Friday, February 21, 2014

Historical Adam - Part 5

The youth pastor apparently remained unconvinced of the historical Adam and The Fall.  He expressed a thankfulness that I would engage him and pray for him.  And then he basically asked if I thought he was a heretic if he didn't agree with Reformed Theology.  If I did proclaim him to be a heretic, he said that he would not discuss this topic with me further.  He repeated that we must go deeper into hermeneutics than Sproul's "intro course" to figure out how we "come out with different readings."

On another note, when our daughter recently asked him for a book to read, he gave her the book titled "The Shack."  Ugh!  You can read a solid review of it here.  

We are meeting for coffee next week, Lord willing.  Please pray for me.

My final reply is below:

Please allow me first to say... I have tried to diligently reason with you directly from Scriptures, and by good logic shown from Scriptures. Most assuredly though (edit) I've failed to defend my belief in the Word as I should; for that, may the Lord (edit) be merciful in measuring my frail efforts. As I re-read my replies, many of my long-winded arguments seem to be seasoned with little grace; for that, I pray you'd forgive me.

Yes, Sproul's teaching is just an introduction to hermeneutics... merely the basics. But to my understanding, most of these "basics" were set forth in plain language and widely agreed upon during the time of the Reformation, and for good reason. Where do these basics ultimately come from? They come from the Holy Writ itself... for the Bible is it's own interpreter. 

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not multiple, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
- Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.9

So when we meet, Lord willing, maybe you can just tell me all about your Hermeneutic? I've already pretty much told you ours. It ain't that complicated, though it still requires work to interpret the more difficult passages. A better summation can be found here:

I would assert that our ability to agree on these basics (assuming your book does not refute them) inhibits our ability to proceed... not whether or not I think you are a heretic. "The bond of holy unity is the simple truth," said John Calvin. But if the Apostle Paul's intention was to always speak clearly (cf. Col. 4:4), don't you think he learned that from his Father who normally does likewise? It is not the Holy Spirit who twists Scripture, but sinful man. We must accept the explicit by faith! I simply agree with R. C. Sproul Jr. when he said, 

"We are... reading our Bible with rose-colored glasses if we think that all or even most of our interpretive failures stem from ignorance or misinformation. That is, we are guilty of the modernist conceit when we think that education is always the cure for what ails us... Our problem isn’t that we aren’t sufficiently educated but that we aren’t sufficiently sanctified."

As long as a man continues to doubt God's clear Word to us (especially denying an essential tenet that's so central to many other Christian teachings), maybe it's best for him to work most of these issues out alone with God... on his knees. The issue here for him is not hermeneutics... the issue is unbelief... for the teaching is explicit... and any view which denies the historicity of Adam and Eve and the fall is simply untenable in the light of Scripture. If that man had questions along the way, I'd be glad to assist, Lord willing. I would only suggest he remember one principle that hopefully can be agreed upon... the principle of humility (see Proverbs 3:5; Matt. 18:4; 1 Peter 5:5) - if there is doubt... TRUST GOD... AND TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD.

Now, to answer your specific question:

I can’t escape the conclusion that for me to faithfully hold to Christ and his Word is only possible if I hold to the theology and approach to Christianity that you have found convincing.  That is - any deviance from your understanding of reformed Christianity is either dangerously close to heretical or is heretical.  Is this a true understanding of your thinking at this stage?

The Decision at the Synod of Dordt rejected as error the five points detailed in the Remonstrance of 1610 (called Arminianism).  If you affirm any of these five points, then I join my voice with those delegates, our brothers, who wrote the Canons of Dordt. Your views would clearly be declared heresy years ago. But with the modernism and post-modernism movements, liberal theology, and the surge of semi-Pelagianism in the evangelical church, especially in America in the past 100-150 years, your views would now be more and more in the mainstream... agreed to by most down at the local Walmart, USA... so you can decide.

I indeed confess that I am an unashamed Calvinist, for I believe the tenets of "The Reformed Faith" are nothing more than the doctrines of Scripture clearly and articulately set forth. Therefore, I believe "Reformed Christianity" is simply Biblical Christianity, preached by Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus (cf. John 6,10,17), Paul (cf. Rom. 8-11; Eph. 1-2), Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Owen, Newton, Henry, Hodge, Warfield, Watson, Chalmers, Manton, M'Cheyne, Toplady, Watts, Brainerd, Carey, Livingstone, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Ryle, Boettner, Berkhof, Lloyd-Jones, Schaeffer, Murray, Boyce, and many, many others. 

So to further answer your question, let me put forth the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.
- From the sermon: "A Defense of Calvinism" -

And Martin Luther:

If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.

If your beliefs are contrary to that, may Spurgeon, Luther, the others, and the Holy Writ be your reprovers. If the Scriptures teach it (especially the explicit), we must believe it... for it is true. But I'm reminded that Spurgeon also said, and I agree...

...But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views... I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

It is said that Whitefield claimed that he'd probably never see Wesley in heaven... for Wesley's mansion would be entirely too close to where Jesus resided.  I feel that way about many Arminian brothers I've known... including my dear uncle, who is now with the Lord. 

We Reformed folk do indeed affirm historical Adam, though it's not a Reformed distinctive. But can you hold to the historical Christ while you don't believe all the explicit Word of Christ? You'll have to work that one out yourself, "...with fear and trembling." I am not your judge (edit). I'm only trying to defend what I believe to be truth, from the Scripture, for your good, and for God's glory.

Another brief and articulate article defending the historical Adam can be found here:
And another here:
If there is doubt on what I believe as a Christian, it's summed up pretty well here:

I'm praying for you, and again... I hope this is helpful. May the Holy Spirit bear witness by and with the Word in your heart. 

Unless you believe, you will not understand.
- Augustine

Best Regards,
Marty L. Smith

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Prayer of Dependence


Thy goodness is inexpressible and inconceivable.
In the works of creation thou art almighty,
in the dispensations of providence all-wise,
in the gospel of grace all love,
And in thy Son thou has provided for
our deliverance from the effects of sin,
the justification of our persons,
the sanctification of our natures,
the perseverance of our souls in the path of life.

Though exposed to the terrors of thy law,
we have a refuge from the storm;
Though compelled to cry, 'Unclean',
we have a fountain for sin;
Though creature-cells of emptiness
we have a fulness accessible to all,
and incapable of reduction.

Grant us always to know that to walk with Jesus
makes other interests like a shadow and a dream.
Keep us from intermittent attention to eternal things;
Save us from the delusion of those
who fail to go far in religion,
who are concerned but not converted,
who have another heart but not a new one,
who have light, zeal, confidence, but not Christ.

Let us judge our Christianity,
not only by our dependence upon Jesus,
but by our love to him,
our conformity to him,
our knowledge of him.

Give us religion that is both real and progressive,
that holds on its way and grows stronger,
that lives and works in the Spirit,
that profits by every correction,
and is injured by no carnal indulgence.

- From "The Valley of Vision : A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions"

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Historical Adam - Part 4


The youth pastor responded with four main points and a request.  First, he apprecited my concern and my prayers.  Secondly, he agreed that rebellion remained the "real issue" with our relationship with our Creator... but I do not yet know for sure from where he thinks this rebellious nature comes.

He did not agree with the conclusion of the author from the Calvin Institute... namely, that if we lose a real Adam, we lose much of what we believe in the Christian faith.  He basically says we can do away with the latter portion of Romans 5, and that we just need to focus on historical Jesus.  He argued that Adam really isn't mentioned that much in the New Testament, so he must not be that important.

He also added that new discoveries that Archeology has uncovered in Ancient Near East literature has helped us "rethink/reread some of the texts with greater understanding."

Lastly, he wanted me to read a book by Kevin J. Vanhoozer on hermeneutics, which was written only recently, and he wanted me to "slow down the email interaction" because he didn't have time. My reply is below, which was only my 4th email in 31 days:


In my prayers this morning I was reminded to include this preface: Let me first confess that I am nothing but sin and weakness... in me dwells no good... and my best works are but sin. Grace, grace has been my experience and my cry, and I am "...a poor, feeble creature when faith is not in exercise." I rest on Jehovah's power and faithfulness... and if the Almighty grants me grace in this endeavor, I cannot fail.

Now... As to your first point... I care about you deeply because I consider you my brother in Christ. I'm also trusting you to help me teach and lead our daughters while we are here, so what it is exactly you affirm is of great concern to me.

Addressing your second point, I would ask you to consider anew why it is that all men are in fact rebellious? Where does this sinful nature come from? What does the Bible say? Why are we ALL rebels by nature? The answer to this largely determines how and what we preach.

On your response to the CI article, I am very disappointed in your disagreement. The Christian faith is in fact built around all of Scripture... "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27)... Creation - Fall - Redemption - Consummation. The "Gospel" is the Scripture in its totality. Christ our Lord is of course the Cornerstone, the central figure, and we "...preach Christ and him crucified," but Jesus said of Scriptures, " is they that bear witness about me" (John 5:39; see also Luke 1:45). So you cannot begin to speak of the historical Jesus Christ of Nazareth knowledgeably and accurately without considering Him in the context of all redemptive history. This history began in the Garden of Eden, and we know the "first gospel" was actually revealed in Genesis 3:15. Remove a real man named Adam and his sin, and you remove the beginning upon which the rest of redemptive history is built.

If you asked Luke, Jude, the Apostle Paul, and the Holy Spirit if they agree with me, I feel certain they would answer precisely with Romans 5:12-21.

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin... death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come... Jesus Christ..."

You can fill the gaps and read the rest again, and then take up your disagreement with God. 

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17), so I would be hesitant to call something (or someone) secondary just because you think it's not mentioned that often in the NT. The Apostle Paul dedicates the lengthy discourse above to Christ's work in relation to Adam (you can't ignore it), and the Letter to the Hebrews does in fact refer to the work of Christ in restoring the glory Adam forfeited. Christ was "...crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (see Hebrews 2:6-9), He fulfilled the image-bearing purposes of man, and enables God's elect to do the same. Could it be that little more is mentioned in the NT because historical Adam was never questioned by the faithful in the first century?

(Speaking of which, who do you think the first man was? Did he sin? If he did not sin, why did he die? If he did sin, what was the sin? If you do not know, I would suggest reading Genesis, because it seems clear that God has told us.)

If you choose to judge historical Adam, his sin, and thus man's actual fall as secondary, then that's your call. But I would suggest that if you deny Adam, you then deny the actual fall, you then deny the resulting depravity and helpless condition of all of Adam's posterity (being spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, "by nature children of wrath"), you then deny the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit, and you then preach a gospel contrary to the one Paul preached. And for anyone who does that, Paul says, "let him be accursed." Maybe you think a lost man needs some grace, but you don't quite understand what Newton rightly called "amazing grace." Taking away Adam doesn't take away Jesus... but it does take away one's fuller understanding of who Jesus was (see the errors of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.), and why He came... and especially why the virgin birth was a necessity!

"What should be unmistakable, however, is that defending or denying the historical Adam has a direct bearing on many areas of faith and practice. His person serves an integrating function in Christian theology. Far from being readily isolable from the rest of biblical doctrine or peripheral to a thoroughly Christian view of the world, Adam’s history and identity help us understand everything from creation to the consummation.” - Philip G. Ryken, Four Views on the Historical Adam

This is a big deal. You may not agree with my (our) conclusions, but that doesn't mean they're not true. "My conscience is captive to the Word of God."

In regards to studying hermeneutics, I think I'll pass on your book proposal. I read the preface and first chapter of the book, and I confess that I found his writing style laborious to follow with little reward. He seemed to say much while actually saying little. It's probably because I'm not really an "academic," and you may get some good stuff from his work. 

I really do like to study Scripture and read theological works though, especially the Puritans (tried and trusted). As an aside... contrary to our pastor's most recent sermon which concerned this subject... I would assert that the only way to our hearts is through our minds, for we are commanded to "be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind" (Romans 12:2), and also to love God with all our mind. We are indeed thinkers first. Knowledge can puff up... but I don't believe that's the pressing problem in churches today, as this discussion evidences. To reuse his stick figure analogy, I'd say the problem is that most of us have stick heads and fat bodies instead of the other way around. All Christians are theologians... not in a technical sense... but we must know God to love Him. We must know His Word to believe truth and live lives pleasing to Him for His glory. And if a good theological book doesn't change the heart, then either it is not good or we are not "reading it rightly," seeking the Holy Spirit to imprint truths on our hearts to change us. Of course, other literary works can be powerful as well to convey truth. We must, however, have discernment that comes from knowing God and His Word.

But I've studied and read a book or two on hermeneutics already, and I particularly enjoyed R.C. Sproul's simple book titled "Knowing Scripture." I would commend it to you. And it's interesting... I actually started taking online courses through Ligonier Connect over a week ago, and the course I began with was "Principles of Biblical Interpretation."  But here are some of the basic rules he teaches and that I ascribe to, just so you'll know where we stand:

1. Scripture interprets Scripture (the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things... interpret the difficult with the clearer... interpret implicit in light of the explicit)

2. Truth is not contradictory.

3. We accept the "Principle of Perspicuity".

4. There is only one correct interpretation, but many applications.

5. It is necessary to distinguish between exegesis and eisegesis.

6. We use the "grammatico-historical method" of interpretation (the classical approach).

7. We agree with Luther, to seek the literal sense (sensus literalis) of Scripture (there is no "hidden or mysterious meaning in the text").

8. We must recognize the literary form(s) in which the Bible comes to us, which is not always easy. (But unbelief of the traditional meaning is not to be a reason for reinterpreting a passage to fit our beliefs.)

This last point is especially important to us. The Bible is redemptive HISTORY, and the "historical narratives" describe ACTUAL events that occurred. As Sproul points out (20 years ago), it is the historical aspect that is under attack today. Our faith ("the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints") is dependent upon these events having actually occurred. Characteristics of historical narratives are:
- A setting in time or real historical place
- A prose style
- The presence of genealogies
- No obvious moral teaching

Well, this letter turned out much longer than I intended, but it is my preferred method of communication. My wife often needs my presence at home, it's useful when I'm on the road, I can gather my thoughts, and also pray before I "speak." I didn't realize that my correspondence was too fast or too much... my apologies. But I would suggest that issues of faith and truth should take priority over a lot of other things in our lives. I hope you find this helpful.

I would be happy to meet with you for coffee again... I would love once a month, Lord willing... to discuss these issues, and others... and pray with one another, and for one another. 

I really appreciate your devotion to the youth, and I admire your wonderful family and the stand you've taken on TV in the home. God's grace is evident. I am praying for your series on God's discipline of us. Exposit Scripture, and you can't go wrong. Paul says... The Holy Spirit says... "Preach the Word!" PREACH!!! I need it... we all do... and I am always...

Your Servant in Christ,
Marty L. Smith

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Historical Adam - Part 3

Below is my third submission to the youth pastor to attempt to persuade him of the certainty of Adam's existence. I chose to simply send Scripture passages and quotes from others:

Ephesians 4:11-14
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachersto equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

"Several objections can be raised against the theory of the evolutionary descent of man from the lower animals... From the point of view of the theologian the greatest objection to this theory is, of course, that it is contrary to the explicit teachings of the Word of God... The second great objection is that the theory has no adequate basis in well established facts. It should be borne in mind that... the evolutionary theory in general, though often represented as an established doctrine, is up to the present time nothing but an unproved working hypothesis, and a hypothesis that has not yet given any great promise of success in demonstrating what it set out to prove. Many of the most prominent evolutionists frankly admit the hypothetical character of their theory."
- Louis Berkhoff

"The debate over whether Adam was historical is ultimately a debate over whether we trust what the Scriptures clearly teach. If we cannot be certain of the beginning, then why would we be certain about what the Scriptures teach elsewhere? The uncertainty of truth is rampant in our culture partly due to the influence of post-modernism which is why many believe the issue over Adam’s historicity is unimportant."
- Simon Turpin

"The moment you say 'We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,' you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world."
- Albert Mohler

". . . if you do not accept this history, and prefer to believe that man’s body developed as the result of an evolutionary process, and that God then took one of these humanoid persons, or whatever you may call them, and did something to him and turned him into a man, you are still left with the question of how to explain Eve, for the Bible is very particular as to the origin of Eve. All who accept in any form the theory of evolution in the development of man completely fail to account for the being, origin, and existence of Eve... We must assert that we believe in the being of one first man called Adam, and in one first woman called Eve. We reject any notion of a pre-Adamic man because it is contrary to the teaching of the Scripture . . . If we say that we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, we must say that about the whole of the Bible, and when the Bible presents itself to us as history, we must accept it as history."
- Martin Lloyd-Jones

"I am convinced that the major reason why the liberal scholars want to regard the opening chapters of Genesis as mythology is that they do not want to face the reality of the fall of the race in Adam or the guilt that flows from it... You do not need a historical atonement to undo a mythological fall or a mythological transgression. All you need is another myth. But if Christ needed to be real to save us, then Adam was real, too. It is because Adam was real that Christ also had to be real to make atonement."
- James Montgomery Boice

"There is a vigorous protest within our hearts with the value of the imputation of guilt from one person to another."
- Simon Turpin

"The basis of our justification before God is a divine righteousness that comes to us in a way analogous to the way Adam’s sin came to us. As we were in him and share in his sin, so we are in Christ and share in his righteousness."
- John Piper

"Unless one sees that contrast between the first and the second Adam, he will never understand the Christian system."
- Lorraine Boettner

"We must, therefore, hold it for certain, that, in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that, accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated."
- John Calvin

"Since the rise of Darwinian evolution in the nineteenth century it has become the custom to reinterpret the biblical account of creation in light of modern scientific theory. Instead of calling into question the “sure results of science” it is the Bible that is often rewritten to say something it clearly doesn’t mean... The objections given by theologians to a historical Adam are all based on fanciful eisegesis of the biblical text and not exegesis... To negotiate the headship of Adam over the human race by mixing it up with theistic evolution is not a side issue or irrelevant. The doctrines of sin, Christology, and salvation are severely undermined if Adam is viewed as a myth. The historicity of Adam is of vital importance for a coherent understanding not only of the Scriptures but of the gospel. One must stand firm on the clear scriptural teaching of a historical Adam."
- Simon Turpin

"I think the evangelical Christians have really sort of got it right in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more, what shall we say, sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution, I think they’re deluded. I think the evangelicals have got it right, in that there really is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity."
- Richard Dawkins (atheist)

"We are living in a day in which practically all of the historic churches are being attacked from within by unbelief. Many of them have already succumbed. And almost invariably the line of descent has been from Calvinism to Arminianism, from Arminianism to Liberalism, and then to Unitarianism. And the history of Liberalism and Unitarianism shows that they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to sustain itself. We are convinced that the future of Christianity is bound up with that system of theology historically called "Calvinism.' Where the God centered principles of Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong tendency downward into the depths of man centered naturalism or secularism. Some have declared - rightly, we believe - that there is no consistent stopping place between Calvinism and atheism."
- Lorraine Boettner

Romans 5:19
For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Romans 16:17
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.