Carnal Christians: A Pastoral Perspective

From In the Nick of Time, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Read the series.

I have read with interest the recent exchange in this newsletter on the validity of two-category Christianity. Dr. Hauser argues that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians supports the recognition of two different classes of Christians: the spiritual and the carnal. Dr. Pratt contends that Christians must bear fruit, and that while all Christians sin, there is no biblical reason to think that a Christian can exist in a perpetual state of carnality.

In this essay, I will use the term Keswick as shorthand for the two-category view of sanctification, and Reformed to refer to the position that all Christians are essentially of one type, despite differing in spiritual maturity. Each of these terms normally suggests further theological commitments, but these are not implied in my restricted usage here. And just to play with an open hand, my allegiance lies with the Reformed position.

What I want to consider here are the pastoral implications of this debate. Ideas have consequences, and theological ideas have particularly sharp pastoral consequences. While it is invalid to determine the truth of a theological claim based solely on its practical implications, I actually think there is some common ground in practice between the Reformed and Keswick positions that might help clarify where the debate between them really lies. Read more about Carnal Christians: A Pastoral Perspective

Self Defense and the Christian, Part 3

From Baptist Bulletin, March/April 2016, used by permission. All rights reserved. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Other Considerations

We might wish for more clear texts in the New Testament that are addressed explicitly to the question of self-defense. But since we do not have such data without forcing texts to discuss matters they are not intended to address, a Christian perspective of the question of self-defense must be more indirect. Thus, we shift now from exegesis to an analysis of the social, theological, and ethical concerns.

Contemporary Social & Pragmatic Concerns

We will first address some of the concerns of contemporary American society and note implications of the American social setting. These issues are today discussed almost entirely in terms of defensive weapons, most commonly handguns, though any lethal weapons (knives, long guns, etc.) are relevant. Read more about Self Defense and the Christian, Part 3

The Spiritual Discipline of Remembering

As an exercise in remembering, Memorial Day has a specific focus. My purpose is not to detract from remembrance of our nation’s warriors who have lost their lives in the defense of liberty. Rather, I want to put this particular act of remembrance in the larger context of remembering as a feature of the Christian way of life.

Deuteronomy 8 helps us do that. Here we find that the Bible not only speaks powerfully to us in times of trouble but that it has equally important things to say to us after troubled times have passed and things are going well again. What it calls us to do in this “good times after bad” scenario is intentionally look back and remember the struggle.

Some context: Deuteronomy is a series of sermons Moses delivered in the plains of Moab before Israel crossed over into the land of promise. The “children of Israel” have endured four decades of wilderness life, and though they are about to face hardship of a different kind during the conquest, they are also going to experience unparalleled prosperity. Read more about The Spiritual Discipline of Remembering

Our Lord's Teachings About Money

(About this series)

CHAPTER V - OUR LORD’S TEACHINGS ABOUT MONEY

BY ARTHUR T. PIERSON

Our Lord’s teachings as to money gifts, if obeyed, would forever banish all limitations on church work and all concern about supplies. These teachings are radical and revolutionary. So far are they from practical acceptance that, although perfectly explicit, they seem more like a dead language that has passed out of use than like a living tongue that millions know and speak. Yet, when these principles and precepts of our Lord on giving are collated and compared, they are found to contain the materials of a complete ethical system on the subject of money, its true nature, value, relation and use. Should these sublime and unique teachings be translated into living, the effect not only upon benevolent work, but upon our whole spiritual character, would be incalculable. Brevity compels us to be content with a simple outline of this body of teaching, scattered through the four Gospel narratives, but gathered up and methodically presented by Paul in that exhaustive discussion of Christian giving in 2 Cor. 8 and 9. Read more about Our Lord's Teachings About Money

The Creation Narrative - Genesis 1 & 2 (Part 8)

Read the series so far.

A Thematic Account

The second chapter of Genesis is clearly somewhat different than the first. But it was not intended to be another variant account of it. It follows up on the second half of Day Six and the creation of humanity, and throws theological light on it. It is not as concerned with chronology as the previous chapter. So Genesis 2 is not, as the more liberal scholars think, another creation story. It is a thematic zeroing in on the creation of Adam and Eve.

It is possible that the making of trees in the Garden occurred separately from Day Three, and was witnessed by Adam. But such speculation need not detain us. I am happy to follow Sailhamer, who comments, Read more about The Creation Narrative - Genesis 1 & 2 (Part 8)

Thoughts On Eternal Security

From Faith Pulpit, Spring 2016. Used by permission.

It has been twenty-four years since the topic of eternal security was last addressed in the Faith Pulpit. In the February 1992 issue Dr. Myron Houghton presented the four major views on security and then explained how Romans 8:28–30 supports eternal security. In this issue Dr. Alan Cole, professor of Bible and theology at Faith Baptist Bible College, extends the discussion by presenting additional evidence to support the view that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation.

I appreciate the article Dr. Myron Houghton wrote in 1992 about eternal security, and I completely agree with his position. The article provides valuable help to Christians regarding this important issue. Since Dr. Houghton’s article examined Romans 8:28–30, I want to explore several other passages that support eternal security. Read more about Thoughts On Eternal Security

Carnal Christians? Part 2

From In the Nick of Time, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Read the series.

Believers struggle with sin. But disagreement arises over how this ongoing conflict ought to be engaged. Some have suggested that classifying Christians into “spiritual” and “carnal” categories helps to explain the battle so that steps can be taken to secure victory over sin. Responding to a two-part essay on the “carnal Christian” by Charles Hauser, I proposed an alternative position. I first sought to provide some historical context as a foundation for the theological and exegetical issues that will be addressed in this essay.

John Wesley was the first to teach the concept of two categories of Christians: the saved and the sanctified. Once this second blessing theology took root in many evangelical circles, the revivalist preachers and holiness teachers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries embraced and trumpeted it. Out of this ferment arose the need to provide biblical support for the carnal Christian teaching. The one passage used by all who accept the two-categories-of-Christians view is 1 Corinthians 2:14–3:3 (Ernest Reisinger, What Should We Think of The Carnal Christian?, 8). For this reason, I offer an interpretation of this passage followed by a survey of several other references which argue against the two categories doctrine and which support the assertion that all believers will bear spiritual fruit. Read more about Carnal Christians? Part 2

Self-Defense and the Christian, Part 2

From Baptist Bulletin, March/April 2016, used by permission. All rights reserved. Read Part 1.

New Testament texts

Luke 22:35, 36, and 38 are the only direct New Testament statements about self-defense. Jesus had previously sent His followers on various missions with instructions regarding what provisions and equipment they were allowed to take with them. In sending out the Twelve, He permitted no staff, bag, bread, money, or extra shirt (Luke 9:3). When He sent out the Seventy, He disallowed purse, bag, and sandals (Luke 10:4). These were not, however, intended as permanent, normative commands for all believers for all time. That is clear since Jesus contrasts these earlier restrictions with what would be necessary after the Crucifixion.

In Luke 22:35, 36, and 38 Jesus explicitly commands His followers to take the sort of provisions they were previously asked to leave at home: “He who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack” (v. 36a). But now a new item is added to the list. They are told to buy a sword (machaira), even if they have to sell their cloak to do so (v. 36b). This was not a butter knife for their bread or a paring knife for peeling apples. The machaira was, as BDAG (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) defines it, “a relatively short sword or other instrument, sword, dagger,” which is most commonly referenced in the New Testament as an instrument for killing (e.g., Mark 14:43; Luke 21:24; Acts 12:2; 16:27; Heb. 11:37; Rev. 13:10). Read more about Self-Defense and the Christian, Part 2