On August 25, 2013, I had the privilege to interview noted homeschool speaker and author, Israel Wayne. He is an outspoken proponent for the homeschool movement and teaches Christians that home education should be considered an extension of our God given parental duties. Mr. Wayne also states that homeschooling should not be done so that we can produce smarter and more conservative minded children than their government school counterparts. Rather, homeschooling should be done for the express purpose of cultivating a biblical worldview in our children, leading them to the blood stained cross of Jesus Christ and bringing God the glory He is due. Our interview was aired during the Cross Encounters Radio program and can also be heard at Sermon Audio by clicking on the link below. I pray you take the time to listen to this interview. Whether you are just considering homeschooling or you are an experienced pro, I believe Israel Wayne’s insights will be a blessing to you.http://www.sermonaudio.com/playpopup.asp?SID=827131237287
Reformed theology is often referred to as covenant theology – based on the covenants between God and man revealed in Scripture and the view that God deals with us primarily through covenants. One of our old Baptist brothers, C. H. Spurgeon, had this to say about the importance of understanding the covenants of Scripture: “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. … I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace.” He went on to say: “The covenant of works was, “Do this and live, O man!” but the covenant of grace is, “Do this, O Christ, and thou shalt live, O man!”” As we will see, the differences we have with our Presbyterian brothers has to do with these two covenants. Pascal Denault, in The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology describes them thusly: The Covenant of Works is revealed by the light of nature; nature’s light teaches self-righteousness (Rom 2:15). The Covenant of Grace is revealed by the Spirit of God; He reveals Christ’s righteousness.
The entire message with all the slides mentioned can be downloaded or listened to here.
I testify that baptism or dipping in water is one of the commandment of this Lord
By John Clark, Physician of Rhode Island in America, 1652
That this commandment of Jesus is by way of dipping, and, as it were by drowning, overwhelming or burying in water and not by sprinkling with water, appears many ways.
1. In that although there be frequent mention made of that appointment of Christ in His last will and testament, yet is it never expresses by the word that may be rendered rantism, or sprinkling, but by the word that is rendered baptism, or dipping.
2. In that the word by which it is so frequently expressed doth in proper English signify to dip, to plunge under water, and as it were, to drown, but yet so as with safety so that the party (as to the manner) may be drowned again and again, see the instance of Naaman. He dipped himself seven times in Jordan (2 King5:14) and to this sense of the word (at least in that place) both the Greek, Latin and English Churches agree.
3. In that the phrase (in which there is mention made of such an appointment of Christ) doth necessarily import such a thing, and, therefore, when mention is made of baptizing, there generally followeth that word the preposition (iv) which is commonly translated in or into which suits the dipping, and not the preposition (sun) which signifies with and so suit with sprinkling. It may as well be rendered I baptize you in water and he shall baptize in the Holy Spirit (Mar 1:8) as it is rendered John did baptize in the wilderness and in the river of Jordan (vs 4, 5) or that John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (Rev 1:10) and they were baptized in the cloud and in the Sea (1 Cor 10:2). Yea, it might as well be rendered I baptize, or dip you, into water as it is rendered they were casting a net into the Sea (Mar 1:16) for the words are the same and it would be an improper speech to say John did baptize with the wilderness and they were casting a net with the Sea.
4. That this appointment of Christ is by way of dipping, and not sprinkling, appears in that for the resemblance and likeness hereunto. The Israelites passing under the cloud and through the Sea where the Egyptians that were their lords and commanders, their pursuers and enemies, that sought their destruction were drowned, left behind and seen no more, is by the Holy Spirit called a baptism (1 Cor 10:1,2) They were baptized in the cloud etc. Observe, it is not here rendered with the cloud and with the Sea, as in the other place (Mar 1:8) with water, because it suits with sprinkling although the word be the same, but in the cloud and in the Sea which suits with dipping or overwhelming. So, with the appointment of Christ, they passing through the midst of the red or bloody Sea on dry land which stood on both sides as a wall, and being under the Cloud, were as men, in a carnal eye, overwhelmed and drowned and yet truly saved and safe from their enemies.
5. That this appointment of Christ was not by sprinkling, but by dipping, or putting the person into or under the water appears by Phillip’s baptizing the Eunuch. It is said They went down into the water, both Philip the baptizer and the Eunuch that was the person to be baptized, and being there in the water, Philip baptized, or dipped him in that water as John did Jesus in the river of Jordan. Then it is said as they descended, or went down into the water, so they ascended or went straight way up out of the water. See Acts 8:38, 39; Matt 3:16. Mark the expression: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water..”, therefore had he been down in the water.
6. That this appointment of Christ was not by sprinkling, but by dipping, or , as it were a drowning, appears in that John the Baptizer, his work being to baptize, remains in the wilderness by the river of Jordan and afterward in Aenon. The reason that this is rendered by the Spirit of God why there he abode, was, because there was much water there, which need not have been if that appointment could have been performed by sprinkling and not by dipping. See Luke 3:2,3 John 3:23.
7. That this appointment of Christ was not to be performed by sprinkling, but by dipping etc. Appears from the nature of the Ordinance itself. It is such an Ordinance as whereby the person that submitteth thereto doth visibly put on Christ Jesus the Lord and is hereby visibly planted into His death, holding forth therein a lively similitude and likeness unto His death. Whereby only through faith he now professeth he hath escaped death and is in hope to obtain life and peace everlasting and so to have fellowship with Him in His death as to be dead with Him and thereupon to reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, Satan, the law and the curse. See Gal 3:27; Rom 8:2,3; 5:7,8,11; 1 Cor 15:29. But the planting of a person into the likeness of death is no ways resembled by sprinkling. But by dipping it is lively set forth and demonstrated.
8. This appointment of Christ, Baptism, is an ordinance whereby the person that submitteth thereto, doth visibly and clearly resemble the burial of Christ, and his being buried with Him. So, as in respect of the old man, the former lusts and conversation, like the Egyptians, to be taken out of the way and seen no more. See Romans 6:4,6; Col 2:12. But sprinkling doth no way lively resemble the burial of Christ, or the persons being buried with Him as dipping doth.
9. This appointment of Christ, Baptism, is an ordinance whereby the person that submitteth thereto doth visibly and lively hold forth herein the resurrection of Christ, declares Him Whose life was taken from the Earth to be alive again, Who although he died and was buried, yet was He not left in the grave to see corruption, but was raised again and behold He liveth for evermore. As hereby he holds forth the resurrection of Christ, so doth he also his own being planted in the likeness thereof so as to reckon himself to be in his soul and spirit quickened and risen with Christ from henceforth to live unto God the fountain of life and to Christ Jesus the Lord Who died for him, and rose again and so to walk in newness of life in this present evil world, being also begotten unto a lively hope that in the world to come, he shall be raised and quickened both in should and body to a life everlasting. See (Rom 6:4,5,8,11; Acts 8:33,35,36; Col 2:12; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:29; 1 Pet 1:3. Sprinkling doth no way lively resemble the resurrection of Christ, or the souls or bodies rising, or being raised by Him, as the way of dipping doth. Therefore, this appointment of Christ was, and still is, to be performed by way of dipping or putting the person into or under the water and not by sprinkling.
That this dipping in or into water in the name of Jesus is one of the commandments of this Lord Jesus Christ doth evidently appear Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15, 16 compared with Acts 2:38, 41; 8:36, 38 and 10:47, 48. And that it is also to be observed by all that trust in Christ, as other of is commands, as He is Lord, until He come again, is likewise expressly manifested to be His will: Matt 28:20; Gal 1:7, 8; Jude 3; 2 Tim 2:2; Col 2:5, 6; Rev 2:25; 3:11 Hold fast till I come. Rev 22:14, 19; Heb 12:25
A visible believer or disciple of Christ Jesus (that is, one that manifesteth repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ) is the only person that is to be baptized with that visible baptism or dipping of Jesus Christ in water
That a visible disciple or scholar of Christ, one that manifesteth himself to have heard Him, to have been taught by Him and to have yielded himself to Him as his teacher, is the only person, etc. Will be made manifest:
1. By the commission itself and the argument stands thus-they and they only have right t this ordinance and appointment of Jesus Christ, whom the Ordainer Himself, Christ Jesus the Lord, hath appointed it to disciples and to believers and to such only. The first proposition cannot be denied and the second will easily be roved. See the commission by which the apostles were warranted to administer this ordinance. So must all baptize or they will appear but usurpers (Mat 28:18, 19). All power is given to me in heaven and in earth, saith the Lord, Go ye therefore and disciplize or make disciples not among the Jews only, but among the Gentiles and Nations and baptize them. If the question should have been made, Lord whom shall we baptize of the Nations among the Jews and Gentiles? His answer was given in the words before. He would have given no other. You shall baptize amongst the Nations Jews and Gentiles, such as first been taught, and by teaching have been made my disciples. Mar 16:16 go ye into all the World, saith the Lord, and preach the gospel to every creature-to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved etc. If the question should be here propounded again who among the religious and strict Jews and the loose and profane Gentiles should be baptized, the answer is plain-those to whom the Gospel first hath been preached and they through that Gospel have also believed.
2. By the practice of the commissioners of Christ who were faithful unto their Lord and to the charge which He gave them. The argument stands thus: Such as faithful Apostles, and first commissioners of Christ Jesus the Lord administered this ordinance of baptism unto such and only such ought to be made partakers thereof. But the Apostles and first commissioners of Christ administered not this ordinance unto carnal babes, infants of days(these are by the scriptures declared to be conceived in sin to be brought forth in iniquity, and in being born of the flesh to be but flesh, and so by nature the Children of wrath, one as well as another, being also untaught), but to such as first were taught and were ordained by the immortal seed of the world to be born again and as new born babes in Christ, having tasted of the sincere milk of the word, desire still more of the same that they might grow up thereby and such as appeared to be converted and to become as little ones, such little ones as believed in Jesus.
The first proposition I suppose none that own Christ and his Apostles will dare to deny. And the second which is more questionable will also be proved. See Acts 2:38, etc. Although Peter with the 11 calls upon the convicted Jews to repent and to be baptized every one in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, and tells them that then they shall be made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and that they should not need to distrust it, he shows them the largeness of the promise that was made concerning the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit, it being promised to be poured forth upon all flesh as they had expressed in the beginning of their discourse out of Joel 5:16, 17 and therefore saith ‘tis to you and to your children and to all that are a far off even as many(of you, your children and such as are a far off) as the Lord our God shall call. Yet, he baptized none, but such as were called by the holding forth the word of salvation by Jesus Christ as appears in the words. For they that gladly received his word were baptized and they only, for they that were baptized were added and continued together in the disciples’ doctrine and in fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayer and continued daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. This place, therefore, if rightly considered, will be so far from affording a ground for the baptizing of the children of believing parents, because here it is said the promise is to you and your children, that it will sufficiently evince the contrary. Such an apprehension is accompanied with 2 or 3 evident mistakes. There is a mistake in the promise, in the parties to whom the promise belongs and the manner how it is to them and their children.
1. There is a mistake if the promise in that it is looked at as the covenant of Grace which doth ingratiate the soul into and gives it an interest in all the privileges of the Gospel of Christ. So in order doth go before baptism or any other visible ordinance and appointment of His whereas is very truth by promise there, is meant that Holy Spirit of promise which they which believed in Christ, and obeyed Him, should, according to promise, receive after He was ascended unto the right hand of the Father as appears John 7:39; 14:16; 16:7. That which He had here shed abroad in a powerful manner upon the Apostles, and that which these Jews also believing and obeying the Gospel of Christ should also receive and therefore saith Peter, Repent and be baptized and ye shall receive etc. And was no other than that which was of old prophesied of by Joel as is declared in v.16 and so is a promise that follows faith and obedience and not such as goes before to give right to this appointment of Christ.
2. There is a mistake in the parties to whom the promise belongs. For whereas it is said to you and to your children, and thereupon it is conceived to be meant believers, and their infants of days which upon that account are to be baptized, it is plain and evident when the apostle spoke these words to them, they could not be looked upon as believers, forasmuch as they being pricked at the heart and only convinced of their evil in murdering the Lord of life, propounded what they should do to be saved which is far from believing. To which the apostle replies, Repent and be baptized in the name of the Jesus for the remission of sins. To conceive that by their children were meant infants of days, it may be as well as understood by your sons and daughters which should so receive of the promise of the Spirit as to prophecy mentioned in the seventeenth verse of this chapter to which these words are related: and to make it appear that the promise was not so either to them or their children (as yet manifested) to give them right unto baptism. After many more words used by the apostle to persuade them to save themselves from this adulterous generation, it is said, but as many as gladly received his word, were baptized and but only such and not their infants of days. They that were baptized continued together in such appointments of Christ as infants are in no measure capable of.
3. There is a mistake in the manner how this promise is to them and their children, not spoken to them now as believers and their children as having right and interest peculiar by them, but, indeed, to them and their children no otherwise than to all that are a far off. If taken in the general, cannot be understood but with respect to the general promise which is to pour forth His Spirit upon all flesh. But, if with the restriction, which is, even as many as the Lord our God shall call, then parents and children, Jews and Gentiles, such as are near, and such as are a far off, must be called by the word of His grace before they can have a peculiar right and interest in this Spirit of promise. So a child that is called to believe and obey the Gospel may have this promise made good unto him before his father, and a Gentile that is a far off before a Jew that is near.
This will appear also by other instances as of Philip baptizing in Samaria. They were men and women that he baptized there, such as believed and received the word with great joy (Acts 8:8, 12). When the Eunuch seeing the water, asked what should let him to be baptized. Philip intimates that although he had been taught, yet want of a manifestation of faith would be a let (v. 36, 37) and whereas there is mention made of whole houses that were baptized, that the commissioner might appear faithful unto their Lord, and keep close to the very words of their commission, you shall find they were first taught, and by teaching, were made His disciples, and gladly received His word. See it in Cornilius’ household (Acts 10:44, 47) compared with the jailers’ household (Acts 16: 32, 34). They spake unto him the word of God and unto all that were in his house, and he set meat before them, and rejoicing, believing in God with all his house. See it also in Crispus’ household (Acts 18: 8-11), Stephanus’ household (1 Cor 1:16, 17 compared with 16:15). And as for Lydia’s household (Acts 16), the Spirit of God being more silent therein, they that cannot interpret it by the other four, nor yet by the commission itself, nor by the commissioners’ faithful observance thereof in all other instances, let them prove, if they can, these three particulars: a. That Lydia ever had a husband. B. In case she had, that ever she had any children by him, and if so, then in the c. That they were not dead or so grown up that they might hear and receive the word gladly as well as their mother.
A third argument to prove that a visible believer is the person that according to the mind of Christ is to be baptized in water may be taken from the order which the Spirit of Christ lays down: faith and baptism, in the scriptures of truth, putting faith still in the first place witness Mark 16: 15, 16, Matt 28: 19; Heb 6; Eph 4.
A fourth argument may be taken from the nature of the ordinance and a fifth from John’s baptism. Yea, much more might be said to this point, but this may suffice.
The only person that is to walk in the visible order of his house and so to wait for his coming the second time in the form of a Lord and King with his glorious Kingdom according to promise.
That he is the only person that is to enter into and walk in the visible order of His house will evidently appear, if the order in which our Lord left His house when he went to His father to receive His Kingdom, be duly considered. In His last will and testament, we shall find it thus recorded. When our Lord was about to be gone, he gave order unto His apostles whom He made stewards in His house of the mysteries of God to make Him disciples of all Nations and that such as were to be made should then be baptized and so visibly be planted into Christ and put on Christ, and having so received Him, should walk in Him, observing all things whatsoever He had commanded. The first thing whereof as touching order was to be added or joined one to another in the fellowship of the Gospel by a mutual professed subjection to the Scepter of Christ and being a company thus called out of the world, from worldly vanities, and worldly worships after Christ Jesus the Lord (which is the proper English of these words-the Church of Christ, and is in other terms called the Household of faith) should steadfastly continue together in the Apostles’ doctrine, the consolation, reproof, and instruction thereof, in fellowship, the mutual support both inward and outward, in breaking of bread, thereby remembering the death of our Lord whose soul was made an offering for sin. As His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood drink indeed by the help of the Spirit to nourish our souls and spirits up unto eternal life and in prayer, one with and for another. This is the absolute order which the Lord hath appointed in His last will and testament. This appeareth both by His own precept and command, and by the practice of such as first trusted in Him. And, if so, then neither infants of days, nor yet such as profess themselves to be believers in Jesus, but refuse as a manifestation thereof, according to the practice of such as first trusted in Christ, to yield themselves to be planted into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and so visibly to put Christ on, as did the Christians of old, I say, such have no right to enter into, or walk in the order of the Gospel of Christ. To conclude the point the argument stands thus: they, and they only , have visible right to enter and walk in the visible order of Christ’s house, and so to wait for His coming, whom Christ Jesus Himself being the Lord of the house, hath appointed, and His Apostles being His stewards, have approved of, but such as first have been taught and made disciples or scholars of Jesus and believers in Christ, and afterwards have been baptized or dipped and thereby visible and lively planted in to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, are they, and they only, whom Christ hath appointed and the apostles approved of. See His commission. Peruse their practice, ergo, they and they only have visible right to enter into and walk in the order of Christ’s house and so to wait for His coming the second time in the for of a King with His glorious Kingdom according to promise. See for a further confirmation of the last clause in the first epistle to the Corinthians !: 7; 1 The 1: 10; 2 The 3: 5.
A few thoughts to consider for the thoughtful reader of DefCon –
1. Ok, for those who think to the contrary of the Bible, I would like to call your bluff in no uncertain terms. Please provide indisputable PROOF from the scientific and medical communities that people are born transgender or as homosexuals or lesbians, etc. THEORIES or PRESUPPOSITIONS based on psychology does not count. It must be based on DNA, genetics, things that can be proven in a lab or research facility.
2. For those who think that God “MADE” a mistake when He made you, I would encourage you to read the truth of Scriptures. The same holds true to any who think that ALL or ANY sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman is acceptable. John 3:36 makes it clear as to God’s perspective on those who willfully abide in their sin and abomination. “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son will not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” Those who are children of God will obey the commands of Scripture, but those who choose their own paths are clearly bent on destruction AND the wrath of God does abide on them until salvation takes place. The bottom line is that God does NOT make mistakes and He does not create that which would contradict the principles and truths found in His Word (the Holy Scriptures).
3. I share with those who read that there is no hatred for any who live in a lifestyle that is contrary to God. It is NOT up to me to bring condemnation of eternal punishment. If I am to follow the truth of Scripture, I must learn to 1) love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and the 2) is to love my neighbor as myself. However, it is NOT loving if I fail to warn you that there is a high price to pay one day for choosing a path or lifestyle that is in contradiction to the character of the Holy God. Some who read might PRESUME upon my character and belief that I hate you and others who do not live like I do. That is unfounded and is based purely on the speculation of how you THINK others should believe and how you THINK others should allow you to practice with no lack of tolerance apart from intolerance towards “bigots” and “hate-mongers” like me. I look forward to seeing your “PROOF.”
4. So, just to clarify, a person can HATE the actions of those who choose to pray aloud to God in school or a public place but that person probably would say nothing if it was a Muslim student doing it. Further, you can hate prayer and find it an affront or grievance to you, but you would have NO problem fully endorsing that same person’s right to speak if they choose to spew filthy, vulgar language or even speak aloud of his or her ability to practice deviant lifestyles. Absolutely amazing! So, you can HATE as long as you get your way, but if I HATE that which is contrary to the Scriptures, I am condemned as a bigot and I am judging others. So, exactly, how does this logic work again???
5. The problem is that the world is trying to dictate new standards of morality based on what suits the depravity of the human heart. You cannot have morals without the God who gave and created the morals to begin with. It is the same God who created one man and one woman and instituted marriage between those two. The reality is that the LGBT agenda is an abomination before God and will always be so. Sadly, a small very vocal minority are trying to bully the world into accepting perverted lifestyles. By the way, Disney has long sought to subtly and now openly promote the homosexual agenda. The homosexual agenda will never be content with “marriage” between two of the same sex. They are after our children. We are headed the way of Rome and will be brought to our knees just as Rome was for her wickedness.
6. By the way, if homosexuality or lesbianism is “normal” and supposedly created by God, why in each relationship do you have one that acts the part of a male and one a female? God created one man and one woman and commanded them to multiply and fill the earth. Interesting that God did not give the ability to procreate between two men or two women, and biology and science cannot change that. Notice I did not mention “gay” sex. I spoke of the irony of how in any relationship between two men, one will seek to be effeminate (or the wife), while with two lesbians, one will seek to dominate and play a masculine role.
7. God states that ALL AND ANY sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is an abomination before Him. God also tells us that the hearts of ALL men and women are evil. Romans 3 states that there is nobody who is good, not even one. They have all gone out of the way in their depravity. There does not need to be any additional verses regarding a person who thinks they were born in the wrong type of body. To hold to this is ultimately stating that God makes mistakes. Further, the Bible is clear that it is not a particular sin that will send people to hell, but the one of unbelief. Belief in God resulting in salvation only comes when a person repents and confesses their sin to God and then places their faith in Christ alone for their salvation. That belief then is followed by a willing obedience to the commands of Christ.
8. Despite the fact that many will studiously avoid my thoughts and questions, I will share that God commands all men to repent. The need for repentance is not dependent on one’s choice of sex or lifestyle. It is based solely on the fact that man is separated by his very nature from a holy God. What would God say to a transgender person? He tells them to repent and that today is the day of salvation for all who come in faith in Jesus Christ. The transgender equality issue is one that seeks to erode what God has created. To force those choices upon the general public, particularly within the education system, is foolishness and stupidity at best, and at worst, only further undermines the differences between male and female as created by God.
It was once popular in the Christian Church, as you might discover by reading Christianity and Liberalism by conservative Christian stalwart J. Gresham Machen, that the fundamentals of Christianity (including Scripture alone and faith alone) were questioned by those who wished to make experience the primary aspect of Christianity. This was the modernism that the Christian faced in those who denied that the truth of Christianity could be talked about simply by teaching the propositions of the Scriptures and the theology as demonstrated by (any of) the historical confessions of the faith. Instead, these liberals opined, the Christian worldview can better be explained by leaving logic, reason, and the intellect out of the core of Christianity. No creed, but Christ, they would declare. This of course was the predecessor to the contemporary claim that Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. It was against this modernism that Machen fought for the historical Christian faith.
And yet, these liberals (throughout this article, I refer to this term often –it is not used in a derogatory way here. To use it this way would be completely counter-productive) of the early twentieth century have given way to a new form of liberalism that questions even the very use of logic and the usefulness of so-called “head knowledge.” In other words, while yesterday’s liberals claimed that logic and reason were not central to Christianity, it is their successors who declare that logic and the intellect have nothing to do with Christianity at all. No longer must the Christian consider that his primary intellectual opponent is the scientist who looks for divine revelation in places other than the Bible. Rather, the great trend of our time is to push for an anti-intellectual position. There is no such thing as knowledge and, even there was, who cares? For knowledge, touts these new liberals, is simply unimportant compared to the undefined concepts such as “love,” “social justice,” and “community.”
It seems that in that last line, I struck a nerve. How could someone possibly deny the importance of such concepts? It is not that I deny the concept so much as I dare to define them.
It is definitions that scare the new liberals. For they are the irrationalists. The anti-intellectuals. Knowledge should in no way sit on the same level as the Undefined Concepts. Definitions require knowledge and definitions are, by their nature, exclusive. Exclusivity is no doubt antithetical to their conceptions of “love,” social justice,” and “community.” In a sense then, it might seem a bit of a waste of time to consider their arguments at the outset. If one refuses the importance of logic and reason, then surely we cannot communicate meaningfully. But of course, it is imperative that the reader understand both that a) they do, in fact, use their intellect and words to demonstrate their views, even if they say that they do not prefer to (otherwise how would we know about them?) and b) we must address them because they have come to us under the labels that are found in the Bible and historic Christianity. They use our words, our vocabulary, and in doing so, they appear to be part of the evangelical world.
But wolves in sheep’s clothing are not sheep.
It is in this context that we consider the increasingly popular Rachel Held Evans. A similarity between myself and Evans is that we both consider our position to be a minority compared to the vast spectrum of the so-called Christian world. And yet it is also my conviction that whereas Evans’ positions continue to gain prominence on the internet and blogs, it is the reformed view that is dying off. It is also my conviction that while she continues to express disagreement with the so-called neo-Calvinism of John Piper, Al Mohler, and The Gospel Coalition folks, I do not think that, in the scheme of things, their message is as attractive to the masses as hers. In a world of increasing pluralism, political correctness, and secularization, if we consider popularity only, Evans definitely has the upper hand. She admits as much in her recent CNN post, wherein she expresses her agreement with the millennial generation and their cultural and emotional tendencies, among which is a strong desire to leave the Church.
I have wanted to write on Evans’ influence for quite some time. Off and on, I have come across many of her articles, interviews, books, and blogs. Even last year I posted a link (on my other blog) to Kathy Keller’s review of Evans’ book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Every time I had an urge though, I thought to myself, I better familiarize myself more with her work before I attempt this. It was the CNN article that really gave me a renewed urge. The problem with Evans is that she is difficult to nail down. If you read many of her posts, you can get a very good idea of what she does not think to be true. And on those things where she infers she agrees, it is even then only an “I like the way he or she said that.” Or: “This could possibly be right, what do you guys think?” Her tendency to not take a solid position on any issue (except the Undefined Concepts) is in fact a very central feature to the Christian trends today. It is not Evans-in-a-vacuum that has sparked a desire to look into her influence. It is rather the views to which she holds and which are held by so many others (this of course can be verified by simply going through her site and counting the number of “guest-posts” and citations to other blogs within her genre). Evans does not exist alone. She is a great practitioner of her own advice: live in a community. And thus this essay should not be seen as me against Evans. Rather, I address my complaints to the entire modern (or postmodern) liberal movement, utilizing her simply as a great example, a starting point.
Given that I do not wish to make this post as long as it could be, I also do not want to begin with a detailed declaration of our own worldview. Where we stand in opposition –indeed where we think Christianity stands in opposition –will become apparent as we move through this piece. But in short, we hold that Christianity is not a to-do list and it is not a manifesto on how to live (although it does include commands and lifestyle principles); it is not an emotional state or a set of feelings either. Rather, Christianity is a worldview, a system of beliefs and doctrines. Christianity is to be believed, not felt and not done. Christianity, we hold, and as Machen defended so many years ago, teaches the primacy of the intellect. The question that theology seeks to answer is “What, then, is to be believed?” It is only after belief that the actions of a Christian are clear. Machen writes:
“[The Christian movement] was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based on doctrine.”
If this is so, then any individual who seeks to make Christianity a system of dos and don’ts and activities, or any individual who makes Christianity to be a certain state of emotion or feeling, is not teaching Christianity. But what if we are wrong that Christianity is about intellectual belief? Now, whether or not we are right in calling Christianity an intellectual system is one thing, but it is completely another point to vocalize the fact that Christianity cannot be centered on all of those things at the same time. So then, if one claims that Christianity is chiefly about lifestyle and action, by believing that Christianity is a worldview and set of doctrines we must be in the wrong and they are in the right. We cannot both be right. What is at stake here then, is the nature of this Christianity, a term both us and those on Evans’ side would like very much to use. But if Evans is going to disagree with us that Christianity is a set of beliefs (which she does), it would be unwise for her to claim that both myself and her are both Christians. This is precisely the argument that Machen put forth against the liberals (again, not being derogatory) in his day. And his answer was simply that, for better or for worse, Christianity is a movement with a history and to determine its substance, we must go toward its roots. That is to say, Christianity can only be defined by the first Christians: Paul and the other apostles. Machen found that Christianity was a set of beliefs, not feelings or actions. Perhaps Evans is right and Machen is wrong. But if so, neither Machen or I can be considered Christians precisely because we see Christianity as a set of propositions to be believed.
Therefore what is at stake is not a concern as to how we both ought to coexist. Rather, the matter is whether our view or her view is, in fact, Christianity. Of course in saying this, she is ready with her counter argument. My mistake in making this the nature of the matter, she might say, is that I have assumed at the outset that we need to be divided. But this can hardly be a mistake because our views are mutually exclusive. I simply do not have the leisure of framing our consideration of Rachel Held Evans any other way. If I were to accept her proposal of a conservative/liberal Christian coalition, I would have to give up my belief that Christianity is a set of exclusive doctrines. This is what is at stake.
(Now of course, in looking over her description of a conservative, she apparently has a misguided idea of what constitutes our position.)
Therefore it is not simply disagreement that is the source of my concern. For I do not have the same concern with, say, RC Sproul even though he and I disagree on baptism. Or perhaps with a number of the Puritans because, as a whole, they were postmillennialists. Disagreement then is not the point. It is definition. Theology differs. But theology assumes, presupposes (to use a Van Tillian/Clarkian word), specific beliefs about the nature of Christianity and the Scripture. If we were to ask whether Christianity was a set of doctrines to be believed or if it was experiences to be felt or if it was a code to which we must act in accord, Sproul and the Puritans would no doubt choose the former. Theology is then an issue we have with Evans primarily because her theology is not even built on the same terms as ours.
So then, what does Evans believe to be the essence of Christianity? As previously stated, it is far easier to determine what Christianity is not to Evans. She is very clear that to be a Christian is not about a list of dos and don’ts. Then she says it is neither about believing a set of propositions. Could Christianity then, for Evans, be a emotion? I don’t think so –from everything I have read, she could never affirm such an idea. Christianity then is neither about works, belief, or feeling.
So, if faith isn’t simply a matter of believing the right thing, if it’s not about being right, or checking off a list of propositional truths in your head, then what is it? How do we know if we have it? How do we know if someone else has it? Can we know for sure?
It seems to me that God reaches out to everyone in love, and that faith has something to do with how a person responds to this. I know that this sounds super-vague, and I am certain that someone will call it “postmodern.” So be it. The truth is, I’m just trying to figure it out myself. [italics in original –CJE]
It is here that we find the the influence of postmodernism in the thought of Rachel Held Evans. Now, strictly speaking, I believe her when she states in other places that she is a not a postmodernist. Rather, it is more accurate (and accuracy is important as a critic), to say that she is influenced by postmodernism. She certainly does not fear it, but this does not mean that she subscribes to it as a completed worldview. But in the quotation above, we notice that, rather than take a position, she is comfortable with not knowing what faith is. And, as she herself makes clear, if you do not know what faith is, you cannot be certain that you have it. She asks, Can we know [what faith is] for sure? And the truth of the matter is, that she is “just trying to figure it out [her]self.” As I have previously indicated, a key aspect of Evans and the new liberal is that they seem to find their joy in not knowing things. Not knowing, for them, is more profound, more inspiring, than knowing.
But we believe the opposite. We believe that God reveals Himself to us through propositions, which were written down in the Bible to stand true for all time. If Evans finds her joy in not knowing, it is us who celebrate certainty and assurance in our knowledge of Christ and his Word. We do know what Evans thinks Christianity is not, but, since she clings to things like “doubt” and “not sure,” it makes it hard to summarize her position. But this enthusiasm for mystery and unclarity is what leads us to consider her a proponent of the postmodern way. She is certainly not a fan of pursuing rational thinking and logic as the central push of her Christianity so, in pushing the primacy of the intellect away from her ideals, it is clear that the Christianity of Machen is not her Christianity. The Undefined Concepts like “Love” and “Mystery” are more central than “truth” and “knowledge.” This is the great trend of our time. The eradication of knowledge and the love of something inexplicable. Now of course the previous sentence was in itself unclear (what is “something inexplicable?”), but this is precisely what the new liberal loves about being a liberal. Rachel Held Evans then, is on a completely different plane when she begins to define her faith, her understanding of what Christianity is all about.
Can we then make any positive statement about her position on the nature of Christianity? I do think so, although, with words scattered about without definition, we are left with much work to do. We will start with her statement that being a Christian, most fundamentally, consists of two things:
Love God. Love people.
Very simple. Christianity for Evans is neither works, belief, or emotion. Rather, it is love. What should we think of this? The problem with it is that the definition for love is never given. If Christianity is about belief, then we ought to ask: “what is to be believed?” And thus we study theology. If Christianity is about doing the right things, then we ought to ask: “what things?” And therefore if Christianity is about love, we ought to ask: “what is love?” Many think that love is simply an emotion. Perhaps Christianity is about feeling the right way. But Evans is smarter than that. She knows that the most powerful type of love, is in the Greek, agape. Love (agape) is a sacrificial commitment to another person. She would no doubt agree to this, and celebrate it. But since this love is not emotional (Evans surely would agree that we shouldn’t only love when we feel like it), it must be a volitional commitment. It must be an act of the will. But the will is determined by the mind, by the intellect. Love is, then, an intellectual commitment to another person.
And if we are to love God and be committed to him, we must know something about him. I love my wife because I know her. The better I know her, the deeper I love. Therefore, communication is necessary. These communicable words are the means by which I learn more about her, so that I love her more. In the same way then, God must communicate with us so that we may know him more. The more we know God, the more we love him. Scripture is the means by which he communicates propositionally and we learn about him, his character, his activities in the past, and his promises for the future. So “loving God” is fundamental to the Christian faith, as even Evans states. But love must have a context and definition. And love is based on knowledge
Now Evans would perhaps say that love is a thing to be expressed in our good deeds for one another. And we agree. “If ye love me, you will keep my commandments,” said Christ. But these deeds are the expression, the demonstration, of love, and not love itself.
Love is fundamental. It’s more important than being right. It’s more important than having all our theological ducks in a row. It’s more important than any commitment to absolute truth or a particular hermeneutic or a “high view” (read: “my view”) of sovereignty or the Bible or faith or the Church.
And yet if Christ is both Truth and Love, why must only one of the two be fundamental? Why should we not stress a loving of others and a desire for Truth? It is true that truth without love is dead, but is it not also true that love without truth has no meaning? For how can you love what you do not understand? This too forms another important disagreement between Evans and us. She does love what she does not understand, but it seems to me that if love is an effort of the will, of the mind, then it is impossible to love what is not understood. We seek to know others, to know God, so that we may love them more fully. When she states “love over doctrine” she is simply expanding love beyond its own definition. Part of our doctrine is the command to “love God and love people.” Separating love from doctrine is simply not supported or necessary. It is then the commitment to absolute truth, to the sovereignty of God, to the Bible, to the Church, and to love others that are all features of the Christian doctrine. Love is not brushed aside as we yearn for knowledge, it is upheld!
Now that love is established as commitment of the will and a fundamental part of the Christian faith, we recognize the chief difference between her reference to love (which determines doctrine), and our reference to love (which is defined by doctrine). The essence of Christianity for her is a commitment to others, while for us it is specific propositions to be believed. We say: “believe these things and you will be saved.” She says: “love your neighbor as yourself and you will be saved.” Now these are very different commands. One says “commit yourself to others” and the other says “believe these things.” Herein lies another important point about the theology of Rachel Held Evans: she believes that her complete salvation comes from faith and works. This is the doctrine from which the Reformers fled. Let’s look at some quotes:
“I don’t think that salvation is simply a matter of getting into heaven and out of hell. For me, following the teachings of Jesus Christ saves me from my sin in the here and now. It can save me on a daily basis from selfishness, materialism, passing judgment, hatred, vindictiveness, and fear.”
“If it’s starting to sound like I believe in works-based salvation , it’s because I do. While I don’t for a second think that we can earn God’s grace by checking off a to-do list, I do believe that there is liberation in obedience.”
We hold the opposite position. Regarding the first quote, we follow the teachings of Jesus because he saved us from sin. Regarding the second quote, we believe that we are liberated (by faith) so that we can obey. But surely there is liberation in obedience right? For why does disobedience lead to more bondage? But we hold that only if this obedience is coupled with faith is there liberation. But in this case, it is the faith, not obedience that carries with it the liberating power. For otherwise it is just faithless deeds, which can have an even more binding effect –legalism is slavery.
Christianity then, for Evans, is about following (acting out) the teachings of Jesus, and it is this that saves her. The perspective is not eternal, it is immediate. Christianity for us is believing a set of doctrines centered around the person of Christ. Doing vs. believing. Orthopraxy (the correct activity) vs. Orthodoxy (the correct belief). In fact, this is one of the reasons why she said she has joined the so-called “emerging conversation.” Because she likes the idea of Orthopraxy over Orthodoxy.
It is in this that we finally discover the essence of her Christianity: acting as Christ acted. This is what she means by love: action. It is by this pursuit that she is saved from sin “in the here and now” as opposed to the eternal status of heaven/hell. Christianity is a system of action, not dos and don’ts, but action nonetheless. On the contrary, we hold that the essence of Christianity is not about action, but about belief; and the perspective is primarily eternal, not the here and now.
If we hold that love is a commitment of the mind, how can we say that her system, which finds its basis on love, is one of action? We can say this precisely because love means nothing to her if not for its call to action whereas love means nothing to us if not for its dependence on the propositional revelation of God. Our Christianity is primarily about believing the right things, hers is one of acting in the right way.
Now, it should be made crystal clear that salvation has more than one aspect. We are justified by faith alone, by assent (Evans confusingly, whenever she dismisses this doctrine, writes this word as ascent) to a set of propositions. And yet it is true that this faith results in good works and that by continuing to know God better, we are sanctified. Justification then is the liberation from the penalty from sin and sanctification is the liberation from the power of sin. Our perspective may be eternal, but this does not mean we don’t have a doctrine for our physical life here on earth. This does not mean that we aren’t to mimic the life of Christ. These things we do not deny. But sanctification and good works are results of justification by faith, without which it is impossible to please God and without which there is no salvation. Christianity then finds its essence in doctrine and doctrine includes the command to love. It is unfair for Evans to indicate that our love for doctrine necessarily eliminates our desire to “love one another.”
It is now much more simple to analyze the rest of her theology given her basis, her “new fundamental,” of love. Love, as her presupposition, determines what is meant by salvation, faith, community, truth, teaching, and even the Bible itself. Contrarily, we hold that the Bible, as our presupposition, determines the meaning of those things, including love. She asks: how does this interpretation of the Bible inspire me to love better? We ask: how is this interpretation of the Bible consistent with everything else we read? Hers is utilitarian, pragmatic. Ours is theoretical, ideological. This is not to say that we don’t ever consider pragmatic action anymore than it means she never considers doctrine. The issue concerns what is primary –what saves us, what Christ came to bring us.
She complains that our hermeneutic necessarily leads to differences between the individuals, so how can we say our interpretation is correct? We do not deny this, for differences are acceptable by us within the Christian community. So then it is not mere differences which urge us to question somebody else’s Christianity, it is the definition of Christianity to which they hold. The fundamentals of Evans’ Christianity is far different than ours: Interpretation of Scripture vs. love. Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy. Doctrine vs. action. For Evans, in each of the three previous juxtapositions, the latter determines the former. For us, the former determines the latter! It seems that the differences between our systems are further apart than Evans would like to admit.
Because of our varying presuppositions, we do not approach sin or truth in the same way. It is for this reason that Evans, for example, can vocalize her support for the homosexual movement. The description in the Bible of the covenant between one man and one woman means less to her than the command to love one another. For us, the command to love one another must be applied along with the other teachings of Scripture as a whole. So for Evans, because of her use of love, we are in the wrong for calling homosexual activity a sin, but for us, it is a misapplication of love to say that it prevents us from determining the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. For if our love for God includes our love for His character and precepts, and the Scriptures reveal those things, it would be contradictory for us to ignore sin when loving another person. But then also, it would be wrong for us to ignore love when speaking the truth. Both love and truth are doctrinal and are determined by the whole of Scripture. We love others in spite of their sin, but it does not follow from this that we dismiss their sins as unimportant.
As we can see, I refrained from taking down each of her positions via Bible verses. If you pay attention to her and her discussions with others in the Church, you will realize that this does not “work” for her, because she does not believe in the “exclusive authority, inerrancy, perspicuity, and internal consistency” of the Scripture and she does not see the Bible as having only one necessary interpretation. Therefore this “consideration” would not have been very effective. Rather, I want the reader to understand that we are dealing with very different systems of truth, different presuppositions. Evans is clear that she wants the Church to rethink their presuppositions. I would agree, because very few actually consider the word of God as their presupposition today. Evans stands on a completely different foundation than we do. Which one is Christianity? Neither she, nor we, could possibly say we are both right.
The meaning of Christianity, as we have seen, differs between us. Therefore the meaning and implications of love and faith and salvation differ as well. This too we have made clear. She denies that we are justified by faith (belief) alone and she also denies that Scripture alone is the infallible rule of the Christian worldview. Her liberalism therefore shines through quite clearly. And it is a completely different understanding of the world. Same words, different meaning. But meaning is what determines accuracy adherence to reality.
Are the differences in our meaning of Christianity, love, faith, and salvation merely debating points of lesser importance than the “Christian community?” I don’t think so. For it is by these very doctrines that the Chrisitian community is defined and specified. It is only by presupposing her view of “love over doctrine” (as opposed to our belief that love is included in doctrine) that we could possibly say that the essential doctrines of the faith are subservient to her meaning of love. In claiming that Christian beliefs should not cause division between us and unbelievers, she has turned the Christian faith on its head. For it is by belief that we are made separate from this world. The world believes in the autonomy of man and we believe in the supremacy of God. As noted above, it is not differences in doctrine alone that divides us, but it is the differences in the presuppositions of what constitutes Christian faith. We believe in unity despite differences, not unity despite our religion.
They might say that Christianity is a “relationship not a religion.” But we disagree. And if we disagree, our meaning of Christianity is different. But addressing that common catch phrase, we first note that religion itself refers to worldview and belief, not rules. So now the catch phrase reads that Christianity is a “relationship not a belief system.” But what is a relationship but a connection with a person based on knowing specific propositions about them? Perhaps Gordon H. Clark said it best:
As for having a ‘personal relationship’ with Christ, if the phrase means something more than assenting to true propositions about Jesus, what is that something more? Feeling warm inside? Coffee has the same effect. Surely ‘personal relationship’ does not mean what we mean when we say that we know someone personally: perhaps we have shaken his hand visited his home or he ours, or eaten with him. John had a ‘personal relationship’ with Christ in that sense, as did all the disciples, including Judas Iscariot. But millions of Christians have not, and Jesus called them blessed: They have not seen and yet have believed. The difference between Judas Iscariot and the other disciples is not that they had a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus and he did not, but that they believed, that is, assented to, certain propositions about Jesus, while Judas did not believe those propositions.
While these things aren’t talked about much these days, they are really not too radical to comprehend. What is our relationship with a good friend but a vast store of knowledge about who they are and what they like? We assent (agree with or approve) a collection of propositions about them. Some may counter, “but my relationship with my friend is based on the fact that they make me feel good inside.” But that seems profoundly shallow and temporal. So therefore Christianity is a religion (or worldview) that includes a relationship with God (a unique doctrine among many other religions).
The above presents some differences between the new liberals and the historic Protestant faith and notes that the biggest difference is that they are completely different worldviews. It is a child of the liberalism which Machen once warned against in his book Christianity and Liberalism. He showed that while they use the very same vocabulary, they mean things totally different. And thus they get frustrated when we begin to define. When we consider that their foundation is different than ours, we should not be surprised by the words of Rachel Held Evans in a CNN piece where she responded to the fact that more and more millennials are leaving the Church:
Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.
She continues after noting that “millennials” do not want a show or a performance at church –that is not the solution. She writes:
In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.
Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. –precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.
What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.
They don’t want a show. They want authentic. Authentically unbiblical perhaps? They don’t want a change is style, but in substance. But what is Christianity without a core substance? It is not Christianity. How can a substance based on eternal truth be changed? It can’t. But this is not a problem for the new liberals precisely because they deny our assumption that truth is eternally unchanged. They want to go back to Rome. They are not Roman Catholics (they despise authority), but they love its traditions and its patterns. And they love its different substance.
She ends with this:
I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.
Their answers might surprise you.
Hopefully, by taking a look into the worldview of our time, we will no longer be surprised. The common trends of culture have always made attempts to enter into the Church, truly this is not a new development. And what if the new liberal complains that this article is exactly their problem with conservative Christianity? This “us vs. them” divide. Well, it is then that we should present our arguments for a definition of Christianity. In the meantime, we must be prepared. We must speak the truth in love. God must determine what Church is like, what the “faith community” presents itself to be. God determines substance. The truth of the gospel needs to be preached in love. And while the gospel is good news, its content only makes sense if we consider that we are radically depraved and naturally opposed to God. We are then saved not by any merit, any act of obeying the law, but rather by faith. All these things we believe because “the Bible tells me so.”
As you continue to hear from Rachel Held Evans in the coming future please understand this: she knows her vocabulary. She will refer to herself as an evangelical (thereby effectually rendering the word meaningless) and all sorts of other labels. But remember, vocabulary means nothing if not for the definition. Since the new liberals including Evans have either dismissed, or else redefined, Christian vocabulary, we must press hard to understand their definitions and the meanings behind their words. Redefining words is a monumentally sneaky means to infiltrate the Christian religion. Evans and the new liberals will use Christian vocabulary but with very different meaning and doctrine. This is what Machen faced when we addressed the rise of liberalism in America. And we ought to take his example –for today’s liberalism is alive and well. It comes in sheep’s clothing, but it is indeed an entirely different worldview.
Michale Horton and Jeff Johnson discussed this in a panel last fall. You can listen to that message here.
In a couple of weeks, I will have a message on this and provide more insight to both views.