Thursday, June 27, 2013

Van Drunen Two Kingdoms Rebutted by Brian Mattson

Dr. Brian Mattson has a post in which he distinguishes between Horton's views on the two kingdoms and Van Drunen's views on the two kingdoms (link to post). Dr. Mattson's post should help to explain part of the problem with engaging the topic -- there are a variety of "two kingdoms" views even amongst folks like Van Drunen and Horton, each of whom would reject the position of Calvin and the Westminster divines.

Spealing of Calvin, Dr. Mattson also has a post in which he explains the problem with folks like Van Drunen trying to associate Calvin with their position (link to post). Mattson makes an excellent observation about the preface to Calvin's great Institutes of the Christian Religion:
Before Calvin ever gets to writing the book, he begins with something called a "Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France." It seems fairly strange that a man who believes Christian doctrine to be irrelevant to the "civil" realm would dedicate his work on Christian doctrine to the head of the civil realm. But Calvin is more specific. He writes: "For the Most Mighty and Illustrious Monarch, Francis, Most Christian King of the French, His Sovereign, John Calvin Craves Peace and Salvation in Christ." So... Francis is a "Christian" monarch. This way of speaking is anathema to modern Two Kingdoms advocates.

When offering his defense to Francis, he writes: "Worthy indeed is this matter of your hearing, worthy of your cognizance, worthy of your royal throne! Indeed, this consideration makes a true king: to recognize himself a minister of God in governing his kingdom. Now, that king who in ruling over his realm does not serve God's glory exercises not kingly rule but brigandage."
There is more in Dr. Mattson's post - I encourage you to check it out.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rebuttal to Craig's Denial of the Historicity of the Guard Account

The Bible declares:
Matthew 27:62-66
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first."
Pilate said unto them, "Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can." So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Matthew 28:2-4 & 11-15
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
But William Lane Craig says, in response to the question "were there guards at the tomb":
Well now this is a question that I think is probably best left out of the program, because the vast, vast majority of New Testament scholars would regard Matthew's guard story as unhistorical. I can hardly think of anybody who would defend the historicity of the guard at the tomb story. And the main reasons for that are two:
One is because it's only found in Matthew and it seems very odd that if there were a Roman guard or even a Jewish guard at the tomb that Mark wouldn't know about it and that there wouldn't be any mention of it.
The other reason is that nobody seemed to understand Jesus' resurrection predictions. The disciples - who heard them most often - had not an inkling of what he meant and yet somehow the Jewish authorities were supposed to have heard of these predictions and understood them so well that they were able to set a guard around the tomb. And again, that doesn't seem to make sense.
So, most scholars regard the guard at the tomb story as a legend or a Matthean invention that isn't really historical.
Fortunately, this is of little significance for the empty tomb of Jesus, because the guard was mainly employed in Christian apologetics to disprove the conspiracy theory that the disciples stole the body. But no modern historian or New Testament scholar would defend a conspiracy theory, because it's evident when you read the pages of the New Testament that these people sincerely believed in what they said. So, the conspiracy theory is dead, even in the absence of a guard at the tomb.
The true significance of the guard at the tomb story is that it shows that even the opponents of the earliest Christians did not deny the empty tomb, but rather involved themselves in a hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain it away by saying that the disciples had stolen the body. And that's the real significance of Matthew's guard at the tomb story.
This shows part of the soft underbelly of William Lane Craig's excessive reliance on scholarship over revelation. The text itself treats the account as historical. There are no signals in the text that the account is mythical or parabolic. Indeed, the theory that the "vast, vast majority of New Testament scholars" would be adopting here is one that says that the text has its origins in the will of man rather than in the inspiration of the Spirit.

Let's consider the two reasons that Craig gives. The first reason is Mark's omission of the account. This is hardly a compelling reason. After all, while Matthew includes the vast majority of the material found in Mark, Mark contains less than three quarters of the material found in Matthew. Mark is simply a significantly shorter gospel. The guard at the tomb story, while significant to the conspiracy story and consequently to Matthew's apparently Jewish primary audience, is not a central aspect of the resurrection account. It's not only absent from Mark but also from Luke and John.

In this way it is similar to Matthew's account of the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27) that Jesus miraculously paid for himself and Peter with the help of a fish. That account likewise is not found in Mark, Luke, or John, and likewise is of particular interest to Matthew's presumably Jewish primary audience.

Moreover, while the first half of the guard at the tomb account is in an easily separable pericope, the second half of the guard at the tomb account is woven into the account of the arrival of the women at the tomb, which is part that Craig would undoubtedly consider historical. Thus, the keepers of the tomb should also be regarded as historical.

The second reason that Craig gives is that the disciples did not understand Jesus' resurrection predictions, and therefore it is unlikely that Jesus' critics would have recalled these predictions. This analysis seems contrary to our common experience. Often, one's harshest critics pay even more attention to one's words than one's own friends. Moreover, the disciples had a mistaken notion that Jesus first coming was to be like his second coming, in terms of being triumphant. They seemed not to accept his very clear predictions of his own death. By contrast, Jesus' critics mocked his prediction of his death and accused him of paranoia ("The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?" John 7:20, for example).

Thus, the disciples were quick to overlook Jesus' comments specifically predicting his resurrection. By contrast, Jesus' critics hung on his every word. ("Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him." Luke 11:54) So, when they were thinking how to eliminate this movement, they were not depressed and in despair over Jesus' death, but instead were focused on trying to stamp out the movement altogether.

Neither of Craig's reasons, therefore, provide a compelling case for rejecting the historicity of the guard at the tomb account.

The clip from the John Ankerberg show can be seen in the embedded video, below.

By the way, Geisler got on Mike Licona's case for denying the historicity of the mass Jerusalem resurrection account. Why hasn't he criticized Craig for denying the historicity of the guard at the tomb accounts? In fact, William Lane Craig's analysis of the account and its significance are significantly more harmful to the doctrine of inerrancy than Licona's treatment of the mass resurrection as apocalyptic. Where is the consistency? Is Geisler simply unaware?


Monday, June 24, 2013

MacArthur & OSAS vs. Prosperity Gospel & Charismatics

Michael Brown recently wrote:
And which is worse? To preach a carnal prosperity message or to give people false assurance that, once they are saved, no matter how they live, no matter what they do, even if they renounce Jesus, they are still saved? Which message will result in more people being misled and finding themselves in hell?
Pastor MacArthur rightly renounces the carnal prosperity message, yet many non-charismatics who follow him embrace an extremely dangerous version of the "once saved, always saved" doctrine. Why the double standard here?
Again, I am not for a moment excusing doctrinal errors, emotional manipulation, financial greed or other spiritual abuses often perpetuated in the name of the Spirit, but it is absolutely outrageous that Pastor MacArthur claims, “The charismatic movement is largely the reason the church is in the mess it is today. In virtually every area where church life is unbiblical, you can attribute it to the charismatic movement. In virtually every area—bad theology, superficial worship, ego, prosperity gospel, personality elevation. All of that comes out of the charismatic movement.”
It seems like Brown is suggesting that a carnal prosperity message actually has power to save souls.  I would strongly disagree.

Of course, I'd also disagree with Brown's characterization of MacArthur's view on perseverance.  The elect will certainly persevere to the end.  This will be accomplished by God, just as all of salvation is by God.  That may even include them temporarily falling into very heinous sin, such as denying Christ multiple times (recall Peter's sad example).  Yet ultimately they will repent (as Peter did).

MacArthur's claim does not seem outrageous to me.  What does seem outrageous, however, is Brown's following two paragraphs (immediately after his paragraphs above:
And he is quite wrong when he states, “Its theology is bad. It is unbiblical. It is bad. It is aberrant. It is destructive to people because it promises what it can't deliver, and then God gets blamed when it doesn't come. It is a very destructive movement.”
In reality, more people have been saved—wonderfully saved—as a result of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement worldwide than through any other movement in church history (to the tune of perhaps a half-billion souls), as documented recently in Allan Heaton Anderson’s To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity. And professor Craig Keener has provided overwhelming testimony to the reality of God’s miraculous power worldwide today (see his brilliant two-volume study Miracles).
Brown's response to MacArthur's claim that the theology is not Biblical is to allege that it has been successful.  Yet one wonders about this claim.  No doubt the charismatic movement has widely proselytized, but if it is preaching a false Gospel and a false spirit, then what good are its large numbers?  One might just as well point to the billion plus Muslims as evidence of the good of Islam.  Surely Brown has the sense not to do that, so why can't he discern the fundamental theological problems of the charismatic movement?


Thanks to LUBunkerman for pointing this out to me.