2009 West Coast Conference - Session 6 - Q&A - Begg, Horton, Sproul
“What do you think of Barth’s view of the resurrection?”
HORTON: Barth was considered a fundamentalist among his contemporaries for believing in the bodily resurrection. Others have been more clear. Many in Germany and in Switzerland at the time denied either the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection or both.
“Do Christ’s death and resurrection accomplish different things? Romans 4 seems to have this sort of language.”
SPROUL: Yes, they are different, but you cannot separate them. Jesus satisfies (for us) the demands of God; He propitiates God’s wrath, making it suitable for God to forgive us. Expiation has to do with God removing our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (like the word “exit”). But the declaration, the vindication, of Christ’s work awaited the resurrection.
God has appointed a day and a Person for a future judgment — the Person is the One he has declared to be the righteous One, having “given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” So you cannot separate the crucifixion of Christ from the resurrection, nor the resurrection from the ascension, nor the ascension from Pentecost, nor Pentecost from the second coming. But each accomplishes something distinct.
“Why does the Bible sometimes use inverse logic? ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ — but they were clearly looking for someone they thought was dead?”
BEGG: Jesus and the Scriptures are master teachers. These questions lead into explanations.
“Is the anathema against adding revelation refer to the whole Bible or just the book of revelation?”
HORTON: A similar warning was made with regard to the book of the law (“whoever adds to or takes away will receive the plagues”) as what we see in Revelation. I think those apply specifically to the book of revelation but by extension to the whole canon. Because only the King can altar the terms of the canon.
“Are tongues for today, and if so for what purpose?”
BEGG: What happened at Pentecost was unique. My friends who excercise it say it is a prayer language that gives them greater intimacy with God. What gets more interesting is when an interpretation is also provided. In my experience, the interpretation is at best a sentimental truism and at worst something quite bizarre.
SPROUL: Had glossolalia truly been normative in the church after the first century, then we could assess what it is. The problem is that we can’t bridge the gap to the first century.
I think that many people want to overcome the difficulty of unleashing their profound feelings to God in prayer. So they think that if they can bypass the mind, somehow they can find some release of their deep, inexpressible feelings.
BEGG: Let’s suppose that prophetic utterings given via tongues did not add to the canon of Scripture but they did (as some have suggested) add to the canon of living. It is a short step from that to a diminishing of the value of Scripture.
SPROUL: In the 1960s I had about 40 prophecies said over me, and these were specific, verifiable predictions (“on this date, X will happen”). But zero of them came true. So I decided I needed to live by the word of God.
HORTON: The miracle at Pentecost was one of hearing the Word of God in their one language. It wasn’t some individual prayer activity.
“We get a free pass on sin because of Jesus’ death, is that right? Where do works fit in?”
SPROUL: I’m judged by the works of Christ. By grace through faith I pass over from death to life. But the text also says that we’re judged by our works. Not all have the same level of reward in heaven.
“Did Jesus die only for the elect?”
SPROUL: I’d say he only died for believers. The benefits accrue exclusively for believers. But then the question is: Who are these people? Answer: The elect. Those whom the Father gave to the Son, for whom the Spirit would later seal redemption. Was God’s plan/design for the atonement (a) to make salvation possible for everyone or (b) to assure salvation for some?
We believe that God gave a people to Jesus, and executed a purposeful plan to redeem those people for Christ and by Christ.
If not everyone is saved, and God is sovereign, does that mean that God was frustrated by some higher, stronger will? No, of course not.
For Dr. Horton: “Are we Jesus’ hands and feet?”
HORTON: No, the bodily Jesus (who has his own hands and feet) is coming back. The church is His covenantal body. It is a mystical union — affected by the Holy Spirit. We receive our life from him.
We are active in taking that message (which we passively receive) to the world. We are active in doing good works for the world and our neighbors.
The incarnation is unique. Since I’m a recipient of that, I can show my neighbors who Jesus is.
SPROUL: The “what would Jesus do” question is the wrong one. The real question is “what would Jesus have me do.” Jesus and I don’t have the same office. He is the mediator — I bear witness to the resurrection.
“How do you explain the success of Islam given that its origin is similar to that of Christianity?”
SPROUL: What? Please. Mohammad was not raised from the dead, or born of a virgin, or lived a perfect life.
BEGG: It is Satanic. It arises because of our natural love for a system of works, for legalism, for self-salvation.
HORTON: Judaism is a cult of the Old Testament — it is a break-off from the Old Testament system which pointed to Christ, but Judaism has truncated God’s truth by not accepting the fulfillment of the promises. Islam is a cult of Christianity. It is a parasitic distortion of both Christianity and Judaism.
SPROUL: The Bible says there are many anti-Christs. Mohammad is one of them.
BEGG: This is what surprises me about the present Pope. I don’t understand how the Pope can foster the notion of pluralism. My Jewish friends say Jesus was not the Messiah. I say He was. We can’t both be right. Hindus say God has been incarnated many times. I say it happened once. We can’t both be right. Muslims say it is an unthinkable for a prophet to die on a cross. I say it isn’t. We can’t both be right.
We have been softened theologically for years, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Young Christians are not prepared to accept the weight of the exclusivity of the truth claims of Christ.
“If God is not the author of confusion, why do Christians have such differences? Why did God make it so confusing?”
HORTON: Differences are not the same as contradictions (or errors). There are four different gospels. They have different ways of defining the kingdom. It is one gospel said through four witnesses. God likes diversity.
We are both finite and fallen. I’m just as fallen and fallible as Muslims and Hindus. Except God has spoken and we’re able to see through a glass, darkly. God has communicated via language. But language is a fragile instrument. Given our fallen and finite state, we may have disagreements.
SPROUL: Every time I read the Bible I subject myself (and my thinking) to the thinking of God. We don’t put the Bible under us. We are often confused because of what we bring to the text, not from what we take from the text. (Again, our fallenness results in disagreements.)
BEGG: Between ourselves and non-Christians, we differ on the central matters concerning faith. But among Christians, we need to realize that (particularly in mainstream fundamentalism) that we’ve made the secondary matters fundamental, and this leads to a loss of the central things.
God allows us to have different views (for example, on baptism) because we are finite. We have something to look forward to in heaven in terms of our an understanding and (therefore) like-mindedness at that time. And God is patient with us; He wants us to be patient with each other.
Consider how confused Jesus disciples often were, even with the best Bible teacher (our Lord Himself) proclaiming God’s truths in their midst. Why should it be any different for us?