All posts by Tony Arsenal

William Lane Craig – Introduction (1)

According to nominalism, “being” – that which is common or universal in any given category – is no more than a “name,” a concept or term. Accordingly, the doctrine of the Trinity in this philosophy leads to tritheism. Excessive realism, on the other hand, associates the word “essence” with some subsistent thing that stands behind or above the person and so leads to tetratheism or Seballianism. – Herman Bavinck (God and Creation 2004, 299)

Recently, I have noticed a flare-up of interest in philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig among young Reformed Christians in various circles I run in. I have been investigating Dr. Craig’s apologetics and theology on and off for close to seven years now. Because of what I have identified as serious errors in Dr. Craig’s positions on the Trinity and the Incarnation, I think that this is a dangerous development among young Christian thinkers.

I’m not opposed to appropriating good aspects of someone’s thoughts while leaving behind the problems. However, we are not talking about auxiliary doctrines or matters of indifference. Instead, we are talking about core and foundational doctrines which impact every other area of doctrine. It is not the case that our Trinitarian theology is separate from our apologetic. It is not the case that our doctrine of Scripture does not affect our soteriology.

Dr. Craig is a high level, technical, and academic philosopher. It would be presumptuous of me, despite some philosophical training, to assume I understand all the nuances of his writing. However, it is reasonable to think that we should be able to read what a man has written and assess his theology on that basis. As such, I am starting on a project to describe and critique Dr. Craig’s positions regarding the Trinity and the Incarnation. My goal is to publish weekly, but because of the gravity of what I believe the conclusions are I want to ensure that I am taking the appropriate time to properly understand what is being said, and properly critique and respond to it.

If this were an academic paper, it would be ideal to assess and critique based on academic resources. However, this is a series of blog posts, and my concern is not so much with those who are interacting with Dr. Craig academically. Rather, I am concerned with those who are interacting with Dr. Craig popularly. As such I am restricting most of my inquiry to popular resources. While there are a variety of resources that fit into this category, I will be focusing on the ones which are most commonly used, and through which Craig most prolifically spreads his theology. Those resources are:

  1. Defenders – This is a podcast which is the audio recordings of a Sunday school theology class that Dr. Craig teaches at his home church. I do not know if this is an ongoing class, or if they republish the lectures on an ongoing basis (or a mixture of the two).
  2. Reasonable Faith Podcast – Dr. Craig has a brief podcast where he discusses various topics with his cohost Kevin Harris. This usually involves discussions of apologetic topics, but he does occasionally speak about his Trinitarian and Incarnation theology.
  3. Reasonable Faith Website – Dr. Craig responds to questions and writes articles. This is Dr. Craig’s internet footprint and serves as a stable and extensive representation of his popular presentations.
  4. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview – This book, authored with JP Moreland, serves as the systematic presentation which will be my primary object of critique. The other resources will be used to fill in gaps or to help offer an explanation of what may seem unclear.

Review of “A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament” edited by Michael Kruger (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016)

Today I will be reviewing the second installment of a two-part Biblical Theology collection published by Crossway. A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament is a collection of essays written by the past and present members of the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary. It shares many traits in common with the Old Testament volume so I would encourage you to check out my review before proceeding here.

In the introductory essay by editor Michael Kruger, he identifies several features of this collection of essays which are of note. First, it is accessible. By this, he means that it does not require a technical knowledge to make use of this volume. Issues like dating are generally left to an appendix, there is a general lack of discussion regarding Greek, and there is a premium placed on more applicable aspects of the text. Second, it is theological. “Because this volume is designed primarily to help pastors and Bible study leaders prepare their sermons or lessons, a higher priority is placed on exploring the message of each New Testament book.” (loc 437) That is one of the primary strengths of this book, is that a pastor can simply read through an essay regarding the book he is working on and already have a good idea of the main themes and structure of the book. When he then goes to more technical commentaries, he already has the foundational aspects of the whole book in mind. Thirdly, it is redemptive-historical. Now, this is a term that can mean different things to different people. What is meant in this volume is that the authors of each essay are intentionally showing “how each book contributes to the fulfillment of God’s salvific plan. In particular, such an approach would focus on how Old Testament history, types, and shadows all find their fulfillment in the person and work of Christ.” (loc 475) Finally, it is Reformed. This was a breath of fresh air for me. It is not the case that there is an absence of good Reformed commentaries, but the fact is that when writing an essay, to properly source your thoughts one often must look outside the Reformed tradition. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when preparing for a sermon it can be cumbersome to sift through the chaff to find that kernel of wheat. Knowing that these essays were prepared by men who have studied and been approved for Gospel ministry in a Reformed context is incredibly helpful. Fourthly, it is multiauthored. Kruger offers some commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach, but I will leave the reader to his thoughts on that. Finally, he notes that it is pastoral. “As noted above, the real purpose of this volume is to help Bible study leaders, pastors, and Christian leaders to teach and apply the Word of God to their respective audiences.” (loc 549)

Rather than spend time exploring the specifics of each essay, or even the specific of any one essay, I will make some brief comments. Each essay is valuable in its own right, and I would commend this work as an addition to the library of any pastor or biblical student. Not only that, but it is approachable enough that any adult Christian reader would benefit from a run through this and the accompanying Old Testament volume. The varied style of each essay, although basically structurally the same, I found to be somewhat distracting. This is mostly a reader preference, and not necessarily a weakness of the book, but it is important to know this going into the text. For those who may find this problematic, I would suggest not reading the book sequentially, as I did for review purposes. That isn’t really the intention of the book anyway, so that isn’t an issue. That said, the essays were all excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the essay on Hebrews by Simon Kistemaker.

Kruger, Michael, ed. A Biblical-Theological introduction to the New Testament. Kindle Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.

Please Note: The publisher has provided me with an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

By the Washing of Regeneration

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7, ESV)

This coming Sunday, I have been asked to provide pulpit supply for my pastor who is taking some time to visit his brand new, and very first, grandson. The text I selected was Titus 3:1-7, and in particular, a section in the middle jumped out at me. One phrase caught my attention.

by the washing of regeneration

Paul, writing to one of his successors Titus, is concluding the letter with some instructions. Immediately before this passage, he exhorted the people to obey the governing authorities, to be ready to do good works, and to be charitable all people. (1-2)

Then he grounds his command in the fact that we were once sinners who also needed God to show us kindness and charity. (3)

That brings us to our passage. While we were still in the state described in verse 3, the loving-kindness of the Father appeared. That loving-kindness was Jesus. (John 3:16, Rom 5:8) Contrary to Roman Catholic thought, the Father saved us “not because of works done by us in righteousness.” (3:5a) Rather he saved us “according to his own mercy. (3:5b)

In the second half of verse 5, we come to the contentious phrase which is the subject of our inquiry today.

by the washing of regeneration

This passage has been interpreted variously throughout Church history. Some see it as an obvious reference to the rite of baptism. They use this passage to demonstrate that the washing (baptism) is effectual to bring about regeneration. They read the phrase as though it said something to the effect of “the regenerating washing.” This position the prevailing view among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and some Anglicans. However, even among early church commentators who affirmed Baptismal Regeneration, this interpretation was not universal.

Strange! How were we drowned in wickedness, so that we could not be purified, but needed a new birth? For this is implied by “Regeneration.” For as when a house is in a ruinous state no one places props under it, nor makes any addition to the old building, but pulls it down to its foundations, and rebuilds it anew; so in our case, God has not repaired us, but has made us anew. For this is “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” He has made us new men. How? “By His Spirit” (John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. James Tweed and Philip Schaff, vol. 13 (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 538.)

It is interesting to note here, that Chrysostom literally says “we were baptized (βεβαπτισμένοι) in wickedness.” It seems like if he was going to make the point that baptism regenerates us, that this would be a perfect intro. We once were baptized in wickedness, and we are now baptized in righteousness. However, he does not do so. Rather, he points out here that we cannot be purified, but rather we must be entirely rebuilt. That certainly does not sound like an infusion of grace that transforms us such that we are inherently just. I digress.

The Baptismal Regeneration reading is not justified. Rather, we should read the passage such that regeneration itself is the washing. Grammatically, the phrase λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας simply does not bear out the adjectival reading above. Rather, the second noun in the construction is better seen as the means or agent of the first. Thus it is better understood as something closer to “the regeneration which washes” or “the washing which comes about because of regeneration.” We see this clearly when we observe the following phrase which is joined with the coordinating conjunction καὶ.

and the renewal of the Holy Spirit

The phrase ἀνακαινώσεως πνεύματος ἁγίου is parallel to λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας and thus we may draw a reasonable conclusion that the construction is also parallel. It is evident that the phrase “Holy Spirit” does not describe the word “renewal.” If we take the Baptismal Regeneration view above, and λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας means “regenerative washing,” then this phrase here must mean something like “Holy Spirit inducing renewal.” Now, while it is true that those holding to Baptismal Regeneration would agree that baptism indeed brings about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I am not aware of a single commentator here that uses this passage to support that. Rather they are of one voice in recognizing that this is telling us that the Holy Spirit brings about renewal. However, the same construct used immediately prior, says the Baptismal Regeneration Advocate, says that washing brings about regeneration. Why the discrepancy?

Instead, we ought to read this passage as though identical constructions function identically. In fact, the two constructions are referring to the same thing. The regeneration which washes is, in fact, an act of the Holy Spirit who renews. The washing described in the first phrase is the renewal described in the second.

If “through” (dia) were used before “renewal,” thus rendering “through the washing of rebirth and through renewal of the Holy Spirit,” it would describe two events instead of one. Simply stated, the text indicates that “washing” is an activity of the Holy Spirit and that this washing involves “rebirth” (palingenesias) and “renewal” (anakainoseos). (Thomas Lea and Hayne Griffin, New American Commentary, vol. 34 (Nashville: B&H, 1992), 323.)

What Paul here is describing is the regeneration and conversion of a Christian. He goes on to say that the purpose of the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit by which we were saved is “so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (7) He also notes that the Holy Spirit who brings about this regeneration and renewal is “poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (6) This act is an act of the triune God from start to finish.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that this is not precisely the same as what is advocated by many in the Reformed tradition. Both Matthew Henry and John Calvin associate the phrase “washing of regeneration” with baptism. Henry does so more strongly than Calvin, but it is important to note that both draw the conclusion that the combination of phrases “washing of regeneration” and “renewal of the Holy Spirit” deny Baptismal Regeneration. What they are saying is not all that far off from what I’m saying. Rather than understand this passage as advocating Baptismal Regeneration, instead what we see is that the sign (baptism, here called the washing of regeneration) is here directly associated with that which is signified (regeneration itself here called the renewal of the Holy Spirit). While I disagree with them that baptism is in view here, I fully affirm the theology they are putting forward.

Augustine and Divine Processions

This year, as part of my devotional studies, I am working my way through Augustine’s magisterial volume On the Trinity.[1] I am hoping to provide some reflection and analysis here as I work through it.

Today, I was reading 2.1.4 and 2.1.5 today (99-100) and came upon something I think is a very fruitful discussion. Augustine, toward the beginning of this chapter, discussed that there is a particular rule which was informally utilized by various commentators and theologians. Roughly speaking, the rule was that if the text speaks of the Son as less than the Father, it is referring to the “form of a servant” IE according to humanity. If the text speaks of the Son as equal to the Father, it is a reference to the “form of God” IE according to divinity.

He also points out that some unclear passages which speak of the Son in a way that refers to the fact that the Son is from the Father, and do not fit either of the above two categories.

There are, however, some statements in the divine utterances of such a kind that it is uncertain which rule should be applied to them; should it be the one by which we take the Son as less than the Father in the created nature he took on, or the one by which we take him as equal to the Father, while still deriving from him his being God from God, light from light? (2.1.2)

He uses these passages to ground the eternal processions of the Son and Holy Spirit.[2]  Of particular note is John 5:26 and 5:19.

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (5:26, ESV)

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.(5:19, ESV)

Augustine brilliantly uses the latter to show that the external works of the Trinity are one. I will leave that discussion for a later post. But the former is a verse that has always puzzled me. The verse is arguably talking about the divine attribute of aseity, but how can in-him-self-ness be granted to you? Doesn’t that defeat the whole point of aseity?

Augustine explains

So the reason for these statements can only be that the life of the Son is unchanging like the Father’s, and yet it is from the Father (2.1.3)

The Son is indeed a se, but his aseity is from the very nature which comes from the Father. That is, since the Son’s personal origin is that he is begotten of the Father, he gets everything he has and is from the Father. That is why the Nicene Creed, which Augustine is referencing here, says that the Son is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” It is also the reason that the Athanasian Creed indicates that although each person considered as a person is a given attribute —Aseity, Omnipotence, etc.— that there is only one attribute shared among the persons.

Therefore, just as He gave the Son life (Jn 5:26) means nothing else than “He begot the Son who is his life… (2.1.4)

Understanding this is vital for the Reformed to, because this theology would develop into a doctrine in Roman Catholic thought —especially under Aquinas— where the nature of the Son is actually communicated to the Son by the Father such that it is practically a second numerical nature. Calvin, however, would postulate a different formula which better retains the numerical singularity of the divine nature.[3] Some accuse Calvin of implicitly denying eternal generation —and consequently of eternal procession— but in actuality, this is simply a proper recovery of what Augustine is saying here.

Augustine then takes this same approach and applies it to the procession of the Holy Spirit.

And just as the Son is not made less than the Father by his saying, The Son cannot do anything of himself except what he sees the Father doing (Jn 5:19) […] so her it does not make the Holy Spirit less to say of him, He will not speak from himself but whatever he hears he will speak (Jn 16:13). This is said in virtue of his proceeding from the Father. (2.1.5)

While I doubt that this kind of sophisticated reasoning will do much to convince the hardened Jehovah’s Witness… or EFS advocate for that matter… it goes a long way to demonstrate —using Scripture— that these eternal processions exist.

For a very helpful modern treatment of the subject, see Holmes, Christopher. The Holy Spirit. New Studies in Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. Holmes devotes 4 chapters —two each— specifically to the procession of the Holy Spirit as it is developed by Augustine and Aquinas in their commentaries and sermons on the Gospel of John.

[1] I am working from Augustine of Hippo. The Works of Saint Augustine. Edited by John Rotelle. Translated by Edmund Hill. Vol. 5. Hyde Park: New City, 1991. All citations will follow the numbering and pagination schema for that version.

[2] Processions refer to the two relationships of origin which the Son and Spirit have with the Father. It is an unfortunate quirk of theological linguistics that the term Processions (plural) is used to describe these relationships while the term Procession (singular) is also used to describe the unique relationship of origin which the Spirit has with the Father (and or through the Son)

[3] Dr. K Scott Oliphint offers an excellent lecture regarding this that is available at the Reformed Forum site.

Jory Micah – Assessing a Charlatan (2)

Charlatan: Noun – a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.

Today I want to take a look at Jory’s Master’s thesis. It is currently available on her website, but I have also uploaded it to in case she decides to remove the thesis from her website at some future point. Before we get started, I want you to remember that one of Jory’s fundamental aims is for women to be given the exact same opportunities as men regarding the Church. For those of you who are reading this and think I maybe should have gone easier on her because she is a woman… remember that she wants me to treat her the same as a man.

Remember, in my last post, I discussed her educational background. I feel that it is important since she often presents herself as and is considered credible because of this academic pedigree. She presents her thesis as a summary of her views, and uses it as a launching off point for her “ministry.” I don’t think I’ve been oblique about this, but let me state this in no uncertain terms.

Jory Micah is a charlatan who preys on the uneducated (particularly uneducated women). She teaches doctrine that is gravely in error, and in some instances rises to the level of heresy. She outwardly claims to be pro-life, but she has repeatedly advocated for pro-choice ideology, which makes her de facto pro-abortion. She is dangerous, and needs to be exposed for the charlatan that she is. She has repeatedly advocated the use of feminine pronouns in reference to the Persons of the Trinity. She has repeatedly argued that the Bible is simply a cultural artifact reflecting the human failings of the first century. She has repeatedly argued that the Scriptures we have are a corrupted version of what was originally taught. She has repeatedly argued that God’s Law, as delivered in the Pentateuch, reflects a corrupt and oppressive patriarchy.

There are two aspects I want to address regarding Jory’s thesis. I’m going to bypass the usual mechanical critiques of citations and structure, I would rather focus on the substance of the essay.

In her thesis, she makes an incredibly strong claim. Remember, this was —as the cover of the thesis itself states— submitted “In partial fulfillment of the Master of Christian Doctrine and History Degree” (Emphasis mine) which was actually a degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis on Christian Doctrine and History. This is a thesis which should demonstrate that she possesses a Master of Arts level expertise in Biblical Studies, particularly in the subject of Christian Doctrine and History. As such, it is entirely appropriate to assess it to determine if it accomplishes that task. Furthermore, as highlighted in the previous post, a graduate of this program should be able to

  • Explain historical and cultural backgrounds of the biblical books and how the leading biblical themes relate to each other in the unfolding of salvation history.
  • Apply sound interpretive and hermeneutical methods to the Bible including the proper use of resources such as lexicons, concordances, dictionaries and commentaries in the broader context of spiritual development, preaching and teaching.
  • Articulate major doctrines, historical perspectives and theological issues, including those related to spiritual renewal as these bear on Christian life and mission.
  • Understand and respond to contemporary issues, particularly in relation to how, with a global perspective, the Church is able to influence societies with a Christian worldview.
  • Express a breadth of knowledge of biblical and theological issues in ways supported by informed scholarship and sound reasoning.

Strong Claims, Weak Evidence

As stated, Jory’s thesis makes incredibly strong claims. She concludes the introduction of the essay with the following statement.

Within the first and second century, it is clear that females occupied every office of leadership within the Christian Church. Their ministry was vital in its foundations and remains strategically needed within the continuous growth of Christianity today(5, Bold and Italics original)

This is the thesis of the essay. This is the statement which Mrs. Micah intends to demonstrate, and by proving plans to show that she possesses a Masters level expertise in the subject.

Let’s break this down into a few component parts.

  1. “Within the first and second century” – mechanical issues aside (it should be “first and second centuries”), this means that she will prove that by the year 199 that the following state of affairs is evident.
  2. “It is clear” – This should be manifestly obvious to anyone reading the accounts
  3. “Females occupied every office of leadership” – This means, at a minimum, she should prove that there were female Presbyters/Bishops (Pastors who teach doctrine and govern the Church), female Deacons (people who tend to the physical needs of the Church), and Apostles (those commissioned directly by Jesus to build and establish the Church)
  4. “Within the Christian Church” – The persons she points to should not be part of heretical or offshoot groups
  5. “Their ministry was vital” – This presupposes that 1-4 here is correct

Now, my expertise is in the area of Christian History, incidentally the same area of competence that she submitted this paper to demonstrate her mastery. The first part of her thesis is clearly a historical claim. She is making a statement about something that happened in history. The second part is a more subjective statement, and for the sake of this assessment, I will forgo substantial critique. However, I will note, that if the first part of her thesis (the historical reality of women in every office of leadership) fails, the second part also fails.

Can Jory’s essay support the weight of this strong claim? Just a few sentences later we see that not even she thinks it can.

There is a substantial amount of evidence, which strongly suggests that the establishment and growth of the Christian Church is largely due to first and second century women who were quick to take headship roles, even in the face of ongoing persecution.

Now, this may just be a stylistic choice… but we went from “Within the first and second century, it is clear that females occupied every office” to “there is a substantial amount of evidence which suggests” with literally two sentences intervening. You cannot argue that something is clear, and then say that the evidence only suggests it.

To prove her thesis, she breaks the paper into two chapters. The first is a historical discussion regarding the role of women in the Early Church. It spans pages 7-19. Remember, the foundation of her thesis statement was that it is clear that women occupied every office in the first and second centuries. This section is where she will need to prove it.

However, even a cursory glance demonstrates that she did not do that. Jory does not interact with a single second-century primary source. It is not only that she does not interact with the right second century sources… she does not interact with any at all. The closest Mrs. Micah comes is referencing a few scholars interacting with Tertullian’s objection to Christian women marrying outside the faith. In fact, the point she is making is that Tertullian reflects a growing oppression of women, but since Tertullian’s writing ministry reached its zenith around the turn of the 3rd century, this serves to prove the converse of her thesis.

Furthermore, neither the terms Bishop, Elder, Presbyter, or any of the other equivalent terms appear in her thesis. How can she hope to prove that women occupied every office if the most important ordinary office is not even mentioned in the paper?

So, right off the bat, we can say unequivocally that Jory did not prove her thesis. The second section of her paper is more or less an attempt to undercut complementarian exegesis regarding Paul’s letters. Although I’m sure there is lots of content to critique, I instead want to focus on a more serious issue in the essay.

F for Effort

While this is not a universal reality, it is a reasonable description regarding the differences between the different levels of education. In undergraduate (Associate and Bachelor) programs, you are expected to be consuming and summarizing secondary sources. As a graduate student (Master) you are expected to be analyzing and critiquing secondary sources, as well as synthesizing primary sources. At a post-graduate (Doctorate) level, you are expected to become a secondary source yourself.

The way this usually manifests is that undergraduate papers are typically summaries of secondary sources, with a very shallow synthesis or application as part of the conclusion. Graduate papers, especially theses and dissertations, are expected to use evidence to make an argument. This is one of the hardest things that Seminarians have to get used to when they start their program (I got my first grade lower than a B+ in my first semester of Seminary for this very reason). Another common difference is the depth of research. Graduate students are expected to thoroughly source their research and should be able to recognize which statements require the support of a reliable source and which ones can be made without a citation. A persistent flaw in Jory’s thesis is that she makes sweeping statements without any real support. For example, page 8 contains the following statement

In other words, houses and perhaps some other secretive spots, such as catacombs, were the only places Christians could worship and fellowship together.

The idea that the only places they could worship were houses and secretive spots is a statement that should require justification. Jory provides a source, but the citation only demonstrates that they met in catacombs, not that these were the only places they could meet. This kind of citation practice usually happens because someone wrote a sentence first, and later hunted around to add sources. Was I a professor grading such a paper, that is what I would assume to be the case. Furthermore, the idea that Christians sometimes met in catacombs is common enough knowledge that her anticipated audience (her peers enrolled in a Master level program in Christian History) would reasonably be expected to know that.

It is understandable in the first semester, a Graduate or Seminary student might not have this mastered… but by the time someone gets to the point where they are submitting a thesis, this should no longer be the case.

Jory’s thesis is little more than a long undergraduate paper in this regard. A simple comparison between the sources she cites and her content should suffice to demonstrate this.

On page 16, Jory engages in a discussion regarding Phoebe. Phoebe is of particular importance because the term διακονος is applied to her in Romans 16:1. Of Phoebe, Jory says this

The role of Phoebe in the early Christian Church has been long debated.  Due to the Apostle Paul’s terminology in Rom. 16:2, some scholars have gathered Phoebe to be a deaconess.  Their findings, however, are based on mistranslation of the Greek time era for which the word deaconess came into existence.  The word deaconess was not created within the Greek language until the third to fourth century and was used to describe females who functioned with much less authority than first-century male diaconates.  Those who have tried to discredit the authority of Phoebe in the early Church have been doing so by explaining that original biblical text entitles her a deaconess, as defined in the third to fourth century.   Those who have under-qualified Phoebe as a deaconess have done irresponsible research since the term did not exist in her lifetime.(16)

At the end of the sentence, Jory provides the following citation.

Caroline F. Whelan, “Amica Pauli: The Role of Phoebe in the Early Church,” JSNT 49 [1993]: 67.

With the accompanying full citation in her Bibliography

Whelan, Caroline F. “Amica Pauli: The Role of Phoebe in the Early Church.”  Journal for the Study of the New Testament 49 [March 1993]: 67-85

This article is available for free. Let’s take a quick look at how the two compare

The role of Phoebe in the early church long has been the subject of debate. The lack of understanding concerning Phoebe’s role often reflects our lack of understanding of the terminology used by Paul to describe her-διακονος and προσταις-both of which have been largely misunderstood and hence mistranslated. In discussions of Rom. 16.2, for example, διακονος is frequently taken as synonymous with the later office of deaconess (third to fourth century) which, in comparison to the first-century male diaconate, had a very limited function.  In fact, the English translation Of διακονος as deaconess is not only misleading in its connotations, but it is also linguistically incorrect. In the first three centuries CE there was no Greek word for deaconess.

The two paragraphs are identical in content, follow practically the same order, and the first sentence is nearly verbatim. While it may not fit the technical definition of plagiarism, it certainly is nothing more than a summary of another person’s work. Furthermore, the footnote placement makes it appear as though the citation belongs with only the final sentence, rather than the entire paragraph.

This pattern becomes even more apparent when one observes the overall structure of Jory’s second chapter and the overall fabric of another article that Jory makes use of.

The beginning of Jory’s second chapter is a summary of the women who served in leadership roles in the Biblical accounts. The first is Apphia, and like the previous example, the entire paragraph is a summary of a section in an article by Wendy Cotter. Again, the points made, and even the order that they are made in are virtually identical. She then proceeds to discuss Chloe, Prisca, Euodia and Syntyche, Phoebe, and finally Junia. Although she draws on the work of Keith Gerberding, the vast majority of citations in this section are from the previously cited Cotter article.

I wonder what happens if we go back to that article and observe the structure used there.

Cotter begins by talking about Chloe, moves on to Prisca, then discusses Euodia and Syntyche, closes her discussion with a conversation regarding Phoebe. Same outline. It seems as though this section of Jory’s thesis is actually just a summary of the work of Cotter. Let’s compare some specifics.

Paul addresses the two women as if they were part of a team of male and female evangelists, in which he was involved. While it is obvious in the text that the two women are disputing over something and Paul hopes they will make peace, he sings their praises as those who have worked side by side with him. (Jory)

Paul joins both in his praise, “They have labored side by side with me, Clement and the rest of the fellow workers whose names are written in the book of life” (Phil 4:3). Paul’s description suggests that Euodia and Syntyche belonged to a team of men and women evangelizers. (Cotter)

Again, it may not technically rise to the plane of plagiarism, but it definitely something that should not have been acceptable in a master level program.

I could continue, but I think I’ve made my point. Jory’s thesis just does not deliver. It does not prove the point she claims it will, nor does it meet the standards of academic writing for a program of her level.

This post started out with the definition of the word charlatan. A charlatan is someone who pretends they are something they are not, especially regarding skills or knowledge. It is evident from this very cursory look at this thesis demonstrates that she is a charlatan. She presents herself as an academic expert in respect to Christian history, but the simple errors found in this thesis show that this simply is not the case.

Amazing Resource – Reformed Books Online

I wanted to share with my readers an amazing resource that I have known about for quite some time, but am just starting to dig into. The website Reformed Books Online is a website which has a collection of links to thousands of resources.

Our purpose is to promote historic, reformed Christianity by providing in one location a collection of the best theological literature from 1800 to today available for free on the internet.  Select works from the reformation and puritan periods are included as well.

Most recently a collection of over 2,200 commentaries has been added and curated which includes every commentary which was recommended by Charles Spurgeon (including his own notes), every Reformed or Puritan commentary that the editors could find in English, every major Early and Medieval Church commentary that has been translated into English, and “every Bible commentary before 1875 that a Bible-believer would be interested in.”

Having recently given a lecture on how the advent of the digital age has made it possible to do the things that Christians have always done, in a new way… this collection demonstrates shows that technology can open horizons that previous generations could not have dreamed of.

Jory Micah – Assessing a Charlatan (1)

Charlatan: Noun – a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.

Jory Micah, for those who don’t know, is something of a viral phenomenon sweeping the internet by storm. She is a rabid egalitarian who considers herself to be something of a prophetess heralding the Church to include women in every aspect of Church leadership, including —and perhaps most of all— ordained office.

On her website, Breaking the Glass Steeple, she says the following

My top mission is to help women shake off the chains of limitation and the shackles of oppression that the Christian Church has wrapped around them in the name of incorrect biblical interpretation and stale religion.

According to her website, she has an earned Associate of Arts in Practical Theology from Christ for the Nations Bible Institute (CFNI), a Bachelor of Science in Church Ministries from Southwestern AG University (SAGU). She also earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (and this is important, with an emphasis on Christian Doctrine and History) from Regent University (RU).

Something that gives Jory an air of credibility is her curriculum vitae, although no formal CV is available. So, having recently encountered someone who pointed to her education as a reason why she should have a hearing, I decided to dig a little.

In this first post, I want to take a look at her degree programs.

While I want to make it clear that I don’t think that unaccredited programs are not valuable, nor do I think that accreditation is a litmus test for the validity of an educational program, I do think that a lack of accreditation or a questionable accreditation status represents a problem.

Christ for the Nation Institute

It is hard to find information regarding the formal accreditation status of CFNI, their website did not have a statement that I could find regarding accreditation. Some sources state that they hold accreditation under the International Christian Accrediting Association (ICAA). However, the ICAA website does not list them as a member school. Furthermore, an archived version of their website states

After considerable prayer and consideration, the Board of Directors of Christ For The Nations has made the decision not to pursue accreditation of the academic programs at CFNI.

Given the absence of other evidence, I am forced to the conclusion that CFNI held no accredited status at the time of Jory’s program. Regarding her course of study, I do not know what year she graduated, but the current APT (Associate of Practical Theology) course requirements are incredibly vague.

The current program is 78 credit hours. 8 of these are “Student Ministry” hours, which are simply credits given for serving at a local church. An additional 8 are “Tuesday Night Encounter” which is described as follows

This Tuesday evening chapel service offers guest speakers an opportunity to teach on contemporary theological issues offering insight and practical application within the church.

There are 16 credits in “Lectures in Practical Theology” which the school describes as follows

One of the dynamic programs offered at CFNI, guest speakers come from around the globe come to teach on contemporary theological issues within the church. Each speaker teaches a one-week module – daily lectures in specific areas of contemporary theology.

There are 6 credits in a summer outreach or internship (i.e., a short-term missions project).

There are also 20 credits in “Required Foundational Courses,” but no description of what those are. The remaining courses are 20 credits in electives in the area of Bible, Theology, and Practical Ministry.

If I’m doing my math correct, which I may not be… math is not my strong suit, nearly a third of that program is spent on internships or chapel. There is nothing wrong with internships, but they do not provide an academic basis for further studies. They are intended to give you practical skills, not an intellectual foundation. Unfortunately, nothing is available from what I could find regarding what other courses were required, but there does appear to be an array of the kinds of courses one would expect (Intro to Bible, various courses on specific books, Church History Survey, etc.a large). A significant portion of the degree (about a 5th) was a rotation of guest speakers. Guest speakers are not necessarily bad, but the question must be asked as to what kind of consistency and academic foundation can be set in that context. From where I sit, the answer is “not much.” Simply put, one of the reasons that an established faculty is part of any accreditation process is because a foundation which is not shifting is part of what makes an education successful. Knowing that, relatively speaking, the set of professors that are teaching this years class are the same set of professors teaching next years class allows a school to have lasting and consistent standards. CFNI has, as part of its intentional structure, a shifting foundation.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

In lieu of accreditation, CFNI has an articulation agreement with various schools in the region. Among these schools is SAGU, where Jory went to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Church Ministries. All of the schools which CFNI has partnerships with through this articulation agreement are accredited and seem to have a similar kind of small Bible School feel. What is important about this however, is that Jory was not able to choose any other schools. That is the difficulty with an unaccredited institution.

I was unable to find anything specific about what this program requires, and the SAGU website does not appear to have a BS in Church Ministry program any longer. However, their catalog seems to indicate that their BS programs are around 125 credit hours.

Regent University

It is important to note that the Regent University which Jory attended is not the Regent College (and Divinity School) in Vancouver. Regent University is a school located in Virginia Beach. Regent has an archive of academic catalogs, and given that she submitted her thesis in 2010, I am referring to the 2010/2011 catalog.

According to that catalog, graduates of Jory’s program should be able to do the following

  • Explain historical and cultural backgrounds of the biblical books and how the leading biblical themes relate to each other in the unfolding of salvation history.
  • Apply sound interpretive and hermeneutical methods to the Bible including the proper use of resources such as lexicons, concordances, dictionaries and commentaries in the broader context of spiritual development, preaching and teaching.
  • Articulate major doctrines, historical perspectives and theological issues, including those related to spiritual renewal as these bear on Christian life and mission.
  • Understand and respond to contemporary issues, particularly in relation to how, with a global perspective, the Church is able to influence societies with a Christian worldview.
  • Express a breadth of knowledge of biblical and theological issues in ways supported by informed scholarship and sound reasoning.

These outcomes will become important in a future post when we take a look at some troubling features of her thesis.

Regent University is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, an accrediting organization that has certified many schools, including Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (my alma mater), Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary California, and Reformed Theological Seminary.

The point of this post is not so much to try to undercut the programs or institutions from which she graduated. There are all sorts of purposes for educational institutions, and these different purposes lend themselves to different arrangements and educational standards. However, remember that one of the ways that she propagates her teaching is by acting as though she is an academic. As we will see next time when we take a look at her thesis, she believes that she has a solid historical and theological basis for what she teaches, and this basis is grounded in the fact that she has studied these subjects.

My Heart Transplant

Most people don’t know this about me, but I was born with a hereditary heart defect that I wasn’t aware of until I was in my teens. This heart defect was such that it affected and effected every aspect of my life, and eventually would have killed me. However, someone gave their life for me to receive a new heart.

19 years ago, when I was 14 years old, I received a heart transplant. Someone who didn’t suffer from the same condition I did, died. Because they died, I received a new heart.

Some of you may have gathered, that I’m not talking about a new organ.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezek 36:26, ESV)

On the morning of January 23rd, 1998, I had no idea that my life was going to change forever. I woke up like any other morning. I went to school like any other morning. And that evening, I attended a youth rally called Acquire the Fire.

I had been active in the confirmation program at a local Lutheran Church and was learning about the Bible and God, but it was not made real to me until that evening, and even then I didn’t realize it.

Stealing a play right out of Finney’s playbook, Ron Luce played me like a fiddle. He hyped my emotions up, the music swelled, and like clockwork, I hit my knees. Hundreds of others just like me made their way to the floor. I’m sure not all of them were false converts, but I’m also sure most of them were. One of the kids from my youth group who “came to faith” at the same time as I did is now an avowed atheist who rails against the what he believes are deceptive and oppressive Christian practices.

However, I woke up the next morning, and something was different. I opened my eyes, and my first desire was to read the Bible. I remember a few days later swearing, and the words tasted unnatural and bitter in my mouth. I saw a cute girl walk past me at school, and I found myself ashamed of the thoughts which came to mind. To put it in the lines of a dc Talk song which was already beginning to influence me

What’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a Savior

About a week later, I found myself praying and asking God what was happening. I felt a distinct impression, although not in a mystical or charismatic sense, that I had made a commitment to serve the Lord… I had chosen to follow him. However, more than that, he had selected me for his service, he had chosen first to love me.

You see, on a Roman cross, nearly 2000 years ago… God in the flesh died on the cross, in my place. He became my sin, though he knew no sin so that I might become the righteousness of God. Just as it was promised (Jer 23:5), Yahweh Tsidkenu, the LORD is my righteousness.

19 years ago, God took my broken, sinful, heart of stone… and he ripped it out. This heart that would only bring me death is no more. He replaced it with a heart of flesh that loves and desires to serve the LORD.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17, ESV)

Soli Deo gloria!

Calvinist – The Trailer

My good friend Les Lanphere (Co-host of the Reformed Pubcast, founder of the Reformed Pub Facebook group) has been diligently working on a documentary film called Calvinist. The film, as I understand it, is a look at the rise of the New Calvinism (broadly speaking) and how it has effected and affected a whole generation of Christians.

The trailer was just released, so check it out.

An Open Letter to Donald J Trump

Dear Mr. President,

Today you took the oath of office. Upon taking that oath, you became the 45th man to hold the highest executive office of these United States of America. During your campaign, you made many claims as to what you intended to accomplish during your time as our President. You have many people who have and will give you advice.

Among those people, you have surrounded yourself with “spiritual advisers.” Some of them are Christians, some of them are not. Some of them who claim to be Christians, are not. However, I would be surprised if any of those Christian advisers have told you what God has to say about you. Did you know that the Bible talks about you?

I’m not talking about some nonsense reading of Isaiah 45, or a misuse of a particular translation which says “the trump will sound.” Instead, Paul tells Christians about the role of authorities:

For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Rom 13:1b-2, ESV)

You see, no one before your election could have known that you were God’s candidate. Those who claim to have known that are self-deluded liars. However, we now know that the secret will of the Lord was to bring you to power. We know that because you won the election. And as Paul tells us, anyone in a position of authority was placed there by God. The reason may be to bless a nation, as we see with King David in the Old Testament nation of Israel. Or it may be to punish a country for their arrogance, as we see with King Saul. Although it is true that God uses means, and he used your particular personality (as flawed as it is) to bring you to the office, you must never forget that it was God who placed you there. We see from the unfortunate arrogance of Belshazzar of Babylon (Dan 5) or Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:20-23) that God does not look kindly on those who refuse to recognize that their authority ultimately comes from him.

Nevertheless, Paul has more to say:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom 13:3-4, ESV)

You see, God expects you to rule as an agent of justice. One who upholds the moral law which God wrote on each of our hearts. He expects you to advocate for the cause of the widows and orphans, and those who are impoverished. He expects you to punish evil doers. This Judeo-Christian ethic, which not only our nation but all of western civilization is predicated upon, is enshrined in much of our laws. It is the foundation of our constitution and our democracy, which you swore to “preserve, protect, and defend.”

Among these injustices are the suppression of the free exercise of religion promised in our bill of rights, the restrictions that have begun to encroach on our freedom of expression and association, and many other things that challenge the founding ideals of liberty and justice for all persons under God. Chief among these —and the main reason you garnered the evangelical vote— is the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent children who you so aptly described as being ripped apart in their mother’s wombs. You promised us that you would do everything possible to end the barbaric and self-interested practice of infanticide, and we expect you to follow through. If you act according to God’s laws in ruling our country, we not only desire to be loyal to you, but we are obligated.

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Rom 13:5-7, ESV)

You see, it is true that Paul commands us to submit to our governing authorities, but that instruction is contingent upon those governing authorities fulfilling their obligation to be a terror to those who do evil, but not to those who do good. Those who do wrong should rightly fear your exercise of the sword. Those who do good should have nothing to fear from you. However, for far too long our government has been a terror to those who do good and has called what is wicked to be righteous. If you follow in this pattern, it is not us who will overthrow you, but God himself. Just as he brought you to power in the providence of his secret will, he will likewise cast you from that same office.

Mr. President, I want to close this letter by offering you my sincere congratulations, and affirming my commitment to pray for you. Of course, I will pray for wisdom and prudence as you shoulder a tremendous burden. However, more than that I will pray for your salvation. I know you claim to be a Christian, but you sir, are not. You have said you do not seek God’s forgiveness because you do not need it. That could not be further from the truth. You have surrounded yourself with spiritual yes men, and Paula White is the worst. I will pray that God will convict you of your sins and that he will regenerate your heart. After all, Paul did not only command us to obey you but to pray for you as well.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:1-4, ESV)

With that closing thought, may God bless you personally with a regenerate heart, may God bless your presidency with prosperity and honor, and may God bless these United States of America with liberty and justice for all.