The following is a “guest post” between a Christian and a member of one of the OPC synagogues of Satan. The Christian is [MDC]. The critiquing member of the OP synagogue will be [OPC]:
[MDC] A correspondent recently sent me a “critique” of the OTC web site by a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian “Church.” Below is my response.
[OPC] I’ve read a few articles from the outside the camp website. I haven’t really read enough to give a detailed response, but what I’ve seen so far are unimpressive arguments and rhetoric. Most of the errors I can see revolve around using very general and ambiguous language, failing to make all-important distinctions. (This seems to be how most fanatics and heretics fall into error).
Their main argument states that a “true Christian will not believe in a view that makes salvation contingent on man.” This is a seductive argument, but relies wholly on an equivocation. There are (at least) two ways one can interpret this statement. A central theme in the new Testament is that salvation is not through the works of the law, but through faith. This is one meaning of the statement “salvation is not contingent on man.” In other words, if one believed that he was saved by his works, he is making salvation contingent on himself. This is the biblical view, and it is safe to say that someone who believes that salvation is through the works of the law is preaching a false gospel.
[MDC] If someone believes that it is his own works and efforts that make the difference between salvation and damnation, then he believes a false gospel. Whatever one believes makes the difference between salvation and damnation is what one boasts in. True Christians boast in the cross of Christ alone. They know that it is the work of Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation.
[OPC] The outside the camp people have erred, however, by applying this “salvation contingent on man” statement to one’s view of limited atonement. Whereas scripture is clear that those who preach that salvation is through works of the law are preaching damnable doctrine, it is silent when it comes to one’s view of limited atonement, etc. This doctrine is far more remote and more complex, and requires long prayerful study.
[MDC] The doctrine of the atonement is at the very heart of the gospel. It is the very basic of the gospel. It is just as basic as the doctrine of the deity of Christ. It is not hard to understand. Even a child can understand it. The work of Jesus Christ saves. If one believes in universal atonement, one does not believe that the work of Jesus Christ saves. The universal atonement advocate does not believe that it is the work of Jesus Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. It is very simple. Every regenerate person, at the moment of regeneration, believes in the saving work of Jesus Christ. A Christian doesn’t at first believe a false gospel and then arrive at the true gospel after “long prayerful study.” Of course, this God-hater thinks that he has some “higher knowledge” than his Arminian brethren, because he has engaged in “long prayerful study” while his Arminian brethren haven’t. It’s just the dung of spiritual pride.
[OPC] The outside the camp (OTC) people seem to think that all Christians are perfectly consistent in their systematic theology. Unfortunately because of sin, we can have all sorts of inconsistencies in our theology, and nevertheless still have a heart that loves the living and true God.
[MDC] Okay — so according to this God-hater, a Christian can believe that Jesus is God and believe that Jesus is not God at the same time. It’s just one of those “inconsistencies” that a believer can have because of indwelling sin, according to him. This is, of course, ridiculous. Christians are not perfect. Christians still sin. Christians can even believe erroneous doctrines, such as in the areas of eschatology or ecclesiology. But when it comes to the basics of the gospel, every Christian believes the same thing. Every Christian believes the good news of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
Does it take “long prayerful study” for a Christian to come to believe the truth of the deity of Christ?
[OPC] Through diligent study we can correct these errors.
[MDC] Oh, yes, this man has “corrected his errors” through his own “diligent study,” unlike his Arminian brethren.
Can the error of not believing in the deity of Christ be corrected through “diligent study”?
[OPC] The OTC seem to think that the Holy Spirit supernaturally reveals all truth to us apart from the study of scripture.
[MDC] This is an absolutely false accusation. Truth is revealed through the Word and the preaching of the Word.
[OPC] This is dangerously close to charismaticism in that it allows for specific continued revelation from God.
[MDC] What a great way to marginalize us. We do not believe that there is any more revelation from God than what He has revealed in the closed Canon.
[OPC] It is true that a consistent Christian would come to realize that there is a problem with believing that we have been saved by the work of Christ alone, and also hold that Christ died to make salvation possible for all.
[MDC] And this man has become a “consistent Christian” through his “diligent, long, prayerful study,” unlike his Arminian brethren.
Oh, yes, the “consistent Christian” would believe that Jesus is God. But what about the “inconsistent Christian”?
[OPC] But we are, sadly, often inconsistent in our theology. Most modern Arminians I think err because they have never really thought about the topic and fall to Arminianism by default (which is where all people will default to because election is not an intuitive doctrine. Our experience is such that we freely chose to follow Christ, and that is a valid experience, but we learn through scripture that it was God’s predetermination back of that choice).
[MDC] Lost people who come in the name of Christ fall to Arminianism by default. True Christians will NEVER fall to Arminianism by default. This shows that he believes the Arminian “gospel” is the “starting point” of true Christianity. He sees that the difference between Arminianism and Christianity is one of degree, not of kind.
[OPC] It is important to consider as well that there is a difference between objecting to a doctrine because we don’t believe it is taught in scripture and, on the other hand, objecting on autonomous grounds. Cornelius Van Til does a fabulous job of showing that the distinction between a Christian and a Pagan is his final authority. A man who takes scripture as his final authority is a Christian.
[MDC] So everyone who tells this man that Scripture is his final authority, he judges to be a Christian? Wow.
[OPC] All other beliefs (including Mormonism, Johovah’s Wit’s, and Islam) are autonomous, referencing some other man made authority. No man can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. The one who submits to scripture is the one who confesses Christ as Lord.
[MDC] What does it mean to “confess Christ as Lord”? It means to confess belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ. There are people who call Jesus “Lord” (Matthew 7:21-23) who are unregenerate.
[OPC] If OTC is so eager for a hallmark of the regenerate, they should think this way instead of pointing to such and such doctrine. Yet we should be careful not to so quickly judge another’s heart.
[MDC] If someone confesses belief in universal atonement, I and every Christian will immediately (how’s that for “quickly”?) judge that person to be unregenerate.
[OPC] An Arminian who affirms that his only hope for salvation is Christ, yet believes that scripture teaches universal atonement, is still referencing scripture as a final authority, even if he is having trouble understanding it.
[MDC] By believing in universal atonement, he shows that he does not believe that his only hope for salvation is Christ! What made him to differ from those in hell? Was it Christ? No. He does not believe that his only hope for salvation is Christ. He believes that it is his own work and effort that is his hope for salvation, no matter what he says.
[OPC] I would pray for such a man and expect that if he diligently study the word he would come to a more consistent application of his faith.
[MDC] Yeah, like this man has already done. Would he expect a “Christian” who is ignorant of the deity of Christ to “come to a more consistent application of his faith” if he “diligently study the word” so as to finally come to the knowledge that Jesus Christ is God? If this man would protest that every Christian has a knowledge of the deity of Christ, then why couldn’t I say, “He seems to think that the Holy Spirit supernaturally reveals all truth to us apart from the study of scripture. This is dangerously close to charismaticism in that it allows for specific continued revelation from God.”?
[OPC] But to simply write all Arminians off as unregenerate is extreme, unwarranted and fails to recognize our own human frailty.
[MDC] First of all, I agree that judging all Arminians as unregenerate is extreme to the false religionists. It is most certainly outside the camp of false religion. It’s just way too non-mainstream for them. Secondly, would this person say that “writing all those who deny the deity of Christ off as unregenerate fails to recognize our own human frailty”? Can’t Christians be frail or inconsistent or “not studying the Word diligently enough” to fall into the error of believing that Christ is not God? What about the doctrine of original sin? If I say that all those who deny original sin are unregenerate, am I “failing to recognize our own human frailty”? Human frailty can lead into all sorts of error, can’t it?
[OPC] These are just some preliminary thoughts. I’d like to know what you think. I’ll read some more of the web sight, but it ultimately seems to me that they are the ones full of “zeal without knowledge” and I don’t find their arguments compelling.
[MDC] Gasp! Is he actually judging here?
What this man wrote to you shows that he has no idea what the gospel is. He does not believe that THE atonement is an essential part of the gospel. He believes that Arminians believe the same gospel he does. He does not see Arminianism as a false religion. He is blind.
To God alone be the glory,
“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them.” (Proverbs 28:4)