Tuesday, June 27, 2017

“A New Apostle!”—R.C. Sproul

In a message board in which I occasionally post, my attention was drawn to a podcast in the “Renewing Your Mind” series on the Ligonier website called “A New Apostle” seen above, in which RC Sproul tries to argue that there cannot be any true Apostles today in the biblical sense, because no one today meets the criteria. But the argument he brings in support of that is a hypocritical one. At first he says that there are three criteria that need to be met before one can legitimately claim to be an Apostle, which he says none of the modern “claimants” to that office now possess. Then he proceeds to admit that Paul was a true Apostle who also did not fulfill that criteria—which invalidates the earlier claim. Then he continues with his original claim which he has just invalidated as if nothing had happened. LOL! He is kidding, right? That simply exposes the hypocrisy and dishonesty of his argument. If his argument is valid, then Paul was not a true Apostle either. If, however, Paul was a true Apostle, then his argument against modern Apostles by the same token becomes invalid. He is exercising sleight of hand. He knows that the story of Paul would invalidate his argument, so he tries to pre-empt that by telling us about it ahead of time in the hope of forestalling that objection before it is made! He thinks that people are stupid and can’t see though that. Well, Evangelicals and Calvinists may be, but nobody else is.

Now that does not mean that there may not be many false claims to the apostolic office today. That may very well be the case. But just because there are false Apostles today, it does not follow that there cannot be true ones; just as the existence of false prophets today does not mean that there cannot be true ones. But his argument that there cannot be true Apostles today is invalidated by his own logic, which makes it both hypocritical and dishonest. As an aside, he may have also overlooked the following verses:

Ephesians 4:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

In these verses the office of Apostle is listed along side the other offices as required for the ministry of the Church. You can’t argue that the office of Apostle was abolished, but the rest of them remained. That would be an arbitrary assumption without any scriptural validation. Why pick on the offices of Apostle and prophet, but not on the offices of evangelist, pastor, or teacher? Either all of them were done away, or none of them were done away. The scripture says that all of them are required “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. You can’t arbitrarily pick the ones you like, and leave out the ones you don’t. And notice that they are listed in the order of importance. The most important offices come first, and the less important ones come last. You can’t cut out the most important offices, and leave the less important ones remaining. You either cut out all of them, or keep all of them—unless, of course, you have lost the most important ones, and have no way of getting them back!

Actually, they have lost all of the offices, and have no way of getting them back. The reason why they have kept the lesser officers (in name) is because they are easy to fake; but the offices of Apostle and prophet are not so easy to fake; so the solution is to deny them altogether. The truth of course is that all of the ecclesiastical officers mentioned in Ephesians 4:11–13 require divine appointment and authorization. The original ones were called and ordained, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, by the original Apostles, who had the legitimate authority from God (see 1 Tim. 4:14). Where there are no genuine Apostles, there cannot be genuine evangelists, pastors, or teachers either, because there is no one with proper authority to appoint and ordain them. The authority was lost when the original church apostatized, which authority has now been restored in the LDS Church.

Also, the Apostle Paul was almost certainly called to succeed James, who was put to death by Herod. There is no historical data that suggests that the latter came before the former, contrary to RC Sproul’s claim.

That podcast, by the way, is an abridged and jumbled up version of an earlier talk he gave, the full version of which be found here.


After I had posted the above message, it was brought to my attention that in his original lecture RC Sproul had not attempted to “pre-empt” the challenge of Paul’s conversion; but that his original lecture had been poorly edited for the purpose of the “Renewing Your Mind” podcast that made it look like that! Therefore my accusation of dishonesty on his part was unjustified. After listening carefully to his original lecture, I came to the conclusion that that was a valid observation. That is not how it had been in his original lecture. Those who had edited it for the podcast had done him a disservice by making it look like that. The bits that were edited out occur in the following passage, with the cut-out bits highlighted:

“There is a reason why three times in the book of Acts Paul’s call to be an Apostle is recited as we will look at when that occurs in the text, when Christ himself directly and immediately calls Paul to be an Apostle. But even then—you see, that is why people say today, ‘Hey, Paul got to be an Apostle without being part of the entourage of Jesus during his earthly ministry; Paul got to be an Apostle without being an eyewitness of the resurrection; why can’t I? Why can’t Benny Hinn be an Apostle?’ People claim all the time that they have the credentials of an Apostle today because God called them, or God spoke to them; and God said, ‘You can be my Apostle to this generation.’ But even when Paul did not have the first two of the criteria, he was instructed to go back to the Jerusalem to be confirmed in that office by those about whom there was no doubt of the fullness of their credentials. You see, I can say I have a call to be an Apostle today; but there is nobody left to confirm me. That is why the early church by the end of the first century, the sub-apostolic fathers clearly understood the difference between their authority in the church, and the authority of the original Apostles; because after the last Apostle died there were still teachers, there were ministers, there were preachers, there were evangelists, but no more Apostles.”

So I take back the accusation of dishonesty. That was not his original intent. The cut-out bits distort what he had originally said. Those who had edited his lecture for the purpose of the podcast had done him a disservice. They had made him look more dishonest than he is! But the rest of the criticisms that I had made of his main argument, that there cannot be any true Apostles today because no one can fulfill the necessary requirements, are still valid. Just as Paul was able to fulfill the requirements, so can people today, when they are properly called and appointed by Jesus Christ as Paul had been.

But to briefly comment on the above passage, however, it is not correct to say that Paul had not fulfilled the second criterion for being an Apostle by not being an “eyewitness” of Christ’s resurrection. He was an eyewitness, although not at the same time as the original Apostles; but he was still an eyewitness, because Jesus appeared to him more than once after his resurrection. The “timing” is not important. Anyone who has the experience of Jesus appearing to him after his resurrection, is an eyewitness of his resurrection, it makes no difference when that happens. If Jesus appeared to me tomorrow, I can claim to be an eyewitness of his resurrection, even though it is 2,000 years afterwards.

As far as the legitimacy of the apostolic claims of people living in our time is concerned, I can only vouch for the LDS claims, not anybody else’s. There is only one true Church on earth today that has true prophets and Apostles, and that is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nobody else does. And they got their authority originally by a revelation to Joseph Smith, and subsequently by succession to the present day. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received their ordination under the hand of Peter, James, and John, who appeared to them as resurrected beings and ordained them; and they in turn ordained others. Since then the office has continued in the Church by succession. Since the authority already existed in the Church to ordain new Apostles, it could be perpetuated indefinitely without the need for a new ordination by a special revelation from heaven. That is how we have true Apostles today. And they have the same authority that the original Apostles had; no difference.

No comments: