The Gospel Coalition Debunked [Part 1]
Why I Must Respectfully Disagree With My Anabaptist Friends — Rebutted
THIS STORY IS NOT INTENTIONALLY SEEKING TO SLANDER OR FALSELY ASSUME THEIR MOTIVES, but the intent is to rebut the deception that they are presenting despite malice intentions. I understand this platform comes from a kind of Reformed tradition, yet I would advise rejecting it in light of evidence and sapient logic. I have much to discuss over the content of this platform. So the blogger behind this post expresses much disagreement towards the Anabaptists’ approach towards the Bible (i.e. the whole Scriptures).
The First Rebuttal — Biblicism versus Mysticism
The blogger writes: Bruxy Cavey, the most well known spokesperson for the Anabaptist cause in Canada likes to say: “We believe in the authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word of God — and his name is Jesus.”
Bruxy himself explains the difference by saying: “Many Protestant Christians say things like “We follow the Bible”, or will talk about the “authority of the Bible”, or say that Scripture is “inerrant”. As a Radical Christian, these are things I would tend to say about Jesus first and foremost. I follow Jesus. Jesus holds all authority.”
The composer of this blog first accuses an Anabaptist’s statement about following Jesus but not the Bible. I honestly see no issue with this separation of two distinct entities. The blogger writes, “It’s not so much that I disagree with Cavey here as that I find his argument incomprehensible. I don’t understand why he separates and goes so far even as to rank the authority of Jesus relative to and distinct from the authority of Scripture.” The main reason for this distinction is because the Old Testament narratives of God and morality do not compare to the moral superiority of Christ Jesus, and there is no logical way to harmonize the moral errors of the Jewish scriptures and the teachings of Christ lest God be totally inconsistent and seem two-faced. Such moral “abrogations” that have a large gap with Christ’s nature would only prove that morality is totally subjective, and that God’s moral nature changes. Therefore, God’s moral nature is not consistent, nor is it immutable in the fundamentalist’s outlook.
The blogger writes: To be clear I understand that Jesus and the Bible are not the same thing, but it seems equally clear to me that while distinct they are not separable in the way that Cavey presents them as being. The very fact that the Scriptures speak of Jesus as “the Word of God” suggests that our understanding of the incarnated Christ can never be detached from the anticipations and explications of the Bible.
He understands the apparent distinctions, which is a good sign of his mental state since there are some fundamentalists that cannot discern God’s ontology from the Bible due to their misunderstanding of John 1:1. However, he asserts that Jesus cannot be understood apart from the scriptures, which is a blatant assumption of falsity. The moral nature of God can be understood through beneficial and self-attested personal experiences of God. Through these sacred experiences, one can attain a wisdom for ethics that surpasses those who simply read the letter as fundamentalists. Even the apostle Paul makes this truth clear in his epistle to the Thessalonians, saying to them, “But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another” (4:9). God is able to make His ethics known through nature, conscience, philosophy, and spiritual experience. And personally, I have seen God reveal better ethics to me through experiential revelations, and sometimes, He exposes my blind-spots or my moral inconsistencies. There are historical and patristic writings apart from the Bible that can teach us that Christ was crucified, and such writings also confirm that Jesus appeared in the clouds at 70 AD.
The blogger writes: To say: “I follow Jesus not the Bible” is to say other than the Scriptures themselves. It is to say other than the vast majority of Christians across the ages. The historic, orthodox and Scriptural statement would be to say: “I follow the Jesus of the Bible”.
As soon as we begin to speak of a Jesus distinct from the pages of Holy Scripture we enter the realm of Christian mysticism. Which Jesus are we talking about here? The Jesus of your imagination? The Jesus of your dream last night? The Jesus of popular culture? I don’t trust myself with the task of defining and delineating Jesus. I’m quite sure that I would remake him into an exaggerated and sanctified version of myself. I’m certain I would shave off certain traits or characteristics that annoy and antagonize my friends. I know I would make him accepting of my secret sins and struggles.
The personal assertion of following the “Jesus of the Bible” is very different from the saying “Yahweh of the Bible” because the Yahweh of the Hebrew Bible often contradicts the character of Jesus. We know this because Christ morally humiliates the stoning of others, rebukes James and John for desiring a retributive fire, and He teaches the Beatitudes that aren’t morally compatible with the commandments of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible. “But He was calling us to a higher standard.” There can only be one true moral standard, not two or several ethical models. If this quoted statement is the case, why did God not endorse this kind of standard since the beginning? There is no moral justification for polygamy, stoning children, or even patriarchy under a freshly and “divinely” made society. The society of the Hebrews were obviously not divinely inspired in totality, but it had to contain some human presuppositions and customs. The blogger claims that early Christians adhere to his view of the Scriptures, which is often an assumption from the Reformed crowd, especially among fundamentalists (i.e. Christianity without ecclesiastical context).
There is nothing wrong with the realm of Christian mysticism when the Apostles and Church Fathers were proponents of such a system. Divine inspiration according to the Church Fathers were not exclusive to the apostolic scriptures, but inclusive to all sorts of content, whether secular or ecclesiastical. This view of inspiration explains why Paul quotes from Greek Poets in order to disclose a theological truth. Inspiration varies in degree but nevertheless, it is accessible since all humans are made in the likeness of God. The Church Fathers didn’t adhere to fundamentalism, which is a stream of fideism.
Also, this blogger is insulting the potentials for Jesus in disclosing His nature through dreams, visions, or audible experiences. If a vision of Christ or even a spontaneous imagination of Himself teaches you a better philosophy of ethics, or exposes your egoism as being wrong, then why would such an experience be fallacious or some hallucination? Falsehoods of the mind and illusions of the eyes cannot teach you better ethical systems, nor can they accurately predict the future. I have never had an experience of Jesus where He tells me being selfish or self-serving for no reason is somehow moral. He doesn’t trust his definition of Jesus, but he trusts his interpretation of the Bible. A subtle contradiction perhaps. If you can’t trust your reason and conscience, then why do you trust and insist your interpretation of the Bible on yourself and others? How do you know you’re not creating a god of your image? My experiences with God have never taught the tolerance of my secret sins, but rather the opposite is true. He has warned and even corrected these issues of mine; oftentimes, He will bring a certain problem to my attention. If I ever did have resentment in my heart, I only justified it by the perverse doctrine of eternal torment, which was not an experience of God but a flawed translation of the Bible. Because despite Jesus’ teaching of forgiveness, it is fundamentally flawed if GOD does the exact opposite. If God commands me to forgive my enemies, He must also do so since He is my moral example. If not, don’t expect your son to take your words seriously if you can’t lead by example. Oftentimes, the Bible (even the modern versions) cannot be supreme sources for ethics or logical consistency. It is simply irrational to disregard our God-given senses for a book that is prone to have some errors and even translation errors.
Second Rebuttal — Atonement Doctrine & Church Foundation
The blogger states: The Bible says that the church is built: on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20 ESV). I agree wholeheartedly with Bruxy Cavey and all my Anabaptist friends that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the church.
This blogger confuses the foundation of the apostles and prophets as the whole canon of scripture, which is fundamentally flawed since there were no letters or even NT scriptures during the first five or ten years of the Church. Instead, there was a church creed, council(s), and even personal revelations from believers (Ephesians 1:17; 2nd Corinthians 13:14). And how does he know that Paul is mentioning the Prophets of the Old Testament? The Jewish prophets have no practical association with the building up of the Church. There were also New Testament prophets among the Early Church according to the book of Acts, the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, and even Ephesians 4:11. The prophets of the New Testament were practically involved with the Early Church, ministering to them along with the teachers (Acts 13:1). And based on the order that Paul wrote, he would have placed the Jewish prophets first due to chronological reasons. But if Paul really meant the Jewish prophets, more likely he would have gave a different description like instead of naming the offices, he would have spoken of the Law and the Prophets as their foundation. But this is not the case in his epistle.
If the doctrine of Scripture represents my most foundational disagreement with the Anabaptist position, the doctrine of the atonement represents the most urgent and immediate. To refute Boyd’s contention that God is completely non-violent a multitude of passages could be consulted. Prominent among them would be passages such as Genesis 38:7: But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD put him to death (Genesis 38:7 ESV).
The irony is that there is no fundamental support for PSA theory in the apostolic scriptures, nor the Jewish scriptures. There is actually more support for atonement theories like Christus Victor, Ransom Atonement, or the Moral Influence Theory. But Penal Substitution is nowhere present and not even supported by the cohesive whole of the scriptures. I know for sure that many will use subtle implications and bad translations of the Bible to affirm it. This blogger also suggests that God is violent due to his misunderstanding of Genesis 38:7. First of all, this verse is based on an exaggeration. 1st Chronicles 10:4 says that Saul committed suicide from his battle with the Philistines, but verse 14 claims that God put him to death, which in reality, would be a lie. There was no divine intervention which caused Saul to kill himself, but human suggestion. Most likely, Er fell into trouble due to his reckless lifestyle, and the biblical authors wrongly attributed his death to the Lord. Or else should we just blame God for many suicides from today and beforehand? This is why philosophy of wisdom is of great importance rather than fideism. By the way, the Early Church didn’t believe God had any violent nature since Mathetes wrote, “By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us; for He will send Him in judgment, and who shall endure His presence” (Mathetes Letter: Chapter 7). Mathetes doesn’t harmonize vengeance with judgement, because judgement has a different purpose from vengeance. There are two kinds of judgment: one form of it seeks detriment in the person while the other seeks redemption or correction. If Mathetes perceived the two as synonymous, then he wouldn’t have said “for violence [or compulsion] has no place in the character of God”. As for the judgement in the end of this quote, he mentions the coming of Jesus for their lifetime. Christ comes to expose the end of the Jewish covenant and the futility of their ways, but not to personally destroy them since the Romans fulfilled this. They chose the route of destruction, not God. Christ judged them by exposing them to the truth which is His celestial appearance, and the cessation of their religion. This represented that God would no longer use their system, because of its mixture, futility, and replacement by the new system. The cessation of the Jewish system symbolizes “our old man being crucified” and the Christian system represents “us becoming a new creation in Christ” (Romans 6:6; 2nd Corinthians 5:17).
That the violent death of Jesus on the cross was in fact God’s idea also seems hard to deny. Isaiah the prophet says: “it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV). Peter in his sermon on Pentecost says that Jesus was: “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23 ESV).
This argument is based on a manuscript error devised by the Jewish Rabbis so as to counter Early Christianity since none of the Church believed that God crushed Jesus. The LXX version of the Old Testament, which the Early Church only endorsed and quoted from, says the following: “The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed: the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to shew him light, and to form him with understanding; to justify the just one who serves many well; and he shall bear their sins” (Isaiah 53:10, 11). Obviously, we as the human race killed Jesus because of our transgressions while God healed Him from our works. Though, God knew our perverse nature, He sent Christ to reveal His constant forgiveness towards our depraved conditions (not total depravity). Christ reveals that the Father is continually forgiving despite our moral conditions, and that He sympathizes for the human race. The blogger tries to claim that God desired violence in the Cross, but He didn’t desire us to be violent or hostile in the first place. This is something that is out of His control since He doesn’t impose His will on others as Mathetes just stated. The LXX of Exodus says, “The Lord brings wars to nothing, the Lord is His name” (15:3). We also have the prophet Elisha end a war without the use of violence, which proves that an all-loving and powerful deity would try any better alternative if the human agent is consented to it (2nd Kings 6:1–23). It was God’s will to use our violence and brokenness, in order to show us that He can overcome moments of pain and sorrow by producing a positive outcome from it. This doesn’t mean that this was His preferred will, yet He used whatever was present and available on earth. But to say that God was pleased to crush Jesus sounds like a depraved sadistic being. Justice seeks the corrective reformation of the wrongdoer, but vengeance seeks the gratification of the tormentor. Either God is a just reformer, or a sadistic maniac.
The blogger writes: ‘For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed — strange is his deed! and to work his work — alien is his work!’ (Isaiah 28:21 ESV). The Old Testament prophets — as also the New Testament apostles — understood that God’s essential character is love. Nevertheless, the nature of his love demands strange and even alien acts of judgment. Leon Morris is helpful again here. He says: ‘God loves the right and therefore he is in vigorous opposition to every evil. But because God loves he provides the way whereby his beloved are delivered from the wrath that would otherwise engulf them.’ 
These statements of God’s love demanding strange and alien acts of judgement seems presumptuous and ignorant. Is a child being raped or eaten by his own parents an act of just love from God! Maybe being taken captive by the Romans or Babylonians so as to be cruelly killed is an act of loving justice from God! Of course not! The prophets wept for the people of Israel because they knew these things didn’t really come from God. Where is Ezekiel who says: “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel!” (Ezekiel 33:11). God wished to save them from their misfortunes and detriment before it worsened more. It’s like a doctor or surgeon prescribing one’s conditions and seeking to aid them, but instead, they abuse their bodies more until their eventual death. If God doesn’t desire the death of the wicked, why would He desire their misfortunes and abuse as a sign of His justice. His justice is corrective and redemptive, but not vengeful or abusive. God’s justice wasn’t imposed in these cases, but the counterfeit justice of humans and the devil. Yes, it is true that God allows the devil to destroy us so as to help us realize the truth, but He does not impose such misfortunes (1st Corinthians 5:5; Wisdom 12:27). His fires are corrective and redemptive only. God doesn’t want us to sin because such things wound the world and our souls, but not because He is so vengeful that He wishes our destruction as swiftly as possible. Violence is still not the preferred will of God, but when there is a last resort, such detrimental violence is never imposed by God. In a similar fashion, the Cross should be seen as a therapeutic work for humans rather than as a work of harsh divine condemnation on Jesus. As for the wonders of His work, this doesn’t pertain to His own nature of justice, but simply it is His method of reforming a wrongdoer, which is His passivity towards chaos and destruction overtaking him. But these works should not be mysterious to us since according to Paul and Wisdom, we have the mind of Christ to fathom the sacred secrets (Wisdom 9:16, 17; 1st Corinthians 2:13–16). But to use the appeal of ignorance and fideism, leads to the irrational justification of evil and nonsense based on the name of God.
The blogger states [ignorantly and fallaciously]: John the Baptist referred to him as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV); a clear reference to the Old Testament sacrificial system. The Apostle Paul referred to him as “our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV); an obvious reference to the story of the Exodus. The Apostle John referred to him as “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2 ESV); the word propitiation speaks to the means by which wrath is averted. In 2nd Corinthians Paul speaks of Jesus as our substitute saying: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
I don’t hope to argue too much about the atonement on this story, but want to add some thoughts against his view. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is an act of purgation for our minds, not appeasement to the Father. This is not how the early Jews understood the function of sin offerings, and ironically, if they didn’t have an animal to shed blood, they used flour instead (Leviticus 5:11–13). If God really needed blood to forgive, then this exception wouldn’t have existed. This only proves God doesn’t need blood as an exclusive way to forgive. But this wasn’t for forgiveness, instead it was for ritual and mental purification. The animal sacrifices were a reminder of the detriment of sin, but definitely not a means in erasing a record of sin. These offerings symbolize sin killing the innocent, because the Lamb represents innocence and death represents injustice overtaking them. According to Exodus, God forgave the people of Israel based on Moses’ entreaty rather than by sacrifice (Exodus 32:14). In the original Greek, John says that Christ was the mercy-seat of our sins, instead of propitiation. The “mercy-seat” on the Cross was to serve as a revelation to us that God is forgiving by nature, so that we shouldn’t condemn ourselves under shame imposed by our conscience and the devil. It was Judas who killed himself under the power of shame and the Devil’s lie, because he didn’t know the love of God despite his presence with Jesus.
As for the verse in 2nd Corinthians, this is not accurate in translation. How can Christ ontologically become sin if He is God? This is utter nonsense. Why do we take “He who knew no sin” rhetorically, but not “He became sin”? It best reads as follows: “He made Himself know no sin for our sins, so that we may become the righteousness of God”. Or we could say: “He who knew no sin made Himself a sin-offering…,” but He wasn’t a literal sin offering yet acted in like manner to express the function of a sin offering. The function was to purge away sin instead of erasing a debt so as to forgive someone. Christ made Himself know no sin, which means He overlooked our sins on the Cross, not because He paid a debt but due to His forgiving nature. He overlooked our sins in a figurative sense (since we didn’t literally kill Him physically), in order to purify our minds from sin and redeem us back to righteousness (Titus 2:11–14; 2nd Corinthians 5:14–15). This is because, you cannot do good to others without forgiveness. In 2nd Corinthians, Paul starts by saying “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” which implies that he is referring to the transformation of the heart instead of notions like appeasing the Father, or being justified in the sight of God. Then he says, “God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, [and] not counting their sins against them…,” which states that God sought to persuade humanity back to Himself instead of Jesus coming to change the Father’s mind. The Father wasn’t hostile towards humanity, but humanity was hostile and disinterested towards God (Colossians 1:21). So far, there is no divine barrier between God and humanity, which implies a one-sided reconciliation similar to the Prodigal’s Son. If there is no concept of justification in the sight of God, then the last verse cannot convey that meaning at all. If Paul is referring to the change of heart, and the forgiving nature of God, then it is wise to suggest that Paul is describing Christ’s extreme forgiveness of sins, so that we might have a change of character from His moral exemplar. “He made Himself know no sin for our sins,” based on the verse conveying God’s forgiveness and desire to reconcile us; while adding, “so that we might become the righteousness of God,” based on the verse where Paul mentions being a new creation in Christ. The language of substitution is nowhere present in this biblical text; in fact, verses prior imply the language of participation: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised” (verse 14–15). And this participation requires the user to know the love of Christ to be changed in heart, and such a thing is progressive since not all have yet been refined in heart. All shall be saved eventually through His extreme love for us. I become the righteousness of God, because the love of Christ causes the change of my heart. Mathetes summarizes Christ’s atonement, “As a Savior He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us.”
Third Rebuttal — Pacifism
The blogger states: However to avoid any one of those other necessary ways because they conflict with an a priori commitment to pacifism seems almost an act of idolatry. God is who he says that he is and he is as he has revealed himself to be through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is to that revelation that every other concept and commitment must bow. No a priori commitment — even one so admirable as Anabaptist pacifism — must be allowed to edit, obscure, or undermine the self revelation of God in the Christ of Holy Scripture.
Oh my, I wonder why they uphold pacifism as a higher virtue! Maybe it’s because they derived that virtue from Jesus’ own words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). This blogger seems oblivious to this reason, and to call their pacifism an act of idolatry would be morally incorrect. Is Jesus an idolater who thinks He knows better than the God of the Old Testament? The God of the Old Testament expressed no virtue that seemed self-sacrificial to what Jesus presents on the Cross, but rather their concept of God seemed more interested in being served by ritual sacrifice in some cases. But Christ, not entitled to our sacrifice, was self-sacrificial to humanity. The Cross makes no revelation of a violent god seeking to appeased, but it makes the revelation of a merciful and forgiving God placed before the worst states of our mind. If Penal Substitution is true, then this god that they revere cannot be exclusively unique from other pagan deities, yet they cling to the claim of justice. Except Ezekiel utters “a son shall not die for the sins of his father,” so how much more it is unjust to kill an innocent person like Christ for another’s sins? Blaming another person for another’s sins is inherently evil and deceptive; this is the opposite of justice. If God seeks the death and destruction of others, then such a being is no different from the Satan. Mercy and justice must coexist without contradiction, or else one of these qualities are sinful. Love cannot contradict itself, but sin contradicts its enemy. There is no way to distinguish retributive justice apart from vengeance, but they can only justify it under the name of God. But for us, we can distinguish justice apart from vengeance, because of the corrective method and remedial intent behind it. If they insist on using the name of God for such an irrational justification, then God’s moral nature would be merely arbitrary; neither immutable, nor objective.
Finally, I affirm this remarkable ethical stance that the Anabaptists place, because they follow the virtue of Christ. If we continue justifying the ways of war and violence, we’ll never seek a better way to reconcile the problems in this world. Will we learn to walk like Elisha (a type of Christ), or will we continue like other warriors and prophets demanding war? If we believe God is all-loving and all-powerful, why can’t we believe that He would create an outcome where war is impossible? And if He can, what stops Him? Us. Since God doesn’t compel anyone to do anything, He seeks partnership with humans, so that we can fulfill the will of God freely as intended. Christ shows us a better way, not their image of Yahweh fabricated by the Jews. Basing our ethics on this higher standard in Christ is beneficial for us, because it progresses our moral state rather than keep us stagnant and imperfect.
Here are some websites that give a different outlook of the Cross:
*I don’t claim to hold all their views based on the content they composed, but they make interesting points about the Cross.
Beyond "Without the Shedding of Blood ..." Brad Jersak
Beyond "Without the Shedding of Blood ..." I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying Christian theology in the budding era…
10 reasons Hebrews 9:22 does not teach the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins
Hebrews 9:22 provides the main reason Christians believe that if Jesus had not shed His blood for us, we could never…
The Seat of Mercy and the End of the Legal View - Glory to God for All Things
Among the more problematic words in the New Testament is the Greek hilasterion. It is translated as "propitiation" in…