Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck A Review by Jack Kettler

Reformed Dogmatics Four Volumes 

Herman Bavinck

Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic

Author’s Bio:

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) was a Dutch Reformed theologian. He succeeded Abraham Kuyper as Professor of Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam. He was a scholar in the Calvinist tradition. He enjoyed the same theological stature as his predecessor and American scholar B. B. Warfield, the last principal of the Princeton Theological Seminary.


“Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics has been the fountainhead of Reformed theology for the last hundred years. It is by far the most profound and comprehensive Reformed systematic theology of the twentieth century. The reader will be amazed by Bavinck’s erudition, creativity, and balance. Bavinck is confessionally orthodox, but he recognizes the need to rethink the traditional formulations from Scripture in the context of contemporary discussion. I cannot express how delighted I was to read volume one for the first time in my own language! I hope it will have a large readership and will bring forth much theological and spiritual fruit.” – John M. Frame, professor of systematic theology and philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary.

“Arguably the most important systematic theology ever produced in the Reformed tradition. I have found it to be the most valuable. English-speaking theology throughout the 20th century until now has been singularly impoverished by not having at its disposal a translation of Bavinck’s Dogmatiek in its entirety. The appearance of this volume, with the remaining three planned to follow in the near future, will be an incomparable boon for generations of students, pastors, teachers, and others, serving to deepen understanding and enrich reflection in both historical and systematic theology.” – Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., professor of biblical and systematic theology, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.

Other works by Bavinck:

·         The Doctrine of God

·         Saved by Grace: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Calling and Regeneration

·         Essays on Religion, Science, and Society

·         The Philosophy of Revelation

·         Our Reasonable Faith

·         The Sacrifice of Praise: Meditations Before and After Receiving Access to the Table of the Lord

A Review:

The Volume and section breakdown are important to understand the scope of this work:

Prolegomena Volume One:

Part I: Introduction to Dogmatics

Part II: The History and Literature of Dogmatic Theology

Part III: Foundations of Dogmatic Theology (Principia)

Part IV: Revelation (Principium Externum)

Part V: Faith (Principium Internum)

God and Creation Volume Two:

Part I: The Incomprehensibility of God

Part II: The Living, Acting God

Part III: God’s Will on Earth as it is in Heaven

Part IV: Maker of Heaven and Earth

Part V: The Image of God

Part VI: God’s Fatherly Care

Sin and Salvation in Christ Volume Three:

Part I: The Fallen World

Part II: Christ the Redeemer

Part III: The Work of Christ

Part IV: Salvation in Christ

Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation Volume Four:

Part I: The Spirit Gives New Life to Believers

Part II: The Spirit Creates New Community

Part III: The Spirit Makes All Things New

Without fear of contradiction, Bavinck’s Four Volume Reformed Dogmatics is one of the most important theological works ever produced in the twentieth century. Bavinck’s doctrine of antithesis:

“There is not a single Christian who has not in his or her own way learned to know the antithesis between “the wisdom of the world” and “the foolishness of God.” (1)

The reader will see this theme of antithesis or contrast with Christian and non-Christian thought appearing at many points throughout the dogmatics.

As first articulated and advanced by Kuyper, Bavinck continues the development of the doctrine of the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought and culture, thus, paving the way for Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics in which the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought is fully developed into a powerful defense of the Gospel along with laying in waste all non-Christian epistemology.

The implications of the doctrine of antithesis fully developed apologetically:    
“Metaphysically, both parties have all things in common, while epistemologically they have nothing in common.” (2)

 Bavinck is certainly worthy in every sense with providing the impetus for Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics. In other words, Cornelius Van Til is dependent on Herman Bavinck and Kuyper before him. Without a doubt, theologians in the Dutch Reformed tradition and beyond are standing on the shoulders of Bavinck.  
One of the many strengths of Bavinck’s work is his interaction with different religious traditions. The value of this is that the student of theology will state accurately the theological position that one disagrees. Without being able to state the opponent’s position accurately, one should not come to the debate.

In Volume Two, “The Creator Is the Triune God,” one reads:
“Bavinck’s balanced doctrine of creation is self-consciously rooted in his trinitarian doctrine of God. He begins the chapter (8) on creation with the following direct linkage: “The realization of the counsel of God begins with creation. Creation is the initial act and foundation of all divine revelation and therefore the foundation of all religious and ethical life as well.” A biblical doctrine of God sees his counsel or decree as the link that connects God and the world. As the first of God’s external acts, creation is vitally important; subsequent acts of God must be seen in the light of creation. Thus, redemptive grace does not diminish or elevate or divinize creation but restores it. As the same time, as the expression of God’s decree, creation is not necessary but is contingent and dependent on God. God is self-sufficient; he does not need creation, and thus the error of pantheism is avoided as well as that of Deism.” (3)

 For those departing from the Protestant doctrine of original sin, the semi-Pelagian, i.e., Arminian, should spend some time in this Volume to decide whether they would prefer to be in line with Roman Catholic soteriology or identify as a Protestant. The importance of this will be seen in the following citation of Bavinck. 

 In Volume Three, “Explaining Original Sin: Human Solidarity,” Bavinck says:  “[323] The doctrine of original sin is one of the weightiest but also one of the most difficult subjects in the field of dogmatics. “Nothing is better known than original sin for preaching; for understanding, nothing is more mysterious.”85 “It is astonishing, however, that the mystery furthest from our understanding is the transmission of sin, the one thing without which we can have no understanding of ourselves! Because there can be no doubt that nothing shocks our reason more than to say that the sin of the first man made guilty those who, so far from that source, seem incapable of having taken part in it.… Nevertheless, without this most incomprehensible of all mysteries we are incomprehensible to ourselves. Within this gnarled chasm lie the twists and turns of our condition. So, humanity is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is conceivable to humanity.”86 “Original sin explains everything and without it one cannot explain anything” (de Maistre), and yet the doctrine itself needs explanation more than anything.87 From ancient times it was described in theology as original sin (peccatum originale), not because it was peculiar to humans from their origin by virtue of creation, but because in all humans it is the origin and source of all other sins. Much misunderstanding could be avoided if in original sin we differentiated between an originating sin (peccatum originans; imputed, guilt) and the sin originated (peccatum originatum; inherent, punishment). Actually, by original or hereditary sin, one should only understand the moral depravity that people carry with them from the time of their conception and birth from their sinful parents.” (4)

Bavinck lands squarely in the Western Church’s doctrine of original sin in opposition to the Eastern Orthodoxy’s denial of this doctrine. Continuing and defending and explaining original sin and the implications for theology at many levels, especially in the area of common grace and individual liberty, and enslavement to sin.    

Bavinck’s section on “The Particular Call of Grace” in Volume Four gets to the heart of the matter:
“[435] Scripture and experience testify, however, that all these workings of external calling do not always and in every case lead people to a sincere faith and salvation. Hence the question arises: What is the ultimate cause of this diverse outcome? In the Christian church, in the main, a threefold answer was given to that question. Some said that this diverse outcome was due to the human will, whether that will had received the power to accept or reject the gospel from its natural self, or from the grace of the Logos, or from the grace of baptism, or from that of the calling. According to this view, there is no distinction between external and internal, or between efficient and efficacious calling. Inwardly and essentially the calling is always and, in every case, the same. It is only called efficacious in terms of the outcome when a person responds to the call. After everything we have said previously about Pelagianism,11 this answer does not call for a lengthy refutation. It clearly offers no solution. In practice one can indeed confine oneself to the proximate cause and attribute unbelief specifically to the human will. In that case, one is speaking truthfully (Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:15; Isa. 65:12; Matt. 22:2–3; 23:37; John 7:17; Rom. 9:32; etc.): the sinful will of humans is responsible for their unbelief. But even in practice all believers at all times and in all schools of thought have attributed their faith and salvation to God’s grace alone.12 There is nothing that distinguishes them other than that gift of grace (1 Cor. 4:7). Ultimately, therefore, this difference cannot lie in the human will. If one nevertheless insists on considering will the final cause, one is instantly faced with all the psychological, ethical, historical, and theological objections that have at all times been raised against Pelagianism. It introduces incalculable caprice and weakens sin; the decision about the outcome of world history is put in the hands of humans, the governance over all things is taken away from God; his grace is canceled out. Even if one ascribes the power to choose for or against the gospel to the restoration of grace, this does not help matters. In that case one introduces a grace that consists solely in the restoration of volitional choice, one that is nowhere mentioned in Scripture, that actually presupposes regeneration and yet has to bring it about only after the right choice has been made.13 On this position one also gets stuck with all the millions of people who have never heard of the gospel or died as infants and for that reason were never in a position to accept or reject Christ. Accordingly, the free will of humans cannot be the ultimate cause of faith and unbelief.

Another answer to the above question was therefore devised by Bellarmine. He rejected both the doctrine of Pelagius and that of Augustine, sought a path somewhere between them, and said that the efficacy of the call depended on whether it came to a person at an opportune time when the will was inclined to follow it (congruitas).14 Agreeing with this congruism are the views of Pajon, Kleman, as well as Shedd, who considers salvation “in the highest degree probable” for everyone who makes serious and diligent use of the means of grace.15 But this answer, too, is unsatisfactory. In this congruity theory there is indeed an important truth that, while ignored by Methodism, comes into its own in the Reformed doctrine of preparatory grace. But it is completely unable to explain the efficacy of the call. The reason is that it is inherently nothing other than moral suasion, which in the nature of the case is powerless to create the spiritual life that, according to Scripture, is the result of regeneration. Further, it presupposes that a human being is fit one moment and unfit the next to accept grace, thus locating sin in circumstances and weakening it in humans. In addition, it makes the ultimate decision dependent on the human will and thereby again provokes all the objections mentioned above and lodged by Bellarmine himself against Pelagianism. Finally, it links calling and conversion by a thread of congruity, which, being moral in nature, can at all times be broken by the will and hence cannot guarantee the efficacy of the call. 

Augustinians, Thomists, and Reformed theologians, therefore, located the reason why in one person the calling bore fruit and in another it did not in the nature of the calling itself. The first group said that when the call was efficacious, a “triumphant delight” (delectatio victrix) was present, which granted not only the capacity to act (posse) but also the will to act (velle). The Thomists spoke of a “natural predetermination” or “natural action of God” that prompted the capacity to act (posse agere), conferred by “sufficient calling,” to pass into action.16 The Reformed, however, objecting to the use of these terms, took exception especially to the description of an act of God in conversion as “natural” and preferred to speak of an “external” and an “internal” call. This distinction already occurs in Augustine,17 was taken over from him by Calvin,18 and was further adopted in Reformed theology. Earlier this twofold calling was referred to by other terms as well, such as the “material and formal,” the “revealed” call and the call of “God’s good pleasure,” the common and the personal, the universal and the special call,19 but the terms “external” and “internal” call gained the upper hand and gradually pushed out the others. 

Now although this distinction does not occur in so many words in Scripture, it is based on Scripture.

1.     It is already implied in the fact that all humans are the same by nature, worthy of condemnation before God (Rom. 3:9–19; 5:12; 9:21; 11:32), dead in sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:2–3), darkened in their understanding (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:18; 5:8). They cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), are the slaves of sin (8:34; Rom. 6:20), enemies of God (8:7; Col. 1:21), do not and cannot submit to God’s law (Rom. 8:7), are unable to think or do anything good from within themselves (John 15:5; 2 Cor. 3:5); though the gospel is for the benefit of humans, they are hostile toward it and despise it as an offense or folly (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:14). Hence the difference that occurs among people after the calling is inexplicable in terms of human capacities. God and his grace alone make the difference (1 Cor. 4:7). 

2.     Simply the preaching of the Word by itself is not sufficient (Isa. 6:9–10; 53:1; Matt. 13:13ff.; Mark 4:12; John 12:38–40; etc.). Hence in the Old Testament already we learn of the promised Spirit who would teach everyone and grant them all a new heart (Isa. 32:15; Jer. 31:33; 32:39; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26; Joel 2:28). To that end he was poured out on the day of Pentecost to witness to Christ along with and through the apostles (John 15:26–27), to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8–11), to regenerate people (John 3:5ff.; 6:63; 16:13), and to lead them to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:3). 

3.     The work of redemption, therefore, is ascribed completely, both subjectively and objectively, to God. This is not just meant in a general sense, the way we say that God works all things by his providence, but definitely in the restricted sense that by a special divine power he works regeneration and conversions. So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16). The calling is the implementation of divine election (8:28; 11:29). It is God who renews the human heart and inscribes his law on it (Ps. 51:12; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26), who enlightens the eyes of the heart (Ps. 119:18; Eph. 1:18; Col. 1:9–11), opens the heart (Acts 16:14), makes his own recognize his Son as the Christ (Matt. 11:25; 16:17; Gal. 1:16), and draws people to him with spiritual power (John 6:44; Col. 1:12–13). He causes the gospel to be preached, not only in words but also in demonstration of the spirit and power (1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Thess. 1:5–6), and himself gives wisdom (1 Cor. 2:6–9). He, in short, is at work in us, enabling us both to will and to work according to his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13) and to that end uses a power like the power by which he raised Christ from the dead and made him sit at his right hand (Eph. 1:18–20).

4.     The very act by which God accomplishes this change in humans is often called “rebirth” (John 1:13; 3:3ff.; Titus 3:5; etc.), and the fruit of it is called a new heart (Jer. 31:33), a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), his workmanship created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10), the work of God (Rom. 14:20), and his building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:21; etc.). This is to say that what is brought about in humans by the grace of God is much too rich and great for it to be explained in terms of the “moral suasion” of the preaching of the Word. 

5.     Finally, Scripture itself speaks of calling in a dual sense. Repeatedly it refers to a calling and invitation to which there was no positive response (Isa. 65:12; Matt. 22:3, 14; 23:37; Mark 16:15–16; etc.). In that case it could say that while God did everything on his part (Isa. 5:4), people in their obstinacy refused to believe and resisted God’s counsel, the Holy Spirit, and calling (Matt. 11:20ff.; 23:37; Luke 7:30; Acts 7:51). But Scripture also knows a calling from God—a realization of election—that is always efficacious. This is especially true in Paul (Rom. 4:17; 8:30; 9:11, 24; 1 Cor. 1:9; 7:15ff.; Gal. 1:6, 15; 5:8; Eph. 4:1, 4; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Tim. 1:9; also cf. 1 Pet. 1:15; 2:9; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3). Believers are therefore repeatedly described simply as “those who are called” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2, 24), and “those who are called in Christ” or “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:22); that is, those who are called by God belong to Christ and live in communion with him. In addition, Paul also knows of a preaching of the gospel to those who reject it. To them the gospel is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18, 23), a fragrance from death to death (2 Cor. 2:15–16). They do not understand it (1 Cor. 2:14). As a power of God (1 Cor. 1:18, 24), it proves itself to those who are called by God according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28; 9:11; 11:28; Eph. 1:4–5)” (5)

In conclusion:

Volume Four of the Reformed Dogmatics is a theological feast. The following headings are some of the material covered in Volume Four, The Intermediate State, The Question of Immortality, Between Death and Resurrection, The Return of Christ, Israel, the Millennium, and Christ’s Return, The Consummation, The Day of the Lord, and The Renewal of Creation.

Bavinck concludes this final magnificent Volume in the “Service in the Eternal Sabbath”:
“[580] The communion with God that is enjoyed in the communion of saints no more excludes all action and activity in the age to come than it does in the present dispensation. As a rule, Christian theology indeed paid little attention to this fact and primarily spoke of heavenly blessedness as a matter of knowing and enjoying God. And this, undoubtedly, is the core and center, the source and power, of eternal life. Also, Scripture offers but little information enabling us to form a clear picture of the activity of the blessed. It describes this blessedness more in terms of resting from our earthly labors than of engaging in new activities (Heb. 4:9; Rev. 14:13). Still, the rest enjoyed in the new Jerusalem is not to be conceived, either in the case of God (John 5:17) or in the case of his children, as blessed inaction. Scripture itself tells us that eternal life consists in knowing and serving God, in glorifying and praising him (John 17:3; Rev. 4:11; 5:8–10; etc.). His children remain his servants, who serve him night and day (Rev. 22:3). They are prophets, priests, and kings who reign on earth forever (1:6; 5:10; 22:5). Inasmuch as they have been faithful over little on earth, they will be put in charge of many things in the kingdom of God (Matt. 24:47; 25:21, 23). All will retain their own personalities, for the names of all who enter the new Jerusalem have been written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 20:15; 21:27), and all will receive a new name of their own (Isa. 62:2; 65:15; Rev. 2:17; 3:12; cf. 21:12, 14). The dead who die in the Lord rest from their labors but each is followed by one’s own works (Rev. 14:13). Tribes, peoples, and nations all make their own particular contribution to the enrichment of life in the new Jerusalem (5:9; 7:9; 21:24, 26). What we have sown here is harvested in eternity (Matt. 25:24, 26; 1 Cor. 15:42ff.; 2 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7–9). The great diversity that exists among people in all sorts of ways is not destroyed in eternity but is cleansed from all that is sinful and made serviceable to fellowship with God and each other. And just as the natural diversity present in the believing community on earth is augmented with spiritual diversity (1 Cor. 12:7ff.), so also this natural and spiritual diversity is in turn augmented in heaven by the diversity of degrees of glory present there…

His purpose in doing this, however, is that, on earth as in heaven, there would be profuse diversity in the believing community, and that in such diversity the glory of his attributes would be manifest. Indeed, as a result of this diversity, the life of fellowship with God and with the angels, and of the blessed among themselves, gains in depth and intimacy. In that fellowship everyone has a place and task of one’s own, based on personality and character, just as this is the case in the believing community on earth (Rom. 12:4–8; 1 Cor. 12). While we may not be able to form a clear picture of the activity of the blessed, Scripture does teach that the prophetic, priestly, and royal office, which was humanity’s original possession, is fully restored in them by Christ. The service of God, mutual communion, and inhabiting the new heaven and the new earth undoubtedly offer abundant opportunity for the exercise of these offices, even though the form and manner of this exercise are unknown to us. That activity, however, coincides with resting and enjoying. The difference between day and night, between the Sabbath and the workdays, has been suspended. Time is charged with the eternity of God. Space is full of his presence. Eternal becoming is wedded to immutable being. Even the contrast between heaven and earth is gone. For all the things that are in heaven and on earth have been gathered up in Christ as head (Eph. 1:10). All creatures will then live and move and have their being in God [Acts 17:28], who is all in all [1 Cor. 15:28], who reflects all his attributes in the mirror of his works and glorifies himself in them.32” (6)

While Bavinck did not call his Reformed Dogmatics a systematic theology, it most certainly is. Bavinck’s magnificent Four Volume Reformed Dogmatics should find a place in every serious student of theology’s library. Reformed Churches around the world will be forever indebted to Herman Bavinck.  


1.      Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume One: Prolegomena, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), p. 441.

2.      Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian & Reformed, 1972), p. 9.

3.      Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume Two: God and Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), p. 20.

4.      Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume Three: Sin and Salvation in Christ, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), p. 100-101.

5.      Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume Four: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), p. 41-44.

6.      Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume Four: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), p. 727-730.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. at: .com Christian apologetics in the marketplace of ideas at

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Christian Apologetics in the marketplace of ideas


As the title suggests, this work will draw upon the observations and forays into the market place of ideas. One job of the Christian apologist is to expose the faulty thinking of non-believers. The focus of this work will seek to accomplish this.

“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” John Calvin

Westminster Confession of Faith:

“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” – WCF 1:5

Presuppositional Apologetics:  

“Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews.” – Wikipedia

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:5 ESV)

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 ESV)

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

At a glance:

  1. Gain confidence in witnessing.
  2. Learn about worldview apologetics.
  3. What is presuppositionalism?
  4. Learn how to present the gospel.
  5. Learn about the canards of unbelief.

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Does the Bible teach sinless perfectionism?

Does the Bible teach sinless Perfectionism?                                             By Jack Kettler

“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 John 5:18 KJV)

Is the Bible in this verse, teaching that a believer born of God no longer sins? What does “sinneth not” mean? Lexical and commentary evidence will be consulted to answer this question. The Greek word for “sinneth not” is ἁμαρτάνει.

What is sinless Perfection?
Christian perfection is the name given to various teachings within Christianity that describe the process of achieving spiritual maturity or perfection. The ultimate goal of this process is union with God characterized by pure love of God and other people as well as personal holiness or sanctification. Various terms have been used to describe the concept, such as Christian holiness, entire sanctification, and perfect love, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the second blessing, and the second work of grace. Wikipedia

 Churches that teach sinless Perfectionism:

Wesleyan Pentecostal denominations such as the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, and the United Holy Church of America teach variant forms of sinless perfectionism.

From Strong’s Lexicon:

Does not keep on sinning,

Ἁμαρτάνει (hamartanei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 264: Perhaps from the base of meros, properly, to miss the mark, i.e. to err, especially to sin.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on 1 John 5:18 comments are short and concise:
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not – Is not habitually and characteristically a sinner; does not ultimately and finally sin and perish; cannot, therefore, commit the unpardonable sin. Though he may fall into sin, and grieve his brethren, yet we are never to cease to pray for a true Christian: we are never to feel that he has committed the sin which has never forgiveness, and that he has thrown himself beyond the reach of our prayers. This passage, in its connection, is a full proof that a true Christian “will” never commit the unpardonable sin, and, therefore, is a proof that he will never fall from grace. Compare the notes at Hebrews 6:4-8, Hebrews 10:26. On the meaning of the assertion here made, that “whosoever is born of God sinneth not,” see the notes at 1 John 3:6-9.

Keepeth himself – It is not said that he does it by his own strength, but he will put forth his best efforts to keep himself from sin, and by divine assistance he will be able to accomplish it. Compare the 1 John 3:3 note; Jude 1:21 note.

And that wicked one toucheth him not – The great enemy of all good is repelled in his assaults, and he is kept from falling into his snares. The word “toucheth” (ἅπτεται haptetai) is used here in the sense of harm or injure.” (1)

A general introduction on the words Perfect and Perfection from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
Perfect; Perfection

pûr´fekt , pẽr – fek´shun (שׁלם, shālēm, תּמים, tāmı̄m; τέλειος, téleios, τελειότης, teleiótēs):

1. In the Old Testament:

“Perfect” in the Old Testament is the translation of shālēm , “finished,” “whole,” “complete,” used (except in Deuteronomy 25:15, “perfect weight”) of persons, e.g. a “perfect heart,” i.e. wholly or completely devoted to Yahweh (1 Kings 8:61 , etc.; 1 Chronicles 12:38 ; Isaiah 38:3 , etc.); tāmı̄m, “complete,” “perfect,” “sound or unblemished,” is also used of persons and of God, His way, and law (“Noah was a just man and perfect,” the Revised Version margin “blameless” (Genesis 6:9 ); “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30 ); “The law of Yahweh is perfect” (Psalm 19:7 ), etc.); tam, with the same, meaning, occurs only in Job, except twice in Psalms (Job 1:1 , Job 1:8; Job 2:3, etc.; Psalm 37:37 ; Psalm 64:4 ); kālı̄l, “complete,” and various other words are translated “perfect.”

Perfection is the translation of various words so translated once only: kālı̄l ( Lamentations 2:15 ); mı̄khlāl, “completeness” (Psalm 50:2); minleh, “possession” (Job 15:29, the King James Version “neither shall the prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth,” the American Standard Revised Version “neither shall their possessions be extended on the earth,” margin “their produce bend to the earth”; the English Revised Version reverses this text and margin); tikhlāh, “completeness,” or “perfection” (Psalm 119:96 ); takhlı̄th (twice), “end,” “completeness” (Job 11:7 , “Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” Job 28:3, “searcheth out all” the Revised Version (British and American) the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “to the furthest bound”; compare Job 26:10, “unto the confines of light and darkness”); tōm, “perfect,” “completeness” (Isaiah 47:9, the King James Version “They shall come upon thee in their perfection,” the Revised Version (British and American) “in their full measure”). The Revised Version margin gives the meaning of “the Urim and the Thummim” (Exodus 28:30. etc.) as “the Lights and the Perfections.”

2. In the New Testament:

In the New Testament “perfect” is usually the tr of teleios, primarily, “having reached the end,” “term,” “limit,” hence, “complete,” “full,” “perfect” (Matthew 5:48, “Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; Matthew 19:21, “if thou wouldst be perfect”; Ephesians 4:13, the King James Version “till we all come … unto a perfect man,” the Revised Version (British and American) “full-grown”; Philippians 3:15, “as many as are perfect,” the American Revised Version margin “full-grown”; 1 Corinthians 2:6; Colossians 1:28, “perfect in Christ”; Colossians 4:12; James 3:2 margin, etc.).

Other words are teleióō. “to perfect,” “to end,” “complete” (Luke 13:32, “The third day I am perfected,” the Revised Version margin “end my course”; John 17:23, “perfected into one”; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 3:12, the Revised Version (British and American) “made perfect”; Hebrews 2:10, etc.); also epiteléō, “to bring through to an end” (2 Corinthians 7:1, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God”; Galatians 3:3, “Are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” The King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “perfected in the flesh,” margin “Do ye now make an end in the flesh?”); katartı́zō “to make quite ready,” “to make complete,” is translated “perfect,” “to perfect” (Matthew 21:16, “perfected praise”; Luke 6:40, “Every one when he is perfected shall be as his teacher”; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11, “be perfected”; 1 Thessalonians 3:10 ; 1 Peter 5:10 , the Revised Version margin “restore”); akribṓs , “accurately,” “diligently,” is translated “perfect” (Luke 1:3, “having had perfect understanding,” the Revised Version (British and American) “having traced … accurately”; Acts 18:26 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “more accurately”). We have also ártios , “fitted,” “perfected” (2 Timothy 3:7, the Revised Version (British and American) “complete”); pleróō , “to fill,” “to make full” (Revelation 3:2, the American Standard Revised Version “perfected,” the English Revised Version “fulfilled”); katartismós, “complete adjustment,” “perfecting” (Ephesians 4:12, “for the perfecting of the saints”).

Perfection is the translation of katártisis “thorough adjustment,” “fitness” ( 2 Corinthians 13:9 , the Revised Version (British and American) “perfecting”); of teleiósı̄s (Hebrews 7:11 ); of teleiotess (Hebrews 6:1, the Revised Version margin “full growth”); it is translated “perfectness” (Colossians 3:14 ); “perfection” in Luke 8:14 is the translation of telesphoréō, “to bear on to completion or perfection.” In Apocrypha “perfect,” “perfection,” etc., are for the most part the translation of words from télos, “the end,” e.g. The Wisdom of Solomon 4:13; Ecclesiasticus 34:8; 44:17; 45:8, suntélia “full end”; 24:28; 50:11.

The Revised Version (British and American) has “perfect” for “upright” (2 Samuel 22:24, 2 Samuel 22:26 twice); for “sound” (Psalm 119:80 ); for “perform” (Philippians 1:16); for “undefiled” (Psalm 119:1, margin “upright in way”); for “perfect peace, and at such a time” (Ezra 7:12), “perfect and so forth”; for “He maketh my way perfect” (2 Samuel 22:33), “He guideth the perfect in his way,” margin “or, ‘setteth free.’ According to another reading, ‘guideth my way in perfectness’”; “shall himself perfect,” margin “restore,” for, “make you perfect” (1 Peter 5:10); “perfecter” for “finisher” (Hebrews 12:2); “perfectly” is omitted in the Revised Version (British and American) (Matthew 14:36 ); “set your hope perfectly on” for the King James Version “hope to the end for” (1 Peter 1:13).

3. The Christian Ideal:

Perfection is the Christian ideal and aim, but inasmuch as that which God has set before us is infinite – “Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ) – absolute perfection must be forever beyond, not only any human, but any finite, being; it is a divine ideal forever shining before us, calling us upward, and making endless progression possible. As noted above, the perfect man, in the Old Testament phrase, was the man whose heart was truly or wholly devoted to God. Christian perfection must also have its seat in such a heart, but it implies the whole conduct and the whole man, conformed thereto as knowledge grows and opportunity arises, or might be found. There may be, of course, a relative perfection, e.g. of the child as a child compared with that of the man. The Christian ought to be continually moving onward toward perfection, looking to Him who is able to “make you perfect in every good thing (or work) to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:21).” W. L. Walker (2)

The Two Sources of Perfectionism by Benjamin B. Warfield:

“THE historical source, from which the main streams of Perfectionist doctrine that have invaded modern Protestantism take their origin, is the teaching of John Wesley. But John Wesley did not first introduce Perfectionism into Protestantism, nor can all the Perfectionist tendencies which have shown themselves in Protestantism since his day be traced to him. Such tendencies appear constantly along the courses of two fundamental streams of thought. Wherever Mysticism intrudes, it carries a tendency to Perfectionism with it. On Mystical ground—as, for example, among the Quakers—a Perfectionism has been developed to which that taught by Wesley shows such similarity, even in details and modes of expression that a mistaken attempt has been made to discover an immediate genetic connection between them. Wherever again men lapse into an essentially Pelagian mode of thinking concerning the endowments of human nature and the conditions of human action, a Perfectionism similar to that taught by Pelagius himself tends to repeat itself. That is to say, history verifies the correlation of Perfectionism and Libertarianism, and wherever Libertarianism rules the thoughts of men, Perfectionism persistently makes its appearance. It is to this stream of influence that Wesleyan Perfectionism owes its own origin. Its roots are set historically in the Semi-Pelagian Perfectionism of the Dutch Remonstrants, although its rise was not unaffected by influences of a very similar character and ultimate source which came to it through the channels of Anglo-Catholicism. Its particular differentiation is determined by the supernaturalization, which it shares with the whole body of modifications introduced by Wesley into his fundamental Arminianism, from which Wesleyanism, in distinction from the underlying Remonstrantism, has acquired its Evangelical character.” (3)

 Another gem from Warfield on the error of Perfectionism:

 “There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be trust as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest.” (4)

 Scriptural problems for the sinless perfection doctrine:

 “Surely, there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV)

  “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:2 ESV)

 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 ESV)

 In conclusion:

 The text in 1 John 5:18 means that the person who has been born again does not practice sin or habitually sin. It is inexcusable after John says in 1 John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” to misinterpret 1 John 5:18. As seen, ἁμαρτάνει means does not keep on sinning or continue to practice sin. During this life, one born of God has an acute awareness of their sin by the Holy Spirit and continually asks God for grace and mercy. Those who claim to have reached a state of sinless perfection are, as John says, deceived, and the truth is not in them.     

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)


 1.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1 John, Vol. 3 p. 4893.

2.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for ‘Perfect; Perfection’. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2320-2321.

3.      Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Perfectionism, Part 1, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Publishing, reprint 2003), p. 3-4.

4.      Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Perfectionism, Part 1, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Publishing, reprint 2003), p. 113.

 Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Christian apologetics in the marketplace of ideas
For more study:

 Studies in Perfectionism (eBook) by B. B. Warfield

The Heresy of Perfectionism by R.C. Sproul

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How does a Christian respond to forced vaccinations?

How does a Christian respond to forced vaccinations?

The question has been asked before. Abraham Kuyper was one of the most powerful conservative theologians in the Netherlands when be became Prim Minister.

Kuyper’s insights are just as valuable today as when he expressed them:
“Vaccination certificates will therefore have to go… The form of tyranny hidden in these vaccination certificates is just as real a threat to the nation’s spiritual resources as a smallpox epidemic itself.” – Abraham Kuyper was the Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905.

“Our physicians may be mistaken and government may never stamp a particular medical opinion as orthodox and therefore binding. Moreover, compulsion can never be justified until the illness manifests itself and may therefore never be prescribed as preventative. A third reason is that government should keep its hands off our bodies. Fourthly, government must respect conscientious objections. In the fifth place, it is one or the other: either it does not itself believe in vaccination, or if it does, it will do redundant work by proceeding to protect once more those already safeguarded against an evil that will no longer have a hold on them anyway.” – Abraham Kuyper was the Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905.

“Ten times better is a state in which a few eccentrics can make themselves a laughingstock for a time by abusing freedom of conscience, then a state in which these eccentricities are prevented from by violating conscience itself.

Hence our supreme maxim, sacred and incontestable, reads as follows: as soon as a subject appeals to his conscience, government shall step back out of respect for what is holy.

That it will never coerce. It will not impose the oath, not compulsory military service, nor compulsory school attendance, nor compulsory vaccination, nor anything of the kind.” – Abraham Kuyper was the Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905.

 Attached is a PDF consisting in a compilation of Synodal Statements, Medical Studies, Professional Dissertations, and Hierarchical and Monastic Statements which either forbid totally or recommend against receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine.  “Unless we put Medical Freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship….to restrict the art of healing to one class of men, and deny equal privilege to others, will be to constitute the Bastille of Medical Science. All such laws are un-American and despotic, and have no place in a Republic…The Constitution of this Republic should make special privilege for Medical Freedom as well as Religious Freedom.” Dr. Benjamin Rush

 Online resources: Main site Particularly relevant

 OpenVAERS, tracks vaccine deaths and injuries. This included covid vaccines*


*VAERS is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System put in place in 1990. It is a voluntary reporting system that has been estimated to account for only 1% (see the Lazarus Report) of vaccine injuries. OpenVAERS is built from the HHS data available for download at

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Does Scripture forbid the study of philosophy?

Does Scripture forbid the study of philosophy?                                             By Jack Kettler

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

Does the Colossians passage forbid Christians the use or study of philosophy? If not, what does Colossians 2:8 mean?

What is philosophy? The following article by Gordon H. Clark will be helpful.

Philosophy by Gordon H. Clark:
“PHILOSOPHY (φιλοσοφια, etymologically, love of wisdom). Traditionally the study of logic, the basic principles of science, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics. In a wider sense, the general principles of any subject can be called its philosophy. Approaching a misuse of the word, the philosophy or education means merely the policy of school administration; and a “philosophy of life” designates any individual’s preferences, no matter how poorly systematized. Inspired though it be, Ecclesiastes (q.v.) is an example of this popular meaning and has little to do with the subject matter of professional technical philosophy.

The reason for these shades of meaning is that philosophizing is generalizing, and no authority can fix the degree of generalizing necessary to merit the name.

The meaning of the word in Colossians 2:8 is hard to determine. It could possibly refer to Gnosticism or, perhaps, mean only ethics, for in the 1st cent., the Gr. Schools had sunk to their nadir and discussed little else.

The common element in all generalizations is a claim to knowledge. Therefore, the crucial question of philosophy is—How is knowledge possible? Attempts to justify knowledge are called epistemology.

Metaphysics, the theory of being (not the beings of plants or botany, not the being of animals or zoology, no even the being of inanimate matter, but of being without qualification—being as such), is sometimes said to be the basic subject; but even Thomism, which makes such a claim, stands or falls with its theory of learning. The answer to the question—What do you know?—provokes the further question—How do you know? Beyond this, no question can be asked. Therefore, epistemology is the basis of philosophy.

There are two very general types of epistemology. First is empiricism, whose thesis is that all knowledge is based on experience. The majority of empiricists equate experience with sensation, others all for non-sensory aesthetic or religious experience.

The second general type of epistemology has no good single name. Perhaps rationalism is as good as any. Its varieties unite on the principle that not all knowledge is based on experience. In one way or another, knowledge is gained from sources other than sensation, chiefly the mind itself. Thus some of these philosophers assert the existence of innate ideas. For example, it may be said that the law of contradictions or the idea of God is inborn. Kant taught that the mind has a priori forms. Sensation is essentially chaotic; it becomes intelligible only after the mind arranges it by these forms. Augustinians and Platonists rely on intellectual intuitions. Their strong point is that logic, ethics, and aesthetics cannot be derived from experience because experience at best tells us what is, whereas these subjects speak of what must or what ought to be. Furthermore, all experience is limited, but knowledge must include universal judgments.

At the present time, the most active schools of philosophy are Logical Positivism, a strongly scientific school; the philosophy of Analysis, largely confined to semantics; and existentialism, an utter chaos of radically individual decisions. The older schools are more or less in eclipse.

The Scripture does not discuss these subjects explicitly and technically. Various Christian philosophers believe that one can see philosophical principles presupposed by the text. The Thomists, for example, think that Romans 1:20 requires empiricism and justifies the cosmological argument. Calvinists have historically made the knowledge of God—not the knowledge of sensory objects—basic, and hold that Genesis 1:26 and Romans 2:15 presuppose innate ideas, or a priori forms.” G. H. CLARK (1)

What is the Colossian passage in Chapter 2 verse 8 saying? Matthew Poole is a reliable commentator. His comments will be valuable. 

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Colossians 2:8:
Beware: the apostle, after his exhortation, considering their danger from seducing spirits lying in wait to deceive by their sleight and craftiness, 1 Timothy 4:1,2, doth here reinforce and enlarge his caution he had before suggested, Colossians 2:4, to engage to a heedful avoidance of all seduction from Christ.

Lest any man spoil you; lest their souls should be made a prey, and they be carried for a spoil by those worst of robbers that beset Christ’s fold, 2 Corinthians 11:20 Galatians 6:13.

Through philosophy; either through the abuse of true philosophy in bringing the mystery of Christ under the tribunal of shallow reason, or rather through erroneous, though curious, speculations of some philosophers, as Plato, Pythagoras, Hesiod, &c. then in vogue, which the Gnostics afterwards (who, thinking themselves enriched with the notions of other heretics, would be thought the only knowing persons) dressed up Christ with, not like himself. Their philosophy being a falsely so called science or knowledge, 1 Timothy 6:20, whatever show of wisdom it might seem to carry along with it, Colossians 2:23, it was not really profitable; but a

vain deceit, or seduction, as several take the next clause appositively, and the conjunction expositively; yet, if we consider what follows, we may understand another general imposture, viz. superstition, seeing vain deceit, after the tradition of men, is so like that superstition our Saviour doth rebuke in the Pharisees, Matthew 15:9, several branches of which the apostle doth afterward in this chapter dispute against, Colossians 2:16-23: superstition might well be called deceit, from the cheat it puts upon men and the notation of the Greek word, which imports a withdrawing men from the way. Christ, and from his way of worship prescribed in his word; and vain it is as well as a deceit, since it is empty and unprofitable, not accompanied with God’s blessing, nor conducing to the pleasing of him, but the provoking of him, Psalm 106:29,43. Being led by no other rule than the tradition of men, which is the same with the precepts of men, Mark 7:8, which God likes not, Isaiah 8:20 28:13 John 20:31 Acts 26:22 2 Timothy 3:15, 16; he would not give place to human traditions in his house, nor to

the rudiments of the world, ( in allusion to grammar, wherein the letters are the elements or rudiments of all literature), i.e. the ceremonies of the Mosaical law, containing a kind of elementary instruction, for that seems to be the apostle’s meaning, comparing this verse with Colossians 2:20 and Colossians 2:21, and other places, Galatians 3:24, these being but corporeal, carnal, and sensible ordinances, suitable to a worldly sanctuary. Hebrews 9:1,10, not to be imposed in that spiritual one which Christ hath set up, John 4:23, 24 Ga 5:2. Whatsoever philosophical colours or Pharisaical paint they might appear in, they are not after Christ: we say a false picture of a man is not after the man, being not taken from or resembling his person, but clean another; such descriptions of him, as were not taken from the life and truth that was in him. And therefore he who is Head of his church, and likes not to be misshaped or misrepresented, will not accept of homage from those of his own house, in a livery that he hath not given order for, Leviticus 10:1 Jeremiah 7:31 2 Corinthians 5:9, how specious soever it may be in the wisdom of this world and the princes thereof, 1 Corinthians 2:6,7.” (2)

Paul is not condemning philosophy per se. He is condemning false philosophical speculation, in the same manner, he would condemn false doctrine. False philosophical ideas are just as dangerous as false doctrine if believed. As Poole noted, “The abuse of true philosophy in bringing the mystery of Christ under the tribunal of shallow reason…”

Apologetics would be a hopeless enterprise for Christians if it took Colossians 2:8 as a blanket condemnation of philosophy in general. Believers are called to refute false doctrine and false philosophical ideas.

The example of the apostle Paul at Athens is instructive and a model to be used. Paul engaged the Athenian philosophers.

“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? Other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears, we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” (Acts 17:16-34 KJV)

As seen, Paul reasons with the philosophers at the Areopagus on Mars Hill. He even quotes pagan philosophers, showing he had familiarity with their ideas and could contend with them using their terminology. How can Paul’s Athenian model be applied today? For example, a Biblical application of this is called Scripturalism.

The Philosophy of Scripturalism by Dr. John W. Robbins:
If I were to summarize Clark’s philosophy of Scripturalism, I would say something like this:

1. Epistemology: Propositional Revelation

2. Soteriology: Faith Alone

3. Metaphysics: Theism

4. Ethics: Divine Law

5. Politics: Constitutional Republic

Translating those ideas into more familiar language, we might say:

1. Epistemology: The Bible tells me so.

2. Soteriology: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.

3. Metaphysics: In him we live and move and have our being.

4. Ethics: We ought to obey God rather than men.

5. Politics: Proclaim liberty throughout the land. (3)

Two definitions:

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, and various related issues. Wikipedia

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. Wikipedia

As seen from Robbins, philosophical categories can be aligned easily with Biblical categories and addressed accordingly. In addition, the Bible provides answers to epistemological and metaphysical questions.   

In conclusion:

In Colossians, Paul is speaking against vain philosophy, which he calls “empty deceit” in chapter 2 verse 8. Similarly, the Scriptures are not opposed to pure religion, but against vain or worthless religion, see James 1:26-27. In Acts 17:16-34, Paul’s speech at Athens is philosophical and does not contradict his warning to the Colossians about vain philosophy.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)


1.      Merrill C. Tenney, Ed., Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), p.776.

2.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Colossians, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 715.

3.      Collated by H.R. Diaz II, In Defense of Scripturalism, Miscellaneous Essays, (Special entry, An Introduction to Gordon H. Clark by Dr. John W. Robbins), p. 4.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat.  1 Corinthians 15:29 Revisited: A Scriptural based interpretation
For more study:

Three Types of Religious Philosophy Gordon H. Clark (Review by John Robbins – The Trinity Foundation, 1989)

 In Defense of Scripturalism

 Calvinist and Reformed philosophers

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A selection from my up coming book titled “Christian Apologetics in the market place of ideas”

The following selection is from chapter four:

Battle of Worldviews                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    by Jack Kettler                                             

In this article, the goal is to provide believers with ammunition for the battle against the worldview of non-Christians. In formal writing, it is frowned upon to use personal pronouns. Therefore, attempting to do this makes the wording a little awkward. 

The following article was written after a recent online discussion about worldviews and what a worldview can tell us. Many Christians who are active in witnessing on behalf of the Christian faith have experienced similar encounters. Hopefully, the believers who read this will relate to what is shared and benefit from it. There will be some repetition of thought to drive home the points made. Sometimes in discussions, points need to be repeated and reemphasized.

The recent discussion started when this writer challenged the legitimacy of a prostitute/porn person’s character who has been in the news lately and has filed a defamation of character lawsuit. The present writer of this article asked, what character? The post then started a lengthy thread that went on for a week, both day and night. The discussion involved interacting with several individuals who will be called detractors.    

This author was challenged regarding this writer’s standard for making the judgment about the prostitute/porn person’s character and responded by saying the Bible was the standard. The response was met with ridicule. It was to the present writer’s advantage to subsequently ask the detractors what basis they had for judging this writer’s criteria and asked what their criteria were for condemning mine were since they too were making judgments. No intelligent response was given. Some ad hominem replies were directed towards this writer.

This writer asked the detractors to identify their worldview. Were the detractors arguing for materialism? Non-Christian mysticism? Eastern philosophy? Empiricism? Rationalism? Irrationalism? UFOology, space beings, or gods from a different planet? Again, no response was forthcoming, and then asked the detractors, whatever their worldview was to provide an explanation of how their worldview could substantiate the use of logic and ethics. Counter responses were nothing more than begging the question.

The detractors were outraged that one could even ask such a question about their worldview. For them, the use of logic and talking about ethical positions seemed self-evident, at least to them. This writer has never said that non-Christians do not use logic or ethics but instead has said their worldview does not provide any justification for such activities.   

The detractors made adamant statements that this writer’s judgment was wrong. Based on what standard were the detractors referring to? No response was given. This writer was just wrong, the detractors replied. It was interesting that these non-Christian detractors were using absolutist assertions within an unnamed worldview structure. If the unnamed structure provided the authentication for logic and ethics, then fine. However, if the unnamed worldview was materialism, for example, it has no basis for making such a claim. Materialism is starting from rocks or matter. What can one arrive at, starting with rocks? Rocks or matter do not speak. It can be said unequivocally, material or matter is silent!

A common problem for Non-Christians, as noted, is that they are notorious for using absolutist terminology when their worldview precludes it. One cannot function without absolutes, yet most non-Christians are inconsistent in their denial of biblical absolutes. The inconsistency appears when saying that it is wrong to murder or steal. The non-Christian inconsistently appeals to absolutes when their system excludes it. The detractors also manifested elements of atheism and agnosticism. Both atheism and agnosticism will be dissected.

For example, most Christians have encountered the following self-refuting assertions from encounters with non-Christians along with our rejoinders:

“Only knowledge that can be empirically verified is true.” Can one empirically verify that statement?

“There are no absolute truths.” Is that statement true?

“All truth is relative.” Is the supposed truth just asserted, relative?

“Should people be skeptical of everything.” Should an individual be skeptical of that statement?

“One ought not to judge.” Is that a judgment that was just asserted?

One can say it is problematic for non-Christians when they assert moral absolutes and omniscient statements within the framework of a materialistic system that does not allow absolutes. When a finite man without biblical authority asserts moral absolute omniscient statements, it is indefensible. Likewise, it should be correspondingly noted the absurdity of atheism’s claim when asserting, “There is no God.” The absurdity is this; it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Furthermore, when the atheist asserts that “there is no God.” When using the second question of the Socratic technique, “how do one know that?” reveals rather quickly the failure of this unverifiable claim. The detractors at one point said it was the Christian God who did not exist. This writer wished them the best in trying to prove that universal negative also.

With that, one can dismiss the non-Christian’s demand for verification, which is always demanded of Christians. Yet, incredibly, the agnostic claims for himself ignorance concerning the existence of God. It should be noted that this claim of ignorance is not an argument against the existence of God. Instead, it is a sign of epistemological bankruptcy and what could be described as a deficiency of knowledge.

Problems with the non-Christian’s demand for verification:

“Modern science boldly asks for a criterion of meaning when one speaks to him of Christ. He assumes that he himself has a criterion, a principle of verification and of falsification, by which he can establish for himself a self-supporting island floating on a shoreless sea. But when he is asked to show his criterion as it functions in experience, every fact is indeterminate, lost in darkness; no one can identify a single fact, and all logic is like a sun that is always behind the clouds.” (1)

In the discussion, when it was asserted the Christian God did not exist, the detractors taking on the characteristics of omniscience. In this online discussion, this writer put forth a positive presentation of a Christian worldview. Some of the best apologists were quoted whose writings can be assessed online.  

For example, on scripturalism, the following is a paraphrase or summation of the Christian’s starting principle by Gordon H. Clark:

The Christian argues that scripturalism (all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, it is the Bible).

An irrefutable conclusion that can be reached from this principle:

The Bible contains the Christian’s starting principles or presuppositions. God speaks to individuals in the Scriptures (special revelation) with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. Consequently, the strength of the Christian worldview is seen by the impossibility of the contrary. The impossibility of the contrary can be asserted because as of this day, no non-Christian anywhere has shown how their worldview can account for the use of science, logic, and ethics.

Now it can be said that philosophers of the stature of Plato and Aristotle tried to account for ethics within their worldview. For example, Plato tried to ground truth in the world of ideas. The world of ideas interpreted the temporal world of Plato’s forms. The temporal forms were imperfect replicas of the eternal, perfect ideas. One problem he ran into was perfect dung and filth existing in the world of ideas. Did Plato and Aristotle succeed in developing and justifying an ethical system in their worldview? Has anyone heard of an appeal to a body of Platonic or Aristotelian ethical laws lately? Biblical ethics, on the other hand, has undergirded the Western legal system and are with us today. Has it been heard of the commandments not to murder, steal, bear false witness, and commit adultery and rights of appeal?  

Why is the non-Christian unable to articulate a coherent theory of knowledge? Because as said, the non-Christian worldview has no basis or explanation for the use of science, logic, and ethics. The non-Christian uses logic and talks about ethics. They do so without justifying or demonstrating how their worldview can account for these things. In other words, as said, the question is begged, and the non-Christian steals from the Christian worldview in order to make sense of things. Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til gave the example of a child sitting on the father’s lap and attempting to slap the father as the father explained things to the child. When informing the non-Christian of their theft, get ready for emotional responses or ad hominem attacks. 

The following two references caused the detractors a particular amount of emotional excitement. 

Gordon H. Clark: The Axiom of Scripture:

“Every philosophic or theological system must begin somewhere, for if it did not begin it could not continue. But a beginning cannot be preceded by anything else, or it would not be the beginning. Therefore every system must be based on presuppositions (Require as a precondition of possibility or coherence. Tacitly assume to be the case) or axioms (An accepted statement or proposition regarded as being self-evidently true). They may be Spinoza’s axioms; they may be Locke’s sensory starting point, or whatever. Every system must therefore be presuppositional.

The first principle cannot be demonstrated because there is nothing prior from which to deduce it. Call it presuppositionalism, call it fideism, names do not matter. But I know no better presupposition than “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs.

If the axioms of other secularists are not nonsense, they are nonetheless axioms. Every system must start somewhere, and it cannot have started before it starts. A naturalist might amend the Logical Positivists’ principle and make it say that all knowledge is derived from sensation. This is not nonsense, but it is still an empirically unverifiable axiom. If it is not self-contradictory, it is at least without empirical justification. Other arguments against empiricism need not be given here: The point is that no system can deduce its axioms.

The inference is this: No one can consistently object to Christianity being based on an indemonstrable axiom. If the secularists exercise their privilege of basing their theorems on axioms, then so may Christians. If the former refuse to accept our axioms, then they can have no logical objection to our rejecting theirs. Accordingly, we reject the very basis of atheism, Logical Positivism, and, in general, empiricism. Our axiom shall be that God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.” (2)

“Logically the infallibility of the Bible is not a theorem to be deduced from some prior axiom. The infallibility of the Bible is the axiom from which several doctrines are themselves deduced as theorems. Every religion and every philosophy must be based on some first principle. And since a first principle is first, it cannot be “proved” or “demonstrated” on the basis of anything prior. As the catechism question, quoted above, says, “The Word of God is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify Him.” (3)

Back to comments on the online discussion:

In the recent discussion, the charge against this writer’s position was that of circular reasoning. It pointed out that this only holds water if the non-Christian can explain how the non-Christian position, namely, starting with oneself as an authority ending with oneself as an authority, could escape the same charge. This writer’s opponents never articulated a response to the counter charge. When one starts with self-authority and ends with that as the final criterion, how is this not circular? 

The subsequent four citations also received no responses.

Epistemological problems for the non-Christian raised by Cornelius Van Til:

“If he [the unbeliever] is asked to use his reason as the judge of the credibility of the Christian revelation without at the same time being asked to renounce his view of himself as ultimate, then he is virtually asked to believe and to disbelieve in his own ultimacy at the same time and in the same sense.” (4)

“If we first allow the legitimacy of the natural man’s assumption of himself as the ultimate reference point in interpretation in any dimension we cannot deny his right to interpret Christianity itself in naturalistic terms.” (5)

Van Til notes how the non-Christian is caught in an impossible contradiction.

Cornelius Van Til speaking of agnosticism, says:

“[Agnosticism] is, in the first place, psychologically self-contradictory upon its own assumptions. Agnosticism wants to hold that it is reasonable to refrain from thorough epistemological speculations because they cannot lead to anything. But in order to assume this attitude, agnosticism has itself made the most tremendous intellectual assertion that could be made about ultimate things. In the second place, agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality. . . . the alternative is not between saying something about ultimate reality or not saying anything about it, but that the alternative is rather between saying one thing about it or another. Every human being, as a matter of fact, says something about ultimate reality.

It should be noted that those who claim to say nothing about ultimate reality not only do say something about it just as well as everybody else, but they have assumed for themselves the responsibility of saying one definite thing about ultimate reality. They have assumed the responsibility of excluding God. We have seen again that a God who is to come in afterward is no God at all [i.e. a God that is not sovereign over all existence – M.W.]. Agnosticism cannot say that it is open-minded on the question of the nature of ultimate reality. It is absolutely closed-minded on the subject. It has one view that it cannot, unless its own assumption be denied, exchange for another. It has started with the assumption of the non-existence of God and must end with it. Its so-called open-minded attitude is therefore a closed-minded attitude. The agnostic must be open-minded and closed-minded at the same time. And this is not only a psychological self-contradiction, but an epistemological self-contradiction. It amounts to affirmation and denial at the same time. Accordingly, they cancel out one another, if there is cancellation power in them. . .

Incidentally, we may point out that, in addition to being psychologically and epistemologically self-contradictory, the agnostic is morally self-contradictory. His contention was that he is very humble, and for that reason unwilling to pretend to know anything about ultimate matters. Yet he has by implication made a universal statement about reality. He therefore not only claims to know as much as the theist knows, but he claims to know much more. More than that, he not only claims to know much more than the theist, but he claims to know more than the theist’s God. He has boldly set bare possibility above the theist’s God and is quite willing to test the consequences of his action. It is thus that the hubris of which the Greeks spoke so much, and upon which they invoked the wrath of the gods, appears in new and seeming innocent garb.” (6)

Van Til goes on to say:

“We must point out that reasoning itself leads to self-contradiction, not only from a theistic point of view, but from a non-theistic point of view as well… It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we reason from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible only if it is self-contradictory when operating on the basis of its own assumptions has been stated. The various opposing posts have not once articulated a coherent theory of knowledge. If so, send a copy a previous post where my challenge asking for any worldview to provide a justification or basis for language, logic, ethics or science that has been met or explained. To this challenge, there has been nothing but dodges or additional assertions or accusations.” (7)

Problems for Materialistic Empiricism:

A popular contemporary form of empiricism that derives from John Locke is known as the theory that the mind at birth is a blank tablet (tabula rasa) and then assimilates knowledge through sensations. This theory could be called the “blank mind theory” of knowledge.

The Positivist School boldly asserted as its starting principle that they would only accept what can be verified empirically. The positivists would accept a statement like “some cars are red,” because this could be verified empirically. A color-blind person would have to take this statement by faith. A statement like “God exists” would be rejected since God cannot be brought into a science laboratory and inspected. Once upon a time, someone asked, “How does the positivist school verify its starting principle empirically?” With that question, the empirical, positivist school collapsed. There are still those who promote elements of this philosophically discredited theory, not realizing that in doing so they have become an irrationalist or guilty of inexcusable ignorance. Positivism collapsed because, as in all non-Christian philosophy, it contains its own internally self-refuting contradiction. This positivist contradiction is in the same category as with those who assert “there is no truth.” Supposedly, this assertion is true. Many non-Christians hold to a materialistic, atheistic worldview.

Another big problem for materialistic empiricism:

Empiricism historically argues that knowledge comes through sensations in the following order: (a) sensations, (b) perceptions, (c) memory images, (d) and the development of abstract ideas. In this system of interpretation, perceptions are inferences from sensations. How does the empiricist know valid from invalid inferences? Given this uncertainty, how can the empiricist be sure of anything, let alone what type of matter he may be trying to examine?

Problems for Materialist Rationalism:

Many are not epistemologically self-conscious, including some Christians, and therefore are unaware that they have presuppositions, which govern their interpretations. In particular, fallen a man generally refuses to acknowledge that he has presuppositions and that his presuppositions govern interpretations of matter or anything else. Too many, what is put forward as evidence and interpretation seems self-evident, but in reality, it is nothing more than a subjective evaluation. Escaping from subjectivity is no easy task. Does non-Christian philosophy enable man to get beyond his subjectivity? Can non-believing man’s rationalism (reason alone using logic) save him? Can the laws of logic within the framework of a non-believing worldview accomplish this? How can they, since the laws of logic cannot even be explained or justified within the framework of this philosophy?

For example, where did these laws of logic arise? Are they universally interpreted in the same way? The laws of logic within the framework of non-belief are nothing more than a philosophical construct, which ends up collapsing into irrationality. The rational man, in other words, has no basis for his rationalism. The earlier statement “matter is silent” should be understood in contrast to a statement that God is not silent. This second assertion is the Christian solution to obtaining knowledge. God has spoken through the Scriptures to mankind. We have a biblical foundation for seeking knowledge and obtaining it. God-given revelation is objective. Ungodly men reject biblical revelation; they suppress the truth that God has revealed to them through creation (Romans 1:18). God has spoken in the Scriptures, i.e., God’s special revelation to man concerning what is required of him. The suppression of God’s revelation by fallen man is evidence of his epistemological rebellion (Romans 1:18-20). Again, one can ask the non-Christian what standard is being used and identify the worldview and its basis for predication?

In addition to numerous philosophical problems regarding fallen man’s interpretation, it should be clear that matter or material has nothing to say within the framework of non-believing philosophy. What could it say? Within this framework, material or matter is ultimately an accident and therefore meaningless. In addition to this problem, all men have a priori commitments, which are at work and from which truth or falsity is deduced. The question is not does man have a priori commitments, but what are they? Do these commitments acknowledge God in the reasoning process? If one starts with non-Christian premises, it is impossible to arrive at the biblical truth. For a conclusion to be valid, it cannot contain information not stated in its premises. The non-Christian cannot have accurate knowledge because his presuppositions, starting premises, or axioms, which govern interpretations, are false.

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he is wise in his own conceit. (Proverbs 26:5)

One Johnny come lately to the debate person started off by accusing this writer of being a moron. To this, it was replied that this person started off with ad hominem, and since this person started with this rudimentary logical fallacy, maybe he was the one who is the moron.

The One and Many Problem:

The “One and Many Problem” is another dilemma for non-believers. Is reality ultimately one or many? If reality is ultimately one, this can manifest itself as communism. If reality is ultimately many, this can lead to political anarchy. Eastern polytheistic philosophy comes down on the side of the many and, at other times, the one manifesting itself as pantheistic monism. Moreover, and consequently, they have never produced a system guaranteeing individual rights. Communism answered the question as noted in favor of the one or total state, and it likewise never produced any protection for property rights or individual freedom.

The Christian worldview, on the other hand, has produced a balance of individual freedoms and a basis for the state and church authority. These freedoms are accomplished because of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Christian God is the ground and explanation of all reality. God is one and yet more than one, with a plurality of persons within the one God. Politically and religiously, this manifests itself by giving due authority to the state or church and a proper place for individual rights and the basis for appealing abuses of the state or church. The reader should see The One and the Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy by R.J. Rushdoony.   

In closing:

In essence, fallen man has erected a closed system. His system is closed to God. He does not allow God to speak. Since man rejects the Creator, he has nothing within his closed system that he allows to speak with ethical certainty. He is left to himself. As long as fallen man excludes the biblical God from his system, he cannot know anything with certainty. The non-Christian’s thought has no basis for absolutes. Just many arbitrary social conventions. If there are no absolutes, there can be no meaning attached to anything since everything could be said to be true and not true at the same time, which is unacceptable nonsense.

Thus, fallen man is left with an endless matter, unintelligible sensations, or his atheistic apostate reason. Thus, is the bankruptcy of atheistic, materialistic humanism. It is only the Christian that has a rational basis for knowledge. It is because Christians allow God to speak to us in creation and Scripture. The non-Christian will not allow room for the God of the Bible to speak in their system. Their system is closed to God’s revelation. Our system is not closed like the non-Christian. The Bible tells us about general revelation and man’s requirement to worship the Creator. The Bible tells us the specifics on how to worship the Creator. It is because we have biblical, i.e., God’s revelation, that an intelligent conversation on these matters can be carried on.

It would be impossible to have a discussion about these concepts without God’s special revelation in the Bible since biblical revelation is where the concepts appear. Clearly, without special revelation, there would be no discussion of ethics, science, and logic with any certainty. As a quick aside, what about Islam and its moral code? Does this contradict what has just been argued for regarding the Christian worldview as the only worldview that can account for the preconditions of knowledge? No, it can be said that Islam is essentially a Christian heresy, which means the Islamic worldview has stolen and corrupted the biblical ethical code. Similar to this is the universal flood stories that appear in ancient literature. The Babylonian flood story, for example, is simply a corruption of the biblical account.  

Philosophically unbelief vacillates between two positions of knowing and not knowing. These two opposite poles of allegiance constitute a never-ending dilemma, thus revealing the futility of non-Christian epistemology. Does any of this affect the non-Christian? No, the philosophy of non-belief presses irrationally on, certain of its uncertainty, oblivious of the self-refuting contradiction being advanced. To illustrate, for example, some non-believers claim with absolute certainty that there are no absolutes. The philosophy of non-belief contradicts itself when it claims not to know (uncertainty, agnosticism) and to know (certainty, atheism). Both atheism and agnosticism are two sides of the same coin. Fallen man’s contradictory uncertainty and certainty are manifestations of his epistemological and ethical rebellion against God.

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:20-22)


1.      Cornelius Van Til, Christian-Theistic Evidences, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1978), pp. 147-48.

2.      Gordon H. Clark, In Defense of Theology, (Fenton, Michigan, Mott Media, Inc. Publishers, 1984), pp. 31-33.

3.      Gordon H. Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe? (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed 1985), pg. 18.

4.      Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, ed. Scott Oliphint, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed 1955), p. 107.

5.      Cornelius Van Til, The Defense Of The Faith, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed), p. 93.

6.      Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company 1970), pp. 213-214.

7.      Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), p. 204.

8.      Jack Kettler, many of my comments are adapted from Appendix One and Two from the book, The Religion That Started in a Hat.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

1 Corinthians 15:29 Revisited: A Scriptural based interpretation

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Loving your enemies and the imprecatory passages in Scripture

Loving your enemies and the imprecatory passages in Scripture           By Jack Kettler

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

Similar cross-reference passages are found in:

Proverbs 25:21; Luke 6:27; Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14, and Romans 12:20

In this study, an attempt will be made to reconcile Jesus’s saying in Matthew 5:44 with imprecatory passages in Scripture. Are there two different contradictory ethical systems in the Bible? A look at imprecatory Psalms and other passages will be crucial.

What are imprecatory Psalms?
“Imprecatory Psalms, contained within the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (תנ”ך), are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God. … As a sample, Psalm 69:24 states toward God, ‘Pour out Your indignation on them, and let your burning anger overtake them.’” Imprecatory Psalms – Wikipedia

 Are imprecatory Psalms, and prayers contrary to the text from Matthew 5:44? Can a Christian pray an imprecatory prayer or sing an imprecatory Psalm today?  

 A sampling of imprecatory Psalms, chapter, and verse:

 Psalms 5:10; 6:10; 7:6; 9:19-20; 10:2,15; 17:13; 28:4; 31:17-18; 35:1,4-8, 19, 24-26; 40:14-15; 41:10; 54:5; 55:9,15; 56:7; 58:6-10; 59:5,11-14; 63:9-10; 68:1-2; 69:24-25; 70:2-3; 71:13; 79:6,10-12; 83:9-18; 94:1-4; 97:7; 104:35; 109:6-19, 29; 119:84; 129:5-7; 137:7-9; 139:19-22; 140:8-11; 141:10; 143:12.

 Two examples of imprecatory Psalms:

 “Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.” (Psalms 5:10)

 “I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them, mine enemies.” (Psalm 139:22)

 Imprecatory passages are not limited to the Old Testament. Finding imprecatory passages in the New Testament refutes the idea that imprecatory passages are part of a uniquely Old Testament ethic that is now done away in the Christian era.  

 Imprecatory passages in the New Testament:

 Two examples:

 “But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.” (Luke 10:10-16)

 “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, how long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)

 Other imprecatory passages in the New Testament:

 Luke 10:10-16; Galatians 1:8; 5:12; 1 Corinthians 16:21-22; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; 2 Timothy 4:14; Revelation 6:10; 19:1-2.

 Jesus’ use of imprecatory language and other imprecatory passages in the New Testament is problematic to those who want to posit an Old Testament, New Testament divide in the area of ethics as a solution for those who see Matthew 5:44 as being out of harmony with Old Testament imprecatory language.  

 Back to the starting question, how are these imprecatory passages resolved with loving your enemies? The imprecatory Psalms offended the well-known Christian writer, C. S. Lewis. 

 C. S. Lewis refers to the imprecatory Psalms as:  “The refinement of malice” and “contemptible.”

 In addition, he said:  “We must not either try to explain them away or to yield for one moment to the idea that, because it comes in the Bible, all this vindictive hatred must somehow be good and pious. We must face both facts squarely. The hatred is there – festering, gloating, undisguised – and also we should be wicked if we in any way condoned or approved it…” (1)

 As seen, Lewis was not impressed with the imprecatory Psalms.

 Unfortunately, for Lewis, the apostle Peter in Acts 1:20 quoted imprecatory Psalms 69:25 and 109:8. In essence, Lewis calls Peter wicked for condoning these Psalms. In addition, in John 2:17, Jesus quotes, “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (Psalm 69:9). When attacking God’s Word as Lewis did, he ended up refuting himself.

 In what follows, three readings from three different authors will be considered to see how this alleged conflict between Old Testament imprecatory language and Matthew 5:44 has been dealt with.

 The next entry is speculative and is one possible solution to the supposed contradictory nature of Matthew 5:44 and imprecatory passages.  

 The Meaning and Misuse of Love Your Enemies in Matt. 5:44 by Dennis Linscomb:  “Therefore, before we try to apply v. 44 to today, we need to realize that it was intended for the audience of the Sermon on the Mount. N.T. Wright puts it this way: “The Sermon on the Mount…makes excellent sense in a Palestinian setting in the first third of the first century [i.e. before the Jewish revolt of 66-70 A.D.]. There is no need to force this material into a post-70, let alone a non-Jewish, setting. It addresses directly the question people were asking: how to be faithful to YHWH in a time of great stress and ambiguity, a time when many thought the climax of Israel’s history was upon them…. The question of how to apply the sermon to different times and places is another matter, and cannot be allowed to dictate the question of historical origins. (Wright 292)

Wright, N.T., Jesus and the Victory of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), p. 292.

In conclusion, the following summarizes the main points I have made in this paper:

1.      Jesus presented “love your enemies” as an ideal ethic which his Sermon on the Mount listeners should have as their goal as they dealt with the Roman occupation they faced in the first century. This was not intended to be a universal ethic to apply in all situations.

2.      Although “love your enemies” in Matt. 5:44 is stated in absolute terms and does not contain any conditions or qualifications, that does not mean that there are none. It was Jesus’ teaching method to speak in absolute terminology without giving any conditions or qualifications.

3.      Jesus (and Paul) saw no contradiction in saying that we should love enemies and also cursing them for evil behavior similar to the OT.

4.      Loving your enemies is an objective ethic, but it is not an absolute ethic (i.e. regardless of circumstances) because it very much depends upon the circumstances.

5.      We should use other principles (such as the greater good) & wisdom in determining the application of “love your enemies” for today.

6.      Probably the best application for today of “love your enemies” is at the personal level in cases where there is no threat to life or physical harm.” (2)

 An imprecatory Psalm from the Treasury of David on Psalm 139:22: “EXPOSITION

Verse 22. I hate them with perfect hatred. He does not leave it a matter of question. He does not occupy a neutral position. His hatred to bad, vicious, blasphemous men is intense, complete, energetic. He is as whole hearted in his hate of wickedness as in his love of goodness.

I count them mine enemies. He makes a personal matter of it. They may have done him no ill, but if they are doing despite to God, to his laws, and to the great principles of truth and righteousness, David proclaims war against them. Wickedness passes men into favour with unrighteous spirits; but it excludes them from the communion of the just. We pull up the drawbridge and man the walls when a man of Belial goes by our castle. His character is a casus belli; we cannot do otherwise than contend with those who contend with God.


Verse 22. I hate them with perfect hatred. What is “with a perfect hatred”? I hated in them their iniquities, I loved thy creation. This it is to hate with a perfect hatred, that neither on account of the vices thou hate the men, nor on account of the men love the vices. For see what he addeth, “They became my enemies.” Not only as God’s enemies, but as his own too doth he now describe them. How then will he fulfil in them both his own saying: Have not I hated those that hated thee, Lord”, and the Lord’s command, “Love your enemies”? How will he fulfil this, save with that perfect hatred, that he hate in them that they are wicked, and love that they are men? For in the time even of the Old Testament, when the carnal people was restrained by visible punishments, how did Moses, the servant of God, who by understanding belonged to the New Testament, how did he hate sinners when he prayed for them, or how did he not hate them when he slew them, save that he “hated them with a perfect hatred”? For with such perfection did he hate the iniquity, which he punished, as to love the manhood for which he prayed. – Augustine. (3)

 Spurgeon, commenting on “Love your enemies” touches on the seeming tension of praying for those lost and hating their iniquity in his citation of Augustine.

 The Scriptures are not contradictory when mentioning bad hatred and good hatred:

 1.      “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15)

 2.      “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6)

 The first passage says hating your brother is bad. The second passage says hating a false professing person is good. This distinction gets to the essence of the apparent conflict in the ethics of Jesus (Matthew 5:44) and the imprecatory passages in Scripture.

 From Hating the Haters of God by Professor David Engelsma “The Ground of This Hatred

The reason for David’s hatred of these men is their hatred of God. We may read the text this way: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, because they hate thee? Do not I loathe them, because they rise up against thee?” This comes out even more strongly in the original Hebrew. Literally, we read: “Is it not so, them that hate thee, O Jehovah, I hate?” Their hatred of God is put first in the text, as the cause of our hatred of them. Therefore, there is nothing carnal, nothing selfish and nothing “personal” in our hatred. It is not due to any injury that they did to us. Even though in their hatred of God they probably cursed, mocked and hurt us, it is not what they did to us that explains our hatred. We are not being vindictive in hating them. The reason is this only: they hate God. Thus, our hatred is a holy hatred.

We must be sure of this. It is so easy to corrupt our hatred with personal and carnal motives. In this light, we can see how our hatred for God’s enemies is to be harmonized with our calling to love our enemies. In Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus tells us to love our enemies. We read in Matthew 5:43-44: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” We must not hate our enemies but love them. These are people who bear a personal grudge against us. But they are people who are also our enemies for Christ’s sake, for they persecute us.

It might seem that there is conflict between Psalm 139 and Matthew 5, between our calling to hate God’s enemies and our calling to love those who persecute us. This is, in fact, the position of those who say that we may never hate anyone. They view Matthew 5 as contradicting Psalm 139 and they use Matthew 5 to set Psalm 139 aside.

We hold, however, that the two passages do not contradict each other. Both are Scripture and both must be true in the life of Christ’s disciple. There is harmony between the passages, and the harmony is this: We love men who are our enemies but we hate men who are God’s enemies. This can be one and the same person. Insofar as a man hates, curses and harms me, I love him and I show this by doing acts of kindness to him. Inasmuch as the same man hates God and opposes him, I hate him and count him my enemy. The trouble often is that we do opposite: we readily hate our personal enemies but go on loving those who hate God.

The ground of our hatred of some men is their hatred of God. Ultimately, the ground of our hatred of them is our love of the God whom they hate. Our hatred for those who hate God is an aspect of love—love for God. We love this God. We love him with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. Our love for God, by grace, is a “perfect” love, that is, a thorough, complete, extreme love. We love Him as the only God. We love Him as our maker, as verses 13-16 of this Psalm confess. We love him as Jehovah, the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Because we love Him, we hate those who hate Him. This is the high spiritual plane that the Old Testament saints stand on in our text.” (4)

 Professor David Engelsma, in the bold highlighted selection, reconciles this alleged contradiction between the imprecatory passages of Scripture and Jesus in Matthew 5:44.

 Like the Psalmist, we should pray:

 “Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against You.” (Psalms 5:1)

 In addition, at the same time, Christian ambassadors for Christ can affirm:

 “Love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44)

 “Loving your enemies” lines up with other passages like, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

 In closing, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Matthew 5:44 is appropriate, and his exegesis is trustworthy:  “But I say unto you, love your enemies,…. That is, as the Apostle Paul may be thought to interpret the words of Christ, Romans 12:20. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink”: unless our Lord should be supposed rather to regard the internal affection of the mind; since outward expressions of love, by words and works, are urged in the following exhortations: the actions of a man may be hated, and just indignation be expressed against them, and yet his person be loved, tenderness be used to him, and pity shown him: all men, even enemies, are to be loved with a natural love, as men; though they cannot be loved with a spiritual affection, as brethren in Christ: and in natural affection there are degrees, according to the relation and circumstances that persons stand in to one another.

Bless them that curse you: when wicked men curse you, as Shimei cursed David, do not “render evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing”; give good words, use kind language, mild and soft expressions; such as may either win upon them, or put them to shame and silence: “bless, and curse not”; the latter belongs to them, the former to you; “let them curse, but bless thou”: curses better fit their mouths, and blessings thine. Blessing here, does not signify praising them, for that would be sinful, which is sometimes the sense of the word; nor wishing, or praying for a blessing on them, which is right and good; but this is mentioned afterwards, as distinct from blessing; wherefore, it is better to understand it of a sweet and engaging address unto, and behaviour and conduct towards such, whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

Do good to them that hate you; such as hate you in their hearts, and discover their hatred by their actions; do not make returns in the same way, but on the contrary, do them all the good you can; perform all the kind offices that lie in your power; let them partake of your bounty and liberality; if poor, feed, clothe, and supply them, as you are able, with the necessaries of life; and give them wholesome advice for the good of their souls: by “so doing”, you will “heap coals of fire on their heads”; of enemies, make them friends; engage their affections to you, and you may be happy instruments in doing them good, both in soul and body:

and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. What Christ here commands and advises to, he himself did; for as he hung upon the cross, he prayed for his crucifiers, who were then using him in the most despiteful, as well as cruel manner; saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”: and in this he has left us an example, that we should tread in his steps; and here in he was quickly followed by his holy martyr Stephen; who, whilst he was being stoned, prayed for his persecutors and murderers, saying, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. This breathes out the true spirit of Christianity, and is peculiar to it. The whole of this is directly opposite to the tenets of the Jews, particularly the Scribes and Pharisees; who allowed of revenge, and keeping anger against any person that had done them an injury, as has been observed: and which were also the sentiments of the Karaites, or Scripturarians, another sect among them who kept to the letter of the Scriptures, and rejected the traditions of the elders, which the Pharisees held: but in this they agreed with them, “that it was right to do good to their friends, and to forgive them that asked pardon of them; but to such men who rendered evil, and did not return to do well, that they might receive forgiveness, ‘it is not forbidden to revenge, and to keep anger against them’ (s).”’

It is indeed said (t) of their former holy men, “Hasideans”, which some have thought to be the same with the “Essenes”, and a sort of Christians; however, were a better sort of Jews; that these “heard their reproach, but did not return it; and not only so, but they pardoned him that reproached them, and forgave him.”’

And it is reported of these men, that they used to pray to God to pardon and forgive all that disturbed them. But the Pharisees, whom Christ had to do with, and against whom he inveighs, were men of another complexion.” (5)

 In conclusion:

 God’s general benevolence or common grace helps interpret Matthew 5:44. In the next verse from Matthew, we read:

 “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

 Christians made in God’s image can think God’s thoughts after Him. Therefore, the believer can despise unrighteousness and, at the same time, show grace to non-believers. Matthew 5:44 and imprecatory passage such and some of the Psalms are not contradictory. In addition, in certain qualified circumstances, a believer can pray an imprecatory prayer. The book of Psalms is the songbook Jesus used. So following the example of Jesus, the believer today can sing the songs that Jesus sang, including the imprecatory Psalms. 

 In seeking the lost, we must love them regardless of how a believer may be treated by them. In standing for God’s righteousness, the believer must hate sin. The Matthew passage and imprecatory passages are dealing with different categories of Scriptures. By forcing or pitting them together, in essence, a contradiction is manufactured but not real. Christians should have a forgiving spirit; this, however, does not negate seeking criminal or civil damages in a court of law or a court of the church when wronged by an un-believer.    

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)


 1.      C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958), 20–2.

2.      Dennis Linscomb M.Div., The Meaning and Misuse of Love Your Enemies in Matt. 5:44, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School 2015.

3.      C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. II, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 265; 286.

4.      David Engelsma, Hating the Haters of God, (Pamphlet, Covenant Protestant Reformed Church)

5.      John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Matthew, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), p. 137-138.

 Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

 For more study:

 22 Reasons to Pray the Cursing (Imprecatory) Psalms by Benjamin Kandt

 What are the imprecatory psalms?

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What did Jesus mean when He said to hate your father and mother?

What did Jesus mean when He said to hate your father and mother?           By Jack Kettler

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NKJV)

Many young Christians have been confused when first reading this passage from Luke. Is Jesus teaching to hate your parents, wife, and children? If so, it would contradict other passages about honoring your parents and caring for your wife and children. 

This brief study will seek to clear up any confusion about this passage and show that it is not contradictory and is in harmony with the totality of Scripture.

First, the Greek understanding of hate will be considered. Doing this will help in a proper understanding of the Luke passage.

Hate from the Strong’s Lexicon:


μισεῖ (misei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 3404: To hate, detest, love less, and esteem less. From a primary misos, to detest, by extension, to love less.

In contemporary Evangelical parlance, a secondary meaning of “misei” is appealed to. The secondary meaning is “love less.” The passage is interpreted to mean that Jesus is not really teaching a disciple actually to hate but to love your family less than him.

While this understanding is correct, there is far more to the passage on discipleship that needs to be considered.

For example:

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” (John 8:31 ESV)

Abiding or continuing in Christ’s word is a characteristic of a disciple. In order to abide in Christ’s word, His word must be studied and known. 

Again from the Strong’s Lexicon:


μαθητής (mathētēs)

Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 3101: A learner, disciple, pupil. From manthano, a learner, i.e. Pupil.

In the following commentary selections, the importance and requirements of discipleship are seen.

From the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges commentary on Luke 14:26:
“26. and hate not his father and mother] It is not so much the true explanation to say that hate here means love less (Genesis 29:31), as to say that when our nearest and dearest relationships prove to be positive obstacles in coming to Christ, then all natural affections must be flung aside; comp. Deuteronomy 13:6-9; Deu 21:19-21; Deu 33:8-9. A reference to Matthew 10:37 will shew that ‘hate’ means hate by comparison. Our Lord purposely stated great principles in their boldest and even most paradoxical form by which He alone has succeeded in impressing them forever as principles on the hearts of His disciples. The ‘love of love’ involves a necessity for the possible ‘hate of hate,’ as even worldly poets have understood.

Va, je t’aimais trop pour ne pas te hair.”

“I could not love thee, dear, so much

Loved I not honour more.” – Lovelace.

Yea, and his own life also] this further explains the meaning of the word ‘hate.’ The psuche ‘soul’ or ‘animal life’ is the seat of the passions and temptations, which naturally alienate the spirit from Christ. These must be hated, mortified, crucified if they cannot be controlled; and life itself must be cheerfully sacrificed, Revelation 12:11; Acts 20:24.” (1)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Luke 14:26:
“(26) If any man come to me, and hate not his father.—Like words had been spoken before, as in Matthew 10:37-39, where see Notes. Here they appear in a yet stronger form, “not hating” taking the place of “loving more,” and they are spoken, not to the Twelve only, but to the whole multitude of eager would-be followers. Self-renunciation, pushed, if necessary, to the extremest issues, is with Jesus the one indispensable condition of discipleship. He asks for nothing less than the heart, and that cannot be given by halves.” (2)

Cross-reference passages:

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37 ESV)

“Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25 ESV)

In conclusion:

The passage from Luke 14:26 and other parts of Scripture are in harmony and not contradictory.

The two commentary selections address the Luke passage and explain the meaning of discipleship exceptionally well. As Ellicott notes, “He asks for nothing less than the heart, and that cannot be given by halves.” The two cross-reference passages from Matthew and John provide a larger context to Luke. The next verse in Luke provides an additional understanding of what is required in discipleship.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 ESV)

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4 NKJV)

Is Jesus your first love?

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)


1.      F. W. Farrar, D.D., Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Luke, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), p. 251.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Luke, Vol.6, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 313.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

And the new book The Five Points of Scriptural Authority in Paperback,

The Five Points of Scriptural Authority: A Defense of Sola Scriptura” Kindle eBook:

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How to stop CRT Racism in the Church

How to stop CRT Racism in the Church                                                   by Jack Kettler

Critical Race Theory (CTR) is dominating the narrative in many circles. The present primer is on how to stop the divisiveness that comes along with the promotion of this so-called theory in Christian Churches. Confessional faithful churches with enrolled membership, and with membership vows have an advantage. Churches of this nature have a process in which discipline can be dealt with in a proper and decent order because the membership vows require it.

This primer will not deal with the specifics of CRT. The reader is encouraged to read this writer’s review “fault lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe” at

The reader is encouraged to read “The Dallas Statement on Social Justice,” which is listed below. 

What exactly are promoters of CRT doing?

The advocates of CTR are leveling charges of systemic against Christ’s Church and, by implication, individual members of racism. How is this to be dealt with?

Jesus gives us the outline on how charges of sin are to be handled Biblically:
“Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

 Other Scriptures that inform the process of discipline:  “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

“This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2 Corinthians 13:1)

 The importance of this will be seen in the judicial process listed below; the accuser must have witnesses.

 First, the promoter of this so-called theory must put the cards on the table. Said another way, the accuser must bring formal intuitional charges of racism against the church; otherwise, unproven accusations are forbidden. The church cannot passively allow unchecked accusations, which allow discord to spread.   

 If one encounters a member promoting CRT, the individual leveling these accusations must be challenged and warned to bring forth charges against church members or keep quiet under the threat of discipline for spreading discord among the brethren.

 If the promoter of CRT will not bring charges in the courts of the church, that individual themselves must be charged for spreading lies about the church and its members.

 Historic definitions must be used in defining racism:

 For example, the Oxford Dictionary:  Racism: noun

    1 Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

    1.1 The belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.

 The present writer has heard promoters of CRT on the radio make accusations of systemic racism, and by implication, individual racism. When challenged by the radio host to the caller, “are you saying I am a racist,” the caller starts dancing around with novel definitions. Established definitions must be used. “This country was built on slavery” is a canard that should not go unchallenged. Slavery was overall regional and agricultural. When building New England, the Puritans did not have slaves.     

 Racism is real:

 There have been cases of outright racism in churches and by individuals. Racism and by churches and individuals must not be tolerated. The present writer knows one individual because of his afro hairstyle was told by one church greeter to go down the street to another church that would be more suited to him. Real racism has and does exist and must not be tolerated in Christ’s Church.

 A biblical understanding of racism:

 Treating an individual with disdain is mistreating a person created in God’s image. Prejudice and discrimination against any individual are sinful; this would include treating people of color differently. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 ESV) 

 With that said, making an accusation of racism is serious and, if false, cannot be allowed to stand. If researched, one finds that CRT is not using historically established definitions. Instead, painting with a broad brush, accusations that the country is a white supremacist power structure. In short, CRT labels one by their race as an oppressor. Using the dictionary definition listed above, CRT is itself racist. CRT does not believe the Scriptures and instead erects racial distinctions in contradiction to Galatians 3:28.

 If the individual promoting CTR is not challenged to bring charges in the courts of the church, evil fruit will be the result:     “A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:18-19)

 The following rather lengthy citation from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Book of Discipline is in order. The present writer has had personal experience using this procedure:  Suggested Forms for Use in Connection with the Book of Discipline


_____________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church charges ____________ with __________ [here name the alleged offense]: __________ [here give references to applicable portions of the Word of God, and, where pertinent, to relevant provisions of the constitution].

Specifications: That on or about __________ the said ________ did ________ [here set forth briefly the place and circumstances of the alleged offense].

Witnesses and/or Documents: ___________ [here set forth the names of witnesses and/or the titles of documents to be produced in support of the charge and specifications].

_______________ [Moderator]

_______________ [Clerk]

Date: ____________


To ____________:

You are hereby cited to appear before _______, meeting on _______ at _________ o’clock at _________, then and there to hear and receive certain charges and specifications which have been preferred against you by ___________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

[In the case of a second citation, add the appropriate warning prescribed by Chapter IV, Section A.1.e, of the Book of Discipline.]

By order of ___________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

_______________ [Moderator]

_______________ [Clerk]

Date: ____________


To ____________:

You are hereby cited to appear before _________, meeting on _______ at ________ o’clock, at ________, then and there to give evidence in the trial of ___________ [here insert the name of the accused].

[In the case of a second citation of a witness who has failed to appear after a first citation, add the warning prescribed in Chapter IV, Section A.4.e, of the Book of Discipline.]

By order of __________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

_______________ [Moderator]

_______________ [Clerk]

Date: ____________


To ____________, Clerk [or Moderator] of ____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory from which the appeal is to be taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

And now, this _______ day of _________, A.D. __________, comes ____________ and gives notice of intention to appeal to ____________ from the judgment of ___________ in the case of ____________ [here insert the name of the accused].

_______________, Appellant

Date: ____________

V. APPEAL (in Judicial Cases)

To ____________, Clerk [or Moderator] of _____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory to which the appeal is taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

And now, this ___________ day of __________, A.D. _______, comes _______________ and appeals from the judgment of ___________ in the case of ___________ [here insert the name of the accused], and in support of said appeal sets forth the following specifications of error:

____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory from which the appeal is taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church erred in __________ [here state concisely the error alleged to have been made].

[Additional specifications of error may be filed.]

_______________, Appellant

Date: ____________



To ____________, Clerk [or Moderator] of _____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory to which the complaint is taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

And now, this _______ day of _______, A.D. _______, comes ____________ and complains against the action [or delinquency] of ____________ in connection with _____________ [here state briefly the matter of which complaint is made].

In bringing this complaint I affirm that I believe that the session [or presbytery] has erred [or has been delinquent] and that this error [or delinquency] is serious; that I have tried to understand the session’s [or presbytery’s] point of view; that I have seriously examined, in prayer before the Lord, my willingness to be in subjection to my brothers in Christ; and that I have made a serious effort to correct the error [or delinquency] short of entering a complaint.

In support of this complaint I set forth the following grounds:

[Here set forth concisely in numbered paragraphs the grounds of fact, circumstance and law in support of the complaint.]

_______________, Complainant

Date: ____________

VII. APPEAL (in Administrative Cases)

To ____________, Clerk of _____________:

And now, this ____________ day of ____________, A.D. __________, comes __________________ and appeals from the decision of the ______________ on the enclosed complaint of _____________ against actions of the _____________, in order to bring that complaint to _____________ for adjudication.

_______________, Appellant

Date: ____________


(This document was prepared for the use of sessions of local congregations. Presbyteries using it shall make appropriate adaptations.)

A. The Manner of Imposing Censure

The power which the exalted Christ gives the rulers of his church is for edification, not destruction. Therefore, when a member is found guilty of a fault deserving censure, the session shall proceed with all tenderness and in the spirit of meekness, each considering himself lest he also be tempted, with the hope of reclaiming or gaining the offender. They should impose censure with great solemnity, so that all might fear, so that it may be a means of impressing the offender’s heart with a proper sense of his sin, and so that by God’s gracious blessing it may lead him to repentance. They should do all this in accordance with the provisions of the Book of Discipline.

B. Indefinite Suspension

1. When the judicatory has passed sentence, indefinitely suspending an officer or a member of the church from privileges, it is fitting that when the sentence is announced, it be in a gathering of the congregation.

2. The one making the announcement may begin by setting forth the teaching of Scripture concerning God’s fatherly discipline (cf. Heb. 12:7-11), the church as God’s instrument in discipline (cf. Matt. 18:17ff.), and the obligation upon the church to fulfill this role (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

3. He may then announce the censure using the following or similar words:

Whereas [name] has been found guilty by (his/her) own confession, or by sufficient proof (as the case may be), of the sin of [here name the particular offence], we have suspended (him/her) from the privileges of church membership [and/or, as appropriate, the privileges of his office], until (he/she) gives satisfactory evidence of repentance.

4. To this the judicatory shall add such advice, admonition, or rebuke, as it may judge necessary; and it shall conclude the whole with prayer to almighty God, that he would accompany this act of discipline with his blessing.

5. The indefinite suspension of an officer or other member of the church shall be announced to the church in which membership or office is held.

6. After a person has been thus suspended, the minister and elders should frequently converse with him, as well as pray for him in private, that it would please God to grant him repentance. And, especially in connection with celebrating the Lord’s Supper, they should offer up public prayers for any who have shut themselves out from this holy communion.

7. When the judicatory is satisfied as to the reality of the repentance of any such suspended member, it shall permit him to profess his repentance, and restore him to fellowship (and/or, as appropriate, the privileges of office) in the presence of the church.

8. If a suspended person fails to manifest repentance for his offence, and continues in impenitence, it may become the duty of the judicatory to excommunicate (and/or, as appropriate, depose him from office) without further trial.

C. Excommunication and Deposition

1. When the judicatory has passed sentence imposing excommunication, with or without previous suspension, it is fitting that when the sentence is announced, it be in a gathering of the congregation.

2. The minister should then make a brief statement of the several steps which have been taken, with respect to the offender, announcing that the session has found it necessary to excommunicate him. He should begin by showing from Scripture (for example, Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5) the power of the church to cast out unfaithful members. He should briefly explain the nature, use, and consequences of excommunication.

3. He shall then announce the censure. He may use the following or similar words:

Whereas [name] has by (his/her) own confession, or by sufficient proof (as the case may be), been found guilty of [here name the particular offence], and after much admonition and prayer refuses to hear the church and manifests no evidence of repentance; therefore, in the name and by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, (he/she) has been excluded from the communion of the church.

4. He may instruct and warn the congregation in the following or similar words:

Beloved congregation, [name] may no longer use the sacraments. (He/she) has no part any more in the spiritual blessings and benefits which Christ bestows upon his church. As long as (he/she) persists in sin, let (him/her) be to you as an unbeliever. We exhort you, beloved Christians, do not wash your hands of (him/her). On the contrary, pray for (him/her) with lamentation. Try to evangelize and warn (him/her) as you would a lost sheep. But do not associate with (him/her) as a fellow believer, that (he/she) may be ashamed and be brought to repentance. This excommunication, beloved, is a warning for us all. Let us fear the Lord and be cautious, for he who thinks he stands must take heed lest he fall. Continue in the true fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, and also with all faithful believers, so that we may obtain eternal salvation. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”

5. He should then lead the congregation in prayer for the conviction and reclaiming or gaining of the excommunicated person, and for the establishment of all true believers.

6. When an officer is to be deposed, these provisions should be appropriately modified.

D. Readmission of an Excommunicated Person

1. When an excommunicated person is so affected by his state that he is brought to repentance and desires to be readmitted to the privileges of the church, the session of the church which excommunicated him, being satisfied of the evidence of his repentance and contrition, shall proceed to readmit him. It is fitting that the sentence of restoration be openly pronounced by the minister in a service of public worship on the Lord’s Day.

2. It is well that the elders stand with the minister before the congregation.

3. The minister may address the congregation in the following or similar words:

[Name] was excluded from the communion of the church, but (he/she) has now given satisfactory evidence of repentance to the session. Therefore, in the name and by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we declare (him/her) absolved from the sentence of excommunication, and we do restore (him/her) to the communion of the church, that (he/she) may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus, to (his/her) eternal salvation.

4. The minister may then address the restored believer in these or similar words:

Beloved (brother/sister), be assured in your heart that the Lord himself has received you in grace. Be diligent to guard yourself against the subtleties of Satan, the wickedness of the world, and the folly of the flesh, lest you again become entangled in sin. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit again. I charge you to continue steadfastly in the confession which you have made, humbly relying upon the grace of God in the diligent use of the means of grace—especially the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer.

5. The minister may then address the congregation in these or similar words:

Beloved Christians, receive this (brother/sister) in love. Rejoice and be thankful, for this (brother/sister) was dead and is alive. (He/she) was lost and is found. Rejoice with the angels, for our Lord Jesus said, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Do not look on (him/her) any longer as a stranger, but as a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of the household of God.

6. The congregation should then be led in prayer. It is well in such prayer to thank and praise God for granting repentance and restoration to the one who has been restored; and to pray that he may grow in assurance and joy; that he may walk faithfully, and that just as he has previously caused grief, so now may he be the cause of great joy and edification; that God may graciously enable us to forgive and receive; and that he would enable us all to persevere in faith, hope, and love.

E. Other Censures

Censures other than indefinite suspension from church privileges, or deposition, or excommunication, shall be imposed in such manner as the judicatory may direct.

This process, while lengthy and complex, ensures the rights of the accuser and the accused. In this process, the accuser, the one bringing charges, is warned about the severity of the action of filing charges. If the accused is acquitted, the accuser will be counseled to repent for bringing false accusations.

Why is this necessary?

If those promoting CRT are not forced to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak, division and divisiveness will spread.

If an individual promoting CTR is not willing to bring formal charges against the church and specific individuals, they themselves should be charged with making unproven in the courts of the church for making false accusations.     

A personal observation:

Leveling an unproven charge of racism is offensive, and those accused have every right to have their names cleared in the courts of the church.   

In conclusion:

This primer only touches on how CRT can be dealt with in confessional enrolled membership Protestant Churches.

CRT in the marketplace or places of employment is a different case entirely. Large corporations listen to their attorneys and, for supposed legal protection from employee lawsuits, force their employees into sensitivity training that involves CRT training, among other things. Unfortunately, employees are at the mercy of their employers, which in many cases is merciless.

Churches need to sign on or at least make available the following their congregants:

The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel

The Dallas Statement on Social Justice

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

And the new book The Five Points of Scriptural Authority in Paperback,

The Five Points of Scriptural Authority: A Defense of Sola Scriptura” Kindle eBook:

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What does judged by no man mean in 1 Corinthians 2:15?

What does judged by no man mean in 1 Corinthians 2:15?                   by Jack Kettler

“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” (1 Corinthians 2:15)

At first glance, this passage is perplexing. Regarding the spiritual one, the text says concerning a spiritual person, “yet he himself is judged of no man.” What could this possibly mean? It seems common knowledge that at some point, everyone is or has been judged by others, even spiritual persons.

Two cross-references that help to understand the Corinthians text:

“Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.” (Proverbs 28:5)

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:1)

It appears from the cross-references a distinction emerges from a carnal man and a converted man. This distinction could also be described as the natural man and spiritual man.  

How does Strong’s Lexicon analyze the passage?



Article – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections; the definite article; the.

spiritual [man]

πνευματικὸς (pneumatikos)

Adjective – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 4152: Spiritual. From pneuma; non-carnal, i.e. ethereal, or a spirit, or supernatural, regenerate, religious.


ἀνακρίνει (anakrinei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 350: From ana and krino, properly, to scrutinize, i.e. investigate, interrogate, determine.

all things,

πάντα (panta)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Plural

Strong’s Greek 3956: All, the whole, every kind of. Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole.


δὲ (de)


Strong’s Greek 1161: A primary particle; but, and, etc.

he himself

αὐτὸς (autos)

Personal / Possessive Pronoun – Nominative Masculine 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 846: He, she, it, they, them, same. From the particle au; the reflexive pronoun self, used of the third person, and of the other persons.

is not subject to anyone’s judgment

ἀνακρίνεται (anakrinetai)

Verb – Present Indicative Middle or Passive – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 350: From ana and krino, properly, to scrutinize, i.e. investigate, interrogate, determine.

ὑπ’ (hyp’)


Strong’s Greek 5259: A primary preposition; under, i.e. of place, or with verbs; of place (underneath) or where (below) or time (when).

οὐδενὸς (oudenos)

Adjective – Genitive Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 3762: No one, none, nothing.

Strong’s Lexicon: Dictionaries of Hebrew and Greek Words taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D. 1890

A survey of some learned commentators:

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on 1 Corinthians 2:15:
“But he that is spiritual – The man who is enlightened by the Holy Spirit in contradistinction from him who is under the influence of the senses only.

Judgeth – Greek: “Discerns.” (Margin); the same word as in the previous verse. It means that the spiritual man has a discernment of these truths in regard to which the sensual man was blind and ignorant.

All things – Not absolutely all things; or not that he is omniscient; but that he has a view of those things to which the apostle had reference – that is, to the things which are revealed to man by the Holy Spirit.

Yet he himself is judged – Greek, as in the margin, “is discerned;” that is, his feelings, principles, views, hopes, fears, joys, cannot be fully understood and appreciated by any natural or sensual man. He does not comprehend the principles, which actuate him; he does not enter into his joys; he does not sympathize with him in his feelings. This is a matter of simple truth and universal observation. The reason is added in the following verse, that as the Christian is influenced by the Lord and as the natural man does not know him, so he cannot know him who is influenced by him; that is the Christian.” (1)

 From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on 1 Corinthians 2:15:  “(15) He that is spiritual.—the spiritual man judges all spiritual truth, but he himself is judged by none who are not spiritual. (See 1Corinthians 14:29; 1John 4:1.)” (2)

 From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:15:  “He that is spiritual, in this verse, is opposed to the natural man, in the former verse, pneumatikov to qucikov. So that by spiritual here is understood, he that is taught by the Spirit of God, and is by him specially and savingly enlightened.

Judgeth or discerneth

all things, that is, of this nature, the mysteries of God, which concern man’s eternal life and salvation; not that every good Christian hath any such perfect judgment or power of discerning, but according to the measure of illumination which he hath received.

Yet he himself is judged of no man; it may as well be translated, of nothing; and the term judged might as well have been translated examined, or searched, as it is in Acts 4:9 12:19 17:11 24:8; or condemned. The wisdom that is of God is not to be subjected to the wisdom of men, nor to be judged of any man, but only the spiritual man. The truth, which the spiritual man owneth and professeth, dependeth only upon God and his word, and is not subjected to the authority and judgment of men, nor the dictates of human reason: so as the spiritual man, so far forth as he is spiritual, is neither judged by any man nor by anything. There are some that by he himself understand the Spirit of God; he indeed

is judged of no man, nor of anything; but that seemeth a much more strained sense.” (3)

 From the Pulpit Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:15:  “Verse 15. – Judgeth all things. If he can judge the higher, lie can of course judge the lower. Being spiritual, he becomes intellectual also, as well as more than intellectual. He can see into the difference between the dream and the reality; he can no longer take the shadow for the substance. He cannot only decide about ordinary matters, but can also “discriminate the transcendent,” i.e. see that which is best even in different alternatives of good. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” (Psalm 25:14). He himself is judged of no man. He may be judged, condemned, depreciated, slandered every day of his life, but the arrow flights of human judgment fall far short of him. These Corinthians were judging and comparing Paul and Apollos and Cephas; but their judgments were false and worthless, and Paul told them that it was less than nothing to him to be judged by them or by man’s feeble transitory day (1 Corinthians 4:3). “Evil men,” as Solomon said, “understand not judgment” (Proverbs 28:5).” (4)

 The passage in 1 Corinthians 2:15 is merely saying that a non-Christian is unable to judge a Christian with spiritual judgment since they are non-spiritual.

 While not a big fan of the NIV, in this case, it captures the sense of the passage remarkably well. “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments.” (1 Corinthians 2:15 NIV)

 For example, a real-life application:

 How could a non-Christian vote (a judgment) or understand if a man were qualified to be an elder in the church? What criteria would be used? The non-Christian may use criteria like hiring a manager at a grocery store. It should be evident that this criterion is not adequate biblically. Hence, non-Christians cannot exercise spiritual judgment since they are carnal and not spiritual.    

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)


 1.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1 Corinthians, Vol. 2 p. 2454.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, I Corinthians, Vol.7, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 294.

3.      Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 545. 4.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, 1 Corinthians, Vol. 19, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 61.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

And the new book The Five Points of Scriptural Authority in Paperback,

The Five Points of Scriptural Authority: A Defense of Sola Scriptura” Kindle eBook: The Five Points of Scriptural Authority: A Defense of Sola Scriptura

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