PCA’s General Assembly does not condemn, or even mention, the Federal Vision

Reports about the Presbyterian Church in America’s 2016 General Assembly focus on the issues of racial reconciliation and the ordination of women deacons and some sundry other matters. I am contemplating writing an analysis of the PCA’s decision to appoint a study committee to look into the ordination of women deacons in the near future. For now I offer interested readers links here, here, and here. But today I write about a more serious problem, which is THE most serious problem the PCA faces, the Federal Vision (FV). The FV, more than the movement to ordain women into church office, is a direct assault on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For years now the PCA has tolerated and officially exonerated proponents of the FV. Some of the men have taught the FV for over 10 years in the PCA and yet have not been disciplined for their heresy. There are some in the PCA who claim to be enemies of the FV. But, year after year, nothing is done in the ecclesiastical courts to address the issue. Thus, the main takeaway from the PCA’s 2016 general assembly is that the denomination continues to provide a safe-haven for the Federal Vision.

Peter Leithart, perhaps once the most notorious advocate of the FV in the PCA (he asked the denomination to examine his theology and won exoneration at the General Assembly level) no longer resides in the denomination. He has sauntered over to the openly FV CERC. But several FV men remain at home in the PCA with virtually uninterrupted tranquility.

Oh, in the past, some of these men faced charges for their heresy and struggled through the turmoil of being examined by ecclesiastical courts. But in the end they were all exonerated. Jeff Meyers (exonerated by the Missouri Presbytery) and Greg Lawrence (exonerated by the Siouxlands Presbytery) are the primary examples of such men.

Others have openly stated their positions, either espousing Federal Vision theology or defending those who teach it (which is just as condemnable), have never faced any serious threat to their standing in the denomination. Joshua Moon defended Greg Lawrence, Rob Rayburn defended Peter Leithart, and Mark Horn defended and works closely with Jeff Meyers. To my knowledge none of these men have repudiated their false doctrines or faced any ecclesiastical censure for them—peace and quiet is all they know in the PCA. 

There is a “conservative” wing in the PCA that expresses some criticism of PCA’s tolerance of various errors. This conservative wing of the PCA, if Rick Philips may be viewed as one of its representatives, wants to hold on to long-held beliefs and practices. But there is a willingness to have unity and peace with those who reject these long-held beliefs and practices. Philips does not want the denomination to impose changes from the top down (see the article linked to his name). That would be detrimental for the unity of the PCA according to Philips. The fact that there are two different views on certain issues, one that harmonizes with scripture and the Reformed Confessions and one that contradicts Scripture and the Reformed Confessions, apparently does mean for Philips the unity has already been destroyed. These conservatives seem content with life in the PCA as long as new views (women’s ordination, Federal Vision) are not imposed on them. This must be the explanation, at least in part, for why there is no effort to censure those who promote unorthodox ideas on the PCA.

The PCA needs, but apparently does not have many, Confessionalists—men who confess, teach, and defend the Reformed Confessions. It needs men who will maintain the confessions as the standard of truth and orthodoxy and insist adherence to the standard. It needs men who will insist on adherence to the standard by means of discipline. As long as the PCA allows people within its fellowship to contradict the confessions without facing consequences, then the conclusion must be that the denomination is no longer as a whole substantially confessional.

That 2016 will pass without anything being done in the PCA to deal with the Federal Vision raises a very serious question for the Reformed churches of North America—how long can fellowship be maintained with the PCA? This is a very pressing question for NAPARC, the most “conservative” council of Reformed churches in North America. In 1995 the CRC, then a member of NAPARC, approved women in office. In 1997 NAPARC expelled the CRC from its membership. The FV more directly attacks the gospel than the ordination of women, yet the PCA remains a member of NAPARC, despite many more than two years of providing cover for gospel-denying heresy. The PCA’s membership in NAPARC contradicts the council’s desire and claim to be a council of confessionally committed denominations.

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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The Only-Begotten Son of God…Begotten, not Made

Ligonier Ministries and its founder, R. C. Sproul, and at least one of its contributing writers have some explaining to do. The May 16, 2016 edition of Tabletalk, published by Ligonier ministries is devoted to John 3:16 which is quoted on the front cover of the issue.

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.

The word begotten is missing. No explanation is given why this translation of John 3:16 that omits the word was chosen. Writer Scott Swain, appointed to write about the portion of the text that refers to Jesus as God’s Son, entitled his article “His Only Son” instead of “His Only-Begotten Son.” Swain also makes no mention of the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father in the body of his article. Again no explanation is given for this omission. But the omission of begotten may not go unnoticed or unexplained. Those who would elide begotten from John 3:16 (or any of the other passages that traditionally include the word) need to answer the following questions.

  • Why do they translate only one part of a Greek word that has two parts?

The translation of the Bible that the May issues of Tabletalk used for John 3:16 translates the Greek word monogenes as ‘only.’ The first part of the word, mono, indeed means ‘only.’ But the second part of the word, genes, is derived from the Greek verb that means ‘to beget.’ The only way to translate monogenes accurately is to render it as ‘only begotten.’

  • How can the meaning of John 3:16, namely the greatness of God’s love, be understood without identifying God’s gift as his only-begotten Son?

In John 3:16 the greatness of God’s love corresponds to the greatness of the gift he has given for the salvation of his people. The greatness of the gift is not adequately expressed as God’s giving of his “only Son.” Swain tries to explain God’s gift of Jesus as a great gift without referring to his begetting by the Father. He mentions “Jesus’ filial relationship to the Father as the second person of the Trinity.” He describes the relationship between the Father and Son as “eternal” and says “the only Son’s relationship to the Father is a relationship of equality.” That the Son is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father is true. But one cannot say that John 3:16 teaches us these truths if it merely says Jesus is the “only Son” of God. He does not have to be co-eternal and co-equal with God to be his only Son. An only Son could be a mere creature. And if God’s gift is merely a unique creature, then his gift is not as great as John 3:16 intends to teach, and his love is also minimized. One might say that comparing John 3:16 to other parts of scripture confirms that Jesus is not merely a unique creature. This is true. But John 3:16 itself teaches God’s great love is displayed in the great gift of one who is himself God by using the word begotten. Leaving begotten out attacks the teaching of scripture in John 3:16 about the greatness of God’s love and gift in the giving of Jesus Christ.

  • Why do they choose a translation that obscures one of the ways that scriptures teaches the divinity of the Son?

This question is similar to the one above, but it deserves separate attention. Satan loves to attack the truth that Jesus is God. Under his direction the enemies of the truth of the Trinity attack the term begotten. They hate the idea that the Son is of the same essence as the Father because he is eternally generated by the Father. So they favor the idea that the Son was created or made by the Father as the first creature. Since the truth that the Son is begotten by the Father and therefore co-equal and co-essential with the Father and the Spirit, why would anyone who professes to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity want to give up the term?

  • Why do they choose a translation that threatens the threeness of God?

The church of Jesus Christ confesses one God who is three in person. The Belgic Confession explains it this way in Article 8, “we believe in one only God, who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The Article goes on to teach us what some of the incommunicable properties of the three Persons are. The Son is the Word. The Father and the Spirit are not the Word. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son do not proceed from any of the other persons of the Godhead. Article 10 speaks of the personal property of the Son that he is “begotten from eternity, not made nor created.” Article 11 teaches that the Holy Spirit “from eternity proceeds from the Father and Son; and therefore is not made, created, nor begotten, but only proceedeth from both.” That the Father alone begets and that the Son alone is begotten is one of the important ways that the three Persons of the Godhead are distinguished from each other. To deny that the Son is begotten by the Father raises the question of how the Father and Son actually differ from each other. If the Arians are on one side rooting against the idea that the Son is begotten so as to deny his divinity, the Sabellians are on the other side rooting against the term to erase the distinction between the Father and the Son. For the sake of maintaining the truth that God is three in person it is necessary to confess that the Son’s personal incommunicable attribute is that he is begotten by the Father.

  • Why do they choose to translate John 3:16 in a way that makes an incorrect statement, when the traditional translation accurately and clearly teaches the truth?

Jesus is not the only son of God. Swain understands this. He explains that the relationship of the Son to the Father is “unique” in comparison to the relationship that saved sinners have with God. He is the only “natural” Son of God while they are “adopted” sons. But the translation Swain uses of John 3:16 does not indicate that this is the difference between Jesus and others who are also the children of God. The translation he uses unnecessarily teaches that God has no other children besides Jesus. And it will not help to change the word only to “unique.” That does not help us to understand what the difference between Jesus and the other children of God is. There is one term that helps us understand that the difference is indeed between a natural Son and adopted sons—BEGOTTEN. Calling Jesus the only-begotten Son is not only completely true but it is also comforting. That Jesus is the only-begotten Son does not give saved sinners any reason to doubt that they are also the children of God.

  • Why do they not feel compelled by the Church’s Creeds to interpret scripture as teaching that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God?

That Ligonier, Sproul, and Swain have some explaining to do does not mean they need to explain themselves to me or to any other individual. They must explain themselves to the church of Jesus Christ. Begotten is part of the church’s vocabulary in her creeds. The apostolic church has officially interpreted scripture to teach that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God. The Nicene Creed is especially of importance regarding this truth. The church confesses to believe “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds…begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” Theologians may not treat begotten as if it is one of their own words to accept or reject as they wish. It is not a term they may choose to criticize in or ignore in their writings. If they believe the term needs to be rejected, they need to bring their sentiments to the church, and until they do so they may not write or teach anything contrary to the church’s confession.  

 

Appendix

Creed

Statement of Faith

Nicene Creed

And in one Lord JESUS CHRIST, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds…begotten not made.

The Symbol of Chalcedon

We, then, following the holy fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect Godhead and also perfect in manhood…begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead.

The Athanasian Creed

The Son is of the Father alone: not made, nor created: but begotten.

Luther’s Small Catechism

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity…is my Lord.

2nd Helvetic Confession

“…we believe…the Father has begotten the Son from eternity, the Son is begotten by an ineffable generation.”

The Heidelberg Catechism

Question 33. Why is he called God’s only-begotten Son, since we are also the children of God? Answer. Because Christ alone is the natural Son of God; but we are children of God by adoption through grace for his sake.

Belgic Confession

We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made nor created.

Westminster Confession of Faith

The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

 

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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Why the PCA is a Safe-Haven for the Federal Vision Heresy

Dewey Roberts provides an explanation for why the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has failed to discipline Peter Leithart. Roberts is convinced that the Federal Vision is a heretical movement. Peter Leithart, a pastor in the PCA, publicly identifies himself with the Federal Vision movement. Therefore Roberts openly charges Leithart with “departure from the Westminster Confession of Faith (The PCA’s main confessional standard).” For the sake of God’s glory, the purity of the PCA, and the soul of Peter Leithart, Roberts involved himself in taking the proper ecclesiastical steps to attempt to correct Leithart and to condemn the Federal Vision. Roberts served as a prosecutor against Leithart in a 2013 in a case known as “Hedman vs. Pacific Northwest Presbytery.”

The trial did not end the way Roberts thought it should. The decision of the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC), the PCA’s highest ecclesiastical court, writes Roberts, “had the effect of exonerating Leithart and his views regarding Federal Vision…” So Peter Leithart and other adherents to the Federal Vision enjoy safe-haven in the PCA. Not that all is peaceful and tranquil in the PCA ocean. On the contrary the waves of controversy and schism are raging. Officially Peter Leithart and others with him in the Federal Vision camp are in good standing in the PCA. But many of their colleagues believe Leithart and his clan are heretics and openly identify them as such. What a deplorable situation! Open warfare is taking place in the PCA!

Roberts believes that the PCA is losing the war because, at least in the Leithart case, the denomination has chosen to play politics rather than to address the un-Reformed teachings of the Federal Vision. Or as Roberts puts it, “Polity Trumped Theology.”

The SJC refused to enter into the content and arguments of the Leithart case.  According to Roberts the SJC took the position that higher courts must “defer to the decisions of lower courts where the right procedure has been used.” The SJC made a ruling about the polity of the lower courts, but it refused to enter into the theology involved in the case. This is why Roberts says polity trumped theology.

But this doesn’t mean Roberts believes that the SJC did in fact properly follow the PCA’s Church Order. He pointed the SJC to an article in the PCA’s Church Order that ascribes to the “higher court…the power and obligation of judicial review, which cannot be satisfied by always deferring to the findings of a lower court.” The article requires the SJC to “interpret and apply the Constitution of the Church according to its best abilities and understanding regardless of the opinion of the lower court.” The Westminster Confession of Faith is part of the PCA’s Constitution. According to Roberts, the Church Order placed a twofold duty on the SJC in the Leithart case, (1) to make sure the lower courts followed proper procedures and (2) to “review and [make] confessional determinations.” The SJC fulfilled the first requirement and ignored the second. Roberts writes, “In the Leithart case, either FV is in accord with the Westminster Confession of Faith or it is not.” But the SJC made no ruling about Leithart’s teachings in comparison to the WCF. In other words the “polity police” pretended that there is no church orderly way to deal with false doctrine.

I find no fault with Roberts’ conclusion that polity trumped theology in the Leithart case. After the decision was announced, I read lengthy discussions online where those who supported the decision steadfastly refused to discuss Leithart’s teachings and insisted on focusing on “the process.” It was obvious to me that they were more interested in polity than in doctrine.

However I do not believe that an overemphasis on polity and an underemphasis on doctrine is really at the root of why the PCA is providing safe-haven for the Federal Vision. The reality is that in the PCA there is either an appalling lack of concern about the Federal Vision or an even more appalling mass of silent supporters for the movement (or a combination of both).

Those who openly supported the decision of the SJC that used procedural grounds to uphold the decisions of lower courts to exonerate Peter Leithart do not want anyone to think that they approve of his theology. But when questioned about their judgment of Leithart’s theology they respond with deafening silence. That silence was heard on the internet in the immediate aftermath of the decision. They defended the decision on procedural grounds. They argued the decision did not exonerate the theology of Leithart and the Federal Vision. So it was almost expected that they would voice their condemnation of the Federal Vision but…they never did. Their silence is even more deafening in the ecclesiastical courts. Where are these experts on proper procedure? If they know how to do things properly to ensure that the Federal Vision will be condemned, why do they not bring charges against Leithart and the others in the PCA who share his heretical views? They have not lacked for time and opportunity. Leithart and his party of heretics have walked in the open in the PCA with their views for years now. The only plausible conclusion is that they lack the conviction needed to root the Federal Vision out of the denomination.

That the PCA’s problems are deeper than a focus on polity in the Leithart case has not escaped Roberts’ attention. He writes, “it is my contention that . . . Hedman’s complaint was not really lost in March, 2013; it was lost long before then. It was lost in 2007.” Roberts’ mention of 2007 is intriguing. It is the year that the General Assembly treated a controversial report on the Federal Vision. Roberts indeed has that report in mind when he speaks of 2007. He writes,

On the day the General Assembly was scheduled to vote on the Report of the Ad-Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies, a fellow minister told me that the GA would not decide the issue that day. He said that there were a lot of “big guns” that were going to oppose the report and it would not be settled at or by that Assembly. Well, the Ad-Interim Report was adopted, but those “big guns” had been maneuvering behind the scenes for several years to make the Federal Vision a non-issue.

I am not sure that Roberts meant to offer a devastating criticism of the adoption of the 2007 report. He seems to be focusing only on the fact that there was a movement to protect the Federal Vision going back to 2007 and even before. Nevertheless, his statement exposes the PCA’s folly in adopting the report. The statement demonstrates that the hope of many that adopting the report would give the PCA the tool it needed to exterminate the Federal Vision was nothing but a vain wish. It also demonstrates that the critics were right who contended that the adopting an anti-Federal Vision report was the wrong thing to do when there were Federal Vision heretics who needed to be disciplined. In 2007 the PCA acted like a farmer who determines that instead of taking steps to kill the dangerous weeds in his field that he will write a paper that identifies and condemns them. And if six years later (when the Leithart case was tried) the farmer still has not taken the steps to eradicate the weeds the only conclusion to be drawn is that he is a foolish farmer who wants the weeds to stay in his fields.

The PCA’s fixation on polity is indeed a serious problem. But it is only a symptom of the deeper problem that many of the “guns” in the PCA, big and little, lack the commitment to the Reformed Confessions that is required for warfare against the Federal Vision. This does not mean that they are cowards who won’t fight and fire their guns. They are fighting. Viciously and tenaciously. By wicked means. To keep the Federal Vision in the PCA. And to silence those who oppose the heresy. Men of courage and boldness are needed to wage warfare against such enemies. Sadly, it may be too late for the PCA.

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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Sunday and Sports

Members of the church today face increasing pressure to participate in sports on Sunday. Often it’s simply a matter of scheduling. The powers that be schedule games on Sunday. Sometimes these schedulers are willing to accommodate those who do not participate in sports for religious reasons. Other times they are not, and then the Christian faces the temptation to break the fourth commandment in order to participate. In a day when many who carry the name of Christian play sports or allow their children to play sports on Sunday, I am happy to report about Covenant College’s decision “to forfeit the women’s tennis conference title match rather than to play on Sunday.”*

Covenant College is an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America. The decision of the college not to play on Sunday stands in contrast with other “Christian” universities in their league. In the semi-finals Covenant defeated North Carolina Wesleyan, whose coach questioned why Covenant even participated in the tournament knowing that the women would not compete for the championship.** Evidently the Wesleyan institution planned to participate in the finals had they won the semi-finals. The team that left the tournament with the championship because of Covenant’s forfeit was from Methodist University—they were also willing to participate on Sunday.

Covenant joined the USA South Conference in 2013 knowing that the league holds sporting events on Sundays. However, the South Conference accepted Covenant’s membership knowing the College’s policy of not participating in sports on Sunday. As it has done in the past, Covenant submitted the proper paperwork to request a change of date for the finals before the tournament. The USA South Conference denied the request. At the tournament the women’s team won the semi-final and qualified for the championship. Many Christian institutions would have caved in to the pressure of this situation (many already have!). Covenant withstood the temptation.

 What about the women who missed the opportunity to compete for a championship? Should we feel sorry for them? The USA South Conference certainly could have been more reasonable and simply switched the date for the finals. Apparently the conference’s fall and winter championships occur on Saturdays. But the women probably joined the Covenant team knowing the policy of non-participation on Sundays and its possible repercussions. If winning tennis championships meant more to them than the Sabbath Day they could have attended other colleges. They and their parents should be thankful that they attend a college where decisions are made based on scripture. And if the women and their coaches missed out on possibly winning the conference championship because they used the day instead to attend divine worship services, hear the preaching of the word, and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then there is no reason to feel sorry for them. God’s blessings, which are far richer than a tennis championship, flow to them who gather with their fellow saints for worship on the Lord’s Day (Ps. 84:4, 10).

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Covenant College’s announcement about the forfeit can be found here.

** A news report about the forfeit can be found here.

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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Water is Amazing Too

A while ago I linked to an article about the amazing eyes God has created. Today I share with you a link to an article that explains that water is a “Miracle Substance.” This article reminds us of the amazing wisdom and power of our Creator, but also of how Jesus Christ is our perfect Savior. The article states, “The sum of these traits makes water an ideal medium for life. Literally, every property of water is suited for supporting life.” Isn’t water then a perfect picture of Jesus Christ? He is the “living water” perfectly suited for giving and supporting “everlasting life” (John 14:10, 14).

Click on the link to read about the importance of water’s thermal properties, vapor tension, low viscosity, solvency, etc.

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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Evangelical Disunity

The media reports that evangelical Christians are supporting Donald Trump in large numbers during the current Republican primary cycle. Some might question whether evangelicals should support Donald Trump. But the other question that comes up in this connection is what does it mean to be an evangelical. Are all of those who say they are evangelical really evangelical? And do we want to be associated with this group of people that calls itself evangelical?

Russel Moore says this year’s presidential election campaign makes him “hate the word ‘evangelical’.” Moore considers himself to be a true evangelical and says that it is a “magnificent word.” He writes,

The word “evangelical” isn’t, first of all, about American politics. The word is rooted in the Greek word for gospel, good news for sinners through the life, death, resurrection and reign of Jesus of Nazareth as the son of God and anointed ruler of the cosmos.

Evangelical means a commitment to the truth of God’s revelation in the Bible and a conviction that the blood of Christ is offered to any repentant, believing sinner as a full atonement for sin.”

 

But during the current presidential campaign, Moore noticed that he “stopped describing [himself] as an evangelical.” For him the term “has become almost meaningless.” Even worse “the word itself is at the moment subverting the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Moore sees a problem with people who identify themselves as evangelical to pollsters even though they are not “churchgoers” and do not live a life of forsaking sin. Moore writes, “Many of those who tell pollsters they are ‘evangelical’ may very well be drunk right now, and haven’t been into a church since someone invited them to vacation Bible School.”

Leaders in the evangelical movement also deserve blame. Moore alleges that these leaders “minimize the spewing of profanities in campaign speeches, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs, debauching public morality and justice through the casino and pornography industries.” Moore is referring to Donald Trump and is aghast that evangelical leaders pronounce him to be a Christian despite these views and despite his public proclamation that “he has never repented of sin, because he displays the fruit of the Spirit in job creation.”

Shunning the label “evangelical” Moore now calls himself a “gospel Christian.” He does not want to be associated with people who “deny creedal Christianity and gospel clarity with impunity” even if these people are “on the right side of the culture war.” Moore is not ready to give up the word evangelical forever. “The future of evangelicalism is vibrant, prophetic, theologically grounded, gospel-centered and unwilling to be anyone’s political mascot.”

I am not really as concerned as Moore is about the word evangelical. It is not my duty or goal to seek unity with all of those who claim to be evangelical. Christ calls me to work to maintain the unity he has given to his church. I belong to a denomination of churches that is called Protestant Reformed. I love the truths confessed in the Protestant Reformed Churches. I love to identify with those who confess these same truths—worshipping with them every Sunday, fellowshipping with them, and walking with them in the way of repentance and holiness.  Almost every election is unsettling for me. I never seem to have complete confidence in the candidates I vote for. But I have learned to be content with the peace that is found in my membership in the church.

No, I am not as concerned as Moore is about the word “evangelical.” But he makes a very important point—Christians must not compromise the gospel for the sake of forming political alliances.

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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Calvin on Christ’s Descent to Hell

In the Apostle’s Creed the Church of all ages confesses that Jesus Christ “descended into hell.” What Christ suffered in hell cannot be depicted on a TV or movie screen. Nor can his suffering in hell be imitated by anyone. John Calvin explains the truth of Jesus’ suffering in hell and its significance for believers:

But, apart from the Creed, we must seek for a surer exposition of Christ's descent to hell: and the word of God furnishes us with one not only pious and holy, but replete with excellent consolation. Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God's anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. We lately quoted from the Prophet, that the "chastisement of our peace was laid upon him" that he "was bruised for our iniquities" that he "bore our infirmities;" expressions which intimate, that, like a sponsor and surety for the guilty, and, as it were, subjected to condemnation, he undertook and paid all the penalties which must have been exacted from them, the only exception being, that the pains of death could not hold him. Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man (Calvin’s Institutes, book 2, chapter 16 sect. 10).

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us

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Uproar Over the Humanizing of Fetuses

Have you heard about the Doritos advertisement that aired during the National Football League’s Super Bowl? It features the ultrasound image of a baby. The advertisement promotes the idea that the product is so good that the father can’t resist munching on the chips even while his wife is undergoing an ultrasound. They are so good that the baby in the womb starts reaching for them! There is more to the commercial, but the baby’s image and movement is what has at least one pro-abortion group in an uproar.  

NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) tweeted a response that criticized the ad for using the “antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses.” Killing humans, born or unborn, is murder. NARAL does not want to give the impression that it believes the “right to choose” includes the right to murder other humans. To defend its promotion of abortion NARAL argues that unborn babies are mere fetuses, not humans. And how dare Doritos humanize mere fetuses!

Dr. Robert George explains that NARAL’s quarrel really is not with Doritos. He wrote this on his Facebook page after the Super Bowl:

I gather that the really big news, as always, had to do with a commercial advertisement that was broadcast in the course of the game. Evidently, a potato chip manufacturer, or some such profit-driven purveyor of packaged foodstuffs, showed a video image of an unborn baby. This shocked and appalled the folks at NARAL, the big abortion lobby, who promptly accused the company responsible for the ad of "humanizing the fetus." Since, however, the fetus in the video was, by all accounts, a human fetus, the offspring of human parents, and not a bovine, canine, or feline fetus, it's less than clear how it is that the potato chip company (or whatever it was) is to blame for the humanization. Surely NARAL's complaint would be more fairly lodged against God, or nature, or plain old biological reality.

Dr. George should have put a period after God.

According to the Bible children in the womb are the fearful and wonderful creation of God (Psalm 139:13-14). He has chosen some of them unto eternal life already before conception. And after conception, but before birth, these little humans already belong both body and soul to their faithful Savior Jesus Christ who purchased them with his blood. The Holy Spirit even works the life of Christ in some of them while they are yet in the womb.

God humanizes unborn babies, not ultrasounds.

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us

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No, A Christian Cannot Recognize Muhammad as a Prophet

Islam has an ally in the Roman Catholic Church. Allah, the god of Islam, is the same as Jehovah, the God of the Bible, according to Pope Francis. Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins appealed to Pope Francis when she donned a Hijab to show “support” for Muslims and asserted that the god of Islam and the God of Christianity are one and the same (my response). Now Craig Considine, a Roman Catholic Sociologist, argues that Christians can recognize Muhammad as a legitimate prophet of God—similar in status if not quite equal in status with Jesus in this article.

Considine attempts to justify his recognition of Muhammad as a true prophet by defining a prophet as “a messenger of a Higher Power who works on earth to bring justice and peace to humanity.” As a Roman Catholic Considine it is not surprising that he does not appeal to scripture to support this definition of a prophet, but it would have been helpful if he would have provided at least some explanation of how he arrived at this definition. Even if we do not appeal to scripture, Considine’s definition of a prophet proves to be untenable. The assumption seems to be that anyone who seeks “to bring justice and peace to humanity” is a messenger from a “Higher Power,” that is, a prophet. What if a member of the occult becomes a humanitarian leader? Would Considine be willing to recognize a devil worshipper as a prophet? Probably not. Clearly Considine’s definition of a prophet is too broad.[1]

But the basic problem with Considine’s argument is not his definition of what a prophet is. His basic problem is that he is not a Christian. Considine anticipates that his recognition of Muhammad as a prophet  might cause people “to question my credibility as a self-professed Christian.” He explains, “People might say, ‘Jesus is the only way. You’ve turned your back on God. You’re no longer Christian.’” It does seem that Considine is indeed contradicting John 14:6 by teaching that Muhammad offers a way to God in addition to Jesus. However, Considine more clearly demonstrates that his claim to be a Christian is false in statements that do not have to do with how he views Muhammad.

Considine denies the plenary inspiration of scripture, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the sinlessness of Jesus Christ; all essential doctrines of the Christian faith. He writes, “Do I believe in everything that Prophet Muhammad said according to the Qur’an and hadiths? No, I don’t, but I also don’t believe in everything that Jesus or Moses said according to the Gospel or Talmud. Things kind of cancel out, even out. I accept aspects of both, but neither in their entirety.” And a little later he writes, “My mind tells me the Jesus and Muhammad have equally valuable messages. Both men shared some “truths,” but let’s be real: they were human beings. They were prone to error. They made mistakes. They missed some things.”

Christians do not reject parts of scripture, but heretics such as Marcionites and Deists do. Christians do not deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, but heretics such as Arians and Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Christians do not deny the sinlessness of Jesus, but the heretical Modernists/Liberals do. Considine is not a Christian according to the judgment of the Creeds of the Church (including the ecumenical creeds that Rome claims to adhere to).

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[1] The Heidelberg Catechism explains the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is the “chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed . . . the secret counsel and will of God concerning . . . redemption.” A prophet is primarily a spokesman of God, sent by God to speak the truth about salvation through Jesus Christ. Muhammad did not speak the truth of God about Jesus Christ as the only Savior; Muhammad was not a prophet of God.

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Our blog writer is Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us

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