Archive for the ‘Theologababble’ Category

Earlier today the question was posed to me about whether or not babies and those under the Age of Accountability are innocent in God’s eyes. This is my polished-up response:

In its simplest form, the two-fold question is essentially this: (1) is it possible for a sinner to be saved apart from faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and (2) is ignorance of the law an excuse for breaking it? As the father of a miscarried baby, please know that I take this area of theology very seriously.

Even if we debate the condition of the human being upon birth, we need but an hour with a toddler to recognize them for the sinners that they volitionally are. My son is a sinner- no if’s, and’s, or but’s. According to the Bible, we are all sinners, and no one is righteous. None.

Now, in answering this question, let’s first see if there is a precedent in the Bible for a baby going to Heaven. As is often mentioned in conversations of this nature, there is the account of David’s son dying as a consequence for David’s sin (so much for fairness, eh?). The issues here are three-fold. One, 1 Chronicles 3:5 shows that David had four sons with Bathsheba, Solomon being the fourth. However, Solomon was conceived during the grieving period over the death of child number one, so we really have no way of knowing just how old David’s first son was when he died. This is validated by the Hebrew word for child used (נַעַר), which is also used in Scripture to denote young men. Therefore, the first issue is that, to my knowledge, the age of the child is never established, making it entirely possible that the child died being older than the infant he is commonly believed to be, effectively negating this story’s use as evidence for the AoA doctrine.

Even if we could establish that the child was indeed a baby, consider the words of David: “Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” To what is David referring? To Heaven? Hell? What if he is simply referencing the burial site of his son? So my second problem with using 2 Samuel 12 as a basis for the doctrine of the Age of Accountability is the fact that David is vague in what he is implying.

My third problem is this: even if David’s son was a baby, and even if David was referring to seeing his son in Heaven…so what? Is it right just because David says it? Consider the words of King Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31: 6-7: “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” Surely not prescriptive theology! The point is that the Bible often records the words of men to record them- not to teach prescriptively through them. Likewise, simply because David may have believed that his infant son was in Heaven doesn’t necessarily make it so. For these three reasons, I cannot use 2 Samuel 12 as a proof-text for promoting the age of accountability doctrine.

As mentioned, Jesus had a soft spot for children (think millstones and cliff-diving). However, coming to Jesus as little children does not mean to come to him picking our nose, fussing a lot, and being quasi-obedient, depending on our temperament. What it means is to rely upon Christ as a child would his or her mom or dad. It’s complete and total dependency, faith, and trust. That is what it means to come to Christ in child-like faith. It does not mean that children are innocent and thus guaranteed admission into Heaven. For them to be innocent, God would have to look at a law-breaker and say “Oh, it’s ok. I’m a loving and understanding God.” Well, He CANNOT do that. God cannot simply forgive sinners (see Proverbs 17:15). When a crime is committed, someone must pay, hence the need for a savior in the first place. I digress, though. The point is that God cannot justify a wicked person unless someone pays. And for God to allow a lawbreaker total freedom because they “didn’t know they were breaking the law,” we would have to turn a lot of Scripture on its head, namely the ones stating things such as, “there are none righteous,” “all have sinned,” “death passed upon us all,” etc. At this point, I have to maintain that there is no Biblical evidence of sinful infants who are ignorant of (1) their sin and (2) Jesus somehow getting a “free pass” into Heaven.

If children are sinners, as I believe the Bible is clear to teach that they are, and the wages of sin is spiritual separation from God, we have to then look at what a person has to do to be saved. In a nutshell, the answer is nothing. To claim that we must add something to the work of Christ on the Cross in order to gain admission into Heaven and have a relationship with God through His Son is heresy. Salvation is all of grace, and not something we merit of ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9).

That being said, as faith is the conduit of our justification, no one will be in Heaven apart from faith in Jesus. Is this faith something God gives? Absolutely. Can He give it to a child? Absolutely. Can He grant repentance to whomever He wills? Absolutely. Does He open hearts in whom He wills? Absolutely. Does He regenerate those whom He wills? Absolutely. When John the Baptist, as a not-yet-born baby, heard that Mary was pregnant with the Messiah, he leapt for joy. Imagine the implications of this! He was full of the Holy Ghost from birth, in such a way as to cognitively know that Mary’s pregnancy was wonderful news. Never underestimate what God can do with an infant!

Thus, to clearly and concisely answer your question, having laid the foundation to my position, I will longwindedly state this: The Bible does not explicitly teach that children are innocent, but rather instead teaches that we as a race are all fallen, sinful, and condemned. The Bible does not demonstrate that those ignorant of God’s Law are excused for breaking it, but rather teaches that God cannot simply justify those who break His Law. Someone must pay, and Jesus was the only payment ever made for sin. God, who is seen to love children, yet also the one who drowned them in the flood, is the one who will determine the destination of those dying in infancy or not yet born.  As we see in the Bible, God is the arbitrator of salvation, and He can without any problems give faith in His Son to a baby of any age, born or unborn. Does He do this? I hope so, and I pray so.

However, if He chooses not to, He is no less just or loving, for He is still just in His punishment of sin and loving in the protection of His character and holiness. I have no firm knowledge that God saved the child that my wife and I lost, but it’s ok. We know that either way, the Judge of all the Earth will do right, and whatever the outcome is, we will worship God for who He is, for how He acted, and for everything else He does. For me, I am content in knowing the character of God, and the fact that He saves any of us demonstrates His love and mercy. It is entirely possible that this is extended to babies; it is entirely possible that it is not. Therefore, I cannot be dogmatic on the issue one way or the other, because God is not dogmatic one way or the other. The destination of babies/mentally ill, etc. is in His hands, and for me that is enough. I will unwaveringly allow for the possibility of this Age of Accountability doctrine, but I cannot unequivocally state it as Biblical truth.

              One of the functions of my role as a student pastor is that of a teacher. From my experiences both as a professional student in a university and two seminaries, as well as a teacher to my youth group, I have found that teachers typically fit one of two molds: one style is to present a block of information and attempt, over the course of a semester or two, to have the student retain as much of that knowledge as possible. This style is necessary in many fields, such as biology or nursing. The other style devotes more time to the theory behind the fact, so that at the end of the teaching period the student is able to use his or her own brain to discover knowledge. You would see this style employed in the social sciences, music, and culinary fields. You will also find it in my youth group.

            While I am a firm believer in presenting a body of knowledge (i.e., the Bible) to my students, I am also convinced that unless they use their minds to form, understand, and grasp their own theology, their faith will never be as strong as it could be. For that reason I push my students, I encourage friendly debate, and I will sometimes play the Devil’s Advocate (no pun intended) in our group discussions. When the conversation winds down, we see what God’s say in the matter is, and from that we draw out principles for us to follow in that given area of interest.

            Some areas of theology are crystal clear. The Messianic identity Christ, for example, is not disputed among Christians. If you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, you are not a Christian. Don’t believe that, read 1 John 2:22. Other areas are not so crystal clear. Speaking in tongues is in the Bible, so it’s ok to do it now too, right? Not so fast, cowboy. See, what needs to be determined in the course of answering that question is this: what did speaking in tongues mean, why was it done, who did it, what were the rules established for the practice, and what does the Bible say about the continuation of the practice? The answer that one arrives at in the course of their study will lead them into one of several positions: (1) let’s do it, (2) don’t do it, and (3) still don’t know! I am pretty convinced that my position is right; others are equally convinced that they are right. It’s an argument that has raged for some time. The sad reality is that these differences in interpretation of Scripture are why the body of Christ resides within hundreds and thousands of different denominations.

            I say all of that to say this: some of what I teach is purposefully inflammatory, to a small degree (pun intended!). I do this because I want you to engage your brain. I will never knowledgeably teach heresy as the truth, but I am also aware that my understanding of Scripture is not inerrant or infallible. You are welcome to disagree with me, but I do not want you to simply say, “Well I disagree because I believe differently, and I’m right and you’re wrong!” This is narrow-mindedness, and it’s a reaction typical of those who know what they believe, but not why they believe it. Few Christians know exactly what they believe in all areas of theology; fewer still can take the Bible and show you why they believe it.

            Here’s another gentle admonition, as well: if your theology is based on one verse in the entire Bible, it’s a weak theology. I’m not saying it’s wrong, because it may be right, but it’s weak. It’s too easy for someone disagreeing with you to whip out a larger arsenal that disproves, on the surface, your verse. Here’s a perfect example. Someone had written on my chalkboard this week the phrase “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” My question to the students milling around was this: “Where would you go in the Bible to see that Jesus loves you?” Most had no clue where to begin, but one was able to come up to me and show me John 3:16, which says that “God loved the world.” So I kindly went to John 7:7 where Jesus says “the world hates me.” My question to him was, “Does ‘world’ in John 7:7 mean the entire global human population?” Of course it didn’t. So why would it mean that in John 3:16? And then I took him to Psalm 5:5, where we see that God “hates all evildoers.” Perhaps I was trying to give him a drink of water from a fire hydrant, but I wanted to show him what happens when our beliefs are not based on a myriad of Bible verses operating in harmony with one another, but rather on an individual passage. I ended our conversation with a discussion on what love and hate mean, along with 1 John 4:8, which teaches that God is love, and though there may be perhaps different levels of this love (think about Jesus and the beloved disciple, John), it would be wrong to say that God does not, in some way, love His entire creation- even those who are the objects of His hatred. Easily understood? Not really. Truth contained in the Bible? Certainly.

            The point to this article is this: you are welcome to disagree with my theology, but I challenge you to use God’s word, not one or two debatable passages, to frame your counter-argument. Simply disagreeing does you no good if you do not know why you disagree. With access to the internet, your resources are vast and varied. Study with discretion, but study, study, study!

Sermon audio from a message preached at church this week.

              So three weeks ago today I stepped on the scales and was frankly disgusted at what I saw. Stepping on the scale a few times to ensure that the glaring red “218.6” wasn’t simply a fluke, it dawned on me that I was now the heaviest that I had ever been in my life. When Sunday rolled around, I stepped on the scales again, hoping that Saturday’s weight was just the result of too much food the previous day. No such luck. The 218.6 continued to unflinchingly stare at me. Totally not cool.

 

            In the twenty one days since, I have increased my physical activity, I have decreased my food intake, and I have made huge cuts in the types of food I’ll eat. As a result, I am down 12.8 pounds, and if I keep this up I have no doubt that I’ll reach my target weight of 180 by the end of summer, Lord willing.

 

            I don’t like feeling hungry, and I’m not a fan of exercise. The physical pain that comes with hunger and exercise isn’t my friend. I don’t like it.

 

            So why in the world would I possibly do something that I don’t enjoy, when it’s in my power not to do it? Why would any sane person tolerate this type of discomfort when they didn’t have to? Yeah…in your head you’re thinking, “because it’s necessary to achieve your goal. Your plan is good, but to carry it out you’ll have to endure aspects that you do not like.”

 

            And you’re exactly right. The end result, the purpose of this discomfort, is well worth it. I don’t enjoy every part of accomplishing my goal, but I am pleased to do it because of the end result of it.

 

            I wrote a post a few days ago extolling the total and absolute sovereignty of our God, because the Bible makes it pretty clear that God is on the throne, and not mere men. It is impossible to derail God’s plan, and God does everything He wants to. Well, this raises the issue of evil’s existence, and this is a “problem” that atheists like to jump on. There’s even a term for it: theodicy. Their argument goes something like this:

 

  1. A loving and powerful God would desire to, and be able to, prevent sin/evil.
  2. Sin happens.
  3. God must not be (1) loving or (2) all powerful, or both.

 

            It’s a common argument used to justify their continued disbelief in God. Surprisingly, in response to the article I wrote the other day, I saw fellow Christians trying to explain the presence of evil by claiming that such presence was not part of God’s plan and not something that He wanted to happen in the first place. We can immediately reject this idea because Scripture is clear that God’s plan and purpose cannot be thwarted.

 

            So if God’s will is not being thwarted, then it would stand to reason that God’s plan was for evil to happen. Put in more personal terms, this would mean that God planned for the molestation of all the children that have suffered this evil.

 

            Yeeeep. Now you’re twitching a bit. To think that God would plan such evilness to occur is distasteful to the human ego. How dare God plan for such bad things to happen to good people! How dare God plan for sin to happen?!?

 

            But think about this: if God’s plan was for sin not to happen, than its occurrence demonstrates that God’s purpose can, and was, thwarted. If God’s plan was for sin not to happen, than God cannot do as He pleases, and He cannot have His will with His creation. So like it or not, the Biblical truth is that God’s plan is being carried out to fruition, and there is nothing happening on earth that God is not in control over.

 

            “So how, then, can God not be pleased with sin, if His plan was for the sin to happen in the first place?”

 

            This question was raised to me, and rightfully so. After all, if everything that happens, to include evil, is under God’s control and part of His plan, how could He both be happy to have it happen and yet angry and unhappy about it happening?

 

            And the answer to that question is simple. Remember my weight loss blurb? I don’t enjoy a lot of what I’ve done the last three weeks, but I did it because my desire was to accomplish my purpose, which was to lose weight. In that same manner, God has a plan for the human race that has an end goal in mind, and God is pleased to allow evil in the accomplishment of said plan. Remember when Joseph’s brothers beat him, threw him into a pit, and sold them into slavery? All of these actions were sinful and evil, yet Joseph himself recognized that they “meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” How could that sin possible be good??

 

            This is how: “God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

 

            Get that? God’s plan to save His nation included the sins that Joseph’s brothers committed. Even in their rebellion against God, God was pleased to allow such rebellion because through it He would bring glory and honor to His name in the saving of His people.

 

            This one will fry your brain too: Not allow is God pleased to use “bad” ingredients to make a great cake, sometimes He causes the ingredient to go bad in the first place. Does this make God the author of sin? No. Does it mean that God makes people sin against their will? No. Does it mean that God actively tries to convince a person to sin? No. All of these concepts are unbiblical.

 

            How, then, does God cause sin to occur without His being responsible for it? How does all of this make sense in passages like Exodus fourteen where God says, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” Reread that, if you need to. God clearly says that it is He who will cause Pharaoh to continue to defy God and chase the Israelites, and in the end God killed Pharaoh to bring glory to Himself.

 

            But…over in Exodus 8:15 we see Pharaoh hardening his own heart, though chapters before we see God explaining that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart. Who hardened what first? How is God not sinful in causing Pharaoh’s sin?

 

            Well, it works like this. If I wanted to appear more muscular, how can I accomplish this? There are two answers: one, I can work out more. The more I lift, the bigger the muscles grow, therefore I will appear more muscular. There’s another way, though. I can lose the fat that is currently obscuring my pre-existing muscles. In losing the covering, I would indeed appear more muscular. So we see that I don’t have to add anything to appear stronger- all I need to do is pull back the covers, so to speak.

 

            It’s the same way with sin. As we all know, men are evil. It’s who we are. We’re born this way. The question is, why aren’t we all “as evil” as Hitler? What prevents us from enjoying total chaos as we seek total hedonism? God is why, and it’s only by His grace that we’re not all as evil-acting as we could be. God prevented Abimelech from sinning- I have no doubts that He quite often prevents other sins from occurring.

 

            But what if God had not intervened with Abimelech’s plan to sleep with Abraham’s wife Sarah, what would have occurred? The sin. The point that I’m driving circles around in getting to is this: all that is necessary for God to cause sin is to remove His grace from any given sinner and give them over to the desires of their own flesh. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in the manner that He allowed Pharaoh’s evil heart to run its wicked course. He didn’t have to make Pharaoh rebel against Him- Pharaoh was going to do that of His own accord.

 

            Now here’s the kicker. God could have so flooded Pharaoh with grace so as to cause Pharaoh to love him and obey Him, but that was not God’s plan. God’s plan was to “get glory over Pharaoh and his host.” God’s plan included the willful rebellion of Pharoah, a willful rebellion brought about by God’s inactive hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Such sin served God’s purposes. Does this mean that God reveled in Pharaoh’s sin? No. But it does mean that God intended it to happen, willingly allowed it to happen, and rightfully enacted His wrath against Pharaoh for his willful disobedience.

 

            So why does God allow evil? Because in the greater scheme, it is best to work out this way. Why does God allow bad things to happen to His children? Because we know that all things work together for good to those that love God- to those who are called according to His purpose. Why does God allow sin? Because He works all things according to the purpose of His will. Why does God allow the rebellion of sinful beings? Because the Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

 

            What then do you prefer? A God who, though trying His best, is often foiled in His attempts to govern human action? A God who, try as He might, simply cannot obtain the end result He would like to? Or would you rather worship a God who in sovereign over all things, even those things which He hates, because everything that happens is happening because it is part of His master plan, a plan which no one can foil? I don’t know about you, but I sleep better at night knowing that God is still in charge, that Jesus is still Lord over all creation. This is God we’re talking about.

 

            An internet search on theodicy would lead you to many resources, some good and some bad. There are far more brilliant writers than I who do a vastly better treatment of the subject than I do on this issue. I hope, though, that you can see now how God’s omnibenevolence, omniscience, and omnipotence is completely compatible with the existence and occurrence of sin in the world.

The Prince of Preachers

Posted: May 19, 2011 in Theologababble

[The Following is a Paper Written for School]

 

 

Introduction

            Throughout church history, there have been many men and women that are set apart from their peers, indeed even set apart from the majority the Christians throughout the ages. Men like the Wesley brothers, George Whitefield, Augustine of Hippo, Billy Sunday, John Piper, John Calvin, and Martin Luther are among such notables. In the nineteenth century, one ofEngland’s brightest lights was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The purpose of this paper is to present a brief overview of the life, ministry, theology, and accomplishments of Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter One

The Life of Charles Spurgeon

            Charles Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834 in Kelveden,England. The son of a minister, Spurgeon was the first of seventeen children and lived a rather simple life in both Kelvedon and Stambourne. When his father moved away to work as a bookkeeper as well as a pastor for a small congregation, Spurgeon stayed with his grandfather. Raised as an evangelical, Spurgeon began to preach even before his own conversion, which came about in a remarkable way.

            Burdened under the weight of his sin, Spurgeon began to visit various places of worship, hoping to find the answers to his problems. One Sunday in the middle of a snowstorm, Spurgeon turned into a Primitive Methodist Church, at the behest of his mother. Though the normal minister was not in attendance, a speaker from the crowd finally went into the pulpit to preach. According to J.C. Carlile, “at least three persons would claim to be that man.”[1] Nonetheless, Spurgeon maintained the belief that the mystery speaker was a local member of the congregation. The theme of the sermon that night was “looking unto Jesus Christ”, and Spurgeon later records that he felt as though the preacher was staring directly at him, imploring him to come to Christ. Spurgeon did that night, and God converted him.

            Spurgeon also received his call to the ministry in the same experience, and though he did not receive instant assurance, he began to preach the good news of his conversion to his friends. Thus began his ministry as a preacher.

Chapter Two

The Ministry of Charles Spurgeon

            Charles Spurgeon had received a good childhood education and excelled at his work from an early age. According to Carlile, Spurgeon was even soon teaching pupils older than himself.[2] When Spurgeon went to university, he quickly saw how hard it was for poor people to receive a good education. As a good Puritan, he also disliked many of the social aspects of university life at Cambridge. As a result, Spurgeon decided after three years to form his own school and soon thereafter men of varying ages from all over London flocked to attend his school. History shows that many thousands of students ended up attending Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College.[3]

            Spurgeon started his ministry as a preacher while he was at Cambridge, not yet even sixteen years of age. Ironically, Spurgeon didn’t even consider himself as being prepared for a life of ministry. Rather, he believed that it was the privilege and duty of the layman to give testimony of God’s saving grace in their life. Nonetheless, Spurgeon grew increasingly popular and at the young age of seventeen took the position as pastor of a small congregation in Waterbeach. Two years later, in 1853, Spurgeon found himself invited to fill the pulpit at New Park Street Chapel, in London.

            After preaching to the congregation there, Spurgeon was invited to preach at the church for a period of six months. He countered with an offer to preach for a probationary period of three months, but only if he could spend four more weeks ministering to his congregation back at Waterbeach. The people of New Park Street Chapel agreed, and before long Spurgeon accepted a permanent position in the pastorate of New Park Street Chapel. It was then that he “took the world by storm.”[4]

            Shortly after beginning his ministry at New Park Street Chapel, Spurgeon was forced to attempt an expansion of the building to accommodate the ever-growing congregation. The church began to meet in the Exeter Hall while renovations occurred at New Park, but to Spurgeon’s dismay, the newly finished New Part Street Chapel was still too small for the church. Thus, in June of 1856, Spurgeon and the church rehired Exeter Hall and worshipped there until October of 1856, when Spurgeon was to preach for the first time at the Surrey Music Hall- their new place of worship.

            With more than 10,000 people packed in the Hall and another 10,000 jammed outside, the service began. Tragically, a false cry of “Fire!” caused a mass panic in which seven individuals were killed. This event cast Spurgeon into a depression from which he never fully emerged.[5] Oddly enough, this event actually served to increase Spurgeon’s popularity and the crowds continued to grow, prompting Spurgeon to begin a building project. In March of 1861, the Metropolitan Tabernacle was completed, seating an average of 5,000 people in both the Sunday evening service as well as the Sunday morning one. This would be Spurgeon’s home for the rest of his pastoral ministry.

Chapter Three

The Theology of Charles Spurgeon

            Moderate controversy exists even today over the theology of this Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon. More to the point, the fight ensues over whether or not Spurgeon was a Calvinist, adhering to the Reformed doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. One need but briefly consult an internet search engine to discover the wide range of opinions floating around in reference to what Spurgeon did and did not believe. Nevertheless, this writer feels that no one is better as establishing Spurgeon’s theology than Spurgeon himself.

            In his treatise A Defense of Calvinism, Spurgeon makes the following statements:

             I have my own Private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.[6]

            As if this assertion were not clear enough, Spurgeon says later in the same document, “there is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.”[7]

            Spurgeon’s comments being what they are, this writer finds it hard to believe that historians, theologians, or laymen alike find room in the writings and sermons of Spurgeon to give serious debate as to whether or not Spurgeon was indeed a Calvinist. Spurgeon’s very own admission affirms that he was.

Chapter Four

The Accomplishments of Charles Spurgeon

            As already noted, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was an extremely gifted orator, having such a way with words that he was called “The Prince of Preachers”. He was also a husband and the father of twin boys. A prolific writer, Spurgeon spent many hours of the day writing for his publication The Sword and the Trowel, as well as other pieces. It is estimated that in his life time, Spurgeon produced over 49 volumes of material, to include a manual for pastors.

            Perhaps his biggest accomplishment, in the opinion of this writer, was his unyielding stance in what came to be known as the Downgrade Controversy from 1887 to 1892. As the times began to change and heavy criticism began to fall upon the teachings of God’s Word, Spurgeon could no longer withhold himself from the fray. Not fighting specifically as a Baptist, or any sort of denominationalist, for that matter, Spurgeon voiced his three biggest grievances: when plenary inspiration is denied, the authority of Scripture is undermined. Secondly, since the vicarious death of Christ was not being preached as it should be, the way of salvation is not being known. Finally, a decrease in the teachings of the doctrine of future punishment was weakening motives for godly living.[8]

            Spurgeon’s convictions led him to use The Sword and Trowel as a platform from which he could preach out against the ideals, doctrines, and practices of the Baptist Union. Surprisingly, Spurgeon did not receive as much support for his stance as he perhaps expected. As a result, he soon found himself isolated, in failing health, and somewhat humiliated. After this, Spurgeon’s health declined rapidly and he suffered from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease. Finally on January 31, 1892, Spurgeon went home to be with the Lord. His funeral procession was two miles long, and over 100,000 people participated in the memorial services.[9]

Conclusion

 

            Charles Haddon Spurgeon left his mark on history, but it wasn’t because he cared about making a name for himself or becoming successful. Spurgeon’s life shined brightly because he dedicated his life to serving his Lord as a pastor to the Lord’s people. Whether by ministering personally, from the pulpit, or from behind his pen and paper, Spurgeon devoted his entire life to service. As a result, thousands of souls were converted, pastors and ministers were trained, and still to this day Christians are able to learn from and emulate Spurgeon. He truly was a giant of the faith, and the example he set is indeed a great one to follow.

Bibliography

Carlile, J.C. Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator. Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 1995.

Day, Richard E. The Shadow of the Broad Brim. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1934.

Drummond, Lewis. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers.Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1992.

Spurgeon, Charles H. A Defense of Calvinism. Accessed from http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis .htm on April 3, 2009


     [1] J.C. Carlile, Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator [Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 1995], 29.

     [2] J.C. Carlile, Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator [Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 1995], 38.

     [3] Ibid., 42.

     [4] Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications,  1992], 13.

     [5] Richard Day, The Shadow of the Broad Brim [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1934], 96.

     [6] Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism, accessed from http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm on April 3, 2009.

     [7] Ibid.

     [8] J.C. Carlile, Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator [Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 1995], 165.

     [9] J.C. Carlile, Charles Spurgeon: The Great Orator [Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 1995], 11.

 

[The Following is a Paper Written in School]

Introduction

            Throughout the past 2000 years of church history, records show that there have always existed theological arguments between believers in Christ. Some of these disagreements stem from an inability to see eye to eye philosophically with one another. Other disagreements arise from different interpretations of relatively clear passage of Scripture. Still other disagreements result from differing interpretations of seemingly confusing and ambiguous passages of Scripture.

            One of the most prominent debates that has existed for well over 1000 years, indeed one that even today Time Magazine claims is changing the world, is the infamous issue of Calvinism versus Arminianism.[1] Dating back in history to as early as Augustine of Hippo, who died in AD 430, this argument has revolved around soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation. Or as Alan Sell states with admitted crudity, “in the work of salvation, does God need man’s help?” is one way to view the question.[2]

             What was popularized as “Augustine versus Pelagius” shifted into “Calvinism versus Arminianism” and is morphing even now into “Neo-Calvinism versus Semi-Pelagianism”. As one might guess, learning the ins and outs of the theology of Arminianism can be increasingly difficult as the various theological camps that purport his theology often differ among themselves. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to briefly explore the rise of Arminianism, to include a look at the life and ministry of Jakob Harmenszoon, also known by the Anglicanized name Jacob Arminius. This paper will explore the development, doctrines, and systematization of this theology, as well as the theological response to it and its present day impact on Christendom. 

Chapter One

The Life of Jacob Arminius

            Jacob Arminius was born on October 10, 1560 in Oudewater, Holland. He was raised in a family belonging to the “middle rank of life”[3], primarily by his mother, as his father died while Arminius was young. He had older siblings, as well, but they were all killed in the Oudewater massacre of 1575, along with his mother. Up until that point, Arminius was studying in Utrecht, supposed by some to be studying at the famous St. Jerome School.[4] Nonetheless, in 1575 Arminius was taken toMarburg by Rudolphus Snellius and placed in the university by 1576.

            It was there at the University of Leidenthat Jacob Arminius studied mathematics, logic and theology, as well as Hebrew.[5] He completed his studies in 1581 after establishing himself as a brilliant scholar. Because of his tender age of twenty-two, Arminius found himself too young for pastoral duties and thus pursued further studies in Geneva,Switzerland, underneath Theodore Beza, who was the head of the academy.

            Things did not run smoothly for young Arminius in Geneva, as his prior background in logic soon put him at odds with his professors. It was because of these clashes that Arminius decided to leave Geneva for a time and thus he went to Basel, where he spent much time studying and defending his theology. When Arminius was about to return to Geneva, he was offered the title of “Doctor”, but Arminius believed himself too young to bring honor to the title and thus declined it. He was about twenty-five at the time.

            Arminius returned to the academy in Geneva for the second time in 1584, where a difference in his demeanor was noticed immediately. In fact, Arminius and Beza got along so well that many scholars have come to believe that Arminius was indeed a Calvinist at this point of his life.[6] It was in Geneva that Arminius cultivated friendships, not only with men that would in the future dissent from the teachings of Beza, but also with men who would later condemn his theology. In 1586, Arminius left his regular studies in Geneva and soon went to Amsterdam to begin his pastoral ministry.

            Jacob Arminius went to Amsterdam in 1587, where his theological productivity “reached its peak” during his fifteen years of service[7]. It was also there that he married Lijsbet Reael in 1590. His ministry began at the Old Church in 1588 when he first began to preach as a proponent, or preacher on trial.[8] Finally in August of 1588, Arminius was ordained and called to the full pastorate of the Old Church.

            Arminius’ services were held in either one of two buildings: the New Church, or the Old Church. During his time, the pulpit was still in use, though perhaps not in the fashion one might expect in a twenty-first century American culture. Rather in his day, the pulpit was surrounded by benches for the church deacons and other ministers who were not preaching. This was done not only as an example to the congregation, but also to allow said deacons and ministers to keep an eye on the service proceedings.[9] There were also special benches for the city officials, and the rest of the congregation stood or sat beyond the reserved seats.

            Theological dispute began sometime about 1591 as the question of predestination arose in Arminius’ circles. It was then that Arminius began to carefully examine the doctrine, so as to determine where he himself stood on the issue. The doctrines of free will, election, and predestination began to resurface over the next few years, especially as Arminius began to study and preach from Romans chapter eight. Arminius continued to form his theology as he pastored there in Amsterdam.

            In 1602, Arminius accepted the call to minister in Leiden, about thirty miles from Amsterdam. He continued in his ministry there while raising his twelve children with his wife. After battling sickness and illness for years, Jacob Arminius died on October 19, 1609.

Chapter Two

The Theology of Jacob Arminius

             Although Jacob Arminius studied under Beza and was indeed a Dutch Reformed minister, it did not take him long to postulate Biblical doctrines that were the antithesis of classical reformation theology. Because a complete overview of Arminius’ theology would go beyond the scope of this paper, this writer will attempt to map out his theology as it contrasts with so-called Calvinism.

            Interesting enough, Arminius himself affirms that there is no free will within a sinner. This idea goes hand in hand with the doctrine of Total Depravity, a doctrine held firmly by those of the Reformed persuasion. However, Arminius’ definition of the doctrine is altered, as he believed that God draws and enables all men to choose whether or not to trust in the work of His Son Jesus Christ. At this point, even after the so-called drawing by God, men are able to resist the Holy Spirit. While this pays homage to the idea of fairness, this writer cannot help but think that this doctrine makes man appear to be stronger than God, since God is apparently unsuccessful in His efforts to effectively draw a sinner to Himself. Arminius would also then be left trying to explain what purpose is served in God attempting to draw someone whom He knows He will have no success with. Regardless, Arminius seeks to resolve the doctrine of the depravity of man by allowing for God’s prevenient grace, which supposedly enables all men to exercise a truly free will. Peterson and Williams, however, are quick to point out that according to John 6:44, a universal drawing would result in a universal salvation, since Christ promises to raise all those drawn to him.[10]

            If Arminius was correct in that God enables all men to freely respond positively to the Gospel, the next logical step in his theology would be a universal offering of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, on behalf of all persons who would ever live. This is the idea of an unlimited atonement. This writer would like to point out a couple of key issues in this doctrine. The first is simply this- if God’s wrath upon the sins of all men were satisfied at the Cross when Jesus suffered under the wrath of His Father, then is God not exacting a double payment from sinners who die in unbelief and suffer an eternity in Hell? Furthermore, could God be truly considered propitiated if He is still pouring out wrath upon sinners for eternity in the Lake of Fire? Arminius does not address these questions, but is content to merely iterate that Christ’s atonement was for all men, provided that men believe in it. Indeed, Arminius clearly believed that God’s justice was satisfied, but only upon the elect, or those choosing to appropriate the atoning work of Christ through faith.

             If God enables all men to believe the Gospel, and Jesus died for the sins of all men, it continues to make no sense that God would have to pick and choose for Himself certain sinners for salvation. According to Arminius, though God draws and enables all men, He forces no one to choose Him. Thus, God’s grace can be effectively resisted by men until they at last perish and go to Hell. This writer cannot help but think that this doctrine portrays an impotent God who is wringing His hands and wishing desperately that more men would choose Him, though He will not do whatever necessary to ensure that it happens. Bruce Reichenbach circumvents this issue by advocating a limitation to God’s sovereignty enacted by God Himself, in order to allow His creation to have a “free will” and make “free” decisions.[11] Though this sounds “fair”, one needs to remember that “fair” would be giving all men the kind of life that would result in a decision made for Christ. Then again, proponents of the idea of God limiting His sovereignty may not believe Him to be capable of such orchestration.

            At this point in his theology, Arminius has determined that God’s election of some men to salvation is based upon God’s foreknowledge, in that God is able to foresee the faith of certain men, though of course the decision to exercise said faith was solely at the behest of said individual, and not a direct result of God sovereignly moving upon their heart. This raises an interesting topic of discussion in terms of missions and God’s foreknowledge.

            One of the key issues of contention in regards to Calvinism and Arminianism is the idea of Christians playing a role in the salvation of sinners. The Arminian would argue that if we do not get the Gospel to the lost and dying, they can never hear the Gospel and potentially make their decision for Christ. The hyper-Calvinist, on the other hand, would insist that human participation is unnecessary, as God is able to save whom He wants without any help from us. The interesting point is that Arminians firmly believe in conditional election- that God’s election of sinners, occurring before the very foundation of the earth, is based upon their foreseen faith. Thus, there are ultimately two classes of men walking the earth this very second- those who are elect, and those who are not. This is a reality, regardless of what one believes the basis to have been for God’s electing action.

            If there are these two groups, then how is it possible for our own actions to result in the damnation of someone who would have been saved, had we just acted differently on our own part? Is it possible for God to elect someone who goes to Hell? What was that election based upon- foreknowledge? Foreknowledge of what? It couldn’t have been foreseen faith, as said individual obviously had no faith, otherwise they would have been saved. The only alternatives to this idea would be elevating the idea of Open-Theism, or doing away completely with the doctrine of election. Left in the hands of Arminius, he would have much trouble refuting the logic of hyper-Calvinists.

            Another point left unaddressed in this issue is the origin of faith. Obviously it is impossible for a person to believe in Christ if they have no faith. From whence does this faith come? If it is a divine gift from God given only to those who are saved, how is this any more exclusive than sovereign grace? If faith is given to all men, why do so few exercise it? Are some men less blinded by sin? Arminius would argue that God enables all men equally, yet he is unable to explain how men certainly do not respond equally once they are enabled to trust in Christ.

            This raises the issue, then, of what it means for someone to be predestined. Arminius believed that the passages that refer to predestination are in actuality referring to God’s predestination of the elect to eternal life- not specifically to salvation. In other words, God predestines no one to be saved, but He does pre-determine that all those who will be saved will spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

            Arminius had his doubts about the security of the believer, though he didn’t actually postulate a position advocating the idea of falling from grace, or losing one’s salvation. Rather, he let Scripture speak for itself as the Word of God warns believers to remain in the faith. Logically speaking, it makes little sense for God to warn His people against something impossible to occur, thus God’s warning demonstrates the actuality of falling from grace. The validity of said logic is of course heavily scrutinized by Calvinists and non-Arminians alike. Scholars like Wayne Grudem is among those that make the argument that warning passages are not intended for true believers, but rather those who have heard and understood the Gospel, yet had not acted upon it.[12] Nevertheless, eternal security was not as big an issue with Arminius as election and predestination.

Chapter Three

The Followers of Jacob Arminius

            Ironically enough, the term “Arminianism” did not come into vogue until shortly after Arminius’ death in 1609. A group of Arminius’ followers known as the Remonstrants codified the theology of Arminius into five main points thus referred to as the Remonstrance. These five points were as follows:

Article I – That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.

Article II – That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Article III – That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: “Without me ye can do nothing.”

Article IV – That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of any good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting; awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts , and elsewhere in many places.

Article V – That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds.[13]

            As one may suppose, the Remonstrants created quite a stir when they presented these articles to the Reformed church in Holland. Never before had there been so clearly articulated a disagreement with Reformed theology. The Reformed churches in the Netherlands agreed to convene in what is now known as the Synod of Dort, where they would scripturally examine the doctrines of Arminius and the Remonstrants. This meeting began on November 13, 1618, and the final meeting occurred on May 19, 1619. The decision of the council would be one of the biggest made in the history of the Church.

Chapter Four

The Response to Arminianism

            In 1619 the Synod of Dort not only condemned the Remonstrance, but the Synod formulated five counter-points to Arminian theology. Those points can be summed up as follows: total depravity, teaching that men are completely dead spiritually and radically depraved in their nature, making it impossible respond to God apart from divine stimulation. Unconditional election, teaching that because of man’s inability to seek God or respond positively to Him, God must elect a sinner to salvation based not upon their own merit or foreseen action, but because of God’s own purposes for His own glory. The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that because Jesus knew who the elect were, their sins and their sins alone He bore on the Cross 2000 years ago. Those not of the elect had no atonement for their sins. Irresistible grace teaches that the Holy Spirit is able to successfully affect a work of grace on a sinner and thus ensure that they are brought to faith and saved. Finally, perseverance of the saints teaches that because God elected men to salvation, and Christ redeemed them upon the Cross, and the Holy Spirit convicted and regenerated their heart, salvation is all of the Lord’s doing and thusly does not depend upon human effort to maintain.  These five points are easily remembered by the infamous TULIP acronym.

            The Synod of Dort not only used logic to build their case against Arminianism and the Remonstrants, but they also incorporated much Scripture into the doctrinal formulation. Granted, non-Calvinists often accuse Calvinists of proof-texting doctrine or wrangling Scripture, but like it or not, the Synod of Dort was able to use God’s Word to refute the theology of Arminius.

Chapter Five

The Aftershocks of Arminianism

            After the decisions of the Synod of Dort, the Church was thrown into turmoil as two factions clearly emerged in seventeenth century Europe-the Arminians and the Calvinists. Ironically enough, both movements received their names and trademark doctrines after the men for whom they were named had died. Severely complicating matters was the fact that both systems of soteriology can be supported with Scripture, all the way from the depravity and nature of fallen men, to the contradicting beliefs of the security of the believer, or the lack thereof.

            The worldview inherent with either of these theological systems began to shape entire denominations. As John Knox took to Scotland the doctrines he had learned from Calvin, Presbyterianism sprang forth with Calvin’s doctrine at its heart. Conversly, John Wesley advocated Arminian theology and left behind followers who came to form the Methodist denomination, largely Arminian in their own theology. Within the Baptist denomination one can find churches that teach five-point Arminianism, five-point Calvinism, and any combination of the two that one can think of. 

Conclusion

            Theologians and laymen alike have debated predestination and election as far back as history reveals, but nowhere did the issue get more intense than in Holland in the early seventeenth century. After Jacob Arminius passed away, his doctrines were systematized into a neat little system known today as Arminianism. The Reformed response those these doctrines came to be known as Calvinism, whose counter-doctrines are easily remembered by the acronym TULIP.

            Arminianism played a role in shaping denominations, and to this day its tentacles can be found in many denominations that have yet to take an official stance on their soteriology. History has shown how God blessed the ministries of Arminians, such as the Wesley brothers, and God has also shown favor to Calvinists who are radically opposed to the doctrines postulated by Arminius, such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.

            The question remains, then, as to which side of the argument is right. Whose theology is Biblical- Calvin’s, or Arminius’? How are we to interact with people disagreeing with our own understanding of Scripture? Is it possible to know beyond all doubt how salvation works? Will we ever be able to cross all our t’s and dot all of our i’s?

            These are just a few of the questions that plague students of God’s Word. This writer has come to learn through seminary that we will never stop encountering people who see things differently than we do. When that event comes, two options will arise- we can bicker and argue about whose theology is correct and whose is wrong, or we can join together and do what Christ commanded us to- to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel to every creature.

Bibliography

 

Bangs, Carl. Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971.

Basinger, David, and Randall Basinger, eds. Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom.Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

Biema, David V. “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” Time Magazine, 16 March 2009. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884779_ 1884782_ 1884760,00.html [accessed April 5, 2009].

Peterson, Robert A., and Michael D. Williams. Why I am Not an Arminian.Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2004.

Schaff, Phillip. The Creeds of Christendom.Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

Schreiner, Thomas R., and Bruce A. Ware, eds. Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace.Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995.

Sell, Alan. The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism, and Salvation.West Sussex: H.E. Walter, LTD, 1982.


     [1] David Biema, “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” Time Magazine, 16 March 2009. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884779_1884782_1884760,00.html [accessed April 5, 2009].

     [2] Alan Sell, The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism, and Salvation [West Sussex: H.E. Walter, LTD, 1982].

     [3] Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971], 7.

     [4] Ibid., 34.

     [5] Ibid., 49.

     [6] Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971], 74.

     [7] Ibid., 83.

     [8] Ibid., 113.

     [9] Ibid., 126.

     [10] Robert Peterson and Michael Williams, Why I am Not an Arminian [Downers Grove:IVP Books, 2004], 167.

     [11] David Basinger and Randall Basinger, eds, Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986], 106.

     [12] Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware, eds, Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995], 179.

     [13] Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Volume Three [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996], 545.

Larry Moyer over at Church Leaders has a great answer to this question.

The Robbing of God

Posted: May 11, 2011 in Theologababble

Here is an excellent article from Greg Stier over at www.churchleaders.com.

On the Matter of Elders

Posted: May 11, 2011 in Theologababble

[The following is a paper written for school.]

     A brief perusal of various denominations’ ecclesiastical polity would quickly reveal the diversity with which different congregations are governed. Three examples of such would include an episcopal polity, in which the congregation is ruled by a hierarchy of overseers, a presbyterian polity, in which the congregation is ruled by a hierarchy of councils, and what is known as a congregational polity, in which the congregation is self-governing.

     Even within a congregational denomination such as the Southern Baptist Convention, which boasts a membership of over 16 million persons,[1] differences often arise over the polity of a local church. Various issues that are debated within the setting of a congregational church would include areas revolving around the presbuteros, or the elder of the church. Another term for this position of leadership within the local church is episkopos, or overseer. As the Apostle Paul uses both terms synonymously for the same group,[2] this writer will not differentiate between the two terms.[3] One such question concerning congregational polity is whether or not the elder, commonly referred to as pastor, is a gift from the Holy Spirit or an office within the local church.[4] Also argued is whether or not the role of elder should be filled by both men and women, or solely men.[5]

     Yet another issue, and indeed the focus of this paper, concerns the number of elders serving within a single congregation.[6] Are local churches to be led by a single governing authority, as some theologians teach? Or are they to be led by a plurality of elders, as others would argue?[7] Making an argument for a single elder-led church, Strong refers to the “angel of the church” found in Revelation chapters two and three as “best interpreted as meaning the pastor of the church; and, if this be correct, it is clear that each church had, not many pastors, but one.”[8] Conversely, Piper has no qualms in stating that, “All New Testament churches had elders.”[9] Could both sides of the debate be right? The purpose of this paper is to determine whether the Bible teaches the validity of both single elder-led churches as well as plural elder-led churches, or if only one model is indeed biblical. 

CHAPTER TWO

 HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ISSUE OF CHURCH LEADERSHIP?

      As with any and all areas of debate within Christendom, one must determine whether or not the debated issues are in actuality of vast importance. While some areas are of minor importance, such as the preferred music incorporated within a worship service, other areas are of vast importance and have damnable consequences, such as whether or not a person believes in the deity of Christ. While perhaps not considered a core doctrine of Christianity, ecclesiological issues are nonetheless vital to the structure of the church.

 Proper Church Leadership is Important on a Practical Level

     As one might expect, there are several important reasons why such an issue must be resolved. On a practical level, having a better understanding of the intended functionality of the New Testament church increases the effectiveness with which said church will function. If God designed the church to be led by a single elder, one can imagine the chaos and confusion that would ensue if a group of six or seven elders attempted to lead a congregation. Conversely, if the structure of the church was such that God deemed it necessary to appoint a committee of leaders over it, one can easily envision the inefficiency that would result were one person to attempt sole leadership over that congregation. Thus, for the church to function most efficiently in the capacity that God intended for it to, it must be led in the manner which God prescribed for it.  

 Proper Church Leadership is Important on a Theological Level

     Hammett well states that this issue is important to settle so that one may see “which pattern seems most in keeping with Scripture.”[10] In other words, this issue needs to be figured out so that churches can be assured that they are operating in the most biblical manner possible. The efficiency and effectiveness of a local congregation can never be elevated above the scriptural mandates that God has given such a congregation.

     The question may also be raised on whether or not the issue of church leadership should be divisive. Biblical separation from apostasy and heresy is necessary and healthy, but many theologians do not find differences in church leadership to be warrants for separation. Says Hammett, “a degree of diversity [on the issue of elders] may be advisable.”[11]

CHAPTER THREE

CONCERNING PLURAL ELDER-LED CHURCHES

     Though certainly not normative in Baptist circles,[12] the Bible clearly gives many examples of churches that were led by a plurality of elders. This chapter will seek to provide biblical documentation concerning a plurality of elders, along with dissenting opinions from proponents of single elder-led churches. Also examined will be the advantages and disadvantages of employing a multiple-elder leadership team.

Biblical Support for Plural Eldership

     Biblical evidence for a plurality of elders within a local New Testament church can be found first in the book of Acts as the Luke makes references to “the elders”[13] in Judea. The word being translated is presbyteros; a group of men defined by MacArthur as “a plurality of godly men responsible to lead the church”.[14] These are the pastors of the church in Jerusalem and other cities.

    Also evidencing a plurality of elders within the Jerusalem church is Acts 15:2, where Luke mentions Paul, Barnabas, and others “[going] to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders.” Yet another reference can be found in verse four of the same chapter, as well as several other locations in the New Testament.[15] As Hammett points out, “when one looks at the verses containing the words elder, overseer, and pastor, a consistent pattern of plurality emerges.[16]

Dissention Pertaining to Plural Eldership 

    Not everyone is in agreement that these passages teach a prescriptive pattern of plural eldership, though. Strong believed that the presence of multiple elders within some of the churches in the New Testament was due more to the size and structure of the church, and that a plurality of elders was not the case in every given congregation. Says Strong, “In certain of the New Testament churches there appears to have been a plurality of elders…[but] the New Testament example…does not require a plural eldership in every case.”[17] Since the Bible does not specifically state that each and every local church must be led by more than one individual, Strong finds it reasonable to believe that no church has to be led by more than one person.

    Another way in which to understand the New Testament also involves the structure of the church. Though the church in a large city considered itself all one church, due to its large size it was forced to meet in cell groups, with each group having its own leader, or elder. Thus, the individual churches would have one elder, creating a multiplicity of elders within the overall church of that city with one ultimate elder over all the smaller congregations within the city.

Advantages to Plural Eldership 

   There are several advantages to having a plurality of leadership. Grudem does well to point out that “the strength of this system of government is seen in the fact that the pastor does not have authority on his own over the congregation, but that authority belongs collectively to the entire group of elders.”[18] This system of checks and balances would certainly be beneficial to a church whose pastor is trying to lead them down an undesirable path.

    Along those same lines is the security of a staff member. Generally, a sole pastor has hiring and firing discretion, whereas an elder board must vote and be in agreement over a staff member’s hiring or termination. Thus, the staff member has little fear of losing their job due to having a personality clash with but one out of many elders, whereas a lack of connection between a staff member and a sole pastor may quickly lead to unemployment for said staff member.

Disadvantages to Plural Eldership 

    Disadvantages are easy to spot within the context of a plural eldership. One disadvantage would be the lack of growth as a result of a lack of unity among those serving as elders. It is entirely possible to stifle the function of a church because of poor leadership hampering potentially good leaders among the elders. In fact, Grudem claims that some modern literature asserts that “churches need a strong single pastor in order to grow rapidly.”[19]

    Another potential issue within this model is the delegation of authority and responsibility. Churches with multiple elders must determine who will be preaching, handing administrative details, visitation, etc. A lack of cohesion in these areas may also hamper the functionality of the church.

CHAPTER FOUR 

CONCERNING SINGLE ELDER-LED CHURCHES

    As the previous chapter revealed, not all theologians are satisfied that the Bible teaches a plural eldership. They are convinced that a single elder rule is normative for the church. This chapter will seek to provide biblical documentation concerning a single of elder, along with dissenting opinions from proponents of plural elder-led churches. Also examined will be the advantages and disadvantages of employing single elder leadership.

Biblical Support for Single Eldership

    The Bible is not without its own passages which seem to indicate sole leadership within a church. Just as the book of Acts references churches with plural elders, so also it mentions in chapter twelve James being head over the church in Jerusalem.[20] Therefore, the conclusion drawn is that if James (as an individual) was head of the church in Jerusalem, likewise today churches can elect a sole leader to oversee them.

    Another piece of biblical evidence of sole eldership may be found in the book of Revelation, as Strong points out that, “[the angel of the church] is best interpreted as meaning the pastor of the church.”[21] Since those churches had only one pastor, it would stand to reason that today’s churches should have only one pastor. Some theologians such as Paige Patterson believe the church’s leadership to be modeled after the Old Testament,[22] where God clearly raises sole individuals to lead His people.  

Dissention Pertaining to Single Eldership

    Despite Strong’s attempts to support having a sole leader, critics are quick to point out that Luke references plural elders in Jerusalem,[23] which would weaken the argument that James was the sole overseer of that church. Additionally, Grudem claims that Strong’s argument from Revelation is “rather weak evidence for single elders.”[24] Since the church at Ephesus was shown to have more than one elder,[25] Grudem dismisses the idea of the “angels of the church” being the sole pastors of said churches, of which one was the church at Ephesus.

    Concerning the claims by some that church growth is only possible under the leadership of a sole individual, Grudem gives three reasons why such arguments are invalid. First, just because a single pastor is capable of producing a large church does not mean that growth under a plurality of elders is impossible. Secondly, large churches exist with a plurality of elders, which clearly shows the error in the argument, particularly if said church had never previously implemented single-elder leadership. Lastly, churches with a plurality of elders are still capable of having elders within the church who can provide vision and leadership.[26] Thus, there is ample cause for one to reject the notion of sole elder leadership within a church.

Advantages to Single Eldership

    Argumentation aside, there are many benefits to having a single elder ruling a church. One such advantage would be the fluidity within the church function. Programs could be implemented and changes made without having to seek unity among other leaders. In a church where the members dutifully follow their pastor, change is easy to effect. Along those same lines, the church need not fear division among the leadership, which may cease progress and even lead to a split.

Disadvantages to Single Eldership 

   Conversely, there is perhaps a greater propensity to err where only one person is responsible for the guidance of a church. As Grudem notes, “a common practical problem with a ‘single elder’ system is either an excessive concentration of power in one person or excessive demands laid upon him.”[27] Pastors operating under their own authority are oftentimes tempted to become a dictator rather than an overseer. Furthermore, as a church grows in size it becomes increasingly difficult for a single individual to meet all of the pastoral needs of the church.

CHAPTER FIVE

CONCLUSION

    At the end of the day, the question remains: which is the correct model of church leadership- single elder rule or a plurality of elders? It is the contention of this writer that a clear-cut and dogmatic answer to this question does not exist. Just as arguments can be made both for and against implementing a plurality of elders within a church, so also can arguments be made both for and against a single elder overseeing a church.

    More importantly, though, is the fact that the Bible indicates both models, as has been demonstrated in this paper. Also important is the seemingly odd absence of specific commands for a church to adopt a single elder or a group of elders. Thus, when determining which route to take as a church, this writer is comfortable in echoing the sentiments of Hammett, who says, “a decision on this question is thus a matter of drawing out the implications of scripture, for there is no such command.”[28] Provided that a church is healthy, vibrant, and fulfilling the functions of the local church, it is thus a biblical church- be it led by one or by many.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Cowen, Gerald. “The Elder and His Ministry: From a Baptist Perspective.” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry 3, 1 (Spring 2005): 56-73.

Cowen, Gerald, ed. Who Runs the Church? Four Views on Church Government.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Dever, Mark. A Display of God’s Glory. 9 Marks, 2001.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Hammett, John S. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology.Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005.

Hoehner, Harold W. “Can a Woman Be a Pastor-Teacher?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50, no. 4 (2007): 761-71.

Lynch, John E. “Ordination of Women: Protestant Experience in Ecumenical Perspective.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies. 12.2 (Spring 1975): 173-197.

Macarthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible.Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1997.

Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology.Valley Forge,PA: Judson Press, 1907.

     [1] http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/default.asp [accessed July 14, 2010].

     [2] cf. Acts 20:17 and Acts 20:28.

     [3] Gerald Cowen broadly states, “On this subject, there is one fact on which there is broad agreement. Pastor, elder, and bishop are titles that all refer to the same office.” The Elder and His Ministry: From a Baptist Perspective.” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring 2005): 56.

     [4] Harold W. Hoehner, “Can a Woman Be a Pastor-Teacher?,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50, no. 4 (2007): 761-71.

     [5] John E. Lynch, “Ordination of Women: Protestant Experience in Ecumenical Perspective.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies. 12.2 (Spring 1975): 173-197.

     [6] John S. Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005], 178.

     [7] Mark Dever argues for this in A Display of God’s Glory [9 Marks, 2001].

     [8] Augustus H. Strong. Systematic Theology [Valley Forge,PA: Judson Press, 1907], 916.

     [9] John Piper. Biblical Eldership Part 1a.  http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Seminars/ 1586_Biblical_Eldership/#AllNTChurches [accessed July 15, 2010].

     [10] John S. Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005], 178.

     [11] Ibid., 181.

     [12] John S. Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005], 177.

     [13] Acts 11:30, NKJV.

     [14] John F. MacArthur. The MacArthur Study Bible [Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1997], 1655.

     [15] See also Acts 15:6, 22-23; 16:4; 21:18.

     [16] John S. Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005], 178

     [17] Augustus H. Strong. Systematic Theology [Valley Forge,PA: Judson Press, 1907], 916.

     [18] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], 933.

     [19] Ibid., 929.

     [20] Acts 12:17. See also Acts 21:18 and Gal. 2:12.

     [21] Augustus H. Strong. Systematic Theology [Valley Forge,PA: Judson Press, 1907], 916.

     [22] See Patterson’s contributing thoughts in Cowan, ed. Who Runs the Church? Four Views on Church Government [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004].

     [23] Acts 15:2

     [24] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], 931

     [25] Acts 20:17 

     [26] Grudem, 932.

     [27] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], 931.

     [28] John S. Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005], 181.

     [The following is a term paper that I wrote for school]

“On the Criterion for the J Document”   

    The Old Testament is a collection of ancient Hebrew writings that has been gathered into book form, beginning with Genesis and ending with the book of Malachi. Though debate exists among various groups concerning the exact canon and position of books within the whole[1], for the sake of simplicity this writer will use the term “Old Testament” to refer only to the Protestant canon of thirty-nine books.

    Not only does argument abound concerning which books belong in the Old Testament, but there is ample argument as to the dating and authorship of said books. This paper will focus solely upon the much-debated writings known as the Pentateuch; so-called from a Greek word that means “five books”.[1] Comprised of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch is also known as “The Law”, “The Five Books of Moses”, and “Torah”.[2]

    From the time of the Apostles throughout the eighteenth century, there was hardly any dispute about the fifteenth-century B.C. Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.[4] Not merely a historical tradition passed from generation to generation, Mosaic authorship is indeed confirmed throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. Though Moses never explicitly referred to himself as the author or signed his name at the conclusion of each book, internal evidence reveals him to indeed be the writer. As mentioned, this internal evidence spans over a thousand years, stretching from the Old Testament to the New Testament- even to the words of Christ.

            It is seen in Exodus that “Moses wrote all the words of the LORD.”[5] In the book of Joshua, the first book proceeding the Pentateuch, Joshua is recorded as “[writing] on the stone a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.”[6] Even Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, exhorts its readers to “remember the Law of Moses.”[7] As Josh McDowell has said, the verses “refer to an actual written ‘Law of Moses,’ not simply an oral tradition.”[8]

            Not only do many of the New Writers affirm Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch,[9] but Jesus Himself very clearly attributed the Pentateuch to Moses as He said, “if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”[10] As E.J. Young said, “the New Testament bears clear testimony to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. On this question our Lord and the Jews seem to have had no quarrel.”[11]

            As mentioned previously, Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was never seriously questioned until the eighteenth century. Although there was a small handful of theologians who had their doubts about the antiquity and authority of the Old Testament scriptures, their views were never popularized. This changed rapidly over the next three centuries.

         The Documentary Hypothesis began to grow around the mid-eighteenth century. It was then that Jean Astruc formulated the idea that Moses used differing sources to compile the book of Genesis. This idea was to lay the foundation for what has come to be known as the Documentary Theory of the Pentateuch. It also established one of the criteria for the Documentary Hypothesis- the difference in Divine names.

            Following in Astruc’s footsteps was Johann Eichhorn, who took all of Genesis and the first two chapters of Exodus and divided them into two parts: those where God is called Elohim and those where He is called Jehovah. Though at first believing Moses to have used multiple sources, he later embraced the idea that the Pentateuch came after Moses’ lifetime.[12] His work earned him the title of “Father of Old Testament Criticism.”[13] Further division within the Pentateuch resulted from William De Wette, whose work resulted in a third document known as “Document D”, supposed to have been written around 621 B.C.[14] The last of the most famous documents was “discovered” was named “Document P”, or the “Priestly Code”. This was a result of Hupfeld’s work in the nineteenth century.[15]

            Later scholars modified and combined these supposed multiple documents within the Pentateuch into an overarching hypothesis known as the Documentary theory, or JEDP. Brought into the limelight by men such as Graf, Kuenen, and perhaps most notably Wellhausen, this theory holds that the Pentateuch is comprised by the four previously mentioned documents: J for the writer using Jehovah as God’s name, E for the writer preferring Elohim, D for the Deuteronomic works, and P for the priestly sections.

            A rebuttal of the Documentary Theory in its entirety would well exceed the scope of this paper. Instead, this writer will address only the J document. The purpose of this paper is to show that the criteria used to establish the J document are invalid for several reasons. Not only does the internal evidence speak against a source separation, but the assumptions that led to said division are also in error.

            Research for this paper was conducted mainly through the internet, though various hard-copy books were also utilized. While this writer was able to find several online sources, this study was indeed hampered due to inaccessibility to a local public library or university library. Another limitation to this study was the author’s inability to read German, with which many of the original sources were written. Also noteworthy is this writer’s underlying assumption that everything the Bible says is true, to include its claim that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”[16].

CHAPTER I

THE J DOCUMENT

            Though Wellhausen added no original thought to the Documentary Theory,[17] he was able to most skillfully articulate the theory to the public through Die Komposition des Hexateuchs (The Composition of the Hexateuch). Dovetailing onto the increasingly popularized evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin, Wellhausen was able to present JEDP as a sort of evolutionary sequence. The end result was a supposed clear division between the J, E, D, and P documents, each having their own source(s).

 A Brief History

            Jean Astruc first brought to light the way in which author of the book of Genesis referred to God as “Elohim” in some parts of Genesis and “Jehovah” in other places. A French physician, Astruc’s thoughts were anonymously published in 1753 in a book entitled “Conjectures sur les mémoires originauz don’t il paroit que Moyse s’est servi pour composer le livre de la Génèse. Avec des remarques qui appuient ou qui éclaircissent ces conjectures (“Conjectures on the original documents that Moses appears to have used in composing the Book of Genesis. With remarks that support or throw light upon these conjectures”).[18]

            Astruc believe that Moses used one source who referred to God as Elohim and a second source who used the word Jehovah. This would imply that Moses played the role of a redactor over other documents, rather than being the primary author of Genesis, not to mention the remainder of the Pentateuch. According to Archer, this “furnished the first basic assumption of the Documentary Hypothesis, the criterion of divine names.”[19]

            The next step in the formation of the J document came some thirty years later as Johann Eichhorn took up the mantle in Pentateuchal criticism. Claiming to have worked independent of Astruc, Eichhorn nonetheless also established two writers in Genesis and the first two chapters of Exodus. The one writer was called J, for his use of Jehovah. The second was known as E, for his use of Elohim. Eichhorn initially believed that Moses redacted works from other sources, but eventually came to believe that these portions of the Pentateuch were redacted by an unknown source.[20] His most influential work was his five-volume Einleitung in das Alte Testament (Introduction to the Old Testament), published between 1780 and 1783.[21]

            The evolving Documentary Hypothesis spawned several competing theories behind the authorship of the Pentateuch. With these alternative theories came several differing subdivisions of the Pentateuch, particularly within Genesis. Along the way two other definitive documents were named- D for the Deuteronomy-related works, and P for the priestly works. J and E were fairly well established documents by the time Graf, Kuenen, and Wellhausen finished tweaking and solidifying the Document Theory.

Characteristics of the J Document

            The J Document as it currently stands is first and foremost characterized by its use of the Hebrew Jehovah (or Yahweh) to refer to God. The alternative title in use is Elohim, which is, of course, the defining characteristic of the E Document. Widely believed to have been written in the ninth century BC,[22] the J Document is believed by proponents of the Documentary Theory to have originated from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Says Archer, the writer was “interested in personal biography…[and] often portrayed or referred to God in anthropomorphic terms.”[23] Archer also describes the writer as having a “prophet-like interest in ethical and theological reflection, but little interest in sacrifice and ritual.”[24] This paper will now examine and refute the reasons for which some scholars believe the J Document and E Document to have been written by different authors.

CHAPTER II

THE ARGUMENTS EXAMINED

            One of the alleged differences between the J Document and the E, D, and P Documents is the way by which God is referred, both in title as well as description. However, these are not the only criteria for which the J Document has been established. Also in question are other variations in style and diction within the Pentateuch. Doublets and parallel accounts are also scrutinized, as well as so-called late words and Aramaisms.

The Variation in Divine Names

            One of the prevailing assumptions behind using divine names as a criterion for source division is that no single Hebrew writer such as Moses would refer to Deity by more than one name. Thus, multiple names indicates multiple authors. However, there are several flaws in this reasoning, much less its execution of source division. In addition, there is ample evidence both internal and external to the scriptures that refute this division.

            One of the most glaringly obvious errors in this source division is the existence of the name Jehovah in portions of the Pentateuch that have been attributed to the E Document. For example, in Genesis 20:18, a verse that belongs to the E Document, God is referred to with the Hebrew Jehovah. Likewise, Elohim is found within the J Document in passages such as Genesis 7:9. An initial glace at both documents reveals the embarrassing lack of consistency by which the liberal scholars separated the J Document from the E Document. Equally embarrassing are the instances in the Pentateuch where God is referred to both names at once.[25] In order to combat such an easy attack on their position, critical scholars have no recourse but to insist that said names were interpolated upon the text at a later date, created a combined J/E Document.[26] Obviously, this appears as nothing more than an attempt to sidestep the hole in their argument. Furthermore, Young found that both names in question are not distributed throughout Genesis enough to distinguish one part from another. Several chapters do not contain the divine name for which they belong, thus making their authorship impossible to classify.[27]

            Though some have found it necessary to insist upon multiple authors when different names for God are used, there are exegetical reasons for these different names. The word Elohim emphasizes the power and sovereignty of God, whereas Jehovah speaks to God’s covenantal relationship with His people. Thus, where the subject matter changes, so does the name by which God is called.

            Additionally, this practice has been observed in pagan religions.[28] The Egyptian god Amon-Re is so named because Amon and Re are shown to be two names for the same deity, sometimes used in conjunction with each other. Ancient Egyptian documents reveal the practice of using multiple names for one god, thus negating the assumption the God of the Hebrew Scriptures cannot be known by more than one name. In fact, Archer even goes so far as to say that “it is doubtful whether the religious literature of any of Israel’s pagan neighbors ever referred to a paramount god by a single name.”[29] We see, then, that proponents of the source division between J and E force upon the Bible standards that are kept no where else in antiquity.

Parallel Accounts and Doublets in the Pentateuch

            Another criterion by which scholars have divided the Pentateuch among various writers is the way in which portions of the Pentateuch seem to mirror each other. Specifically pointed out are the two creation accounts, the two flood accounts, and many others. Rather than explain or reconcile the differing accounts with one another, proponents of the Documentary Theory would rather view this as evidence that more than one writer had penned the Pentateuch.

            Careful study of the text, however, reveals that the liberal scholars place an unnecessary burden on the text. The second creation account found in Genesis two is not simply a separate account of creation from another author. Instead, it is a deeper look at the initial account found in chapter one. Archer sums it up well as he notes that Genesis two “does not even purport to be an account of the creation of the world…[but] with the creation of Adam and the environment.”[30] Likewise, the supposed flood stories are completely harmonious with one another. That is, until unnecessary difficulties are placed upon the text. As C.H. Gordon said, “such repetitions [are] typical of Near Eastern literature.”[31] Moreover, repetition with slight variation is a trademark of Hebrew poeticism.

Late Words

            Another criterion for Pentateuchal source division is the appearance of certain words within the Pentateuch that are not found elsewhere in ancient literature. If said word is found much later in history, critical scholars believe this to be proof that a later writer contributed to the writing of the Pentateuch. However, this is mere assumption on their part. Simply because a word is used sparsely in antiquity and then more commonly at a later date does not mean that an interpolation occurred within the text. Also, as Archer points out, the Bible is an incredibly small sample of all the Hebrew literature that was written. As much of it has been lost, one is unable to conclusively determine whether or not a word was truly used in antiquity.

Aramaisms

            Similar to the criterion of late words is the Aramaism criterion. The prevailing assumption by the Old Testament critics is that any sort of Aramaism within the Pentateuch demonstrates a later date of writing, to accommodate a post-exilic origin. This is an unnecessary assumption, though. Archeological discoveries have demonstrated the existence of Hebrew-Aramaic inscriptions dating back to a thousand years BC. Futhermore, the Biblical record itself allows for an Aramaic influence on Moses, particularly after his time in Haran. Furthermore, it has been recently determined that many of the words thought to be Aramaic are in actuality Hebrew.[32] Try as they may, critics of the Pentateuch are simple unable to establish a valid argument for the source division that has resulted in the J, E, D, and P documents.

CHAPTER III

OTHER ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLYING THE DOCUMENTARY THEORY 

            As supposed discrepancies were discovered within the pages of the Pentateuch, assumptions were formed which attempted to explain said discrepancies. However, there are many other assumptions and logical fallacies which were adhered to that facilitated the formation of the Documentary Theory.

Circular Reasoning

            One of the underlying premises behind liberal theological scholarship is that the Bible is not a supernatural book. As such, liberal scholars approach the text in disbelief and thus reject all elements of the supernatural. As so eloquently stated by Archer, this makes it “absolutely obligatory to find rationalistic, humanistic explanations of every [miracle]…in Scripture.”[33]

            Another example of circular reasoning is in the entire argument chasing itself in a circle. Though Documentary Theory supposedly arose as a result of close examination of the Bible, the text of Scripture has repeated withstood any attack. However, Documentary Theorists still insist upon doubting and discrediting Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

Other Logical Fallacies

            Yet another logical fallacy underlining Documentary Theory is the way in which liberal scholars place conditions and stipulations upon the Hebrews that they place on no other culture. As mentioned previously, other cultures have been proven to use multiple names to refer to a singular deity, yet the Israelites seem not allowed to do so themselves. Though writers from other cultures are allowed to use differing styles and a varied vocabulary, multiple writers are assumed when the same is seen in Scripture.

            Perhaps more frustrating is the tendency for liberal scholars to interject a new writer every time a hole is discovered in their theories. Similar to this is their assumption that they can conclusively fix a date to a particular document and then interpret the document based upon said date.

 CONCLUSION

     The words of God have come under attack ever since the Serpent questioned God’s directive to Adam and Eve. Though the authorship of the Pentateuch has by and large always been believe by the Christian Church to be Moses, Satan has attack this fact by means of liberal scholars. This can only be done if one disbelieves the Bible in the first place.

     God’s Word itself clearly speaks to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, as was demonstrated previously in this paper. Likewise the Gospel authors and Jesus all refer to the Law as having come from God through Moses. Were these claims taken at face value, there would be no need to question Moses’ authorship of these books. Nonetheless, Satan is bound and determined to cast doubt upon God’s Word, and he continues to do so through liberal so-called scholarship.
       Becoming popularized first through the works of Astruc, gaining momentum through Eichhorn, and becoming mainstream through the concerted efforts of Wellhausen, the Documentary Theory has tried its best to force upon the Pentateuch a multiplicity of authors, attributing to one the document known simply as J. 
       Named for its use of Jehovah to refer to God, the J Document has no true basis for the source division forced upon it. As demonstrated, other religions of antiquity are guilty of calling their gods by more than one name. Likewise, God has purposeful reasons for being known as both Elohim and Jehovah throughout the Pentateuch. As has been demonstrated by this writer, the source division between J and E simply has no basis for which to exist. On a larger scale, the Documentary Theory as a whole is riddled with faulty assumptions and logical fallacies. The believer can be confident that they are indeed reading the words of God as recorded by Moses.

 

Bibliography

Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.Chicago: Moody Press, 1964.

Astruc, Jean. Conjectures sur les mémoires originauz don’t il paroit que Moyse s’est servi pour composer le livre de la Génèse. Avec des remarques qui appuient ou qui éclaircissent ces conjectures. Brussels, 1753.

Driver, Samuel R. Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament.New York: Scribner, 1891.

Eichhorn, Johann G. Einleitung in das Alte Testament.Leipzig, 1780-1783.

Gordon, C.H. “Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit” Christianity Today 4, no. 4 (1959).

Harrison, Roland K. Introduction to the Old Testament.Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 1969.

Lutzer, E.W. The Doctrines that Divide.Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998.

McDowell, Josh. More Evidence that Demands a Verdict.San Bernardino,CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975.

Schnittjer, Gary E. The Torah Story: An Apprenticeship on the Pentateuch.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Young, Edward J. An Introduction to the Old Testament.Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdsmans

Publishing Company, 1949.


     [1] Erwin W. Lutzer. The Doctrines that Divide (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998).

     [2] Gary Schnittjer. The Torah Story (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 9. 

     [3] Ibid.

     [4] Gleason L. Archer. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1964), 89.

     [5] Exodus 24:4 NKJV

     [6] Joshua 8:32

     [7] Malachi 4:4

     [8] Josh McDowell. More Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975), 93-94.

     [9] See John 1:17, Luke 24:27, Acts 15:21, and Romans 10:5.

     [10] John 5:46-47. 

     [11] Edward J. Young. An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), 45. 

     [12] Archer, 91.

     [13] Roland K. Harrison. Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969), 14.

     [14] Archer, 91.

     [15] Ibid., 94.

     [16] 2 Timothy 3:16

     [17]  Archer, 95.

     [18] This information is all that this author could find on Astruc’s work, with the exception of the supposed publication location. This information was retrieved from http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/254877 on November 14, 2010.

     [19] Archer, 90.

     [20] Young, 121.

     [21] Johann Eichhorn. Einleitung in das Alte Testament.Leipzig, (1780-1783).

     [22] Samuel R. Driver. Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (New York: Scribner, 1891), 111-23.

     [23] Archer, 97.

     [24] Ibid.

     [25] See Genesis 2:4-9, 15-21, and 3:1-23 for a sampling of God being addressed as Jehovah Elohim.

     [26]Harrison, 519.

     [27] Young, 132. 

     [28]Harrison, 519.

     [29] Archer, 127.

     [30] Archer, 134. 

     [31] C.H. Gordon, “Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit” Christianity Today, IV, no. 4 (1959), 132.

     [32] Archer, 145. 

     [33] Archer, 113.