Sunday, June 23, 2024

Will we tell them it's a false hope?

Jeffrey Long, a prominent researcher in the field of near-death experiences (NDEs), recently did an interview with Danny Jones. Long has collected a large database of NDEs at the NDERF web site. He and his collection of NDEs are often mentioned in discussions of NDEs and related phenomena. I want to comment on some significant parts of his recent interview with Jones.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Recent Disputes Over Baptismal Regeneration And The Southern Baptist Convention

There's been a lot of discussion lately about how Southern Baptists view the reference to baptism in the Nicene Creed. I've seen the usual false claims about how everybody in the early church believed in baptismal regeneration, all of the church fathers believed in it, nobody opposed it before the Reformation, and so on. Few opponents of baptismal regeneration say anything significant about the extrabiblical evidence for their position, and the few who speak up typically only mention a small percentage of that evidence. For example, it's seldom mentioned that the ancient sources who held some kind of highly efficacious view of baptism widely disagreed about the nature of that efficaciousness. Christians of the patristic era disagreed about the meaning of "baptism for the forgiveness of sins". That's not a later development. There's a major need for opponents of baptismal regeneration to improve their handling of the issue. Here are some resources to that end.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Faith Alone In Celsus And His Sources

I've often mentioned that we need to take more than the church fathers into account when thinking about the patristic era. (See here for one of my posts discussing the topic.) Several decades ago, Thomas Torrance published a book that was highly critical (overly critical) of how the earliest church fathers viewed grace (The Doctrine Of Grace In The Apostolic Fathers [Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1996]). Despite being so negative about the earliest fathers, he was more positive about some sources later in the second century:

Thursday, June 13, 2024

What standard, if not the standard of the day of judgment?

"Every one of us must answer for himself. We can never be justified or made to feel secure by the practices of others. It is the greatest folly to regulate ourselves by any other standard than that by which we shall be judged." (Henry Scougal, in Robin Taylor, ed., The Life Of God In The Soul Of Man [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2022], approximate Kindle location 703)

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

More About The Name Statistics Argument

Luuk van de Weghe and Jason Wilson recently published an article furthering the argument for the historicity of the gospels and Acts based on name statistics. Here's a short video Michael Jones recently produced about that article, and here's a longer one by Than Christopoulos.

Sunday, June 09, 2024

What type of justification through works?

Critics of Protestantism often appeal to the popularity of justification through works among pre-Reformation sources as an argument against justification through faith alone. There's some merit to that argument, but it's often overestimated. The significance of the Biblical evidence is often underestimated, along the lines of what I've referred to elsewhere. And the amount of support for justification through works among the extrabiblical sources is often exaggerated.

Another point that should be made, which isn't made often enough, is that the extrabiblical sources who advocate justification through works widely disagree in what form of it they advocate. I've provided many examples with regard to what might be called initiatory rites, for example (baptism, the laying on of hands, anointing with oil, etc.). See here. And there was widespread disagreement about the issues surrounding whether justification can be lost and, if so, which sins are mortal. Think, for example, of what Hermas wrote about the concept of limited forgiveness or limited penance (The Shepherd, Visions, 2:2). Or see the post here for further examples. In the medieval era, think of Pope Boniface VIII's claim in 1302 that "it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff" (Unam Sanctam).

It could be objected that people have also disagreed about what type of faith is justificatory. But justification through works includes faith alongside the works, so the same objection can be raised against justification through works. And proponents of justification through works disagree with each other about the nature of the works that justify, just as people disagree about the nature of justifying faith. When you add something to faith, whatever that something else is, you have a more complicated situation. And there have been many something elses added over the years, with widespread disagreements from the earliest centuries onward about what those something elses should be. So, the appeal to an alleged unified opposition to sola fide is weakened accordingly.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Your Lot In Life

"Wherefore did David, who was both a prophet and a king, himself also live all his time in toils? whereas Solomon his son spent forty years in security above all men, in the enjoyment of profound peace, glory, and honor, and going through every kind of deliciousness? What again could be the reason, that among the prophets also one was afflicted more, and another less? Because so it was expedient for each. Wherefore upon each our remark must be, 'Thy judgments are a great deep.' [Psalm 36:6] For if those great and wonderful men were not alike exercised by God, but one by poverty, and another by riches; one by ease, and another by trouble; much more ought we now to bear these things in mind." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On First Corinthians, 29:7)

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Protestants Should Make More Of An Issue Of Who We Pray To

One of Stand To Reason's podcasts took a question yesterday about prayer to saints. I've noticed for years that Protestants seldom bring the subject up on their own initiative, even though they should. They don't even address it defensively much, and they bring it up as evidence for Protestantism even less. There are multiple Biblical and multiple extrabiblical lines of evidence for praying only to God. For a collection of resources on the topic, see here.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

When The Church Lies Down At Ease

"What the arms of Rome could not do against Hannibal, his Capuan holidays are said to have accomplished; his soldiers were conquered by luxury, though invincible by force. When the church lies down at ease, she is apt to feel the diseases of abundance." (Charles Spurgeon)

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Exchange Everything For Him

"If you value other things more than God, if your life is really driven by another value, then you exchange the imperishable for the perishable. You trade the diamond for a peach forgotten at the back of the refrigerator. You trade the ruby for a banana sitting in the sun. You trade a bar of gold for a bolt rusting in the rain….Let's be like Secretary of State William Seward in 1867 who helped America buy Alaska from the Russians for $7,200,000. Oh, the ridicule of the people: 'Seward's folly,' they called it. Exchanging seven million dollars for ice! Well in the last 130 years Alaska has yielded billions upon billions of dollars in resources to America. Things are not what they seem. I plead with you, open your eyes. And do not exchange your God for anything. Exchange everything for him." (John Piper)

Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Day Of Salvation Is Several Months From Now

I recently came across an article I'd read many years ago about the conversion of Bernard Nathanson, a former abortion doctor, to Roman Catholicism. The article quotes some comments he made about his upcoming baptism: "'I will be free from sin,' he says. 'For the first time in my life, I will feel the shelter and warmth of faith.'" That's an illustration of a point I've made before about how baptismal regeneration interferes with the Biblical theme of the nearness of redemption.

The title of this post is meant to draw attention to the contrast between the Biblical theme of the nearness of redemption, such as the reference to how "now is 'the day of salvation'" in 2 Corinthians 6:2, and the absurd putting of off redemption under baptismal regeneration. The inconsistency between baptismal regeneration and how Jesus redeemed people independent of baptism in the gospels led Tertullian to concede to the critics of baptismal regeneration in his day, "Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord." (On Baptism, 13) But John's gospel emphasizes Jesus' statements about salvation during his earthly ministry (John 3:16, 5:24, 11:25-26, etc.), and John tells us that he wrote his gospel to lead people to salvation (John 20:31), using language similar to Jesus' language earlier in the gospel. If the means of being justified had changed so much after the resurrection, then John's emphasis on Jesus' pre-resurrection teachings about justification makes less sense. Paul, like Jesus and others, thought of Abraham as the Christian's spiritual father, citing Genesis 15:6 as the paradigm example of how we're justified. No baptism was involved, and the phenomenon of justification apart from baptism continues beyond the gospels (Cornelius, Paul's expectation of the reception of the Spirit "when you believed" in Acts 19:2, Galatians 3:2, etc.). The reason why Abraham, the tax collector in Luke 18, and Cornelius are all justified through faith alone rather than through faith and baptism is that it's how God has been justifying people "from the beginning" (Clement of Rome, First Clement, 32). They're not exceptions. They're the rule.

As I've discussed elsewhere, there are many problems with baptismal regeneration. Its inconsistency with the Biblical theme of the nearness of redemption is one that gets discussed far less than it should. As I mentioned in a post last year, we've seen many and widely contradictory views of the efficaciousness of baptism over the centuries, and, unsurprisingly, it also became popular to add various other works along with baptism as initiatory rites, means of receiving the Holy Spirit, means of remitting sin, etc. Once the door is opened to making baptism a means of obtaining justification, people often let other works through the door as well. The response to somebody like Bernard Nathanson isn't to tell him to wait several months for baptism or whatever other initiatory rite or group of rites. You tell him, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:50)

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Half-Hearted, Weak, And Following The Crowd

"The assent that people usually give to divine truths is very faint and half-hearted, weak and ineffectual. It stems only from a blind inclination to follow the religion that is currently in fashion or from a lazy indifference and unconcernedness as to whether religious truth is indeed either certain or important. Men are unwilling to quarrel with the religion of their country, and since all their neighbors are Christians, they are content to be so too. However, seldom are they at pains to consider the evidences for Christian truths or to ponder the importance or consequences of them. Thus it is that their affections and practice are so little influenced by them….We must therefore endeavor to stir our minds toward serious belief and firm persuasion of divine truths and a deeper sense and awareness of spiritual things." (Henry Scougal, in Robin Taylor, ed., The Life Of God In The Soul Of Man [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2022], approximate Kindle location 865)