| 
News
Is Sola Fide Biblical? PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 31
PoorBest 
News - Theology
Written by Tim Black   
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 01:57

Is the doctrine of Sola Fide biblical?  Yes, despite the objections Roman Catholics raise against it.  A lady asked me this today, and my response is below.  She wrote,

I am struggling to understand Sola Fide and am hoping you can help me in my attempt to gain a better understanding of it.  I am clear on the "dictionary" definition of Sola Fide

I must ask whether you really are clear on the definition, because there is not only one definition of Sola Fide; instead, there are at least two!  Do you mean by "Sola Fide" that we are a) saved by faith alone, or b) justified by faith alone?  A common problem in this discussion is that the Reformed definition of Sola Fide is not the same as the Lutheran definition of Sola Fide, and this causes people to misunderstand each other--sometimes Catholics wrongly assume the Reformed hold the Lutheran definition, and sometimes those who are otherwise Reformed actually do hold the Lutheran definition.

The Lutheran definition sometimes says that we are saved (rather than only justified) by faith alone when it equates "justification" with the whole of "salvation," because it holds that after faith, all other benefits of salvation flow from justification, so the order of salvation is faith, justification, union with Christ, adoption, sanctification.  For example, Luther evidenced this mistake when he said "Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life." (Ewald M. Plass, "What Luther says," page 1509, quoted at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_fide#cite_ref-21.)  Luther was right to imply that our works do not cause justification (in the sense of a contributing or efficient cause), but wrong to say our works do not cause salvation (as a material or constitutive cause).  Further, if as Luther said, "Works are necessary for salvation" as a (as Richard Gaffin helpfully put it in a lecture when I was in seminary) "necessary attendant circumstance" of justification, they are a cause even of justification itself, because a necessary attendant circumstance is rightly termed a "necessary cause."  The failure to specify which forms of causality are excluded by the word "alone" remains even in Reformed theologians as capable as Michael Horton, as this review of Horton's Systematic Theology by Richard Gaffin demonstrates:  http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=141 (titled “Covenant and Salvation,” published in Ordained Servant, March 2009.)1

The Reformed definition of Sola Fide is that we are justified by faith alone, where "alone" means "not on the ground of our own meritorious works."  In other words, the Reformed definition specifies the scope of the meaning of "alone" so that the causality denied by the word "alone" is only the causality involved in the nature of a meritorious ground for justification.  This sense is evident throughout the Westminster Confession's (ch. 11.1, 2:  http://opc.org/wcf.html#Chapter_11) and Larger Catechism's discussion of justification (http://opc.org/lc.html).  In contrast to the Lutheran definition, the Reformed definition of Sola Fide does not deny, but affirms, that in addition to faith and justification, sanctification and repentance are also "saving graces" (Westminster Larger Catechism 75, 76), so while justification is "received by faith alone" (Westminster Larger Catechism 70), salvation is not by faith alone.

Underlying both the Reformed and Lutheran definitions of Sola Fide is a deeper concern to deny that the ultimate origin of man's salvation is in any way found in man himself, and the doctrine of Sola Fide is intended to protect against this error of autosoterism in the details of the doctrine of justification.  The Roman Catholic view that God's grace infused into man resulting in good works forms, or allows those works to form, a meritorious ground of forensic justification and the material cause of infused justification ("justice"), despite its attempt to ground God's grace in God alone, nevertheless is in the final analysis a form of autosoterism, because due to its dependence on Aristotle's view that lower forms (entities that are "hylomorphic" or form/matter composites) are not pure form/actuality, such infused grace is not purely from God, but is also from man.

but where my confusion lies might be best captured in the following questions:

1. Is sola fide an essential element of the gospel?

Yes.  Galatians 1:6-9 and 2:16 make this clear:

Gal. 1:6-9  "6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

Gal. 2:16 "yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."

The word "by" in "not justified by works of the law" in Gal. 2:16 is the Greek word ek, which commonly means "out of," naturally indicating here a legal basis or ground, rather than the Greek word dia, which commonly means "through" or "because of," which would more naturally indicate an instrumental or material cause.  The word "through" in "but through faith in Jesus Christ" is the Greek word dia, which naturally indicates the function of a receptive instrument  (not 1) a creative instrument, because in this context, faith is first “in Christ” the Savior, so implies an ultimate dependence on Christ’s power and agency rather than a creative power inherent within faith itself, and not 2) a meritorious ground, because diaindicates an instrument rather than a ground).  So it is proper to limit the scope of the word "sola" or "alone" to deny that good works are a meritorious ground of justification, and to affirm that faith is the "alone instrument" (Westminster Confession of Faith 11.2) by which God's legal declaration imputing Christ's righteous standing to us is received by a believer in justification.

So Paul says the doctrine that one can be "justified by the works of the law" (Gal. 2:16) is "not" (Gal. 2:16) the "gospel" (Gal. 1:6-9), but is a "distortion" (Gal. 1:7) "contrary" (Gal. 1:8, 9) to the gospel, and results in its followers being "accursed" (Gal. 1:8, 9) by God.  Correlatively, Paul says the true gospel is that justification is received by faith alone--by faith as the "alone instrument" by which justification is received.

2.  If anyone rejects sola fide (and knows what they are saying) then have they rejected the gospel?

Yes.  If they don't actually believe in Christ as their only Savior (and so also, at least implicitly, in Christ's righteousness alone as the ground of their justification) at some point in their beliefs, they are not saved.  Yet people can be, and are, inconsistent in their beliefs, and in their profession.  They may reject sola fide knowingly at one point in their beliefs, yet because they truly receive and rest on Christ's righteousness alone for justification at another point in their beliefs, they are in fact believing the true gospel, and truly believing in Christ as their Savior, and so are saved.

3.  Can Acts 15:5 be used as a passage that could teach that those that knowingly reject sola fide still be believers?

Yes, they may have been believers while, inconsistent with their true saving faith, they rejected sola fide, but no, they only continue to demonstrate themselves to be believers if they are willing to be corrected when they are shown that rejection of sola fide (understood to mean justification is received by faith alone, and is not on the legal ground of meritorious good works) was an error.  The individuals in Acts 15:5 were in fact in error, seeking to "put God to the test" (v. 10), as the final decision of the Council of Jerusalem later in that chapter (vv. 28, 29) demonstrates--the Council did not require the Gentiles to be circumcised as a meritorious ground, or even a necessary attendant circumstance, of justification, and salvation.  Acts 16:3 teaches that Gentiles are permitted to be circumcised out of kind deference to Jews who are "weak in faith" (Rom. 14:1), but Gal. 5:2-6 teaches that it is wrong to consider circumcision a meritorious ground for justification.

If you could help me by answering these questions I believe that it would benefit me greatly and I would very much appreciate it.

I do hope this has helped you, and welcome further questions if I can be of further help.

In Christ,

Pastor Tim

1.  See also Mark Garcia’s review article “No Reformed Theology of Justification?” at http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=66, published inOrdained Servant, October 2007, the reply by W. Robert Godfrey and David VanDrunen, “Response to Mark Garcia’s Review of Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry” at http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=80, published in Ordained Servant, December 2007, his “My Review Article: A Clarification” at http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=79, published in Ordained Servant, December 2007, John Fesko’s review article “A Tale of Two Calvins” at http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=139, published in Ordained Servant, March 2009, Gaffin’s reply “A Response to John Fesko’s Review” at http://opc.org/os.html?article_id=140, published in Ordained Servant, March 2009, and Cornelius Venema’s review article “Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin’s Theology” at http://opc.org/review.html?review_id=219, published in New Horizons, May 2009.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 August 2012 16:02
 
Christians Bring Their Faith to Work PDF Print E-mail
News - Theology
Written by Tim Black   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 12:30

I don't leave my faith behind in the marketplace, and neither should you. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) What is work without faith? Pagan.

The quote regarding judge Kane and the Newland case below is interesting in connection with the current discussion of Reformed two kingdom theology and the differences between Sabbath worship and 6-day work. I expect the legal arguments against the Newland family/Hercules Industries cannot hold up in court. From http://www.frc.org/washingtonupdate/kane-no-crutch-for-obamacare,

"In keeping with the President's support of the narrow freedom of worship, versus the freedom of religion, the government's attorneys argued that men and women who enter the marketplace must leave their faith behind. 'As a for-profit, secular employer, Hercules cannot engage in an exercise of religion.'"

I believe this indicates not that US law is generally opposed to biblical morality, but that there is a real battle in our society between citizens pushing an agenda of secularism and citizens seeking to practice biblical morality. The solution Kane is following is correct--within its rights as a family-owned business, despite its unbiblical Roman Catholic opposition to all contraception, it is practicing biblical morality by refusing to pay for abortions, by refusing to pay for those parts of ObamaCare, and is doing so in accord with its own articles of incorporation, which wisely were written with the prescience to protect the company and strengthen its position in just this sort of situation.

Business owners, are you taking similar steps now to practice Christianity in your business? Or are you capitulating to a murderous secularism, and paying for abortion?

Yes, I'm stirring the pot today, and of course, willing to be corrected where I'm wrong.

Tim Black
Pastor, Caney Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Owner and Web Developer, Always Reformed Web Development. I prefer to hire Reformed Christian subcontractors, unapologetically!

 
Glenn T. Black's autobiography PDF Print E-mail
News - Life
Written by Tim Black   
Friday, 11 November 2011 10:43

Glenn T. BlackFor those who have time to read an autobiography, or an hour to listen to a recording, you may find it interesting to learn about my grandfather at http://mahaffynet.net/?page_id=53.  His autobiography covers his years as a country boy in Kansas, a B-25 pilot in WWII, and college & seminary student, then a pilot and pastor then regional home home missionary at large in the OPC.  The hour long recording is of him telling the story of how he was shot down in WWII, told in a way similar to how he has told it many times as a means of presenting the gospel.

I have found his accounts interesting for a number of reasons.  He is a very careful man, so I was surprised at the risks he took when flying, though they were few in number, and his adventurous spirit throughout.  He is a very godly man, so I cherish his personal, and deeply Reformed and presbyterian, testimony which he makes explicit at points throughout.  He makes a number of sober assessments of his actions in hindsight which are useful for younger men like myself to consider.  And his understated humor is a delight.

Grandpa's pastor John Mahaffy writes,

On this Veterans' Day I am particularly thankful for the service of a man who was my pastor when I was a teenager, the Rev. Glenn T. Black.  He has given sacrificially to serve both his country and his Lord, without confusing the two or mixing priorities.  Many of you have read his "Four Full Years" or listened to his "My Longest Day."  If not, you might find it appropriate today to click here and do so.  He would be the first to tell you that he was only one of many.  However, it is important that we do not forget him or others.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 August 2012 18:52
 
How to fight the "Mugged overseas" email scam PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 19
PoorBest 
News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Wednesday, 17 August 2011 13:17

Has one of your friends apparently sent an email like this?

My sincere regrets for this sudden request, things actually got out of control on my trip to London. I was mugged,all my belongings including cellphone and credit card were all stolen at gun point. I need your help flying back home and paying my Hotel bills. Am cash strapped at the moment. I've made contact with my bank but the best they could do was to send me a new card in the mail which will take 3-5 working days to arrive here.

I need you to lend me some quick funds to sort my self out of this predicament, i will remit the funds as soon as i return. Western Union or Money-Gram is the fastest option to wire funds to me. Let me know if you need my details(Full names/location) to effect a transfer. You can reach me via my email because the hotel has internet access in the lobby I'm sorry for all the inconveniences. I just didn't know how else to contact you quickly.

Thanks

It's a scam.  Here's what I do in response:  I send my friend the following email (I sent this today to an OPC missionary in Uganda whose GMail account was hacked), and / or call him on the phone:

----------------------

You should know that this email went out impersonating you using your email address.

I'm somewhat familiar with the scam below, because a number of my friends have been victimized by it.  Most of my friends don't travel out of the country very often, but you do(!) so the email below might fool more recipients than normal.  Normally the way the scam begins is by a hacker hacking into your real email account and sending false emails from your email account to people in your address book.  Because it begins that way, the two key steps to fixing the problem are:

1) to change your email account's password, and

2) to double-check that email account's backup email address--the email address (like one on Yahoo or some other domain name) which in this case GMail will use to communicate with you in case they cannot contact you through your GMail email address--GMail will send your password to you at that backup address if you ask GMail to remind you of your password.  Scammers sometimes change that backup email address to one they have access to, so they can request your password if you change your password to keep the scammer out of your email.

Another thing you should do, if you believe the email below went to others in your address book (the "To" header of the email I received said "undisclosed-recipients:;" which means my email address was in its BCC (blind carbon copy) list, so I can't tell how many people received the scam email) is

3)  notify everyone in your email address book that the email below is a scam.

How did the scammer hack into your email account?  I've heard of several ways:

  • they can run a program that tries millions of passwords out on your account's login form,
  • or they can do "packet sniffing" on wireless networks that are not secure (they require no passphrase or encryption key) or use weak encryption (WEP encryption is weak encryption and software is readily available to break through its encryption quickly),
  • or if they have access to the router / wireless access point (like they own the coffee shop), they can do "packet sniffing" too, which is where they examine the "packets" of HTTP traffic between your computer and the router and find your password in that traffic,
  • or they can create a JavaScript link in (or just a script that runs in the HTML of) an email that steals your email account's password from a cookie in your web browser (this only works when you're viewing email in the same email account that is being hacked)
  • or they can put JavaScript code in a web page that exploits a security flaw in your browser and thereby steals a cookie or your password directly from your email provider's page in ANOTHER TAB in the same browser window or perhaps in another browser window.
I mention all this detail because you're in Uganda, and it would be wise to take several further measures to prevent this from happening again:

4)  Beware that on unsecured, or on WEP-encrypted networks, you should avoid logging into accounts you don't want hackers to get into.

5)  Even at strongly-secured (WPA encryption) wireless and wired networks in public locations, be aware that you cannot always trust the owner of the network.  Decide whether you trust the owner before using a password over the network.

6)  Upgrade your web browser to its most recent version.

7)  To deal with the first JavaScript hack method mentioned above, don't click on links in your email, and consider (depending on how paranoid you want to be) not opening other web browser tabs or windows where you'll enter a password while reading your email.  Instead, if you want to be as secure as possible, you can open just one tab in one window, enter the password, do your work, then log out, (optionally clear your cookies, but I wouldn't do that), then close the browser window.

8)  To deal with the second JavaScript hack method, don't enter passwords in one browser window or tab when you have another browser window or tab open.  Especially avoid the situation where one tab has your bank account open, and the other tab has an untrustworthy (maybe local Ugandan) site open, because that is the sort of situation the second JavaScript attack exploits.

I know some of the above practices may be more restrictive than what you need to do in your situation, but I want you to be aware of the best recommendations I've read to deal with this sort of problem, and you can decide what you think best to do.  I also have in mind, as you are more aware than I am, that sometimes criminals can get away with more in third world countries than they do here in the US.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 August 2011 13:30
 
Spam emails from the "International Charity Company" PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 24
PoorBest 
News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Friday, 29 July 2011 20:05

This evening I received lots (128+) of backscatter spam emails from someone who is forging the emails' "From" header using my This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it email address.  Because it's backscatter spam I can't view the original emails' full headers and take any action to report the sender's IP address or ISP to the FBI or complain to the originating ISP.  So, after warning the sender via email that I would do so if he did not stop, I'm resorting to using public shame.

I'm writing this post to publicly defame "Bill Braun" and the "International Charity Company," whose German name is "Internationale Wohltätigkeits Gesellschaft," and to attempt to preserve my good name.  If you received an email purporting to be from this company, please know this is a spam email, and I did not send the email to you.  I recommend you do not do business with the "Internationale Wohltätigkeits Gesellschaft," if it is a real company.  Its name does not appear on the internet, so I doubt the company even exists.  The only place I could find it mentioned is on this native German-speaker's blog, who says the email is spam, and notes that it uses incorrect grammar, so is a good example of bad German someone fished out of the "Babelfish-Aquarium." Smile

The HTML version of the spam email is below.  At the bottom of the email, I've included several of the email addresses I've found in the backscatter spam I've received, to help you be sure you received the same email I'm describing.

 
 
Charity Company
Internationale Wohltätigkeits Gesellschaft sucht, dringend, Teilzeit Kräfte in Festanstellung im gesamten Umkreis des Vereinigten Königreiche von Germany. Wir suchen Mitarbeiter, im Alter zwischen 18 bis 75 Jahren, für wirklich einfache anfallende Aufgaben und die Durchführung einfacher organisatorischer Aufträge.

Sie benötigen hierfür weder eine berufliche Qualifikation noch eine besondere Ausbildung. Es wird auch keine Berufserfahrung in dieser Sparte, erwartet.

Alles was Sie, für diese Tätigkeit benötigen, ist:
  • einen Internet Anschluss
  • die Fähigkeit, täglich, E-Mails und Telefonanrufe, zu beantworten
  • Verstehen der Englischen Sprache
ENGLISH VERISON



International Charity Company is urgently looking for part time permanent representatives within the whole territory of the Germany. We need people at the age of 18 to 75 for rather easy work on processing of the incoming tasks and performancing of simple management duties.

You don't need to be a specialized professional or to have special training. We also do not require the working experience in this field. You can earn - Over 1500 Euro monthly which highly depends on your results.

Basic requirements for this job are:
  • Internet access
  • Ability to answer emails and phone calls every day
  • Understanding English
To apply:
Please send your contact details to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
- OR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
Last Updated on Friday, 29 July 2011 20:47
 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 2 of 17