The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “heresy”

What Saint Peter Really Said

"That's just the funny thing about it, Sir," said Peter. "Up till now, I'd have said Lucy every time."

“That’s just the funny thing about it, sir,” said Peter. “Up till now, I’d have said Lucy every time.” (Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

In the last decade, a tragic conversation has taken place between people in the evangelical world over the meaning of the word “justification.” Part of the reason that the conversation has been tragic is because of the quick assumption by so many that grown pastors lie through their teeth when carefully and consistently reiterating their own theology.  But it has also been tragic because the accusation has never been about the meaning of the word “justification” in the BIBLE. Rather, it has basically assumed that the biblical definition is the same as the definition in the Westminster Standards, and that if you talk about distinctions in the Bible, you must be denying the content of the Standards.

Now before I say too much more, I want to state on the record that I believe we enter into salvation by faith alone (not works) in Christ alone. It is all of grace.

I also want to point out that what has happened in the great debates on justification is in large part due to confusing the definition of two real things, a trap that means an attempt at fixing either definition sounds like the denial of the other.  How does this work?

Imagine that there are people living in India. They are called Indians. And imagine you are traveling westward from Europe, instead of south and around Africa to get to the land of the Indians. You believe that the earth is round and small, and that you will get there quickly. When you do get to these Indies, lands of the Indians, lo and behold: you find Indians!

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Is it true that “if you don’t have a conversion story you don’t have a conversion”?

Sure it is. As long as what we mean by “having a conversion story” is broad enough to include, “I have loved and depended on the finished work of Christ as far back as I can remember.” Sadly, it is unlikely this is what people who say such things mean.

There are at least two different kinds of believers. Some are what we call cradle Christians, others might be called crisis Christians. And because both groups are composed of sinners, it is not at all unusual for them to fuss and fight with each other. In the first instance we have those who have been raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They have been taught the things of God from their youth. Indeed they may have been, as John the Baptist appears to have been, converted in their mothers’ wombs. (Remember that even before he was born John lept to be in the presence of Jesus, who likewise was still in utero (Luke 1:41). Remember also that this is not a denial of the need for conversion. Even cradle Christians were once children of their father, the devil.

In the second instance are those who have more dramatic conversion stories. They remember a time not believing, and have in turn experience in that unbelief. That is, it is not uncommon for these folks to be profoundly conscious of their lost state before their conversion, sometimes via a life of peculiar licentiousness, others via the memory of a gnawing emptiness/fear despite a relatively upright lifestyle. These folks are well aware of when they walked out of the darkness into the marvelous light.

The Bible is chock full of both kinds of conversions. Paul’s conversion was rather dramatic, as was that of the thief on the cross. The Philippian jailer, the Ethiopian eunuch both would be able to look back on a particular hour in a particular day and give thanks. Who though in the Bible is a cradle Christian? Virtually every believer in the Old Testament. Indeed one would be hard pressed to even find a conversion at all among the sons of Abraham. David, though conceived in iniquity (Psalm 51:5) trusted from his mother’s breast (Psalm 22:9). While we see many faithful men of God, we do not witness “conversions.” These trusted in the coming work of Christ, and so became the friends of God, even with no conversion stories.

Those who argue that without a conversion story we are not converted are admirably seeking to guard against the danger of presumption that can come from those who grow up in Christian homes. It is all too easy to think of oneself as a heavenly “legacy,” one who is almost due salvation by virtue of being the child of a believer. I appreciate the concern, but fear this kind of language throws the baby out with the baptismal water, and ironically adds works to our faith.

That is, eager to deny that we are saved by baptism (which is a good thing to deny) they then add to the biblical necessity of trusting in the finished work of Christ for salvation this- remembering when you first started to do so. That is, we end up teaching justification by faith plus remembering when your faith started. It is an odd form of the Galatian heresy. Perhaps worse still it makes our perseverance dependent on our memory. I wonder how many people taking this position will one day, in old age, lose their memory, and therefore lose their story and if this claim is true, lose their salvation.

We are not saved from God’s wrath by remembering when we were saved. We are saved by remembering by Whom we are saved, by trusting in His work alone, adding neither the faith of our parents nor our memory of being given that faith.

Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr. teaches at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida where he also serves as a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He is a contributing scholar to Kuyperian Commentary.

This article was originally published here.

DJesus Uncrossed, Saturday Night Live, Judgment, and the God of the Bible

DJesus UnCrossed is SNL’s latest attempt to de-christ Christ. Of course, in our day, Jesus is easy to disrespect. One wonders if SNL would attempt a comedy journey through the life of Muhammad. No further comments needed.

David Flowers believes that the skit has something to teach us, and that we should begin to listen to our critics. He argues that the skit has hermeneutical problems, but that it shows our hypocrisy and inconsistency in our faith. Flowers argues that this is the result of an American-shaped Jesus. He is correct to assert that humor has a way of offending Christians and revealing weaknesses and hypocrisy. We should be aware of them.

The Jesus raised from the dead murdering Romans out of revenge seems bizarre in light of the biblical narrative. Flowers is correct to assert that it reveals the Jesus kick-ass motif portrayed by many in our evangelical culture. It is easy to object to the video’s false portrayals, but in what sense is this skit true, even with its exaggerative, undoubtedly heretical, and faulty hermeneutics?  There is something to be learned here. Flowers is correct that we are to listen to our critics. The point, however, is that our critics don’t go far enough.

Surely the 2nd Amendment Rights’ Jesus is very American and Neo-Conservative like. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the type of justice-driven Messiah we as Orthodox Christians believe.

For starters, we believe in a Messiah that is ascended to the right hand of the Father, and from that place of kingship rules and reigns over us and creation. He is not an unmoved Mover. Further, Jesus did not have the Romans in mind when He judged, He had the corrupt and idolatrous first century Jewish generation in mind. Upon them, He brought a profound tribulation (Mt. 24). The Gospel Lesson this Sunday is Luke 13:31-35 where Jesus laments over Jerusalem. He sought her with love, but she continued to kill and murder the prophets sent with a message of salvation and deliverance. The vengeful Jesus portrayed by SNL has no interest in context, but it should well observe that the Messiah who destroys is first the Messiah who shows mercy.

How Can we Learn from SNL?

First, Saturday Night Live is not a theology show. Its humor is devoid of accuracy, and frankly, that is not their interest. They have been on the air for 37 years because of their exaggerated (especially in the last ten years) view of current events. This is important to keep in mind.

Secondly, use these opportunities to correct false information. Bill Maher, the well-known HBO atheist host, does this better than anyone I know. He takes a portion of Scriptures and twists its meaning in a fashion that would make even the devil jealous. This is a good time for Christians to be hermeneutically savvy. In fact, go ahead and make a t-shirt with that slogan “I am hermeneutically savvy.”

Thirdly, do not allow an exclusively New Covenant narrative to shape your theology. As James Jordan observes: “The division of the Bible into “Old Testament” and “New Testament” is merely for convenience, for the Scriptures are one narrative from beginning to end.” It is important to note also that this one narrative portrays God as a God of justice who says all vengeance belongs to Him. The modern Marcionites have failed us just as much as SNL has.

Finally, remember that the life of Jesus–especially as we meditate upon it in this Lenten Season–is a life of cross before glory; suffering before resurrection. The Jesus that came out of the grave was first a Jesus that came riding on a donkey as the Prince of Peace. But that same Jesus has promised to come again riding a horse of judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70 and upon all those who despise His Name at the end of history.

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