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Five Views on Sanctification

Five Views on Sanctification

by Rick Shrader

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Stanley Gundry is editor of this volume and the “Counterpoints” series.  This volume was first published in 1987 but continues to be relevant to any age.  The five views on sanctification are the Wesleyan, Reformed, Pentecostal, Keswick, and Augustinian-Dispensational perspectives.  John Walvoord wrote the dispensational perspective and gives the traditional point of view from that perspective.  It is very good.  He also give a fair rebuttal to the other perspectives.  For anyone wanting to know the point of view on one of these perspectives from thier own theologians, this volume serves a great purpose.

 

Progressive Covenantalism

Progressive Covenantalism

by Rick Shrader

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This 2016 book, by two Southern Seminary professors and eight other writers, explores the new challenge to traditional Covenant Theology.  There are ten chapters, or topics, discussed but Brent  Parker’s chapter on “The Israel-Christ-Church Relationship” is the clearest section of the book in defining just what Progressive Covenantalism is.  He writes, “Progressive Covenantalism argues that the biblical covenants and typological structures converge and climax in Christ with entailments for the eschatological people of God—the church. . . The NT presents Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel and all the OT covenant mediators, for he ushers in the promises to Israel (restoration and return from exile, the land, etc.), embodies their identity, and completes Israel’s role, calling, and vocation” (p. 44).  Also, “The case will be made that Jesus is the ‘true Israel’ in the sense that eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ as he embodies the identity, vocation, and prophesied roles of corporate Israel.”  He then admits, “Such terminology is frequently attacked in dispensational circles” (p. 53).  Therefore the “progress” from traditional Covenant Theology is to see Israel’s promises fulfilled in Christ Himself rather than in the church per se.  But also, the use of allegory and typology remain prominent in Progressive Covenant Theology.  Parker again writes, in a section titled “The Nature and Importance of Typology,” “Typology is the study of how OT historical persons, events, institutions, and settings function to foreshadow, anticipate, prefigure, and predict the greater realities in the new covenant age. . . Typology really belongs in the category of indirect prophecy because the fulfillment wrought by Christ brings to completion what the OT type prefigured” (p. 48).

 

 

The Life Story of C.I. Scofield

The Life Story of C.I. Scofield

by Rick Shrader

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Biographies of great men are always a blessing and a help in placing things right in history.  C.I. Scofield is a household name among Christians because of the Reference Bible bearing his name.  Trumbull was a personal friend and student of Scofield’s and writes in a more positive tone than some other later writers who may have been writing for different reasons.  Trumbull’s biography was first printed in 1920 by Oxford University Press, which also first published the Scofield Reference Bible.  The book is an easy read taking the reader through Scofield’s unsaved years as a confederate soldier to Kansas lawyer to U.S. Attorney for the district of Kansas.  His salvation testimony is moving, having been led to the Lord by one Thomas S. McPheeters, a personal friend.  Scofield immediately put away the drinking from his lawyer days and was led toward Christian ministry both in pastoring and writing.  He eventually became pastor of First Congregational Church in Dallas, a denomination he later left.  He was called to D.L. Moody’s church in Northfield, Mass. by Moody himself and there became involved in Northfield and Niagara conferences.  There he also met and was tutored by James. H. Brookes who had considerable influence on his doctrine and ministry.  Trumbull published this work (1920) before Scofield’s death in 1921.

 

 

What About Foot Washing?

What About Foot Washing?

by Rick Shrader

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It’s not unusual to be asked about baptism or the Lord’s Supper but in conjunction with that the question of foot washing as an ordinance of the church often comes up.  I usually reply that I certainly believe in foot washing, especially for boys under ten years old!  But why is it that I do not believe in foot washing as an ordinance of the local church?

The central passage in question is John 13:1-17 where Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at the last supper.  It is a well-known account of Jesus girding Himself with a towel after supper and washing their feet until Peter stops Him, almost indignant that the Master would take the place of a servant and wash his feet.  Peter announces, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.”  “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” Jesus replies.  “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” was Peter’s contrite answer.  At the end of the account Jesus said to the disciples, “For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.”

This custom of washing the feet before a meal was necessary because of the manner in which meals were eaten in a reclined position and due to the foot dress of the day.  Homer Kent describes, “What Jesus did had a background in the custom of Palestinian society.  Because of dusty roads and the wearing of open sandals, it was normal to wash one’s feet at the door.  At a dinner the host provided water for his guests, and either the guest washed his own feet or the host delegated the task to servants.”1 Of course the striking thing about what Jesus did, and why Peter was so upset, is that Jesus assumed the position of such a servant.  John the Baptist once said of Jesus, “He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (John 1:27).  John would surely have been as shocked as Peter at Jesus’ action.

Though the custom of washing feet before a meal was very common, the mention of it in Scripture is not.  Abraham offered his angelic guests water to wash their feet before he served them (Gen. 18:4) and Lot did the same when they came to his house (Gen. 19:2).  Before David took Abigail to wife she washed his feet (1 Sam. 25:41) and David commanded Uriah to go home and wash his feet when he was brought back from the battle (2 Sam. 11:8).  Besides the story of our text, Luke records the meal in a Pharisee’s house when a woman “which was a sinner” washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and Jesus rebuked the host for not offering Him water to do the same (Luke 7:36-50).  Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet with costly ointment, but that may have been something separate from the meal.  The only other, but significant, mention of washing feet is in 1 Timothy 5:10 when giving the requirements for supporting a widow Paul writes, “if she have washed the saints’ feet.”

The significance of Jesus’ command to His disciples to do as He had done, and the mention of it as a widow’s practice, requires us to give an answer for why we do or do not practice this regularly, or even make it a third ordinance of the church.  G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “Now there are certain sections of the Christian Church even today who take that very literally, and observe this ritual as carefully as the Lord’s Supper and baptism.  While we may not share their practice, we must at least not lose the significance of it.”2  To this all would agree.

Because this is a common question, I often review my answer as to its validity especially each time I read the gospel of John.  Here is a list of reasons why I conclude that this is not intended for regular practice, much less as an ordinance of the church.

A symbol is not an ordinance

There are many things in Scripture which we ought to be doing that do not rise to the level of a regular ordinance of the church.  A.H. Strong is regularly referenced in his three-fold division of these things.

A symbol is the sign, or visible representation, of an invisible truth or idea; as for example, the lion is the symbol of strength and courage, the lamb is the symbol of gentleness, the olive branch of peace, the scepter of dominion, the wedding ring of marriage, and the flag of country.  Symbols may teach great lessons; as Jesus’ cursing the barren fig tree taught the doom of unfruitful Judaism, and Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet taught his own coming down from heaven to purify and save, and the humble service required of his followers.  2. A rite is a symbol which is employed with regularity and sacred intent.  Symbols become rites when thus used.  Examples of authorized rites in the Christian Church are the laying on of hands in ordination, and the giving of the right hand of fellowship.  An ordinance is a symbolic rite which sets forth the central truths of the Christian faith, and which is of universal and perpetual obligation.  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are rites which have become ordinances by the specific command of Christ and by their inner relation to the essential truth of his kingdom.3

Even if a church elects to practice foot washing, it does not become an ordinance.  There is no universal and perpetual obligation to individuals or to a church.

It is not supported by the New Testament record

In addition to foot washing not being an ordinance by definition, neither does it qualify by New Testament usage.  Ordinances were given by Christ in the gospels, practiced by the disciples in the book of Acts, and taught by the apostles in their epistles.  Rolland McCune puts this is a four-fold manner:  “Sovereign authorization by the Lord Jesus Christ . . . Symbolic of saving faith . . . Specific command for perpetuation . . . Biblical evidence of historic fulfillment.”4  McCune also states, “Accordingly, Baptists assert that only two ordinances fit the biblical criteria—water baptism and communion.5  Of baptism McCune says, “The divine authorization comes from the Great Commission, Christ’s marching orders for the church which can only be carried out properly by a biblically organized New Testament local church.”6

There are some things denominations practice with regularity that still do not rise to the level of ordinance:  love feasts, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, and even prayer meetings.  These however do not become ordinances simply because they are practiced regularly.  Foot washing does not even rise to this level.

It misses the larger point Jesus was making

Jesus was the very Son of God Who came to earth as a Servant to save sinners.  In the previous quote, A.H. Strong said, “Jesus washing of the disciples’ feet taught his own coming down from heaven to purify and save.”7  F.B. Meyer said it this way, “He rose from the Throne; laid aside the garments of light which He had worn as his vesture; took up the poor towel of humanity, and wrapped it about his glorious Person; poured his own blood into the basin of the cross; and set Himself to wash away the foul stains of human depravity and guilt.”8

Jesus WAS a servant to us in His substitutionary atonement for mankind.  We are to be servants as well, not merely in an act of symbolism, but in actual practice throughout our lives as believers.  Peter learned this lesson well for he wrote in his epistle, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.  Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).  To “be clothed” (egkomboomai) is from a Greek word that only appears here in the New Testament.  It is from a root word (kombos) meaning a string or band.  It means to be girded, or to tie one’s garment about you.  It was specifically used of slaves doing menial tasks.  Peter still had this image in his mind when he wrote of humility.

It destroys the unique symbolism of the ordinances

Foot washing, and other symbols like it, cannot rise to the level of ordinance because it does not carry a vicarious symbolism.  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are indeed done with symbols and object lessons (water, bread, juice), but they uniquely symbolize something that was done for us in salvation.  We cannot give our body or blood for sin.  We cannot die, be buried, and rise again the third day.  The symbolism of these ordinances is of something we cannot do, something that was done for us.

Foot washing, laying on of hands, fasting, etc., are symbols of things we are commanded to do.  And as Peter wrote, we should be clothed with humility, hospitable, serving one another.  Ryrie, in his chapter on church ordinances writes about foot washing,

Those who focus on cleansing find ground for continuing the observance of this as an ordinance today.  Those who emphasize the example or forgiveness aspects do not feel it is necessary to perform the ritual but rather to practice the spiritual truths the ritual illustrated.  It is true that the exhortation to follow Christ’s example in verses 14 and 15 related to forgiving one another in humility, rather than to God’s forgiving our missteps in life.  This, then, would argue against considering foot-washing as an ordinance.9

Baptism can be used as a prerequisite to membership because it pictures one’s salvation, i.e., belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Wayne Grudem, in arguing for having only two ordinances, writes, “The position advocated in this chapter is ‘Baptistic’ —namely, that baptism is appropriately administered only to those who give a believable profession of faith in Jesus Christ.”10  Baptism is used this way because it pictures salvation.  The Lord’s Supper also pictures the effects of the body and blood of Jesus Christ upon our souls.  Foot washing is not in this category.

It gives an “example” of a unique kind

In John 13:15 Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”  This word “example” is not the ordinary word tupos, meaning figure to copy (Acts 7:43-44) or example to follow (Phil. 3:17).  It is upodeigma, an unusual word used only here in the gospels and five other times in the New Testament including by Peter describing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, “making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:6).

Lenski, in discussing this word writes,

This shows that ‘to be washing each others’ feet’ is figurative and means literally, ‘that you keep doing, even as I did do to you,’ kathos, not ho, ‘in like manner,’ not ‘the same identical thing.’  The example of Jesus is to guide them in what they do for each other; it is not for mere mechanical repetition in washing of feet.  This answers the question as to whether Jesus intends to institute a symbolical rite or an actual sacrament, which his disciples are to repeat formally by actually washing each others’ feet.  Such rites belong to the Old Testament only, they have disappeared from the New.  The shadows are gone, the substance has come.11

This is simply a grammatical way of saying that actually washing one another’s feet does not necessarily fulfill Christ’s command as an “example” to follow.  We could be doing that every week, but if we are not serving one another in some helpful way, we are not keeping His example.

It contradicts the humility which it is supposed to demonstrate

I mean by this that the desire to do this action (of washing someone’s feet) can easily be a show of piety in itself.  Is this why we never find the apostles doing this in the New Testament?  We find them serving one another and others, but not doing this physical act.  The widows of 1 Timothy 5 were supposed to be “reported of for good works, if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work’ (1 Tim. 5:10).  A symbolic show of piety certainly does not belong in that list.

F.B. Meyer wrote, “There was no aiming at effect, no thought of the beauty or humility of the act, as there is when the Pope yearly washes the feet of twelve beggars, from a golden basin, wiping them with a towel of rarest fabric!  Christ did not act thus for show or pretence.”12  It is for this reason that I think we should not do this practice in the churches.

We should rather do as Jesus commanded in the Sermon on the Mount, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:1-4).  He said the same thing about prayer and fasting in the same context.

And so . . .

A.W. Pink wrote a good four-fold summary to this discussion from the verses in our text, “First, the vital need of placing our feet in the hands of Christ for cleansing (13:8).  Second, the owning of Christ as ‘Master and Lord’ (13:13).  Third, the need of washing one another’s feet (13:14).  Fourth, the performing of this ministry as Christ performed it—in lowly love (13:15).”13  And yet, like many of us, he did not advocate the practice of foot washing as an ordinance.  He also wrote,

It is well known that not a few regarded this as a command from Christ for His followers not to practice literal foot-washing, yea, some have exalted it into a ‘Church ordinance.’  While we cannot but respect and admire their desire to obey Christ, especially in a day when laxity and self-pleasing is so rife, yet we are fully satisfied that they have mistaken our Lord’s meaning here.  Surely to insist upon literal foot-washing from this verse is to miss the meaning as well as the spirit of the whole passage.  It is not with literal water (any more than the ‘water’ is literal in john 3:5; 4:14; 7:38) that the Lord would have us wash one another.  It is the Word (of which ‘water’ is the emblem) He would have us apply to our fellow-disciples’ walk.14

I would hope with confidence that as brethren disagree in this matter of foot-washing we would respect one another’s desire to obey our Lord’s commands in every respect.  At the same time, when we disagree as to the application of our beliefs and desires, we would do so charitably yet firmly.  I have never seen, nor do I now see, the need at all to wash one another’s feet in a literal way.  But I would join with brethren in the desperate need to serve one another in love.

Notes:

  1. Homer Kent, Jr., Light in the Darkness: Studies in the Gospel of John (Winona Lake: BMH books, 2005) 184.
  2. G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to John (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, nd) 233.
  3. A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, 1970) 930.
  4. Rolland McCune, Systematic Theology (Detroit: DBTS, 2010) 270.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Strong, Ibid.
  8. F.B. Meyer, Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, nd) 199.
  9. Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Victor books, 1986) 427.
  10. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 967.
  11. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1943) 926-927.
  12. F.B. Meyer, Ibid.
  13. A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971) 319-320.
  14. 14. Ibid, 317. 

 

 

 

Half the Church

Half the Church

by Rebekah Schrepfer

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Carolyn Custis James wrote this book as her own addendum to the best selling secular book, Half the Sky, which is a book based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky.  It is a cry for justice and action against the oppression of women and girls around the world.  Without having read Half the Sky, I think I might agree with it actually.  There is no objection from me if we want to encourage people to help end the degradation of women around the world.  But Carolyn Custis James has gone too far when she extends that narrative to the church, and indicts the New Testament Church for contributing to female abuse because of our teaching on gender roles.

I say the book is half the truth!  There is just enough Christian-ese and caricatures of traditional churches to make a reader wonder if she’s right.  She points out stories of the Bible, but fails to really exegete the passages.  Half truths, though, are still lies.  Although I am tempted to pick apart the hundreds of ideas with which I disagree, I will try to answer the main points of her book.

Is the church partly to blame?  Her premise is found halfway through the book, and Carolyn James is not the first to ask this.

“Does the gospel’s countercultural message only overturn degrading cultures, or does it also overturn our own more civilized but equally fallen culture by leading us back to God’s original vision for humanity?  Are we even asking questions like this?  Are we right to think we’ve figured out how God means for us to live as his image bearers because we don’t sell our daughters, or do we have blind spots too and lots more ground to gain?  Do our teachings, and more significantly our practices, measure up to the gospel’s view of women, or are we selling Jesus and his gospel short because we aren’t fully valuing and mobilizing half the church?”

These are typical questions from the egalitarians and the Christian feminists, but they are the wrong questions.  The question should be “what does the Bible really teach?”  and “do we really trust God that He knows what He’s doing?”  Her view of “God’s original vision for humanity” is not any sort of hierarchy, so she has begun her arguments with a huge assumption.  She is saying that by not allowing women to have leadership over men in the church we are basically making the same mistakes as an abusive situation.  Denying a woman her desire to be a pastor, in her view, is degrading.  It is abuse waiting to happen.

The idea that we should be free to pursue every burden we have, that our desires and so-called “vision” must have come from God is very simplistic.  If a woman feels called to be a pastor, it is not God who is calling her!  I don’t know how one can read Scripture and come away with any understanding other than “Our ways are NOT God’s ways.”  What about David’s desire to build the temple (1 Chr. 28:2-5) or, Paul’s desire to go into Asia (Acts 16:6-7)?  No, our desires and wishes are not preeminent.  Only God’s desire for us is what matters.  Just because a woman desires to be a pastor doesn’t mean her desire is right.  She disdainfully looks down on any attempt at finding out what God really says in Scripture in favor of highlighting abuses which really can be found in any walk of life, not just in patriarchal societies.

My view is that male headship is part of God’s “very good creation” and not a part of the fall.  Her argument sounds familiar to me:  “Did God really say that?  And it is the oldest deception of all time!  Abuses and degradation of women is an abandoning of gender roles.  Men have abandoned their roles as Godly leaders in these abusive situations.  My answer to her main question is that by fulfilling gender roles of complementarianism, (which I believe is the Biblical teaching) then we ARE mobilizing all of the church.  Carolyn James is advocating half the church abandoning their posts rather than fulfilling their duty given by their Commander in Chief just because they feel like it!  So when we see degradation and abuse of women, the problem is not the church.  The problem is sin.

Read Rebekah’s full review at her blog, MostlySensible.com.

 

God Created Woman

God Created Woman

by Rebekah Schrepfer

Genesis 1

              “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”1

Matthew Henry so succinctly describes woman and her nature and value.  What is woman?  What is God’s purpose for her?  In the wake of feminism and gender identity issues, it would do us well to go back to the beginning.

In Genesis 1 God embarked on His six-day creation act.  The final creative work was the creature, man.  The Hebrew word for “man” can be translated “mankind” or “humankind.”  Since the human was made lastly in the creation week, what does that tell us about our position or authority as it relates to the rest of creation?  This new creature was to be set apart from the rest of the creation.  It is the crowning achievement.  It is not an animal or a fish or a bird.  The human is given special recognition.

Ray Ortlund says of this unique human creature,

First, God says, “Let us make man . . . .”  In Genesis 1:24 God had said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures . . . .”  By the sheer power of His spoken will, God had caused the living creatures to emerge from the earth “by remote control as it were.”  In the creation of man, however, God Himself acted directly and personally.2

Mankind is a special and unique being.  However, we don’t see any mention of a woman until almost the end of Genesis chapter 1.   The statement “male and female created he them” is not yet speaking to any sort of hierarchy between the two kinds of humans (Genesis 1:27).  Indeed we don’t even really know yet how there came to be two.  Rather, in the very first statement in the Bible about women, God very poetically states the nature of the male and female together, not their roles just yet.

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God created he him;

male and female created he them. 

Genesis 1:27

Each of these three lines makes a point.  Line one asserts the divine creation of man.  We came from God.  Line two overlaps with line one, except that it highlights the divine image in man.  We bear a resemblance to God.  Line three boldly affirms the dual sexuality of man.  We are male and female.  Nowhere else in Genesis 1 is sexuality referred to; but human sexuality, superior to animal sexuality, merits the simple dignity given it here.  Further, Moses doubtless intends to imply the equality of the sexes, for both male and female display the glory of God’s image with equal brilliance; “. . . . In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  This is consistent with God’s intention, stated in verse 26, that both sexes should rule:  “. . . . and let them rule . . .”3

Genesis 2

The second chapter of Genesis is a recap of the first chapter, giving us added details about the creation that God had made.  God tells us about the series of events in the creation of the woman.  In Genesis 2:18 there is something lacking in Adam.  He was alone.  In a roundabout way, the incompleteness in Adam implies that the woman who is about to be created has something lacking in her too.  The human race is dependent upon both the male and female as we can see in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12.

After the declaration of Adam’s need, God did something special for him.  He forms another creature from the same essence as Adam.

Matthew Henry beautifully says,

The man was dust refined, but the woman was dust double-refined, one remove further from the earth.  That Adam slept while his wife was in making, that no room might be left to imagine that he had herein directed the Spirit of the Lord, or been his counselor, (Isa. 40:13).  He had been made sensible of his want of a meet help; but, God having undertaken to provide him one, he does not afflict himself with any care about it, but lies down and sleeps sweetly, as one that had cast all his care on God, with a cheerful resignation of himself and all his affairs to his Maker’s will and wisdom.  Jehovah-jireh, let the Lord provide when and whom he pleases.4

After parading all the animals in front of Adam, and his seeing their inadequacy for his specific need, God then brings her to Adam as if to say, “What do you think about this one?”  Adam’s first recorded words (Gen. 2:23-24) were to give her the name “woman” and to express his amazement that he was not alone anymore.  She was like him.  The female was the only part of God’s creation that was on Adam’s level, that was equal to him, that corresponded to him.  The animals could help him and perform what they could for him, but only the woman could fulfill the man’s need.  And it is only one woman who does that for the man in a marriage, not multiple women.

Elisabeth Elliot says,

The animals are there, fellow creatures with us of the same Creator-God, fellow sufferers, mute and mysterious.  “But for the man there was not found a helper for him.”  God might have given Adam another man to be his friend, to walk and talk and argue with if that was his pleasure.  But Adam needed more than the companionship of the animals or the friendship of a man.  He needed a helper, specially designed and prepared to fill that role.  It was a woman God gave him, a woman, “meet,” fit, suitable, entirely appropriate for him, made of his very bones and flesh.  You can’t make proper use of a thing unless you know what it was made for, whether it is a safety pin or a sailboat.  To me it is a wonderful thing to be a woman under God — to know, first of all, that we were made (“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”) and then that we were made for something (“The rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”)  This was the original idea.  This is what woman was for.  The New Testament refers back clearly and strongly to this purpose: “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.  Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9).  Some texts are susceptible of differing interpretations, but for the life of me I can’t see any ambiguities in this one.5

 

The word “woman” means simply “a female human.”  Although the man and the woman are distinct creatures with differing purposes, they stand together before God as He talked with them and communed with them in the garden.  The race of man is male and female.  In God’s wisdom, He decided not to create just one kind of human but two kinds of human.  Equal but different.

Genesis 2:24-25 introduces the institution of marriage.  It is interesting that there is no mother or father to leave at this point, so why is that mentioned?  God is setting a precedent.  He wants it this way and not another way.  It is important to note that although there were only two humans on the entire planet at this time, Adam states that they shall become one flesh.  It is specifically a coupling.  That is, there is no other option other than two that are made into one.  To put it negatively, several do not become one.  Also one flesh is not made from any other coupling than the man and his wife (singular).  This speaks volumes against marriage in any other configuration.

According to Genesis 2:24-25, there is something different about the relationship between the first couple and their relationship to any other couple.  That is, they are also so equal that it is described as being “one.”  They are not merely partners, as if it were just two people working together side-by-side.  Oneness is much more than that.  The man and the woman are sharing their existence just as they did before the woman was formed, in and around and through and for and with each other.  This is not enough for some feminist writers, though.  They lament that fact that even though God refers to males and females together, the whole race is referred to as “man” rather than “woman.”  One reason for God’s terminology here is that man arrived first.  The name man is merely descriptive.  Man is what the human is.  It wasn’t woman until God took her out of him.

There is a hint of hierarchy even in this though, and that is what has feminists and egalitarians scrambling to take this passage out of context.  Many views of womanhood (feminism, Islam, Mormonism, many cults, Patrocentrism, egalitarianism) believe that the curse on the woman after the Fall resulted in woman’s subordination to man, and so they have to make the sinless creation to be without hierarchy.  So if the Fall resulted in subordination, then redemption is a restoration of equality of the sexes.  But we have seen in just these few verses that is not the case.  The status as Helper Suitable for the man is established before the Fall as a part of God’s very good creation.  Subordination does not mean inferiority, and that is true in any leader-follower relationship.  Feminism especially cannot seem to understand that truth.  Even within the Godhead itself, Jesus submitted himself to the will of the Father (John 5:30).  Furthermore, the Spirit comes from the Father as well and does His will (John 15:26), yet the equality within the Trinity is undeniable in Scripture.  At this point, the end of Genesis 2, the Fall of Man has not happened yet.  This is part of God’s “very good” creation.  God really did make Eve to be a helper suitable for Adam, and He made Adam first on purpose. Adam was not made a helper for Eve, nor were they made simultaneously. This was all the way it was supposed to be!

In Genesis and in other passages, men are given a leadership role simply by virtue of being a man.  The first woman’s role was to be a helper on par with the man, a complement to him, and this is by virtue of simply being a woman.  When these roles are performed correctly and harmoniously, the original glory of God’s very good creation is re-created and re-invigorated.  And conversely, when the roles are abused or neglected or distorted, the nobility of God’s purpose in us is hindered.

God created a Woman.  “And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”  Gen. 1:31.

Notes:

  1. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, vol. 1 (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, nd.) 20.
  2. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship: Genesis 1–3,” Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Crossway Books, Kindle version) 2177-2180.
  3. Ortlund, 2191-2197.
  4. Matthew Henry, 19-20.
  5. Elisabeth Eliot, Let Me Be A Woman (Wheaton: Tyndale House, Kindle version) 13.

 

Editor’s Note

I am glad to reprint Rebekah Schrepfer’s article from her blog MostlySensible.com.  Rebekah is our oldest daughter and wife of Aron Schrepfer, Pastor of Pioneer Peak Baptist Church in Palmer, Alaska.  Rebekah is also the website coordinator for the Aletheia website.

 

 

 

Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian ...

Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Contexts

by Rick Shrader

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The list of beneficial and informative books edited by Dr. Paul Hartog continues to grow. Hartog, a trained patristics scholar, has compiled ten chapters along with eight other New Testament and church history scholars, to examine the long-standing liberal thesis of Walter Bauer (1877-1960). The book is extremely beneficial to believers today because Bauer’s thesis, which first appeared in German in 1934 and in English in 1971, has been eagerly accepted and promoted by contemporary liberal scholars such as Bart Ehrman (12 books are referenced since 2000), and by popular writers such as Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code). As a note, the book was dedicated to the late Rodney Decker, long-time New Testament scholar at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA, who also wrote the first chapter on the overview of Bauer’s thesis, which was completed just prior to his untimely death.

The Bauer thesis (which is repeated several times in more erudite manner in the book: e.g. pages 11, 115, 183, 198, 213, 215, 223, 242) is that in the first and second centuries there were many forms of Christianity which later would be called either orthodox or heretical, and that what is today called orthodox is not the true one but rather was considered a heresy in the first century. His thesis is also that it was the Roman church [or churches] that solidified the heresy and forced it upon all other churches, eventually claiming its version to be the only orthodox Christianity. Of course, this leaves open the view that other (apocryphal and pseudepigraphal) books ought to have more authority than New Testament canonical books, and that Christianity as we know it is a hoax foisted upon the world over the last 2000 years. This view is widely accepted today by unknowing “believers,” or as Glen Thompson wrote, it has become “widespread in our post-modern and post-post-modern times” (p. 217). Among the many scholarly rebuttals offered by the authors of this book, Bryan Litfin writes, “That being said, the eighty years since the 1934 publication of Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity have not been kind to Professor Bauer. Reviewers have repeatedly suggested the author ignored evidence that ran counter to his thesis, engaged in special pleading on behalf of the ‘heretics,’ and relied far too much on arguments from silence to buttress his points. Yet beyond such methodological critiques, the very infrastructure of Bauer’s argument has been dismantled piece by piece” (p. 141-142). In the first chapter of this book alone, Decker reviewed 14 scholarly works that have disproved Bauer since he published his work in 1934. In addition, Hartog reviews at length the early rebuttal of Bauer by Walther Völker, a fellow German historian, in 1935, who wrote, “The author [Bauer] arrives at these astonishing conclusions by repeated use of the arguments from silence, by bold combinations of unrelated passages, by unprovable conjectures which themselves are reused as a precarious foundation for further conjectures, by inferences drawn from later periods, and finally by the arrangement of all isolated facts into the schema orthodoxy/heresy, whereby the variegated historical events are robbed of the full richness of their causes and motivations” (p. 236-237).

The great value of a book like this is that the average reader, who does not and cannot read the ton of material related to a subject like this, can glean from those who spend countless hours reading in his place. Since this issue will continue to grow and capture the minds of an unbelieving world already bent on the destruction of Christian orthodoxy, the time spent reading the critiques and conclusions drawn in these chapters will greatly benefit anyone who is willing to do it.

 

 

Will The Antichrist Be Muslim?

Will The Antichrist Be Muslim?

by Rick Shrader

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One of the difficulties for Christians in apologetics is that they have to know a lot about many religions and cults, but the religions and cults only have to know about Christianity. The growing threat from Islam reminds the Christian of this very thing. That is why I was glad to receive a book exposing Islamic beliefs (and deceptions) and read it with great interest. It is a 2009 book, The Islamic Antichrist by Joel Richardson.

Richardson’s purpose, however, is not simply to inform believers regarding Islam, but to propose that the coming antichrist will actually be a Muslim called the Madhi, the messianic figure of Islam, and that his empire will not be western but eastern. Although I would recommend the book to become better informed about Islam, I could not agree with Richardson’s thesis about the antichrist. First, I will try to explain his reasoning, which at times can be confusing, and then will explain why I am not convinced of his proposition. While giving good information about Islam, Richardson’s understanding of prophecy seems shaded by it and therefore sees Islam behind every prophetic bush. I will allow his own words to inform us about Islam, and then I will take time to respond to his view on an Islamic antichrist.

Richardson seems to do a thorough job of explaining, quoting, and footnoting sources from Islam. He takes time to give some history of Muhammad and the writing of the Qurʹan (which Muslims believe is inspired) pointing out how Muhammad himself didn’t know what happened to him and even believed he might have been demon possessed (chapt. 11, “The Dark Nature of Muhammad’s Revelations”). Besides the words of Muhammad in the Qurʹan, Muslims have the Sunna, a record of sayings, customs, teachings, and examples from Muhammad. These are equally important to Muslims. The Sunna contains two types of sources: the Hadith literature is the collection of oral sayings of the prophet handed down over the years. The Sirat literature is basically biographical (chapt. 2, “The Sacred Texts of Islam”).

Other interesting chapters of the book are “The Mahdi: Islam’s Awaited Messiah;” “Islam’s Ancient hatred for the Jews;” “Islam and the Goal of World Domination;” “Understanding Dishonesty and Deceit in Islam;” and “The Great Apostasy, Terror, and Islam’s Conversion Rates.” All of these give good information regarding the real nature of Islam. Richardson shows how lying and deception are virtues in Islam if it helps the cause of Jihad or promotes Islam or even if it protects Muslims from harm or embarrassment. He also believes that America is accepting the lie that Islam is basically peaceful rather than understanding that all Muslims are obligated to participate in world-wide domination, whether it is by repopulation of enemy countries, or fighting under the black flags of Jihad and beheading infidels.

Richardson quotes Mawlana Sayid Abul Ala Mawdudi, an Islamic scholar writing,

Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. Islam doesn’t look for a nation to be in a better condition than another nation. Islam doesn’t care about the land or who owns the land. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is Jihad.1

Richardson then quotes Aduallah al-Araby, in his book The Islamization of America, describing an interfaith meeting where an Islamic cleric said, “Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you. Thanks to our religious laws, we will dominate you.”2

Will the antichrist be Islamic?

I will try to explain Joel Richardson’s view that the antichrist is not a westerner, as is widely believed among conservative prophetic scholars, but is a Muslim and that his ten nation coalition described in the Bible is made up of Islamic nations, not European.

First, however, Richardson writes, “Among the Major Signs, the most anticipated and central sign that Muslims await is the coming of a man known as ‘the Mahdi.’ In Arabic, al-Mahdi means ‘the Guided One.’ He is also sometimes referred to by Shiʹa Muslims as Sahib Al-Zaman or Al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, which translated mean ‘the Lord of the Age’ and ‘the Awaited Savior.’”3 Richardson also says,

Throughout the Islamic world today there is a call for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate. The caliph (khalifa) in Islam may be viewed somewhat as the Pope of the Muslims. Muslims view the caliph as the vice regent for Allah on the earth. It is important to understand that when Muslims call for the restoration of the caliphate, it is ultimately the Mahdi that they call for, for the Mahdi is the awaited final caliph of Islam. Muslims everywhere will be obligated to follow the Mahdi.4

Jihad is the conflict that leads up to the coming of the Mahdi (p. 25). Faithful Muslims must begin that war so that Mahdi will return, ending the conflict by final domination of the entire world. These faithful Muslims will carry black flags with the words “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger” (p. 26). Mahdi will plant a white flag in Jerusalem when the destruction of Israel and the domination of the world is complete (p. 27).

Muslims see Jesus as a prophet but not as their messiah or Mahdi(Muslims do not believe Jesus died on the cross, but lived and was taken to heaven at a later time). They believe he will return in the last time and convince the world that Islam is the true religion and turn Christians to Islam (chapt. 6, “The Muslim Jesus”).

These facts about Islamic eschatology are fascinating and important in order to understand Islam (the author adds more details as well). Richardson, however, because these beliefs are so universal in a universal religion, believes that this Mahdi and this Muslim Jesus will actually be fulfilled in the Biblical antichrist and false prophet. That is, the Biblical antichrist will portray himself as the Muslim Mahdi and the whole Islamic world will follow him. Richardson also believes that the Biblical false prophet (of Rev. 13) will pretend to be the Muslim version of Jesus who will support the Mahdi and also cause the Muslim world to follow this deception (chapt. 5, “Comparing the Biblical Antichrist and the Mahdi,” and chapt. 6, “The Muslim Jesus”).

To support his conclusions, Richardson spends time explaining Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38 & 39 as the antichrist and his confederates. (chapt. 10-”The Revived Islamic Empire of the Antichrist”). Having posited that, he describes the nations in Ezekiel 38 as Islamic nations—which, of course, they are. He doesn’t entertain the view (at least not here) that the battle of Gog & Magog happens before the battle of Armageddon. He does say,

Prophecy teachers and Bible scholars have different opinions regarding the identification of Gog and his coalition of nations. The majority position for the past few decades, however, has been that the invading army of nations described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is not the army of the Antichrist, but another army led by another world leader. I personally reject the idea that Gog is anyone other than the Antichrist.5

To support this claim Richardson uses the reference to Gog & Magog in Revelation 20:8 after the millennium to try to say that antichrist couldn’t be in both places a thousand years apart. But, of course, that would also be a problem for his view as well. Also in support of his view, Richardson claims that after the Roman empire ended, the fifth kingdom is the Ottoman Empire which makes up the ten nation confederation of the antichrist. He rejects the idea of a “Revived Roman Empire” or of a European ten nation confederation.

He warns that we should not read our current situation into the Scripture as, he thinks, the past generation has done (which, of course, he is obviously doing).

No, the antichrist will be western

As I have said, I am not convinced of Richardson’s view, novel though it may be, and must stick with the majority view on this. Here are my reasons why.

  1. 10 toes, 10 horns. When Daniel sees the great image in chapter two, the legs are of iron which is the Roman Empire (to which even Richardson agrees). The ten toes (2:40-44) are mixed with iron and clay because they are attached to the legs of iron. Also, in chapter seven, Daniel sees the four beasts, the fourth of which is the Roman Empire described as a terrible beast having ten horns. The ten horns are on the Roman beast. The little horn who is the antichrist comes up out of these ten horns (7:19-25). This is much more a picture of a revived Roman Empire than a middle-eastern Islamic Empire.
  2. The people of the prince. In the great prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks (Dan. 9:24-27), the antichrist will sign a covenant with Israel which he will later break (vs. 27). Before this, Daniel depicts the destruction of Jerusalem by saying, “and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (vs. 26). The Romans destroyed the city in 70 AD. Here the antichrist is called the prince that shall come and his people are those that destroyed the temple. They were (and will be) Romans.
  3. King of the north. Daniel 11:36-39 is one of the most graphic descriptions of the antichrist and his hatred for Israel. In vss. 40-45 a king of the north is described coming into the land to fight against him. The antichrist destroys this northern king (whom most see as Gog and Magog) and then becomes the victor.
  4. The God of his fathers. Daniel 11:37 says that the antichrist will not “regard the God of his fathers.” This has been traditionally taken to mean that the antichrist is Jewish. Though some have doubted that this is clear from the verse, Rolland McCune writes, “Racially or ethnically, it appears that the Antichrist is Jewish. Daniel notes that he will have no regard for the ‘[elohim] of his fathers’ (Dan 11:17). If this is taken in its Old Testament sense of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of Israel—then this would indicate that the Antichrist has a Jewish background.”6 If this is the case, an Islamic Mahdi doesn’t fit Daniel’s description of the antichrist.
  5. Gog & Magog. The nations of Ezekiel 38 & 39 are definitely Islamic. Richardson criticizes older writers for seeing this as Russia, Moscow, etc., due to name similarity, a view which has been corrected many times by men of my view. Interestingly he quotes Matthew Henry and Josephus as examples, showing how far back the old view goes. At any rate, no one argues with the fact that the nations following Gog are from the middle east and above. But there is no evidence that Gog is antichrist. That is pure conjecture. This is the king of the north, and is defeated long before the antichrist is defeated at Armageddon.
  6. The harlot of Rev. 17. John describes a harlot riding upon a beast (who is the antichrist). The beast has 10 horns (his ten nation confederation). These 10 nations “receive power as kings one hour with the beast” (vs. 12). For the first three and a half years the antichrist and his confederates use the woman and then discard her. For the second three and a half years a new religion is established with the beast, the false prophet, the image, and the 666. Many have believed that this harlot is the Roman church, not that the antichrist himself is the Pope or the Catholic Church personified. This religious system that deceives the world is this Roman-based Church which the antichrist uses to come to power. In such a case, the ten nations and the beast upon which she is riding extend wherever she extends, which means that the antichrist’s western confederation exists wherever this western Church exists (many would say all of Europe, as well as North and South America).7
  7. Antichrist, not AntiMahdi. I think an important point to make is that the apostle John gives us the title of “antichrist” in his first epistle (2:18). The antichrist will pretend to be Christ. I know that “anti” can mean “against” as well as “instead of.” The point is that he will be a false Christ. Even Jesus warned that “many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:5). But an Islamic antichrist would not say this. In Richardson’s view the false prophet is the one who would say that he is Jesus Christ.
  8. Premillennial writers. This point would not come first, but it should be mentioned. Many prophetic writers have held to the common view that the antichrist is western and that the ten nation confederation is western. Many of these writers wrote long before world powers were aligned in any specific way. In his historic work, Things To Come (1958), J. Dwight Pentecost, in dealing with the antichrist and his ten nation confederation, quotes from these men holding the same view: Lewis Sperry Chafer, C.I. Scofield, Edward Dennett, Arno C. Gaebelein, Sir Robert Anderson, S. P. Tregelles, William Kelley, Harry A. Ironside, G. N. H. Peters, E.J. Young, Walter Scott, Roy Aldrich, and F. C. Jennings. Again, this would not matter against plain Biblical teaching, but it is a strong testimony that many men who believe in a literal interpretation of the Scripture hold to a western antichrist and confederation.
  9. Historical naiveté.   Richardson himself says, “In America, we are infamously America-centric. As American Christians we read into the Bible our own American experience.”8 Also, “We must not read our assumptions or modern events into Scripture. We must allow Scripture to speak for itself.”9 Yet when commenting on Jesus’ words that those who kill you will think they do God a service, Richardson says, “Islam, however, fits Jesus’ prophecy perfectly.”10 So he is doing this very thing. It is always tempting to see the fulfillment of prophecy in our own circumstances though other circumstances in history probably fit much better than our own. I think if I had been a German Christian in the 1930s I would surely have thought Hitler was the antichrist, and maybe Himmler the false prophet. But it wasn’t so. Sure, we have thought that Russia would be the king of the north, and maybe it still will be. But we will not know until it happens. That’s what makes the second coming of Christ imminent.

And So . . .

I will say again how much I profited from Richardson’s knowledge of Islam and his careful documentation of its beliefs. His view on an Islamic antichrist is his view, and maybe that of many others. I think he is reading too much into the Scriptures that describe the antichrist. He may not be looking for the rapture but I am. And when the church is gone and the end time events begin, we will be praising God for His sovereign working of His mighty plan, and we will rejoice when we see it happen. Maybe that will be in our life-time with events as we now know them and maybe not. It could be a hundred years from now with totally different events. But either way, the church will always say with John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

 

Notes:

  1. Joel Richardson, The Islamic Antichrist (Los Angeles: WND Books, 2009) p. 144.
  2. Ibid. p. 145.
  3. Ibid. p. 21.
  4. Ibid. p. 24.
  5. Ibid. p. 83.

6.Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology, vol. III (Detroit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010) 373.

  1. See McCune, p. 374, and also J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 324.
  2. Richardson, p. 190.
  3. Ibid. p. 86.
  4. Ibid. p. 192.

 

 

 

 

The Greatness of the Kingdom

The Greatness of the Kingdom

by Rick Shrader

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During my seminary years (1972-1975) I was assigned this book as the text for a class on the Kingdom. I think this one book did more for my understanding of the New Testament, especially the Gospels, than any other book I read during those years. That class on the kingdom was taught by Dr. Rolland McCune who had been a student of McClain’s at Grace Theological Seminary. I used this book as a text myself when teaching in Bible College and have continued to recommend it to anyone looking for a definitive word on the subject of the kingdom. I have recently reread the book and was blessed and encouraged to report on it again.

Alva J. McClain (1888-1968) was the son of Walter Scott McClain who was part of the old division in the Brethren movement (1882) that formed the Brethren Church. Alva McClain was later part of another split in that movement (1939) which formed the Grace Brethren. McClain and Herman Hoyt had already organized Grace Theological Seminary in 1937 and McClain served as its first president and professor of Christian Theology until his retirement. He received a Th.M degree from Xenia Theological Seminary and honorary doctorates from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (where he taught for a while) and Bob Jones University. McClain wrote a commentary on Daniel in 1940 and published this volume in 1957.

McClain’s proposition is that the kingdom of God and its King are the theme of Scripture. Although acknowledging the truth of a universal kingdom of God which God rules from heaven (thought rarely mentioned in Scripture), McClain championed the idea that the kingdom spoken of in almost every other passage of Scripture refers to a literal earthly kingdom, either the Old Testament kingdom of Israel, the kingdom of God offered to Israel in the gospels, or the future kingdom of God spoken of throughout the remainder of the New Testament. If one would consider this idea of the kingdom first when it is mentioned in these texts, the whole picture of the Bible would become clearer. For McClain, this also solidified his belief in premillennial dispensationalism which it will also do for almost anyone reading the Bible with this straightforward, literal hermeneutic.

 

 

 

Strange Fire

Strange Fire

by Rick Shrader

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It has been about twenty years since MacArthur wrote Charismatic Chaos. Strange Fire is more than just an update of the older treatise on Charismatics, it is an up-to-date and urgent plea for rejecting their false doctrine of ongoing revelation and renewal of miraculous gifts. Regardless of what one may like or dislike about MacArthur, on this subject he makes a valuable and current contribution to the subject of Biblical gifts and the abuse of that doctrine in our day. MacArthur starts off by rehearsing the beginning of the Pentecostal/Charismatic history throughout the twentieth century—a good reminder for any who have forgotten. Then he exposes the false doctrines such as the New Apostolic Reformation (the so-called “Second Apostolic Age”) led by Peter Wagner claiming to be the first of the reinstitution of the gift of apostleship. He even presided over the newly formed International Coalition of Apostles in 2000.

Next MacArthur exposes the supposed gift of prophecy which was made popular by Oral Roberts but continues today with false prophets such as Benny Hinn, Rick Joyner of the Kansas City Prophets, and links such people historically to William Miller, Ellen G. White, Joseph Smith, and the Watchtower Society. MacArthur moves from there to a good chapter on tongues, showing the nonsensical abuse of the gift today and why historically it ceased in the first century (one caveat is that he does not take “that which is perfect” to be Scripture, but “the believer’s entrance into the Lord’s presence”). This is followed by a chapter on healing, especially focusing on Benny Hinn because he is the most visible “healer” today.

The last section of the book is MacArthur’s explanation of the true doctrine of the Holy Spirit, covering salvation, sanctification, and the Holy Spirit in the doctrine of Scripture. The last chapter is titled, “An Open Letter To My Continuationist Friends.” Here MacArthur addresses other conservative evangelicals (Wayne Grudem, John Piper) who normally reject charismatic doctrine but happen to hold that some things may be operative today, such as prophecy, healing, or other ongoing revelation. MacArthur does a good job of dealing fairly and kindly with good men with whom he disagrees, showing that they are inconsistent in this area and open to contradiction in their doctrine. This chapter on Cessationism is much needed in evangelical circles today. An appendix is added which contains 19 “Voices from Church History” who believed in cessationism including Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Owen, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, Charles Spurgeon, B.B. Warfield, and others.