Archive for the ‘Billy Birch’ Category

Manhattan Declaration – Partial Roundup

November 29, 2009

Much has been said on the ‘net regarding the Manhattan Declaration. This is a partial roundup, with my brief thoughts on the thoughts of others, in no particular order (though, perhaps, there is a generally newest-to-oldest bias):

1. William Watson Birch (Arminian) Birch unsurprisingly signed. He oddly wrote:

By holding hands with other followers of Christ in this endeavor, I am only committing myself to do what is right, not forming an alliance on doctrinal issues or of the proper understanding of the Gospel with others with whom I may disagree. We all may debate doctrinal issues with one another. But the one thing that is not up for debate is to “promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God” (Micah 6:8 NET Bible).

Apparently for Birch the gospel is debatable, while the sense of Micah 6:8 is not.

2. Ronald di Giacomo (Reformed and Presbyterian) Mr. di Giacomo won’t sign, but he’s willing to respect the liberty of others to sign.

3. Daniel J. Phillips (Calvinistic Baptist) Mr. Philips won’t sign because signing appears to compromise the gospel.

4. Alistair Begg (Calvinistic Baptist) Pastor Begg refuses to sign saying (among other things), “Are we wise to lay aside crucial historical differences of eternal significance so as to secure temporal advantages? George Smeaton, in his classic work on the atonement observes, “To convert one sinner from his way is an event of greater importance than the deliverance of a whole kingdom from temporal evil.””

5. John MacArthur (Calvinistic Baptist) Pastor MacArthur refuses to sign, noting (among other things): “the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel.”

6. Brian Maclaren (Emergent) He doesn’t particularly like the document because it’s signed by old white males and it minimizes the things that are important to him. The word “gospel” naturally does not appear in his article.

7. Steve Camp (Calvinistic Baptist) He won’t sign it because “It is nothing more than ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) and Justice Sunday revisited.”

8. Dr. James White (Reformed Baptist) He won’t sign it, noting (among other interesting things): “Great damage has been done to the cause of Christ by those who have sought to promote the Kingdom by compromising the gospel, the only power given to the church that can change hearts, and hence change societies. “

9. Tim Challies (Calvinist Baptist) Challies won’t sign, noting (in addition to large quotations from others): “It is good to speak of the gospel, but what does the term mean if used by Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox? Each has their own understanding of the term—the term that stands at the very heart of the faith. I just cannot see past this issue.”

10. Albert Mohler (Calvinistic Baptist) He signed the declaration because he “believe[s] we are facing an inevitable and culture-determining decision on the three issues centrally identified in this statement.” However, he insists:

My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent — and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground.

11. Mark aka johnMark (Reformed and Southern Baptist) Mark will not sign and explains, “If these “ecclesial” lines can line up together in the Gospel without confusion then this statement and the others make sense. If not, where does the real agreement lie? My vote based on the way the MD is written brings confusion rather than clarity.”

12. T at First Word (Reformed and Presbyterian) He opposes the declaration and adds: “I would only add, that if the particular points of this manifesto are all they could come up with, then why not become even more ecumenical and invite like-minded Unitarians and atheists? True, they sign it “as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” but that comes at the end of the short statement, there is no attempt to show implication, and they are not signing it as authorized agents of the representative church of any of their branches.”

13. L P Cruz (Lutheran) He mischaracterize’s Dr. White’s and Pastor Macarthur’s reasons for not signing, but would prefer not to sign because it would label him an “Evangelical.”

14. Kevin DeYoung (RCA) Mr. DeYoung wishes he hadn’t signed it, but still abides by his decision. He thinks: “The debate is about whether The Manhattan Declaration implies that there are no essential core-gospel differences among us. After reading the criticisms that have come out I understand how the Declaration could be seen as minimizing our differences. I have great respect for those who read the document in that way. But I still think the Declaration can be read as a statement that simply says “We all as individuals stand in the tradition of Nicene Christianity and we speak together on these three crucial issues of our day.””

15. Doug Wilson (CREC) Says he applauds the document, but cannot sign it. He does not cite doctrinal reasons, but strategic reasons:

The second strategic concern has to do with the actual deployment of the gospel (if I may speak that way), as distinct from mere abstract definitions of it. The only way our nation is going to be saved is if preachers of the gospel get out there and start preaching it in a way that calls this nation to true repentance and sincere faith in Jesus Christ. In order for that to happen, the gospel that we train young men to preach must be studied, lived, taught, defined, and preached. If we want the Word to cut between joint and marrow, then our task should be one of sharpening, not dulling and blunting. Please note that the concern here is not how accurate a man must be in his understanding of the gospel to be saved (an interesting doctrinal question), but rather how much anointed precision must come upon the preaching of the gospel such that a preacher becomes an effective servant in a day such as ours. This is the strategic question.

16. Jason Engwer (Reformed, I think) He thinks it is “a mostly good document that probably will do more good than harm.”

17. Steve Hays (Reformed) He thinks: “The basic problem with the Manhattan Declaration is that it has more than one target audience. As the document itself says, the framers are speaking both “to and from” their respective faith “communities.””

Does God Blind the Blind?

September 22, 2009

The title of this post is the title of a post by William Watson (“Billy”) Birch who thinks that he has found a weakness in Calvinism (though, as he admits, he’s not actually responding to a Calvinist)(link to his post).

His essential argument is this (I am paraphrasing): “Reformed theology says God blinds the reprobate. But Reformed theology says that everyone is totally depraved. Therefore, God is placed in the odd position of blinding the blind.”

But Mr. Birch cannot deny that God does harden the heart of some men. God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, for example. Furthermore, virtually every time we mention this to any Arminian who is opposed to Calvinism (there are Arminians who are simply ignorant of Reformed theology) they invariably insist that the man has to harden his own heart first. How exactly is this supposed to be different? God hardens the hard? God blinds the blind?

The argument may have a superficial appeal to Mr. Birch’s fan base, but it lacks substance as evidenced by how easily it is turned on his own argument.

The problem, of course, is that Mr. Birch fails to appreciate the way in which God blinds the blind. God refuses to open their eyes – refuses to provide them with a cause that would lead to the effect of their seeing.

Jesus explained:

Matthew 13:13-15
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Mark 4:11-12
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Furthermore, contrary to the theology of Mr. Birch, God is quite willing to take credit for concluding all in unbelief:

Romans 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

How does one conclude (i.e. enclose or shut) in unbelief an unbeliever? The same way one blinds the blind. Without God’s grace we can do nothing:

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.


Who is that on the Atonement? With Some Answers to Universalist Objections

March 26, 2008

(Note the term “Universalist” in the title is being used to refer to those who think died for all men universally, [like the way that B.B. Warfield uses the term] not those who believe that all men will be saved.)

Today, in fact only a few minutes ago, I found this interesting discussion, from which – for the moment – I’ve excerpted only the name:

When [this man] was charged with teaching, Christ has died for all men and for every individual, he responded, “This assertion was never made by me either in public or private except when it was accompanied by such an explanation as the controversies which are excited on this subject have rendered necessary. “For the phrase here used possesses much ambiguity: Thus it may mean either that ‘the price of the death of Christ was given for all and for every one,’ or that ‘the redemption, which was obtained by means of that price, is applied and communicated to all men and to every one’ . . . Of this latter sentiment I entirely disapprove, because God has by a peremptory decree resolved that believers alone should be made partakers of this redemption . . .”

Who is the person speaking this?

Frankly, I don’t think this view is far from the quasi-Amyraldian “unlimited/limited” view that is has been espoused by various folks. What is interesting, though, is that the source of this interesting position is not a quasi-Amyraldian, an Amyraldian, or even a so-called “moderate Calvinist.” The person speaking this in outright Arminian. In fact, it’s Arminius himself.

I would sincerely ask folks who call themselves “moderate Calvinists,” to consider whether
they really think that the synod of Dordt agreed with the Remonstrants on this point.

Likewise, I would ask Arminians to consider whether their own position here is tenable.

After all, how is purchasing a redemption for both believers and non-believers consistent with decreeing to save only believers?

This post (link) was provided by Billy Birch, whose posts I’ve been enjoy much lately, although I frequently disagree with them.

BB raises a few questions, that I think it would be worthwhile answering:

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2.9). Is “everyone” only the elect?

In general, no but in context, yes.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5.6). Are only the elect ungodly?

In general, no but in context, yes.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2Cor. 5.14-15). Have not “all” spiritually died? Or have only the “elect” died spiritually? If “all” people everywhere are spiritually dead, then Christ Jesus died for them all.
In general, no but in context, yes.

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2.2). And not only for ours (believers) but also for the “whole” world. Notice that John was not inspired to merely write, “for the world,” but instead, “for the whole world.” Bend over backwards, if you must, to make this only for the “elect,” but do so to your own harm.
The explanation is simple – not just for John and his immediate audience.

What did John the baptizer confess about Jesus? “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1.29) The sin of the “elect”? or the sin of the “world”? Which was he inspired to proclaim? If the Spirit of God had meant the “elect,” He would have inspired him to say so.
The world is an expansive, not extensive, term as used by John the Baptist.

Jesus himself admitted, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6.51). Is “the world” suppose to mean the “elect”? No. One has to accept the presupposition of Limited Atonement in order to believe it.
And same goes for Jesus as for John the Baptist.

Peter wrote, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2Pet. 2.1). Are false teachers and false prophets among God’s chosen? Will false prophets be saved? No. Yet Peter spoke of them as people whom the Lord had purchased. How can this be? It cannot be, in a Calvinistic framework.
Must the buying here be referential to salvation from sins? But even if it must, was Jesus their Lord? If you will grant that he was not, then to insist that the “bought them” must be taken at face value is inconsistent.

There’s certainly more that could be said in response to each of those points, more that has already been said, and more points from the original article that could be addressed. The fundamental interpretive error both for BB and the quasi-Amyraldians appears to be a failure to recognize the semantics of “all” and “world” in Scripture, as often expressing an expansive (people from all over the globe) rather than extensive (each and every last person on the face of the earth) connotation.


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