Saturday, November 24, 2007

A response to Dr Richard Mouw from this blog.

Original response here from the comments section.

Richard Mouw said...
These are very helpful thoughts about a tension in my Calvinist theology that I struggle with every day--between a seemingly declared divine desire to save all and what I take to be a clear biblical affirmation of particular election. Whether or not I personally have gone wild on the notion of common grace, we do need to be a bit careful not simply to take that notion as a "modern" invention. I keep going back to Calvin himself, who says that we must "let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it where it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God… Those men whom Scripture [I Cor. 2: 14] calls 'natural men' were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good." This, he insists, is meant to illustrate the ways in which our implanted rational natures are, for all human beings, a "peculiar grace." (Institutes, II, 2, 15)

Dear Richard,

First of all I thank someone of your stature for taking the time to provide a response here at my wee blog.
I do hope you will come and visit often if you have the time. It is not everyday a President of Fuller Seminary takes the time to post on a blog let alone my wee place!

I appreciate what you have said above, and I would just like to make a few comments.

I take it you are responding mainly to my comments about you and how I referred to your use of common grace in the "modern sense". Perhaps I should elaborate.
Surely it is no great revelation, that in modern times, this doctrine has undergone somewhat of a shift, not so much in general meaning, but an emphasis that attempts to align the atonement with common grace, and a particular nuance of substance, that has more in common with say Murray and Stonehouse's views, rather than Calvin for example.

Even in what you say above regarding this tension in your Calvinism regarding a desire in God to save all, are you linking this with the atonement?

For me, I think there is a line that we can cross which even Kuyper himself warned of.
Whilst it is true that many natural men have talents and even sublime intellects and good works that on the natural level could even shame many professing Christians, I think it a great danger to say more than scripture would allow us.
It is a fine thing indeed to appreciate what Calvin says in your quote above, but let us not only balance that view with scripture, but even Calvin himself, where elsewhere he has stated,

"Such examples, then, seem to warn us against supposing that the nature of man is utterly vicious, since, under its guidance, some have not only excelled in illustrious deeds, but conducted themselves most honourably through the whole course of their lives. But we ought to consider, that, notwithstanding of the corruption of our nature, there is some room for divine grace, such grace as, without purifying it, may lay it under internal restraint. For, did the Lord let every mind loose to wanton in its lusts, doubtless there is not a man who would not show that his nature is capable of all the crimes with which Paul charges it, (Rom. 3 compared with Ps. 14: 3, &c.)

Can you exempt yourself from the number of those whose feet are swift to shed blood; whose hands are foul with rapine and murder; whose throats are like open sepulchres; whose tongues are deceitful; whose lips are venomous; whose actions are useless, unjust, rotten, deadly; whose soul is without God; whose inward parts are full of wickedness; whose eyes are on the watch for deception; whose minds are prepared for insult; whose every part, in short, is framed for endless deeds of wickedness? If every soul is capable of such abominations, (and the Apostle declares this boldly,) it is surely easy to see what the result would be, if the Lord were to permit human passion to follow its bent. No ravenous beast would rush so furiously, no stream, however rapid and violent, so impetuously burst its banks.

In the elect, God cures these diseases in the mode which will shortly be explained; in others, he only lays them under such restraint as may prevent them from breaking forth to a degree incompatible with the preservation of the established order of things.

Hence, how much soever men may disguise their impurity, some are restrained only by shame, others by a fear of the laws, from breaking out into many kinds of wickedness. Some aspire to an honest life, as deeming it most conducive to their interest, while others are raised above the vulgar lot, that, by the dignity of their station, they may keep inferiors to their duty. Thus God, by his providence, curbs the perverseness of nature, preventing it from breaking forth into action, yet without rendering it inwardly pure. (Institutes, III, 3, 3)

Coming back to my comments regarding your good self, I must admit, after listening to your debate with David J.Engelsma on Common grace, and then hearing of your comments giving aid and comfort to LDS apologists, which frankly disturbed me no end, I have come to an opinion that your views upon common grace are decidedly unlike those of Calvin for example.

Is it possible that your views on common grace are actually allowing you to speak in the way you did with the Mormons at that invitation you attended on November 14, 2004?

I say this, because such would be consistent of course, that is, if common grace is "only" what Calvin says in your above quote.
But is such a position consistent with not only Calvin's other balanced views, but more importantly, with scripture itself?

Whilst on that subject sir, can you explain to me why you felt it necessary to offer an apology on behalf of evangelical Christians for how they had in the past mistreated Mormons? (some certainly have, but your broad brush approach was decidedly lacking in discernment, judgement and balance)
I am not sure that you realise just how much those comments hurt many faithful evangelicals with longstanding ministries to Mormon people.

You need to realise that what the LDS is seeking, is "not" open dialogue with Evangelicals (which was proved when poor Ravi Zacharias took a back stage to all of their own reporting about the apology you had offered instead), but what they desire is mainline respect for "their" beliefs.

It is clearly interested in finding room at its events for those Evangelicals who are willing to publicly disparage their own brethren, and so lend a hand to its own project of marginalizing (rather than interacting with) careful and credible critics like Jerald and Sandra Tanner, the Institute for Religious Research (IRR), and others.
As such, the Mormon Church appears to be interested in “dialogue” only with Evangelicals who lack an in-depth knowledge of Mormon history and doctrine, and who are thus more likely to take at face value the representations of its PR people.

I am seriously concerned about your scholarly understanding of Mormon doctrine and fail to comprehend any of your attempts at defending your views re Mormonism, and it's so called changes.
Is it possible that your views upon "common grace" are influencing your judgement and or studies of Mormonism? Theology matters as you would know.

Now please, I am only asking you some legitimate questions regarding what it was you responded to here in my article, and I am reasonably sure that my argument regarding your "common grace" views are fuelling a lot of your understanding, including not only Mormonism, but other areas of important study.
Calvin would never have done what you did regarding that whole Mormon incident, of that I am quite sure.

Brother, as you are here, please provide a response to what I am saying, as it will be appreciated.

In closing, you have stated,
"I think that an open-minded Christian reader of this book will sense that Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation. That is certainly my sense" (p. 183).

You are of course referring to the author of the unashamedly apologetic LDS work, "Another Jesus?" by Eerdmans of all people!

A work that attacks the Trinity, deity of Christ, sola scriptura, justification by grace through faith alone, the sovereignty of God in salvation, the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Just a simple statement and a response would be welcome.

This is still the Jesus who is the first-begotten offspring of an exalted man from another planet, (an exalted man who now lives, enfleshed in a body of flesh and bones, on a planet that circles a star named Kolob along with his multiple wives), who is the only begotten of the Father in the flesh, but these are not differences sufficient enough to lead us to think that is a different Jesus?

There is a chapter called "The Bible Fraud." Some of the sub-titles in this one chapter include, "The Bible Is Not Infallible," "Not All Scripture Is Equal," "Bible Prophets Were Not Infallible," and "The Bible Does Not Have All the Answers."

Here is the first paragraph.

The Bible is the most misused and misunderstood book ever written. It has been used to justify all manner of impropriety, wickedness, and falsehood. Every spiritual fraud ever perpetrated in the history of Judaism or Christianity has claimed support from the Bible. On the authority of the Bible the Jews crucified Christ, stoned Stephen, and imprisoned and beat the Apostles. With the Bible as justification Paul persecuted Christians unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women (Acts 22:4). After the death of the Apostles the Bible was taught by the authority of the whip and the sword. To the Reformers it became the source of priesthood authority and the final will and testament of their mute God.

I really wonder if you ever read this stuff before you apologized on our behalf Richard?



Richard Mouw said...

Since you quote my brief comment about the state of Bob Millet's soul, why don't you at least acknowledge the previous paragraphs in the same book? Do you find any encouragement of heresy in these comments?

"At the heart of our continuing disagreements, I am convinced, are very basic worldview issues. Judaism and Christianity have been united in their insistence that the Creator and the creation—including God’s human creatures—are divided by an unbridgeable “being” gap. God is the “Wholly Other”—eternal and self-sufficient—who is in a realm of existence that is radically distinct from the creation that was brought into being out of nothing by God’s sovereign decree. On this view of things, to confuse the Creator’s being with anything in his creation is to commit the sin of idolatry. Mormons, on the other hand, talk about God and humans as belonging to the same “species.” Inevitably, then, the differences are described, not in terms of an unbridgeable gap of being, but in the language of “more” and “less.”
This kind of disagreement has profound implications for our understanding of who Jesus Christ is. In traditional Christianty, the question of Christ’s saving power cannot be divorced from how we understand his “being.” If we believe that we are, in our fallenness, totally incapable of earning our own salvation, then the crucial questions are: What would it take to save us? What would a Savior have to be in order to pay the debt for our sin? And, faced with answers given to these questions by teachers who saw Jesus as less than fully God, the church leaders gathered at the Council of Nicea set forth, in 325 A.D., this profound confession of who Jesus is. “We believe,” they wrote,
"in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made."

And only when we acknowledge all of this about him, the Council stipulated, can we move confidenital to this bold and amazing proclamation:
"For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven."

As an evangelical Christian I want more than anything else that people—whatever disagreements I might have with them on other matters—know this Jesus personally, as the heaven-sent Savior who left heaven’s throne to come to the manger, and to Gethsemane, and to Calvary, to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. I also know that having a genuine personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not require that we have all our theology straight. All true Christians are on a journey, and until we see the Savior face-to-face we will all see through a glass darkly.
But I also believe with all my heart that theology is important. There is a real danger for all of us that we will define Jesus in such a way that we cannot adequately claim the full salvation that he alone can provide."

Tartanarmy said...

Well, the LDS Jesus that Robert Millet presents does bear some similarity to the Jesus that historical Christians believe in, but also has a number of important differences. “Jesus was the firstborn spirit child of God the Father and thus the recipient of the birthright of the royal family. As such, and in that premortal realm, he was the Elder Brother of all the spirit sons and daughters of the Father.” (20) We are those spirit sons and daughters, literally. “We do not believe that God and man are of a different species.” (117) They do believe in the Trinity, “But they believe they are three distinct personages, three Beings, three separate Gods.” (141)

These important beliefs are at the foundation of the differences between the Jesus of the LDS Church and the Jesus of historic Christianity.

Do you choose to put these differences under the umbrella of "not yet having our Theology straight" Mr Mouw?

I cannot do so in all conscience and it surprises me that a man of your standing and leadership would do so.

He manages to quote from every prominent open theist and just about all of C.S. Lewis’ most controversial beliefs.

I am disappointed that a Christian publisher would print this book, thereby making it accessible to unsuspecting readers in Christian bookstores, as it is an outright defense of a Jesus contrary to the Bible.

Could you further explain why you would have such a good hope for this particular fellow?


Tartanarmy said...

No comment Mr Mouw?