FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

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Click on the question or scroll down to see the text.


  1. How can you claim you're right and others wrong? 

  2. Doesn’t your critiques of others violate what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17?

  3. What is Dispensational theology?

  4. What is the Calvinistic / Reformed / Puritan / Covenant theological tradition?

  5. Aren't you "judging" Charismatics and Pentecostals?

  6. Antinomianism -- What is it?

  7. Was Jesus' Gospel different from Paul's Gospel?

  8. What are the "Identification Truths"?

  9. What is particular redemption or definite atonement?

  10. Were John Nelson Darby and Lewis Sperry Chafer -- Arminians?

  11. Comments regarding the book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth--A Critique of Dispensationalism?

  12. Are the non-Pauline epistles binding on us today?

  13. When did the Body of Christ begin?  Acts 2, 9, 13, or 28?

  14. Where can I find a church that teaches the truths of identification and position?

  15. What are your views on church polity - i.e., the doctrine of ecclesiology?


1) How can you claim to know the truth, that your beliefs are the correct ones and others are wrong?  By what authority?

Answer: Fundamental to our website are two axioms; God exists and knowledge is possible.  Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6).  While we may not be able to convince you of these facts, God has shown their truth to us and others like us.  At the beginning of the twenty first century, there is widespread cultural consensus that both God and truth are dead.  What is meant by this is that God and truth never really existed in the first place.  For some, they are only cultural stories or myths.  The Biblical message that the Creator God has infallibly communicate with men often comes as a shock to both modern and postmodern minds.  For them, absolute truth does not and cannot exist because it is impossible for mankind to transcend the limitations of empirical knowledge.  Simply put, there is no God, no divine revelation, and any and all knowledge is purely relative to subjective human experience—one opinion versus another.  Thus we understand how you might wrongly interpret our claims as effrontery. 

We assert that God exists, that He has spoken, and that the content of what He has said is true--true for all peoples, all places, and all times.  His thoughts and words are absolute and universally true.  Further, we assert that God has successfully communicated His thoughts to the minds of men.  Not all men, but many (His elect)--those of His choosing.  God's communication is supernatural and transcends the general limitations of human cognition.  Since this process* (discussed below) is His, it is perfect, effective, and guarantees inerrancy.  Again, this inerrancy is not for all men, but those of His choosing.  Others distort God's Word to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

Our basis (authority) for these statements can largely be found in the first two chapters of Paul's Letter to the Corinthians.  By revelation of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul explains that God has "destroyed the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent" He has frustrated (1 Cor. 1:19).  In their own ability, mankind can neither know God nor His truth (1 Cor. 1:20-25).  But God has chosen (1 Cor. 1:26-31) many to understanding clearly.  And to these, He has supernaturally communicated (1 Cor. 2:6-16), from His mind to theirs, so that it can be said, "...we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16).

* The Divine-human communication process includes these components:

REVELATION (God speaks His thoughts) ]

INSPIRATION (God causes them to be written down without error) ]

PRESERVATION (God protects the integrity of His Written Word) ]

ILLUMINATION (In conjunction with the application of sound principles of interpretation (hermeneutics), God supernaturally causes the reader to accurately understand His thoughts.

We acknowledge that our comments have been brief.  For more comprehensive discussions of this subject, see our section THE WORD OF GOD on the ARTICLES page.

Also, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? A Response to Skepticism Paul Copan

 

2)  Doesn’t your critiques of others violate what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17?

Answer:  No.  Matthew 18:15-17 reads, "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'  And if he refuses to hear them, tell [it] to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."  First, what Jesus taught pertains to personal disputes and how they should be resolved. Matthew 18:15-17 addresses the issue of when a brother, or sister, sins against (harms) another. To resolve the offense and to restore the relationship, the “sin” is first to be discussed in private in hopes that repentance and forgiveness can occur. If unsuccessful, the harmed party is permitted to give the issue a wider hearing: a) before “two or three witnesses”, then b) before the entire church.  Disagreements over doctrine or differences of opinion, do not constitute "sin" between brethren.

Our website deals with the published doctrinal positions, and occasionally the publicly-known moral issues, of various Christian denominations, their leaders, and related websites.  We always strive to be accurate in our appraisals. However, for any organization or leader to use Matthew 18 as a shield against evaluation and critique of their views or public actions is a misapplication of Scripture. The Bible contains imperative commands that believers exercise “right” judgment. The insular attitude “Who are YOU to question or critique the views of so-in-so personality?” might be understandably found amongst Islamic mullahs or the Romanist hierarchy, but it should have no place among Bible-believing Christians, who have an imperative to judge all thing according to the Word. To our knowledge, no individual in the evangelical/ fundamental/ Bible-believing Christian community has “sacred” status. This is exclusively reserved for the Bible—the infallible Word of God and every believer should be following the example of the Berean Christians recorded in Acts 17:11, "...and [they] examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

Ironically, critics of withChrist.org fail to recognize that they are engaging in the very activity (evaluation, discernment, and freedom of expression) which they seek to deny us. This is hypocritical. We understand and don’t mind their expression of disagreement over doctrinal issues, but we do find offensive their efforts of manipulation to silence others (we've even received email with threats of litigation) and control freedom of speech. When all is said and done, it is this freedom of speech and opinion (now being facilitated by the Internet) which often makes them so very angry.

"It would be a serious mistake to imagine that a private meeting is always a mandatory prerequisite before any Christian can legitimately express public criticism of another believer's published work or public behavior. On the contrary, sometimes—especially when we're dealing with a public and scandalous transgression—open rebuke may be warranted as a first response (cf. Galatians 2:11-14, 1 Tim. 5:20). Matthew 18:15-17 outlines instructions for dealing with private sins and personal offenses. These are not guidelines for dealing with false teaching or public behavior that might cloud the truth of the gospel or besmirch the reputation of the whole church."

 

3)  What is Dispensational theology?

Answer: In short, a "dispensational" approach to understanding Scripture acknowledges: 1) God has reveal ONE overarching purpose in Scripture--to glorify Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ--Ephesians 1:9,10.  This involves glory in TWO spheres, the earthly (primarily relating to Israel) and the heavenly which includes both the Bride of Christ and the Bridegroom (Body/Mystery) of which Christ is Head.  This glory includes the final overthrow of all God's enemies.  The outworking of all of this is across ages of time (eons) and through various divine administrations or dispensations (Greek, oikonomia) revealed in the Bible, 2) The Bible's sixty-six books are the exclusive and inerrant Word of God and that they should be interpreted: grammatically, according to the context, according to their scope or design, comparing Scripture with Scripture.  For more detail, see our Statement on the Term "Pauline Dispensationalism"

 

4) Your article THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE is a well crafted exposť on the erroneous nature of Christian humanism, Arminianism, etc. However, you also cite problems with the Calvinistic / Reformed / Puritan / Covenant realm. Does not this tradition effectively refute humanism as well? And who are you to call into question the teachings of these great stalwarts of the faith?

Answer: Each and every Christian should strive to maintain the attitude of the noble Bereans who "received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17: 11. Without question, the foundation of the Reformed/Covenant movement is strong and sound, when compared with the Arminian/Wesleyan tradition. They rightly hold to inerrancy of Scripture as well as believe that God sovereignly elects those whom He of his own free will and divine purpose foreordained from the foundation of the world. In contrast to human works and merit, the Calvinist rightly understands the meaning of grace in justification. However, due to their non or anti-dispensational perspective, they unwittingly undermine the Apostle Paul's Gospel of Grace. Over time, this can have serious consequences-- e.g. Clark Pinnock, J. I. Packer, etc. The need to maintain a strict continuity throughout the sixty-six diverse books of Holy Scripture is stifling. As Lewis S. Chafer pointed out:

A theology which penetrates no further into Scripture than to discover that in all ages God is immutable in His grace toward penitent sinners, and constructs the idea of a universal Church (continuing through the ages), and the one truth of immutable grace, is not only disregarding vast spheres of revelation but is reaping the unavoidable confusion and misdirection which part-truth engenders.

The outworking of divine grace is not standardized, though the Covenant idea of theology would make it so; and as certainly as God's dealings with man are not standardized, in the same manner the entire field of the corresponding human obligation in daily life is not run into a mold of human idealism.

The Reformers did not restore all features of doctrine, and along with justification by grace through faith retained the Romish notion that the Church is the Kingdom, fulfilling the Davidic covenant, and appointed to conquer the world by bringing it under the authority of the Church. This idea has prevailed in spite of the clear, uncomplicated testimony of the New Testament that this dispensation must end in unprecedented wickedness.

Covenant theology engenders the notion that there is but one soteriology and one eschatology, and the ecclesiology, such as it is conceived to be, extends from the Garden of Eden to the Great White Throne.

Simply put, the Calvinistic/Reformed/Puritan/Covenant theological tradition is at odds with the Apostle Paul. As one of their own became aware:

His [Luther] theology was a theology that addresses itself to the problem of guilt, rather than to the problem of pollution. There is an imbalance in this theology between what God does for man and what He does in man. Leonard Verduin (1897-1999), THE REFORMERS AND THEIR STEPCHILDREN, Baker, 1964.

It is imperative that the our understanding of salvation (soteriology) be grounded in and established upon the truths committed to the Apostle Paul by the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus Christ. It is from Paul's epistles that our core theology must be formed. To that end, we've included two quintessential articles which represent a bedrock foundation for genuine Christian experience.

OUR HISTORY IN THE FIRST ADAM OUR HISTORY IN THE LAST ADAM

 

5) I feel that you are condemning, insulting, and JUDGING charismatics/Pentecostals.  Some of your writings even come close to sounding like close-minded hate rhetoric.  I feel that by insulting Pentecostals, you are insulting God Himself.

Answer: We hear you.  It's unfortunate that you feel offended and take personal the materials we've published.  Rather than "closed-minded", we have spent several years studying charismatic and Pentecostal literature and authors.  We have attempted to deal with Pentecostal teachings rather than Pentecostal people, as much as possible.  Yes we disagree, but disagreement and strong opinion does not constitute "hate".  Freedom of moral, doctrinal, and political discourse—the lifeblood of constitutional self-government within the church and society—is both biblical and the core concern of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As for our "judging," we would submit the following:

and Jim Leffel's article,

for your consideration and study.

As Christians, we believe truth can be known with certainty.  Thus, the opposite of truth--ERROR can be known as well.  That these statements are offensive to those who embrace error is unavoidable in the spirit of this postmodern age.  Sorry, but there's no way around it.

  

6) Reformed Baptist Phil Johnson's web site lists Mr. Stanford as an example of "antinomianism."  How do you respond?

Answer:  Sadly, Mr. Johnson suffers from serious misunderstanding and error.  Like so many, he has been misled by the Reformed tradition's deficient concepts of grace and redemption brought on by their non-dispensational understanding of Scripture.

The Risen Lord Jesus Christ via the Apostle Paul wrote,

"But we know that the law [is] good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is NOT made for a righteous person (i.e.Christian), but for [the] lawless and insubordinate, for [the] ungodly and for sinners, for [the] unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."  1 Timothy 1:8-10.

The law is good and has a useful purpose.  But as seen in the verse above, that purpose is NOT to provide a "rule of living" for the Christian.  Hopefully, any born-again individual is in the process of embracing "sound doctrine", and thus is learning how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, should the Christian reject "sound doctrine" and walk in the ways of the world or the flesh, then the law does perform a useful role--i.e., the role of condemnation.

Webster's definition states: "Antinomian: a member of a Christian sect which holds that faith alone, not obedience to the moral law, is necessary for salvation."  The word comes from Medieval Latin antinomus: Greek anti-, against + nomus, law.  Even a casual reading of the New Testament shows that the Apostle Paul and his Gospel of Grace were viewed as antinomian, by the Jewish religious community of his day.

Further, the term  is commonly used as a pejorative to suggest the idea of immorality, licentiousness, or personal moral relativism--a synonym for libertine.  And, it is in this sense that the Reformed have long attempted to discredit all outside their tradition--and in particular dispensationalists.  It can get ugly.

In contrast to Catholics and others, the Reformed largely see that keeping the law is not a basis for justification.  However, they erroneously establish law as their central theme for Christian living--their "rule of life".  Ironically, this leads to Romans 7 being made a standard for normative Christian living and then back into Romans 2:17-24.  Like the ancient Jewish world, the widespread hypocrisy throughout Christendom is attributable to attempting to live upon the basis of legal obligation.  

However, even the Calvinist stalwart Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was of the opinion that true Gospel preaching would draw the charge of antinomianism.  He stated:

But every preacher who preached the gospel has been accused of this!  They have all been accused of "antinomianism."  I would say to all preachers: IF YOUR PREACHING OF SALVATION HAS NOT BEEN MISUNDERSTOOD IN THAT WAY, THEN YOU HAD BETTER EXAMINE YOUR SERMONS AGAIN, and you had better make sure that you really ARE preaching the salvation that is proclaimed in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are the enemies of God.

I think I understand why Charles Hodge put forward this particular interpretation.  Charles Hodge, I believe, was afraid that if he interpreted it as I am proposing to do he would have exposed himself to the charge of antinomianism.  But, as I have pointed out, if we do not interpret this phrase in such a way as to expose ourselves to the charge of antinomianism, we are not expounding it correctly.

Nearly all Christians recognize the goal of holy living, yet they differ on the means of achieving that goal. The traditional Reformed answer has typically been justification and sanctification by grace through faith, with sanctification defined as a new supernatural empowerment for the Christian to keep the law as a 'rule for living'.  Grace + Faith + Law...and after a time of breakdown +Works.

Historic Dispensationalism, on the other hand, also embraces the truth of justification and sanctification by grace through faith, but defines sanctification as a process of spiritual growth, effected by a union with the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of God the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20), in which Christ, not law, is the object of the believer's attention.  This latter approach is based upon the 'identificational' and 'fellowship' truths outlined in Paul's Epistles--e.g.,. Romans 6:1-14 and referred to by Paul as that "form of teaching to which you were entrusted" in verse 17.  Law is not necessary for holy living--in fact just the reverse.

The painful reality is that with time, for either Arminian, Calvinist, Messianic Jew, or other, law makes the Romans 2:17-23 and Romans 7 experience the "normal Christian life."

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew [or Christian]; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth -- you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

Given the level of misunderstanding and disagreement on the subject, it would seem that the root of the problem is rather deep or complex. As with so many errors, could the problem lie in an inadequate grasp of the Fall?

For further discussion on this subject see:

Who is Phil Johnson?

The Subtle Errors of Covenant/Calvinist Theology.

THE LAW.

An Open Letter to John H. Gerstner regarding Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, A Critique of Dispensationalism

Critique of Warren W. Wiersbe's The Integrity Crisis

A Letter to Dr. R. Kent Hughes - Pauline Grace versus Covenant Law

Dr. Chafer on Covenant Theology

 

7) Your web site seems to focus heavily upon the Apostle Paul. What about the life and words of Jesus while he was on earth--particularly the Sermon on the Mount? Aren't they more important?

Answer: All Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16); however, not all Scripture is of equal importance to the new-creation Christian. Many believers fail to realize that the Apostle Paul was the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus Christ's unique conduit to speak to his Church. Paul's Epistles contain a gospel (the Glorious Gospel of Christ) that was only alluded to during Jesus' life on earth.

 

8) Other Christian writers also mention the doctrine of "identification" with Christ. What is the origin and history of these "identification truths"?

Answer: Their origin is the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, exclusively given to the Church by the Ascended Lord Jesus Christ. They have re-appeared in a minority of writings during the past two millennia. However, much like Luther's recovery of 'justification by grace through faith'; 'sanctification by grace through faith' was recovered largely by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren movement.

 

9) At last! I've found someone else who recognizes the distinction of Paul's gospel from the nation/kingdom of Israel! And if that wasn't enough, you also demonstrate a conviction that regeneration is the result of God's sovereign choice rather than man's. It is a rarity indeed to find one who teaches the distinctiveness of Paul AND the particular nature of God's election.

I skimmed most of your material at your web site, but could not find anything on the issue of particular redemption or definite atonement. What is your view of this doctrine?

Answer: Historically, the discussion on the extent of Christ's atonement has been unfortunately framed within the context of two polarized positions: particular / definite / limited atonement versus unlimited atonement.

For any serious student of the Word of God, God's sovereignty in election is readily apparent. His choice of the one nation, Israel, from amongst others is clearly seen by the unbiased mind.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you... Deuteronomy 7:6-8.

His calling out of individuals from amongst "every nation, tribe, people, and language" to be members of His body, the Bride of Christ is also firmly recorded in Paul's epistles.

For He [the Father] chose us in Him [the Son] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will... Ephesians 1:4,5.

Typically, those who favor limited (particular) atonement focus on portions of the Bible which speak of God's work of atonement for His elect, while those who hold an unlimited position largely emphasize verses which speak of Christ's death in relation to "the world."

However, a number of sovereign grace theologians (Darby, Chafer, Good, Custance, etc.) have successfully argued that Christ's work at Calvary is BOTH limited and unlimited. Unlimited with regard to its extent, but limited in regard to its saving effect. Several positions have been advanced which correctly encompass both aspects and also recognize the God-ward and man-ward dimensions of Christ's atonement.

It would appear the most perplexing issue is our inability to adequately grasp the meaning of Christ's work in relation to the non-elect. Someday, even this will be made perfectly clear.

 

10) Occasionally, I'll find a Calvinistic Reformed writer disparage Dispensationalism by strangely claiming that key past leaders (Darby, Chafer, etc.) were Arminian in belief. One Reformed site, showcases a critique of Lewis Sperry Chafer written by B. B. Warfield. Are these claims true?!

Answer: No. Michael S. Horton (ACE, CURE, The White Horse Inn) even claims "Finney's perfectionism came to dominate the fledgling Dispensationalist movement through the auspices of Lewis Sperry Chafer" This erroneous statement is an extension of the more recent, extreme anti-dispensational ranting of John Reisinger and John Gerstner. All of these Covenant Calvinists are crippled by their allegiance to Reformation theology and fail to clearly grasp the soteriological teachings of the Apostle Paul. Typically for many of this realm, Reformed-Episcopal Horton holds to infant baptism and sees baptism as the means by which saving grace is communicated. What particularly angers them regarding Chafer is the fact that he regularly pointed out the errors of the Reformation tradition.

Typical of the email frequently received, one brother wrote, "The doctrinal issues of election, free will, predestination, perseverance and others have turned many of us on our heads so that we are struggling to know what we believe anymore. "Where does faith come from?" is the core question.  Do we have any ability at all when it comes to salvation?"

In their writings and teachings, both John Nelson Darby and Lewis Sperry Chafer clearly established their stand for the sovereignty of God and man's lost condition. Both believed the Scriptural truth that salvation "...is by grace [cause] you have been saved, through faith [means], and that not of yourselves; it [both the cause and the means1] is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9). Further, they correctly held that Scripture was the instrument through which the Holy Spirits brings salvation to the sinner -- Romans 10:17,1 Peter 1:23.  Also see, "A Reply to the Charge that Dispensationalism is inherently Arminian", by Roy Huebner.

Christian humanists are prone to reverse the Divine order, making grace the means and faith the cause. Before long, sacraments become necessary -- conduits of their so-called grace. When Paul writes of "salvation by faith", it is in the context of discussing means and contrasting it against a salvation by works. However, Christian humanists see faith as the cause of the new birth. According to Chafer, this error stems partially from the fact that "when exercising his will, man is conscious only of his freedom of action." We understand God's efficacious grace only in retrospect as the Holy Spirit clarifies the issue. Thus, growing Christians must keep in mind that faith and the new birth are two sides of the same coin [regeneration] and that the two should not be separated.

Some extreme Calvinists are known to speak and write of "salvation by grace" without sufficient emphasis on faith. Sadly, their position is largely reactionary against the sea of individuals who hold to humanistic free will. Their philosophic view of determinism [hard] does not adequately allow for human volition and they read positional truth as if it fully applied to man in time and space. This causes some to posit and others to perceive of the new birth chronologically before the exercise of saving faith. This problem has long been documented in historical theology.  See SOVEREIGNTY PLUS RESPONSIBILITY.

Both Darby and Chafer considered themselves "moderate Calvinists," holding philosophically to 'soft determinism'.  However, during the second half of the 20th century, the term "moderate Calvinist" was semantically hijacked by Arminians like Norman Geisler and others.  According to John Feinberg, soft determinism allows "room for a genuine sense of free human action, even though such action is causally determined."2 In the context of our identificational union with Christ, the Apostle Paul put it this way, "To this end, I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily." Colossians 1:29. "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Philippians 2:13. Both God's and man's activity are simultaneously true. Human responsibility ceased at the Cross, human volition is maintained, all without opening the 'Pandora's box' of indeterminism.

For example, Darby wrote:

If the Savior came to save that which is lost, free will has no more place. Not that God prevents man from receiving Him, far from it. But if, by liberty of man, it is meant that no one forces him to reject the Savior, this liberty exists in full. But if it is implied that, on account of the dominion of sin of which he is the slave, and that voluntarily, he cannot escape from his condition, and choose the good--even while acknowledging it to be good, and approving it--then he has no liberty whatever.

and Chafer wrote:

Men choose their course by what seems to them a free will and they glory in the fact that they are wise enough to adjust themselves to circumstances, but God is the Author of circumstances.

He may give latitude to men, but their sphere of freedom is never outside the larger sphere of His eternal purpose.

The failure at this point with high Calvinists [hard determinism] arises from the fact that, in their zeal to defend the doctrine of divine sovereignty, they do not recognize how the very sovereignty of God in its outworking utilizes the human will as its instrument, not, however, by any form of coercion, but by that form of persuasion which enlightens and engenders holy desires to which the will may respond and by which it may be motivated.

Only tragic misconceptions have been the fruit of an extreme Calvinism which conceives of the human will as overpowered by God, and of a fallacious Arminianism which makes no place in its reckoning for the inherent, constitutional necessity of immediate divine action upon the human will before the right choice can be made at all.

For "high Calvinists," any contrary opinion to their own is labeled Arminianism! Conversely, Arminians view any position contrary to their indeterminist system as "Hyper-Calvinism."

This is not to say that problems didn't arise in Chafer's teachings on the subject of salvation. His views on the Christian life left much to be desired. More than twenty-five years ago, dispensational writer, Miles J. Stanford, laid bare the erroneous Chafer emphasis concerning sanctification.

1 Here are some direct quotations from both Chafer and Darby supporting this view.

2 A detailed treatment of this subject is found in John S. Feinberg's excellent article God Ordains All Things, Predestination & Free Will, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1986.

 

11) Have you read Dr. John H. Gerstner's refutation of Dispensationalism entitled, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth--A Critique of Dispensationalism?

Answer: Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have not read the book.  However, I have read several reviews (e.g. An Open Letter... by Stanford and Who is Wrong?... by Mayhue) and am appalled by the lack of both scholarship and civility on the part of this recently deceased doctor of theology.  While I have never sat in a seminary classroom, I have taken a serious interest in these subjects for over 45 years.  In as few words as possible, I will attempt to answer 'Goliath's' taunt to "...show me the fundamental error in what I teach" (p.263).

Actually, Dr. Gerstner was correct in identifying some doctrinal differences "relating to the nature of man, sin, and salvation" between the Reformed/Calvinist/Puritan/Covenant tradition and that of historic Dispensationalism.  But it is Covenantalism, not Dispensationalism, which has these scriptural (Pauline) truths out of focus.  While Arminianism is built on an erroneous hamartiology, Calvinistic theology is built on a deficient hamartiology.  Former Presbyterian Lewis S. Chafer wrote:

There is a justification for the fact that the two great doctrines--sin and redemption--go hand in hand. It is sin that has drawn out redemption from the heart of God, and redemption is the only cure for sin. These two realities, in turn, become measurements of each other. Where sin is minimized, redemption is automatically impoverished since its necessity is by so much decreased. The worthy approach to the doctrine of sin is to discover all that is revealed about the sinfulness of sin and then to recognize that God's provided Savior is equal to every demand which sin imposes. [Emphasis mine]

Sin is sinful because it is unlike God. The Larger Catechism (Westminster) declares: "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature." However, inasmuch as the law of God may not incorporate all that God's character is and inasmuch as anything will be sinful which contradicts God's character, whether expressed in His law or not, this definition is strengthened when the word character is substituted for the word law. It is true that disobedience of God's law is sin, but it does not follow that sin is restricted to disobedience to law. SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, Volume 2, page 224, 227.

In spite of his strong convictions, even the late Dr. John Murray humbly maintained the possibility that the Reformed tradition might not have the last word concerning the doctrine of salvation.  Further, given some of the deplorable behavior of the Reformers, Reformed pastor Leonard Verduin was led to state:

His [Luther's] theology was a theology that addresses itself to the problem of guilt, rather than to the problem of pollution. There is an imbalance in this theology between what God does for man and what He does in man. THE REFORMERS AND THEIR STEPCHILDREN, page 12.

After having labored years in defense of Calvinism, Baptist Kenneth H. Good had the following to say:

The Reformed construct a system [Covenant theology], presumably upon material supplied by the Scriptures, but then begin to interpret those Scriptures in the light of that system. ARE BAPTISTS REFORMED?, page 127.

The soteriology of the Reformation appears so correct and biblical when compared with the humanism of Catholicism, Arminianism, Wesleyanism, etc.  However, stress cracks begin to form when their theology is brought alongside the full-orbed teaching found in the Apostle Paul's epistles.

I encourage each reader, who has an interest in these things, to compare the dispensational presentations found in the two articles linked above under Question #1, together with one's favorite host of Reformed/Calvinist writers, and then against the writings of the Apostle Paul.

 

12)  Are the "General" Epistles, in contrast to those Epistles specifically written by the Apostle Paul, binding on Christians today?

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, or correction, for instruction in righteousness” …the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3.16)

“All of the Bible is for us, but it is not all about us.”  Genesis to Revelation is God-given revelation and meant for the edification of each member of Christ’s heavenly Body—the Church.  However, this is NOT to say that each section of the 66 Books of canonical Scripture were written specifically TO us, the Body of Christ.

Each portion has its unique audience, and the discerning reader will carefully take this into account.  Recognizing these normal and natural distinctions is a key aspect of the dispensational approach to interpreting the Bible.  Dispensationalists seek to acknowledge, rather than ignore, these differences.  the distinction that “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the [Hebrew] fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by [His] Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things...” is just one of these distinctions.

However, this is not to say that dispensationalists should only see divisions and ignore similarities.  Certain elements of biblical revelation are trans-dispensational in nature—biblical covenants being a prime example.  Trans” means across.  They extend and stretch across time and can be applicable during any number of dispensations—past, present, or future.  Examples also include God’s “grace” and the Noahic covenant.  It is an error for dispensationalists to speak of an “Age of Grace” or “Dispensation of Grace”, since God’s grace is trans-dispensational.  The "Church Age" is more correct.  Genesis 6:8 states that Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and the very last verse of the Bible, John’s salutation, states “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

Genesis chapters 8 and 9 record an agreement (covenant) made with Noah, who like Adam before him, served as a representative on behalf of humanity.  The covenant’s duration is given in chapter 9 verse 12 “…all generations to come.”  As long as the earth’s inhabitants are able to see the rainbow (the covenant’s seal), the agreement is binding.  The Noahic covenant was put in place in Genesis 9 and will remain until the consummation mentioned in Revelation 21:1.  It is trans-dispensational.

Consequently, that portion of the Body of Christ which currently resides on the earth is subject to both the Noahic covenant recorded in Genesis as well as the specific teaching of the Apostle Paul.  Thus it would be unbiblical for Christians to oppose government’s exercise of capital punishment or to forbid the eating of meat--since the first is commanded and the second permitted.  Similarly, the institutions of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, found throughout Scripture, are also trans-dispensational.  That the Scriptures contain continuity and discontinuity is fact.  Wisdom is needed to see both and maintain balance.

[Note: Recognition of God's covenants found in Scripture is not the same as covenant theology.  Darby, Newell, Chafer, all acknowledged the existence of the various covenants while at the same time rejecting covenant theology.  See The Subtle Errors of Covenant Theology.]

     Our business is to gather of what and whom God speaks; and no greater delusion can befall us than to imagine that, because all Scripture is for our profit, all must be about ourselves.

     The purpose of God as to the Jews is in its place as truly the object of faith as His counsels concerning the Church.  Thus, the apprehension of His various ways for glorifying His Son is essential to real understanding of His Word.  Here, as everywhere, a single eye is essential.  With the Lord Jesus before us, the whole body will not fail to be full of light.

     Is not this to take away Scripture from the Christian?  Quite the contrary!  To understand it according to God is the truest and richest gain; to misapply it to ourselves in Gentile conceit is ruinous.  Yet there is no instruction in the past or future history of Israel as revealed in the Bible which is not for, though not about, the Church.  That such Scriptures concerning the Jew may have been written so as to bear an analogous application to the Gentiles is not denied; but the application calls for the utmost caution and a right dividing of the Word of truth, because each economy or dispensation has its own peculiarities, and in not a few things there are confessedly decided and intended contrasts.  William Kelly       

 

13)  When do you believe the Body of Christ began?  Acts 2, 9, 13, or 28?

The advent of the Body of Christ, comprised of an elect chosen by grace, began with the initial baptism of the Holy Spirit and coincided with the Jewish Feast Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2.  Many fine biblical expositions are available to support this view.  Likewise, some strained and elaborate arguments have been advanced in favor of a later date.  Each cite pros and cons in support of their respective views.  We provide a brief exposition here.

 

Amongst those dispensationalists who see the advent of the Church, the Body of Christ at Pentecost, there exists a large number of believers who seek, via the content of Paul’s teaching (Romans 6:17), to spiritually grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their passion is HIM and they seek to be numbered with those who “grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Amongst those dispensationalists who see the advent of the Church sometime later and with the Apostle Paul, this “hunger” is the exception rather than the rule.  Various factions tediously argue and debate as to whether the Church began in Acts 9, 13, or 28 and as a practical matter, they have “lost connection with the Head…” (Colossians 2:19).  They may be saved, but their focus is with themselves and their arguments, rather than with Him.  Due to their vulnerable condition, various heresies are advancing in their ranks—e.g., Arminianism and Openness of God theories.  See Dispenationalism's Theological Landscape.

While the Church did not begin with Apostle Paul, Paul was given the exclusive task of unfolding the truths concerning the Church.  The Jewish Apostles were repeatedly told to await the giving of the Holy Spirit and the Risen Christ did NOT answer their question regarding the restoration of the "kingdom to Israel."  They did not fully grasp the amazing events that God was about to unfold.  See the article: Paul’s Gospel: the Word of God in Its Fullness

 

14)  Where can I find a church that teaches the Pauline truths of identification or Classic Pauline dispensationalism?

By far, this is THE most frequently asked question by readers of withChrist.org.  Once a believer begins to understand the unique truth proclaimed by the Apostle Paul regarding their identification with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, position "in Christ" before the Father, and a Pauline dispensational framework or approach to Scripture, the normal and next logical step would be to look about for fellowship with those of "like-mind."  But alas, here exists a serious problem. Current opportunities for fellowship at this lofty level are extremely rare. While a doctrinally safe-and-sound local church exists here or there, there is no Christian denomination or association that embraces a Pauline dispensational framework in their doctrinal statement...at least not yet. 

Fundamentalist churches are typically shallow, culturally legalistic, and often centered on evangelism. Sadly, their concept of "spiritual growth" is more buildings, buses, programs, altar-calls, and revival meetings. There is little-to-no emphasis on inward spiritual growth or maturity. Those who acknowledge identificational truth typically overlook the necessity of time, taking much of a "name-it and claim-it" approach to the application of truth. The neo-evangelical megachurches are at the other end of the spectrum--unscriptural, worldly and focus on gaining large memberships through doctrinal capitulation and various forms of entertainment. The Purpose-Driven set are on an out-of-control joy ride, while the Emergent Movement seeks to deconstruct and reconstruct Christianity into something more to their progressive liking.

In the early days of one's Christian life, fellowship can seem so wonderful and easy to find when one drifts about doctrinally with the undiscerning crowd. Doctrine either isn't emphasized or is so watered down that it isn't a concern. But as one becomes spiritually awakened, and you heart-hunger directs you to seek out spiritual "meat," difficulties arise. Some Christians, unfamiliar with either the life of the Lord Jesus or the Apostle Paul, are shocked to realize that the religious fervor often found in today's megachurches does not equate with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit.

Our advice through the years is to locate, if possible, an independent, dispensational Bible church.  This should be one that understands the dangers of the charismatic movement, Arminianism, as well as the error of co-mingling law and grace. Yes, it's a tall order. Ideally, the leadership should be alert to the problems of BOTH the Arminian/Charismatic and Reformed/Covenant theology--which the latter consistently blur that distinction between Israel and the Church and thus espouse all things "Kingdom"--kingdom salvation and kingdom duties.

A good way to begin your search for an acceptable church is to start with your local yellow page directory, then call or pay a visit to local churches, assemblies, or meetings, and if necessary strike up conversations with leaders. Keep in mind, that the leadership may be unfamiliar with identification truth (few are) or they may feign understanding in an attempt to garner patronage. Remember, doctrinally sound churches can be hard or possibly impossible to find, depending on your geographic location. For most believers, awakened to the truths of identification, the Internet currently provides the best in meaningful fellowship--one-on-one.

For additional insight, read Chapters 65 & 66 of The Complete Green Letters, available at Amazon.com.

15)  What are your views on church polity - i.e., the doctrine of ecclesiology?

The ministry of withChrist.org is largely focused upon the subject and truth of salvation in Christ. We believe that soteriological truth (truth regarding God's redemptive work) is quintessential to maintaining safe and sound, Biblical Christianity.  While the doctrine of ecclesiology (church polity) is important, it is less critical to the overall life of Christians.  Ideally, we wish believers never had to choose between the two; however, most all of us face this trade off on a daily basis.  Based on our study of church history as well as personal experience, some of the most tragic failures in church leadership have occurred among those who obsessively aspire to perfection in organizational polity.

Understandably, our view has generated vehement protests from some, particularly those of both the Open and Closed Plymouth Brethren (PB) tradition.  Their central premise, spoken and unspoken, is if Christians will just replicate the NT pattern of gathering in detail, all other issues with fall into place and take care of themselves.  We have not found this commonly-held view to square with either Scripture or day-to-day reality.

In spite of our differences, we do maintain an appreciation toward the goal of reaching the mature standard of biblical eldership in any and all gatherings of born-again Christians.  To that end, we recommend Alexander Strauch's book, BIBLICAL ELDERSHIP: Restoring the Eldership to It's Rightful Place in the Church (Revised).  Mr. Strauch has been part of the Open PBs for 25-30 years, having joined their ranks during his college days.  For an introduction to his work, click on the book title above.  Alex qualifies his presentation by saying:

To be sure, the incorporation of pastoral eldership into the local church is not the cure-all for every problem. Eldership creates its own problems, and these must be understood and continually addressed. However, when properly implemented, biblical eldership allows the church to be what God designed it to be, fosters the spiritual development of the leading men within the church family, and honors the teaching of God's precious Word.


 

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