Friday, May 30, 2014

Karl Barth on Scripture

I will be on vacation for the next week and will be reposting some excellent articles by men like Van Til, Calvin, Bahnsen, and others. Enjoy!

An Article by Cornelius Van Til

In order to appreciate the work of the great German theologian, Karl Barth, we must realize that he is seeking to burn the house of modern theology to the ground. For this we are very thankful. The house of Modernism must be burned; it gives no shelter for eternity.

But Barth is also seeking to burn the house of orthodox theology to the ground. He has not merely started a fire that has gotten out of control. He holds definitely that our house keeps the wind from blowing on the fire he has started in our neighbor’s house. He holds that both houses must be burned or neither will be burned. We can see something of this in his attack on the orthodox doctrine of Scripture.
Barth’s view of Scripture may be summed up in the following words taken from his book, The Word of God and the Word of Man: “The Bible is a literary monument of an ancient racial religion and of a Hellenistic cultus religion of the Near East. A human document like any other, it can lay no a priori dogmatic claim to special attention or consideration. This judgment, being announced by every tongue and believed in every territory, we may take for granted today. We need not continue trying to break through an open door. And when now we turn our serious though somewhat dispassionate attention to the objective content of the Bible, we shall not do so in a way to provoke religious enthusiasm and scientific indignation to another battle against ‘stark orthodoxy’ and ‘dead belief in the letter.’ For it is too clear that intelligent and fruitful discussion of the Bible begins when the judgment as to its human, its historical and psychological character has been made and put behind us. Would that the teachers of our high and lower schools, and with them the progressive element among the clergy of our established churches, would forthwith resolve to have done witha battle that once had its time but has now had it.” 

Is The Bible The Word Of God?
Can one read this quotation and doubt whether Barth is seeking to burn down the orthodox doctrine of Scripture?

But someone will say: “I interviewed Barth myself and I know that he believes in the Bible as the Word of God. I asked him whether the Word of God is in the Bible as the Modernist says, or whether the Word of God is the Bible as the Orthodox say, and Barth said the Bible is the Word of God. What more can you ask?”

Our reply is that we need something more than the sound of words. If we are to think of Barth as a man who has reasonably thought through his position, his contention that he believes in the Bible as the Word of God must be viewed in the light of his wholehearted acceptance of the principles of modern negative criticism and reconstruction. Whatever Barth may mean by saying that the Bible is the Word of God it is plain that for him this means something quite different from what it means to the orthodox Christian.

Does Barth Hold The View Of Luther And Calvin?
A second objector may say: “You are right. The Fundamentalist cannot claim Barth as a friend. Barth is no servant of the letter. He believes no such foolish theories as those of verbal or plenary inspiration. Barth’s Fundamentalism is quite different from American Fundamentalism.”

“But, you see, Fundamentalism is a child of the scholastic era of Lutheran and Reformed theology. Luther and Calvin were no literalists, though they truly believed the Bible as the Word of God. And Barth’s views are ‘fundamentally in accord with early Reformation conceptions.’ ” 

In our reply to this contention we need not argue whether the “early Reformation conception” of Scripture involved the notion of plenaryinspiration. Even if we grant, for argument’s sake, that Luther and Calvin held merely to the substantial correctness instead of the plenary inspiration of the Bible, Barth’s views would still be utterly opposed to theirs. For Barth no book that is in any sense a product of history and the human mind can be substantially correct as the Word of God. Such a book may be substantially correct as a record of what man has thought but the Word of God, according to Barth, can never appear in anything like permanent form among men. Barth’s activistic conception of revelation makes anything like an orthodox view of Scripture impossible.

That Barth wants to ruin the orthodox house of Scripture completely may be seen still further if we think of what Protestant theology has often spoken of as the perfections of Scripture. Protestantism speaks of the authority, the necessity, the perspicuity and the sufficiency of Scripture. Does Barth hold to any one or all of these in the Protestant sense of the term? We believe not.

The Authority Of Scripture
But is not Barth the great prophet of the Word of God today? Is it not he that is calling men back from the word of man to the Word of God? And is not he asking unqualified obedience to the Word of God?
We answer that he is in a sense, but not in the orthodox Protestant sense. Barth has told us with a thousand voices at every period of his development that Scripture authority is not and cannot be that of a once-for-all revelation of God. At times he even identifies the Word of God with conscience. He speaks of conscience as “the perfect interpreter of life.” His views lend themselves readily to Buchmanism and other subjectivist movements. Nor does Barth feel the least bit of obligation to accept as history that which Scripture presents as history.4 Barth’s activistic conception of revelation denies the Protestant doctrine of Scripture authority.

The Necessity Of Scripture
Next to the authority of Scripture the Protestant Reformers maintained the necessity of Scripture. “They considered Scripture to be necessary in virtue of the good pleasure of God to make the Word the seed of the Church.” This doctrine of the necessity of Scripture was opposed to the idea of the living voice of God as maintained by Rome and the Anabaptists.

Now on this point Barth’s position is much closer to that of Rome, the Anabaptists and the views of Schleiermacher, than to that of the Protestant Reformers. Barth makes it as plain as he can that Christian preaching must be preaching not of a Word that is ready to hand in Scripture. To think of the Bible as anything like a complete expression of God’s will for man is, according to Barth, to limit the sovereignty of God. Barth’s enthusiastic defense of the “Sovereignty” or “free grace” of God makes him a bitter enemy of the Protestant doctrine of the necessity of Scripture. If Barth is opposed to “the modern use of the Bible” he is far more bitterly opposed to the generic Protestant use of the Bible.

The Perspicuity Of Scripture
Protestant theology has in addition to the authority and the necessity of Scripture also maintained its perspicuity. The plain man can know what he needs to know by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If he compares Scripture with Scripture, and the less plain with the more plain he need not fear that he has missed the central meaning of it all. No living voice such as the Church of Rome is indispensable as an interpreter of Scripture.

On this point, too, Barth is opposed to the Protestant principle. Since for Barth no human language can possibly be the medium by which the Word of God may come to us directly, the Bible, written by human agents, presents a great heap of rubbish which must be removed before we find the Word of God. The actual words of Scriptures are but pointers indicating the direction in which the “Form” (Gestalt) of the Word of God may be found. “Only God understands Himself, also in His Word.”4 Moreover, we cannot even recognize our own act of faith by which we accept the Scriptures as the Word of God for what it is. The prophets and the apostles are so many people pointing their fingers upward, urging us to look upward, too, so that perhaps we may hear something of God’s Word in the distance. For Barth it is of the essence of pride to think that we possess any plain words in Scripture that come to us and are recognizable by us as the Word of God. Rome took the Bible away from the common man before the Reformation; Barth is trying to do this same thing after the Reformation.

The Sufficiency Of Scripture
Finally we observe that Protestantism has asserted the sufficiency of Scripture. “The Reformers merely intended to deny that there is alongside of Scripture an unwritten word of God.” 
With respect to this point, too, it cannot be denied that Barth has denied the Protestant doctrine. Speaking of the fact that the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God, Barth says: “The oracles of God, of which they are the possessors and guardians, are the comprehensible signs of the incomprehensible truth that, though the world is incapable of redemption, yet there is a redemption for the world. It is irrelevant whether they possess and are concerned to guard Moses or John the Baptist, Plato or Socialism, or that moral perception which dwells in all its simplicity in the midst of the rough and tumble of human life.” And if one should think that this does not really represent Barth he may turn to the Kirchliche Dogmatik, Barth’s most recent major work, and find essentially the same point of view. In this more recent work Barth is, to be sure, not so rash and outspoken in his rejection of the canon of Scripture. At points he even seems to plead for the necessity of a canon. Even so, the canon is after all nothing but the precipitate of the Christian consciousness. The Scripture must never be taken as a completed historical document. The canon is but the starting point of the revelation of God and the preaching is the continuation of that same revelation.9 The Reformers regarded the written word as the high-water-mark of the revelation of God; Barth regards the written Word as the unavoidable petrification of the living word.

Thus we see that Barth’s doctrine of Scripture cannot by any stretch of the imagination be made to appear similar to the generic Protestant view. Is this a small matter? Can we overlook this as a detail? Can Barth be essentially sound on other doctrines if he is essentially unsound on the doctrine of Scripture? This could be only if the doctrine of Scripture were a subordinate doctrine for Protestantism. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of Scripture is one of the most basic doctrines in Protestant and especially in Reformed theology.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Diotrephes and Demetrius

The book of 3 John contains a sober lesson for modern Christians as it relates to Christian attitudes in general and toward leadership in particular. John sends this letter apparently in response to a report he received from missionaries that had visited the Church where the beloved Gaius served. John opens the letter by reaffirming his love for Gaius and wishes him well. We know this letter was in response to a report because John says that he was very glad to hear that his children are walking in the truth. (v.3)
In the ancient Church just as today, Christian missionaries traveled from region to region preaching the gospel. These missionaries relied heavily on the hospitality of fellow Christians and churches for their provisions. In the case of 3 John there appears that there was an individual named Diotrephes that was not only willing to support the efforts of these ordained missionaries, but he also forbad anyone else from doing so. For some reason, unknown to us, Diotrephes rejected the missionaries. John tells us several things about Diotrephes.

Frist, Diotrephes loved to be first among the saints. He had a hunger to recognition and notoriety. He wanted to have the preeminence among the Church. Second, he rejected the words of the apostle. Diotrephes thought he knew better than the apostles. He rejected the inspired and authoritative word of the leaders of Christ’s Church. Third, Diotrephes is a slanderous man. He unjustly and falsely said wicked things about John and the other leaders. Diotrephes is out of touch with love and out of touch with submission. Fourth, Diotrephes rejects the Christian missionaries who were no doubt sanctioned and sent out under apostolic rule. In addition, and fifth, Diotrephes refuses to allow others to receive these missionaries as well. This indicates that Diotrephes was either very influential or in a position of authority or perhaps both. Sixth, Diotrephes actually excommunicates those that do receive these Christian missionaries. He forces them out of the church. This points to the fact that Diotrephes had adopted doctrine that ran contrary to apostolic teaching. It also indicates that he had very strong feelings about his doctrine and that he would stop at nothing to protect his position in the church.

Contrast Diotrephes with another man Demetrius. Demetrius had a good reputation with everyone to include the truth itself. That is, Demetrius was faithful to the truth of the Christian message. Demetrius was viewed a man that was busy doing good, honoring truth, and blessing the saints.

The modern, visible church is filled with men like Diotrephes. These men, from the very start reject anything that resembles submission to the authority of Scripture. They abandon historic orthodox teachings at alarming rates, without much thought, and they do so with a smug casualness that makes one wonder if they have ever encountered the Christ of Scripture. This is the direct product of pelagian and semi-pelagian theology run amuck and taken to its logical end. The Christian message of supernatural faith and a miraculous born again experience has been replaced with a rationalistic understanding of Christian conversion. The direct influence of the enlightenment, even in thousands of conservative churches is felt. The doctrine of regeneration has been reduced to rational decision-making at one end and little more than a psychological event on the other. It is in this garden of “Christian” enlightenment thinking that leaders are being nurtured to promulgate a version of Christianity that is the hatchings of demonic plotting.

We experience the impact of this thinking everywhere we turn. It is almost impossible to avoid. Regeneration is no longer the powerful work of God to transform a life. Rather, it is a decision to join the group. Faith is nothing more than an intellectual belief, rather than the profound spiritual gift of the Spirit described in Scripture. The Bible has been reduced to the product of men that were unenlightened, prejudiced, and who did the best they could with what they knew. But we know so much more. We know better than Moses and the ancient Hebrews that the earth was not actually created in six literal days. We know that God used evolutionary processes to create life. The story of Adam and Eve is nothing more than a parable, a metaphor representing humanity. We know that the acts of judgment in the Old Testament were the biases of a blood-thirsty culture overlaid on the deity. We know that God could never really become a man and that ancient Christianity actually never believed this either. We know that Christ did not really rise from the dead but His message is really what rose above the tradition of the religious hypocrites of His day. That is what is important. We know that God loves everyone and that some people are going to heaven through Christ, others through Islam, others through Buddha, and others through their good works and the worship of whatever god there is.

One does not have to read very far into the previous paragraph to realize that Christianity has become a religion of mass chaos and confusion in the 21st century. In fact, one of my issues in conversing with atheists and skeptics is refusing to defend a generalize idea of Christianity because there are so many different versions of Christianity that exist in the world today. I now have to establish the fact that there is only one true version of Christianity and defend the fact that I know which one that is. Diotrephes has been a busy fellow over the last few decades and especially in the last two or three.

The problem is that in one way, shape, or form, we have many Diotrephes running around in the visible Christian community doing their own thing. They have decided that 2,000 years of apostolic teaching is enough. Historical Christian orthodoxy is nothing more than ancient phariseeism. The image of God is exchanged for one that is kinder, gentler, friendlier, and much more tolerant. So Diotrephes graduates from seminary and heads off to a location of his choosing and starts a church in a local school with his new hip message about a hip Jesus whose existence revolves around making American Christians happy.

This modern Diotrephes has been thoroughly baptized in enlightenment doctrine and as a result, he in turn, baptizes Christianity in enlightenment doctrine. For Diotrephes, Protagoras was right when he said, “Man is the measure of all things.” God is not sovereign, His knowledge is limited by the free will of the creature, the Bible is not inerrant but some of it is inspired (the parts he likes), hell is a metaphor, God did not really create as much as He did reshape, man did not come from dust, but rather God worked with evolution to produce him from a single-celled organism (whose origin is still a mystery), abortion is not murder, but a woman’s health issue, sex is love, and therefore gay sex is love, and we need to accept and tolerate all people (except conservative Christians, they are the worse), and the atonement is not Christ taking the wrath of God in our place because such a view is equivalent to divine child abuse. In addition, alternative views are perfectly fine. We are not sure Christ was God. We do not think there is only one way to heaven.

Hence, we see what happens when entrance into the Christian community is reduced to a rationalistic soteriology. Unbelievers do not become believers. There is no genuine faith in Christ within these men. This is why we often read about their apostasy years later. They gave the appearance of being a Christian for some time. But when they encountered just the right circumstances, the truth became obvious: they never knew Christ. These men and women fill the ranks of most churches today and some of them are even in conservative churches. They may be in your church. This is why it is important for Christians within communities to get to know one another. Then and only then are we in a position to serve one another by holding each other accountable for the sinful proclivities that we all have. Our pride does not want to admit that we are tempted each day to sin against God. We are tempted to anger, to lie, to be prideful, to lust. We don’t want to admit that in a moment of weakness, we lied, or we flirted, or we enjoyed a flirt. We don’t want to admit that our hearts are filing up with pride because we are reasonably success in the job and our work is gaining notice. We must find a way to be more transparent, more open about these things. This will help us identify the Diotrephes in our own heart and more importantly, those that are in our communities. When we do locate Diotrephes, what do we do? We eradicate him! We do this in one of two ways. We lead him to repentance, or if he refuses, we lead him out of the community. For those traits of Diotrephes in our hearts, we mortify them.
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.[1] but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.[2]

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 5:7.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 8:13.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Schizophrenic America

Recently, Mark Cuban set off a firestorm of controversy with his comments about racial prejudice. The networks and social media were apparently exploding like a nuclear weapon had gone off. In a country where judging has been condemned now for decades and where truth is no longer objective and morals are relative, we sure don’t act like we really believe what we say we believe. What I would like to do is be able to make it one day without someone praising the sexual perversion of homosexuality or talking about the deplorable state of racist attitudes. America has become the single greatest symbol of hypocrisy in the history of nations at this point. What’s more, the American Church has been all too eager to follow the lead of the culture. America has become a self-righteous country filled with self-righteous people that have no hesitation about affirming their own self as the source of their own righteousness.

What are the facts concerning prejudice and homosexuality? In a recent poll, 31% of blacks said that their own demographic was more likely to be racist than not. But you never heard anything about this poll on mainstream media. Full disclosure about homosexuality is just as hypocritical in America. The list of diseases found with extraordinary frequency among male homosexual practitioners as a result of anal intercourse is alarming:

Anal Cancer 
Chlamydia trachomatis 
Giardia lamblia 
Herpes simplex virus 
Human immunodeficiency virus 
Human papilloma virus 
Isospora belli 
Viral hepatitis types B & C 

Sexual transmission of some of these diseases is so rare in the exclusively heterosexual population as to be virtually unknown. The point is that America is no longer interested in the facts. She has no interest in anything other than establishing her own self as god of the globe. She murders her own unborn children as if she were removing a hangnail. In fact, she not only defends such behavior, she brags about it. I have been saying for some time now that the networks are about to explode with same-sex displays of affection. Last night, while trying to watch a movie for a few minutes (I can only sit there for maybe 15 minutes or so), the commercials contained two different clips of men kissing. So we have arrived. I have some hope that real men will begin to react like any real man should react. However, my experience is that the modern domineering woman will demand that her husband get on board with the rest of this godless culture and show more tolerance for such behavior. The sad fact is that we stopped raising real men for the most part a few decades ago.

The true Church in America has come to the place where she is now going to be forced to look at the situation differently. It is no longer a country that tolerates Christianity. Sure, it will tolerate the hypocrites and the liars that claim to be Christian but are not. However, the minute you start talking about what the Bible teaches or what God says, you can plan on being dismissed immediately or worse. Christians in America are entering the conditions that most Christians throughout most of the history of Christianity have had to live in. There have been exceptions here and there, but for the most part, most Christians have lived in cultures that were moderately to extremely hostile to Christian principles. This was certainly the case for those Christians living in the first-century Church and who had the privilege of being recipients of the letters and writings of the NT at its inception. Hence, Christians in those cultures had to think differently about their respective cultures. And so too must we. In fact, sound thinking has move to the forefront of Christian behavior in short order. No longer can the Church afford “check-the-box” behavior for her weekly programs, be it Sunday school, Bible study groups, and especially during Sunday morning worship. Our weekly gathering must be with the intention of equipping for both godly living and godly thinking. Moreover, that we are called to contradict the lies of Satan wherever they appear cannot be over-emphasized. Confrontation, refutation, and correction with the hope of conversion are inherent in the Christian message. Examine the ministry of Christ, of Paul, of Peter, and of John. Only a blind person can miss the constant battle for truth and for sanctification that these men were engage in. Some of us think that we should only concern ourselves with sanctification, with serving one another, with pure living. Others think we should only concern ourselves with evangelism and apologetics. Both groups are wrong. We have to be passionately concerned about both.

Part of our problem in the Church has been a terrible imbalance in training and equipping our people. Attending a Sunday school program where a teacher spends 20 minutes talking while 70% of the class is frankly unengaged is NOT equipping your people. Donuts and coffee and 30 minutes of small talk about nothing mixed in with 10 minutes of how Jesus healed my cat and 10 minutes of Bible study is an embarrassing joke for the Church. Yet we convince ourselves we are doing something when we do these things. We are not doing anything that matters, anything eternal, anything that will last. We are crossing an item off our to-do list, or better yet, our bragging list.

It is time for Churches to put serious rigor into their structure or their people are sure to find themselves in conversations without a clue as to what to say. The sad fact is that most Christians don’t even want to bring up the gospel. They are afraid to do so. Why? Many are ashamed and don’t want to be marginalized. Most of us are simply incompetent. Gospel sharing bottomed-out many years ago and many conservative churches have not bothered with evangelism and apologetics since. Couple that with the fact that there are more objections to the Christian message today than there ever has been in America and Christians don’t talk about it because they don’t want to be embarrassed. In addition, many Christians are just too lazy to bother with such work. They don’t see a need. These people think the gospel amounts to Jesus being able to fix your problems and give your life meaning and purpose. For them, that is the gospel. What it is, is a humanistic, deistic, moralistic version of the gospel and Christianity that is as idolatrous as the ancient god Dagan. Somehow we think that because we tattoo Jesus, Christianity, and love on it that this makes it okay. Moreover, even genuine believers may give it a past under the false thinking that it is not real idolatry because it sort of mimics Christianity.

Another sad attitude on the part of leaders is that they think, for some strange reason, that people can think hard about work, performing their jobs well, spending energy thinking things over, but when it comes to Christian truth, we must remain in a constant state of the simple, and at all cost, avoid the complex. We make almost no effort to challenge our own people with the truths they claim to believe. That is a costly mistake. You can be sure that outsiders are going to be challenging the faith more and more. Why shouldn’t we put as much effort into rightly dividing God’s word and into refuting error as we put into our jobs? Such an attitude is not only confusing, it is spiritually detrimental to the believer.

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding. (Eph. 4:17-18a) Christians are commanded not to think like the godless culture around them. We are not to reason like they do, nor to follow their pattern of living. Gentiles think autonomously. They begin with their own self as the starting point, as the reference point for what is right. America has completely redefined marriage because she thinks she is god. America has called murder abortion and made it a woman’s health issue rather than a solution to unwanted consequences resulting from promiscuous behavior. Do not believe the polls. If you did, you would think that the average woman has had 4 sex partners during her life. College women alone are reporting numbers ranging from 10-12 to around 30 during college alone. No one can watch reality TV, read anything about sexual behavior in college and young people and think that a survey that suggests such a low number has any credibility. We understate sexual activity in heterosexual and homosexual men and women and overstate the number of homosexuals and “committed” homosexual relationships. Why? America is a nation of hypocrisy. It is that simple. She is a God hating idolater. She is a country that has been moving to replace God with herself for decades now.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5) This is a war of the mind, of knowledge, of thought. Its time Christians take it seriously.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Antichrist and The New America

κα νν ντίχριστοι πολλο γεγόνασιν.Even now, many antichrists have arisen. When many Christians or even most Christians hear the word antichrist, they think of an end-times arch-enemy of God that will arise and deceive millions into battling quite literally against the armies of God and of heaven. And there is a literal “Antichrist” who will emerge to do that very thing according to biblical prophecy. But the words of John are far more troublesome and far more relevant to the on-going, daily, Christian living and battle for truth that we all must face day in and day out in the new America.

“In an atmosphere of rising interest in a merging of Christianity with the higher forms of paganism to the detriment of the former, there was, therefore, a pressing need for the presentation of adequate Christian antidotes to combat the danger.”[1] John was writing so that his audience would know that they have eternal life. (1 Jn. 5:13) What is interesting is that so much of John’s letter deals with what is apparently an early form of Gnosticism. It still seems best to conclude that John is combating proto-Gnosticism, an embryonic Docetism or Cerinthianism that has already divided Christians.[2] Hence, it seems reasonable to conclude that John’s joy and the key to knowing that one’s faith is genuine in John’s letter is a lifestyle that is characterized by the absence of immoral behavior and heretical belief. Pagan thought has been a constant threat to Christian thought since Christ ushered in His system some 2,000 years ago.

John identifies the competing pagan beliefs with the same substance that will define the man of sin that is to come, the future Antichrist. The Antichrist is the embodiment of all that opposes Christ. He is a dangerous and deceitful individual. He represents the pinnacle of rebellion and unbelief in the human situation. It is significant then, that John identifies the pagan heresy with which he is dealing with the Antichrist.

Apparently there was a group of individuals that were part of the visible Christian community that had set out on their own. They did this to show that they were not truly part of the Christian community of John’s address. (1 Jn. 2:18) What is interesting is the use of the passive verb “shown.” This is the Greek word phaneroō and it means to disclose to show. However, the passive voice of the verb indicates that it was not necessarily the purpose of the schismatic group in leaving to show that they were not of the group. This points up to providence. The separation that occurred over the false beliefs and moral code of that group occurred by an act of divine providence. Now, it could have been the reaction of the local body or it could have simply been a splitting off of the group. It is not easy to analyze the exact details.

John’s letter appears to have the aim of reassuring the Christian community that the split was the right thing for the body and that they are the genuine group standing firm in the faith of Christ. In so doing, John seems to imply that the alternative version of the Christian group is led by antichrists. In other words, those who are rejecting the basic beliefs of the Christian group and those who reject the basic moral code of true biblical Christianity are to be identified as antichrists. This is a very sober and serious charge.

John then says something quite fascinating: But you have an anointing from the Holy One and you all know. Textual variant aside, John’s statement is quite interesting. First, the implications are that the genuine Christian knows the truth and because he/she knows the truth, he/she can spot what is not true, namely, error, and especially heresy. Second, this seems to rule out what has grown to be a mostly rationalistic faith in modern western culture in terms of Christian adherents. In other words, Christians do not know the truth on simply naturalistic, rational grounds. The method is more than understanding how to reason properly, even though it certainly includes a right use of reason. Reason does not seem to be enough in this case. John is pointing to something that is transcendent and supernatural. John is pointing to an ontological difference in the Christian. There is something about the being of a Christian that is quite different from that of an unbeliever. The notion of being anointed or having an anointing from the Holy One indicates that John sees the believer as marked off by God for God’s purpose.

John goes on to say that this anointing abides within us and because of this fact we have no need for anyone to teach us. This anointing teaches us all things, that is to say, all things necessary for truth. Two things that this fact impacts: apologetics and Church discipline. You see, modern Christian thought in the west has long abandoned the Biblical faith of the first-century Church. That faith is the basis of true knowledge. Conversely, in modern Christian thought, faith is the end of a rational process by which evidence and arguments are weighed, subjected to human scrutiny, placed under the light of pagan reasoning and at the end, if the criteria is satisfied, wham-o, one decides to become a Christian. But this is far from the thinking revealed by the authors of Scripture.

True knowledge comes through faith in Christ. And this faith comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, the one with Whom all Christians have been anointed. True saving knowledge does not come at the end of some rationalistic process contrary to what so many modern western thinkers assert. God makes Christians. Only God makes Christians. You do not make yourself a Christian. You cannot make yourself “born again.” The power of the gospel is the tool God uses to radically change the human person. This is the anointing that John is talking about. For this reason, Jesus could say things like the elect cannot be deceived, and all that the Father gives to me will come to me. Otherwise, these statements make no sense.

Finally, John’s statement has real implications for a Church that has lost its way. Just because a person says he/she is a Christian, this does not make them one. There have always been pseudo-Christians in the visible Christian community from the beginning. They are what John called antichrists. They do not have the anointing and therefore, they do not know the truth. They entered the community through a rational process of examining their own person needs, looking at arguments, examining evidence, sensing a need to be religious and wham-o, they sign the card. They have no more interest in Jesus than the devil himself does. What they are interested in is their own sense of belonging of being righteous, of being moral, and maybe of community. But their beliefs and conduct betray their profession of faith.

For some time now we have had seeker-sensitive, emergent, and now the restless-reformed coming along and rejecting the many of the basic teachings of Biblical Christianity while at the same time claiming to embrace it. But just as John said they went out from us so that it would be shown that they were not really of us, we can say the same thing about these folks. For example, there are numerous professing Christians that deny the virgin birth, the resurrection, the deity of Christ, that the Bible is the word of God, etc. As an example of the confusion, take Ellen Painter Dollar’s statement, “There is nothing false about believing that the God of all things can be encountered in sacred story, and in mundane human experience, and in the strange visions of the mystics.” Read more:

God can be found everywhere and in nearly everyone these days (except for political conservatives of course). Modern Christians, mostly of the younger generation, in their early to mid-twenties have figured out that the rest of us are and were for nearly 2,000 years, mistaken about Jesus. Abortion is seen as a blessing. Gay sex is viewed as love. Sports celebrities that pray are mocked while grown men who want to act like women are praised. And these things are moving into the Church because the Church has continued to buy into the modern, naturalistic, rational, decision-making model of regeneration. That model demands that the Church remain connected to the culture, that she remain relevant.

You see, Biblical apologetics demands that we begin with God, that Scripture be our sole authority. Christian doctrine can only be known by those who have been anointed by God. True knowledge is only discovered by those with God’s special grace, His special anointing. But this teaching requires a radically different message than the one the Church has been preaching. Because the Church has adopted a naturalistic approach to conversion, she has also bought into the necessity to be relevant. This approach requires that we make good arguments, that God be a means to an end, that people feel like they are gaining something, and that they feel like it was their choice, remaining in control of course. We have to make sure our music is attractive, that our message is relevant, that Christianity is viewed with respect, academically and otherwise. And this is all based off the notion that being a Christian is making a rational decision and nothing more.

John’s message to his audience was profoundly different from the modern message of modern Christians. God did not accept people just as they were but instead, He radically transformed their entire person before bringing them into communion with Himself and His Church. There was no such thing as believing whatever one wished and conducting oneself however one pleased all the while receiving the blessing of the Church. The days of socially acceptable Christianity are fading into the past. The modern Church, in an attempt to remain relevant has become so much like the world, there is no noticeable different between the two. Look around and tell me what is different about the visible Church and the culture in which she is found? The thinking, beliefs, and practices of the Church mirror those of the world. The same John that warned us about the many antichrists that have gone out into the world also commanded us not to love the world or anything in the world. We cannot love the world and love God both at the same time. Modern Christianity has all but destroyed this basic Christian distinction. Christians need to circle their wagons, lean on each other like never before, and take a bold and loving stand for the truth of the Christian gospel as if lives depend on it because, as John MacArthur says, they do.

[1] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, Ill. 1990), 866.
[2] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 681.

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