Remembering Edward John Carnell—Some Reflections of a Great Apologist


On this date in 1967, the church lost a great Christian philosopher and apologist named Edward John Carnell. He was almost 48 years old. Today marks the 48th anniversary of his death. He was a graduate of Wheaton College and of Westminster Theological Seminary. He later earned doctoral degrees in theology and philosophy, at Harvard Divinity School and Boston University, respectively.

E. J. Carnell (1919-1967)

E. J. Carnell (1919-1967)

E. J. Carnell, was an ordained Baptist minister and one-time president of Fuller Theological Seminary. He authored numerous books, including four major works in Christian apologetics. All of these are in my personal library, well-marked and much-appreciated. He was intellectually rigorous and pastorally sensitive, a rare combination among defenders of the faith.

His chief work in apologetics is the book An Introduction to Christian Apologetics. In the preface to the 4th edition (1952), Carnell asked, “If Christianity is not worth defending, what then is?”

Here are a few of my favorite quotations from that book.

On philosophy, logic, and experience:

Philosophy may not bake bread, but it has a strange power for making people do things. (32)

We cannot choose between logic and experience. Without logic our experience cannot be normative; without experience our logic cannot be relevant to the human situation. (39)

Coherence cannot stop with a segment of our experience; it must go on to embrace it all. (95)

Speaking of truth, he wrote:

The true is a quality of that judgment or proposition which, when followed out into the total witness of facts in our experience, does not disappoint our expectations. (45)

On faith he said,

Too often faith is used as an epistemological device to avoid the hard labor of straight thinking. (65)

I often ask students who are tempted to abandon their Christian faith, “But what will you believe instead?” Carnell made a similar point:

In considering Christianity, then, one must pay attention not only to the implications which flow from it as a given hypothesis, but also those which flow from its denial. (97-98)

Carnell sought to develop a full-orbed apologetic, one that is realistic about all dimensions of human aspiration and sensitivity:

The mind is drawn by the true, the will by the good, and the feelings by the beautiful.

I especially like his take on the necessity of special divine revelation:

The fundamental reason why we need special revelation is to answer the question, What must I do to be saved? Happiness is our first interest, but this happiness cannot be ours until we know just how God is going to dispose of us at the end of history. . . . Until we have definite information on the subject, we have no sure guarantee that He who made us will not also destroy us. (176)

On atheism he said,

A man must be everywhere at the same time to say there is no God, which is nothing but a short way of making himself God. (186)

What about science versus the mysteries of Scripture?

The very presence of mystery in the Bible is prima facie evidence for the fact that it is dealing with, not avoiding, reality. (208-209)

He held that our verdict regarding Jesus is worldview defining:

What a man thinks of Jesus Christ, therefore, determines his entire view of God and man. (212)

I agree. And that is why I have every confidence that settling the question of Jesus’ identity, in relation to ourselves, is the most important task any of us will be asked to consider.

What about science? It is useless in dealing with the human situation:

What scientific experience can change the vile heart of man? What chemical formula can prevent man from plotting that last war which shall destroy all life? Man, as ever, needs God to give his moral life direction and reason. (229)

On the believer’s hope in the resurrection, if it never happened:

If a miracle—which never occurred—can be the basis for a real spiritual hope, then the time has come at last when we can put a square peg into a round hole and make it fit snugly. (245)

Carnell’s other great work in apologetics, called Christian Commitment, is truly original. From this book, I will allow myself only one quotation. It captures what is fundamental to any prospect of coming into Christian conviction—a willingness to be willing to obey God, come what may:

But how do we explain the fact that the Psalmist loved the law of God? The answer is, he loved the law of God because it was the will of God. (289)

Beware of Prayer—New Apostles and Prophets on the National Day of Prayer


Holly Pivec is my co-author for two recent books, God’s Super-Apostles and A New Apostolic Reformation? Today she writes a column I’d like to share here. It’s about the upcoming National Day of Prayer and three worrisome emphases within the New Apostolic Reformation: the practice of “warfare prayer,” the practice of prayer “declarations,” and the doctrine of a Seven Mountain Mandate. Holly’s words are a call for caution and discernment. We commend the designation of special occasions for prayer. But we also stress the need for a biblically-grounded theology of prayer. And we encourage awareness of efforts by NAR leaders to infiltrate the ranks of traditional evangelical churches and organizations.

“The ‘NAR-tional’ Day of Prayer?”

Churches across the United States are gearing up for the National Day of Prayer. More than 40,000 prayer gatherings are expected to be held on May 7 in observance of this annual event. But has the National Day of Prayer been hijacked by the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)?

The official promotional video, being played in Sunday morning worship services, gives no hint of NAR influence. But the influence can be seen if you look closely at the National Day of Prayer literature. The following NAR teachings and practices are being promoted.

Warfare Prayer

One NAR practice being promoted is “warfare” prayer. The National Day of Prayer website features an article titled “What is Prayer?” which is excerpted from a book titled The Front Line: A Prayer Warrior’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare written by John Bornschein, vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This book is promoted heavily in the National Day of Prayer literature. Included in the article’s list of the types of prayer “the Holy Spirit wants to lead us into” is a form of prayer known in the NAR as “warfare” prayer.

What’s “warfare” prayer? It involves verbally addressing demonic spirits and issuing direct commands to them. The National Day of Prayer website describes it as “prayer directed against the powers of darkness. … We pronounce against them the written judgment by reading the Scriptures of judgment against them (Psalm 149:9), we command them to be bound or to leave their positions of influence or authority in the name of Jesus (Matthew 16:19; Mark 16:17).” Yet nowhere in Scripture is prayer ever directed to demonic spirits. Prayer is always directed to God. They seem to be confusing “prayer” and “exorcism.”

Of course, Scripture does indicate that Christians have been given authority to cast out demons from individuals. Yet it gives no hint that they’ve been given authority to cast out demons from cities and nations. Those familiar with NAR teachings about “strategic-level spiritual warfare” will recognize immediately how warfare prayer relates. The idea of commanding demonic spirits to “leave their positions of influence or authority” seems to be a not-so-veiled reference to NAR teachings about the necessity of casting out evil, powerful “territorial spirits” that are believed to exert rule over specific geographical regions, such as cities and nations.

But the Bible gives no support for the teaching that territorial spirits must be cast out before a city or nation can be reached with the gospel. There’s not a single example in Scripture of God’s people seeking to cast out a territorial spirit or engage such spirits in any way. Nor is there any teaching about the need for such engagement. Contrary to NAR teachings, Scripture indicates that rebuking such high-ranking spirits may actually be dangerous (Jude 1:8-10; 2 Peter 2:10-12). Why, then, would the National Day of Prayer Task Force ever be compelled to promote “warfare” prayer?

Faith ‘Declarations’

Another NAR practice that’s being promoted by the National Day of Prayer is that of making faith “declarations.” A declaration is not asking God to do something, which is how prayer typically has been viewed by evangelicals. Rather it involves declaring that such-and-such a thing, that is believed to be the will of God, will happen. It’s believed that Christians have been given the power, through their spoken words, to bring a desired reality into existence–much as God had creative power to speak the universe into existence.

Literature circulated to churches in Alaska, by the National Day of Prayer Alaska state coordinator, invites believers to gather at noon on May 7 “in one voice of victory declaring Jesus as King and Lord over Alaska and America.” It urges Alaskans to plan to “go someplace where you can easily make a loud declaration … and boldly proclaim into the atmosphere across our state and into the lower 48 [states] that Jesus is King and Lord over this great land.” My hunch is that similar directives have been issued in other states.

Some will wonder what can possibly be bad about declaring Jesus to be King and Lord. Certainly, there’s no problem with simply stating that Jesus is King and Lord because he already is–whether or not anyone states that fact. The problem is found in the notion that–simply by speaking these words–a new reality will somehow magically be created. That’s not the traditional, and biblical, view of prayer as petitionary. I’m pretty sure it’s not what most churches have in mind when they encourage their members to take part in the National Day of Prayer.

Seven Mountain Mandate

A third possible NAR influence could be found in the striking resemblance of the “7×7 campaign” to the “Seven Mountain Mandate.” The National Day of Prayer website encourages people to get involved in the event by downloading free prayer guides for each of the “seven centers of influence.” Clicking on the link provided takes people to the website of Pray for America (a project of the National Day of Prayer Task Force) and a description of a 7×7 campaign to pray for the “seven centers of power, seven days a week.”

Again, those familiar with NAR teachings will naturally wonder how closely the National Day of Prayer focus on the “seven centers of influence” resembles the “Seven Mountain Mandate” that supposedly has been revealed by God to NAR prophets as a strategy for the church to take sociopolitical control of nations. If there’s no connection, then the National Day of Prayer Task Force would do well to clarify its view and clearly distinguish it from NAR teaching.

Have you seen signs of NAR influence in your local National Day of Prayer events?

For more reporting on the New Apostolic Reformation, subscribe to Holly’s blog thespiritoferror.org. Read more of this post


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NEW Amazon Giveaway for God’s Super-Apostles


Yesterday an Amazon Giveaway for God’s Super-Apostles was announced here. Apparently, the interest was great enough for the contest to end within a few hours. The publisher is now sponsoring a NEW Giveaway that should take longer to expire. Everything depends on the number of people who enter the contest. To participate, click here.

NAR Book Cover-101 final (6-6-14)

 

An Enigma


Atheism. Narcissism. Genius. Machine. Consciousness. Deception. Homosexuality. Hormonal therapy. Heroism. Suicide.

Amazon Giveaway for God’s Super-Apostles—UPDATE


Due to popular demand, the contest described below ended within a few hours. A new contest that should last longer is now in effect. For details click on this link.

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I’m pleased to announce that our book God’s Super-Apostles is doing well and is addressing readers’ needs. Our two books, including A New Apostolic Reformation?, are in their second printing, and a third will be happening soon.

Today is the first day of an Amazon Giveaway contest for God’s Super-Apostles that ends March 16. You can enter the contest by clicking here for details at Amazon. If you’ve already purchased your copy, this will make a great gift for a concerned friend.

NAR Book Cover-101 final (6-6-14)

Radio Interview on Stand to Reason—New Apostles and Prophets


Today I’m doing a radio interview with Greg Koukl on his show Stand to Reason. We’ll be discussing the topic of my two new books about the New Apostolic Reformation. The show airs live at 4 pm Pacific Standard Time on KKLA 99.5. It’s also streamed live at the show website: str.org. After today, the interview will continue to be available online.

NAR Book Cover-101 final (6-6-14)Our books, God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement and A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement, were first released in December and are now in their second printing. A third printing is planned in the next few weeks. Both books can be purchased in paperback or in Kindle format at Amazon.

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