A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word, 1969

(review by the Very Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

This is not so much a biography of Martin Luther as it is a survey of his theology and beliefs. It is less than 200 pages and an easy read. We have such chapters as these:

  • Luther as Commentator
  • Luther as Preacher
  • Luther as Translator
  • Luther as Reformer
  • Luther and the Authority of Scripture
  • Luther and the Revelation of Scripture
  • Luther and the Inspiration of Scripture

He deals with such things as the analogy of Scripture, Luther’s idea that the best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.

For a detailed biography of Luther, Roland Bainton is considered one of the best: Roland Bainton, Here I Stand.



Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry, Hans Boersma

© Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

Boersma_HeavenlyParticipationHans Boersma holds the J. I. Packer Chair in Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B. C. Every once in a while I come across a book that challenges me in ways I never thought of. For me, this book is something of a paradigm changer, not quite as much as Philip Lee’s Against the Protestant Gnostics, but in that vain. He associates the Incarnation with creation and the sacraments in ways that seem obvious but are challenging.

He discusses early fathers, medieval fathers, protestant reformers and their views of the Incarnation. Moreover, he analyzes modern writers, how the Son of God, adding to Himself creation, makes the created sacraments real. In my Christology course, I’ve been making connections with the Person of Christ in Colossian 1 with the sacraments, where He is the creator of all that is, and thus is “firstborn” over all creation, but also a few verses later “firstborn” over the Church. He is the one by nature and the other by Incarnation. Thus our participation with God is real, not just external, or nominal. Here are several good quotes:

Thus, people experience participation in heavenly realities—in the eternal Son of God Himself—nowhere as gloriously as in the Eucharist itself. Heaven and earth, nature and the supernatural come together in the real presence of Christ on the altar. In a very important sense, the general sacramental ontology—the participation of natural, created existence in the Christological anchor—provides the basis for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (p. 57).

Yes, creation truly participates in its eternal Christological anchor; but this participation is strictly a gift of grace and in no way erases the Creator-creature distinction (p. 71).

If there is no sacramental participation of creation in God’s being, created objects have no inherent relationship to each other or to God (p. 83).

Boersma says that from the twelfth century to the Reformation we have a “shift from theological method from a sacramental entry into the mysteries of God to a syllogistic mastering of rational truths” (p. 159). It seems to me that both are needed, but there is danger in thinking that if we just show up for Mass, we have God; or if we master doctrine in the frontal lobe, we have God. (Rome would be the first view and Gordon Clark or Dutch Reformed the latter.)

This work is only about 200 pages, and has deep thoughts throughout, especially on Plato and Aristotle. Highly recommended but not for those who don’t like to think. AMEN. Ὡ

Review of Kenneth Myers, Salvation (and How We Got It Wrong)

Two reviews: The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse, M.Div., D.D., and the Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.,  Dean of Cranmer Theological House

A book recently written by Bishop Kenneth N. Myers, Salvation (and how we got it wrong), sets out to correct centuries of wrong thinking, according to Myers, about the central question of Christianity, how can sins be forgiven. Myers says on p. 14, “Anselm (and the Reformers who followed him) simply got it wrong.” Even more to the heart of the matter Myers says a couple of paragraphs later that he wants to “help people change their understanding not only of salvation, but also of God himself.” In other words, this isn’t a book just about what God does, but about the very nature of God himself.

The form the book takes is a very interesting one—an exchange of letters between Bishop Myers and a young man named Victor Anselmo Boso. Andy, as Victor Anselmo Boso, is referred to in the book, says that he was taught, and believes, that because Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden they were cursed by God, and that since they were unable on their own to pay the penalty for their sins, Jesus Christ paid the penalty by his death on the cross. Myers responds to that letter by saying, “What you have described is indeed the ‘standard’ (or shall I say ‘popular’—because it is most predominant in our part of Christianity) view of salvation. And you are also correct that I don’t believe it.” (p. 27). Myers correctly refers to that view as the Theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, and in the rest of the book simply uses the acronym PSA.

There really is nothing new in Myers’ rejection of PSA, which he demonstrates by his very first objection. He asks, “Why should we believe that we are punished for our ancestors’ sin? Adam and Eve sinned. But why should their descendants be punished for their sin? Doesn’t the Bible clearly say that punishment shouldn’t work this way?” To prove his point he quotes Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20, both of which say that a person shall die for his own sins, not for the sins of his parents. This objection is flippantly raised very often by people who have no concept of the teaching of the Bible, and no real desire to find out what it is. They have their objections, and they are not interested in a careful study of the Bible.

Myers just quotes a passage with little introduction and little exegesis; in fact, there is no exegesis in the book. To quote Deut. 24:16; Ez. 18:20 to “prove” that one is not made guilty for another’s sin means there is no covenant representation, on the one hand, and demonstrates that he has no understanding that Paul’s argument in Romans 5, on the other hand, is not that such imputation is always the case but that Adam, the First Adam, was the covenant head of the race and Christ the Last Adam was covenantal head of His elect body. The two Old Testament passages he quoted are irrelevant; they have nothing to do with covenant headship.

In arguing that way Myers fails to appreciate a basic principle of biblical interpretation that a verse taken out of context becomes a pretext for a specious argument. The context of the statements in Deuteronomy and Ezekiel is not the same as the context of Genesis 3 when God punishes Adam and Eve and all their posterity with death because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. God created Adam and Eve, as he did everything else, without sin. That is, they had no propensity to sin because they did not have a sinful nature. Genesis tells us that God looked at everything he had made and concluded that “it was very good”. There was no sin in them, and consequently no defilement in their actions caused by a sinful nature.

(To read the whole review, click here)

Robert Farrar Capon, The Fingerprints of God (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000), paper, 178 pages)

(This is a book promoting universalism, that all will be saved; review by the Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

While on vacation this past summer, someone suggested that I read this book. At first I did not recognize the author, but then it came back to me that he was a universalist, believing that all are saved, or perhaps only a few opt out. I decided to read it. I will spend more space interacting with the book than in my normal book reviews as this author has come up before. I will do this review in four parts: the author, his thought, his theology, and the implications of his thought.


Capon is a capable scholar, knowing the original languages of the Bible, Hebrew and Greek. (I teach both in seminary: www.cranmerhouse.org). Moreover, he reads the early fathers and can interact with them in their original languages of Greek and perhaps Latin. I read them also, and can handle their Greek (though not the Latin so much) with my language tools.

He describes himself as a “mix of conservatism and liberalism” (p. 161), which, as I trust we shall see, is mostly liberalism. Actually, I would say that Capon is more postmodern than classic liberal, for the old line liberals at least believed in truth, just not biblical truth, but truth according to man’s reason alone. Indeed, the super-scholar J. Gresham Machen, who taught at Princeton in the 1920s, wrote a classic work titled Christianity and Liberalism, where he demonstrated that liberalism is not Christianity at all but basically Enlightenment humanism foisted on the Bible. But I get ahead of myself.

Capon’s Thought:

Ask a fish if he is wet, and you would probably get this answer: “What is wet?” Likewise, our culture is basically postmodern, and hardly one in a thousand is aware of it. We take our culture and its thought patters for granted. There is hardly a news media person or politician who presents any argument based on principle, but it is all expediency. Expediency argues basically from end to means, which means if the end is good, so are the means to get there. One might say that abortion is wrong because it lessens the number of people to support the welfare rolls. The conclusion would be that if that objection were taken out of the say, killing babies would be ok. An argument from principle would be that at conception babies are made in the image of God, that God considers that image so valuable that if one human murders another then he must forfeit his own life (Gen. 9:6). The first position thinks only of what’s in it for me while the second considers each life inherently valuable. The first is postmodernism.

Another example is the modern destruction of the family. Casual sex―not to mention same sex unions―is the norm today, and people dare anyone to say anything about it. Even Christians live together before marriage, and arguments run like this: “We love one another.” “We intend to get married.” “We can make ends meet better living together than apart.” The principle, though, is the sanctify of the family, which God defines as one male and one female making a covenant with one another for life in the presence of the appropriate witnesses. A new family is constituted by vows before witnesses, an unconditional commitment first made, then living together. (See my book, NOT Ten Suggestions, the chapter titled “What Is Marriage?” This chapter may be downloaded free.)

But before we go very far, we must define postmodernism and then see if Capon’s thought is such. In postmodernism, each person creates his own reality as he interprets it. It is like the three umpires calling balls and strikes. (Millard J. Erickson, The Postmodern World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002), p. 40.) The first one said, “I call them as they are.” The second one boasted, “I call them as I see them.” The third one trumped the others: “They are not balls or strikes until I call them.” The first one would be a Christian world view; the second one the old liberal view; and the third the modern view of no truth. But at least the first two views hold to truth, but the last view (“They are not balls or strikes until I call them”) only holds to truth according to me. In other words, there really is no truth, only points of view, which is why we find in postmodern theology the never ending dialogue with those who disagree, for arriving at truth is not the point. It is the dialogue that is important.

Also, one finds in postmodernism that unity is not in truth, for how can there be such unity since each person has his own truth, but unity is found in some group. For example, the main line Episcopal Church, of which Capon was a long time pastor, denies that the Bible is truth and maintains that the church is a group that will define truth for its members. Thus, when they consecrated a practicing homosexual as a bishop, most of the Anglican world rightly made an issue out it. The Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA, now arrogantly calling themselves THE Episcopal Church, TEC) just wanted to dialogue, not to reach a solution. They wanted “tolerance” (the watchword for the postmodern culture) for their new view, but were extremely intolerant toward orthodox Christianity.

Postmodernists deny any group to have a monopoly on interpreting reality. They deny that there is a metanarrative (their word, an overarching story that makes sense of everything, world view) that can interpret morality, God, or truth, but that each group has its own interpretation with each individual in turn having his own view. But it gets worse.

Postmodernism has degenerated into deconstructionism (promoted by French philosopher Derrida), the last stage of postmodernism, for it maintains that language has no meaning, that words are only symbols of the moment that we can interpret any way we choose, especially written language. Deconstructionism is especially given over to figurative interpretation, or to images, for one cannot take straight forward statements seriously since logic gets in the way. In the theological world, we call such statements “propositions,” which Capon denies repeatedly, but does so by using propositions. That means there is no history, for that involves the objective meaning of words to tell a story. Of course, how can its proponents even write against objective meaning without assuming the laws of logic, which are transcendent and have objective meaning? It is like the famous words Lewis Carroll put into the mouth of Humpty Dumpty:

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

Carroll was a philosopher, and he meant that words have no objective meaning.

Thomas Oden, a former liberal and postmodern scholar at Duke University, has written on postmodernism (Two Worlds; and chapter two in The Challenge of Postmodernism). He has now been converted to Christ and to orthodox theology by reading the early fathers. He has said that postmodernism is characterized by

  • Autonomous individualism (The individual reigns supreme; the corporate nature of sin, of society, and of the church is denied. We hear such nonsense as “What I do in private does not affect what I do in public,” which is a lie as one takes the same character with him in both venues. This is the denial of personal accountability, for it is always someone else’s fault.)
  • Narcissistic hedonism (Pleasure is the ethic, what the hippies used to say: “If it feels good, do it.” One is free to use one’s body as he pleases, such as abortion, homosexuality, drugs, playboy, and so forth.)
  • Reductive naturalism (What you see is all you get. This means that one can only know for sure what one sees or observes in a laboratory. Of course one can’t see the laws of logic or the laws of science, but that is overlooked.)
  • Moral relativism (We have now “values,” not moral absolutes, and people are absolutely sure there are no absolutes. Even Christians now speak of “values,” which is why I wrote NOT Ten Suggestions primarily for Christians.)  (For the whole review, please click here for the pdf file.)

An Uncommon Union

The subtitle of this book is Dallas Theological Seminary and American Evangelicalism, written by one of my favorite professors ever, John D. Hannah.  When I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) back in the early 1970s, Hannah was a professor in the church history department.  Hannah covers the history of DTS–and to a great extent of evangelicalism–beginning with the late 1800s.  Though DTS did not begin until 1924, the movement that spawned it began with the Niagara Bible conferences in the late 1800s with James Brooks, C. I. Scofield, and others.   Hannah discusses John Gresham Machen and his correspondence with Chafer and the same regarding Warfield and Chafer.  I knew that Lewis Sperry Chafer, the main founder of DTS and its president from 1924 to 1952, was influenced by the lawyer C. I. Scofield, but I did not know how much.  Chafer himself said that Scofield was his mentor, and he dedicated several of his books to Scofield.  Neither Scofield nor Chafer had formal theological training, knew Greek and Hebrew, or cared for church history.  If one reads the doctrinal statement of DTS and Chafer’s systematic theology (I’ve read all seven volumes), it shows.

Moreover, Hannah demonstrates that Chafer was an odd mixture of Calvinism, Arminianism (he calls it Keswick), and Plymouth Brethren, believing in predestination but rejecting the sovereignty of God in sanctification, given to Keswick theology in that area.  Warfield took Chafer’s book to task (see Warfield’s review on this blog), He That Is Spiritual, and demonstrated that Chafer’s view sanctification was Arminian, based on Keswick theology and thus a works system, whereby one must “yield” to the Holy Spirit to make progress.  In other words, “ought” (obedience) became the basis for “is” (God’s grace).  Warfield challenged how and where did one get the ability to yield.  If one must “yield” to have sanctification, one then has the option not to “yield,” which in turn means sanctification is optional.  Thus, antinomianism is possible.  We have the mixed up theology of reformed in the first tense of salvation (past tense, “saved” from the penalty of sin, based rightly on election, chosen by God), Arminian in the second tense of salvation (present tense, being saved from the power of sin, Keswick, based on one’s ability to “yield” to the Spirit, whatever that means), and Plymouth Brethren in the third tense of salvation (will be saved from the presence of sin, based on the rapture).  It has been my observation that such a view unlinks the golden chain of salvation, making each tense separate from the others, rather than one chain linked together.  Since the rapture only applies to the church, one wonders if Old Testament saints will be glorified.  I’ll talk more about these matters in the latest edition of my book, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow, if I can get out another edition soon.

Hannah divides the book up into the five presidencies in chronological order: Chafer, Walvoord, Campbell, Swindoll, and now Bailey.  If you want to know the inside history of the major dispensational school in the world, and of dispensationalism itself, this is the book to get.  Hannah discusses the three phases of dispensationalism, classic (Scofield, Chafer, C. I. Scofield Bible), moderate or revised (Walvoord, Pentecost, Ryrie, New Scofield Bible), and now the progressive (Blaising, Bock, and too many to mention.  Words in bold print are their words).  If you want to know about this movement’s history and theological development, especially its development toward covenant theology in the third phase, this is the book to get.  As usual with Hannah, it is clear and well written.

Warfield’s Critique of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He That Is Spiritual

The following article by B. B. Warfield in 1918 is just one indication that the Reformed had many problems with dispensational theology, and that the perfectionistic ten­dency of dispensational thought is not my ima­gi­nation. The article is taken out of Bibliotheca Sacra, which jour­nal was at Princeton when Dr. Warfield wrote but now, iron­ically, is at Dallas Theological Seminary. The article is a critique of the still popular book by Lewis Chafer, He That Is Spiritual. We turn now to the great prince of Princeton, B. B. Warfield. All emphasis is his.

Mr. Chafer is in the unfortunate and, one would think, very uncomfort­able, condition of having two in­con­sistent systems of religion strugg­ling together in his mind. He was bred an Evangelical, and, as a minis­ter of the Presbyterian Church, South, stands committed to Evange­licalism of the purest water. But he has been long associated in his work with a coterie of “Evangel­ists” and “Bible Teachers,” among whom there flourishes that curious religious sys­tem (at once curi­ously pre­tentious and curiously shallow) which the Higher Life leaders of the middle of the last century brought into vogue; and he has not been immune to its in­fection. These two religious systems are quite in­compatible. The one is the product of the Protestant Refor­mation and knows no determining power in the reli­gious life but the grace of God; the other comes straight from the laboratory of John Wesley, and in all its forms―modi­fications and mitigations alike―re­mains incur­ably Arminian, subjecting all grac­ious work­ings of God to human deter­mining. The two can unite as little as fire and water.

Mr. Chafer makes use of all the jargon of the Higher Life teachers. In him, too, we hear of two kinds of Christians, whom he designates re­spec­tively “carnal men” and “spir­itual men,” on the basis of a mis­reading of 1 Cor. 2:9ff (pp. 8, 109, 146); and we are told that the pas­sage from the one to the other is at our option, whenever we care to “claim” the higher de­gree “by faith” (p. 146). With him, too, thus, the en­joy­ment of every blessing is sus­pended on our “claiming it” (p. 129). We hear here, too, of “letting” God (p. 84), and, indeed, we almost hear of “engaging” the Spirit (as we en­gage, say, a carpenter) to do work for us (p. 94); and we do explicitly hear of “making it pos­sible for God” to do things (p. 148),―a quite ter­ri­ble expression. Of course, we hear re­peatedly of the duty and efficacy of “yielding”―and the act of “yielding ourselves” is quite in the custom­ary manner discriminated from “consecrating” ourselves (p. 84), and we are told, as usual, that by it the gate is open­ed into the di­vinely appointed path (pp. 91, 49). The quietistic phrase, “not by trying but by a right adjust­ment,” meets us (p. 39), and naturally such current terms as “known sin” (p. 62), “moment by moment tri­umph” (pp. 34, 60), “the life that is Christ” (p. 31), “unbroken walk in the Spirit” (pp. 53, 113), “unbroken victory” (p. 96), even Pearsall Smith’s fa­mous “at once”: “the Christian may realize at once the heavenly virtues of Christ” (p. 39, the italics his). It is a mat­ter of course after this that we are told that it is not necessary for Christians to sin (p. 125)―the em­phasis repeatedly thrown on the word “necessary” lead­ing us to wonder whether Mr. Chafer re­members that, ac­cording to the Confession of Faith to which, as a Pres­byterian minister, he gives his adhe­sion, it is in the strictest sense of the term not nec­essary for anybody to sin, even for the “natural man” (ix, I).

Although he thus serves himself with their vocabu­lary, and therefore of course repeats the main sub­stance of their teaching, there are lengths, neverthe­less, to which Mr. Chafer will not go with his Higher Life friends. He quite decidedly repels, for example, the expectation of repe­titions of the “Pentecostal manife­stations” (p.47), and this is the more notable because in his exposi­tions of certain passages in which the charismatic Spirit is spoken of he has missed that fact, to the con­fusion of his doctrine of the Spirit’s modes of action. With equal decisiveness he repels “such man-made, unbiblical terms as ‘second blessing’, ‘a second work of grace’, ‘the higher life’, and vari­ous phrases used in the perverted state­ments of the doctrines of sancti­fication and perfection” (pp. 31, 33), including such phrases as “entire sanctification” and “sinless perfec­tion” (pp. 107, 139). He is hewing here, however, to a rather narrow line, for he does teach that there are two kinds of Christians, the “car­nal” and the “spiritual”; and he does teach that it is quite unneces­sary for spiritual men to sin and that the way is fully open to them to live a life of unbro­ken victory if they choose to do so.

Mr. Chafer opens his book with an exposition of the closing verses of the second and the opening verses of the third chapters of 1 Corinthians. Here he finds three classes of men contrasted, the “natural” or unre­gen­erate man, and the “carnal” and “spir­itual” men, both of whom are re­gen­erated, but the latter of whom lives on a higher plane. “There are two great spiri­tual changes which are possible to human experience,” he writes (p.8),―“the change from the ‘natural’ man to the saved man, and the change from the ‘carnal’ man to the ‘spiritual’ man. The former is divinely accom­plished when there is real faith in Christ; the latter is accomplished when there is a real ad­justment to the Spirit. The ‘spir­itual’ man is the divine ideal in life and ministry, in power with God and man, in unbro­ken fellowship and blessing.” This teaching is indi­stin­guishable from what is ordinarily understood by the doctrine of a “se­cond blessing,” “a second work of grace,” “the higher life.” The subsequent expositions only make the matter clearer. In them the changes are rung on the double salvation, on the one hand from the penalty of sin, on the other from the power of sin―“salvation into safety” and “salva­tion into sanctity” (p. 109). And the book closes with a long-drawn-out analogy between these two salvations. This “analogy” is announced with this statement: “The Bible treats our deliverance from the bond servitude to sin as a dis­tinct form of salva­tion and there is an analogy between this and the more familiar aspect of salvation which is from the guilt and penalty of sin” (p. 141). It ends with this fuller summary: “There are a multitude of sin­ners for whom Christ has died who are not now saved. On the divine side everything has been provided, and they have only to enter by faith into His sav­ing grace as it is for them in Christ Jesus. Just so, there are a multi­tude of saints whose sin nature has been per­fectly judged and every pro­vision made on the divine side for a life of victory and glory to God who are not now realizing a life of vic­tory. They have only to en­ter by faith into the saving grace from the power and dominion of sin. . . . Sin­ners are not saved until they trust the Savior, and saints are not vic­torious until they trust the Deli­verer. God has made this possible through the cross of His Son. Sal­vation from the power of sin must be claimed by faith” (p. 146). No doubt what we are first led to say of this is the quin­tes­sence of Arminianism. God saves no one―He only makes sal­vation possible for men. Whether it be­comes actual or not depends ab­solutely on their act. It is only by their act that it is made possible for God to save them. But it is equally true that here is the quin­tessence of the Higher Life teaching, which merely emphasizes that part of this Arminian scheme which re­fers to the specific matter of sanctifi­cation. “What He provides and be­stows is in the fullest divine per­fection; but our adjustment is human and therefore sub­ject to constant improvement. The fact of our possi­ble deliverance, which depends on Him alone, does not change. We will have as much at any time as we make it pos­sible for Him to bestow” (p. 148).

When Mr. Chafer repels the doc­trine of “sinless perfection” he means, first of all, that our sinful na­tures are not eradicated. Entering the old controversy waged among per­fec­tionists between the “Eradication­ists” and “Suppressionists,” he ranges himself with the latter―only preferring to use the word “control.” “The divine method of dealing with the sin nature in the believer is by direct and unceasing control over that nature by the indwelling Spirit” (p. 134). One would think that this would yield at least a sinless­ness of conduct; but that is to forget that, after all, in this scheme the divine action waits on man’s. “The Bible teaches that, while the divine provision is one of perfection of life, the human appro­priation is al­ways faulty and there­fore the results are imperfect at best” (p. 157). God’s provisions only make it possible for us to live without sinning. The result is there­fore only that we are under no necessity of sinning. But whether we shall sin or not is our own affair. “His provisions are always perfect, but our appropria­tion is always im­perfect.” “What He provides and be­stows is in the fullest divine per­fection, but our ad­justment is hu­man…. The fact of our possible deliv­erance, which depends on Him alone, does not change. We will have as much at any time as we make it possible for Him to bestow” (pp. 148, 149). Thus it comes about that we can be told that “the child of God and citizen of heaven may live a superhuman life, in harmony with his heavenly calling by an unbroken walk in the Spirit”―that “the Christian may realize at once the heavenly vir­tues of Christ” (p. 39); and that, in point of fact, he does nothing of the kind, that “all Christians do sin” (p. 111). A possibility of not sinning which is unillustrated by a single example and will never be il­lustrated by a single example is, of course, a mere post­ulate extorted by a theory. It is without practi­cal significance. A universal effect is not accounted for by its possibility.

Mr. Chafer conducts his discussion of these “two general theories as to the divine method of dealing with the sin nature in believers” on the presumption that “both theories can­not be true, for they are contra­dictory” (p. 135). “The two theories are irrec­oncil­able,” he says (p. 139). “We are either to be de­liver­ed by the abrupt removal of all tendency to sin, and so no longer need the en­abling power of God to com­bat the power of sin, or we are to be de­livered by the imme­di­ate and constant power of the indwelling Spirit.” This irreducible “either/or” is un­justified. In point of fact, both “eradication” and “control” are true. God delivers us from our sinful nature, not indeed by “a­brupt­ly” but by progressively eradicating it, and mean­while controlling it. For the new nature which God gives us is not an absolutely new somewhat, alien to our personality, inserted into us, but our old nature itself remade―a veritable recreation, or making of all things new. Mr. Chafer is quite wrong when he says: “Salvation is not a so-called ‘change of heart.’ It is not a transformation of the old: it is a regener­ation, or creation, of something wholly new, which is pos­sessed in conjunction with the old so long as we are in the body” (p. 113). That this furnishes out each Christ­ian with two conflicting natures does not appall him. He says, quite calm­ly: “The unregenerate have but one nature, while the regenerate have two” (p. 116). He does not seem to see that thus the man is not saved at all: a different, newly created, man is substituted for him. When the old man is got rid of―and that the old man has to be ultimately got rid of he does not doubt―the saved man that is left is not at all the old man that was to be saved, but a new man that has never needed any saving.

It is a temptation to a virtuoso in the interpreta­tion of Scripture to show his mettle on hard places and in startling places. Mr. Chafer has not been superior to this temptation. Take but one example. “All Christ­ian love,” he tells us (p. 40) “according to the Scrip­tures, is distinctly a manifestation of divine love through the human heart”―a quite un­justified asser­tion. But Mr. Chafer is ready with an illustra­tion. “A statement of this is found,” he de­clares, “at Rom. 5:5, ‘because the love of God is shed abroad (lit., gush­es forth) in our hearts by (pro­duced, or caused by) the Holy Spirit, which is given unto us.’“ Then he com­ments as follows: “This is not the working of human affection; it is rather the direct manifesta­tion of the ‘love of God’ passing through the heart of the believer out from the indwelling Spirit. It is the reali­zation of the last petition of the High Priestly prayer of our Lord: ‘That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them’ (John 17:26). It is simply God’s love work­ing in and through the believer. It could not be human­ly produced, or even imitated, and it of necessity goes out to the objects of divine af­fection and grace, ra­ther than to the objects of human desire. A human heart cannot produce divine love, but it can experience it. To have a heart that feels the compassion of God is to drink of the wine of heaven.” All this bizarre doctrine of the transference of God’s love, in the sense of His active power of lov­ing, to us, so that it works out from us again as new centres, is extracted from Paul’s simple statement that by the Holy Spirit which God has given us His love to us is made richly real to our apprehension! Among the par­en­thetical phi­lological comments which Mr. Chafer has inserted into his quotation of the text, it is a pity that he did not include one not­ing that “ekcheo” is not “eischeo,” and that Paul would no doubt have used “eischeo” had he meant to convey that idea.

A haunting ambiguity is thrust upon Mr. Chafer’s whole teaching by his hospitable entertainment of con­tradictory systems of thought. There is a passage near the beginning of his book, not well expressed it is true, but thoroughly sound in its fun­damental concep­tion, in which ex­pression is given to a primary prin­ciple of the Evangelical system, which, had validity been given to it, would have preserved Mr. Chafer from his regrettable dalliance with the Higher Life formu­las. “In the Bible,” he writes, “the divine offer and condition for the cure of sin in an unsaved person is crystallized in­to the one word ‘believe’; for the for­giveness of sin with the unsaved is only offered as an indivisible part of the whole divine work of sal­vation. The saving work of God in­cludes many mighty undertak­ings other than the forgiveness of sin, and sal­vation depends only upon believing. It is not possible to sep­arate some one issue from the whole work of His sav­ing grace, such as forgiveness, and claim this apart from the indivisible whole. It is, therefore, a grevi­ous error to direct an unsaved person to seek forgive­ness of his sins as a separate issue. A sinner minus his sins would not be a Christ­ian; for salvation is more than sub­traction, it is addition. ‘I give unto them eternal life.’ Thus the sin question with the unsaved will be cured as a part of, but never sepa­rate from, the whole divine work of salvation, and this sal­vation de­pends upon believing” (p. 62). If this pas­sage means anything, it means that salvation is a unit, and that he who is invited to Jesus Christ by faith re­ceives in Him not only just­ification―salva­tion from the penal­ty of sin―but also sancti­fication―salva­tion from the power of sin―both “safety” and “sanc­ti­ty.” These things cannot be sep­arated, and it is a grie­vous er­ror to teach that a true believer in Christ can stop short in “carnality,” and, though hav­ing the Spirit with him and in him, not have Him upon him―to use a not very lucid play upon prepositions in which Mr. Chafer in­dulges. In his attempt to teach this, Mr. Chafer is betrayed (p. 29) into drawing out a long list of char­acteristics of the two classes of Christians, in which he assigns to the lower class practically all the marks of the unregenerate man. Sal­vation is a process; as Mr. Chafer loyally teaches, the flesh continues in the regenerate man and strives against the Spirit―he is to be com­mended for pre­serving even to the Seventh Chapter of Romans its true reference―but the remain­ders of the flesh in the Christian do not con­stitute his characteristic. He is in the Spirit and is walk­ing, with however halting steps, by the Spirit; and it is to all Christians, not to some, that the great pro­mise is given, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” and the great assurance is added, “Because ye are not under the law but under grace.” He who be­lieves in Jesus Christ is under grace, and his whole course, in its pro­cess and in its issue alike, is determined by grace, and therefore, having been predestined to be con­formed to the image of God’s Son, he is surely being con­formed to that image, God Himself seeing to it that he is not only called and justified but also glorified. You may find Christ­ians at every stage of this pro­cess, for it is a process through which all must pass; but you will find none who will not in God’s own good time and way pass through every stage of it. There are not two kinds of Chris­tians, although there are Christians at every conceiv­able stage of advancement towards the one goal to which all are bound and at which all shall ar­rive.

Christ Our Penal Substitute

Robert L. Dabney served under Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War, and wrote what is still considered a classic biography of Jackson. But Dabney was also a leading Presbyterian theologian of his era, and most–if not all–of his theological and philosophical writings are still in print. Enter this small, classic defense of the atonement, Christ Our Penal Substitute, which is only about 100 pages. I have added some footnotes to explain a few technical matters, but over all this is an easy read. For a few dollars you may order it here:


By all means, get it!

The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, by Thomas F. Torrance

This book was prepared for publication by Torrance’s nephew, Robert T. Walker, who studied under Torrance for some years.   His knowledge of the fathers is incredible, and knowledge of some Greek would be helpful, but not necessary.  His insights into the theology of the Incarnation are very keen, indeed, and he deals with every conceivable concept of the Incarnation, including such esoteric aspects as the coinherence or perichosis of the Trinity.

Here is a major issue in Christology today.  Where does one begin his study of Christ?  John (1:1-14) begins with the Holy Trinity and comes down to the Son in His incarnation.  This leads rightly to the idea that the Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God and man in one person.  If one begins with a man, Jesus, and seeks to work backward, one never quite gets to the incarnation of God.  This latter position is typically liberal.  There is a third position today, which is Barthian, and Torrance is Barthian, though perhaps mildly so in this book, though much more so in his work Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ.   Barth begins with the Incarnation, and strongly believes that the Christ is God, so much so, that at times the Father and Holy Spirit fade into the background.  We end up with a functional unitarianism with this view of Barth.  It is a very competent work.  However, he is Barthian, leaning toward universalism, though it is not clear.

Jesus and the Father, by Kevin Giles

Kevin Giles’ book, Jesus and the Father, was published in 2006.  I read it in 2008.  It is basically a work on the Trinity, emphasizing that Christ is not subordinate to the Father.  He pushes the argument so hard that at times he becomes modelistic, meaning that Christ and the Father merge into one person.  Giles would not agree with my assessment, but others would, not the least is The Holy Trinity by Robert Letham, which is one of the best books on the Trinity I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot.  But Giles has an agenda.  His suppressed premise from which he argues his whole book is to overcome is 1 Cor. 11:3: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”  Giles is a strong proponent of women’s ordination to the ministry, and this passage indicates that man is the head of woman, which Giles does not want to admit.  He does not want to admit there can be order without a difference of essence.  The Church has argued for centuries against women’s ordination, using 1 Cor. 11:3, saying that man is the head of woman, but that does not mean he is superior to woman.  There is order without saying man is better than woman because in the Trinity the Father is the head of Christ without meaning that He is greater or superior to Christ.  Giles does not believe that.  In order to overcome this, he argues his whole book that the Father is not the head of Christ except in some superficial way.  He does not recognize order in the godhead, which leads to his modalism.  But the Church through the ages has indeed recognized order in the Trinity without falling into subordination.  The order is first the Father, then the Son, and finally the Holy Spirit. There is something of a chain of command, if you will, in the Holy Trinity, but never a subordination of essence.  There are some very good parts to this study such as some of his statements from the early fathers, but I think he has abused them to some extent.  Letham’s book mentioned above has a much better grasp of the early fathers.  Read with caution.

Cross of Christ

John Stott wrote one of the best books I’ve read–ever. The Cross of Christ is in the top ten of all books I’ve read.  It is a detailed presentation of the Cross through the whole Bible along with common questions and mistakes people make about it.  One of the most insightful chapters is “The Self-Substitution of God”.  You can’t go to heaven until you’ve read this one!