Posted in Announcements, Books

Mac Deaver’s New Book Now Available from Biblical Notes Publications

photoPublished July 2013 in hardcover by Biblical Notes Publications, Except One Be Born From Above has 317 pages, including sixteen chapters and three appendices. Copies can be purchased for $14.00 plus $3.75 S&H ($17.75 total). Please send your order, with payment (personal checks accepted, made out to Mac Deaver) to:

Mac Deaver

P.O. Box 327

Sheffield, TX 79781

Perhaps the best way to introduce the book is to include excerpts from the preface (below). If some of the questions it raises pique your interest (and they should), then you might well enjoy this fascinating study. Having read several times through the manuscript prior to publication, I’ve found it simultaneously simple, challenging, faith-building, and significantly helpful in understanding and appreciating the crucial concept of “new birth” as taught by Jesus. In point of fact, the word “groundbreaking” comes to mind — not in the sense of its being new, but, rather, by way of its clearing aside a few baseless assumptions, making it possible to see better what the New Testament has been saying all along.

Back in 1864, J. W. McGarvey wrote, “I have for some years been convinced that the immersion in the Holy Spirit is not fully understood, and that it needs investigation and discussion de novo. The same may be said of the entire subject of the Holy Spirit and his work in human salvation.” The church has grappled with the topic a long time. Many of prominence have helped us down unhelpful paths that darkened understanding we might otherwise have had, if some unbiblical assumptions had not been drummed into our thinking. Please get the book, read it, understand what it is saying, and, if you are inclined, pass it on to others.   –Weylan Deaver

Excerpts from the Preface of Except One Be Born From Above

by Mac Deaver

Have you ever wondered why it is that some of us have claimed for years that there are certain “measures” of the Holy Spirit when, in fact, the Bible says that there are none? Have you ever heard anyone ever really conclusively prove that Holy Spirit baptism was an exclusively first century phenomenon? Why is it that the cases of kingdom entry in the book of Acts are usually all called cases of conversion, when in some of the cases, conversion does not take place on the same day that kingdom entry does? Why wasn’t Cornelius told to repent of his sins? How is it that he could be baptized in the Holy Spirit before he was baptized in water? And if his baptism in Spirit was to prove that it was time for the Gentiles to enter the kingdom, then why didn’t we conclude that when it was time for the Samaritans to enter the kingdom that their reception of the Holy Spirit was a baptism in the Spirit as well? And what do human hands have to do, if anything, with the reception of the Holy Spirit?

When did the apostles actually enter the kingdom? And when did they repent of their sins? Did they repent of their sins on the same day that they entered the kingdom? Why was Jesus baptized in water? …And why is it that most members of the church have assumed that in Matthew 28:18-20 (when Jesus was giving what we call the “great commission”) even though he was speaking to the apostles only, we somehow reached the conclusion that we are included, but in Acts 1:5 (in the same context) when he was promising Holy Spirit baptism as he was speaking to the apostles only, that we are somehow excluded? What is wrong with such analysis?

And just what was lacking anyway to prevent the kingdom from being established prior to Pentecost of Acts 2? How could Apollos be a member of the church and yet not know that the Holy Spirit had come? When did the apostle Paul receive Holy Spirit baptism? And why is it that for years and years many of us have simply assumed that Holy Spirit baptism is miraculous in its nature without ever seeing any conclusive proof (logical argument) that such is so? How is it that members of the churches of Christ, generally speaking, reached the conclusion that Holy Spirit baptism is not applicable today? …Is it possible that we have failed to recognize a key distinction between baptism in Spirit and power from Spirit while at the same time we elevated the use of apostolic “hands” in Scripture to a position or status that they never had?

And how does every case of kingdom entry in the book of Acts “square” with the words of Jesus in John 3:5? Have you carefully considered the historical transition that was taking place in the book of Acts which transition lasted for about thirty years and which was an exclusively first century phenomenon? And have you ever thought about the precision of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus and what he left out that we, on occasion, have assumed that he meant? Is there any justification in the same context for taking water to mean real water, and flesh to mean real flesh only to conclude that Spirit in the very same passage has to be something other than Spirit and cannot possibly be the Holy Spirit himself?

If you have ever been puzzled by some of the questions here posed, you may want to explore the contents of this book. In this volume, Except One Be Born From Above, such questions will be answered and greater clarity thrown on the book of Acts because of the angle from which it is and should be viewed. It is amazing how many passages we in the past have unintentionally distorted in order to make them harmonize with our incorrect view on Holy Spirit baptism. But once the correction is made, it is absolutely astonishing as to how many more passages can be left alone to simply convey the meaning originally intended.

This is not a book that calls in question the absolute necessity of water baptism, for water baptism has actually been conclusively proven by sound argument in public discussion to be essential to the forgiveness of a sinner’s past sins. I have debated this issue myself, and I am thoroughly convinced of the essentiality of water baptism in order for a sinner to become a saint. The revisiting of the water baptism topic can only reconfirm the truth that we have for years rightly upheld. Churches of Christ have historically advocated and defended the essentiality of water baptism (immersion) throughout our history in preaching, teaching, writing, and debating. However, we have failed to see the nature of Holy Spirit baptism and the full meaning of the one birth of water and Spirit.

It has taken us a while to see the conceptual connection between the various aspects of Holy Spirit doctrine. But from the study in which we have been for a long time engaged on the Holy Spirit, we see now more clearly than ever how passages on the Holy Spirit fit together so harmoniously. And we see the connection between the various cases of “conversion” that we read about in the book of Acts. We have in the past had to unintentionally “torture” certain texts to make them teach what they never said. We did not do this on purpose nor with malice. But because we had the wrong idea as to the nature and purpose of Holy Spirit baptism, we wound up “rewriting” Scripture.

When we get the doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism correct, we can then see clearly (1) the fact of the personal indwelling, (2) the fact of internal Spirit help, and (3) the complete rather than partial nature of the new birth, and even (4) a connection between the nature of the Christian and his prospects in the coming resurrection! So many wondrous truths come together when we reinvestigate the meaning of the Lord’s precious words to Nicodemus: “…Except one be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Except one be born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5).

If the reader can make a valiant effort to put aside preconceived notions and personal prejudices that may have been entrenched in his heart for years and years regarding the topic of Holy Spirit baptism, and if he will demand of me that the conclusions I present are supported by conclusive proof, he has my sincere appreciation. It took a while for others to get me to revisit the topic. I did not want to have to give serious attention to a topic that I was convinced had been long ago understood by most of our brethren. But I was so wrong in thinking that most of us had understood it and that I, therefore, did not need to give more attention to it. I can appreciate the reluctance that some now have in not giving the topic the attention that I am convinced that it certainly deserves.

We will never see the coherence between all the passages on the Holy Spirit that discuss his relationship to Christians unless and until we get our minds correctly settled on the topic of Holy Spirit baptism. It is that fundamental and crucial. Once we understand what Jesus really said in John 3 to Nicodemus, we can then understand the progression of the history in Acts and finally see how all of the cases of kingdom entry as recorded by Luke fit together without a single exception. There are no cases of exception to the requirements of kingdom entry in the book of Acts!

It is my hope that you have a most enjoyable “trip” through this book, and I desire that your intellectual and spiritual journey be most profitable. May God bless your efforts as you restudy this topic and think seriously about what Jesus meant when he said, “Except one be born anew (ASV footnote: from above), he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Mac Deaver

Sheffield, Texas

Posted in Announcements, Books

Upcoming Book by Mac Deaver

We’re very pleased to announce the forthcoming book by Mac Deaver, Except One Be Born From Above, published by Biblical Notes Publications in the summer of 2013. It will contain sixteen chapters and over three hundred pages of intriguing material on the new birth, centering around Jesus’ statements to Nicodemus in John 3. Realizing traditionally held views are not correct by virtue of having been long adopted, this book examines current belief and practice in light of what the inspired text actually does and does not say. Thoughtful readers may find themselves challenged with nearly every turn of the page. Thoughtful critics should find their hands full in trying to undermine or refute the book’s vigorous case. The interest here is not to win an argument, but to understand and defend the gospel, around which all Christians should be united. Stay tuned for more details. At the printer now, the book will, hopefully, be ready to ship to readers as early as July.

Posted in Apologetics, Books, Reviews

The End of Christianity (Book Review)

By Weylan Deaver

The End of Christianity, by William A. Dembski, was published in 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Dembski is Research Professor in Culture and Science at Southern Evangelical Seminary and a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. As both a philosopher and mathematician, he is on the front lines of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement among scientists. His list of credentials and accomplishments impresses. With postdoctoral work at MIT, University of Chicago, and Princeton, Dembski has written over a dozen books, appeared on ABC News Nightline, BBC, CNN, PBS, NPR, and Fox News, and been cited by The New York Times and Time Magazine. He was interviewed for the Ben Stein documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

The book’s subtitle is “Finding a Good God in an Evil World,” and it is a theodicy, attempting to demonstrate that God’s goodness is compatible with the existence of evil on earth, or, in other words, “to resolve how a good God and an evil world can coexist” (p. 4). Divided into five sections, it contains twenty-four chapters and 238 pages, including introduction and various indices.

More than mere theodicy, Dembski’s goal is to outline a specifically Christian theodicy that defends three particular claims: “God by wisdom created the world out of nothing…God exercises particular providence in the world…All evil in the world ultimately traces back to human sin” (p. 8).

The eye-catching title has nothing to do with Christianity’s demise, but, rather, its effect. “The end of Christianity, as envisioned in this book, is the radical realignment of our thinking so that we see God’s goodness in creation despite the distorting effects of sin in our hearts and evil in the world” (p. 11).

One might suspect an author trained in mathematics and philosophy should not be the most interesting to read, but Dembski is no dull writer. He excels at casting deep theological and philosophical truths in easy-to-understand, creative, and thought-provoking ways, perhaps even reminiscent of C. S. Lewis.

The initial four chapters treat the topic of evil, and Dembski offers many keen insights. In the face of critics who say Jesus could not fully identify with human suffering, Dembski defends the Cross as far more than the Lord taking a few hours of pain. “In particular, Christ on the Cross identifies with the whole of human suffering, and this includes the ignorance and uncertainty that intensify human suffering” (p. 20). “The extent to which we can love God depends on the extent to which God has demonstrated his love for us, and that depends on the extent of evil that God has had to absorb, suffer, and overcome on our behalf” (p. 23).

Humans are to blame for both the presence of personal sin (i.e. disobedience to God), and the existence of natural evil (e.g. floods, disease, animal suffering, etc.). Says Dembski, “We started a fire in consenting to evil. God permits this fire to rage. He grants this permission not so that he can be a big hero when he rescues us but so that we can rightly understand the human condition and thus come to our senses” (p. 26). Sin forced souls into a state of disorder, which, in turn, came to be reflected in nature (p. 28). The evil and disorder apparent in nature are designed to impress people with the magnitude of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Thus, “humanity must experience the full brunt of the evil that we have set in motion, and this requires that the creation itself fully manifest the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God” (p. 44). It is not that we serve a petty God who holds grudges, but, rather, that we must come to terms with the seriousness and consequences of human sin. “The problem isn’t that God can’t take it but that we can’t take it—in offending God, we ruin the image of God in ourselves and so lose our true self” (p. 45).

Chapters 5-9 deal with creationism from a young-earth and an old-earth perspective. “God gave humanity two primary sources of revelation about himself: the world that he created and the Scripture that he inspired. These are also known as general and special revelation, or sometimes as the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture…We study science to understand the first of these books, theology to understand the second” (p. 71). Further, “God is a God of truth. As the author of both books, he does not contradict himself” (p. 72).

Admitting that “Young-earth creationism was the dominant position of Christians from the Church Fathers through the Reformers” (p. 52), Dembski says he “would adopt it in a heartbeat except that nature seems to present such strong evidence against it” (p. 55). He sees a problem in that today astrophysics and geology posit an age of 13 billion years for the universe, 4.5 billion years for the earth. This model results in a world where animals predated humans by eons, and in which this animal planet was suffering the effects of natural evil. In other words, according to the current climate of accepted science, long before man arrived there were animals eating each other, dying slow deaths, suffering from parasites, drowning, falling in tar pits, etc. If humans are responsible for the existence of all evil on earth, then how could such evil exist before there were humans? The answer to that question is the gist of the book. More on that in a minute.

Young-earth creationists have no dilemma in which the need arises to account for evil before man, since everything was created in the span of six 24-hour days. But Dembski thinks this cannot—at least in the current scientific atmosphere—be made to harmonize with accepted facts of geology and astrophysics. “Christians, it seems, must therefore choose their poison. They can go with a young earth, thereby maintaining theological orthodoxy but committing scientific heresy; or they can go with an old earth, thereby committing theological heresy but maintaining scientific orthodoxy” (p. 77).

Taking young-earth creationists to task, Dembski accuses them of adopting a double standard, appealing to nature’s constancy when it helps their case, and denying nature’s constancy when it appears to hurt (p. 63). According to him, “Young-earth creationists, it would seem, hold to a recent creation not because of but in spite of the scientific evidence” (p. 70).

Chapters 10-15 are about divine creation and action. Writing on the creation week, he notes, “At the end of the six days of creation, God is exhausted—not fatigued, as we might be, but exhausted in the sense of having drawn out of himself everything needed for the creature to be what it was intended to be” (p. 99). However, Dembski does not take the days of Genesis 1 to be 24-hour days, which brings us to his unique solution.

Chapters 16-20 cover what he calls retroactive effects of the Fall. If, as Christians believe, the efficacy of Christ’s blood at the Cross could flow backward in time, as well as forward, then why not also the detrimental effects of original sin? Because God is not bound by chronological time, he could engineer the world to account for sin’s consequences, and allow those consequences to begin to play out long before Adam and Eve (who were the reason for sin’s consequences) appeared in the Garden of Eden. This intriguing suggestion would allow for an old earth, in which animals and natural evil existed long before humans. Evolution’s timetable could fit nicely, and even evolution itself since, as Dembski suggests, it is possible that part of sin’s result is that God had man evolve from lower forms, not because it was the original plan, but because evolution would itself be a form of evil brought on by man’s sin in the Garden, with God initiating evolution long before the Garden as a response to Adam’s sin (which was yet to be committed, chronologically speaking).

As he puts it, “in the theodicy I am proposing, our evolutionary past would itself be a consequence of sin (i.e., evolution would be a retroactive effect of the Fall)” (p. 162). Remember, Dembski is not saying we got here by evolution, but he is saying that, with his proposal, theistic evolution is welcome at the table, along with old-earth creationism (with young-earth creationism seemingly the odd-man-out).

It’s a bit of a mind-twister to think about this idea, somewhat akin to figuring out a time-travel plot in a science fiction movie. Writes Dembski, “God is under no compulsion merely to rewrite the future of the world from the moment of the Fall (as assumed by young-earth creationism). Rather, God can rewrite our story while it is being performed and even change the entire backdrop against which it is performed—that includes past, present, and future…In other words, the effects of the Fall can be retroactive” (p. 110). So, in a nutshell, natural evil is chronologically prior to man, but man is logically prior to natural evil.

This proposed solution harmonizes modern scientific belief about the age of the earth with the biblical account of the Fall, thus preserving the doctrine that all evil on earth traces back to man’s sin, which is the third plank in Dembski’s theodicy. And this, even though the beginning of evil on earth predates the arrival of man. “Young-earth creationism attempts to make natural history match up with the order of creation point for point. By contrast, divine anticipation—the ability of God to act upon events before they happen—suggests that natural history need not match up so precisely with the order of creation…” (p. 137).

But, if he is right, what about the creation account of Genesis 1? Dembski does not want to deny a literal interpretation of Genesis, nor does he want to suggest the day-age theory. He says, “Accordingly, the days of creation are neither exact 24-hour days nor epochs in natural history nor even a literary device. Rather, they are actual (literal!) episodes in the divine creative activity” (p. 142). But if the days are not days as we normally think of days, what are they? “They represent key divisions in the divine order of creation, with one episode building logically on its predecessor. As a consequence, their description as chronological days falls under the common scriptural practice of employing physical realities to illuminate spiritual truths (cf. John 3:12)” (ibid.).

The days of Genesis 1 are, thus, to be taken literally, but not as composed of either hours or eons of time. Rather, they describe chapters of activity by a God unconstrained by chronologic time. Chapter 16 is titled “Chronos and Kairos,” taken from two New Testament Greek words, and Dembski uses them to distinguish between two concepts of time. “The visible realm thus operates according to chronos, the simple passage of time. But the invisible realm, in which God resides, operates according to kairos, the ordering of reality according to divine purposes” (p. 126). Again, “Chronos is the time of physics, and physics has only been around as long as the cosmos. But kairos is God’s time, and God has been around forever” (ibid.). “Thus God responds to the Fall by acting not simply after it, as held by young-earth creationism, but also by acting before it” (ibid.).

So, the world we inhabit—affected as it is by sin—is greatly marred, for “God himself wills the disordering of creation, making it defective on purpose” (p. 145, emph. his). But why should the earth and animals suffer the effects of human sin? “The broad principle that justifies linking human sin and natural evil is humanity’s covenant headship in creation” (p. 147). Since man is creation’s apex, God holds man responsible for the results of his sin on himself, as well as the world. “God’s dealings with creation therefore parallel his dealings with humanity” (ibid.).

Refusing to question God’s justice in allowing nature to suffer for human sin, Dembski turns it around to suggest it would be unjust if God were to allow man to sin without its consequences coming down on nature. “Sin has ignited a raging fire in our hearts. God uses natural evil to fight fire with fire, setting a comparatively smaller fire (natural evil) to control a much larger fire (personal evil)” (p. 148).

The last part of the book, chapters 21-24, attempt to tie up “Loose Ends.” Dembski freely admits that “the present theodicy attempts to make peace between our understanding of Genesis and the current mental environment” (p. 170). The “mental environment” to which he refers is the current conception of a universe that began billions of years ago with a Big Bang.

It is important to note that Dembski himself is not an evolutionist. And, as stated, he is a leader in the field among those in academia subscribing to Intelligent Design. Nor does he deny the verbal inspiration of Scripture. We appreciate his effort to defend God, Christ, the Cross, and the Genesis account of the Fall, as well as the existence and nature of evil. And, to his credit, Dembski rejects process theology, which reduces God’s infinity in order to account for the existence of evil (making God himself an evolving, and in some ways helpless, being). Dembski believes in and defends the God of Scripture.

Thus, it is disappointing to see young-earth creationism endure a broadside (albeit a sympathetic broadside) from this proponent of Intelligent Design. Disappointment continues when Dembski writes, “Noah’s flood, though presented as a global event, is probably best understood as historically rooted in a local event (e.g., a catastrophic flood in the Middle East)” (p. 170).

Though this review, in the main, describes a thesis of Dembski’s with which we disagree, he does offer helpful insights and thought-provoking analyses, especially in Part I (“Dealing With Evil”) and Part III (“Divine Creation and Action”). Among many of note who praise the book, Douglas Groothuis, philosophy professor at Denver Seminary, writes, “Dembski’s ingenious approach to explaining natural evil (particularly animal pain and death before the fall) will not convince everyone, but all who read it will benefit from a mind crackling with intelligence, insight, and expertise.”

In the final analysis, we think Dembski goes too far in an effort to accommodate what parades under the rubric of modern science. His “kairological” interpretation of the Genesis creation account loads the text with more meaning than the language can bear (e.g. “the evening and the morning were the first day…the second day…the third day,” etc.), giving rise to this question: If God had wanted to convey the idea of his having created the earth in six 24-hour days, how might God have written that?

Further, Dembski’s proposed retroactive effects of the Fall (and even making room for the evolutionary timetable) does violence to the understanding of Bible believers across the centuries. Are we to think that truths as fundamental as the origin of man and earth were necessarily misunderstood by Christians until the advent of modern geology and astrophysics?

We’ll continue to occupy and defend our acre where evolutionary theory is untenable, unwelcome, and unable to be harmonized with Genesis. If it comes to a duel between science (or, what passes for science) and Scripture, we defer to the apostle Paul’s timeless principle, “let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). God is the God of true science, and of all knowledge. All truth (i.e. whatever accords with reality) harmonizes with all Scripture (since all Scripture is, itself, true).

But science does not know everything it says it knows. And it is difficult to read some of Paul’s statements without the hubris of modern science springing to mind: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:19-20). “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20).

 

Posted in Books, Reviews

Ascertaining

By John Henson

I don’t write recommendations for books, or do book reviews, but let me tell you a little about my favorite book.

Big things come in small packages, and this little book has been one I have treasured and loved almost as much as I do the Bible, for it helped clear many things concerning Bible authority since I first bought it in 1987. It has helped me understand that people need to understand what faith really is. And how people must “walk by faith,” for many really don’t know what that means or how to do it.

The book is Roy Deaver’s Ascertaining Bible Authority. I’ve highlighted in it, memorized much of it, and almost torn the book from its cover by use.

Why is it one of my favorites? Let me give you just part of the first chapter on page two: “Christians are obligated (and privileged) to ‘walk by faith’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). The standard by which the Christian is governed is the standard of faith. In Romans 10:17, Paul declares that ‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ Obviously, then, the Christian walks by that which comes by hearing the word of God. If faith comes by hearing the word of God, then where there is no word of God there can be no faith.”

Think about it. Whenever the Bible talks about anyone having faith, that faith must have come from hearing God’s word. Bro. Deaver said that since we know this to be true, then “it becomes imperative that we be concerned about Bible authority, and how to ascertain Bible authority.”

The religious world stands apart from this, and it is one of the things Satan would love to convince us is unimportant. Satan works unceasingly to deny that Bible authority matters. He works day and night to convince people that God’s word is not the standard of authority ― in fact he denies there is any standard whatever ― and he works to confuse people, telling them they needn’t have any concern about how to interpret and use God’s word.

And, this is why this is one of my favorite books. This book deals with all of Satan’s attacks on Bible authority. If an honest person reads his Bible and this little book, there is no doubt that person can come to an understanding of the truth and be saved from sin. ‘Nuff said.

 

[Note: For book ordering info, email wdeaver[at]gmail.com].