of permitting it to determine what he should believe; he edits, amends, strikes out, adds at his pleasure; but always he sits above the Word and makes it amenable to him instead of kneeling before God and becoming amenable to the Word.
The tender-minded interpreter who seeks to shield God from the implications of His own Word is engaged in an officious effort that cannot but be completely wasted.

Why such a man still clings to the tattered relics of religion it is hard to say. The manly thing would be to walk out on the Christian faith and put it behind him along with other outgrown toys and discredited beliefs of childhood, but this he rarely does. He kills the tree but still hovers pensively about the orchard hoping for fruit that never comes.

Whatever is stated clearly but once in the Holy Scriptures may be accepted as sufficiently well established to invite the faith of all believers; and when we discover that the Spirit speaks of the wrath of God about three hundred times in the Bible, we may as well make up our minds either to accept the doctrine or reject the Scriptures outright. If we have valid information from some outside source proving that anger is unworthy of God, then the Bible is not to be trusted when it attributes anger to God. And if it is wrong three hundred times on one subject, who can trust it on any other?

The instructed Christian knows that the wrath of God is a reality, that His anger is as holy as His love, and that between His love and His wrath there is no incompatibility. He further knows (as far as fallen creatures can know such matters) what the wrath of God is and what it is not. To understand God’s wrath we must view it in the light of His holiness. God is holy and has made holiness to be the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe. Sin’s temporary presence in the world only accents this. Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death. The formation of the language itself suggests this, the English word holy deriving from the Anglo-Saxon halig, hal meaning well, whole. While it is not wise to press word origins unduly, there is yet a significance here that should not be overlooked.
Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure. Wherever the holiness of God confronts unholiness there is conflict. This conflict arises from the irreconcilable natures of holiness and sin. God’s attitude and action in the conflict are His anger. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. When He arises to put down destruction and save the world from irreparable moral collapse, He is said to be angry. Every wrathful judgment of God in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.

The holiness of God, the wrath of God and the health of the creation are inseparably united. Not only is it right for God to display anger against sin, but I find it impossible to understand how He could do otherwise.

God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the diphtheria or polio that would destroy the life of her child.

God’s wrath is the antisepsis by which moral putrefaction is checked and the health of the creation maintained. When God warns of His impending wrath and exhorts men to repent and avoid it He puts it in a language they can understand: He tells them to "flee from the wrath to come" (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7). He says in effect, "Your life is evil, and because it is evil you are an enemy to the moral health of My creation. I must extirpate whatever would destroy the world I love. Turn from evil before I rise up in wrath against you. I love you, but I hate the sin you love. Separate yourself from your evil ways before I send judgment upon you."
"O LORD,…in wrath remember mercy" (Habakkuk 3:2). (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God)

Discerning the Manuscript Traditions

Quite often a return to confessional Christian belief results in clarity. My Baptist friends should not now immediatley dismiss the following article from Credenda Agenda. The historic Church has always had confessions, catechisms etc....long before the Roman Church ever existed or thought about the same.

The following article may be found at:

The entire issue of Credenda is most helpful. Read and enjoy and thank the Lord for Doug Wilson, et al. Notice the difference in the manner in which each of these men address the issues. That is as revealing as anything! (Editor)

Volume 10, Issue 1: Disputatio
Discerning the Manuscript Traditions
Douglas Wilson and James White

"I am of NIV," some say. Others say, "I am of NASB." Still others say, "I am of KJV." Is it simply enough to respond to these various armies that they may water, but God gives the increase—so quit squabbling? If the translation one uses does matter, which should it be? And which of the ancient manuscripts should be used as a base for translation? In what follows, Douglas Wilson, editor of Credenda/Agenda, and James White discuss whether one manuscript is superior to another and how we might know that one is superior.

James White is the author of the book, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?, and the book, Letters to a Mormon Elder. He is the Director of Ministries for Alpha and Omega Ministries.

DW: The historic Protestant position on the manuscript tradition of Scripture is that God had divinely inspired the writing of the autographs and had providentially preserved the tradition of the apographs down to the present time. But with the advent of modernity, this simple faith was not scientific enough and independent textual critics began to work with the Scriptures as though they were just another collection of ancient books, subject to the same treatment. Conservatives like B.B. Warfield were concerned about these unbelieving encroachments, and so resolved simply to defend the autographs alone, a well-meaning but disastrous strategy. While rejecting the know-nothing approach of fundamentalism, historic Protestants need to return to the reformational doctrine of sola Scriptura.

JW: The central issue for any believing Christian when it comes to the text of the Bible is this: what did the original authors write? We must remember that the ultimate goal is to know what John or Paul wrote, not what a scribe, or group of scribes, or even a group of theologians, think they wrote. We must never forget that at times in the history of the Church certain texts have become enshrined by tradition rather than by force of historical verity. To be truly Reformed is to always test one's traditions, and this is no less true when we examine the issue of text types and manuscript traditions.

DW: Agreed. But if we are able to know what the original autographs contained, and we do not have the autographs themselves, then we must have a reliable tradition or bridge of some sort which connects us to the original autographs. Since we agree that such a traditional bridge is necessary, then the debate concerns which manuscript tradition, and not whether we will have a manuscript tradition. It concerns which scribes are reliable, not whether intervening scribes are necessary. This means the "force of historical verity" is simply another way of referring to accurate tradition. And it appears to me that when we use this "force" as the standard, the textus receptus measures up quite well.

JW: Some have counted as many as one hundred different editions of the TR, so which one is being referred to is a major question. The most popular TR differs from the Majority Text in over 1,800 places, and contains obvious errors (such as those at Luke 2:22 or 2 Timothy 2:19). The early editions of the TR (the editions of Erasmus) were created on the same basis as modern texts, as Erasmus' own comments make clear. The TR is an "artificial" text, just as all modern texts, in that there is not a single manuscript in the tradition that reads word-for-word as the TR.

DW: If a problem with the TR is variant readings, then how does it help to expand the field so that we have thousands more variant readings? The "errors" you cite are a wonderful example of the power of paradigms. How is "Christ" instead of "Lord" a mistake? Or Mary's purification? The issue is not whether careful scholarship goes into the formation of the text, but rather who is qualified to do that scholarship, and who is responsible for authoritatively receiving it. The Church has been entrusted with the oracles of God, not autonomous scientists. We have agreed that a traditional manuscript bridge is necessary. Who stands guard at the bridge—the Church or autonomous science?

JW: It is a myth that the TR is the "received text." The Church has never convened and compared one tradition against another and made that determination. Yet, there are many parallels between the arguments once used by Rome in favor of the Vulgate and the arguments used by some to support the TR. As to the errors cited, the issue is simple: just as I don't accept the Vulgate's renderings due to their "common use" for centuries, so I ask of the TR the same question: is that what Luke or Paul originally wrote? In both places, the TR gives a reading that stands against even the Majority Text.

DW: But the historic Protestant church did make that determination. Protestant theologians of the Reformation era asserted the autographs and the apographs in the original languages were both the breath of God. This was made a confessional issue at Westminster, where it was plainly asserted that the inspired Scriptures were "by [God's] singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages" and were "therefore authentical." Which text family? Clearly the answer should be found in the one they were using. I grant that the modern evangelical church has not made this a confessional issue—that is why they have lots of variant Bibles, and are working on more. But we should return to our confessional roots.

JW: This assumes an authority for the confession that the confession itself does not claim. I don't recall any in-depth textual study taking place at Westminster. Even if there was, by what Protestant paradigm do we exclude further information that has come to light since then? This argument is Trent all over again—an argument rejected by the Reformation. No ecclesiastical authority has the right to change Scripture. If one asserts that we should read "her" instead of "their" at Luke 2:22, that is changing Scripture, for no one reading Luke in Greek for the first 1400 years of the Church would have seen this "new" and novel reading.

DW: Certainly ecclesiastical authority has no right to change Scripture—we agree. We differ over whether any authority has the right to change Scripture. I want to deny the privilege to priestly scientists as well. The assertion that the classical and scholastic Protestant approach to the text is really Tridentine is curious. Classical Protestants wanted a fixed Word throughout church history, while the Roman church is the one that has always been willing for more "light." Given your argument, on what basis can you consistently hold to the closure of the canon? Or are we only to be open to more light if it is a word or a verse, and not a book or two?

JW: I do not know what a "priestly scientist" is. Nor do I remember a Protestant "council" defining "the classical and scholastic Protestant approach to the text." Who has ever claimed the authority to define such a thing? When did they claim it? Rome tried to fix the text with the Vulgate, and failed. Others wish to do it with the TR, but again, that fails, as it contains errors, as its original compiler (Erasmus) admitted. My reference was to further information in regards to the text itself as it existed in ancient times, not to "new light." Will you, or can you, deal with Luke 2:22, and the TR reading?

DW: Your point about Luke 2:22 is only pertinent for those who claim absolute perfection for one TR form. Certainly textual sorting work must be done, but not by "neutral" scholars. Unbelieving criticism says that words, verses, pericopes, and books are all up for grabs. To grant this legitimacy with the first three, while drawing the line to keep 66 inspired books, is like being a little bit pregnant. 2 John has 301 words while the last twelve verses of Mark have 260. At what word count does the authority of science becomes illegitimate? I return to my question: who does the work we agree needs to be done—autonomous science or the confessing historical Church?

JW: This presents a tremendously false dichotomy. First, the confessing historical Church is a nice phrase, but means completely different things to different people. What, specifically, is it, and how does it make textual decisions? Second, I, and many others, do believing study of the text. Am I a part of the Church? Is my work "autonomous"? Your paradigm doesn't seem to leave room for my existence. Since you admit error in the TR, how does this fit with claiming the "confessing historical Church" is to make textual decisions? Has the Church "decided" on Luke 2:22, or Mark

DW: Confessing refers to creeds and confessions, and historical refers to the providence of God as He has protected and led the Church over time. Thus the confessing historical Church has determined that the Bible contains 66 books and that Mark 16:9_20 is in one of them. A few readings remain to be settled, but the settling is to be done by the confessing historical Church—not Zondervan. Individualistic efforts may be believing work, and yet not submitted to the authority of the Church. Secular canons of academic text criticism do not require ecclesiastical review. Incidentally, admitting that no one form of the TR is perfect and admitting error in the TR are two distinct things.

JW: When did "the Church" "determine" the canon? Did the church do so infallibly? When did the Church say, "Mark 16:9_20 is Scripture"? Is mere usage over time the final test? Since the TR contains readings unknown for 1400 years, what did the Church do in ancient times? What process was used to "determine" that Mark 16:9_20 is canon? When did the Church add the Comma Johanneum to the canon (1 John 5:7_8)? And could you please show me the TR, since it seems to be a very fluid, undefined, yet "ecclesiastically approved," item? And if readings still remain to be settled, who will settle them, and by what process? Are the final decisions infallible?

DW: You are not recognizing the "inescapability factor" in this. Given human agency, either the Church authoritatively recognizes the text, or some other entity does, or there is no text. We both accept the Bible as the self-authenticating Word of God—therefore we agree there are canonical books (along with canonical contents). That leaves us with the first two options in our recognition of this canon. I am maintaining that the Church has the responsibility to recognize that canon through her discipline (e.g., defrocking a minister who claims that Romans is spurious). Now if you deny that the Church has this authority, it means that you must grant it to some other entity. What is that entity?

JW: Romans is not a variant reading at Luke 2:22 or elsewhere. While related, canon and textual variations involve separate issues and methodologies. We know Romans as a body of text that is canonical. It does not follow, though, that we must accept a textual addition, unknown for as many as a thousand years, just because the reading becomes "popular" through use. The fact remains that the key issue is what was written by the original writers. While the Church has indeed said, "Romans is Scripture," it does not follow that she has said, "the Byzantine textual tradition of Romans is the canonical text." That goes beyond history.

DW: You began by praising "the force of historical verity," but despite repeated requests, you never told us who is to be responsible for establishing that verity. Why were you unwilling to state that it must be the science of textual criticism, located outside the confessing Church, which is responsible to discover the content of the autographs? Rather, the historical confessing Church has this responsibility, and has in the main discharged the responsibility well. The task of sorting out the remaining textual problems is entirely manageable. But the science of autonomous textual criticism, far from establishing verity, has only managed to establish thousands of variations and increase a generally destructive confusion about the text of Scripture.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Importance of Sound Doctrine

"It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles, so sound character does not grow out of unsound teaching.

The word doctrine means simply religious beliefs held and taught. It is the sacred task of all Christians, first as believers and then as teachers of religious beliefs, to be certain that these beliefs correspond exactly to truth. A precise agreement between belief and fact constitutes soundness in doctrine. We cannot afford to have less.

The apostles not only taught truth but contended for its purity against any who would corrupt it. The Pauline epistles resist every effort of false teachers to introduce doctrinal vagaries. John’s epistles are sharp with condemnation of those teachers who harassed the young Church by denying the incarnation and throwing doubts upon the doctrine of the Trinity; and Jude in his brief but powerful epistle rises to heights of burning eloquence as he pours scorn upon evil teachers who would mislead the saints.

Each generation of Christians must look to its beliefs. While truth itself is unchanging, the minds of men are porous vessels out of which truth can leak and into which error may seep to dilute the truth they contain. The human heart is heretical by nature and runs to error as naturally as a garden to weeds. All a man, a church or a denomination needs to guarantee deterioration of doctrine is to take everything for granted and do nothing. The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness; the church or denomination that grows careless on the highway of truth will before long find itself astray, bogged down in some mud flat from which there is no escape.
In every field of human thought and activity accuracy is considered a virtue. To err ever so slightly is to invite serious loss, if not death itself. Only in religious thought is faithfulness to truth looked upon as a fault. When men deal with things earthly and temporal they demand truth; when they come to the consideration of things heavenly and eternal they hedge and hesitate as if truth either could not be discovered or didn’t matter anyway.

Montaigne said that a liar is one who is brave toward God and a coward toward men; for a liar faces God and shrinks from men. Is this not simply a proof of unbelief? Is it not to say that the liar believes in men but is not convinced of the existence of God, and is willing to risk the displeasure of a God who may not exist rather than that of man who obviously does?

I think also that deep, basic unbelief is back of human carelessness in religion. The scientist, the physician, the navigator deals with matters he knows are real; and because these things are real the world demands that both teacher and practitioner be skilled in the knowledge of them. The teacher of spiritual things only is required to be unsure in his beliefs, ambiguous in his remarks and tolerant of every religious opinion expressed by anyone, even by the man least qualified to hold an opinion.

Haziness of doctrine has always been the mark of the liberal. When the Holy Scriptures are rejected as the final authority on religious belief something must be found to take their place. Historically that something has been either reason or sentiment: if sentiment, it has been humanism. Sometimes there has been an admixture of the two, as may be seen in liberal churches today. These will not quite give up the Bible, neither will they quite believe it; the result is an unclear body of beliefs more like a fog than a mountain, where anything may be true but nothing may be trusted as being certainly true.

We have gotten accustomed to the blurred puffs of gray fog that pass for doctrine in modernistic churches and expect nothing better, but it is a cause for real alarm that the fog has begun of late to creep into many evangelical churches. From some previously unimpeachable sources are now coming vague statements consisting of a milky admixture of Scripture, science and human sentiment that is true to none of its ingredients because each one works to cancel the others out.

Certain of our evangelical brethren appear to be laboring under the impression that they are advanced thinkers because they are rethinking evolution and reevaluating various Bible doctrines or even divine inspiration itself; but so far are they from being advanced thinkers that they are merely timid followers of modernism—fifty years behind the parade.

Little by little evangelical Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing numbers of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.

Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever. " (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God)

Textual Criticism?

Let a man question the inspiration of the Scriptures and a curious, even monstrous, inversion takes place: thereafter he judges the Word instead of letting the Word judge him; he determines what the Word should teach instead of permitting it to determine what he should believe; he edits, amends, strikes out, adds at his pleasure; but always he sits above the Word and makes it amenable to him instead of kneeling before God and becoming amenable to the Word.

The tender-minded interpreter who seeks to shield God from the implications of His own Word is engaged in an officious effort that cannot but be completely wasted.

Why such a man still clings to the tattered relics of religion it is hard to say. The manly thing would be to walk out on the Christian faith and put it behind him along with other outgrown toys and discredited beliefs of childhood, but this he rarely does. He kills the tree but still hovers pensively about the orchard hoping for fruit that never comes. (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God)

Forget That They Told You to Shut Up!

"Why do we not capture the divine illumination of Jesus Christ in our souls? Because there is a cloud of concealment between us and the smiling face of God!"

I CANNOT HELP BUT BELIEVE that in our generation there is a great, concealing cloud over much of the fundamental, gospel church which has practically shut off our consciousness of the smiling face of God.

Textualism, a system of rigid adherence to words, has largely captured the church, with the language of the New Testament still being used but with the Spirit of the New Testament grieved.

The doctrine of verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, for instance, is still held, but in such a way that its illumination and life are gone and rigor mortis has set in. As a result religious yearning is choked down, religious imagination has been stultified and religious aspiration smothered.

The "hierarchy" and the "scribes" of this school of thought have told us and would teach us that we ought to shut up and quit talking about spiritual longing and desire in the Christian church.
We have already seen the reaction to this among the masses of evangelical Christians. There has been a revolt in two directions, a rather unconscious revolt, like the gasping of fish in a bowl where there is no oxygen. A great company of evangelicals has already gone over into the area of religious entertainment so that many gospel churches are tramping on the doorstep of the theater. Over against that, some serious segments of fundamental and evangelical thought have revolted into the position of evangelical rationalism which finds it a practical thing to make its peace with liberalism.

This is why the message of spiritual perfection and longing after God sounds so strange to our generation. On one side the masses proclaim, "I have accepted Jesus—whoop de doo! Let’s go and have fun!" On the other, serious and reverent men are thinking their way perilously near to the borders of liberalism. Meanwhile, the New Testament message, objectives and methods are allowed to lie dormant, spurned and forgotten. I have read for many years in the old devotional classics of the desire of the saints of God to keep the candles of their souls burning brightly, day by day. They sought to feel the divine fire in their hearts, to experience the blessedness of reconciliation with God. They are on record as always willing to renounce everything worldly in order to possess the treasure buried in the field of their hearts.

This is not new doctrine and it ought not to sound so different and strange to us. Has not Christ made full atonement for us, and should we not renounce everything that would keep us from the conscious experience of knowing and receiving the Kingdom of God within us?

God’s face is turned toward us. The famed Lady Julian wrote long ago, "The precious amends our Lord hath made for man’s sin have turned all our blame into endless honor!" Paul said it in this way, "Where sin increased, grace increased all the more" (Romans 5:20b).

It is glorious knowledge indeed that the smiling face of God is turned toward us. Why, then, do we not capture the wondrous, divine illumination of our Savior, Jesus Christ? Why do we not know the divine fire in our own souls? Why do we not strive to sense and experience the knowledge of exhilaration of reconciliation with God? (A. W. Tozer)

Are We Evangelicals Social Climbing?

Today we evangelicals are showing signs that we are becoming too rich and too prominent for our own good. With a curious disregard for the lessons of history we are busy fighting for recognition by the world and acceptance by society. And we are winning both. The great and the mighty are now looking our way. The world seems about to come over and join us. Of course we must make some concessions, but these have almost all been made already except for a bit of compromising here and there on such matters as verbal inspiration, special creation, separation and religious tolerance.

Evangelical Christianity is fast becoming the religion of the bourgeoisie. The well-to-do, the upper middle classes, the politically prominent, the celebrities are accepting our religion by the thousands and parking their expensive cars outside our church doors, to the uncontrollable glee of our religious leaders who seem completely blind to the fact that the vast majority of these new patrons of the Lord of glory have not altered their moral habits in the slightest nor given any evidence of true conversion that would have been accepted by the saintly fathers who built the churches.

Yes, history is a great teacher, but she cannot teach those who do not want to learn. And apparently we do not. (A.W. Tozer, Warfare of the Spirit)

The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches*

*This article appeared in The Alliance Witness May 15, 1963, just two days after the death of Dr. Tozer. In a sense It was his valedictory, for it expressed the concern of his heart. Because of its wide acceptance it has been included in this selection.

Here is the burden of my heart; and while I claim for myself no special inspiration I yet feel that this is also the burden of the Spirit.

If I know my own heart, it is love alone that moves me to write this. What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contentions with my fellow Christians. There have been no such contentions. I have not been abused, mistreated or attacked by anyone. Nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church as well as with Christians of other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches.

I think also that I should acknowledge that I am myself very much involved in the situation I here deplore. As Ezra in his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrong-doers, so do I. "O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens" (Ezra 9:6). Any hard word spoken here against others must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him.

Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals.

It is a basic doctrine of the New Testament that after His resurrection the Man Jesus was declared by God to be both Lord and Christ, and that He was invested by the Father with absolute Lordship over the church which is His Body. All authority is His in heaven and in earth. In His own proper time He will exert it to the full, but during this period in history He allows this authority to be challenged or ignored. And just now it is being challenged by the world and ignored by the church.

The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term "the Crown") is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.

Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" is the church's national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened" or "Do not let your hearts be troubled," but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has.

Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.

But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions, what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln's long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States, the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.

The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.

What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all our Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group. In so doing we are keeping the commandments of Christ.

To avoid the hard necessity of either obeying or rejecting the plain instructions of our Lord in the New Testament we take refuge in a liberal interpretation of them. Casuistry is not the possession of Roman Catholic theologians alone. We evangelicals also know how to avoid the sharp point of obedience by means of fine and intricate explanations. These are tailor-made for the flesh. They excuse disobedience, comfort carnality and make the words of Christ of none effect. And the essence of it all is that Christ simply could not have meant what He said. His teachings are accepted even theoretically only after they have been weakened by interpretation.

Yet Christ is consulted by increasing numbers of persons with "problems" and sought after by those who long for peace of mind. He is widely recommended as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist with remarkable powers to straighten people out. He is able to deliver them from their guilt complexes and to help them to avoid serious psychic traumas by making a smooth and easy adjustment to society and to their own ids. Of course this strange Christ has no relation whatever to the Christ of the New Testament. The true Christ is also Lord, but this accommodating Christ is little more than the servant of the people.

But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put a few questions and let the answers be the evidence.

What church board consults our Lord's words to decide matters under discussion? Let anyone reading this who has had experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the Scriptures to make a point, or when any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or "a season of prayer"; after that the Head of the Church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I for one will be glad to hear it.

What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not the members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, "operations" and new methodological techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them never so much as enters their heads.

Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second.

What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His Spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the scripturalness of their ends and then ask for help to find ways to achieve them. They may pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy, and thereafter the Lord doesn't even have a vote.

In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group.
What Christian when faced with a moral problem goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament Scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of a family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters?

What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some, and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools to stay in business are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly: the authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach among other things the authority of Christ.

The causes back of the decline in our Lord's authority are many. I name only two.

One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These like gravitation affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exerting a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ but custom is lord in this situation. And the same thing has passed over (possibly to a slightly less degree) into the other groups such as the full gospel tabernacles, the holiness churches, the pentecostal and fundamental churches and the many independent and undenominational churches found everywhere throughout the North American continent.

The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I'll explain.

Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding.

He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala.

For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.

What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.

Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.