Were the Novatians Early Baptists? Novatian's Reversal

(Read the series.)

What did Novatian really think about lapsed apostates? Could they ever be re-admitted to fellowship? Some irresponsible historians have painted a false picture in their writings. One of these men is G.H. Orchard, who wrote:

Novatian, with every considerate person, was disgusted with the hasty admission of such apostates to communion, and with the conduct of many pastors, who were more concerned about numbers than purity of communion.1

To Orchard, Novatian was a pious, principled Baptist—a man who exercised an influence of “an upright example, and moral suasion.”2 The fundamental question is this—is there any circumstance where an apostate may be re-admitted to fellowship in a local church? Is any amount of repentance sufficient? Or, are these believers cut off from fellowship, let alone membership, in a local church? Novatian believed the sin was unforgiveable. J.M. Cramp accurately summed up the issue:

Novatian held that apostacy was a sin which disqualified them from again entering into church fellowship, and to secure a pure community, he formed a separate church, which elected him for its pastor.3

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Faithful in Much

(Originally posted at Sometimes a Light, June 6, 2014.)

Two years ago, our family moved back to the rolling hills of southwest Virginia. My husband had been raised here, and even though we had literally traveled the world, he never could quite escape them. I grew up 300 miles north but have found that there is something very familiar about this area. The small communities. The strong sense of place. And family roots that run as deep as the white oaks’. Still, I’ve had a lot to learn in the last two years, to learn the stories that make this place what it is. Most recently, I’ve been learning about the unique price that southwest Virginia paid during World War II. Read more about Faithful in Much

No Hell?

Satan’s encounter with Eve in the Garden is fascinating and very important for us to understand. His temptation of Eve, recorded in Genesis 3, represents several firsts:

It is the first instance of an epistemological alternative to God’s design. Satan offers to Eve a different way to have God-like knowledge. Satan argues that God is actually deceiving Eve into ignorance by keeping her from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan’s plan was both clear and appealing: Be like God by the assertion of your own will, and be free from God’s restrictive design. Declare your independence from God by doing it your own way—the result will be the same.

Satan’s temptation of Eve is also the first instance of a hermeneutic alternative to God’s design. Satan’s temptation of Eve was the first recorded instance of a non-literal interpretation of God’s word. Satan asks Eve, “Has God said … ” and then proceeds to distort what God had actually said (3:1). In contrast, Genesis 1-12 represents roughly 2,500 years of history, and during that time, of the roughly 31 references to God speaking, this is the only instance (besides Eve’s fumbling in response to Satan’s challenge) in which God’s word isn’t taken at face value. Read more about No Hell?

The Testimony of the Organic Unity of the Bible to Its Inspiration

(About this series)

CHAPTER IV THE TESTIMONY OF THE ORGANIC UNITY OF THE BIBLE TO ITS INSPIRATION

BY THE LATE ARTHUR T. PIERSON

The argument for the inspiration of the Bible which I am to present is that drawn from its unity. This unity may be seen in several conspicuous particulars, upon some of which it will be well to dilate.

1. THE UNITY IS STRUCTURAL. In the Book itself appears a certain archetypal, architectural plan. The two Testaments are built on the same general scheme. Each is in three parts: historic, didactic, prophetic; looking to the past, the present, and the future. Read more about The Testimony of the Organic Unity of the Bible to Its Inspiration

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (5)

Read the series so far.

As I have said, at the most rudimentary level covenants are for the purpose of reinforcing plain speech about specific things. They do this formally in the terms of the covenant and its obligations upon specified parties. God holds human beings to the very words of their covenant oaths (Jer. 34:18, Ezek. 17:15c). The Bible also indicates that God “keeps covenant” (Deut. 7:9, Neh. 9:32, Dan. 9:4). We would expect no less from Him who cannot lie and who does not change.

Of all verbal communications, written and oral, surely the most steadfast and adamant are covenants. And surely the least ambiguous and fluid would also be covenants?

The oaths in the covenants

The oath is the decisive ingredient in any covenant. We have already taken a look at the oath which the people took in answer to God’s Book of the Covenant in Exodus. Now we need to examine, if only briefly, the oaths of the other Divine covenants which can be easily spotted in Scripture. (There are certain covenants of a speculative nature which it is impossible to pin down in the text of the Bible. These include the three theological covenants of Reformed covenant theology; the so-called “Adamic” and “Edenic” covenants of some sectors of Dispensational theology; and the “Creation” covenant of New covenant theology). Read more about Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (5)

Discernment and Revelation, Part 4: Concluding the Case for Cessationism

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The book of Hebrews enhances our understanding by detailing two periods in human history in which the Lord has spoken to mankind. Hebrews 1:1 proclaims that the first period was “long ago to the fathers and prophets in many portions and in many ways.” This is an obvious reference to the revelations given during the times of the Old Testament. In verse two the author of Hebrews cites the second period of divine revelation by simply saying that “in these last days [God] has spoken through His Son.” But as we know, Jesus Himself did not write down anything that He said. That was left to His followers and so, the author of Hebrews adds: “After it was first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard” (Heb 2:3) i.e. the apostles.

This, however, raises a practical problem. How did the people know that the communication they were receiving from the apostles was true? After all, many individuals made claim to being an apostle during the first century. The Lord would authenticate His true apostles by giving them the ability to perform “signs and wonders, and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Heb 2:4). When the Corinthians challenged Paul’s apostleship and authority, he pointed them to the “signs of a true apostle … [which were] signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Cor 12:12), just as the author of Hebrews confirmed. Read more about Discernment and Revelation, Part 4: Concluding the Case for Cessationism

Discernment and Revelation, Part 3: The Case for Cessationism

With Parts 1 and 2 as a backdrop, the question is reduced to this: Is God giving authoritative revelation on par with that which He has given in the past (much of which has been inscripturated) or is He not? If He is, then the church of Christ needs to take note and come into compliance with the modern prophecy movement, following its revelations as it would Scripture. But if the Lord is not revealing His inspired word today, then we need to reject the claims of the modern prophets and expose these supposed revelations for what they are.

This means the position taken by most on prophecy—cautious but open—is untenable. The cautious but open crowd is skeptical of the claims coming from the prophetic movement, and they are suspicious of the many “words from God” that so many evangelicals are claiming. Still, they hesitate to embrace cessationism. They are concerned about limiting God or, as it was mentioned earlier, “putting God in a box.” To this let me make two replies:

  • It is okay to “put God in a box” if God, in fact, is the One who put Himself in that box. In other words, God can do anything He wants to do, but we expect God to do what He says He will do. If God has put Himself in the cessationist box we can embrace and proclaim it.
  • Taking the open but cautious view really does not hold up. Either God is speaking today apart from His Word or He is not. If He is speaking, how do we determine which of the multitude of messages people claim are from Him and which are bogus? If, with Grudem, we have eliminated the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18, how are we to evaluate all these revelations? How do we know to whom we should listen and whom we should ignore?
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How Then Shall We Vote?

From Theologically Driven. Posted with permission.

With the election hard upon us, it is a good time to be reminded that nothing we do can rightly be divorced from the sufficient governance of Christian Scripture. No pockets of neutrality exist in any sphere of life, including our politics. While the battery of issues facing voters today is exceedingly complex, one option always proves better than the rest—and it is safe to say that were the incarnate God to join us in the polling booth next week, he would be able, in his perfect wisdom, to discern in every case the best possible option in view of all the facts available.

Of course, we possess neither all the facts nor the wisdom necessary to perfectly harmonize and synthesize those facts. As a result, we Christians tend to vote provincially, and we do not all vote the same. This does not mean (necessarily) that one voting bloc is sinning and the other is not. Still, moral ought does exist in politics: there are some choices that are better than others, and some choices that are flat out wrong.

Most Christians will admit this, conceding that the Bible should inform our voting decisions at some level. We can’t vote for a platform of pure evil. But platforms of pure evil are rare: all candidates exhibit at least some common grace, and a goodly percentage of them are sincere in pursuing what is, at least in their best opinion, most advantageous to their jurisdiction or to the country. Read more about How Then Shall We Vote?