Let There Be Intolerance

(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

(From the blog of a friend)

Dear Ken,

The Church has stood uncompromisingly on the bodily resurrection of our Lord and on the literal, bodily, return of the King of kings. Some truths are non-negotiable, especially those in the three Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian). I don’t mean to be unkind toward the writer who had the question for you, but before I retired from the ministry I had a young man, married with one child, who wanted to join the REC parish where I was the pastor. As usual, after several visits I took them to lunch. Unknown to me, he had been reading preterist writings, and wanted to know if he could join with his family. I asked him what version of preterism did he hold, did he think the Second Coming took place in AD 70, that there was no future Second Coming? He said, Yes, that was his position, to which I respectively said, “I’m objectively closed minded to no Second Coming view because the Church has spoken in its three Creeds that there is yet a future Second Coming.” He was shocked. He said something like, “I thought this was a Reformation church, that you believed in sola scriptura.” I said, “Indeed, I do, which is why I’m not open to your view.” He looked puzzled. I said, “sola scriptura does not mean just the Bible and me, but the Bible as understood by the Creeds. In other words, the Bible is the only infallible standard of truth but not the only standard of truth.” I encouraged him to restudy the issue, which he did, repented, joined our church, and was a faithful member with his family. I also told him I would be glad to meet with him as he rethought the issue, saying that I could demonstrate the Church’s position from Holy Scripture, though I was not open to consider that the Church was wrong for 2,000 years. We MUST be intolerant on some truths.

There are some truths that are negotiable, such as one’s millennial view, though I’m postmill, like you, and I’m a committed Anglican, but Anglicanism did not die on the cross for my sins, Jesus did. At a Bible study once, we were going verse by verse through the Gospel of John (took three 1/2 years with notes, outlines, etc). In John 6 where predestination is strong, someone said, “This is very controversial, should we really be going through it?”  My response, “I should not be afraid to discuss any of God’s truths publicly, but more to your point, we must have controversy, especially today, for without polarization we don’t know where the boundaries of truth are. Otherwise, everything is fuzzy.”

We MUST stand for God’s written Word, especially at the points of controversy, so we can educate and challenge other Christians and our culture with the Gospel. If we don’t challenge our culture precisely at the points of controversy, how will our culture know what the Church—and the Gospel—stands for. Yet, we must do so with kindness, love, and tolerance in the good sense of that word, not by compromise, et. al.

Anyway, keep up the good work, brother, our culture really needs it. Ω AMEN.

One More Time on the “Onlys” of the Reformation

Quotes from the Early Fathers of the Church on the “onlys” of the Gospel:

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man:

If they, then, bear the delay who by faith only and by hope saw the good things “afar off” and “embraced them(2),” as the apostle bears witness, placing their certainty of the enjoyment of the things for which they hoped in the fact that they “judged Him faithful Who has promised(3),” what ought most of us to do, who have not, it may be, a hold upon the better hope from the character of our lives?

 

Chrysostom: Homilies on 2 Cor:

“Sound judgment.” And what can it be to have “a sound judgment?” To enjoy the health that pertaineth to the soul: for he that is held down by wicked lusts and dazzled(10) with present things, never can be sound, that is, healthy. But as one who is diseased lusteth even after things which are unfit for him, so also doth he. “And a virtuous mode of life,” for the doctrines need a mode of life [answerable]. Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified(11): yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works.

 

Homily, Acts 15:1

Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. “And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.” (v. 9.) From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts. This is also meant as a lesson to those (objectors); this is able to teach even them that faith only is needed, not works nor circumcision. For indeed they do not say all this only by way of apology for the Gentiles, but to teach (the Jewish believers) also to abandon the Law. However, at present this is not said. “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples?”

 

Homily, Romans 3:

For if even before this, the circumcision was made uncircumcision, much rather was it now, since it is cast out from both periods. But after saying that “it was excluded,” he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? “By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting,(1) and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. And in saying this he attempts to bring the Jew who has believed to act with moderation, and to calm him that hath not believed, in such way as to draw him on to his own view. For he that has been saved, if he be high-minded in that he abides by the Law, will be told that he himself has stopped his own mouth, himself has accused himself, himself has renounced claims to his own salvation, and has excluded boasting. But he that hath not believed again, being humbled by these same means, will be capable of being brought over to the faith. Do you see how great faith’s preeminence is? How it hath removed us from the former things, not even allowing us to boast of them?

 

Homily, Romans 4:

Ver. 2. “By Whom also we have access,” he says, “by faith unto this grace. (7 Mss. add, unto, etc.)

If then He hath brought us near to Himself, when we were far off, much more will He keep us now that we are near. And let me beg you to consider how he everywhere sets down these two points; His part, and our part. On His part, however, there be things varied and numerous and diverse. For He died for us, and farther reconciled us, and brought us to Himself, and gave us grace unspeakable. But we brought faith only as our contribution. And so he says,” “by faith, unto this grace” What grace is this? tell me. It is the being counted worthy of the knowledge of God, the being forced from error, the coming to a knowledge of the Truth, the obtaining of all the blessings that come through Baptism.

 

Augustine, On Faith, Hope, and Love, ch 67:

It is believed, moreover, by some, that men who do not abandon the name of Christ, and who have been baptized in the Church by His baptism, and who have never been cut off from the Church by any schism or heresy, though they should live in the grossest sin and never either wash it away in penitence nor redeem it by almsgiving, but persevere in it persistently to the last day of their lives, shall be saved by fire; that is, that although they shall suffer a punishment by fire, lasting for a time proportionate to the magnitude of their crimes and misdeeds, they shall not be punished with everlasting fire. But those who believe this, and yet are Catholics, seem to me to be led astray by a kind of benevolent feeling natural to humanity. For Holy Scripture, when consulted, gives a very different answer. I have written a book on this subject, entitled Of Faith and Works, in which, to the best of my ability, God assisting me, I have shown from Scripture, that the faith which saves us is that which the Apostle Paul clearly enough describes when he says: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.”(2) But if it worketh evil, and not good, then without doubt, as the Apostle James says, “it is dead, being alone.”(3) The same apostle says again, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?”(4) And further, if a wicked man shall be saved by fire on account of his faith alone, and if this is what the blessed Apostle Paul means when he says, “But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire;”(5) then faith without works can save a man, and what his fellow-apostle James says must be false. And that must be false which Paul himself says in another place: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners; shall inherit the kingdom of God.”(6) For if those who persevere in these wicked courses shall nevertheless be saved on account of their faith in Christ, how can it be true that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God?

 

Chrysostom, 1 Timothy:

As the Jews were chiefly attracted by this, he persuades them not (2) to give heed to the law, since they could not attain salvation by it without faith. Against this he contends; for it seemed to them incredible, that a man who had misspent all his former life in vain and wicked actions, should afterwards be saved by his faith alone. On this account he says, “It is a saying to be believed.” But some not only disbelieved but even objected, as the Greeks do now.

 

Chrysostom, Homily on 1 Tim 5:8:

Then there is thanksgiving, and great glory, and joy, every one praying that such may be his own end, that so his own combat may terminate, and he may rest from his labor and struggles, and may see Christ. And if any is sick, instead of tears and lamentations they have recourse to prayers. Often not the care of physicians, but faith alone relieves the sick.

 

Chrysostom, Homily on Eph 2:11-12:

For he makes a wide distinction between “commandments” and “ordinances.” He either then means “faith,” calling that an “ordinance,” (for by faith alone He saved us,) or he means “precept,” such as Christ gave, when He said, “But I say unto you, that ye are not to be angry at all.” (Matt. v: 22.) That is to say, “If thou shalt believe that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. x: 6-9.) And again, “The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thine heart. Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the abyss?” or, who hath “brought. Him again from the dead?” Instead of a certain manner of life, He brought in faith. For that He might not save us to no purpose, He both Himself underwent the penalty, and also required of men the faith that is by doctrines.

 

Theodoret of Cyrus, Letters:

All this I say not for the sake of boasting, but because I am forced to defend myself. It is not the fame of my sermons to which I am calling attention; it is their orthodoxy alone. Even the great teacher of the world who is wont to style himself last of saints and first of sinners, that he might stop the mouths of liars was compelled to set forth a list of his own labours; and in shewing that this account of his sufferings was of necessity, not of free will, he added “I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me.”(2) I own myself wretched—aye thrice wretched. I am guilty of many errors. Through faith alone I look for finding some mercy in the day of the Lord’s appearing. I wish and I pray that I may follow the footprints of the holy Fathers, and I earnestly desire to keep undefiled the evangelic teaching which was in sum delivered to us by the holy Fathers assembled in council at the Bithynian Nicaea. I believe that there is one God the Father and one Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father:(1) so also that there is one Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, brightness of His glory and express image of the Father’s person,(2) on account of man’s salvation, incarnate and made man and born of Mary the Virgin in the flesh. For so are we taught by the wise Paul “Whose are the Fathers and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen,”(3) and again “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness.”(4) On this account we also call the holy Virgin “Theotokos,”(5) and deem those who object to this appellation to be alienated from true religion.

 

Click the next line (“Reformation Solas in the Fathers of the Church” for more quotes)

Reformation Solas in the Fathers of the Church (May have to click this line more than once.)

(THE END)

Five Solas: the Significance of the word “ALONE”

I posted this on my FaceBook account:

THE FIVE SOLAS (we are justified)
by Holy Scripture alone
by faith alone
by grace alone
by Christ alone
Only to God’s glory alone

Each point emphasizes not only the necessity of the point but also its sufficiency:

Holy Scripture is not only necessary it is enough.

Faith is not only necessary it is enough.

Grace is not only necessary it is enough.

Christ is not only necessary He is enough .

God’s glory alone is necessary but His glory is enough.

This is a bare summary of evangelicalism, but there is much more in the Creeds, and especially the great doctrinal statements of the Reformation, such as the 39 Articles.

As Charles Spurgeon once said (paraphrase): “It is not the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ that does my soul good, it is Jesus who justifies my soul,” who is my anchor behind the veil. As important as doctrine is, it is not doctrine in the frontal lobe that saves me, abstractly considered, but the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. I REST IN HIM!

AFTER RECEIVING SOME CHALLENGING COMMENTS  on FaceBook from a former friend who left my denomination and went into Orthodoxy, Sam Seamans, I posted on FaceBook a long article in response to him. I guess it finally was posted, but it was long I got tired waiting for FaceBook to put it up, but here are my comments:

Sam, spoken like a true convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. The Greek word for “pillar” is a column that supports a superstructure, not a foundation. It is resting on a foundation (Louw-Nida lexicon; other lexicons). Jesus Christ is the foundation, the chief cornerstone, not us humans (Eph. 2:20). The church is built on Him, thus it is called the pillar, a column on a foundation. Irenaeus, (Against Heresies, 3.11.7-8) says from your passage (1 Tim. 3:15) that the “pillar and ground is the gospel”, which is what we hold. Moreover, the Greek word “ground” does not mean lying down on the floor with a superstructure, but church is here a solid defense against the confusion of myth” (TDNT).

To say “the CHURCH, NOT the Bible,” is the pillar and ground of truth,” are dangerous words. The holy scriptures AND the church complete one another; they are not in opposition as you suggest, though if they are in opposition, as in  the late Middle Ages, God sent a revival with the reformers to straighten up the mess with the Bible. Apparently you have not understood the five solas; they are not isolated but all hang together. Thus your comments assume that one can have faith or grace in isolation. Not so. If you knew the history of those points and what the reformers were saying, you would understand what we are saying. For example, the gospel was “according to the scriptures.” St. Paul explicitly states in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 that Christ died for our sins “according to the scriptures”, which at the time of his writing was the Old Testament. The New Testament built on that and so in both the OT and NT we could say the scriptures alone are sufficient. Other passages in Paul are 1 Cor. 10:1ff, 2 Tim. 3:16-17. It should be clear that at all times the Holy Scriptures were sufficient for salvation.

AS FOR THE FIVE SOLAS HANGING TOGETHER, it is from the Holy Scriptures that we are presented with the Christ, in whom we put our trust, relying on His grace, and seeking only His glory. These five points are like five links in a chain, not five isolated links scattered on the floor. As for NT coming before the church, there are several responses.

FIRST, the OT scriptures laid the foundation for the NT church, thus they already existed. Repeatedly, the Lord and the Apostles quoted the Old Testament, and through their preaching and writings, they brought the New Testament canon into existence, but always basing the New Testament on the OT. The Church did not invent the canonical books of the New Testament by some council, but as the books were written, the sheep recognized the voice of the Shepherd in those writings. Of course, the Church did formally recognize the canon, but only after they had been used for some time as scripture. So did the Church come before the New Testament books? Not really, as if it mattered, but they came together.

SECOND, unless you’re dispensational and make a bifurcation with two peoples of God, Israel then the Church, which I know you don’t, the NT people of God ARE the new Israel (Gal. 6:16; Eph. 2:11-22; etc), for the church, or the new Israel already existed.

I could add a THIRD reason: so what about the church allegedly coming first. Christ delivered the gospel to the apostles and expounded the OT scriptures to them to show that He was building on that foundation of the OT. (See Luke 24:44-48: “44 Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:43 NKJ).)

The apostles wrote down what He had revealed, which was in solidarity with the OT. The apostles recognized their own writings as Scripture as Paul said his writings were the Lord’s commands (1 Cor. 14:37), and Peter referred to Paul letters as “scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16). So what time lag are you referring to from the time of the writings of the NT to the apostles? There was very little gap. What holy tradition are you speaking of that the NT allegedly came from? As for the proclamation that the Eastern Church did not need reforming, I would say our conversation says otherwise. As for the “innovations of the medieval scholastic period,” that is why we had a reformation. The medieval church had gone awry. The Eastern Church murdered its only bishop who tried to bring reformation to it. I would say Orthodoxy has stagnated over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has innovated, and Protestantism has validated its truth with the early fathers and the Holy Scriptures, as did Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and most commentaries today go back to the fathers with vigor. But then Orthodoxy does not write commentaries, as you admitted to me, so I guess they would not know.

AS FOR THE CHURCH being the “pillar and ground” of the Bible, the passage you alluded to does NOT say that (1 Tim. 3:15), but it says the “pillar and ground of TRUTH”. My question to you is which church? Was it the western church, the eastern church, Marcion who tried to destroy the Bible but those who had the scriptures knew he was wrong? Which church is the infallible one? Also, if the early fathers are our interpretive guide, which ones? Is it Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Origen, the Cappadocian fathers, Augustine, which you guy reject, and which ones in the middle ages do you rely on, and why those? You should know that I agree with you about a strong church. I would even say that the fathers are our guide, but the only infallible guide is the Holy Scriptures. What will you put in its place, your holy tradition? You said to me recently that the fathers had a much better grasp on the Bible than we do today, which was an excuse for Orthodoxy not writing commentaries, but how in the world would you know that? But which tradition, from what time period, and who will interpret that to you? If only the early (and some Medieval) fathers can interpret the New Testament to us, who interprets the fathers to us? You are thereby saying that the fathers are self-interpreting to us, but that the Bible is not self-interpreting. In other words, the words of man are clearer than the words of God. That is a tough pill to swallow. We Protestants have many interpretations of the Bible, but most are united on the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Even those Protestants who will not say these in worship nevertheless believe them as seen in their doctrinal statements. We are united on these creeds with the Roman Catholic Church, but you are not, why? You reject all three of these creeds, at the least the Western versions, especially hating the filioque clause. Who is right, your small group of a few million members, perhaps even 100 million, or the rest of the Christianity world with about two billion members? I can document that Rome and especially Protestantism have grown by about a billion souls in the last 100 years, but what about Orthodoxy? Very little.  Now there is a holy (Protestant) tradition if there ever was one. And which Orthodox group is right? Don’t you have 14 jurisdictions, or is it 18? Likewise Rome has its various groups internally.

AS FOR THE FIVE SOLAS BEING BIBLICAL, look at these: Bible is sufficient for salvation and living (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and a shorthand way to say that is scripture alone. Faith apart from all human merit is sufficient for salvation (Rom. 4:1-8; Eph. 2:8-9), and a shorthand way to say that is faith alone. Or as one confession so beautifully put it, “We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is not alone, but ever accompanied by good works” (WCF). We are saved only by grace and only to God’s glory (Eph. 2:8-10), and a shorthand way to say that is we are saved by grace alone to God’s glory alone. We are saved only by Jesus, and a shorthand way to say that is we are saved by the Son of God alone.

In other words, as J. I. PACKER SO BEAUTIFULLY PUT IT (not an exact quote), “What we mean is that JESUS saves sinners. Jesus saves, we don’t. The only thing we can contribute to our salvation is our sins. Next, we that Jesus SAVES sinners, not that He is their cheer leader, not that He does His part and we finish (Contra. Phil. 1:6) what He began, not that we cooperate to earn grace  . He saves SINNERS, not the self-righteous, not those who think they are basically ok.” That is what we’re are getting at.

SAM, I did not want to tangle with you regarding your recent move into Orthodoxy. That is one of the reasons I asked for a private conversation with you when I found out about your move into Orthodoxy. We hung up from that meeting on good terms.I can see the newfound zeal you have for your new faith, but in my opinion you made a move without understanding the issues. You knew we talked, and I gave you the right hand of fellowship; therefore, I was surprised to see you go after my statements that I thought I was just blessing people with on FaceBook, but you called my hand, so I’ve responded. I hope this is not offensive, but I could not let people think there are no good answers to your questions. I think, however, that even though we disagree on some of the terms, how used, and the significance of the Church, etc., we can still give one another the right hand of fellowship. Your brother in Him. AMEN.