Hints of Cessationism in NT?

(Posted by Paige)

A perennial puzzle that arises as we rub shoulders with our neighbors in the wider church is how we are to understand the claims of “continualists,” who attest that signs and wonders and special manifestations of the Spirit are (and ought to be) normative parts of Christian experience today. As this is a live question in my neck of the woods right now, I recently started thinking through the NT’s teaching, both implied and direct, on the temporary nature of these “special effects.” I’ve come to some interesting, tentative conclusions based mainly on a close study of Hebrews; but before I set these out for scrutiny, I thought I’d offer a question for your consideration and see what good thoughts I get back. Here is my basic query:

Can you identify in the NT any evidence of a shift, whether anticipated or inaugurated, from faith supported by words, sacraments, and miraculous signs to faith supported by words and sacraments alone? (Assume inspired words and the illumination of the Holy Spirit in both cases!)

Note please that I am only interested in NT support for this shift, not what the ECFs had to say about it. I’m also already familiar with the basic cessationist arguments, so no need to repeat Warfield or Calvin on this. What do you see in the NT that suggests a transition from an era that included wonders/sight to an era characterized by words/hearing?

Thanks in advance!

Update:My own contribution can be found in this comment.

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Complaint Sent by Hedman et al to the SJC

Here is the text of the complaint in full. It is important to read this carefully, because it provides the context for the prosecutor’s brief, which will be shortly following.

Complaint

To Dr. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.

And now, this fourteenth day of May, A.D. 2012, comes RE Gerald Hedman and complains against the action of Pacific Northwest Presbytery on April 27, 2012 in denying the complaint of October 18, 2011, RE Wesley Witt versus Pacific Northwest Presbytery, in connection with the trial of TE Peter Leithart on June 3-4, 2011, and in support of said complaint sets forth the following reasons:

Whereas it is the obligation of teaching elders to uphold in their teaching the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards (BCO 21-5.2), and;

Whereas presbyteries are charged to “condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 13-9.f), and;

Whereas, the same or similar views taught by Pelagius and Celestius on final justification, on perseverance, on law and grace, and on the imputation of sin and righteousness were condemned as heresy by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., and;

Whereas, the same or similar views were opposed by the Protestant Reformers when taught by the Roman Catholic Church and denominated as Pelagianism by Calvin, Luther, Melancthon and other Reformers in the sixteenth century, and;

Whereas, the same or similar views when taught by Albert Barnes, Charles Finney and others in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in the nineteenth century resulted in heresy trials denominated as the “Pelagian” trials, and;

Whereas the Standing Judicial Commission of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America ruled on March 5, 2010 that PNWP erred “in its handling of the Reports of the PNWP Study Committee appointed to examine Leithart’s fitness to continue as a PCA teaching elder” and sustained the complaint which was brought against the presbytery, and;

Whereas the Standing Judicial Commission further directed Pacific Northwest Presbytery in March of 2010 that they may counsel TE Leithart “that the views set forth above constitute error that is injurious to the peace and purity of the church”; that they may offer him “pastoral advice on how to recant or make reparations for those views”; that they may counsel him that “he is free to take timely steps toward affiliation with some other branch of the visible church that is consistent with his views”; or, that failing any of the above, they “shall take steps to comply with its obligation under BCO 31-2”, and;

Whereas PNWP did not counsel TE Leithart that this views “constitute error that is injurious to the peace and purity of the church”, and;

Whereas TE Leithart at the October 2010 meeting of PNWP declined to recant of his views or make reparations for them, and;

Whereas TE Leithart at the October 2010 meeting of PNWP informed the body that he would not transfer his credentials out of the PCA, and;

Whereas PNWP indicted TE Leithart on January 17, 2011; received his not guilty plea on January 31, 2011; and conducted a trial on June 3-4, 2011 (the results were sealed until October 7, 2011) which resulted in a judgment that he was innocent of all charges, and;

Whereas, PNWP’s Standing Judicial Commission deliberated upon and denied the complaint of October 18, 2011, and;

Whereas, Pacific Northwest Presbytery upheld the court’s Standing Judicial Commission’s decision on April 27, 2012, and;

Whereas TE Leithart continues to promiscuously teach and publish doctrines in flagrant contradiction of the Westminster Standards, to wit:

1) TE Leithart teaches a doctrine of baptism which contradicts the Westminster Standards and Scripture by attributing to the sacrament of baptism saving benefits such as regeneration, union with Christ, and adoption. Water baptism, according to Leithart, assures:


Those who are members of the church [that they] stand righteous before God, are holy, and are sons because they are members of the body inseparably joined to the Son of God, who is the righteous and holy Son…. Membership in the visible church involves us in marriage to Christ. We are members of his body as much as a bride is a part of her husband’s flesh. 

Again, Leithart says:

 
The baptized is made a member of the family of the Father … [and] branded as a sheep of Christ’s flock. All that is gift. All this the baptized is not only offered, but receives. All this he receives simply by virtue of being baptized.

Yet, the Westminster Standards teach that the efficacy of baptism or the saving benefits received through baptism are only for those who are true recipients of grace.


The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to the moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of the ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will. (WCF 28.6). 

These saving benefits are not for all the baptized, but only “to such as that grace belongeth unto.” Such people are those to whom the “the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost.”

TE Leithart teaches that these benefits of salvation belong, at least for a period of time, to everyone who is baptized. He teaches that through being united to Christ in baptism:


We enter into the new life of the Spirit, receive a grant of divine power, are incorporated into Christ’s body, and die and rise again with Christ. In the purification of baptism, we are cleansed of our ‘former sins’ and begin to participate in the divine nature and the power of Jesus’ resurrection, being made “new creations in the deepest possible sense,” being “born again as a ‘son of the house.” 

These benefits of water baptism are not for adults only, but also belong to infants who are baptized, according to Leithart. He says that the infant who receives the “justifying and sanctifying washing” of baptism becomes a son of God and “the sonship conferred by baptism is not ‘external’ to our basic identity but constitutive of it.” Additonally, baptism, Leithart says:

 
Also confers the arrabon of the Spirit, and in this sense too is a ‘regenerating’ ordinance. There can be no ‘merely social’ membership in this family.

There are obvious problems with Leithart’s views. First, how can baptism be a ‘regenerating’ ordinance without actually conferring the never ending new birth of the Scripture? Leithart has turned the matter completely around. He says all these benefits flow from water baptism, including the new birth. Yet, Shorter Catechism Question and Answer #31, says:

 
Q. What is effectual calling? A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. (Bold added for emphasis).

According to the Westminster Standards, the new birth is the result of God’s effectual calling. Westminster Confession of Faith 10.1 describes this renewal of the will:

 
All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; in enlightening their minds spiritually to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh>; renewing their wills</strong, and, by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Bold added for emphasis).

The new birth is often in Scripture described as taking away the old heart or the heart of stone and giving a new heart or a heart of flesh (Cf. Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5-11). The Confession makes it clear that this new birth is the result of the Word and Spirit. Water baptism is never mentioned with respect to the new birth. Thus, Leithart’s view that water baptism effects the new birth contradicts the Westminster Standards. The answer to Larger Catechism Question # 67 teaches the same thing about the ministry of the Word and Spirit with respect to the new birth.

The Westminster Standards also make it clear that the elect, and only the elect, are so effectually called. Larger Catechism Question and Answer # 68 says:


Q. Are the elect, and they only, effectually called? A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ. 

Thus, the Westminster Standards leave no room for someone to hold to Leithart’s view that water baptism imparts the new birth “in the deepest possible sense.”

Second, how can all those who are water baptized become “new creations in the deepest possible sense”, and yet lose that status? If they are born again in the deepest possible sense, in what sense are those born again who persevere unto everlasting life? Leithart is left with two possible responses. Either he can say that those who are saved for eternity are born again in the exact same way as everyone who is water baptized (the result of that answer would be that the difference between the saved and the lost is all in the power of man); or, Leithart can answer that the saved experience an even deeper sense in which they are born again, which would make his words superfluous in the extreme. As noted below, Leithart chooses the first answer and, thus, makes man’s will- not God’s grace- the ultimate determiner of salvation. Such a view is in blatant contradiction to the Westminster Standards which teach consistently that it is God’s almighty power alone which makes us to differ.

Third, how can all who are baptized be righteous, holy, justified, sanctified, regenerated, sons of God, receive the arrabon of the Spirit and yet many of them are not even believers? Leithart answers these questions in the following way:

 
These benefits of baptism, however, belong, finally only to those who respond in God’s grace in faith; there are some who are made sons by baptism who fall away. (Judgment and Reasoning of the Standing Judicial Commission of Pacific Northwest Presbytery, October 7, 2011, p. 11).

Leithart’s answer raises even more questions. How can someone who is baptized by water receive all these benefits of Christ, including the new birth, as Leithart alleges, and not even be a believer? He cannot. Where do the Westminster Standards teach that saving faith and perseverance can be separated from the other saving benefits of Christ? They do not.

In the trial testimony, Leithart admitted under cross-examination that he had changed his earlier position, which was that everyone who is baptized receives everything that Christ has to offer. His reason was that:

 
There are obvious gifts that the elect receive… that don’t go to every baptized person. Perseverance was the obvious one. (Trial testimony, page 228).

Yet, the Westminster Standards connects perseverance with acceptance, calling and sanctification (WCF 17:1), which Leithart says are benefits every baptized person receives. The answer to Shorter Catechism Question # 36 (What are the benefits which in this life accompany or flow from justification, adoption, or sanctification?) says:

 
The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. (Bold added for emphasis).

Perseverance is a benefit which all those who are justified, adopted, and sanctified receive according to the Westminster Standards. Thus, Leithart’s position contradicts the Westminster Standards. It is obvious why Leithart changed his position concerning perseverance. If every person baptized by water also received perseverance in addition to all the other benefits of Christ then every person baptized by water would also be eternally saved.

In the trial testimony Leithart stated that his views on the benefits of Christ covered Scripture truths which the Westminster Standards do not address. There are certainly areas of truth which are not addressed by the WCF. Yet, Leithart did not show from Scripture that everyone who is baptized receives all the benefits of Christ’s grace. Nor, did he show the difference between the benefits supposedly received by everyone who is baptized and the benefits which belong to those who are saved. What passage of Scripture shows the difference between the “justifying and sanctifying washing” which Leithart says every baptized person receives and the “justifying and sanctifying washing” which only true believers receive? The fact is that these distinctions are simply the product of Leithart’s fertile, but improperly informed mind. They are not taught by the Scriptures.

Leithart also stated in the trial that his own presupposition concerning baptism is that every passage which speaks of it is speaking about water baptism unless it states otherwise. When questioned by the defense, Leithart said that Calvin took the view that Romans 6 was speaking about water baptism (Trial transcript, p, 227). Yet, that was either an ingenuous or disingenuous misstatement of the truth. Calvin actually takes the opposite view; that baptism refers to God’s spiritual work in making believers new creatures in Christ. Commenting on Romans 6:3, 4, Calvin says:

 
It is not a washing alone, but also the mortification and putting to death of the old man, which is there set forth… Baptism means that being dead to ourselves, we may become new creatures… It is irrelevant to argue that this power is not apparent in all the baptized, for Paul, because he is speaking to believers, connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign in his usual manner (John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul to the Romans and to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), 122-123).

Thus, Calvin’s view is just the opposite of Leithart’s view on Romans 6:3, 4. Calvin teaches that Paul is not speaking to everyone who is baptized, but to true believers. Therefore, says Calvin, Paul “connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign.” This is an example of TE Leithart trying to claim that his views have support among reformed scholars from the past when in fact his claim is repudiated by the views of Calvin.

Calvin’s view on baptism is made even clearer in his commentary on Jeremiah 9:26:

 
Hence the prophet says, that though they had the visible symbol in the flesh, they were yet uncircumcised in heart, and ought therefore to be classed with the nations. We see how sharply he reproves them; for God cares not for the external symbol, but regards the chief thing, the circumcision of the heart. It is a common thing with Moses and the Prophets to call an unrenewed heart, uncircumcision, and to say that the people are uncircumcised in heart: for circumcision, while an evidence of free salvation in Christ, at the same time initiated the Jews into the worship, and service of God, and proved the necessity of a new life; it was in short a sign both of repentance and of faith. When, therefore, the Jews presented only the sign, they were justly derided by Moses and the Prophets; for they seemed as though they sought to pacify God by a thing of nought, without regarding the end. The same is the case now when we boast of baptism alone; and are at the same time destitute of repentance and faith; our boasting alone is absurd and ridiculous. And hence Paul calls the external rite, when the sign separated from its reality and substance, the letter of circumcision; and on the other hand he calls that the true circumcision, which is in secret and in the spirit. We may say the same of baptism,- that the literal baptism avails hypocrites nothing, for they receive only the naked sign; and therefore we must come to the spirit of baptism, to the thing itself; for the interior power is renovation, when our old man is crucified in us, and when we rise again with Christ into newness of life (Bold added for emphasis. John Calvin, A Commentary on Jeremiah, Volume One (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 507-508).

The teaching of Leithart is that water baptism conveys the very thing signified which differs from saving grace only because it does not last or does not produce fruit. As Leithart says:

 
Some are united to Christ yet do not persevere. During the time they are branches in the vine, they do receive benefits from Christ through the Spirit and may enjoy real, personal, and deep communion with Jesus for a time. Yet, their relationship with Christ is not identical to the relationship of the elect. Put it this way: Some are united to Christ as members of the bride but are headed for divorce; others are united and headed for consummation.”

Leithart continues by saying that:

 
Everyone who is baptized—every one—is brought into the body of Christ, ordained to be a priest before God, married to Jesus, and brought into the family of the Father, into the circle of God’s personal favor—everyone who is baptized is shown favor simply by the fact of their being baptized… [yet] that favor does not last, or it does not produce fruit, without faith. Only those who respond in faith fulfill their priestly role rightly, persevere in the marriage covenant with Christ, stay in the family, remain in the circle of God’s favor.

The failure of TE Leithart’s views on baptism is that he does not properly distinguish between the sign and the things signified; between what men can do and what God alone does. A minister can apply the water of baptism, but only God can renew the will and cause a person to be born again. A minister can baptize with water, but the saving benefits of Christ are reserved only for those who are effectually called, and none other according to the Westminster Standards.

2) TE Leithart teaches a view of the covenant of works/covenant of grace which is contrary to the Westminster Standards. Leithart says:

 
We do have the same obligation that Adam (and Abraham, and Moses, and David and Jesus) had, namely, the obedience of faith. And, yes, covenant faithfulness is the way of salvation, for the “doers of the law will be justified” at the final judgment. (Prosecution’s Brief, page 8). (Bold added for emphasis).

Leithart also wrote:


That the differences between Adamic and post-lapsarian covenants are not at a “soteriological” level, but at the level of covenant administration. (Prosecution’s Brief, p. 8). 

Leithart, therefore, obliterates the necessary distinctions between law and grace; the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The Westminster Standards connect the law which Adam was responsible to obey in the garden with the law given on Mount Sinai:


God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endowed him with power and ability to keep it. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them, as well as to others (WCF 19.1,2a, 5a). 

TE Leithart, thus, contradicts both the Westminster Standards and the Scriptures (cf. Galatians 3:10-14) in teaching that “covenant faithfulness is the way of salvation.” The Westminster Standards teach that no person is saved by a covenant of works, but by grace. If we are saved by covenant faithfulness, then we are saved by works and by law-keeping, whether Leithart realizes it or not. Paul specifically condemns trusting in circumcision which makes “Christ… of no benefit to you” and places you “under obligation to keep the whole Law.” (Galatians 5:2, 3). Paul contrasts such covenant faithfulness with salvation through faith in Christ.

3) TE Leithart teaches a view of the imputation of Christ which contradicts the Westminster Standards and the Scripture. TE Leithart in his views and teachings rejects the teaching of the Westminster Standards that the obedience and satisfaction of Christ are imputed to the believer (WCF VIII.5; WCF XI.3; Rom. 4:1-8; 5:17-18).

The Westminster Standards could not be plainer about the fact that what is imputed to the sinner in justification is the work of Christ:

 
Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies… by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them (WCF 11.1).

Yet TE Leithart explicitly denies this teaching when he writes:

 
There is no “independent” imputation of the active obedience of Christ, nor even of the passive obedience for that matter; we are regarded as righteous, and Christ’s righteousness is reckoned as ours, because of our union with Him in His resurrection. What is imputed is the verdict, not the actions of Jesus. (“More From Ward,” emphasis added).

While there is no dispute that some of the Westminster Divines rejected the language of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, there has never been any debate about whether his passive obedience is so imputed to us. Yet TE Leithart insists that not only is he unsure about the concept of imputation in general (see the evidence for Charge #3 in the Indictment of the Leithart Trial Documents), but also that the actions of Jesus, whether active or passive, are not imputed to sinners.

From a theological standpoint, what is problematic about TE Leithart’s denial that the actions of Jesus are imputed to sinners, and his insistence instead that his righteousness is credited to us via our union with him, is that in this scheme the sinner is never counted as a law-keeper, neither can he said to be credited with any positive righteousness (as though man’s only problem were his sin, and not additionally his deprivation of positive righteousness). Rather, he only shares in a verdict pronounced over the Son by the Father at the resurrection, and this participation in the Father’s verdict comes by virtue of a baptismal union that TE Leithart unequivocally states can be lost through lack of covenant obedience. Furthermore, Paul teaches that the result of the second Adam’s obedience and satisfaction is that an “abundance of grace” and a “free gift of righteousness” is granted to all who trust in Jesus (Rom. 5:17-19). Furthermore, the “one Man’s righteousness” in verse 18 is parallel to “the one Man’s obedience” in verse 19, meaning that the free gift that the believer receives is nothing less than the right action or conduct of Christ. That which results from Jesus’ federal headship, therefore, is not merely his resurrection verdict being shared by those provisionally united to him, but the believer actually receiving, as a free gift, the imputation of the merit of Christ’s righteous conduct.

4) TE Leithart teaches a view of justification and sanctification which directly contradicts the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 11:2, 4 says:

 
Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet it is not alone in the person justified, but it is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.”

The answer to Larger Catechism Question # 73 says:

 
Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

The answer to Shorter Catechism Question 33 says:

 
Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.

TE Leithart affirmed during the trial that justification is a once-for-all judicial act and sanctification is a process of growth and holiness (Trial Transcript 6.11.21-25). Yet, he also teaches that there is a kind of justification for all who are baptized when God declares them to be right with Him and accepted by Him into His family. This justification which is the result of water baptism cannot be the once-for-all judicial act, though, because not all the baptized endure to the end so as to attain salvation, as Leithart admitted.

Leithart secondly teaches that those who believe in Christ are justified. According to his views, the justification which results from saving faith also cannot be the once-for-all judicial act he professes to believe for reasons which will follow in this paragraph. Leithart thirdly teaches that there is a final justification at the final judgment. This is the only “justification” according to Leithart’s views which can be a once-for-all judicial act. If the justification of the believer when he comes to saving faith was the once-for-all judicial act, then there would be no need for a final justification. Final necessarily means that everything which preceded it was not final nor was it “once-for-all.” Thus, Leithart’s views require that only his theory of ‘final justification’ can be the once-for-all judicial act he says he affirms. Such a view is out of accord with the Westminster Standards.

Leithart’s view of final justification is in complete contradiction to the Westminster Standards and the Scriptures. Neither the Bible nor the Westminster Standards ever mention a final justification. That term is a product of the Federal Vision theology to which Leithart holds, but is not taught anywhere in the constitution of the PCA. WCF 33 teaches about the final judgment, but the phrase ‘final justification’ is nowhere mentioned in the Westminster Standards nor is it mentioned in the Scripture. The final judgment is not a once-for-all judicial act which determines the eternal salvation of anyone. The final judgment is for “the manifestation of the glory of his mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect: and of his justice, in the damnation of the reprobate” (WCF 33:2).

The salvation of the elect is guaranteed by God’s eternal decree and the application of salvation to them through the work of the Holy Spirit- including effectual calling, saving faith and justification by faith alone. The salvation of the elect is not in suspense until the final judgment, as Leithart asserts, at which time they are finally justified on the basis of their whole life.

Leithart’s view of final justification also requires him to believe that sanctification takes place prior to this final justification or not at all. As WCF 13:1 says:

 
They who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them.

Sanctification, according to the Westminster Standards begins with the new birth and continues throughout the whole life of the believer. If the once-for-all judicial act of justification does not happen until the final judgment, then sanctification precedes justification. Yet, the WCF teaches a different ordo salutis in which effectual calling, regeneration, justification and adoption precede sanctification.

The Westminster Standards also connect justification and sanctification to effectual calling- not to water baptism. Effectual calling occurs only once according to the above quote from the chapter on sanctification in the WCF. Regeneration also occurs only once according to the same chapter in the WCF. Since the Westminster Standards additionally state that “those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth” (WCF 11:1) and those who believe are justified when the Holy Spirit “in due time, actually apply Christ unto them” (WCF 11:5), this establishes the only time in which justification can be said to happen according to the constitution of the PCA.

Justification does not happen when a person is baptized by water, according to the Westminster Standards. Justification does not happen at the final judgment, according to the Westminster Standards. Justification happens only at that one time when a person is effectually called and regenerated. Thus, once again, Leithart’s views on justification and sanctification place him in flagrant contradiction of the Westminster Standards.

5) TE Leithart teaches a view of the benefits of Christ which is in flagrant contradiction to the Westminster Standards. First, WCF 13:1 teaches in consistency with the Scripture that effectual calling and regeneration happen only once and are the result of God’s work of grace in the hearts of the elect (see previous paragraph).

The answer to Shorter Catechism Question #32 says:

 
They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits, which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

The answer to Shorter Catechism Question #36 says;

 
The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

The Westminster Standards set forth a consistent order of salvation and the several benefits which accompany these acts or works of God’s free grace. The graces are effectual calling, justification, adoption and sanctification. The benefits of these graces of God are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Spirit, increase of grace and perseverance. All these benefits of Christ are given to believers in their effectual calling- not their baptism.

Baptism, according to Shorter Catechism Question #94:

 
Doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

The benefits of the covenant are not applied to all those who are baptized, as Leithart contends, but only to those who are effectually called, truly regenerated, embrace Jesus Christ through saving faith, are justified, adopted and sanctified.

TE Leithart teaches a parallel plan of salvation which begins with baptism. All the graces of Christ and all the benefits of Christ are given to everyone who is baptized, according to his parallel plan (refer to his quotes about the benefits given through baptism in the point 1 above). Yet, he denies that perseverance is given to those who are baptized. Thus, Leithart teaches that this parallel plan of salvation begins with water baptism, not the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit (which is real baptism).

Leithart teaches that water baptism does not confer eternal grace, but rather confers graces which can be lost. He teaches that water baptism confers graces like regeneration which makes all who are baptized “new creations in the deepest possible sense”, but strangely they are not truly new creatures in the Scriptural sense. Does that mean, therefore, that Scriptural regeneration is deeper than the regeneration through water baptism; that the regeneration of saints is not as deep as the regeneration through water baptism; or, that they are both the same? Leithart does not clarify that point. Again, he teaches that water baptism confers all the benefits necessary to salvation, except the one benefit which will prevent them from losing their salvation, perseverance.

TE Leithart says he is not teaching a parallel way of salvation, but the evidence would show that he is either mistaken or confused. Like other people in the federal vision, Leithart has retracted some of his statements and changed his views on various things. At one time, he taught that even perseverance was a benefit given to everyone who is baptized with water. A study committee of PNWP convinced him to change his position on that point. If all those baptized with water were given the grace of perseverance, then that would guarantee their eternal salvation.

In making the difference between these parallel plans of salvation to consist in perseverance, Leithart puts salvation in the hands of man. The difference, according to Leithart, is that one persevered and the other did not. Leithart’s views are confused and dangerous. They are contradictory to the clear teaching of the Westminster Standards which makes the difference to be the grace of God who effectually calls one and not the other. Leithart himself is confused and has not yet reached a resting place in his theological journey. He began his journey by trying to think of a new way to express the statements of the Scripture concerning baptism. Leithart’s views are a new way, but they are contrary to the Westminster Standards.

TE Leithart contends that the benefits of Christ received at baptism concern areas of truth outside the teaching of the Westminster Standards. Is that really true? Are there really temporary benefits, such as justification, sanctification, regeneration, adoption, and others, which can be lost? Leithart originally taught that perseverance was also one of the benefits given to everyone who is baptized. Now, he has retracted that position. Why? Because perseverance would guarantee that all the baptized would be saved. Yet, that could only be true if the perseverance given to all who are baptized is exactly the same as the perseverance given to those who are effectually called. If perseverance is the same grace in both instances, then that means all the other benefits which Leithart alleges are given at water baptism are also the same as those given at effectual calling. That means Leithart is teaching that a person can be truly born again, regenerated by the Spirit of God, and yet lose his salvation. Moreover, it means that the only thing which makes one baptized person differ from another is that some persevere and others do not. Such teaching is clearly and flagrantly out of accord with the Westminster Standards.

Therefore, the undersigned complains that Pacific Northwest Presbytery acted unconstitutionally on April 27, 2012 in denying the October 18, 2011 complaint of RE Wesley Witt versus Pacific Northwest Presbytery, in their adopting the report of the court’s Standing Judicial Commission on October 7, 2011. This egregious and unconstitutional error permits TE Peter Leithart, who is flagrantly out of accord with the Westminster Standards, to teach and publish his false doctrines with impunity. We further complain that this action of PNWP undermines the Westminster Standards and the system of doctrine taught in the Scripture.

PCRT Seminar: Major Approaches to Creation, Part 1 (Derek Thomas)

(Posted by Paige)

[I owe this to Lane in return for a delicious Italian meal, good company, and the privilege of hearing him sing “And Can It Be” – just amazing. Sorry this one wasn’t live; I still don’t know how he does that, even after watching!]

I chose Derek Thomas’s seminar because I’d just finished reading his Job commentary with my 14-year-old, and I only belatedly realized I’d assigned myself to write up what Thomas dubbed a particularly “complex, difficult, divisive issue.” (That is a short “i” in the middle there; he’s Welsh.) So, here goes. Please don’t shoot the messenger. Please do read everything with a Welsh accent.

There was a lot of content in this presentation, so this will take two parts.

To begin with his endpoint: as the PCA study committee also affirmed, there are several views of creation that can be held without threat to inerrancy. While Thomas would personally subscribe to about 1.5 of the views he presented (on which see part two), he acknowledged that several other views were the convictions of scholars he respects. That said, there are lines in the sand past which inerrancy is no longer viable. The three non-negotiables he mentioned were creation ex nihilo, the special creation of man, and the historical, biblical individual named Adam. (I suspect there may have been more examples in his mind, but he didn’t get to them before Q&A time.)

Before describing any particular views of creation, Thomas dwelt on the tension that exists between biblical and scientific worldviews regarding the nature of the universe. He noted that evolution was not really a scientific theory, but rather “a philosophy, a worldview, an epistemology that affects ethics, morals, and standards.” Even the Big Bang theory moves beyond science and into theology when it tries to address origins (i.e., what happened before this singularity?). “Theologians should get antsy when scientists do theology – generally they do it pretty badly.”

Still, as the church we don’t want to commit another embarrassing error along the lines of geocentrism; it may be healthy to be skeptical of science, but “not to the extent we look foolish.” Thomas acknowledges that we trust science for many things (e.g., “If they’re going to cut me open and remove bits of me, I am going to have to trust the science”). Yet there is no way to reconcile even a generous 7-Day-Creation age of the universe (50,000 years ago? 200,000?) with scientific claims – 13.77 billion years – without doing something radical to the biblical account. And this we may not do.

In any case, “we need a degree of modesty when talking about these issues.” Science may be wrong; it is changing, not a constant. And theology may be wrong – the Bible is inerrant, but its interpreters are not.

Thomas also cautioned us to remember that there is a distinction between the Neo-Darwinian viewpoint (represented by Richard Dawkins) and the worldview of Darwin himself. Darwin’s deism was “ungodly, he had no gospel”; and yet he posited that God creates a few primal forms and always assumed a fixity of species (i.e., he did not advocate trans-species evolution). “That is 13.77 billion years away from Neo-Darwinism,” which has no fixed point of origin and traces “an unbroken line from mollusk to man.” This view is now the most dominant philosophy in modern thought…and it introduces the absorbing question, What might man ultimately become??

Speaking of evolution, we must remember that any so-called Christian view of creation that calls into question the historical, biblical Adam has dropped away from inerrancy. Thomas stresses the adjective biblical here because there are those who suggest that “there was a [historical] dude called Adam that God singled out from other hominids” to endow with the divine image. He referenced Dennis Alexander [dates??] who believed that hominids were around for a couple hundred thousand years (and had acquired language!) before any one of them was singled out by God for homo divinus status. John Stott unfortunately adopted this view. It introduces the conundrum of whether Adam & Eve’s parents were human – or a source of food. (And what happened to all those other hominids? What did they become? Hmmm.)

Closer to home we have Peter Enns asserting that Paul’s endorsement of the historical, biblical Adam can be disregarded because Paul was an ancient man, a product of his times…and we know so much better now about human origins. In Derek Thomas’ wry assessment, “That isn’t just a slippery slope – that’s an Alpine slope!”

Stay tuned for part two…

Sixth Plenary Address: From Beginning to End- God’s Garden to God’s City (Derek Thomas)

Text is Revelation 21:9-22:5

These final chapters of Revelation are a bookend to the first chapters of Genesis.

G.K. chesterton once said, “Don’t believe in anything that can’t be told in colored pictures.” Fantasy literature provides a context in which people can, perhaps, understand Revelation better: fantasy literature works in highly colored, almost cartoon-like extravagance of color. This is what Revelation feels like (minus the fiction aspect, of course).

We exist in two different realms right now as believers. Jerusalem is a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The imagery of the cube-shaped new Jerusalem comes from the Old Testament. The main occupation of God’s people in the new heavens and the new earth is worship. This is a test: does that idea thrill us? We can hardly expect to be thrilled in worshiping God in the new heavens and the new earth if we are not thrilled in worshiping God in this life. New temple, new heaven, new world. Things in the world never stay new. But the new heavens, new earth, new temple, new world, will always retain its youth and newness. This new existence cost Jesus an unimaginable price. Jesus experienced the very reverse of the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6: The Lord curse you and turn away from you. The Lord turn His face away from you, and be just to you. The Lord lift up His wrath upon you and give you (literally!) Hell. Jesus experienced this so that we could experience the beauty of the blessing.

Fifth Plenary Address: The Bible and Evolution (Rick Phillips)

Did science correct the Bible in the case of Galileo? Or was the interpretation of Joshua incorrect? Does evolution correct our interpretation of Genesis 1-2? Even advocates of evolution will admit that if Genesis is teaching literal history, then it rules out evolution. The species in Genesis were created by God according to their kind. People who advocate evolution posit a non-literal reading of Genesis 1. Are we saying that Genesis 1 teaches science? No, but it DOES teach history. Objections from the Biologos crowd will be that Genesis 1 is poetic. Genre analysis tells us that Genesis 1 is a classic example of historic Hebrew narrative, NOT poetry. It does not have parallelism, but vav-consecutive. Does the supernaturalism of Genesis 1 rules out the possibility of historical narrative, as Keller says? No. Even the presence of more highly exalted language does not rule out historical narrative, as Hebrew poetry itself shows us, since Hebrew poetry can still legitimately refer to historical events. The same objections made against the historical narrative of Genesis 1 could be made against John.

Do Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 conflict? No. Genesis 1 is a wide-angle lens, whereas Genesis 2 is a telephoto lens on day 6. The hermeneutics of the Biologos crowd subordinates the authority of the Bible to the higher authority of secularist science. On the one hand, we have fallible scientists, who have mixed motives, and mixed intellectual capacities, working with limited data. On the other hand, we have God, who has no fallibility, completely holy motives, absolute intellectual capacity, and working with ALL the data. Which authority is higher? Surely it is God.

Another casualty of this Biologos perspective is the doctrine of man. Man is no longer unique, but is on the same level as the animals. But when God made the animals, He created them by fiat. When He created man, He used His own “hands,” forming Adam personally from the dust of the earth. Psalm 8 does not say, “You made him a little higher than the animals,” but rather associates us with the higher beings, “You made him a little lower than the angels.” Modern secularism directs humanity (already having problems with self-loathing!) to their association with the animals. This is not calculated to solve the problems of despair so rampant in today’s society. Evolution is compatible with racism. Evolutionists are not necessarily racist, but evolution is compatible with racism, because a logical conclusion of evolution is that there are inferior strands of DNA that need to be weeded out. Can anyone say Final Solution? Furthermore, sin will need to be redefined as a form of imperfection, rather than transgression of God’s law.

The Bible says that death is the result of the Fall. Evolution says that death is the mechanism of improving the gene pool. According to evolution, then, death is good, and part of the world which cannot be eliminated. Death is no longer the intruder that the Bible says it is. Leviticus law says that death is bad. Life is part of the camp, and death is to be outside the camp. If Jesus conquered death, how can evolution be true, when evolution says that death is how progress comes to the world? Revelation 21:4 tells us explicitly: death shall be no more. One possible answer is that the Fall is only resulting in spiritual death, not physical death. This is inconsistent with Genesis 3 compared with Genesis 5. The refrain “and he died” is a reflection on the curse of the Fall. Revelation tells us that the first death and the second death are related, but for the grace of God. Christianity says that physical death is wrong! When will you get over the death of your loved one? Ultimately, the RESURRECTION! Christianity is never reconciled to death. If evolution is true, then God pronounced death good. This is absolutely blasphemous!

The problem with wanting to be respectable in society by believing in evolution is that the resurrection of Christ, the miraculous nature of the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ are all equally distasteful to the secularists as creation.

Carl Trueman’s Seminar

Original Sin in Modern Theology

He plans on dealing with four theologians (Friedrich Schleiermacher, Walter Rauschenbusch, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann). Modern theology, in losing scriptural authority, has lost its unifying factor. He seeks to look at the implications of their project. His basic conclusion is that, in modern theology, sin is horizontal, and not vertical. That is, it brings about enmity between people, and has no implications with a relationship to God.

Friedrich Schleiermacher: original sin became distasteful, and therefore ignored. He wanted to rebuild Christian dogmatics. The God-consciousness (the feeling of utter dependence). Psychology is central to his understanding of sin. The human is two-fold: the higher consciousness and sense consciousness. Obstruction of the sense of the higher consciousness is Schleiermacher’s definition of sin. Sin is psychological. For Schleiermacher, Jesus is the primary example of someone living in utter dependence. He doesn’t care whether Adam and Eve were historical. He regards the traditional teaching on Adam and Eve is incoherent. He believes that creation is inherently flawed. The Fall is therefore a paradigm of how the sensuous consciousness obstructs the God-consciousness. Sin is a disruption of human psychology.

Walter Rauschenbusch: (the originator of the social gospel). Rauschenbusch sought to recast Christianity in such a way as to address social problems. The kingdom of God is central to his theology: but not as individual, but a more corporate focus (can anyone say New Perspective on Paul? LK). Sin of the structures is a Rauschenbusch construct. He implicitly denies the historicity of Adam. His view of Christianity is purely pragmatic. All ideas are judged by their practical merit. He views the traditional view of the Fall as downplaying later societal evils. He does, however, believe in human solidarity. For him, sin is selfishness (dependent on Schleiermacher). If sin is primarily horizontal, then there is no basis for opposing gay marriage. So, this is not just an ethereal irrelevancy.

Karl Barth: he was definitely a rebel against Schleiermacher and Rauschenbusch. However, his thinking on original sin owes quite a bit to liberalism. He often uses the language of orthodoxy, but opposes the ideas behind the traditional doctrine. Barth distinguishes between historie and geschichte (history and significance). Adam and Eve are saga, a third term that is close to myth. He posits a contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2. Plus, he rejects the unfallen nature of the creation before the Fall. For Barth, Adam is Everyman. Adam is the truth concerning us. Adam as the paradigm for us is something Barth has in common with Schleiermacher. Barth reverses the first and second Adams. This pushes Barth in a universalistic direction, though he is not explicit. We are not IN Adam, but we actually ARE Adam.

Rudolf Bultmann: arguably the most influential New Testament scholar of the twentieth century. He actually believed that the idea of a pristine creation is due to a gnostic intrusion into the New Testament. Bultmann says that Paul’s account of sin is incoherent. Bultmann believed that the Fall is a myth.

Conclusion: All are in the stream of Enlightenment theology. All reject the relevance of the historicity of Adam. They don’t necessarily say that Adam wasn’t historical. They are saying it doesn’t really matter whether Adam was or not. There is therefore no movement from pristine innocence to guilt, which in turn brings into question the transition from guilt to grace. The nature of sin as attenuated. The “problem” of the injustice of the imputation of Adam’s guilt is not solved in modern theology. If we can’t be held accountable for Adam’s sin, then why should we be help accountable for our own sin?

Fourth Plenary Session: Christ, the Second Adam (Joel Beeke)

Individualism is incredibly rampant. It makes corporateness difficult to comprehend. We are hooked to the belt to one or other of the first Adam or the second Adam, as one Puritan says. The text under consideration, of course, is Romans 5:12-21. Two perspectives are addressed by Beeke: Christ’s work as second Adam, and Christ’s kingdom.

The work of Christ as second Adam. Five points: 1. Christ’s calling as a servant. Adam was called as a servant in the garden of Eden. 2. Facing the temptation of Satan: Jesus won where the first Adam lost. 3. The second Adam’s obedience unto death, where the first Adam was disobedient to death. Compare the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden of Eden. The contrasts are remarkable. The temptation, the environment, the result of the tempting, the reaching out of the hands (Adam for godhood, Jesus for chains). 4. The Second Adam’s gift of righteousness.[FOOTNOTE] 5. The second Adam’s resurrection unto life.

The Kingdom of the Second Adam, in three points. 1. The recreation of the saints in God’s image. The work of Christ is to conform us to His own image. He makes us prophets, priests, and kings. 2. The resurrection of the saints in glory. 3. The reign of the saints with Christ.

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Third Plenary Session: Adam, the Lord of the Garden (Liam Goligher)

Genesis 2:4ff is the text.

A hermeneutical point: we start with a completed canon, and so we start from the end.

The garden of Eden is a proto-tabernacle and proto-temple (this insight comes from Beale). The image-bearers of God are required to multiply the image of God and fill the earth with God’s image. The image-bearers would extend Eden to include the entire earth. Adam was to serve and to guard in the garden. He is more than gardener. He is required to do what the priests would later do. Again, these insights come from Beale. The words “serve” and “guard” are only ever used together when referring to priestly activities, guarding and serving the tabernacle and temple. They are supposed to keep out unsanctified beings from the Garden. This is why Adam’s very first sin is actually letting Satan into the Garden of Eden at all.

Adam is given a covenantal role. The word “covenant” is not used in Adam’s relationship. Neither is it initially used in David’s covenant. Goligher’s take is that the word is much more used later on in history, and it would be somewhat anachronistic for Moses to have used the term. However, Adam’s situation is still truly called covenantal. This covenantal relationship is a matter of life and death. The meaning of the tree of life is suspended until the book of Revelation: it means eternal life, resurrection life, transformation of the universe. (LK: did Adam not then eat of the tree of life? The evidence seems to point to Adam eating of the tree before the Fall: it is possible, of course, that the tree of life in the respect that Liam means, is a sacramental tree, as Calvin would say. In this sense, the tree did not itself bring those things, but signified them).

The first covenant was a covenant of works: eat of the tree and you die (that’s a work!). If Adam had obeyed, he would have filled the earth with image bearers, and expanded the garden until it covered the whole earth. We have to exclude foreign elements from the church. Elders need to guard the church from false teaching.

Eve was the first theological liberal: she added to God’s Word in the temptation, and paraphrased. We do not paraphrase when we are quoting God. The command is changed into something jealous, small, and mean. Knowledge is the lure for Eve. The first doctrine that is ever denied explicitly is the doctrine of judgment. Denial of Hell and judgment is nothing new, obviously. Temptation attacked reason first. Sin is an assault on the truth of God. If we want to look at sin, don’t look first at the whorehouse, look at the academy. This is why Enns has fallen for the lie of the devil, when he says that science has a consensus on evolution, and that therefore biblical theologians must follow suit. Why is the academy more authoritative than God?

Second Plenary Session: The Case for Adam (Joel Beeke)

Trueman has said that the historicity of Adam is the most important doctrinal issue facing the church today. Beeke means by the historical Adam that a real human being existed who was the progenitor of the human race. The alternative that many Christians claim today is that there were a thousand hominids in the beginning. Genesis 2 is then a symbolic allegory of the entrance of the human soul into a previously soulless animal world. Enns, for instance, believes that evolution is scientifically proven. And therefore the interpretation of the Bible must conform to what science has irrevocably proven. Beeke’s specific focus is go back to what the Bible itself says about the historical Adam. He will make an historical case for Adam from the Bible (4 points), and then a theological case for Adam from the Bible (6 points).

Historical case 1: Genesis portrays the creation of Adam as an historical event. To overcome this historical interpretation, opponents raise three points. 1. They say Adam is a symbol for man (given the name for Adam). Answer: but the Bible distinguishes between man in general and Adam in particular. the reason Adam was given the name he has is because he is the progenitor of the human race. 2. Genesis 2 contradicts Genesis 1. Answer: they are not contradictory, but rather describes the same events from complementary perspectives. 3. The serpent talks: it must therefore be symbolic. Answer: the Bible tells us that the devil was not the snake, but that the devil used the serpent.

Historical case 2: Biblical genealogies present Adam as the father of other historical persons. Genesis 5 is not myth, but historical record. 2 Chronicles 1 follows Adam to Abraham, to David, and to the exile. Luke 3 traces the lineage of Jesus back to Adam. This latter is particularly crucial. Luke 3 is nonsense if Adam is not historical.

Historical case 3: Christ himself spoke of Adam and Eve as historical persons. Jesus’ teaching concerning marriage quotes Genesis 1-2.

Historical case 4: If Adam is not a real man, who else is not real in the Scriptures? Why not make Abraham, Moses, and even David into mythical figures? Skepticism makes a tidal wave that covers over all the Bible. In what chapter of Genesis does historicity begin in Genesis? Will you not eventually deny Christ’s resurrection?

Theological case 1: Adam is not just an interesting figure, but is foundational to our theology. If Adam is myth, then our view of human identity and human sin (and through the parallel to Christ) our Savior. The historical Adam is the basis for believing in humanity’s original nobility. If Adam is myth, then there is no difference between humanity and the animals. The image of God is part of our very constitution, not an add-on. We will treat man like animals and animals like man if we lose the historical Adam.

Theological case 2: The historical Adam is the root of mankind’s unity. This is not just Israel’s story (contrary to Peter Enns). Genesis 3:20 says specifically that Eve is the mother of ALL LIVING. Acts 17:26 says that all are made from one blood (some translations say “from one man”). Christ takes on Himself common human nature, not the nature of part of humanity. Our unity in Christ depends on the historical Adam. How shall we stand up against racism if we are not from one origin? True philanthropy depends on the unity of the human race.

Theological case 3: the historical Adam is the foundation of gender relationships. The Bible loses its authority to tell ALL humanity what God’s will is in regard to sexuality (or anything else, for that matter) if we lose the historical Adam. We need an historical basis for our sexual ethics.

Theological case 4: The historical Adam is the basis for understanding the Fall. Paul says that death reigned from Adam to Moses. Paul means (among other things) that Adam is just as historical as Moses. Otherwise, Paul’s entire argument in Romans 5 is meaningless. We can’t understand the second Adam in His person and work unless we understand the first Adam. We lose the doctrine of original sin. We lose his imputed guilt, which then means that we lose the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Theological case 5: The historical Adam is a type of the Savior. Paul says explicitly that Adam is a type of Christ who is to come. Paul is not just using Adam as a cautionary tale, but rather Adam and Eve is the story on which all history hinges.

Theological case 6: The historical Adam is a test-case for biblical authority. Without the lenses of Scripture, our sin-clouded eyes will only see what the world sees. Enns actually says that we do not need to follow Paul in his statements about Adam, because he is an ancient man, and we know better. What is the husk and what is the kernel, and who gets to choose which is which?

Are we going to believe the Bible and are we willing to endure the shame that the world heaps on us for believing things that the world believes is completely outdated (and that is only the kindest term)?

First Plenary Session: The Bible’s First Word (Derek Thomas)

The text is Genesis 1:1-2. The centrality of God in the very beginning teaches us that our hermeneutical human-centeredness (“what does this passage say to me?”) is fundamentally wrong-headed. We need to ask, “What does this passage teach about God?” Leibniz says that a great question to ask is, “Why is there something, and not nothing?” For the Big Bang theory to happen, there has to be something before that. But the Bible states that the Triune God created by His powerful Word.

The creation account exalts God. Our culture seems to exult in the weightlessness of God (a la David Wells). The vastness of space ought to give us an inkling of how great God is. He notes the apologetic slant to Genesis 1 (vis-a-vis the Egyptian cosmologies, which worshiped the created sun and moon). The creation is Trinitarianly created. All the external operations of the Godhead are indivisibly the work of all three persons of the Trinity.

If someone says that the creation happened through a singularity, then we ask, “What was there before the singularity?” Nothing at all. Out of nothing everything came. (Why then can’t they believe in the resurrection?) This is irrational. Some people say that gases existed before the singularity. Some claim that electro-magnetism existed. This also is absurd. Science can be trusted when it comes to airplanes, cars, and surgery, but when science attempts to invade theology and philosophy, it becomes absurd. Before creation, there was God. Why is there something and not nothing? Because God is.

The creation account emphasizes the Creator-creature distinction. One of the best things that we can learn is that there is a God, and then we are not Him, or the fourth person of the Trinity, contrary to human tendencies. The biggest problem with the Egyptians gods is that they don’t exist (!).

The biblical doctrine of creation teaches the essential goodness of creation and matter. The constant refrains of God’s approval “God saw that it was good” militates against a Platonic rejection of matter as inherently evil, or of the body as the prison-house of the soul. This world will be restored, not obliterated. There are some things more beautiful (“good” versus “very good” in Genesis 1). God is the judge of what is truly beautiful. Grace is always restorative.

The biblical doctrine of creation is the basis for morality and ethics. What God has separated (genes, for instance) let not man join together. When we forget we are creatures, then we make our own morality.

The biblical doctrine of creation is the basis, ground, and motivation for worship. We were made to worship God.

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