Friday, April 20, 2018

Independent Baptists and 'Quick Prayerism'


Being raised a 4th generation Jehovah's Witness, I had virtually no knowledge of other Christian denominations apart from what I read in Watchtower publications, and my brief contacts with individuals while engaged in the 'field ministry'. Some of the first non-JW churches I attended in the 1980's were Independent Baptist churches. Though by nature staunchly 'independent', there existed a good deal of common doctrines and practices within the Independent Baptist paradigm, which included: dispensationalism, 'alter calls', 'soul winning', King James onlyism, and salvation by faith alone.

I soon learned that there was some disagreement among Independent Baptists concerning exactly what was meant by 'salvation by faith alone'. Some maintained that 'saving faith', in a very real sense, included signs of repentance and ongoing sanctification; while others believed that the inclusion of such signs turned 'salvation by faith alone' into a form of 'works-righteousness' salvation. These two opposing views—which also exists within Evangelicalism—has been termed by a number of folk as the Lordship salvation controversy and/or easy believism.

Now, I had read a good deal of literature on this issue back in the 80s and 90s, and thought I was pretty knowledgeable on the topic. However, earlier today while reading David Cloud's, "Friday Church News Notes", I learned of a certain aspect of this controversy that was new to me: "Quick Prayerism" (see this link). Note the following from David's online article:

Hyles-Anderson Baptist College and First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, have had the greatest responsibility for spreading the weird heresy of Quick Prayerism throughout the world. This occurred under the leadership of Jack Hyles. The Sword of the Lord published Hyles’ books on Quick Prayerism soul winning beginning in 1962 (Let’s Go Soul Winning and Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church). Quick Prayerism is an evangelistic methodology that is quick to get people to pray a sinner’s prayer after a shallow gospel presentation that, typically, is devoid of any hint of the necessity of repentance. It is quick to pronounce those people saved and give them “assurance” and to try to baptize them even if they demonstrate zero biblical evidence of having been born again. Quick Prayerism incorporates psychological salesmanship manipulation and is characterized by soul winning reports that are grossly exaggerated, since the number of actual spiritual conversions are exceedingly minute compared to the overall statistics.

I am wondering if any other folk have of heard this, "weird heresy of Quick Prayerism"?


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. David Cloud has an extended treatment of this subject which is available online without cost in a PDF format HERE.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Book of Mormon: support for the 'stone in a hat' translation method from an early, unique source


In my preceding, last six posts on Mormonism (link), I focused on the recent paradigm shift within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concerning the 'translation' method of the Book of Mormon. The long held view that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith via the use of the 'gold' plates and spectacles which were buried together in the Hill Cumorah, is being replaced by the use of a single 'seer stone' in a hat without the plates being used.

On Thursday, I discovered in an early, unique source, certain comments which support the latter process. To my knowledge, no LDS scholar who has written on the subject of the translation method of the Book of Mormon has mentioned this source. The source is a book written in 1854 by the notable 19th century Catholic convert, Orestes Augustus Brownson, under the title, Spirit-Rapper: An Autobiography. Brownson was a prodigious authorThe Works of Orestes Brownson (20 volumes) contains more than 12,000 pages. Prior to this week, I had read only his contributions on the subject of doctrinal development, and had no knowledge of the aforementioned book. It was on Wednesday that I learned of the existence of this book via an article published on the The Catholic World Report website under the title: "The devil always leaves us in the lurch" (link). From the article, we read:

If weirdness were an Olympic sport, the American nineteenth century would have a closet full of gold medals.

But out of that weirdness comes the strange and compelling figure of Orestes Brownson, a Catholic convert who wrote an equally strange and compelling book: The Spirit-Rapper: an Autobiography. Newly reissued by Cluny Media under the (improved) title Like a Roaring Lion, Brownson’s 1854 book dissects some of the biggest bad ideas of his day, and warns of a menacing darkness that lurks beneath them. But Brownson’s novel also speaks to us today about the errors and practices that open our souls to the work of the devil.

I ordered the book, but could not wait to receive it, so I looked for the 1854 edition online, finding a PDF copy (link), that I downloaded and read. Note the following:

Much nonsense has been vented by the press about the origin of his Bible, or the Book of Mormon. The most ridiculous as well as the most current version of the affair is, that the book was originally written as a novel, by one Spalding, a Presbyterian minister in Pennsylvania, and that Joe got hold of the manuscript and published it as a new Bible. This version is refuted by a simple perusal of the book itself, which is too much and too little to have had such an origin. In his normal state, Joe Smith could never have written the more striking passages of the Book of Mormon ; and any man capable of doing it, could never have written any thing so weak, silly, utterly unmeaning as the rest. No man ever dreamed of writing it as a novel, and who ever had produced it in his normal state, would have made it either better in its feebler parts, or worse in its stronger passages.

The origin of the book was explained to me by one of Joe's own elders, on the authority of the person who, as Joe's amanuensis, wrote it. From beginning to end, it was dictated by Joe himself, not translated from plates, as was generally alleged, but apparently from a peculiar stone, which he subsequently called his Urim and Thummim, and used in his divination. He placed the stone in his hat, which stood upon a table, and then taking a seat, he concealed his face in his hat above it, and commenced dictating in a sleep-waking state, under the influence of the mysterious power that used or assisted him. I lived near the place where the book was produced. I had subsequently ample means of investigating the whole case, and I availed myself of them to the fullest extent. For a considerable time the Mormon prophets and elders were in the habit of visiting my house. They hoped to make me a convert, and they spoke to me with the utmost frankness and unreserve. (Pages 165, 166 - bold emphasis mine.)

I find it more than a bit interesting that Brownson's comments concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon, are virtually identical to the method now being endorsed by LDS scholars who have been working on Joseph Smith Papers project—minus the "sleep-waking state"—which elements include: that it was Joseph Smith alone, and not some other person or persons like Spalding, who produced the English 'translation'; the 'translation' method did not utilize the plates; Joseph dictated the book to his amanuensis while using a stone in a hat, into which he concealed his face.

Now, in my January 7, 2018 post (link), I asked the following question:

WHY has Kirkham's and Nibley's assessments been jettisoned by so many 21st century LDS scholars?

Though Brownson's comments seem to support the new paradigm shift promoted by a good number of 21st century LDS scholars, I still believe that my question remains valid.


Grace and peace,

David

*UPDATE (April 14, 2018): I am in the process of attempting to find any references to Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, Mormonism et al., that Orestes Augustus Brownson may have made in his extensive corpus. Just moments ago, I found the following article in Dialogue - A Journal of Mormon Thought:

"I Consdier the Proper Authority Rests Among the Mormons": Oran Brownson to Orestes Brownson on Oran's Conversion to Mormonism


The following from the article is germane to this post:

Orestes demonstrated his interest in Mormonism by addressing the subject throughout his prolific writing career. In the Spirit-Rapper, published in 1854, Brownson associated Mormonism with spiritualism and mesmerism, movements rapidly gaining adherents in America of the 1850s. Referring to Smith’s use of a divining rod, he stated that “every mesmerizer would at once have recognized him as an impressible subject.” Brownson ridiculed the Spaulding theory of the origins of the Book of Mormon; he likewise denied that Smith without assistance could have authored the book. Brownson accurately described the translation process as having occurred by the use of a seer stone placed in a hat, a description he had learned from “one of Joe’s own elders, on the authority of the person who, as Joe’s amanuensis, wrote it.” Having deemed Smith incapable of producing the Book of Mormon on his own, Brownson concluded that “there was a superhuman power employed in founding the Mormon church,” asserting that direct satanic intervention explained both the Book of Mormon and Mormon miracles. In short, “Mormonism is literally the Synagogue of Satan.” (Page 194)

And so, I can now say that I know of one "LDS scholar who has written on the subject of the translation method of the Book of Mormon [who] has mentioned this source."

Friday, March 30, 2018

Monarchy of God the Father—God the Father as the cause/source of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit: three valuable resources


It was the writings of a number of Eastern Orthodox theologians which prompted me to begin an in depth study into the important doctrine of the Monarchy of God the Father. I started with the pre-Nicene and Nicene Church Fathers, and then (of course) the pre-Augustinian CFs who defended the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.). Of late, I have focused on Augustine's elucidations on God the Father as the cause/source of the Son and Holy Spirit.

As I continue my studies into the Monarchy of God the Father, I wanted to bring to the attention of my readers three important contributions which are germane to this topic. The first is a website ran by Andrew Davis:


Andrew is a cogent contributor in the comboxes of my recent threads on Augustine. His site has a number of threads on the Monarchy of God the Father, defenses of the Nicene Creed, and exposés on 'modern' forms of modalism and 'semi-modalism'.

The second is a dissertation by James Paul Krueger:


From the opening introduction of the dissertation we read:

One of the widespread contemporary approaches to the Trinity repudiates “mere monotheism” and emphasizes the community of the Persons as three separate centers of action. Within some versions of this “social Trinitarianism,” the unique role of the God the Father as source of the godhead is marginalized or obscured. The views of Jürgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg on God the Father bring this problem into focus, as they diminish the “monarchy” of the Father as unfitting because as traditionally understood it lacks reciprocity. Instead, they envision alternative modes of explaining the unity, stressing the original threeness and describing divine unity as an eschatological achievement. After linking the Father’s diminished place in these approaches with the problem of divine unity, this study examines the theology of God the Father in Augustine and Bonaventure to clarify how the concept of the Father as unique source can provide a solution to this pressing problem in contemporary systematic theology.

And the third is a master's thesis by Elizabeth Klein:


The following is from the abstract of the thesis:

This thesis examines the concept of God as Father in the thinking of two Patristic authors: Athanasius (c. 293-373) and Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-390). Since God is called Father frequently in the New Testament both Athanasius and Gregory see the name as fundamental to understanding the nature of the intradivine life, as well as God’s relationship to humankind. The reliance of Patristic authors on the language of Father and Son brings relational language to the fore of Christological and trinitarian discussions of the 4th and 5th centuries. In this thesis, I endeavour to demonstrate the centrality of the fatherhood of God in the thinking of Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus, and to connect their thinking on this topic to larger theological questions of the period.

I recommend the above resources to those folk who share my interest in the Monarchy of God Father.

ENJOY !!!


Grace and peace,

David

Monday, March 26, 2018

Jesus and the Cross - How the cross became Christianity’s most popular symbol


Earlier today, the Biblical Archaeology Society published an article in their 'Bible History Daily' section that caught my eye:

Jesus and the Cross - How the cross became Christianity’s most popular symbol

From the second paragraph of the contribution we read:

Scholars believe that the first surviving public image of Jesus's crucifixion was on the fifth-century wooden doors of the Basilica of Santa Sabina, which is located on the Aventine Hill in Rome. Since it took approximately 400 years for Jesus’s crucifixion to become an acceptable public image, scholars have traditionally believed that this means the cross did not originally function as a symbol for Christians.


Grace and peace,

David

Friday, March 16, 2018

Shocking news concerning a son of the controversial KJV only advocate Dr. Peter S. Ruckman


Earlier today, I learned of the tragic murder-suicide event involving a son and grandsons of the controversial KJV only advocate Dr. Peter S. Ruckman, via David Cloud's, Friday Church News Notes (link).

I became aware of Dr. Ruckman (link) when I began my studies into Biblical textual criticism in the early 1980s. He was the author of dozens of books (Amazon; Bible Baptist Bookstore), many of which focused on textual criticism and the 'Kings James Only' movement (link).

Dr. Ruckman became one the most controversial figures in the textual criticism debate. Though I believe that some of his conclusions concerning textual criticism are flawed, I also maintain that a number are valid. Unfortunately, most critics of Dr. Ruckman are unable to separate his style of writing—non-academic, ostentatious—from its core content; and their critiques are often filled with ad hominem attacks.

Anyway, this post is not intended to be an in depth presentation of my views on Biblical textual criticism; but rather, it is meant inform folk of the sad event related by Dr. Cloud.


Grace and peace,

David

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Augustine's novel development concerning the Trinity


In the combox of the previous thread on Augustine (link), Andrew L. Davis wrote:

 >>I definately agree that Augustine saw the Trinity as one substance/essence. But what I hoped to show with the quotes I cited above is that it appears that he went beyond articulating the persons to be one essence to ultimately treat them as a single person. What I mean by that isn't that he uses the term "person" for the Trinity, but in using singular personal pronouns for the Trinity, and praying to it as though a person, it seems like a difficult conclusion to avoid that he treated the Trinity as a person, conceptually. In doing so I think he went to a place beyond where the Nicene and pre-nicene fathers went.>>

Andrew then asked:

>>What do you make of the singular personal language in his prayer quoted above from the end of On the Trinity?>>

In one of his later works, Augustine himself provides an explanation which I believe constitutes an answer to Andrew's question. Before going to that work, I am going to provide a quote from the prayer that Andrew mentioned.

[Note: all the following Latin texts are from the Sant'Agostino website; the English translations are from, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (hereafter, NPNF).]

Domine Deus une, Deus Trinitas - O Lord the one God, God the Trinity - (De Trinitate - On the Trinity, 15.28.51; NPNF 3.228)

The above is one of the many variants of Augustine's famous phrase:

Trinitas quae Deus est - the Trinity, Who [which] is God - (De Trinitate - On the Trinity, 1.4.7; NPNF 3.20)

Concerning this phrase, the Augustinian scholar, Lewis Ayres wrote:

...the phrase Trinitas quae Deus est, [is] a phrase not found in his predecessors. Interestingly this phrase is only once used by Augustine in his homiletic corpus, but it is used frequently in his the De Trinitate, in two letters closely connected to that work and in his late anti-'Arian' works. Its absence from sermons, and from the record of his public debate with Maximinus, suggests that Augustine saw the phrase as, at the least, needing careful explanation because of its direct identification of Trinitas as Deus. While Augustine's standard practice seems to have been to refer to the Father when Deus is used without further qualification, he also uses a number of innovative phrases which speak directly of the Trinity as God and which identify Son and Spirit by (scriptural) titles and phrases that his predecessors were reticent to apply to any other than the Father without qualification. (Augustine and the Trinity, 2010, p. 100.)

Other variants of the phrase include the following:

Trinitas sit unus et solus et verus Deus - the Trinity is the one and only and true God - (De Trinitate - On the Trinity, 1.2.4; NPNF 3.19)

uno et solo Deo, quod est ipsa Trinitas - the One and only God, which is the Trinity itself - (De Trinitate - On the Trinity, 1.6.10; NPNF 3.22)

unus et solus et verus Deus, ipsa Trinitas - the One and only and true God, the Trinity itself - (De Trinitate - On the Trinity, 1.6.10; NPNF 3.22)

ipse Deus Trinitas - God Himself, the Trinity - (De Trinitate - On the Trinity, 1.6.11; NPNF 3.22)

ista Trinitas unus est Deus - this Trinity is one God - (De  Fide et Symbolo - On Faith and the Creed, 9.16; NPNF 3.327)

But, why has Augustine introduced the phrase—and its variants—Trinitas quae Deus est ??? As mentioned above, I believe that he has given us one of his explanations as to the 'why' in one of his later works— Contra Maximinium (Against Maximinus). Note the following:

I would not have thee mistake that place in the epistle of John the apostle where he saith, "There are three witnesses: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three are one." Lest haply thou say that the Spirit and the water and the blood are diverse substances, and yet it is said, "the three are one:" for this cause I have admonished thee, that thou mistake not the matter. For these are mystical expressions, in which the point always to be considered is, not what the actual things are, but what they denote as signs: since they are signs of things, and what they are in their essence is one thing, what they are in their signification another. If then we understand the things signified, we do find these things to be of one substance. Thus, if we should say, the rock and the water are one, meaning by the Rock, Christ; by the water, the Holy Ghost: who doubts that rock and water are two different substances ? yet because Christ and the Holy Spirit are of one and the same nature, therefore when one says, the rock and the water are one, this can be rightly taken in this behalf, that these two things of which the nature is diverse, are signs of other things of which the nature is one. Three things then we know to have issued from the Body of the Lord when He hung upon the tree: first, the spirit: of which it is written, "And He bowed the head and gave up the spirit:" then, as His side was pierced by the spear, "blood and water." Which three thingsf if we look at as they are in themselves, they are in substance several and distinct, and therefore they are not one. But if we will inquire into the things signified by these, there not unreasonably comes into our thoughts the Trinity itself, which is the One, Only, True, Supreme God, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, of whom it could most truly be said, "There are Three Witnesses, and the Three are One:" so that by the term Spirit we should understand God the Father to be signified; as indeed it was concerning the worshipping of Him that the Lord was speaking, when He said, "God is a Spirit:" by the term, blood, the Son; because "the Word was made flesh:" and by the term water, the Holy Ghost; as, when Jesus spake of the water which He would give to them that thirst, the evangelist saith, "But this said He of the Spirit which they that believed on Him were to receive." Moreover, that he Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are "Witnesses," who that believes the Gospel can doubt, when the Son saith, "I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me. He beareth witness of me." Where, though the Holy Ghost is not mentioned, yet He is not to be thought separated from them. Howbeit neither concerning the Spirit hath He kept silence elsewhere, and that He too is a witness hath been sufficiently and openly shown. For in promising Him He said, "He shall bear witness of me.'' These are the "Three Witnesses, and the Three are One," because of one substance. But whereas, the signs by which they were signified came forth from the Body of the Lord, herein they figured the Church preaching the Trinity, that it hath one and the same nature: since these Three in threefold manner signified are One, and the Church that preacheth them is the Body of Christ. In this manner then the three things by which they are signified came out from the Body of the Lord: like as from the Body of the Lord sounded forth the command to ''baptize the nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." "In the name:" not, In the names: for "these Three are One," and One God is these Three. And if in any other way this depth of mystery which we read in John's epistle can be expounded and understood agreeably with the Catholic faith, which neither confounds nor divides the Trinity, neither believes the substances diverse nor denies that the persons are three, it is on no account to be rejected. For whenever in Holy Scriptures in order to exercise the minds of the faithful any thing is put darkly, it is to be joyfully welcomed if it can be in many ways but not unwisely expounded. (NPNF 7.526, 527) [For another English translation of the above passage, see The Works of Saint Augustine - A Translation for the 21st Century - Arianism and Other Heresies, (vol. 1.18), pp. 307, 308.]

And so, "the Three are One", because of one substance; and because the Trinity—i.e. the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—hath one and the same nature. Since the one substance and the nature is God, the Trinity is God.


Grace and peace,

David

Monday, February 19, 2018

Augustine - on God the Father as 'the principle without principle'


Back on 10 July 2016, I published one of my personal, favorite posts:


In that post I provided a number of examples which prove beyond any doubt that Augustine clearly taught the Son owes his existence to God the Father.

Today, I am publishing yet one more example of causality from Augustine; note the following:

We can ask whether we should understand the words "In the beginning God made heaven and earth" only in accord with history, or whether they also signify something in figures, and how they conform to the gospel and for what reason this book begins in this way. According to history one asks whether "In the beginning" means in the beginning of time in the principle, in the very Wisdom of God. For the Son of God said that he was the principle. When he was asked, "Who are you?" he said, "The principle; that is why I am speaking to you." For there is a principle without principle, and there is a principal along with another principal. The principle without principle is the Father alone, and thus we believe that all things are from one principle. But the Son is a principle in such a way that he is from the Father. (Augustine, On the Literal Translation of Genesis, in  Fathers of the Church, vol. 84, p. 148 - bold emphasis mine.)

The maxim that 'the principle without principle is the Father alone', employed by Augustine, became an important component of Catholic dogma, being adopted by Church councils, and theologians (most notably, Thomas Aquinas). Directly related to this dictum is the monarchy of God the Father, as well as the often neglected  teaching that it is the Father alone who is autotheos.

Hope to have more on 'the principle without principle is the Father alone', in the near future (the Lord willing).


Grace and peace,

David