They are dead.

May 19, 2009

A lot of blogs have already posted this. I’m just doing my part in helping the spread. This is a sermon clip from John Piper.

And in case you’ve forgotten, our mainline churches still use money from tithes in order to fund the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a major lobbying group in Washington. And don’t miss the irony that these are the self-styled prophets of the Church.

von Balthasar resource

May 16, 2009


Here is a helpful collection of pretty much everything on the web ever written on/by Hans Urs von Balthasar:

[HT: Phil]

Una Baptist_Nashville

This continues a series on Auguste Lecerf’s An Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics. This post, part 4, deals with the authority issue: “How can you know that the present canon is the Word of God?”

See part 1 (intro), part 2, and part 3

“The Testimony of the Holy Spirit and the Authority of Scripture: The Canon of the New Testament” is the title of chapter 10, excerpted below. In the preceding chapters, Lecerf has been clearing the way, dealing with preliminary issues/objections that may arise: the attitude of rebellion vs. submission, the apostolic character of the Reformation, the inspired nature of scripture, etc. Now he offers a formal proposal for considering the authority of the canon, against subjectivist Liberalism and infallibilist Romanism. The preceding chapter ended with the question, “How can you know that the present canon is precisely this Word of God which you need and who guarantees to you its authority?”


To the question which concludes the preceding chapter, Calvin, followed by the confessions of La Rochelle, the Netherlands and the Waldensians, replies, “Without doubt, by the unanimous voice of the Church, but especially, in the final and supreme analysis, by the testimony and inner persuasion of the Holy Ghost.”

It is the unanimous consent of the Church which informs us of the fact that there is a canon of Scripture to which she submits, and it is the Holy Spirit who seals this affirmation of the Church in the hearts of the faithful by His creative testimony of faith.

“This is the principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, namely, that we know that God has spoken to us and are certainly assured that the prophets have not spoken of themselves but as organs and instruments of the Holy Spirit; that they have merely declared what they received from on high. Whoever therefore would profit by the Holy Scriptures, let him decide in the first place that the Law and the Prophets have no doctrine at all which has been given by the will or desire of men but only that which has been dictated by the Holy Spirit. If it is asked how we can know this, I reply that to doctors as well as to disciples God declares and manifests that he is their author by the revelation of the same Spirit.” [Calvin, Com. on 2 Tim., iii, 16]

This reply has been criticized. We are told that Calvin must have confused the religious fact of Christian experience, which hears the voice of God here and there in Scripture, with purely scientific questions arising from history and criticism, such as the integrity of the texts and the conditions under which the canon was decided.

This criticism is only possible if one loses sight of the double signification of the term “canon.” Empirically, and abstracting from all question of principle, by the term “canon of the Bible” is understood the list of books of which it is composed. It is thus that there are two canons of the Old Testament: the Hebrew canon received by Protestants and the canon called Alexandrian received by Catholics. This means that certain writings of the Old Testament which figure in the Alexandrian list are absent from the Hebrew list. Thus, if we ignore the canons of certain heretical Oriental Churches of no importance and lacking any spiritual insight, it may be said that there is one canon of the New Testament for Christendom.

On the other hand, the term “canon” may be invested with a dogmatic significance. If the Bible be regarded as divinely inspired, its canon will possess a normative authority. From this it follows that the term canonical is susceptible of two different meanings. It may signify divine and normative, as in the Confession of La Rochelle, and it may signify transmitted by the Church and recognized by her as forming part of the list of the authentic writings of the Bible.

In the second acceptation, it is perfectly evident that the testimony of the Holy Spirit does not inform us what constittues this list, nor the number, title, authenticity and extent of the works which compose it. In this sense Bavinck admits that the Holy Spirit does not pronounce on canonicity of such and such a document. [Geref. Dog., I, p. 642, s. I54]

Here we have a purely historical question which must be resolved according to the methods of critical science. In order to ascertain what books a Church recognizes as canonical, we must ask, in the first place, not the Holy Spirit but the Church.

Theologians of the 17th century like Quenstedt and du Moulin willingly admit that the catalogue of canonical books — the canon in the second acceptation of the term — is not “an article of faith superadded to the others which are contained in Scripture.” One may have saving faith while not knowing distinctly the number of the canonical books, or not accepting them in their entirety. It would be absurd to suggest that the Nestorians will all be damned for this reason.

When, therefore, it is a question of determining canonicity in the scientific sense, there is no other way except by experimental enquiry and the internal and external critique, in the literary sense. This is the process which Calvin employs in his commentaries on the antilegomena of the New Testament (the writings whose authenticity identified with canonicity was disputed in the churches and by the doctors of the first centuries of our era). In this matter he makes use of critical liberty, apart from which there can be no scientific knowlege, and he is obliged to observe that the writings of these books cannot always be attributed to the authors which tradition assigns to them, or at least that this attribution may be uncertain.

But it is none the less true that Calvin and the Reformers accepted the canon of the New Testament as the Councils of Hippo Regius and of Carthage had received it and as the medieval Church which they were engaged in reforming has transmitted it to them. Did they thus show themselves to be slaves of tradition which might be rightly regarded as merely some wretched product of the human mind? It is here that, in Reformed dogmatics, the function of the testimony of the Holy Spirit makes its appearance, being applied to the canonicity of the sacred books in the purely religious sense. The subject of the present chapter and of the two following is the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

This inspired Scripture which orthodox Protestantism makes the external principle of its theology is divided into two parts called the Old and New Testaments. Each of these parts consists of a body of writings composed by different secondary authors at different times and originally independent of each other. Not until long after they were written were they included in a single list called the canon. It was thus that the Jewish canon first made its appearance; then the canon of the books of the New Testament.

We will now discuss these two canons separately, because their authority is not established in the same way, for the Christian; the testimony of the Holy Spirit reaching us more immediately in the one case than in the other.

[Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 319-321]

to be continued…

Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg is now offering his mp3 library of sermons for free. Here are a couple good series to start with:

What is the Church?

Fix Our Eyes on Jesus: A Study in Hebrews 1-6

Bio from his website:

Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry for 32 years. Following graduation from The London School of Theology he served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church. Since 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.  The teaching on Truth For Life stems from the week by week Bible teaching at Parkside Church. He and his wife, Susan, have been married 32 years and they have three grown children.

Keith and Kristyn Getty, noted contemporary worship artists (see In Christ Alone), are members of Parkside.


May 9, 2009

So what happens when a Christian music artist writes a song about Britney Spears?

A good song, with a good message.

“Britney” by Bebo Norman

This has been getting a lot of airplay on CCM radio. I’m interested to see if it will get picked-up on Top 40 radio. By the way, it’s not her “official comeback song,” as the Brit fan who made this video designates it, which proves that a lot of people won’t get the real message.

Westerkerk by van der Heyden

See part 1 (intro) and part 2

In chapter 8, Lecerf dealt with the parallel between the Reformation and the advent of the Christian Church within the Synagogue. The main ancillary point made was that humility and submission, not pride and arrogance, were vital to the Reformation mindset. In chapter 9, partly excerpted below, he starts to deal more with the dogmatics of the “formal” and “external” principle of the Reformation: the authority of the canon alone within the life of the Church. Much of this chapter is taken up with the inspiration of scripture, with Lecerf taking a traditional line, though modified by the “organic” approach of the Dutch school at the time, namely Bavinck. Plenary inspiration is affirmed, though this does not require historical exactitude on accidental matters, since God can be in “full control” and allow such non-dogmatic errors. The other concern in this chapter is the subjectivism of the neo-Protestant (liberal, Ritschlian) and neo-orthodox (dialectical, Barthian) theology. Lecerf’s doctrine of inspiration and his critique of the subjectivist schools are very similar to those found in Concise Reformed Dogmatics (P & R Publishing, 2008).

I only have three excerpts from this chapter below — those parts which are of greater interest to the authority issue, which is not given a positive construction until the next chapter. These excerpts will give you a good idea of where he is going.


It is the Church, by means of her members acting in their respective vocations of parents, teachers and ministers, which places the soul of the child in contact with the verities of the faith and it is from her that he receives the supreme rule of faith and practice which is the canon of Holy Scripture. In the absence of the testimony of the Church, the catechumen would not even know that this canon existed as an established fact concerning which there can be no further dispute.

In acknowledging the Church’s primary role in transmitting the canon of Holy Scripture and introducing the individual to the faith, we are not making a strategic retirement to new positions, the original ones having been rendered untenable owing to enemy pressure. We remain, on the contrary, firmly fixed in the positions which our Reformer occupied from the beginning. [Inst. I, vii. 3.]

Calvin had nothing in common with the “fantastics” of his time whose radical individualism aimed at putting a sort of private inspiration above the authority of Scripture, confounding the promptings of their consciousness with the testimony of the Holy Spirit. [Ibid., 9]

For him, it is indeed from the Church, the guardian of the Scriptures, that the believer receives their text and contents. But the neo-Protestantism of today, like that of his time, objects to the identification of Scripture with the Word of God. It opposes to the religion of the letter “the religion of the spirit,” and it agrees with Rome in claiming that the canon of the New Testament is a creation of the Church. The limits of the canon of the New Testament having been determined, it is claimed, by the authority of the Church, orthodox Protestantism is held to be inconsistent in rejecting her infallible authority, on the one hand, and, on the other, in accepting the exclusive and closed list of the canonical books of the New Testament which rests equally and solely on the same authority.


This is what we would say on the subject: every intellectual worker worthy of the name has something which for convenience we will call “a mysticism.” He may even have two: a religious mysticism, a profound devotion to the person of Christ, for example; and a cultural mysticism, such as adherence to the positivist principle in science, to subjectivist and evolutionary humanism, to the doctrine of universal mechanistic determinism; in brief, to scientific conformism. Sentimentally, intellectually and in every other respect, criticism has gained as a result of the humanist ideology of the 18th and 19th centuries, so that “modern” man — “modern” let it be understood in the already historical and traditional sense of the term — if he wishes to remain or become religious, can no longer give his religion the hyperphysical and transcendent foundation of the affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed: prophecy and miracle, in the sense of a special divine intervention in the causal series of events, appear to him as radical impossibilities. He is compelled to distinguish carefully between the faith of confidence and the faith of belief in “sacred history,” which reflects a manner of thinking that his ideology forces him to consider out-of-date. Thus it is in the believer’s subjectivity that he must seek the foundations of his religious life. Neo-Protestant theology thus betrays its connection with the philosophical psychologism dominant in the mid-19th century in France.


We do not deny that God inspired other writings than those which constitute the canon. Some have been lost, and obviously we need not concern ourselves with them now. If they were rediscovered, we should not know for certain that they had been intended to serve as a rule of faith for us and we could only receive their doctrine by measuring it against the authority of the canonical books. There may be some which survive to this day. It is possible that the Epistle of Clement of Rome may be among the number, or some other writing of the Apostolic Fathers which has figured in the canon of the New Testament and of certain particular Churches. But the fact that these writings have been eliminated from the canon of the Church universal under the pressure of historical circumstances which are under divine control shows us that it was not the intention of providence to give these documents the role of faith and life for all the centuries but only for the time during which they were imposed on the acceptance of certain Churches.

[p. 318]

The blessed souls at Pugio Fidei, a Catholic apologetics website, have posted a thoughtful and extensive list of bad arguments used by Catholic apologists (HT: James White).

I have the utmost respect for Catholic theology. But, there is a world of difference between, on the one hand, Möhler, Rahner, and Ratzinger, and, on the other hand, the staff of Catholic Answers and all the e-pologists, who shall remain nameless. Many of us would like to extend the list at Pugio Fidei, but this is a good start. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the moral acumen of most current Catholic apologists, but maybe the next generation will start caring more about truth and basic facts, instead of just winning as many converts as possible and keeping financially afloat.

St Teresa on prayer

May 1, 2009

St Teresa

Teresa has a nice realist take on prayer. Perfection, or a high motivation thereto, is not a prerequisite for prayer. The love of God is not even a prerequisite for prayer. Prayer can achieve these ends, but prayer is first and foremost undertaken as an ignorant sinner.


And anyone who has not begun to pray, I beg, for love of the Lord, not to miss so great a blessing. There is no place here for fear, but only for desire. For, even if a person fails to make progress, or to strive after perfection, so that he may merit the consolations and favours given to the perfect by God, yet he will gradually gain [through prayer] a knowledge of the road to Heaven. And if he perseveres, I hope in the mercy of God, Whom no one has ever taken for a Friend without being rewarded; and mental prayer, in my view, is nothing but friendly intercourse, and frequent solitary converse, with Him Who we know loves us. If love is to be true and friendship lasting, certain conditions are necessary: on the Lord’s side we know these cannot fail, but our nature is vicious, sensual and ungrateful. You cannot therefore succeed in loving Him as much as He loves you, because it is not in your nature to do so. If, then, you do not yet love Him, you will realize [through prayer] how much it means to you to have His friendship and how much He loves you, and you will gladly endure the troubles which arise from being so much with One Who is so different from you.

St Teresa of Avila, The Life of the Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus, The Complete Works, vol. 1 (Burns & Oates, 2002), trans. E. Allison Peers, p. 50.