In this post: Introduction; Naming of Parts: Orthodoxy, Heresy, Aberrancy, Orthopraxy and heteropraxy, Monergism vs. synergism, Christian brother or sister; Orthodoxy is narrow; Questions of orthodoxy: On monergism, On the doctrine of hell, On the dangers of mysticism; Final thoughts
Having previously laid the foundations for a correct understanding of Christian discernment, I turn now to the question of orthodoxy.
Over the course of several recent episodes of his Fighting for the Faith programme, Chris Rosebrough has fiercely defended his friend, Dan Kimball. Chris has not merely declared Dan to be ‘a brother in Christ’, and not a heretic, but has repeatedly asserted that Dan ‘preaches, teaches, and confesses, historic orthodoxy’. This has been the source of no minor controversy.
In this article, I first define several terms that are necessary for us to enter meaningfully into the debate, and I endeavour to give them a Biblical basis. I then give voice to several questions that have occurred to me (and I know also to others) as I have heard the debate rage, and particularly as I heard Chris interview Dan.
In asking these questions, I am not so much concerned with Dan Kimball per se, but with the implications that the answers have for how we are to understand what it means to be orthodox. Simply, then, I embrace an opportunity to think aloud about orthodoxy.
The audio of Chris interviewing Dan is available, as is a transcript produced by Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries:
- Audio: Chris Rosebrough interviews Dan Kimball on Fighting for the Faith
- Transcript: Dan Kimball on the Record
Let me be very clear that my aim is not to inflame the controversy, but rather to tame it: first by preparing the ground for us to understand one another, and then by giving both Dan and Chris an opportunity to elucidate their positions clearly, succinctly and publicly. I hope that they will consider serving the church by responding in this way, although they are certainly under no obligation even to listen to anything I have to say, let alone to address it.
If we are to understand one another and avoid talking at cross purposes, it is necessary to define our terminology. Unless we do this, we risk erroneously assuming that we have understood what someone else means when they use a particular term.
I shall therefore provide several definitions that I believe are in line with generally accepted usage. In any case, you will at least know with precision what I intend when I use a word:
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
‘The question is, said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’
(Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll)
The Oxford English Dictionary defines orthodox as meaning ‘right in opinion’. A person therefore adheres to orthodoxy if he maintains right opinion. The word derives from two Greek words: orthos, meaning ‘straight or right’, and doxa, meaning opinion or glory. (The English word ‘doxology’ also derives from the latter; it means ‘the speaking of praise or glory’.)
In his book, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, Harold O.J. Brown writes (p. 1):
“Orthodoxy” is derived from two Greek words meaning “right” and “honor.” Orthodox faith and orthodox doctrines are those that honor God rightly, something that ought to be desirable and good.
I like Brown’s statement because he gets to the heart of the rightness of orthodoxy: something is right (and therefore orthodox) if it honours God and brings Him glory (or ‘honour’, as Brown puts it).
As our almighty, everlasting and holy God is perfect in all His attributes and ways, any statement made of Him is honouring only if it portrays Him and His work accurately. To portray God other than as He is is de facto to dishonour Him by detracting from His perfection. Since the Scriptures are the sole source we have of authoritative self-revelation from God – that is, they are the only place where we can presently discover with certainty what He is really like – it follows that we honour God by our belief, teaching and confession only if they accord with the Scriptures.
My definition of Christian orthodoxy, then, is this: belief, teaching and confession that is in full accordance with the Scriptures.
In my previous post, I asked the question, What is the activity we call discernment really all about? I argued there that Christian discernment is built upon the foundation of paying close attention to the Great Salvation that is only to be found in Christ. I said this:
Discernment thus begins and ends with Christ. It is always about Christ, His person, His work.
Discernment abides in Christ. It feasts richly on His Word, for in the Scriptures alone do we find authoritative revelation of the person and work of Christ. All the Scriptures speak of Him, and in them we encounter God in human flesh, crucified for our sin and raised for our being declared righteous.
It therefore follows that orthodoxy is especially concerned with belief, teaching and confession concerning the person and work of Christ.
Brown (ibid., p. 3) has this to say about heresy:
The word “heresy,” as we have noted, is the English version of the Greek noun hairesis, originally meaning nothing more insidious than “party.” It is used in this neutral sense in Acts 5:17, 15:5, and 26:5. Early in the history of the first Christians, however, “heresy” came to be used to mean a separation or split resulting from a false faith (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). It designated either a doctrine or the party holding the doctrine, a doctrine that was sufficiently intolerable to destroy the unity of the Christian church. In the early church, heresy did not refer to simply any doctrinal disagreement, but to something that seemed to undercut the very basis for Christian existence. Practically speaking, heresy involved the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ—later called “special theology” and “Christology”.
Corruptio optimi pessimum est, says the proverb: “the corruption of the best is the worst.” The early Christians felt a measure of tolerance for the pagans, even though they were persecuted by them, for the pagans were ignorant. “This ignorance,” Paul told the Athenians, “God winked at” (Acts 17:30). But Paul did not wink at him who brought “any other Gospel” within the context of the Christian community. “Let him be accursed,” he told the Galatian church (Gal. 1:8).
My definition of heresy is therefore this: belief, teaching or confession contrary to the Scriptures that is sufficiently intolerable as to destroy the unity of the church.
Heresy presupposes orthodoxy. It sets itself up in opposition to the teaching of Scripture and thereby traduces God by painting a false picture of Him and His work. Heresy is divisive, because it comes from within the church and God’s people properly react to it in horror, not wishing to see God’s name defamed and unwilling that anyone should perish through a corruption of the Gospel.
Not withstanding the hazard that heresy poses to the cause of the Gospel, the disunity that it brings is in damnable opposition to the repeated commendation of Christian unity and exhortation towards it found throughout the Scripture (e.g. Ps. 133:1; John 17:21; Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 5:12; Rom.15:5; 1 Cor. 11:17–33; Eph. 4:3, 13; Phil. 2:2–4).
Note well that it is the one bringing heresy who is responsible for the division that it causes, not those who oppose him by holding fast to sound doctrine. Thus, Paul instructs Titus that he is to:
‘Reject a divisive [hairetikon (αἱρετικὸν)] man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.’ (Titus 3:10–11)
Paul had previously told Titus that it is a positive responsibility of every elder (pastor) to be ‘holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict’ (Titus 1:9).
Indeed, Paul shows that standing firm in the traditions received from the Apostles is the natural implication for all believers of our having been chosen and called by God for salvation and sanctification:
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thess. 2:13–15)
Notice how Paul connects the proper giving of thanks to God (that is, expressing the glory and honour due to Him) with our election, calling, salvation and sanctification. Observe that these things are all ‘for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’. ‘Therefore,’ Paul says, ‘stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle’. The whole process of salvation being worked in us for the glory of Christ has as its inevitable implication our standing fast in the teaching that we have received from the Apostles.
All believers are thus commanded to cling to orthodoxy, and elders are especially called to ‘exhort and convict those who contradict’. The proper response to heresy is therefore to identify it and warn the person advocating it. If the person persists in his divisiveness after two admonitions, he is to be rejected – he condemns himself by refusing to submit to the truth revealed in Scripture and by spurning its call to stand fast in the faith.
If orthodoxy is that which is in full accord with Scriptures, and heresy is that which is contrary to it in an intolerable way, it is clear that there is a category between the two: doctrine that is not properly orthodox, but which is not such an egregious offence to the faith as to undermine it fatally and be a cause for division. This lesser category of error is called ‘aberrant’, meaning simply that it is ‘straying from the accepted standard’.
Some use the term heterodox (‘other opinion’, not conforming to that which is orthodox) in a similar way, but that term seems to me be to be wider, potentially encompassing even heresy in a way that aberrancy does not.
Thus, aberrant belief, teaching or confession is that which is not in full accord with the Scriptures, but which does not pose an immediate threat to the unity of the church.
That which is aberrant must of course be corrected, not least because we are commanded ‘to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). But also because such errors tend to multiply, and aberrant doctrine can very quickly descend into full-blown heresy. But, in and of itself, aberrancy is not so serious as to call for separation between those who are in error and those who are holding fast to the full counsel of the Scriptures.
Orthopraxy and heteropraxy
Whereas orthodoxy is ‘right belief’, orthopraxy is ‘right practice’. There are some who have maintained a clear distinction between the two and, in one sense, this distinction is valid: it is conceivable that someone may act through weakness contrary to his own opinion.
Nevertheless, people draw conclusions about our beliefs not only from our words, but also from our deeds. Our practice is therefore an integral component of our confession. Heteropraxy (‘other practice’, not conforming to orthopraxy) is thus inevitably unorthodox, because it is a failure to confess with our deeds that which is in full accordance with the Scriptures, and it thereby does not give God the right honour that is due to Him. Conversely, the public confession of our faith is something we do, and thus most surely a matter to be considered part of our practice.
At its best, heteropraxy might simply be due to a lack of having thought through the implications of one’s beliefs. At worst, fear of controversy, or of being disliked, could result in a public failure to be clear about the message of Law and Gospel: God’s wrath is upon all mankind because of sin, but Christ died for sinners that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Such scenarios are not hypothetical – prominent leaders in the visible church have equivocated when under the spotlight. Peter denied Christ. And Paul had to rebuke Peter for not being ‘straightforward about the truth of the gospel’:
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Gal. 2:14–16)
Even as we consider these examples, we see that any attempt to make a distinction between orthodoxy and orthopraxy is artificial. For a correct understanding of orthodoxy is that which gives right glory and honour to God; it is belief, teaching and confession that is in full accordance with the Scriptures. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are inseparably intertwined.
If we equivocate such that our confession is unclear about the fate of those not trusting in Christ, we diminish both His person and His work, and we are not orthodox, because we thereby fail in our public profession to give God the glory and honour that are His due.
Bob DeWaay firmly linked practice and confession in an excellent 2005 sermon:
- Holding Fast the Good Confession (MP3, 9.5MB)
(Although Bob DeWaay is sadly no longer pastor of Twin City Fellowship, that fact does not undermine his long and notable record of teaching sound doctrine. This particular sermon is well worth hearing, and I am grateful to Paula Coyle for bringing it to my attention.)
The link between orthodoxy and orthopraxy is especially strong for pastors and teachers in the church. Peter perhaps understood this better than most, having suffered public rebuke from Paul for his separation from the Gentiles. This is what Peter had to say, writing some time after:
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. (1 Peter 5:1–4)
Orthodoxy – that which is in full accordance with the Scriptures – thus requires elders (pastors) to be examples to the flock. This is an essential element of their role. The failure of an elder to be a suitable example is thus an implicit denial of orthodoxy. It could hardly be otherwise, for how could any teacher ‘Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority’ (Titus 2:15) if he had undermined his own authority by practising contrary to his confession?
Thus, we see that orthodoxy implies orthopraxy, both as a matter of confession and of requirement. This is especially true for pastors and teachers in the church.
Monergism vs. synergism
Scripture teaches monergism, the doctrine that regeneration (our being born again from above) is the work of God alone, and that we contribute nothing to it. Thus, glory is due to God alone for our salvation, as it is in all things: soli Deo gloria.
Monergism is comforting: if our salvation depends solely upon the will of God and His work, then it can never be imperilled by our sin and frailty. Thus, Paul is able to say boldly (my emphasis):
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:3–6)
Christ has begun a good work in us; He shall surely complete it. He is both ‘the author and finisher of our faith’, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, ‘who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross’ (Heb. 12:2).
Synergism is the opposite of monergism. Synergism is the counter-Biblical doctrine that the human will cooperates with God in the work of regeneration.
Monergism asserts that God will save whomsoever He wishes; synergism claims that God does not violate man’s free will by saving someone who has not first chosen God. Monergism’s view of salvation is centred upon the will of God; synergism sees salvation as dependent upon the will of the creature.
It is essential to realize that monergism does not teach that God does violence to our wills in the work of regeneration. Rather, it teaches that the Holy Spirit works within us to change our wills, such that we go from a determined opposition to the Gospel, to willing and joyful faith in Christ.
In his sermon, God’s Will and Man’s Will (a sermon whose introduction, incidentally, has more than a passing relevance to the present controversy), C. H. Spurgeon put it like this:
But we do hold and teach that though the will of man is not ignored, and men are not saved against their wills, that the work of the Spirit, which is the effect of the will of God, is to change the human will, and so make men willing in the day of God’s power, working in them to will to do of his own good pleasure.
St. John states plainly that, even though it is those who receive Christ who are saved, the underlying cause of their regeneration is ultimately not the will of man, but that of God:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
Jesus Himself testifies similarly:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)
The word translated ‘draws’ there in Greek is helkuse (ἑλκύσῃ). It has the sense of moving ‘an object from one area to another in a pulling motion, draw[ing], with implication that the object being moved is incapable of propelling itself or in the case of persons is unwilling to do so voluntarily, in either case with implication of exertion on the part of the mover’ (BDAG). Thus, Jesus is saying here that no one comes to Him voluntarily, but the Father must instead drag each person to Himself such that he who was initially unwilling to come of his own accord at the last receives Christ gladly.
This is entirely consistent with Paul’s teaching that, until the Holy Spirit regenerates us, we are as a result of the Fall dead in our sin and enslaved to it – utterly unable and unwilling even to seek God. In a meticulously constructed argument showing that everyone is confined under sin and condemned by the Law (Rom. 1:18–3:20), Paul quotes Psalms 14 and 53:
There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.
Except the Father draw someone by the work of the Holy Spirit, no one is righteous (having a right standing before God), no one understands (believes rightly), no one seeks after God, no one does good. Not even one single person, excepting Christ Himself. This is why Paul says:
For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:22–25)
To the natural, fallen human mind, the Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners and raised from the dead is either a stumbling block or foolishness. Such a mind unaided by the Holy Spirit is therefore unable either to understand or accept the message. It has no more power to adopt right belief than a person dead at the bottom of well has to make an effort to climb out. Paul writes (my emphasis):
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
We were dead in our sins and unable to seek God, but now we have been made alive in Christ and receive Him willingly.
Our being ‘saved through faith’ is by grace alone – that is, by the unmerited favour of God towards us on account of Christ. In the Greek, our being ‘saved’ is passive; it is something done to us, not by us. Our salvation by grace through faith is the gift of God, and most certainly not the result of anything that we do – no, not even the act of choosing right belief – because, as Paul makes so clear, we were dead in our sins and thus utterly unable to understand or seek after God. We are therefore ‘His workmanship’, not our own, ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works’.
How then did we come to faith? Again, Paul is clear: ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ (Rom. 10:14)
The Holy Spirit works repentance and faith in those He is effectually calling by ‘the hearing of the word of God’. Thus, the selfsame Gospel message that is a stumbling block and foolishness to natural minds becomes the very power of God for salvation to those who are being saved by Him. When we put the earlier quote from 1 Cor. 1 into context, this becomes absolutely clear:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1 Cor. 1:18–25)
There we see clearly that we can never by knowledge come to know God: ‘For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God’. God in his wisdom has ordered things such that no one comes to faith through wisdom – or, we might say, through adopting right belief. Rather, ‘it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe’.
R. C. H. Lenski rightly comments on this passage:
The world of men failed completely in regard to the one and supreme thing it needed: it did not know God. The aorist οὑκ ἔγνω [‘not know’] states the whole tragic [situation] as a fact. Ἔγνω [‘know’] does not refer to mere intellectual knowledge but to the genuine realization which grips, holds, and dominates the entire person. Men never attained to this real knowledge of God; they did not know him. When he speaks to them in the gospel even today, they laugh; they do not think that it is God speaking. See John 8:19 regarding the Jews with reference to this point; even though they talked about God and boasted about him they did not know him. (The interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second epistle to the Corinthians, p. 59)
Thus, we are not saved by our choosing to adopt right belief. The fallen mind, dead in sin, has neither the will nor the ability to do that.
Recall Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. The bones had no power in themselves, but the word of God proclaimed to them caused them to be covered with sinews, flesh and skin. As Ezekiel prophesied (37:9) to the Breath (ruach, the same word as for ‘spirit’) to come from the four winds and breathe on the slain that they may live, so it is with our salvation: the Holy Spirit blows wherever He wishes, breathing life into everyone who is born of Him (John 3:5–8).
Life always comes from the breath of God, as it did in the very beginning when ‘the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Gen. 2:7). It is surely no coincidence that the life-giving Scriptures are themselves described in 2 Tim. 3:16 as having been given by the ‘out-breathing of God’ (theopneustos, θεόπνευστος).
We are saved, then, because the Holy Spirit has so worked in us by the hearing of the word of God as to regenerate us, convict us of our sin, and bring us to repentance and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin and our right standing before the Father.
Right belief and faith in Christ is thus the result of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration, not its cause.
Paul puts it to Titus like this (my emphasis):
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4–7)
Christian brother or sister
What does it mean to call someone a brother (or a sister) in Christ? Does it mean that we believe him to hold fully orthodox doctrine, or at least some subset of orthodox doctrine that is considered essential to the faith?
We have already seen that it is not by anything that we do that we are saved. Rather, God has elected us in Christ, predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, called us through the hearing of the Gospel, regenerated us, given us faith and repentance, declared us righteous, sanctified us, and, one day, will even glorify us (Rom. 8:29–30). All this is His work, done for His own glory.
Since it is not by our adopting right belief that we are saved – and, indeed, nothing at all that we do – but rather the work of God alone ‘through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit’, it follows that someone could be regenerate without having a proper grasp of orthodox doctrine. This is simply a question of arranging the cart and the horse in an appropriate order: right belief flows from our having been regenerated; right belief is not the cause of regeneration.
Consider John the Baptist in his mother’s womb:
‘And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Luke 1:41)
How is it that John in the womb recognized Mary (and most likely, the presence of the baby Jesus within her)? Well, Luke helpfully tells us just a few verses earlier, by recording the angel’s words to Zacharias:
‘But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”’ (Luke 1:13–17)
We see then that John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from His mother’s womb, and thus enabled to recognize the presence of the incarnate Christ.
John – filled with the Spirit as he was – was clearly regenerate even before he was born (cf. Acts 10:47) . And yet, his cognitive abilities could hardly then have been so sufficiently developed as for him to have been able to give mental assent to any doctrines at all, let alone the core doctrines of the faith.
This example should encourage us: saving faith is a gift of God, and does not depend upon anything that we do – not even our giving of mental assent to particular doctrines. God may bestow saving faith upon anyone He chooses, from the youngest unborn child to the oldest man. Salvation is God’s work, and His alone.
I labour this point because it would be a grave mistake to equate having orthodox beliefs as being synonymous with salvation. Saving faith can be bestowed upon even those without developed mental facilities. Again, this is good news: as well as the youngest child, even a severely mentally disabled person can be saved – no one is outside God’s saving reach, if He so wills to save. (The corollary shows the full horror of synergism: infants and the severely mentally impaired would all be lost if our salvation were to depend upon our making a first move towards God. Of course, synergists invent schemes to avoid this implication, but they do so without Biblical support.)
Now, of course, in the normal course of events, the good fruit of the good tree that is the saved person will include right belief. But that comes through nurture and good teaching that immerses the disciple in the Scriptures. Good trees, well tended, bear good fruit. Jesus says, ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:27), and we have Christ’s voice recorded for us throughout the Scriptures. I say again, therefore: the fullness of right belief follows regeneration, not vice versa.
The implication of all of this is that someone might have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, having heard the Gospel, and yet not be sufficiently instructed in the Scriptures so as to believe, teach and confess full orthodoxy.
Indeed, very many people in the visible church today erroneously believe that they made a first step of faith towards God, and that He then responded to this by regenerating them. This back-to-front belief is very far from orthodox, as we have already seen, yet nevertheless some of the people who hold it bear all the signs of a genuine saving faith. Far be it from us to judge their standing before the almighty and everlasting God. Their salvation is His work, and His alone to judge.
Thus, to recognize someone as a brother or sister in the Lord is emphatically not the same as asserting that he or she has right belief, even concerning major doctrines of the faith. (Though that statement should not to be understood as saying anything regarding the salvation of one who expressly rejects core doctrines concerning the person and work of Christ.)
Orthodoxy is narrow
Having defined our terms, we may now make a further observation: historic Christian orthodoxy is narrow. It has been from the very beginning, it has been throughout Church history, and it shall continue to be.
As an example, consider a passage that contains what is perhaps the most famous verse in the New Testament. Jesus explains the Gospel to Nicodemus:
10Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For everyone practising evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
In v. 16, we have an affirmation that whoever believes (has trust in) Christ shall not perish but have everlasting life. Christ was not born into the world to condemn it, but that through Him it might be saved.
This is wonderful news.
And yet, if we were to proclaim only that message, we would be doing violence to the whole counsel of God and to the Gospel. We would be leaving people ignorant of their certain need for Christ, and thereby risking their eternal destiny.
Because asserting that faith in Christ saves does not in itself proclaim the exclusivity of Christ. Even a Hindu might be willing to accept that Christ saves – after all, what would accepting one more god among many be to him? Ask him, however, to forsake all his other gods for Christ alone, and you will soon discover the narrowness of orthodoxy.
No, such a truncated Gospel neglects to warn people that, unless they believe in Christ, they shall perish. Thus, if our proclamation contains only the message that Jesus saves, the Gospel is emasculated – robbed of its urgency and made impotent. We must also tell people that without Christ they will surely perish in the face of the fierce wrath of God for their sin – recall Eph. 2:3, where we saw that even we ourselves were ‘by nature children of wrath’.
To be orthodox, we have therefore to proclaim the whole counsel of Scripture. We have to believe, teach and confess not only John 3:16–18a, but also v. 18b: ‘but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’
Orthodoxy and basic kindness constrain us to warn people of the coming day of judgment for their sin, for we love them enough to tell them the truth, earnestly hoping that they might turn in repentance and receive the forgiveness of sins. This is exactly what Paul did for the Athenians at the Areopagus:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30–31)
The mix of reactions Paul encountered to his proclamation of Law and Gospel is typical. Some mock, others wish to hear more, and some come to faith:
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:32–34)
Orthodoxy is exclusive. Orthodoxy is narrow. Orthodoxy lovingly warns of the exclusion from salvation of those who have not been regenerated and granted a saving faith in the person and work of Christ. The is why Jesus says:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt. 7:13–14)
He even couples this exhortation with a warning against those who would speak falsely in God’s name things that He has not said:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matt. 7:15–20)
It is orthodoxy’s insistence on exclusivity and narrowness – its rejection of any other way to God except faith in Christ – that is anathema to our postmodern culture. That culture would grant us Christ as a way to salvation, but not the way.
A failure to profess boldly and clearly to our own generation the narrowness of orthodoxy and the exclusivity of Christ as the only Way, Truth and Life is thus a dismal failure to love people by sharing with them the whole counsel of God, such that they might come to repentance and receive forgiveness in Christ.
Questions of orthodoxy
I have been listening to every episode of Chris Rosebrough’s Fighting for the Faith programme since the premier back in July 2007. From everything I have heard, I have no doubt that Chris is driven by a desire to be faithful to the Scriptures and to reach out to the lost with the true Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners and raised from the dead.
Until two weeks ago, I knew relatively little of Dan Kimball. I owned only one of his books, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations. I was unhappy with some of its content, and in particular with some of its endorsements, but Dan was not sufficiently on my radar for me to have taken steps to contact him and ask him about it.
I was therefore pleased to hear Chris tell us all that, having spent some time with Dan, he regarded Dan as a brother in Christ who was genuinely seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures. It is immensely encouraging whenever anyone professes this desire, and the prospect of a fruitful engagement with a such a person is enticing.
Yet, given Dan’s apparent track record with the books that he has published, I maintained reservations. Having heard Chris interview Dan, I have to say that he seemed pleasant and likeable, and I have no reason to doubt his willingness to discuss what he believes. However, I was both puzzled and more than a little perturbed by Chris’ apparent ringing endorsement of Dan’s orthodoxy, given what Dan said – and didn’t say – in the interview.
The most direct way to clear up my puzzlement would seem to be by asking a few questions of Chris and Dan. Since I know I am not alone in desiring clarity on the issues I raise, I ask these questions in public. Chris and Dan both thereby have an opportunity, if they wish, to respond clearly, succinctly and publicly, via whatever channels they see fit.
A. On monergism
Semi-pelagianism is the belief that man and God cooperate in the work of salvation: man makes a beginning of his faith through a free act of will, and God then reciprocates by increasing and guarding that faith, completing the work of salvation. Semi-pelagianism is thus synergistic; it stands as a rejection of monergism.
The majority of evangelicalism undoubtedly holds to semi-pelagianism, believing that we have first to take a step of faith toward God (‘make a decision for Christ’), and that God will then respond by saving us.
Chris Rosebrough is firmly on record as defining historic Christian orthodoxy as expressly rejecting semi-pelagianism. Chris believes, and it will be clear from what I have written above that I agree, that semi-pelagianism is emphatically not orthodox. It is not what the Scriptures teach about our salvation, and it is not what the early Church believed.
Indeed, not only was semi-pelagianism regarded as non-orthodox, it was actually pronounced to be heresy by the Second Council of Orange in 529. I know that Chris agrees with this Council, because he wrote on this very subject back in June this year:
Why do I raise semi-pelagianism? Because I heard Dan say this during the interview:
‘There is [sic] those that God has elected, and that’s what the Scriptures teach. And it seems like there’s also Scriptures that teach there is human choice as well. And I loved the book that Norman Geisler wrote…’
Believing that God elects but that humans also have choice in matters of salvation is, surely, the very essence of semi-pelagianism, and this is exactly what Chris said in his article on the Second Council of Orange:
The church in the United States has been ooozing with the heresy known as Semipelagianism since the time of Finney and the frontier revivalists. What few in the church understand is that Semipelagianism is a heresy that misdiagnoses man’s sinful condition and incorrectly puts the responsibility of man’s conversion upon himself. This is not what the scriptures teach at all and what is at stake is the Gospel itself and the salvation of those who have been wrongly taught that they are saved by their decision to follow Christ.
Although Dan couldn’t remember the name of Norman L. Geisler’s book in his interview, the one he was referring to was Chosen but Free. That book is a full-blown assault on monergism (specifically Calvinism – although certainly not all monergists are Calvinists, as is shown by Confessional Lutheranism). Geisler launches a blistering attack on the traditional understanding of total depravity (original sin), unconditional election (some being chosen by God for salvation according to His own good pleasure, not upon the basis of foreseen faith), and the triumph of God’s grace in the elect – all foundational to monergism. Apologist James White even went to the trouble of writing a book, The Potter’s Freedom, to refute Geisler. This is what White’s website says about The Potter’s Freedom:
Geisler’s Chosen but Free sparked a firestorm of controversy when he labeled Calvinism “theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” White steps into the breach with his cogent response. His systematic refutation of Geisler’s argument will help you understand what the Reformed faith really teaches about divine election and how Reformed thought conforms to the Gospel.
With regard to the third edition of Chosen But Free, White said in August that it teaches that ‘evangelical synergism is now the “balanced view”’.
Perhaps White has misunderstood Geisler? But no, here is Michael Horton, Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary, writing on Sola Gratia: Our Only Method (my emphasis):
On the eve of the Reformation a number of church leaders, including bishops and archbishops, had been complaining of creeping Pelagianism (a heresy that denies original sin and the absolute need for grace). Nevertheless, that heresy was never tolerated in its full expression. However, today it is tolerated and even promoted in liberal Protestantism generally, and even in many evangelical circles.
In Pelagianism, Adam’s sin is not imputed to us, nor is Christ’s righteousness. Adam is a bad example, not the representative in whom we stand guilty. Similarly, Christ is a good example, not the representative in whom we stand righteous. How much of our preaching centers on following Christ–as important as that is–rather than on his person and work? How often do we hear about his work in us compared to his work for us?
Charles Finney, the revivalist of the last century, is a patron saint for most evangelicals. And yet, he denied original sin, the substitutionary atonement, justification, and the need for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. In short, Finney was a Pelagian. This belief in human nature, so prominent in the Enlightenment, wrecked the evangelical doctrine of grace among the older evangelical Protestant denominations (now called “mainline”), and we see where that has taken them. And yet, conservative evangelicals are heading down the same path and have had this human-centered, works-centered emphasis for some time.
The statistics bear us out here, unfortunately, and again the leaders help substantiate the error. Norman Geisler writes, “God would save all men if he could. He will save the greatest number actually achievable without violating their free will.”
Geisler’s statement quoted there is nothing other than an explicit rejection of monergism.
We thus seem to have a plain declaration from Dan that he embraces the idea that ‘humans have a choice’ in matters of salvation – a view that Chris has himself previously labelled heresy – along with an enthusiastic declaration of love for a book that outright rejects the historic Reformation understanding of unconditional election and total depravity, and which instead advocates an evangelical synergism dressed-up in the clothes of Reformation theology.
Now, I am not painting Dan’s position on election as being any worse than that of mainstream evangelicalism, for I can discern no difference between the two. But Chris does not consider evangelical synergism to be remotely orthodox, and has in fact agreed with the Church’s having called that belief heresy in 529. Thus, there appears to be a disconnect between Chris’ view on synergism on the one hand, and his vigorous affirmation of Dan’s orthodoxy on the other.
My concern here is that, if we point to what Dan has said on the show and say that it is orthodox, we concede monergism, and with it, the very foundation of Reformation theology – which, of course, is nothing less than the theology of the historic orthodox universal Church. As Chris rightly said in his article on the Second Council of Orange, ‘what is at stake is the Gospel itself and the salvation of those who have been wrongly taught that they are saved by their decision to follow Christ.’ I wholeheartedly agree with what Chris wrote there.
I therefore ask the following questions:
A1. Chris, given what Dan stated during your interview, do you acknowledge the apparent inconsistency between your affirmation that the universal Church declared semi-pelagianism to be heresy, and your affirmation that Dan ‘preaches, teaches, and confesses, historic orthodoxy’?
A2. If so, are you willing to clarify or nuance what you mean when you say that Dan ‘preaches, teaches, and confesses, historic orthodoxy’?
A3. Dan, given that you appeared desirous to agree with Chris’ affirmation of your orthodoxy, and given that you have now seen that the universal Church expressly rejected semi-pelagianism in 529, will you affirm in accordance with Scripture and historic orthodoxy that salvation is the work of God alone, and that this fact gives us great confidence and comfort as to the security of our salvation?
B. On the doctrine of hell
Dan declared clearly in the interview that he believed in hell. He started well:
Yeah. Um, we—I mean—this is another thing. I-it’s so funny to read things. We preach on Hell, a sermon about every single year in our church. I was just down at the Outreach convention in San Diego. My whole topic was teaching emerging generations about Hell. Last night in our own church, I’s reading the horrific, uh, sounding verses, y’ know, about judgment, in, uh, 2 Thessalonians with—y’know, about being “shut out” from the presence of, of, y’know—tha-He will punish those that do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus and they’ll punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might. Y’know, an’ I was pleading with our church last night. I’m like, “These are difficult things to hear and say, but we have t”—I-um-I am, I’m passionate to talk about it.
Had he stopped there, I’d not have thought further on this. But Dan continued:
But then I’d deconstruct—an’ this is important because someone will say, “What Hell are you talking about?” Y’know, um, I believe we need to deconstruct, you know, Dante’s Inferno and the images of Hell that have come up through artistic poetry and not based out of Scripture.
Or that we ha—because most Americans today, when they say, “Hell,” they’re thinkin’ of a cartoon sort of Devil with horns, and that, y’know, he runs Hell. Ah, and so I think what our job is, is to also deconstruct what Hell is culturally; an’ y’know, Satan is not ruling Hell, he would be in Hell. Hell was created for, for Satan and his angels. So I think we have ta teach correctly what it would be, but then deconstruct what the average American may think of it. And so, I’m passionate about that because I am so grateful that I am saved from Hell; and that compels me to wanna share that with other people.
I don’t use Hell as my driving force of evangelism, you don’t see th—I don’t think—the-there’s judgment talked about in Scripture a lot; y’know, but I, ah, we speak about it, we teach about it, an’ I—we have to teach about it; so.
I agree with Dan entirely that cartoon images and other unbiblical views of hell are unhelpful – he makes an excellent point. But I wasn’t sure from all this whether he personally believed that hell was a place of eternal torment. Nothing he said in the interview clarified that for me, and Chris regrettably did not press him on the topic.
I therefore searched for anything Dan might have said online concerning hell, and came across this article (which Chris also mentioned at the end of the interview):
As I read, I agreed with much of what Dan had to say there. And then I hit this:
I try to approach this topic humbly and with mystery but also teach it is a reality. I specifically state that only God knows someone’s eternal destiny. We walk through various Scriptures explaining that it is appointed for people to die and that everyone will face judgment (Heb. 9:27). We also look at the differences in judgment between a Christian and non-Christian. I share that much of what hell will be like is a mystery, but that we can know it is eternal, a place of regret, etc. I do share that there are varying views about hell among Christians, including annihilation (when people cease to exist and don’t experience eternal suffering).
I am pleased that Dan approaches this topic humbly and teachably – he sets us a good example. However, I am left unclear as to what Dan believes. Yes, I can see that he teaches various views on hell – including, presumably, the view that is a fiery place of eternal punishment and torment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But he also teaches the annihilationist view, and nowhere either in his interview or in that article did I hear or see Dan actually state which view he holds. It is also not at all clear from what he writes whether he takes a firm position in his teaching on which view of hell is correct.
I was also astonished to see Dan write that hell is ‘eternal, a place of regret, etc.’ While true, ‘a place of regret’ is irrefutably an astonishingly soft way of describing the hell depicted in the Bible.
Having failed to ascertain Dan’s actual belief about hell either from Dan’s interview or his article on that topic, I turned to the Lausanne Covenant, which is the statement of faith that Dan has adopted.
This too was of little help in clarifying Dan’s view of hell, because it does not actually mention the word. The closest it comes to the concept is this:
All men and women are perishing because of sin, but God loves everyone, not wishing that any should perish but that all should repent. Yet those who reject Christ repudiate the joy of salvation and condemn themselves to eternal separation from God.
This statement is extremely problematic. Can it be orthodox to declare only that those who (perhaps actively) reject Christ are condemned, as opposed to all those who are not trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and their right standing before God, as we hear from the very mouth of Jesus is the true position? And is it orthodox to define the unsaved’s eternal state weakly as ‘eternal separation from God’ (a prospect that I suspect many would welcome), rather than as punishment in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels?
I wonder whether such statements as these show love for the lost by revealing to them the full horror of the fate of those who do not trust in Christ, that they might repent and receive the forgiveness of their sins through the Gospel?
God’s kindness leads us to repentance – and part of the outworking of that kindness is a revelation of the terrible destiny of those who, on the final day of judgment, are not clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
I therefore have the following questions, all for Dan except the first:
B1. Chris, do you believe the Lausanne Covenant falls short of orthodoxy in its failure to show love for the lost by declaring clearly the true severity of hell?
B2. Dan, which view of hell, if any, do you believe, teach and confess as being correct? Do you teach that the others are incorrect and contrary to Scripture?
B3. In view of the fact that God has kindly revealed to us as a warning the severity of hell as a place of eternal punishment, such that we might flee from the wrath to come into the arms of a loving Saviour, and given that the eternal punishment of the lost features so prominently in Jesus’ teaching in the gospels, will you reconsider your non-use of hell as a driving force for evangelization?
B4. Do you affirm that all those without a saving faith in Christ will be punished eternally in hell, not merely those who expressly reject the Good News of Christ crucified for sinners and raised from the dead?
B5. For clarity, will you confirm that you believe, teach and confess that, at the least, 1 Cor. 6:9–11 teaches: (i) no one will inherit the kingdom of God if he is affirming in open rebellion to Scripture that his sin is a gift from God, and is therefore unrepentantly living a lifestyle of sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexual practice, thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, abusiveness or extortion; (ii) that the Body of Christ contains many who have been saved out of such sin, having rejected it in obedience to Christ, being washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit?
B6. As a church leader, do you lovingly warn those who look to you who are engaging unrepentantly in a lifestyle of such sin that they are in danger of receiving God’s eternal condemnation in hell (thus using God’s Law for its proper purpose of convicting us of our sin), pleading urgently with them that they might repent and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of all their sin?
C. On the dangers of mysticism
In the interview, Dan clearly distanced himself from mysticism and mystical practices. He explained (a little indignantly) that, although he used terms such as lectio divina in his books, his own understanding of those practices when he wrote his books did not in any way involve mysticism or altered states of consciousness.
In Dan’s 2003 book, The Emerging Church (which is still for sale), a copy of which I have open in front of me as I write, Dan cites prominent teachers of mysticism Dallas Willard (from at least three of Willard’s books, on pp. 203, 216, 223, 258), Gary Thomas (p. 221), and Henri Nouwen (pp. 233, 257). Of Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, Dan writes (p. 258):
Without a doubt, the books that have had the most influence on my thinking on discipleship and spiritual formation for the emerging church are this one and [Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ] by Dallas Willard.
Anyone reading Dan’s book would also see an un-nuanced endorsement of lectio divina (p. 223), ‘practicing silence’ (p. 223), ‘practicing the presence through prayer’ (p. 216), and ‘ancient disciplines’ (pp. 215, 223, 258). No definitions of these terms are given to steer the reader away from mystical practices.
Now, to be fair, Dan also makes sound, Biblical statements, such as this one (p. 216):
‘The Holy Spirit is the one who changes, grows, and sanctifies us (Rom. 6–8)
But his apparent endorsement of extra-Biblical spiritual disciplines as some of the means by which the Holy Spirit works (p. 216) remains troubling. And it doesn’t help that, despite his intentions to the contrary, he sounds like so many other advocates of spiritual formation through spiritual disciplines (p. 217):
So how can we create systems for discipleship that do not smack of modern business or academic structures and don’t feel programmed but rather embrace the mystery, awe, and wonder of God’s transforming work? One thing we can do is simply rename the classes to emphasize the spiritual aspect and to reflect values of emerging culture. Mosaic church in Los Angeles uses names like River to describe a spiritual formation retreat that “is an immersion of your sense, emotions, body and intellect as we quest to explore our connection to God.” They have another retreat called Snow, which is a “quest for forgiveness.” Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland has spiritual formation classes named Soul Findings, Journey, and Kindle.
Titles which sound more spiritual as well as classes which encompass depth with an organic approach fit much better in the fluidity of the emerging culture. But titles are only the packaging; we need to think through how to encourage spiritual formation through a holistic approach of mind, heart, senses and bodies. We can’t just change the name and then just keep dispersing information. We need to change how we approach spiritual formation.
The question there that Dan begins by asking is a good one. But his answer could have been written by any proponent of mysticism, and section titles such as ‘Restoring the ancient disciplines to create vintage Christians’ (p. 223) don’t help to counter the impression this gives. If people read Dan’s books and come away with the idea that he is an advocate of extra-Biblical mystical practices, I therefore wonder whether that is really anyone’s fault but his own.
Apprising Ministries similarly reports that Dan’s 2004 book Emerging Worship (co-authored with David Crowder and Sally Morgenthaler, and also still for sale) recommends (under the heading of ‘Helpful books’) Tony Jones’ Soul Shaper: Exploring Spirituality and Contemplative Practices in Youth Ministry. Ken Silva comments:
In Soul Shaper Tony Jones advocates some sixteen “ancient-future” spiritual tools such as The Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, Silence and Solitude, Stations of the Cross, Centering Prayer, and the Labyrinth. Here Jones begins defining his postmodern approach to youth ministry by combining aspects of what he sees as common spirituality in Evangelicalism, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions along with eastern religious practices gleaned from Buddhism and Hinduism. These soul shaping “disciplines” will later become even more developed in his next book The Sacred Way.
My (rather obvious) questions for Dan are therefore:
C1. Would you accept that, even though you did not ever intend to commend mysticism by your named endorsement of certain practices, someone reading your books might likely seek to discover more about those practices and thereby become involved with mysticism?
C2. Would you accept that writers such as Dallas Willard, Gary Thomas, Henri Nouwen and Tony Jones – all of whom you have favourably cited or recommended in your books, do teach mysticism – and that your implied or explicit endorsement of them might lead someone reading your books also to read their works, and thereby to become involved in mystical practices?
C3. Will you acknowledge the dangers of the extra-Biblical spiritual disciplines advocated by these writers?
C4. Do you accept that, as a prominent Christian leader, your endorsement carries weight and that you therefore have a God-given responsibility to be sure of what and whom you endorse before you promote them?
C5. Will you therefore agree that your unwitting endorsement of these practices and the writers who advocate them poses a clear and serious spiritual danger to your readers?
C6. If so, would you also agree that it follows that you now have an urgent duty to: (i) until such time as they can be revised, withdraw from sale any books of yours that might be understood to imply endorsement of any mystical practices, or of authors advocating such practices; (ii) publish a clear statement on your website naming those teachers and writers whom you can no longer endorse because they promote potentially dangerous extra-biblical spiritual practices, in that statement also identifying those practices and warning against them?
There are many other questions that could be raised, but these were those that seemed most pressing to me – and also most useful in helping us to think about the outworking of what it means to be truly orthodox. I pray that, if the discussion continues, it will do so in a spirit of kindness and gentleness, as we bear with one another in love. For we who trust in Christ are all sinners, saved by grace.
May we all ‘come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). And as we endeavour to speak the truth to one another in love, may all our words resound to the glory of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!
- Reformation Essentials – Five Pillars of the Reformation by Michael Horton
- Dan Kimball Gives A Statement
- The Power of the Gospel
[Minor edits made 7:10 pm GMT on 26 November 2010 in the light of Jason’s comments.]