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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eternity and Its Pitfalls!

"God has revealed the true righteousness of his purposes in the just and merciful gospel of his Son."

Such are the closing words of the second of two related articles on Unbelief and Doubts by Rev Michael Jensen in the June 2011 and November 2011 issues of Eternity - a magazine distributed to churches from Sydney.

Taken on its own it all sounds good doesn't it? However, if you had read the content of both articles carefully you ought to have noted the sowing of seeds of tares along with seeds of wheat by Rev Jensen.

In the earlier of the two articles (Unbelief) Rev Jensen recalls a time in theological seminary when a lecturer asked students to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 6 as to doubts of faith - a 6 indicating a considerable degree of doubt. Rev Jensen felt the only number he could circle with integrity was 6 and he did so. It is evident from the article that he still has doubts today and seems to take comfort in declaring "... there are many Christian leaders wrestling with doubt. " From this position he offers advice to (and appears to affirm) doubters, commencing with the assertion that "the Bible itself speaks from within the experience of doubt." I refute this assertion. There is a gulf between faith and doubt and there are degrees of perception in faith (Heb. 11:1,39). The authors of the books of the Bible had faith in God while not necessarily knowing all the mind of God. Psalmists expressing concern at a circumstance they experienced were not doubting God - for they appealed to God - but, instead, were expressing frustration at not knowing the mind of God in their situation and/or sought delivery from circumstance. The man Job was similarly placed.

Lack of faith is always associated with elevating worldly reason above what God has said (His Word). Those commended for their faith (Heb. 11) are commended for putting worldly reason in submission to the Word of God. They may not have perceived with their eyes (or their mind's eye) fully what God was going to do but they trusted God and will be rewarded with perfection.

Having manufactured a case for doubt from an errant premise Rev Jensen goes on to again disseminate his dangerous view in the November issue of Eternity. After introducing a spurious example of failed doomsday 'prophet' Harold Camping - who obviously doesn't trust the Word of God - Rev Jensen asserts an affinity with Camping and many Christians (obviously including Jensen himself). He alleges a widespread "disappointment and frustration with the uncertainty that necessarily accompanies faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Basically, we just want more certainty than we have been given. And yet, we cannot, we do not, have a knowledge of everything we would wish to know about. This leaves us - well, where does this leave us? Feeling insecure perhaps - or at least, with an insecurity that we seek to, fill with certainties. We would like to know because a little extra knowledge would surely anchor our faith more securely against the winds of doubt that come blowing through from time to time."

This is serious stuff! Moving in the circle of doubters and faithless as he apparently does Rev Jensen attempts to paint the majority of Christians as like-minded and moves on to, in some way, justify lack of faith whereas the Bible says otherwise.

I know, I know, some will accuse me of taking Rev Jensen out of context for, they will say, he goes on to say there is such a thing as "right doubting" (?) and he exhorts Christians to trust, ultimately, in the gospel revealed in Jesus Christ. However, it is the other things he says that dangerously affirm doubting the Word of God and this ought to ring alarm bells for others as it does me.

When he makes statements in the article like "We cannot explain history. In fact, to attempt to do so is a kind of blasphemy. If we could explain God in this way, or know his mind, he would not be truly God." Rev Jensen goes too far, particularly in respect to his discouragement of attempting to know the mind of God. The Apostle Paul encourages knowing the mind of God (Col. 1:9-10) and (Rom. 12:1-2).

Looking beyond Rev Jensen's rounding-off of his articles on Unbelief and Doubts with words of encouragement to persevere I fear what is really going is that Rev Jensen is attempting to justify his trust in worldly reason at the expense of trust in the Word of God. How could you not say that a man is struggling with trust in the Word of God when earlier this year on his blogspot an inquirer asked whether from the mention of Noah in the genealogy contained in Genesis 5 we can conclude that Noah was a real person, Rev Jensen replied with words to the effect of "not necessarily"?

Sadly, Rev Jensen is taking many people down a perilous path to unbelief. For his sake and the sake of others I encourage him to take heed of the words of Bishop J. C. Ryle more than a century ago in his work "Practical Religion" where he says on page 114 " ... the Bible no doubt contains hard things, or else it would not be the book of God. It contains things hard to comprehend, but only hard because we have not grasp of mind to comprehend them. It contains things above our reasoning powers, but nothing that might not be explained if the eyes of our understanding were not feeble and dim. But is not an acknowledgment of our own ignorance the very corner-stone and foundation of all knowledge? Must not many things be taken for granted in the beginning of every science, before we can proceed one step towards acquaintance with it? Do we not require our children to learn many things of which they cannot see the meaning at first? And ought we not then to expect to find 'deep things' when we begin studying the Word of God, and yet to believe that if we persevere in reading it the meaning of many of them will one day be made clear? No doubt we ought so to expect, and so to believe. We must read with humility. We must take much on trust. We must believe that what we know not now, we shall know hereafter, - some part in this world, and all in the world to come."

Eternity magazine, reaching into many churches as it does, has a responsibility to consider carefully what it puts into church buildings. The consequences are eternal when the subjects of doubt and unbelief in the Word of God are left so open-ended and inadequately handled as Rev Jensen leaves them.

Sam Drucker


Farel said...

The Jensen boy is only leading people down the same road he traveled to 'Doubting Castle'. (Re-read Bunyan's progress)

Consider, Luke.6:39 and he spoke a parable to them: "can the blind lead the blind? will they not both fall into the ditch?
40 "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. NKJV

The Jenson boy was early exposed to silly critical attacks and tiresome allegations of uncertainty regarding the integrity of the inscripturated Word. This undermined his assurance of the certainty of the Word of Truth. He then went on to drink deeply at the polluted fountains of unbelief at Oxford. The influences on him there were entirely evil and he succumbed to the temptation of informed and educated infidelity. The ruin of his soul's interest occurred because (as it does with many young men ignorant of the power of evil)if you lay down with dogs you will get fleas and God will not be mocked by disobedience; so,

1Co 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
Ga 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Being lifted up with pride, he has fallen into the snare of the devil,

"When first the college rolls receive his name,
The young enthusiast quits his ease for fame;
Resistless burns the fever of renown,
Caught from the strong contagion of the gown:"
S. Johnson The Vanity of Human Wishes

In summary,
Doubt is unbelief,
unbelief is wicked, it is sin. It begins with "Yea hath God said,,?" and ends with "I am tormented in this flame"

Farel said...

The citation form J.C. Ryle is excellent,
But,, The tragic lesson of Herbert Edward Ryle, son of J.C. Ryle, is again demonstrated in Michael Jenson.
See I.H.Murray's comment in interview
And, bear in mind, Iain, to some extent, is understating the case in kindness. The story of H.E. Ryle is tragic. so is the story of Michael Jenson (so far).

sam drucker said...

Farel, you said:

"The tragic lesson of Herbert Edward Ryle, son of J.C. Ryle, is again demonstrated in Michael Jenson."

Yes, but will the Archbishop act?

I checked the link. Thanks. I had the privilege of speaking to Iain Murray a few years ago and he reminded me of the incident involving the withdrawal of Holy Orders from Herbert Ryle.

When I read the first Eternity article I felt the want to write something but then thought ... No, I'll wait for the opportunity to speak privately to Michael. It didn't come but the November article did so I had to write a post.

I can't help thinking that Michael is revealing a struggle going on within his heart concerning faith. The present phase seems to be getting his doubts out before people and if no substantial criticism occurs he will feel somewhat justified. This, of course, doesn't solve the real problem and will likely prevent him from tackling the problem.

I also wonder if this is a case of a boy growing up in a Christian home, a prominent Christian home, and all the experience and expectation being that he would or ought to be a Christian. Certainly, the dress of Christianity will take a person through youth group and church and then the big question ... shall I follow in my father's and my uncle's footsteps? On he goes and his studies both secular and theological are a help only to becoming an academic and not of the making of an Owen, a Bunyan, a Baxter, a J.C. Ryle, a Martyn Lloyd-Jones or a 'garden variety' faithful Pastor.

I hope there are many in the Diocese of Sydney able to cut through the reverence gloss and see the disconnect from faith being put to ink by Michael. Damage is being done!

Sam Drucker